Guest Post : New Socialist Initiative NSI Facebook Page
Samuel Johnson famously said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” The two prime ministers in the photograph below would claim to be patriots both. The scoundrel part should be left to your judgment, but it is obvious that both of them cannot claim to be patriots at the same time.
These two prime ministers came up with a deal a couple of days ago that no one in India is talking about. Even the Indian government, uncharacteristically, is not trumpeting about it. The UK government announced the day before yesterday that it sealed a deal with India in which Indians will make a one billion pound ($1.39 billion) investment in the UK creating 6500 British jobs. In addition India will open its market doors wider by reducing tariffs not only on British cars and British whisky but also on British apples and pears.
It looks curiouser than Alice’s Wonderland. India lost 7.25 million jobs in April alone. Actually tens of millions of Indian jobs have been lost during the pandemic and during the Modi misrule. And Indian moneybags facilitated by the Modi government are going to invest more than Rs 10 thousand crores in the UK creating highly paid British jobs! On top of that India will also hurt the interests of Indian producers of apples and pears (also of cars and whiskeys) by lowering tariffs on British goods. What is India gaining out of it?
But if you think about it, it is not so surprising. This is a government that spends tens of thousands of crores on a new central vista, a new parliament and a new house for the Prime Minister at a time when thousands are dying due to shortage of oxygen and of hospital beds. This is also a regime under which its favourite corporate houses have registered fattest profits ever during the worst humanitarian crisis that India is groaning under.
This Prime Minister not only helps corporate houses to amass mountains of wealth in an India where people are losing jobs, facing unimaginable hardships – many are on the verge of starvation; where cremations pyres are spilling on to the roads and burning 24×7. He also helps them take that money to safe houses on foreign shores – invest in rich countries and create jobs there. Can he qualify to be a patriot, even if one ignores Samuel Johnson’s reference to being a scoundrel?
How anti-national this government and this Prime Minister can become? And why is this Indo-British deal not being talked about here in India?
Bhima Bhoi, saint, poet and social reformer, who lived in later part of the 19 th century and who wielded his pen against the prevailing social injustice, religious bigotry and caste discrimination, would not have imagined in his wildest dreams that in the second decade of the 21 st century there would arrive such new claimants to his legacy who stood against everything for which he stood for. A populariser of Mahima movement or Mahima Dharma which ‘draws elements from Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Vaishnavism and Tantra Yoga,’ the movement Bhima led was a ‘deeply felt protest against caste system and feudal practices of western and central Orissa.’ and goal of his mission was “Jagata Uddhara” ( liberation of entire world). ((http://roundtableindia.co.in/lit-blogs/?tag=bhima-bhoi)) Continue reading Talk Bhima or Bhim, Walk Manu→
The dominant narrative around the recent JNU incident has been that the unwarranted police action and the concerted acts of violence, incitement and misinformation that followed are all part of a determined push by the saffron brigade. After love jihad and beef, the story has it, it is “sedition” and “Pakistani agent” this time—we are living in a state of undeclared emergency. A sense of disbelief and apocalyptic doom seem to underpin these sentiments, along with a nostalgic optimism for a quick return to harmony and normalcy. But such things have happened far too many times, and far too often for us to harbour such illusions. For what we are going through is in effect a recalibration of that normalcy.
To read political slogans literally is an absurdity. But in the hands of the present government, it is a calculated absurdity that reads “Bharat ki barbadi…” as armed conspiracy against the state. The variables are many—arrests, fake tweets, rampaging lawyers, patriotic house-owners and now, open calls for murder. But the calculus resolves itself into the same formula every time: national/anti-national.
