Guest Post by SANJAY KUMAR
Ramesh has been working as a daily wager in a Government of India office in Delhi for ten years. He is one of the army of peons, office assistants, security guards, gardeners, and cleaning staff which government offices, city municipalities, hospitals, schools and colleges of the metropolis employ regularly. He is a graduate, but gets the wage of an unskilled worker. He is among the fortunate ones who at least get government mandated minimum wage. Most private employers in the city violate the minimum wage act; either they pay less than the mandated amount, or make daily wagers work more than eight hours without any overtime.
Ramesh was pleasantly surprised this April when he noted a more than 30% increase in his wages. His daily wage that stood at Rs 360/ earlier was now Rs 513/. This was due to a Government of Delhi notification issued on 3rd March, 2017. The news was covered in the inner pages of some newspapers. Most TV news channels ignored it. Hence, it is not surprising that employees like Ramesh who are not associated with any organsiation of workers were not aware of this increase. Continue reading The Elephant in the Room – Silence on Class Issues in Indian Politics : Sanjay Kumar
Guest Post by FATIMA TASSADIQ
The brutal murders of Shehzad and Shama, a Christian couple in the village of Kot Radha Kishan in Kasur district on 4th November, spawned predictable outrage in the press and social media. The rush of horror, the diagnoses and prescribed course of action against such violence involved the familiar paternalistic discourse of the ‘illiterate masses’ whose ‘ignorance’ evidently leaves them particularly vulnerable to the manipulation of the much maligned mullahs. Such a narrative serves the dual function of reducing religious violence to the faceless masses while at the same time reaffirming the educated urban upper class as the rightful custodian of Islam and Pakistan. This construction conveniently ignores the role played by the state and the elite in producing religious violence and feeds the class-based blind spots that exist in our understanding of what constitutes religious extremism.
Continue reading The Class Politics of Blasphemy in Pakistan: Fatima Tassadiq
VEENA VENUGOPAL writes: Saw the ad about the horrible boss? The one in which the employee comes in with a new idea and in return he gets a load of sarcasm? And even when the boss likes the idea, he reveals it with an air of impudent superiority. Seen that one? What was it called? Hari Sadu?
Well, no. This ad is for a new brand of cookies; Gold Star, it is called. A male “attendant”/“peon”/“employee” comes in to a plush white room and serves a plate of cookies to Amitabh Bachchan. On biting into one, he realizes these are not his regular cookies. “Arre suno,” he calls because come on, he isn’t expected to know the name of all the people who serve him cookies at home. The employee admits they are new. “Maine socha ki…” (I thought…) he says at which Bachchan rolls his eyes and says, “aaj kal aap sochne bhi lag gaye?” (you have even started thinking now?). But then he realizes he likes the new ones and instructs the man, “ayenda yeh sochna band karo,” (please stop thinking in the future). Continue reading We are all Hari Sadu: Veena Venugopal
Guest Post by Devika Narayan
Rarely does a city experience the sort of upheaval that Delhi is witnessing. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone has an opinion. It is impossible to walk down the street without overhearing snatches of conversation. Issues that usually find brief mention in some obscure corner of the newspaper are now being subject to analysis by every passer-by. A rickshaw driver refuses to take any money when he realises I am on my way to a protest. I remember the old man at a photocopy shop who had looked up and asked no one in particular: do you think she will die? The receptionist at the doctor’s clinic is distraught, providing waiting patients her explanation for the recent events. Men huddled around tiny fires littered across the foggy city carp on about the state of politics, the police and the government. Everyone is invested in this moment of reckoning.
An opportunity, in the most brutal manner, has been thrust upon us to challenge, critique and reconstruct unjust social relations. This is an opportunity to pledge our commitment to a vision of a gender just society. Unless we assert in powerful ways that women are autonomous beings and equal citizens it will not end. Continue reading Some thoughts on rape, sexual violence and protest – responding to responses: Devika Narayan
Guest post by BHARAT PATANKAR translated by GAIL OMVEDT
Introduction: The Process of Exploitation
Exploitation arising from the caste hierarchy is a particular feature of the South Asian subcontinent. There was no such exploitative system in other continents or in countries outside of South Asia. But since caste exploitation has been a reality for 1500-2000 years this shakes the belief that only class can be the basis of exploitation. And because of this we have to transcend the attempt to find a way only pragmatically and deal with the issue on a philosophical and theoretical level. Class has been theorized extensively in terms of exploitation; to some extent gender also, but not caste. Exploitation as women in various forms has also been a reality for thousands of years; this also is not through “class”. This reality from throughout the world gives a blow to the idea that exploitation can only be class exploitation. This can also be said of exploitation arising on the basis of racial and communal factors. Continue reading Caste and Exploitation in Indian History: Bharat Patankar
Guest post by WALED AADNAN
“Amar naam Chatterjee!” My name is Chatterjee! sounds like a proclamation from a fiery leader of the masses at a public rally, but it came from a rickshaw wallah plying his trade in the dusty bylanes of North Calcutta and addressed to no one in particular.
As I sat on his rickshaw, the frail old man launched into an indignant tirade against the ruling political party, whom he branded as a group of turncoats, insisting vehemently and repeatedly to nothing but the evening breeze that he had always been a Congressman.
