[Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series ( Webinar)
Organised by New Socialist Initiative]
Date and Time: Sunday, August 16, 2020, at 6 PM IST (8.30 AM EST in the US)
Topic: The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the rise of the BJP
This talk explores the deep social transformations that have made the dominance of the BJP possible. It will take a longer view of the trajectory of Indian democracy and explore the profound changes in social and economic identities underway that have prepared a propitious ground for the rise of the BJP.
The Speaker: Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Internationally renowned scholar and political scientist Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta taught at Harvard, at New York University and at JNU. He was the Vice Chancellor of the Ashoka University till recently and served as the President of the premier think tank, Centre for Policy Research. Educated at Oxford and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, Prof Mehta is a columnist at Indian Express, a leading public intellectual and a bold and thoughtful voice for reason and justice. Among many honours and prizes to his credit, he is recipient of the Infosys Prize, the Adisheshiah Prize and the Amartya Sen Prize.
[New Socialist Initiative Presents
Democracy Dialogues – Lecture Series
The idea behind this series – which we call ‘Democracy Dialogues’ – is basically to initiate as well as join in the on-going conversation around this theme in academic as well as activist circles.
We feel that the very idea of democracy which has taken deep roots across the world, has come under scanner for various reasons. At the same time we have been witness to the ascendance of right-wing forces and fascistic demagogues via the same democratic route. There is this apparently anomalous situation in which the spread and deepening of democracy have often led to generating mass support for these reactionary and fascistic forces.
Coming to India, there have been valid concerns about the rise of authoritarian streak among Indians and how it has helped strengthen BJP’s hard right turn. The strong support for democracy here is accompanied by increasing fascination towards majoritarian-authoritarian politics. In fact, we would like to state that a vigorous electoral democracy here has become a vehicle for hindutva-ite counterrevolution.
The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by Prof Suhas Palshikar on 12 th July 2020. The theme of Prof Palshikar’s presentation was TRAJECTORY OF INDIA’S DEMOCRACY AND CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES]
[Inaugural Lecture of ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series ( Webinar)
Organised by New Socialist Initiative, 12 th July 2020]
Join us on facebook.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi for further updates
( Prof Suhas Palshikar, Chief Editor, Studies in Indian Politics and Co-director, Lokniti at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, delivered the inaugural lecture in the ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series initiated by New Socialist Initiative.
In this lecture he attempted to trace the roots of the current moment of India’s democracy in the overall global journey of democracy, the extra-ordinarily ambitious and yet problematic foundational moment of Indian democracy and the many diversions India’s democracy has taken over time. He argued that unimaginative handling of the extra-ordinary ambition and Statist understanding of the ‘power-democracy’ dialectic formed the basis for easy distortions of democratic practice and that while populism and majoritarianism are the current challenges, they are by no means only special to the present and therefore, even as critique and course-correction of present political crisis is urgently required, a more long-term view of the trajectory of Indian democracy is necessary.
Here follows a detailed summary of his presentation prepared by Dr Sanjay Kumar)
Continue reading Trajectory of India’s Democracy and Contemporary Challenges : Prof Suhas Palshikar
Perhaps celebrities know that talking about the plight of an animal—who died in a state not ruled by the ruling dispensation at the Centre—is a safe bet
Migrants wait for a means of transport to travel to their native places during the fourth phase of the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, at Kundali Industrial Area in Sonipat. (Photo: PTI)
The killing of a pregnant elephant has caused national outrage. The elephant had strayed into a village in Palakkad, Kerala, and is said to have been fed a fruit stuffed with firecrackers, which exploded in its mouth. It is impossible to comprehend the tremendous suffering of the elephant, who died a painful death. It is also learnt that people in the region have in the past used incendiary materials to protect their crop from animals, particularly wild boar.
One person was arrested after the matter came to light and few others have been identified. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised “justice will prevail”, but one does not know if that includes legal action against the hatemongers—including a former cabinet minister who gave the incident a communal colour by claiming, incorrectly, that the incident occurred in Muslim-majority Malappuram. A sitting cabinet minister also retweeted this fake news, which further vitiated the atmosphere.
