Tag Archives: Arab Spring

The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by RAVI SINHA

…it takes an error to father a sin. ─ J. Robert Oppenheimer[1]

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

Lessons for the Saner Segments of the Margins: Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by RAVI SINHA

The margins just got bigger. Many among those who customarily inhabit the centre have been pushed to the periphery. They are not my concern. There are analyses galore about why and how this has happened. I am not going to add one more to those. Margins exist on all sides. They encircle the political mainland from left and from right. Some might say there are no margins on the right. Everything on that side is mainstream. In any case, I will have little to say about the margins on the right.

My concern is with the left-side margins that now harbour the entire Left, although it is perhaps too soon for much of the traditional Left to acknowledge that. They are not likely, in any case, to listen to those of us who have spent a lifetime on the margins – partly because of our own follies and frailties but also because we have refused to succumb to the unsavory demands of the times. It is, after all, not our fault that we are born in a valley of historical time where the descent on the slopes of past glories has already come to an end and the ascent to the future ones is yet to begin. Continue reading Lessons for the Saner Segments of the Margins: Ravi Sinha

The King and I: Dispatches from Morocco

Rapper El Haked, or The Spiteful One, with translator Maria Karim in Casablanca

Last month, I spent a fortnight in Morocco speaking to people about the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The Moroccan establishment has spoken often of “The Moroccan Exception” – where the King acted quickly to usher in reforms and  defuse the protests.

Yet, many – such as the two young people in this photograph – feel that the reforms were largely superficial.

El Haked – or The Spiteful One – is young rapper from Casablanca’s working class neighbourhood of Oukacha. He was arrested yesterday for singing and uploading songs critical of the King and the establishment. My article on him, His songs on Youtube

The need to influence the trajectory of one’s own life: Ruchi Gupta

Guest post by RUCHI GUPTA

The Arab Spring demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Morocco were hailed in much of the democratic world. However the Occupy Wall Street protests, which till date have spread to 100 cities in the United States and 1500 globally have met with mixed response.

The Arab people are fighting for democracy, and thus their resistance must be respected and supported. But the OWS folks, proudly leaderless and having framed no concrete demands are vulnerable to all manner of criticism, even from those expected to be supportive. Bill Keller, the former editor of arguably one of the most influential newspapers in the world, the ostensibly liberal, New York Times derides,  “the Occupiers have been pandered to (“Love your energy!”); patronized (“Here, I’ve drafted you a list of demands …”); co-opted by unions, celebrities and activists for various causes; demonized by the right; arrested and tear-gassed in some cities; and taken lightly by the likes of me”.

However the uprisings in the Arab nations, the OWS demonstrations and even the wave of anti-corruption protests that swept India this year are all ultimately an expression of people’s resistance to disenfranchisement. Whether it’s those fighting for democracy or those who find themselves powerless in face of a system that’s been hijacked by the illegitimate nexus between the financial and political elite (the metaphorical 1%), the underlying sentiment is a demand for fair play and the right of self-determination. Continue reading The need to influence the trajectory of one’s own life: Ruchi Gupta

Apples and Oranges in Egypt’s Historic Election: Alia Allana

This guest post by ALIA ALLANA, a despatch for Kafila from Cairo, is the eleventh in a series of ground reports from the Arab Spring. Photos by Alia Allana

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“Votes and rocks: just two ways to get heard,” said Salma.

Continue reading Apples and Oranges in Egypt’s Historic Election: Alia Allana

‘Did the generals think we were fools?’ Alia Allana reports from Cairo

This guest post by ALIA ALLANA, a despatch for Kafila from Cairo, is the tenth in a series of ground reports from the Arab Spring. Photos by Alia Allana

A week into protesting, the revolution became about preservation lest someone forgets.

Mohammed Mahmoud Street, the sight of intense fighting was officially off-limits for protestors. A concrete wall separated the protestors and police. Atop the wall army soldiers kept guard. The aim was simple: to keep protestors from barging past and facing-off with the authorities, like they had done for the past few days. But sometime in the night, a maverick with a graffiti can had his way and the beige concrete wall now read, “Change is coming soon.”  Continue reading ‘Did the generals think we were fools?’ Alia Allana reports from Cairo

Egypt, Revolution 2.0: Alia Allana reports from Tahrir Square

This guest post by ALIA ALLANA is a despatch from Cairo for Kafila, the ninth in a series of ground reports from the Arab Spring. Photographs by Alia Allana

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The police lobbed another tear gas canister and soon the feeling of suffocation would take over. But he didn’t move, instead he stood in the center; he continued to wave the Egyptian flag. The sound of rubber bullets being fired drowned under the sound of the drum. The drum was the harbinger of doom: when it was sounded by protestors, when the cacophony cut through the air, the message was simple – run, run as fast as you can because the police would begin their attack, again.

Continue reading Egypt, Revolution 2.0: Alia Allana reports from Tahrir Square