Yes, he defended, petrol prices have been rising, but surely the bosses in Delhi would admit to that! What is the point of protesting about that in an insignificant meeting of rickshaw wallahs’ union? His tone of uncompromising understanding of world affairs drew me to listen to him, rather than plug in my earphones and switch off the world. Continue reading A Rickshaw Ride in Kolkata: Waled Aadnan
guest post by D. PARTHASARTHY
When newspaper columnists become self-righteous, it is usually because they see a good way of capturing reader interest by moralizing about an issue. After all, tabloids around the world regularly make fortunes by generating a false sense of moral outrage and indignation through stories of the indiscretions and ineptitudes, sufferings and misfortunes of celebrities and of not so famous people. It is a sign of irony as well as an indication of the way in which neo-liberal capitalist media works, that the consequences of alienation engendered by an individualist ideology is fodder for sensationalist reporting, but also a tool for mobilizing collective conscience against alienated individuals, and for preventing communities from understanding the real reasons for alienation.
Continue reading Dignifying Jade Goody, or, What Jade Goody actually connotes: D. Parthasarthy
Guest post by TRISHA GUPTA
Fifteen minutes into Dibakar Banerjee’s new film, a bunch of lower middle class Delhi boys are beating up a private school kid whose one refrain is a pleading “Jaan de bhai, extra class hai“. They don’t stop. But at one point, the gangly teenaged sardar pauses in his pummelling to make the padhaaku kid answer a crucial question, “Yeh greeting card mein likha kya hota hai?” Continue reading India’s fault lines, explored in a film about a Delhi thief – Trisha Gupta
Guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA
“The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of a cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalistic industry, along plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good die like dogs, for no good reason.”
– Hunter Thompson in Generation of Swine
We, in the business of media, are running a trade in ‘faces;’ swapping ordinary ones for the attractive, distorting news coverage and not really giving a damn about it. But the craft of journalism was not always so warped. We made it so.
Continue reading Sandra Samuel, Faces and the ‘Nouveau’ Media – Monobina Gupta
Guest post by ANANT MARINGANTI
How far is Nandigram from Chengara ? If we take media coverage and internet buzz as indicators, they are on two different planets. The heat generated by Singur and Nandigram was enough to run a chain of mini power plants. All that the families in the Chengara holdout have managed to evoke is a few approving nods from here and there. Here is a partial inventory of reasons why this might be so.
1) Singur and Nandigram are protests against disposession. The bad guys in the two instances are high profile harbingers of neoliberal globalization. No less. Chengara is about staking a claim to a welfare provision that nobody takes seriously anymore. There are no easily identifiable bad guys here.
Continue reading The million mutinee question – Anant Maringanti
I want to go off on a bit of a tangent here. Just to open a different discussion in the spirit of thinking, and muddling along together. It seems to me that one of the axis on which the debate has turned is on the question of desire and its representation. Who is the desiring subject, towards whom is this desire directed, who represents this desire in what way, what are the slippages therein, who has the right to speak about whom.
I was wondering if we can approach this from a slightly different angle by taking this question of desire beyond the individual subject (variously defined). And in fact nameless did gesture to this in one of her responses where she raised the question of the appropriation of what she termed subaltern practices by elite intellectuals where certain practices and forms, in this case autos, are made to stand in for certain values – in this case progressive, ‘left” etc – which says more about the locations of the intellectuals and their insensitivity to their own class-caste positions, in a move which is patronizing at best and exploitative at worst. I think inherent in this critique is the shadow of a kind of objectification of a certain experience, so that a symbol becomes alienated from the actual life practices in which it is located to circulate as some empty signifier, to be appropriately filled as per requirement.
Continue reading A Tangential Addition to the Great Auto Debate
Baba Hindol and Behen Maya
Please read this very important post on the CNN IBN website’s otherwise dull blog section. It has been written by Hindol Sengupta who covers fashion and suchlike for them. His point is that he can’t relate to Mayawati, and finds it ironic that the “backbone of the knowledge, entreneurial [sic] economy” should be a “non-vote bank”. He says that his class of people, his ‘type’ – People Like Us, to use a cliche – “rejoice every time Manmohan Singh takes stage” but alas, even he couldn’t win a Lok Sabha election from South Delhi.
The reason why I think it is an important post is that unlike most other PLUs, Sengupta makes no claim to ‘objectivity’. When Youth for Equality / United Students / other ‘anti-reservationists’ oppose reservations, and speak about Dalits/OBCs, they claim to be doing so with a claim to ‘objectivity’, that is, they do not admit that the viewpoint(s) they are putting forward are of a certain section of society that is influential in shaping public opinion despite being in a minority.
Sengupta admits not only his discomfiture with a democratically elected Mayawati but also that his discomfiture stems from his background, from who he is. He describes himself and his ilk as “middle-class, educated, metro-bred, Christian-education raised, young.” That would abbreviate into MEMCRY, but let’s just use the word ‘yuppie’.
It is quite extraordinary and laudatory for a yuppie to admit his distance from the political rise of the ‘low-class, neo-literate, village-bred, government school-raised, middle aged’. Such an admission is a rarity, and it is exactly what the ‘anti-anti-reservationists’ want the ‘anti-reservationists’ to admit. Continue reading Why Hindol Sengupta needn’t fear Mayawati