In a complaint to the Malappuram Police, a lawyer has urged the police chief to file an FIR against the former minister and others for a “derogatory” campaign against the district.
Now, many Indian celebrities, for example Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, have said that they are “appalled” by the incident. The chairman of India’s biggest corporate giant, Ratan Tata, has compared the “criminal act” with “meditated murder”. The celebrities, the anchors of 24/7 news channels and many other prominent figures are undeniably upset by the plight of the elephant. But do they also feel the same kind of outrage and disquiet over the communal overtones being imparted to it?
( Read the full article here)
India is neglecting caste-based discrimination in higher educational institutions at its own peril.
It was exactly 13 years back that the Thorat Committee, constituted in September 2006 to enquire into allegations of differential treatment of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students at the premier medical institute, AIIMS—was released.
The first of its kind in independent India, this three-member committee led by then chairman of the University Grants Commission, Sukhdeo Thorat, had looked deeply into the many shades of discrimination faced by students of non-elite castes in the institute.
What it discovered after talking to students and faculty was, to say the least, shocking. Some 72% of SC/ST students mentioned facing some discrimination during the teaching sessions. Second, caste-based discrimination was prevalent in the hostels, for instance around 88% students reported experiencing of social isolation in various forms. The committee’s report also outlined the discrimination faced by SC/ST professors.
This context frames the alleged suicide attempt of a female doctor a fortnight ago in the same institute. The doctor, who worked at the Dental Research Centre of AIIMS, was allegedly facing sexual harassment and caste discrimination. This is another reminder that there has not been a qualitative change in the institute in the long years since the Thorat Committee report.
( )Read the full article here)
The Supreme Court also wants to reduce the Covid-19 risks posed by overcrowded jails, but there is little progress so far.
Late in March, Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor from Iran, who is at present detained by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), had warned about the “inhumane” conditions at the ICE facility that could turn it into a hot spot of Covid-19 fatalities.
April has made his worst nightmares come true. Asgari, who has a history of respiratory problems, has been infected by the Novel Coronavirus, which causes the Covid-19 disease. The news created international outrage last month. Not only the Iranian foreign ministry, many United States lawmakers and human rights groups also demanded his release, but it was not to be.
At the facility in which Asgari is still lodged (though he has been exonerated of all the charges he faced in the United States), people are usually detained for no more than 72 hours, but the Coronavirus outbreak has delayed deportations. People like him are simply caught up in the system. Asgari can leave the United States and resume work in Iran—where the viral epidemic has already claimed more than 60,000 lives—because he simply isn’t being taken before a judge.
Asgari’s plight reminds of another incarceration, this one in an Indian jail; that of Anand Teltumbde, who has been arrested in the Bhima-Koregaon case. On 26 April, noted activist-filmmaker Anand Patwardhan had, in a Facebook post, expressed deep concern about the health of 70-year-old Teltumbde, who also suffers from respiratory problems.
( Read the full text here : https://www.newsclick.in/Prisons-during-lockdown-needs-to-be-decongested)
Guest Post by PARVIN SULTANA
(Review of HINDUTVA: EXPLORING THE IDEA OF HINDU; NATIONALISM, Jyotirmaya Sharma ( Context 2019); M.S. GOLWALKAR, THE RSS AND INDIA, Jyotirmaya Sharma (Context, 2019) ; DECODING THE RSS: ITS TRADITIONS AND POLITICS Raosaheb Kasbe (Leftword Books, 2019) , RAJIV GANDHI TO NARENDRA MODI: BROKEN POLITY, FLICKERING REFORMS Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr. (Sage Select, 2019) ; MODINAMA: ISSUES THAT DID NOT MATTER Subhash Gatade (Leftword Books, 2019)
The 2014 general elections which saw the Bharatiya Janata Party return to power with an absolute majority is believed to have brought an important paradigmatic shift to Indian politics. Scholars commenting have termed it as a majoritarian shift. Post elections, there have been discussions which tried to understand the reasons behind this massive mandate that the Right Wing political party managed to get. This Right Wing shift in India’s electoral politics was further proven by the 2019 Parliament election results which gave the BJP a larger mandate. Scholars have written trying to understand the rise of BJP—is it an isolated event or a continuation of past developments? This becomes important because even at the international level, there is a shift towards conservative politics.
