‘Degrees’ of Democracy – Field Notes from a Central University in Bihar: Debaditya Bhattacharya

Guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA

This piece has long been in the coming. Soon after the summer of student protests in India exposed the terror-apparatuses of the state and unleashed a new vocabulary of progressive political resistance, the students of a certain Central University of South Bihar (in Gaya) went on strike against the university administration in the early days of August. They however were not fighting to protect constitutional rights, because their daily encounters with the university had already come to rest on a structural suspension of many such rights. Like those of speech, of rational thought and scientific inquiry, of gender-equality, and of resisting what Vemula called the event of being reduced to one’s “immediate identity”. These students merely decided to fight for their right to a degree.

They had come together to demand statutory recognition for courses that they were enrolled in since 2013, but most sections of the national media at that time deemed the issue ‘sub-national’ enough to be granted space or audience. Reporters from the local print-media were – in what seems like accepted practice across public institutions in the country – barred entry into the university campus, and hearsay reports constituted the stuff of low-key news-briefs with little context or compassion. Those who attempted to organise public opinion by writing on social and alternative media spaces, were – in a classic division of interests that administrative bureaucracies are deft at provoking – urged by students themselves to withdraw. The reason was simple: each social media post or conversation around the issue was declaredly spied on by the university administration in order to ‘detect’ subterranean alliances and “outside support” (as if it were a terrorist conspiracy!), and students were individually targeted and intimidated for passing on internal ‘secrets’ to ‘outsiders’. I know of specific Facebook posts which had been taken print-outs of and convened surreptitious meetings over, where administrative heads and proctorial board members put their heads together to crush the germ of student dissent and ‘outsider’-mobilizations. The agitated students continued in their own ways, despite open threats of disciplinary action and reminders of exam-time tactics of penalisation. The Vice-Chancellor marched off to Delhi to strike bargains for an interim settlement-package with officials in the ministry, and returned to meet the striking protestors with as much of an assurance as threats of expulsion. Continue reading “‘Degrees’ of Democracy – Field Notes from a Central University in Bihar: Debaditya Bhattacharya”

Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi

I do not think ordinary Indians support the brutality of army occupation in Kashmir. Despite what the Indian state says, and despite what the Indian army and CRPF are doing, I honestly do not believe that any ordinary Indian supports the torture of young men, the blinding of people attending a funeral, the rape of women, the killings and maiming and abuse and humiliation that are now a routinized fact of daily life in the Kashmir valley. To believe that ordinary Indians enjoy watching this spectacle of violence, that ordinary Indians take pleasure in the torture of children, would be to think India is now a country comprised of sadistic psychopaths. I honestly do not think ordinary Indians are psychopaths. I do think, however, that ordinary Indians, and I count myself amongst them, have somehow managed, till now, to keep some distance between what is happening in Kashmir and the idea of India as a whole. After all, India is a large and complex country, a huge and diverse society. Everything that happens in Kashmir, the brutality of the army and the security forces, cannot signify the whole truth of India we tell ourselves. It seems somehow unfair to us ordinary Indians that what happens in Kashmir reflects on us all.

But the time has come now to squarely face some hard truths about ourselves, and the dissimulations, psychological and social, by which we continue to live in this country and call ourselves ‘Indians’. Continue reading “Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi”

P.A.D.S. Statement on the killing of Prof MM Kalburgi – a sane voice against communalism and superstition

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)

Murder of another rational voice against communalism and superstition

The respected and loved Kannada scholar and writer MM Kalburgi was murdered by two unidentified men on August 30 at his home in Dharwad. The seventy seven year scholar was actively researching Vachanas literature of early Kannada and literature produced during the Adil Shahi period in Northern Karnataka. He was a source of wisdom for many students and scholars, and his killers gained access posing as students. He was also a vocal critic of religious superstitions and had been targeted by fundamentalists within his own Lingayat community and by Hindutva organisations. He had received many threats and his house had been attacked with stones and bottles. He was given police protection, which was withdrawn only days before his murder.

Professor Kalburgi’s cold-blooded murder has caused widespread shock and dismay in the literary and intellectual circles of Karnataka. Many protests involving ordinary citizens have been held in Bangalore and Dharwad. At least one Hindutva Bajrang dal activist has publicly welcomed the assassination, warned another rationalist of Karnataka, Prof KS Bhagwan of the same fate.

