This note is inspired by Subhash Gatade and Aditya Nigam. Subhash wrote a piece, “AK versus NaMo” that appeared on Kafila a few days ago and Aditya made a fairly detailed comment on it underlining the need to have “a proper debate on this issue”. It is foolhardy for me to rush where angels fear to tread. There have been celebrated debates on this in the scholarly circles and, just as phenomena “debate” theories about themselves in their own ways, Indian polity debates this issue all the time. How to make sense of such a tangled issue that fills libraries and unleashes periodic havocs in real life, and that too in a short note? Why even try?
My excuse comes, perhaps, from my ignorance. Many of the axioms of such a debate – e.g. church-state separation was specific to the west and even there it hasn’t worked; religion can never be separated from politics; such a separation, if it were to happen, would exclude the believers from the polity; in a multi-religious society only the maxim of “Sarva Dharma Samabhav” can be the desirable policy of the state; etc – do not appear obvious or acceptable to me. I hope to dispel the notion that my incredulity towards such maxims, and towards the Gandhian-communitarian-postcolonialist-postmodern attitudes in general, originate in my being a run-of-the-mill leftist belonging to the “now defunct Left” who refuses to see that the “communist model” to deal with such issues “has virtually no takers”. I do not share with Aditya an approach towards the Left, but that does not mean that I do not have issues with the latter. It seems to me that it manages an awkward feat of limping on both the legs – one leg is afflicted with dogma and the other with populism. But the other side – the Gandhian-communitarian-postcolonialist-postmodern side – appears even more challenged. Despite its erudition on the one hand and a practical-realist approach on the other, when it comes to actual walking in the political arena, it chooses to walk on one leg only – that of populism. Continue reading On Religion and Politics: Ravi Sinha→
क्या भगत सिंह और गांधी पर एक साथ बात की जा सकती है? परस्पर विरोधी विचारों और व्यक्तित्वों का ऐसा युग्म शायद ही मिले.एक को हिंसा का पक्षधर और दूसरे को हिंसा का घोर विरोधी माना जाता है.एक की छवि चिरयुवा की है,दूसरे की एक स्थिर वार्धक्य की. एक अधैर्य का प्रतीक माना जाता है,दूसरा धीरज की प्रतिमूर्ति.एक समाजवादी क्रान्ति का पैरोकार है तो दूसरा सह्य पूंजीवाद का वकील ठहराया गया है जिसके लिए उसने ट्रस्टीशिप की खूबसूरत आड़ ली.
असमानताएं यहीं खत्म नहीं होतीं.भगत सिंह ने औपचारिक शिक्षा न के बराबर ली, हालाँकि वे भयंकर अध्ययनशील थे,गांधी ने एक भले इंसान की तरह पूरी पढ़ाई की और फिर एक पेशेवर वकील की ज़िन्दगी बसर करने की कोशिश की. भगत सिंह अपनी पारिवारिक पृष्ठभूमि के कारण बचपन से ही ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य के घोर विरोधी थे.गांधी के जीवन के आरंभिक वर्ष ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य के वफादार के थे और वे उसकी बुनियादी अच्छाइयों में यकीन करते थे.भगत सिंह का ब्रिटिश हुकूमत के खिलाफ होना ही स्वाभाविक और तर्कसंगत था, गांधी कई संयोगों और दुर्घटनाओं के रास्ते इस नतीजे पर पहुंचे. Continue reading भगत सिंह और गांधी→
“How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.” “Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs.” – Oscar Wilde, ‘The Importance of being Earnest’
When Vijay Patil (49) was detained by the Mumbai police for drinking tea in a suspicious manner, the accused moved the High Court challenging his detention and seeking damages. The Court expressed bewilderment at the arrest. Their Lordships Patel and Dharmadhikari – for whom I have only the greatest respect and admiration – observed with unbecoming levity,
“We were unaware that the law required anyone to give an explanation for having tea, whether in the morning, noon or night. One might take tea in a variety of ways, not all of them always elegant or delicate, some of them perhaps even noisy. But we know of no way to drink tea ‘suspiciously’.”
More worldly men than the Mumbai HC bench have known it is perfectly possible to drink tea in a suspicious manner. It was said of the poet Alexander Pope, as the Mumbai Police said of Mr. Vijay Patil, that he hardly drank tea without a stratagem.
We received two brief submissions separately sent by two women, reflecting on incidents in their childhood or youth that returned to haunt them more recently. Rethinking, reworking their own sense of self, they present before us questions both timely and urgent.