Indian academia has also taken an objective look at this shift. A number of books have been written on various aspects of present-day politics, the ideologies and icons that paved the way for this rise and continue to provide intellectual fodder for this politics, the liberal economic policies which have been taken to their logical conclusion by the present government, etc. And these books have provided us with important insights to make sense of the present-day political situation of the country.
( Read the full text here : https://thebookreviewindia.org/understanding-the-rise-of-the-bjp/)
Guest Post : Jantar Mantar Declaration of 1 March 2020 Against CAA, NRC and NPR
Adopted at the Convention of writers, artists, cultural activists, scientists and various associations such as Indian Cultural Forum, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Progressive Writers Association , Jan Sanskriti Manch, Dalit Lekhak Sangh, New Socialist Initiative, Jana Natya Manch, Delhi Science Forum, Janasamskriti (Malayalam), Vikalp, Cinema of Resistance, All India Peoples Science Network
We, at this Convention of writers, artists, cultural activists, scientists and various associations express our deep concern over recent violence and communal genocide in Delhi.
We understand that this tragic situation is a direct outcome of the communal design and divisive politicsof CAA-NPR-NRC. The silver lining is that the common people of Delhi remained united in their fight against this outrage. This convention reiterates that only by this unity and mutual trust and cooperation that the CAA-NPR-NRC design can be defeated.
We, at this Convention of writers, artists, scientists, cultural activists and various associations declare our solidarity with the on-going non-violent movement against the draconian CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act. 2019 ), proposed new format of NPR ( National Population Register) and the proposed NRC (National Register of Citizens) . Continue reading Jantar Mantar Declaration Against CAA, NRC and NPR
What is there to say? What can one say that has not already been said umpteen times before – during earlier rounds of communal violence elsewhere – and in Delhi this time?
The political class, true to its character, has revealed as it has so many times in the past, that when it comes to matters like communal violence, it is simply paralyzed – perhaps with the exception of the Left in states where it was strong enough to impact things. For all its failures in other respects, this was one where the Bengal Left, for instance, too had in the past shown great promptness in nipping such possibilities in the bud. Most often this was done, not by relying only on the administrative power of the state, but with the entire party machinery moving into action. Kerala too has had a similar record. But those instances apart, especially in states of the Northern or Western India, there hasn’t been much to write home about. What entering the political domain does to you is illustrated so starkly by the fate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its utter capitulation to what it imagines to be the ‘Hindu sentiment’.
Continue reading The Violence in Delhi, Politics and ‘Heroism of the Ordinary’
BJP’s Delhi campaign was not divisive by sanyog or coincidence. That is its prayog or experiment. Which it will take to other elections.
Kitney aadmi thhe—how many were there?
A meme based on this famous monologue from the highly successful film, Sholay (Embers), from the early seventies, started trending when “David” Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), defeated “Goliath” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi’s recent Assembly elections.
No doubt this election’s result has put paid to the efforts of Home Minister Amit Shah to retain his image as “Chanakya” of Indian politics, at least for now. The result is despite BJP’s desperate attempts to win Delhi, as part of which pulled chief ministers, former chief ministers, cabinet ministers and more than 240 Members of Parliament to campaign in the city. Blame it on the high stakes battle that allegations surfaced that they had distributed cash and liquor ahead of the polls.
The result is for everyone to see.
The most toxic electoral campaign, perhaps ever, in which leaders of the ruling dispensation even provoked violence through their hate speeches, did not work. The BJP’s seat tally rose by merely five and a bloody nose.
( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/Towards-BJP-Hindutva-Lite-Template)
From Nehru to Patel and Ambedkar, the saffron party has appropriated freedom-fighters or tarnished legacies. Gandhi, however, poses a different problem.
Death ends all enmity’ (Marnanti Vairani) goes a maxim in Hinduism.
The story also goes that when Ravana was on death bed, Ram had even asked Laxman to go to him and learn something which no other person except a great scholar like him could teach him, declaring that though he has been forced to punish him for his terrible crime, ‘you are no more my enemy’.
