Guest post by SHAJ MOHAN
Manifold is the un-homely, yet nothing is more un-homely than man — Sophocles
The middle of the previous century is understood to be the termination of all kinds of containments of man, having witnessed the worst containment in the Camp[i]. This termination resulted from a crisis that is both philosophical and political: what is the de-termination of man such that he is not the contained? A summary of this scenario is found in a trivial understanding of Foucault’s statements concerning “the end of man” (The Order of Things) and Derrida’s deconstruction of the notion of the “the end” in his essay “Ends of Man” (Margins of Philosophy). As a result of the exigencies of the philosophical and the political, the concept of the state located itself, in the occidental domain, away from the containers. The State would no longer claim to be the clergy and the sovereign of containers such as race and religion. Instead, the State demanded only the right to primary containment—first Indian and then Muslim, first British then White, first Spanish then Basque. The list, the differences, the classification and the management of all the other containers—religion, caste, language, race, public, private—were left up to the new clerics, the new academic disciplines and the NGOs. If all containers were opened up then everything should have flooded out and mixed to form a substance of a new world of people; rather, a substantiality for the in-terminable formation of people. This new people-substance should have dissolved the traces of all the containers, the way science-fiction often imagines the future to be. It should have left for us tales which are the negative of memories, that is, taboos, or myths. For example, the tales that we received about incest from the ancients, the tales of cannibalism in fairy tales, the tales of the world’s resistance to Nazism. Continue reading The Terror That Is Man: Shaj Mohan
Guest post by CHARU GUPTA
The synchronised vocabulary of anti-conversion by the BJP and that of reconversion by the VHP and Dharm Jagran Samiti, an RSS affiliate, reveals the intimate relationship between the two. Anti-conversion and reconversion are two sides of the same coin. Even though the Dharm Jagran Samiti dropped its plan to ‘reconvert’ 4000 Christians and 1000 Muslim families in Aligarh on 25 December, due to pressures from a parliament in session as well as other protests, the day has had strategic significance. Christmas Day has been given a different meaning by the Hindutva brigade — the birth anniversaries of Madan Mohan Malaviya, one of the stalwarts of the Hindu Mahasabha, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the eminent BJP leader. Equally critically, on 23 December 1926 Swami Shraddhanand, the leading ideologue of the shuddhi movement (purification; Hindu movement in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries to reclaim those who had converted from Hinduism to other religions) was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic, and on 25 December, a condolence motion was moved at the Guawhati session of the Congress.
The twin strategies of anti-conversion and ghar wapsi have a long history and past, which saw its efflorescence in the shuddhi movement, but have become much more aggressive in the present context. As part of their community and nation making rhetoric, the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha had launched the programme of shuddhi on a large scale in Uttar Pradesh in 1923. Though Arya Samaj had stronger roots in Punjab, shuddhi movement was more effective in UP. Various scholars have pointed to the communal character of the movement. A note prepared by the criminal investigation department at that time stated that though the movement had older origins, ‘its application to mass rather than individual conversion gave it a special prominence’ in 1923. Shuddhi came to be touted as a movement to reclaim the ‘victims’ and protect the ‘faithful’. Reconversion attempts have since been a part of agenda of various Hindutva outfits, and the present assertions should be seen in that context. Today, organisations like the VHP and Dharm Jagran Samiti have acquired a new importance and are emboldened to not only challenge conversions in an organised manner, but also to simultaneously aggressively campaign for reconversion. Just as shuddhi became an instrument for Hindu communal mobilization in early twentieth century, ghar wapsi is fulfilling the same role today. Continue reading Anti-Conversion and Ghar Wapsi, Or Hindutva’s Doublespeak: Charu Gupta
I want to begin writing this by wishing a very happy Christmas to Reverend C.M. Khanna, a Protestant presbyter in the All Saint’s Church, Srinagar, Indian held Jammu & Kashmir, who has been facing a situation that no free man should ever have to countenance. He has had to face an arrest (though, thankfully now he is out on bail) and social ostracism for doing nothing that can be construed as criminal or harmful to any individual or society at large. I write this in solidarity with him and his family, and with all those who have been harassed for their faith, or for their lack of faith, anywhere.
(Please follow this link for a comprehensive report on Rev. Khanna’s situation, in the form of a press note submitted by John Dayal)
I know that many people in Kashmir continue to be in prison for reasons of conscience, because they want to be free of the occupation. And this Christmas, my greetings are to them and to their families too. I know that Reverend Khanna is out on bail now, and that many others are not. And I hope that they too will see freedom soon. I am writing about Reverend Khanna not because I value his freedom more than that of others incarcerated in Kashmir, but because if we value freedom, we should not have to measure its value, or calculate its worth depending on who happens to get bail, and who happens to rot in jail. Continue reading Merry Christmas, Rev. Khanna: Thinking about Freedom and Intolerance in Kashmir