…it takes an error to father a sin. ─ J. Robert Oppenheimer
Future historians of India may well describe the past year as a year of political sin. This was the year in which the man who had earlier presided over the Gujarat Carnage was awarded the ultimate prize. The year saw an election that touched a new low marked by shallowness, vulgarities and lies – in no small measure by the labors of the man himself. Equally appalling have been the exertions of a large class of literati and glitterati to portray philistinism and inanities spouted by the most powerful mouth as wisdom of a visionary leader.
An entire country seems to have gone blind – unable to see that the emperor has no clothes. In this age of incessant television it should be obvious to anyone that the supreme leader does not carry conviction even when enunciating relatively higher banalities. He is at his natural best only when he mocks someone as a shehzada or slanders and vilifies an entire community through phrases such as ame paanch, amara pachees. It is an irony of history that the republic which had Nehru as its first prime minister has one now for whom even common mythology is too cerebral. He must vulgarize Pushpak Viman and Ganesha and reduce them to quackeries of aviation and surgery.
Misfortune of the nation goes beyond the man. Forces of the diabolic housed in the hydra-headed Parivaar can now accomplish the impossible. They can now occupy the political center stage without leaving off the lunatic fringe. They can adopt Gandhi without renouncing Godse; erect world’s tallest statue of a leader who had punished their forefathers for assassinating Gandhi; even co-opt Bhagat Singh without batting an eyelid about what he stood for and what he had to say about ideologies like theirs. They can further refine the art of doublespeak. Their “statesmen” can pave the way for corporate plunder and call it sab ka vikas (development for all). Their “ideologues” can advocate sab ka saath (inclusion of all) by exhorting Hindu women to give birth to a minimum of four children each, lest Hindus are reduced to a minority “in their own country”. Continue reading The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha→
Arvind Kejriwal is the new Sachin Tendulkar. You throw him the most difficult googly and he sweeps it to add runs for his century. In 2011, he started a national anti-corruption movement with the specific aim of setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal. The movement’s public face and leader was Anna Hazare, a respected social leader, who like Gandhi, believes in fasting for politics. The critics said Anna is just a puppet and it’s Kejriwal’s movement, and that such sophistry showed Kejriwal (who takes oath as chief minister of Delhi tomorrow) had sinister motives.
Kejriwal’s critics said that fasting unto death was a blackmail strategy not suited to a democracy. Kejriwal can’t have a Lokpal just because he wants it. His popular support is just media hype. If he really wants a Lokpal, why doesn’t he form a political party and contest elections?
Kejriwal’s critics said he was supported by the RSS and the BJP, that he is a BJP stooge, that the Lokpal movement was a right-wing conspiracy to remove pristine, super-secular, people-loving, chosen-by-god Congress party from power. Continue reading Arvind Kejriwal, master-blaster→
There is nothing novel about new parties upsetting the two-party binary. We have seen that happen through the process of Mandalisation in many states. But all those new parties have come up in the name of one or more identities caste, community, region. The BJP is the Brahmin-Bania party of Hindu nationalism. The BSP is the party of the Dalits, the JD(U) of the Kurmis, the BJD of Odisha. Many of these parties don’t have ambitions to rival the Congress or the BJP on the national stage.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is an exception in that its central ideology is good governance. This helps it escape identity politics. At the same time, the AAP embraces identity politics like everyone else does: its symbol, the broom, was from day one targeted at the Valmikis. Be it Muslims or Dalits or Brahmins, the AAP quietly takes note of identity politics and gives lip service, even as the party as a whole does not identify itself with any one community. The only other party which handles identity politics this way is the Congress. Continue reading Why AAP is the new Congress→
Aseem Trivedi is a cartoonist in Kanpur. Or was. He has, for some months, been a full-time activist against internet censorship in India. As 2011 was turning into 2012, the Maharashtra police got his domain registrar to suspend his domain, http://cartoonsagainstcorruption.com, which was in support of the Anna Hazare-led Lokpal movement. His website wasn’t blocked, but the domain name suspended – the equivalent of shutting down a printing press. This was done in no time, and he wasn’t given an opportunity to defend his content. This was done thanks to the IT Rules 2011, a simple FAQ about which can be found here. Today, 1 April, Trivedi celebrated “Kapil Sibal’s Day,” calling the Communications minister the fool that he is. In the image below, taken at Delhi’s Rajghat today, Trivedi is standing on the extreme right. For more on Trivedi’s campaign, see http://www.saveyourvoice.in.