It is a different matter that Hindutva supremacists — who are keen ‘to transform Hinduism from a variety of religious practices into a consolidated ethnic identity’ — are believers in the exact opposite.
For them, once the enemy is dead, the enmity flares up without any limits. They have no qualms that their adversary is no more to defend himself/ herself.
It has been more than five and half years that they are in power at the Centre and we have been witness to complete vilification, demonisation and obfuscation of many of their adversaries, all great leaders of the anti-colonial struggle. Of course, few were found to be ‘lucky’ enough that were promptly co-opted/appropriated by them, of course, in a sanitised form.
( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/BJP-Subjugation-Gandhi-Legacy-Roadblock-Shaheen-Bagh
The Sangh Parivar has supported Tipu when it needed to.
Ghatam Bhindyat, Patam Chhindyat, Kuryat Rasbharohanam
Yenken Prakaren, Prasidho Purusho Bhavet
(Break earthen pots, tear clothes, ride a donkey:
Men try to achieve popularity by any means.)
It was 2006 and DH Shankarmurthy, a nondescript swayamsevak, was handling the higher education ministry in the HD Kumarswamy-led coalition government suddenly hit the national headlines. The trigger was his unusual demand to recast history books in the mould of the Sangh Parivar. Especially his proposal to obliterate the great warrior Tipu Sultan’s name from the annals of Kannada history.
The proposal was based on the completely false pretext that Tipu did not give due importance to the Kannada language and promoted Persian language instead. Never mind that the Mysore state archaeological department holds in its possession more than thirty letters sent from Tipu to the shankaracharya of the Shringeri math, all written in Kannada.
Shankaramurthy wanted Tipu Sultan—who sacrificed his children to end the British rule—obliterated from Karnataka history on the spurious logic that the alleged neglect of Kannada language was reason enough. Even then, the demand had caused a national uproar cutting across party lines. At the time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal Secular (JD-S) were sharing power in the state. As a result, their plans fell flat. Much water has flown down the Kaveri, Godavari and every other Indian river and now a BJP-led government, holding power in the state of Karnataka and the centre has drawn up fresh plans to fulfill a task left unfinished.
( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/goodbye-tipu-sultan)
BJP’s poll promise of Bharat Ratna for Savarkar, who inspired a wide spectrum of fanatic individuals and violent organisations, shows the moral vacuousness of the Hindutva project
“The curious fact is that as we move into the 21st century, historians have become central to politics. We historians are the monopoly suppliers of the past. The only way to modify the past that does not sooner or later go through historians is by destroying the past….Mythology is taking over from knowledge”.
It was in the wee hours of dawn of the 21st century that renowned scholar and historian, Eric Hobsbawm, had talked about the process of “destroying the past” to “modify” it or how “mythology is replacing knowledge” in his speech at Columbia University in New York City.
Much water has flown down the Ganges, the Rheins, the Yangtzes of the world and as we stand at the cusp of the third decade of the 21st century, one realises that how this process — both literally and metaphorically — has advanced to different corners of the globe.
With the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces in polity and society in this part of the world, perhaps this process has reached its extreme, so much so that every other saffronite seems to have gathered enough confidence to claim legitimacy to any weird thing. The news that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in its election manifesto (for the Maharashtra Assembly) has promised that it would confer Bharat Ratna, the country’ topmost honour, on VD Savarkar if voted to power, should be seen in this light.
( Read the full text here : https://www.newsclick.in/Savarkar-India-Ratna-of-a-Different-Kind)
The Sangh’s obsession with vocabulary is not innocent.
The speech by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supremo Mohan Bhagwat on its foundation day (Dusshera) has now become an event, watched with interest. The speech itself has a long tradition within the organisation, which all its affiliated (anushangik) bodies look upon as a guiding light.
This year was no different. Donning the Sangh’s uniform, the top echelons of its organisations attended the event. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis attended too, and wore the black cap and Sangh “uniform”.
Yet, the speech by Bhagwat itself had nothing seemingly strategic. Some analysts even felt that he could not show any new direction to the RSS and its affiliates; that it seemed to have made a weak defence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government that is ruling at the Centre and several states. “Have the tables turned on the Sangh Parivar?,’ The Wire asked, in its analysis of Bhagwat’s speech.
