Cows, Women and Hindu Manhood

Life in Modi’s Gujarat

Gujarat is calm. And is on the march. Every village of the state is a Jyotigram. Narmada water is flowing in abundance in the canals quenching the thirst of Gujaratis. “Was not Surat flooded a few months back and did not the people of Gujarat suffer?” I ask my driver. “No, was not Narendrabhai there to take care of everything,” he replies. How can anything go wrong when Narendrabhai is keeping watch!

Narendra Modi, you see, does not have a family and he works round the clock, we are informed. I find Modi smiling down at us benevolently from the digital billboards that dot Ahmedabad. There is no escaping his firm developmental smile. “The man has impressive qualities. Gujarat is bound to forge ahead under this workaholic chief minister. A citizen may have doubts of his secularism, but even his enemies don’t doubt his competence,” writes Gunawant Shah, a popular Gujarati columnist.

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Sangharsh Hamara Nara Hai

Protest is a form of speech that a society employs to communicate with itself.

You do not protest in public, shout and scream, chant slogans and hold placards on an ordinary day. You do it but rarely. You do it when you are outraged.

And when you do protest, you want to be heard.

I have been interested lately in protest, though I must say there’s a lot more to say about Jantar Mantar.

I wonder why those who protest are no longer being heard, leading them, sometimes, to wonder if they are being pushed to the wall, a wall they’ll have to break down with a gun.

But I wonder, equally, if the protestors are listening only to themslves. Communication, after all, is not about one-way speaking. Communication is also about listening. Continue reading Sangharsh Hamara Nara Hai

Brinda Karat: The Paranoia of a Totalitarian Mind

While West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya adopted a misleadingly deceptive tone, apparently taking all the blame for the unfortunate events that took place in Nandigram (at the 29 March SFI-DYFI rally in Kolkata), the party’s lie-machine continues to overtime on its disinformation campaign. Bhattacharya’s plea for an end to violence and killings, virtually beseeching the ‘Opposition’ to stop killing Leftist (read CPM supporters), is meant to have a specific effect – that of making it appear as though it is really they who are the aggrieved party. It is a belated strategic move, aimed at the more gullible and the wider world outside, to convey the impression that they are at the receiving end. Suddenly all the belligerence seems to have disappeared and this reasonable man appears with folded hands to beg for the return of ‘normalcy’. But this is misleading because, at another level of discourse, this new pose is accompanied by continuous, ever new production of lies and insinuations, by other members and wings/ arms of his party.

The full article was first posted in sacredmediacow.

Sacrifice of Truth in Nandigram

The ‘logic’ of the CPIM and the (West Bengal) State police under its control for launching an all-out attack on the villagers of Nandigram who had totally cut themselves off from the State to counter its anticipated move to dispossess and displace them is extremely clear. The State cannot tolerate the refusal of the people to be ruled by it. That is precisely why it makes use of its sovereign power to demonstrate and establish its supremacy or hegemony. In this particular regard, the State presumably governed by Leftist ideology has acted no different – not at all. The main reason for worry here is that the CPIM has completely forgotten that it is not a wing of the State the way the police or any other administrative department is. One may, however, retort that hardly anywhere in the world wherever the Communist party has come to power has bothered to keep a distance between itself and the State. Rather it looks upon the State as an instrument for its own expansion.

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Comprador Intellectuals on the War-Path

[comprador: 1. An intermediary; a go-between. 2. A native-born agent in China and certain other Asian countries formerly employed by a foreign business to serve as a collaborator or intermediary in commercial transactions. Source: American Heritage Dictionary. A word once popularized in the writings of Mao Tsetung, this meant simply a foreign agent. We could more profitably deploy it here to describe those who have abdicated their position as critical intellectuals to the demands of power. ]

A friend who teaches in Kolkata University was once accosted by a group of SFI [acronym of the CPM’s student-wing] activists asking for ‘donations’. You have of course to be familiar with the political culture of West Bengal – first under the Congress regime and then ably carried on under the CPM – in order to understand what ‘donation’ or ‘chaanda’ means. Ordinary mortals tremble when CPM supporters come to ask for chaanda, be it for the Durga Puja or for students’ elections. This brave man happened to tell them that he would not give donations to the SFI or CPM as he disagreed with their politics. As the students were leaving the room, one of them returned to tell him, “Sir, Amaar naam Ratna Sarkar. Kichhu dorkaar hole bolben.” [Sir, my name is Ratna Sarkar (name changed for obvious reasons). Please let me know if you need something]. The very mention of the name was supposed to reveal in a flash to this foolhardy teacher, who at 50 years plus, continues to remain a ‘senior lecturer’, that she was the daughter of one of the most powerful state CPM leaders. A daily occurrence in West Bengal. A silent terror inscribed in daily life.

This friend needs also to be mentioned here today because he has had a fairly compelling thesis for sometime now. Civil society in Bengal, he suggests, has been decimated ever since the CPM/LF came to power. In the pre-Left Front days, he argues, it was the Leftist intelligentsia that constituted the critical voice, interrogating the excesses of power. Not any more. What can such an intelligentsia be called but comprador, who have ‘sold their conscience’ to the party line – to resort to a mild polemical Leninism. But alas, such intellectuals are not merely the Sunil Gangopadhyays in Bengal who have fallen in line not because of party commitment but maybe some other calculations; after all they have to live in CPM ruled West Bengal for quite some more time to come. Such are also the seventeen intellectuals who have issued the statement in defense of the West Bengal government.

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SAARC: Need for a Paradigm Shift

As the 14th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit draws nearer, and the host, the Indian Government, begins to step up its preparations, it seems a good time to raise certain issues and questions, designed to draw lessons for the next stage of regional institution building. Where are we? What issues, practices and policy changes can be proposed to improve the quality of regional policy making and implementation? What can civil society organisations and citizens do to contribute effectively to this process? How can SAARC be made more open and transparent to South Asian citizens? What are some of the best practices that have contributed to an effective intra-state coordination, consultation with non-state actors and public accountability? The vision of SAARC today should be that of a South Asia that is integrated, prosperous and peaceful; a South Asia driven by its own citizens; an anti-colonial, democratic and dynamic force in the global arena; and human and peoples’ rights the cornerstone of its political programmes.

Wars and killings in the name of nations; violence, often on a massive scale; boundaries and borders creating major elements of conflicts between the nation states; trans-border crime, narco-terrorism, illegal and informal transactions; illegal migration and large-scale refugee infiltration; trade and transit barriers and trade imbalances — we can find all this and much more in serious proportions in these times of SAARC. However, they are not the core of our assessment, as nobody had believed that these issues could be resolved in two decades or so. The core is that even though some significant spaces have been opened up for greater and more sustained regional cooperation and some beginning has been made, the overall mood is not optimistic, and the prospects of a people-driven SAARC remain largely unfulfilled. Lack of vision, initiative and will, inadequate institutional capacity, and inappropriate policies and procedures have totally negated any thought and practice that SAARC should build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among our people in South Asia. There is hardly any civil society participation in its policy development processes, and it is taken as a closed, non-transparent, non-serious affair in the region.

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