Hindi Press Release:
पुलिस प्रशासन के अवरोध के बावजूद राजघाट पर मनाया गया सिब्बल्स डे, पहुचे ब्लोगर्स और सोशल एक्टिविस्ट
1 अप्रैल के दिन पर राजघाट पर सेव योर वाइस की टीम ने आईटी मिनिस्टर कपिल सिब्बल को प्री सेंसरशिप पर दिए गए उनके बयानों के लिए मूर्ख दिवस की शुभकामनाएं दीं. राजघाट परिसर में बड़ी संख्या में पुलिस बल, आईबी, सीआईडी और सीबीआई के लोग मौजूद थे और सेव योर वाइस के सदस्यों को बापू की समाधि पर जाने से रोका गया. केवल कुछ गिने चुने लोग ही चुपचाप राजघाट पर पहुच पाए. पुलिस ने पूर्व अनुमति होने के बावजूद सिब्बल दिवस का आयोजन नहीं होने दिया. कारण पूछने पर उच्चस्तरीय आदेशों का हवाला दिया गया और कहा गया कि उन्हें पीएमओ . और आईटी मिनिस्ट्री से आदेश दिए गए हैं. काफी गहमागहमी के बाद टीम के सदस्य राजघाट के बाहर समता स्थल पर एकत्र हुए. Continue reading Happy Kapil Sibal’s Day→
Well, Information and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal’s prickly suggestion to pre-screen content on social networks like Google, Facebook and Twitter, has invited such derision from the internet world that it has given him a tag to his name – Idiot Sibal. For iSibal, it’s not his status on Facebook that should bother him, but the ruinous unmasking of the minister in status-anxiety New Delhi. Sibal, after all, prides himself in belonging to the elite movers and shakers of the Capital – educated, connected, and gold card holder of the Stephen’s Old Boys Network. For the status seekers, this is a world of privilege and entitlement, cosmopolitanism and tolerance.
Now you would wonder what came over the blue-stockinged Technology Minister to make such an ill-thought out statement. Sibal’s liberal snobbery is not always what it seems to be, for there is a lurking autocratic and despotic streak, even archaic at times, that has surfaced time and again. And it is this aspect that has largely been ignored in the bedlam over his latest decree to social network companies.
My book Green and Saffron is just out. The book details and an interview are on the blog of Permanent Black. From the publishers’ notice:
This book examines contemporary environmental issues and movements in independent India on the one hand, and the development of Hindu conservative ideology and politics on the other. It includes the first thorough investigation of Anna Hazare’s movement in Maharashtra.
Mukul Sharma argues that these two social currents—environmental conservation and Hindu politics—have forged bonds which reveal the hijacking of environmentalism by conservative and retrograde worldviews. This, he says, constitutes a major aspect of hinterland political life which neither academics nor journalists have seriously analysed. Environmentalism and politics cannot be seen as separate from each other, for environmental issues are being defined in new ways by an anti-secular form of Hinduism. In turn, Hindu ideologues are gaining mileage for their ideology by espousing major environmental projects. Continue reading Green and Saffron: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Environmental Politics→
As you all might be aware around 15000+ people are gathering everyday for more than 4 days from 3 south Tamil Nadu districts as part of an indefinite hunger strike to stop the Koodamkulam Nuclear Plant.
More than 100 people are on indefinite fast and some people’s health are turing bad as well. They are more or less in a isolated situation within the village of Idinthakari near Koodamakulam. There is a huge battalion of Police waiting outside the village venue. The police is trying to block the free passage of people into the village. The state administration and central administration has neglected the protest till now. The non-violent protest needs to be sustained, but people are losing their patience. The leaders who are very few in number though exhausted after 4 days of sleepless nights are trying their level best. Continue reading Urgent Help Needed in Koodamkulam→
As I read it, neither Aditya, nor Partha nor Gyan seems to deny that the Anna Hazare movement is populist. The debate here seems to be about: what kind of populism is it? Aditya is saying that this populism can lead to progressive political consequences, ‘by the presence of an anti-institutional dimension, of a certain challenge to political normalization’, while Partha (and Gyan too if I read him correctly) seem to be arguing that this populism is not progressive even if sometimes anti-institutional. And here Aditya reads Laclau contra Partha: that populism may indeed be the royal road to the constitution of the political. Partha and Gyan maintain that this populism works with a notion of ‘we the people’ who are free from corruption defined against ‘they the corrupt enemy’ (the government and netas). This ‘we the people’ can very well gloss over all internal contradictions, social divides and heterogeneities – hence Gyan points out that Dalits and minorities will not be counted or simply assumed away.