( Read the full text here : https://www.newsclick.in/Lynching-Bharat-Called-Vaddh)
Ms. Amruta Fadanavis – wife of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadanavis – found herself at the centre of controversy two weeks back. Her birthday greetings to PM Modi – whom she wished ‘Father of Our Country @narendramodiji a very Happy Birthday -…’ – on her twitter evoked reaction from twitterati. Her ‘height of ignorance’, was pointed out and her attempt was called ‘sycophancy at its top’ (https://twitter.com/fadnavis_amruta/status/1173877700290678785)
Anyway, as one hoped that this chapter around ‘discovery of a new Father of Nation’ was over and one was attempting to turn a new leaf what one witnessed was rather unusual.
The debate around ‘Father of Nation” came back with a vengeance. Continue reading New India – New Father of Nation?
Review of ‘Malevolent Republic : A Short History of New India’ by K. S. Komireddi
‘The idea of a peace-loving, nonviolent India exists, persists, as part of a selectively constructed and assiduously cultivated national self-image in the midst of a society pervaded by social and political violence…’ argued Prof Upinder Singh, in her well-researched voluminous book ‘ Political Violence in Ancient India’ which had appeared around two years back. She had also added that pioneers of independence struggle were instrumental in creating this ‘[m]yth of non-violence in ancient India which obscures a troubled, complex heritage.’
‘Malevolent Republic’ – A Short Hisotry of New India’ by K. S. Komireddi – a commentator, critic and journalist who has written for leading western publications, reminds one of this debate. The book tries to chronicle the trajectory of post-independence India from Nehru to Modi – and does not shy away from raising uncomfortable questions which demand broader contemplation as well as deep soul searching.
( Read the full story here : https://epaper.telegraphindia.com/calcutta/2019-09-06/71/Page-11.html)
I write this open letter to you as a well wisher, and someone who has been seriously supportive of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) through all the ups and downs in the years since its formation. Perhaps like many others, I too have high expectations of the experiment that AAP is and the new ground it has tried to break in terms of providing a government that has steadfastly kept the interests of the common person in mind while taking decisions.
But I also write this letter because I, like many others, have been perturbed by some developments which do not augur well for the future either of your party or of the country. The latter in any case, is set on a disastrous course, thanks to the current dispensation at the Centre. Let me also make it clear right away that I am not one of those who criticize AAP for ‘lacking a clear ideology’ and I in fact value the fact that on many critical issues, AAP has been able to resist the pressure to step into well trodden, familiar responses to specific situations and issues – especially well trodden among Leftists. But I do think that AAP needs to think a bit more seriously about politics – which is not the same thing as ideology.
Continue reading Nationalism and Politics – An Open Letter to Arvind Kejriwal
Dear Prime Minister, nothing about Jammu & Kashmir is as your party sees it
Economist and activist Jean Dreze, who has co-authored books with Nobel laureates, such as Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton, was in the headlines for a placard he carried to a protest rally in Delhi earlier this week. His placard challenged the government’s most critical justification for its controversial move to scrap Article 35A and read down Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The placard displayed statistics that compare J&K with Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s home state. Dreze clearly showed how Gujarat lags behind J&K on a raft of development indices.
Although Dreze’s data beautifully punctures the government’s claim that J&K’s special status was a hindrance to its progress, Modi in his address to the nation on Wednesday night repeated the same argument, based on dubious claims. For instance, his claim that J&K lags behind other Indian states in matters of health services, education and so on, is patently incorrect.
Figures recorded in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has extended the debate further and shown that J&K already excels many other Indian states on several human development counts. Once again, this underlines that all talk about how “development” will reach J&K after Article 370 is made redundant is sheer humbug.
The propagation of false information brings home the fact that the government has gone very far to generate legitimacy for its decisions in J&K. In his address to the nation, Modi also said that his government had “fulfilled the dreams of [BR] Ambedkar as well as [the then Home Minister Vallabhbahi] Patel”.
( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/index.php/shyama-prasad-mukherjees-role-official-myths-jk-busted)