Prof Kalburgi’s killing comes after the murders of two other prominent critics of religious superstitions. Dr Narender Dabholkar was killed in 2013 in Pune. Trade Unionist and Communist Govind Pansare was killed in Kolhapur in February this year. There are uncanny similarities in the modus operandi of all three cases. It is likely that as in the earlier cases, the police will fail to solve Prof Kalburgi’s murder. Continue reading “P.A.D.S. Statement on the killing of Prof MM Kalburgi – a sane voice against communalism and superstition”

Whatever happened to 15-M Movement? Atharva Pandit

Guest post by ATHARVA PANDIT

[Against the background of Spain’s recent criminalizing of public protests and the first ever hologram demonstration (see Kafila post by Geeta Seshu) against it, this article revisits the major eruption in 2011, that eventually laid the ground for the emergence of a new political force in Spanish politics]

15M, image courtesy El Tecolote
15M, image courtesy El Tecolote

Spain, seems to be a country that is still shaping itself. Somewhat like a nation that wants to come to terms with its past, unlike many other countries that have gone through a traumatic history and have finally emerged through the political passions – admittedly misdirected – of their distant past. Spain seems like it is yet to come to terms with a civil war that forged its legacy in millions of Spanish minds and the future generations of the country. The fascist forces that staged a coup, and consequently, went on to purge about 150,000 of its citizens in summary executions, far surpassed some of the worst dictatorships that the world has witnessed, including that of Pinochet’s in Chile and of Videla’s in Argentina.

Continue reading “Whatever happened to 15-M Movement? Atharva Pandit”

Land Acquisition and Delays Over Democracy: Shubham Jain, Sarangan Rajeshkumar, Dhruva Gandhi

Guest post by SHUBHAM JAIN, SARANGAN RAJESHKUMAR and DHRUVA GANDHI

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 was passed with Objective to promote transparency and participative governance in the acquisition of land for industrialisation and urbanisation and to, thereby, ensure overall socio-economic development. In the pursuit of this objective, the law introduced mechanisms as Social Impact Assessment, Consent, and Rehabilitation et al.

This law, however, attracted widespread criticism from the industry on account of the supposedly time consuming barriers created for the acquisition of land. Accordingly, the Ordinance of 2015 was promulgated as a measure to hasten the process of Land Acquisition and to, thereby, contribute towards the economic development of the country. Unfortunately, most of the debate on this Ordinance has barely focussed on the problems it sought to address and, consequentially, there has been a dearth of an analysis of solutions proposed therein in the backdrop of these problems. Let us, therefore, contextualise the debate on the Ordinance and, then, examine the merits of the same. Continue reading “Land Acquisition and Delays Over Democracy: Shubham Jain, Sarangan Rajeshkumar, Dhruva Gandhi”

An Election of Hope Versus Fear

Yes it’s a simplistic dichotomy, but there is really no better way to describe the current Delhi elections. On the one hand, a little ragtag army of Davids behind “Mufflerman”, as his faithful supporters affectionately call him, a person in baggy sweater and sneakers, one you wouldn’t look at twice if you passed him on the road.

Mufflerman Business Standard

  Kejriwal

On the other hand, a massively funded, aggressively confident Goliath, openly backed by the corporate bodies and full-page ads, riding a  national “Wave” higher than most Tsunamis, topped by the 56-inch chest of “Modiman”, even if recently modestly covered by a 12-lakh rupee vest.

56-inch Modi78c0d4d3-be9e-4afb-b034-1247529df720wallpaper1

On the one hand, a fearful and awed media establishment donating PR for free to the seemingly invincible King of Gujarat, and on the other, an aam aadmi, a volunteer-cadre run campaign and a palpable vibe of trust and openness on the ground. I know I know, some will say it’s all ‘perception management’ and PR, but barring the googly of the 2 crores party donation thrown at the opportune moment, if Mufflerman’s party was any cleaner, it could have given Lalita ji’s Surf a run for its money. Whatever the result on the 10th (and there is reason to be hawk-eyed about the possibility of tampering as Nivedita Menon’s post has urged), how does anybody not get what a miracle this alone is, in a political economy with a black economy of a size that is higher than the GDPs of most smaller countries? Perhaps this is in fact about hope and fear after all, however clichéd that sounds.

Continue reading “An Election of Hope Versus Fear”

Feed The Poor, Go To Jail

image : Courtesy eideard.com

Whether serving food to the homeless is a crime?

Ask Arnold Arbott, known as Chef Arbott, a 90 year old man from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who along-with two other members of a Church charity faces potential jail term for at least six months for the same ‘offence’. In fact his name finds prominent mention in the police records in the past week for breaking the new city ordinance which has come into effect recently which characterises his act as breach of law, according to reports.

Talking to a newsperson he said:

“These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. They don’t have a roof over their head. And who could turn them away?”

Continue reading “Feed The Poor, Go To Jail”