On 22nd May 2018, in what cannot be imagined even in a dictatorial regime, the police in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu – a South Indian state opened fire to kill, on a group of peaceful protesters marching towards the district administration office demanding denial of permission for expansion and closure of the existing copper smelting plant of Sterlite. Sterlite is a subsidiary of the London based corporation Vedanta, which has been dumping toxic waste all over this town since 1998 resulting in widespread health hazards including increase in reports of cancer. This massacre is unimaginable even in the worst dictatorial regimes, because not only were known national and international legal norms and protocols in crowd/riot control violated, but also because the video clippings that have surfaced after the massacre seem to indicate sufficient premeditation – with a plainclothes sniper on the top of a van being ordered to kill at least one person. Continue reading Thoothukudi Massacre – When State becomes Predator: Bobby Kunhu→
English language television news in India nowadays is nothing more than exaggerated visual editorials. They pick two or three stories, sensationalize them, run them in a loop through the day, alongside panel discussions where the editorial ideology of the channel is forced down the throat of the panelists and the viewers. In short there is hardly little journalism left in these channels. Though they do have panel discussions, regional language channels – at least Malayalam and Tamil channels that I watch – have a wider and more diverse reportage than self-proclaimed national television.
It wasn’t always like this. When Prannoy Roy pioneered private television content for Murdoch – regardless of the ideological content – there was reportage. Editorial proselytizing and endless panel discussions were limited most often to when psephologists stepped in.
Rasheed, a political activist, award winning journalist and activist was one of the founders of the Trotskyite movement in India and the RSP in Kerala. He passed away on the 6th of January, 2017
It is very unusual for a grandchild to write public obituaries for grandparents – but Comrade M. Rasheed was a person of unusual politics and his death definitely warrants an unusual response requiring the obituary also to be unusual. Given that the significance of Comrade Rasheed’s life was his unwavering integrity to ideals that he fell into the bad books of his father and walked out of the political party he co-founded, given that he never shied from expressing his opinion on anyone – it would only be right in writing this as a critique of the human being he was – and I am sure he would not have expected anything less from me. Continue reading Remembering M. Rasheed – A Grandchild’s Political Farewell: Bobby Kunhu→
“To be mortal is the most basic human experience, and yet man has never been able to accept it, grasp it, and behave accordingly. Man doesn’t know how to be mortal. And when he dies, he doesn’t even know how to be dead.” – Milan Kundera, Immortality
Insaan was a person who deliberately and desperately sought to mortalise himself in a world obsessed with immortality. He was very clear that he did not want to leave any footprints of his life when he died, no children, no money, no property, no awards, no monuments, no records, no pictures – except for those inevitable because of State restrictions that could trouble people who handled his death – like death certificate. He was working hard since his retirement towards his death fighting his way through the bureaucracy for anonymity in death! Then why am I writing about him disregarding his long cherished wish? Firstly his life was too important not to be chronicled; secondly whenever we joked that we would make a saint of him after he died he responded that he did not believe in an afterlife and what people did after he died was not his concern and finally, this is my way of grieving the loss of someone who was dear to me and whose relationship with me is not at all definable!
Insaan was not new to obituaries. In fact it was an obituary that brought him into my life. The story dates back to 1982, when Advocate P. M. Padhmanaban was visiting his relatives in Bombay. My grandfather, M. Rasheed had asked him to look up Insaan, his political co-traveler and fellow trade unionist from whom he had not heard in a while. On enquiries Padhmanabhan was informed that Insaan had succumbed to a long bout of jaundice and was no more. Dutifully he passed on the information to my grandfather, who wrote a long obituary in the Sunday edition of the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi. The following Sunday as my grandfather was sitting with his cup of tea and perusing his morning newspapers at the Verandah of his Calicut house, Insaan walked in with a copy of the newspaper that carried his obituary!
Guest post by RAMAPRIYA GOPALAKRISHNAN and BOBBY KUNHU
On January 2nd this year, management officials at the Sriperumbudur factory of NVH India Auto Parts Ltd, the Indian subsidiary of a Korean auto parts manufacturing company manhandled the company’s striking workers. The shocking visuals of the Korean managers of the company dragging workers on the floor and a manager standing over a worker holding him between his feet sparked outrage amongst civil society groups and caught the attention of the mainstream media.
The trigger for the strike was the suspension of 15 workers which their union alleges was without any reason. Several other issues festering for a long time also gave an impetus to the workers to go on strike. These include the lack of adequate toilet facilities. Apparently, there are only 6 toilets in a factory where more than 700 workers are employed of which only 4 are in usable condition. In a juvenile twist, the workers have to seek and secure the permission of the management officials each time they need to use the toilet. If this rule is violated in cases of emergency, warning letters are issued to workers alleging that they were found missing from their work spot. Another issue is the lack of a regular and sufficient supply of drinking water in the factory. The workers were also miffed at being under the glare of surveillance cameras all the time during their work hours. A very important issue that was a sore point was the management’s use of trainees and contract labour to perform production work of a regular nature. The workers were also upset at the attitude of the Korean management and the way they treat them. They allege that there are instances of physical abuse where the management officials hit and slap workers and spit on their faces. Over and above all this, the permanent workers in the factory were peeved at the failure of the management to grant recognition to the union they had joined in 2013 and negotiate with the union.
On 17th December there was a dramatic sequence where, the youngest of a family of aged parents and five sisters who were inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry attempted suicide by jumping off a water tank. The police rescued the woman, booked her and her sisters for attempt to suicide and released them on bail. This was following a Supreme Court order evicting them from the ashram at the end of a decade long struggle against the ashram. Their demand was simple that the management of the Ashram be taken over by the State to contain the corruption within. On the morning of 18th December, the family of seven decided to walk into the sea. Three died, four were rescued. Amongst the four who were rescued, one was allegedly raped by two men in her state of unconsciousness.
The South Asian spiritual landscape perhaps is the most diverse – ranging all hues and shades of spirituality cutting across religions and castes and has attracted followers internationally including celebrities like the Beatles, Isaac Tigrett (the founder of Hard Rock Café) and many others. Without exception, all of these spiritual groups ask for “total” surrender, though the terms of this surrender would differ from group to group. And many have willingly surrendered! For a non-believer it might be difficult to understand this leap of faith. But, for the believer this becomes the single most important event in her/his life. Even more important than birth marriage, love or death! And, when the terms of surrender is breached – though all hell breaks loose, people cling on to their faith. Despite “Sexy Sadie”, Paul McCartney held that Transcendental Meditation was a gift The Beatles had received from the Maharishi at a time when they were looking for something to stabilise them. In the BBC documentary The Secret Swami Tigrett stated that he believed that there was truth to the rumors of Sai Baba’s actions of pedophilia and sexual abuse towards some of his young male followers, but also such rumours would not change his belief in the Baba. Continue reading Pondicherry Ashram Suicides and The Spiritual Surrender: Bobby Kunhu→
Between the occasion of the memorial anniversary of Immanuel Sekharan that falls on 11th September and that of Muthuramalinga Thevar on 30th October are 30 odd road kilometers, 49 days, incalculable castiesm and this year (2011) 7 more Dalit lives. Almost the entire Big Media portrayed the 11th September, 2011 murders at Paramakudi as retaliatory State violence to an unruly and violent mob – to the convenient delight to the defenders of the State administration. Dissenting voices mostly Dalit – located the violence squarely where it belongs – in caste. In his note “Paramakudi Violence: Against Dalits, Against Politics”, inthe November 5th, 2011 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly, Muthukaruppan Parthasarathi clearly outlines the historical and current context in which the this year’s spate of violence that claimed 7 lives happened!