Manesar is an emerging industrial hub roughly fifty kilometers from Delhi. Factories rise along the co-ordinates of a neat grid, overshadowed by the rocky Aravallis. The world is made here – cars, bikes, semiconductors, automotive parts, electronics, telecommunications equipment. Manesar has a little bit of everything. Even a bomb data analysis centre and a brain research lab and a military school and a heritage hotel. On a Maruti Swift, speeding down National Highway 8 towards Jaipur, you could make it to Manesar from Delhi, through Gurgaon, in less than an hour. Maruti’s ads are all about speed and control. Speed and control will cruise you to Manesar.
I have been trying to make sense of the Anna Hazare event. I agree that it was historical, but was it a tragedy, or a farce? The swift exchange between Partha Chatterjee (PC) and Aditya Nigam (AN) and their reference to Ernesto Laclau and ‘populism’ have given me a familiar frame to enter into the debate around the event. Here, I will concentrate on the question of populism and its normative status. However, unlike PC and AN, I have got nothing to offer to ‘the Left’ (Independent or Dependent), because I am not a leftist, rather one who likes sitting on the fence on a nice arm-chair and this piece will perhaps bear an imprint of that position. Also, apologies are due to the readers of Kafila as I have not read, just browsed through, the two pieces written by Shuddhabrata Sengupta, which have been wildly popular – if Facebook is an indicator – and have been referred to by both PC and AN. Therefore, I might be repeating what Sengupta has already said.
Sonia Gandhi Hinsak Hai Rahul Gandhi Napunsak Hai
(Sonia Gandhi is violent, Rahul Gandhi is impotent)
(placard displayed by a young man on Barakhamba road crossing, during anti-corruption march on 21st August, Delhi)
Rahul Bhaiyya! Why don’t you get married so that Bhabhi can take care of Sonia Aunty, and you do not have to spend so much (black) money to get her treated outside the country? (placard carried by a three year old girl child)
Manuvadi Krantikari Morcha supports Anna Hazare
(a banner heading for a group of 20-30 middle aged men)
Bihari Nahin Ham Jaat hain Ham Anna ke saath hain
(We are not Biharis we are Jaats, we are with Anna)
(shout of youth in open jeep in Darya Ganj, after the 21st Aug march)
The 13-day blockbuster— peddled as the second freedom struggle, panned as irresponsible blackmailing, and a lot in between — is over. Anna Hazare accepted honeyed coconut water from two little girls, introduced to the crowd as a dalit and a Muslim, and went on to recuperate in one of India’s most expensive hospitals, one branded after Hindu spiritual literature at that.
News TV is still fighting the vacuum by flogging the debate – so much so that seasoned correspondents are chasing a rather dismissive Dr Naresh Trehan to unravel the mystery of Anna’s endurance. Biker gangs have gone into a sulk and roads at India Gate are looking safer for traffic and women (which is not saying much in Delhi). What is more, India has started taking note that too many Indians have meanwhile drowned in floods. Continue reading Ten lessons of the fortnight that was: Jay Mazoomdar→
Partha Chatterjee and Shuddhabrata Sengupta rightly argue that “corruption” is indeed a new Indian label for “the lives of others”. The East German Stasi also surely saw their vigilance as directed against the politics of “the enemies of the people”, except that in their case the state and the party were seen to contain all the good people, with the bad people choosing to remain in the unmobilized parts of civil society. Hence the pro-Hazare gatherings certainly have some of the disturbing echoes of mass rallies under Hitler and Stalin with the working and middle-classes adoring a mediocre and Chaplinesque figure who promises a new wave of moral cleansing. Continue reading Our Corruption, Our Selves: Arjun Appadurai→
Partha Chatterjee’s post, following on Shuddha’s Hazare Khwahishein… is something of an eye-opener for me. I will not enter into a debate with him on his reading of Shuddha’s post as Shuddha and I have had our long online and offline exchanges and I have learnt immensely from these exchanges, even if a core of disagreement persists. I do think, however, that Partha is mistaken in thinking that this is the first time the question of corruption has been discussed on Kafila or elsewhere but since I am not interested in discussing that question here, I will leave that matter aside. I think I have said pretty much what I wanted to say on the movement and the myriad issues related to it and so I am no more interested in going over that territory all over again. Interested readers can see the Kafila archives if they so wish.