At the outset, the opposition to the attack on the university campus seems to have coalesced around two points—first, maintaining a safe distance from the “anti-India” slogans raised at the meeting; and second, showing themselves as the real nationalists, standing against the saffron thugs in patriot’s disguise. Partly in response to a vicious media campaign, videos of “real nationalist” speeches at the protest venue are being posted on social media everyday. We are told at length about the “real” Indian behind the deshdrohi, his credentials, and how he wants his India to be. Things reached a disturbing pitch when spokespersons of the traditional Left went on record to express their displeasure at the real culprits not being caught. Without doubt, the saffron brigade cannot be allowed the prerogative of deciding what “the nation” means. But why do so from the flimsy ramparts of sedition? Continue reading Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa→
Like many others, I too have been anguished about the recent developments in JNU. Not only because the institution is my alma mater, but also because there has been a concerted effort now to frame the discourse in terms of nationalism and anti-nationalism. Sadly, in responding to the charge of anti-nationalism, defenders of free speech and other associated values of the integrity of the university are also participating in this discourse and arguing why dissent is not anti-national. While I agree with this latter point of view, I would like to join those voices that argue that the question of nationalism is irrelevant to the functioning of the state. The unity and integrity of India, understood in its territorial sense, is not strengthened by ideas of nationalism nor is it weakened by expressions of antinationalism.
In the context of the current debate about nations, nationalism, and anti-nationalism, an oft-evoked ally is the Indian constitution. Commentators across the board have praised the Indian constitution for either embodying an ‘idea of India,’ one that is noble and worthy, or praised the institutions that are sanctioned by the constitution, such as the Honorable High Courts and the Supreme Court. Strangely, across the ideological divides, it has become a commonplace perception that the nation as embodied in the Indian constitution has been violated, or at the very least not respected. Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum, it is believed that the Indian constitution expressly provides provisions to persecute individuals or groups for espousing ‘anti-national’ views. The belief among the latter group is that the constitution protects the idea of the nation, however it may be defined. This remarkable unity in such a divisive moment in Indian politics today is both a reason for pause and an invitation to at least cursorily reexamine the text and the history of this important document called the Indian constitution. Continue reading Does the Indian Constitution Speak for a Nation? Arvind Elangovan→
Hamlet in New Delhi, 2016: “India, Pakistan, security, sovereignty, nation, anti-national…words, words, words”
According to Sigmund Freud, when we dream, and when we suffer psychotic delusions, we treat words as pictures and things. A word’s meaning, in these conditions, becomes the shape of the word and its appearance is the same as feeling its physical impact, its blow. We cannot grasp anymore that a word refers to an object or idea outside in the world or that it can be used as a metaphor or an indirect analogy and image. We cannot even receive the rhetorical communication of words intended to persuade, exhort, transgress or insult. In each of these communications intended by an addresser we already feel physically, viscerally and as a consequence, mentally under the assault of the words of the addresser as if they are blows.
So in response we don’t persuade, exhort, transgress or insult back but instead, we curse (the upper limit of lucid discourse in this state), punch, grab the addresser by the throat, pull a knife or gun if we have any of these articles in our possession – or we cringe, weep, hold our heads in our hands and rock to and fro. Now it is very unlikely that in a real psychotic condition, we are able to invoke a particular law or clause of law in our favor, complain to the police and come up with a fluent image of language as justification for our actions. “We had no choice but to do what we did because the other(s) insulted our Mother India”. In a real psychotic condition, it is more likely we will be the ones to be taken away. Continue reading A Close Look at Certain Words Allegedly Shouted Recently in JNU and Their Impact on Our National Intelligence: Soumyabrata Choudhury→
In 1894, a case of espionage broke out in France. Alfred Dreyfus, a young officer was arrested in connection with a letter suggesting a transfer of sensitive documents to the German attaché in Paris. Dreyfus was arrested for the crime, his family was intimidated and he was swiftly convicted despite weak evidence. After being publicly shamed as a traitor in a court-martial, he was sent to ‘Devil’s Island’ in French Guinea, a notorious penal colony. Within a couple of years of his conviction, a movement emerged to re-examine the facts of the case. Dreyfus would be eventually re-tried and re-convicted despite overwhelming evidence in his favour.
