Watching the much-debated ten-minute-film ‘Memories of a Machine’, which has been accused of justifying paedophilia, I remembered this woman:
I met her, a young woman professional working at Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram – where else, in these days, but in the queue in front of an ATM . In response to my grumbling, she told me that she had never experienced any kind of power in her whole life. She had not even been affected by demonetisation much, she insisted. ‘True, I couldn’t pay the dhobi and the ironing-man, but those were minor inconveniences,’ she quipped cheerily, quite convinced, of course, that the predicament of these two people, definitely as much professionals’ as her, was none of her concern. Indeed, her constant effort was to cheer people in the queue with her don’t-worry-be-happy body-language with which she slipped and slid between acting and sounding like a grown woman and chirping and giggling like a teenager or child. She was attracted to the BJP, she said, because she needed some ‘philosophy’ in her life, to balance the heavy workload she carried in her workplace. As far I could see, her life was such that the philosophy-lesson she would find useful could have been obtained from something as commonplace as a treadmill – start slow, peak up, take regular dips, continue for a spell sufficiently long, stretch after the workout. In other words, her life seemed to be just one long workout, with no indication of when it would end or yield result. But just the feeling that she was on her way was enough to make her cheery to the point of being silly. Continue reading Memories of a Machine, or the Machine of Memory?→
Two of Kashmir’s leading newspapers, Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir said that Jammu and Kashmir police raided their office on Saturday night, seized their printed copies and arrested their employees – a clear act of choking and gagging media in crisis-hit Kashmir valley. Copies of other newspapers, including Kashmir Reader and Kashmir Observer were also seized and their circulation prevented.
Whether discussing issues of contemporary concern among students, raising debates around them on the campus – taking inspiration from the ideas of leading social revolutionaries of 20th century – should be construed as an act of creating ‘social disharmony’ or ‘spreading hatred’ ?
Any sane person would rather reject this weird proposal but it appears that the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) think otherwise. It was evident in the way they acted on an anonymous complaint regarding the activities of a group of students in IIT Madras which calls itself ‘Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle’ (APSC) – which comprises mainly of dalit, bahujan and adivasi students. Perhaps they were worried that the particular students group, has been critical about PM Modi’s policies and has been raising issues of caste, communalism as well as corporate loot of resources and challenging the ‘development’ narrative which is popular these days among a section of people. The impetuosity with which they acted when they wrote to the management of the Institute can also be gauged from the fact that in this process they violated the recommendations of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) itself which has ‘barred’ organisations from taking action on such (anonymous) complaints.
As of now the issue of ‘derecognition’ of APSC by the IITM management, has snowballed into a major controversy, with issues of curtailment of freedom of expression, infringement of autonomy of educational institutions and dominance of caste in higher education all coming to the fore. Continue reading No To Ambedkar-Periyar in ‘Modern Day Agraharam’?→
The move by the central government to freeze Greenpeace India’s bank accounts and block sources of funds, is a blatant violation of the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association. It also seems to be an attempt to warn civil society that dissent regarding development policies and priorities will not be tolerated, even when these are proving to be ecologically unsustainable and socially unjust. These are dangerous signs for the future of democracy in India.
Specific allegations of legal violation contained in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notice are aspects Greenpeace India needs to respond to. However, the notice also charges the organization with adversely affecting “public interest” and the “economic interest of the State”. These charges give the impression that Greenpeace India is indulging in anti-national activities, using foreign funds. However, dissenting from the government’s development policies, helping communities who are going to be displaced by these policies to mobilise themselves, and generating public opinion for the protection of the environment can by no stretch of imagination be considered anti-national, or against public interest. Quite the contrary, any reasonable policy of sustainable development (which the government claims to adhere to) will itself put into question quite a few of the mining, power, and other projects currently being promoted. ”
Civil society organisations in India have a long and credible history of standing up for social justice, ecological sustainability, and the rights of the poor. When certain government policies threaten these causes, civil society has a justified ground to resist, and help affected communities fight for their rights. This is in fact part of the fundamental duties enjoined upon citizens by the Constitution of India.
An open letter from students at National Law University
Abish Mathew, comedian of the AIB Roast fame, performed at NLU Delhi on the 22nd of March for our annual fest, Kairos. Early in the show, Matthew cracked a joke on domestic violence, at which point, two women students who found the jokes to be extremely misogynistic, walked out, showing him the middle finger. The audience reacted with some tittering, and Abish Mathew fumbled momentarily, before resuming. The audience asked him to carry on and to ignore the protesters. In the mean time, a group of female students marched into the auditorium holding placards reading “Get Out, Sexist Pig”, and also used expletives such as ‘fuck off’.
The auditorium erupted in shouts of “fuck you guys” and the protesters were booed and heckled by the audience members who demanded that the protestors either leave or move to the side. They eventually did move to the side of the auditorium, where they continued to hold their placards up and attempted to interrupt him. Abish was greeted by a standing ovation when he stated that he was an artist and recognized the right of the protesters, and subsequently when he ended his show by stating he had overstayed his welcome.
What does one do sitting in the middle of an audience roaring with laughter at jokes that one might find downright humiliating? Laugh along, retire hurt, or ask people to stop? It’s a dilemma that many of us on the ‘wrong’ side of various lines of privilege (caste, class, gender, race) and those sensitive to these divisions often find ourselves in. Some students at the National Law University, Delhi seem to have been put in a similar situation when during their annual college fest, comedian Avish Mathew of AIB Roast fame would not stop amusing his audience with one offensive joke after another. They first decided to walk out and then came back with a placard saying, “Get out you sexist pig!”