What has been an eye-opener for me is the way a certain other Partha Chatterjee has emerged, as soon as his theories were brought face to face with the hurly-burly of politics. The imprint of this other Partha is clearly evident in every word and sentence of this post, but most clearly in the concluding sentence where he claims that the indepdent Left has ‘its populist moment in Nandigram’. This sentence encapuslates the gist of our disagreements. It was this assessment that led Partha to write the essay, ‘Democracy and Economic Transformation‘ where, in some elliptical fashion, his own discomfort with popular politics found expression. That is when he extended the definition of ‘political society’ to say that it was the sphere of ‘management of ‘non-corporate capital’ (of course, by capital and government). That Partha links his discomfort over the Anna Hazare movement to his discomfort over Nandigram, is in my view, a sign of the fact that his idea of ‘political society’ lies in ruins, that it collapsed at the precise moment of its encounter with the popular.
Of course everyone has their own take on the movement that’s got us all talking. It raises passions, it polarizes, it shakes the powerful, on and on. I have immense admiration for what Anna Hazare has achieved: the outrage against corruption where we had indifference before, the outlet for such outrage, the renewed hope where we had cynicism before, the way his movement has shamed brazen politicians and forced an entire government to listen.
Shuddhabrata Sengupta has done a great service by opening up the question of corruption which lies at the heart of the Anna Hazare movement but which has been, surprisingly, accepted quite uncritically as a universally known and universally condemned evil. It is actually quite puzzling how this effect has been achieved. It is a question which, I think, touches the core of the populist mobilization brought about by the Anna Hazare movement.
Think of it. Who are the beneficiaries of corruption? The entire middle class in India (lower, upper, aspirant lower to upper, whatever category one wants to use) seems to think that it is the victim of corruption. “It touches the lives of everybody”, as Nivedita Menon said in her recent piece in Kafila. But then who are the engineers, the accountants, the babus in the offices, the touts who surround the courts and the hospitals and the railway ticket counters? Aren’t they our uncles and nephews and sisters-in-law? The corrupt people of India are blood relations of those who are flocking Ramlila Maidan. But, needless to say, no one you meet there will accept that.
Guest post by KAVITA KRISHNAN (Editor, Liberation)
The people saying ‘I am Anna’ or ‘Vande Mataram’ are not all RSS or pro-corporate elites. They’re open to listening to what we have to say to them about corporate corruption or liberalization policies. The question is – are we too lofty and superior (and prejudiced) to speak to them?
Throughout the summer, student activists of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) engaged in this painstaking exercise for months. They campaigned all over the country, in mohallas, villages, markets where there is no visible Left presence. No, these were not areas of ‘elite’ concentration – mostly middle, lower middle or working class clusters, or students’ residential areas near campuses. In most places, people would begin by assuming they were campaigners of Anna Hazare. When students introduced their call for the 9 August Barricade at Parliament, they would be asked, ‘What’s the need for a separate campaign when Anna’s already leading one?’ They would then explain that they supported the movement for an effective anti-corruption law to ensure that the corrupt don’t enjoy impunity. But passing such a law could not end corruption, which was being bred by the policies that were encouraging corporate plunder of land, water, forests, minerals, spectrum, seeds… They learnt to communicate without jargon, to use examples from the state where the campaign was taking place. They would tell people about the Radia tapes, and the role of the corporates, the ruling Congress, the opposition BJP, and the media in such corruption.
Hazare, khwahishein aisi, ke har khwahish pe dam nikle bahut nikle armaan, lekin, phir bhi kam nikle
Hazare, so many desires, that every desire takes our breath away
so many hopes, and yet so few
(with due apologies, for liberties taken, to Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, sometime poet and native of Delhi)
On the ninth of april, this year, I wrote a posting on Kafila titled – ‘At the Risk of Heresy : Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare Tonight‘. A little more than four months later, I have to say I have not yet found reasons to celebrate. But I am not in mourning either. What follows is my attempt to think this through, in all its contradictory character. For once, I am not even trying to be consistent. If my argument occasionally faces two directions at once, it is probably because I feel the needs to be double faced in order to understand a double-faced moment. When all the talk is only of the need for honesty, one might want to stake a claim to being double-faced, if only for the sake of breaking the moral monotony.
The video above shows a protest in Delhi demanding a Bahujan Lokpal Bill, and protesting against Anna Hazare. This was hardly given any coverage in the media. The video was made and uploaded by KHALID ANIS ANSARI, who writes at the Round Table India:
A supra-parliamentary Jan Lokpal and a very interventionist and unaccountable judiciary are a horror for the dalit-bahujan masses. All said and done the legislature is most respectful of social diversity as far as the three organs of government are concerned. The executive is bad and the judiciary is the worst in this regard. So I am presently in favor of taking the ‘political’ route than the civil society one which is in any way a club of the chattering classes. [Read the full post]