Dreyfus was Alsatian, Jewish, and a graduate of the elite École Polytechnique, one of the most competitive institutes in the country. Alsace had been lost by France following the Franco-Prussian war, the French were bitter about this, and Alsatians were often seen as a suspicious regional minority. The case that came to be known as the “Dreyfus Affair” in time became a landmark in modern French history because of the multilayered schisms in French society that it threw open.
(Written by Bodhisattva Kar in Bengali, First published in on 18 February 2016 by the Ei Samay newspaper.Translated into English by Ahona Panda)
“To you I confess today—what you all call a patriot, I am not of that kind.” After this confession of sparkling clarity, should we not catch hold of that man as an anti-national? So what if he is dead? If the dead can be rewarded with the Bharat Ratna, why can’t we frame the dead with a few charges of sedition? For God’s sake, all you good people, how did you make a song written by this man the national anthem? The man who—without any obfuscation—speaks through the mouth of the protagonist of Char Adhyaya—“They who do not take cognizance of that which is greater than patriotism, their patriotism is like crossing on a crocodile’s back.” Where did he get the audacity to dream of something greater than patriotism? And, he did not even study at JNU. “By killing the very soul of the country, the country’s life can be resuscitated: this terrible untruth is being announced in beastly roars by nationalists around the world and it makes my heart revolt with intolerable intensity.” How can you not burn the books produced by such a treacherous son of Mother India, who said such terribly instigatory things? Why do you worship him instead? Can anyone put their hand on their hearts and say that he wasn’t a Pakistani spy, just because of the niggling detail that Pakistan did not exist at the time he was writing? Did we not shoot Dabholkar or Pansare for agonizing quite a bit less than he did? Continue reading Come on man, be clear, what comes first—Nation, or Democracy? Bodhisattva Kar translated by Ahona Panda→
Guest Post by Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy
The Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy strongly condemns the clampdown in Jawaharlal Nehru University. We deplore the targeting of students and teachers and condemn the culture of authoritarian menace that the Central Government has unleashed. We strongly believe that dissent is not sedition and invoking sedition laws against students, ordering the police to enter the campus and unlawfully arresting a student leader, issuing warrants against many others on charges of inciting violence, attacking students, teachers and arrested student in the court premises, are serious assault on the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. The right to dissent is fundamental to maintaining democracy and the recent developments have shaken the foundations of democracy. We condemn the indiscriminate use of the colonial law of sedition on dissenting voices.
The attack on JNU is an attack on our diversity, on public funding of universities and access to higher education for the common people. The vicious campaign of ‘tax-payers’ monies funding the anti-nationals’ is highly regressive and malicious. It is only through public funding and reservation policies that access to higher education has been expanded for students from all backgrounds, especially girl students from poorer backgrounds. It is public funding which makes higher education accessible to many. Continue reading Citizens Committee for the Defense of Democracy on the JNU Situtation→
Ever since the Hindutva right-wing attacks on the country’s youthful citizens intensified – from the Kiss of Love protests to the attacks on politicized dalit youth on the campuses of IIT Madras and HCU, and now, against JNU – we have come together several times as a group to defend our right to critical thinking, action, and speech and protest against atrocities in the name of national interest and culture. We have come out not to defend our petty interests but in defense of the Indian Nation as we imagine it – differently from the right-wing – as belonging to the communities of peasants, workers, students, artisans, dancers, singers, small traders, and thousands of other groups that contribute to the economy of this country, as the homeland of vast sections of underprivileged people denied humanity in the name of caste, class, culture, ethnicity and gender. Continue reading Fearless Minds and Heads Held High: To the CDS Student Community→
Even as the government and the new JNU administration under the hand-picked new Vice Chancellor step up their witch-hunt, the waves of protest grow stronger with a massive turnout at the admin block this evening. Despite the administration withdrawing at the last minute, permission to use mikes,…more and more students and teachers stand up to be counted. The will to fight grows stronger!