AYSHWARIA SEKHER looks back on her ignorance of caste, PRANETA JHA revisits a childhood game that taught her about sexual violence.
I was seventeen, and an undergraduate when I met this friend at hostel. She was from a southern district of Tamilnadu almost near Kanyakumari. I was always amused by her southern dialect and teased her immensely, for it was very different from what I was used to speaking, being a northerner. She lived next door at hostel, so we got into conversations every time we bumped into each other. One evening she was sweeping her room and cleaning it. I stopped by to see the way she swept so I could bully her. As I observed I did realise that she was so much better than me at it and did it with ease. As we got talking, she revealed that she always did it at her home, and it was not a task for her.
Ignorantly I enquired why they did not have a help at home, which according to me was something that every household possessed. She looked at me, and brushed aside the question plainly, saying simply that they just didn’t have any help. I pestered with the question giving her no space. She stopped sweeping and rested her hand against the wall and said that people would not come to her house to work. I was amazed at why people would not go to a home for work. So my cross questions persisted and she had no choice but to answer.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ‘Dilli Darbar’ on Wednesday reaffirmed this government’s unyielding belief in the trickle-down theory. Let a select few be given the pie and eventually they’ll share it byte by byte. One of the hand-picked senior editors at this super-exclusive meeting said Mr. Singh came across as “totally relaxed, confident and jovial” even as they confronted him with ‘very embarrassing questions’.
The life-altering titbits flashed repeatedly on our TV screens. “I am not a lame duck PM” – Arre wah! “I have full support of Sonia Gandhi – What more could we possibly ask for? “This is not a puppet government” – Hear, Hear! “I can come under Lokpal” – Or the Lokpal can come under you, same difference. “Inflation will come under control by March 2012” – No rush, we’ll just quietly wait in a corner, maybe eat a meal or two less, work three jobs, drop out of school…anything for the nation.
But hidden deep within all this rhetoric was a misquote of great magnitude, one that reveals a lot about the man at the helm and the dodginess of the boat we are all currently rocking along on. Continue reading Gandhi vs. Gandhi→
Here is a very short, utterly incomplete, hastily compiled list of people charged under Section 124 A in the last two years alone.
Our very own Shuddhabrata Sengupta figures in this roll of honour.
(Incidentally, KK Shahina, who has guest posted with us, faces charges from the Karnataka Police under IPC 506 for intimidating witnesses. Her expose in Tehelka showed how the police case against Abdul Nasar Madani, head of the People’s Democratic Front (PDP), accused in 2008 Bengaluru blasts, was fragile and based on non-existent and false testimonies.)
There would be hundreds more, not named here, charged with sedition for “criticizing” the government, for exposing corruption and police nexus with mafias, or for expressing views that run counter to official wisdom on the “integrity” of India.
As if “integrity” is something pre-existing and eternal rather than something that has to be produced at every point. The existence of a nation is a daily plebiscite, said even historian Ernst Renan, a staunch supporter of the nation form. Not so Rabindranath Tagore, who was highly suspicious of the “fetish of nationalism”. He called the Nation nothing but the “the organization of politics and commerce” and warned that when this Nation “becomes all-powerful at the cost of the harmony of the higher social life, then it is an evil day for humanity.” (In his lectures on nationalism, published by Rupa and Co. 1994) Continue reading Kitne aadmi the? We are all seditious now→
This is a guest post by NAMAN AHUJA, who teaches in the School of Art and Aesthetics, JNU and has recently put together this fascinating exhibition that is on in Lalit Kala Academy, Delhi till 21 May
The Making of the Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman is intended to be a biographical and critical insight into the work of the potter, painter and photographer Devi Prasad. Apart from the making of his personal history and his times, it leads us to why the act of making (art) itself takes on such a fundamental philosophical significance in his life. This, I feel, derives directly from his absorption of Gandhi’s philosophy that looked at the act of making or doing as an ethical ideal, and further back to the impact of the Arts and Crafts Movement on the ideology of ‘Swadeshi’ and on the milieu of Santiniketan.
The exhibition and the accompanying book examine Devi’s art along with his role in political activism which, although garnered on Indian soil made him crisscross national borders and assume an important role in the international arena of war resistance. Devi Prasad graduated from Tagore’s Santiniketan in 1944 when he joined the Hindustani Talimi Sangh (which espoused the concept of Nayee Taleem) at Gandhi’s ashram Sevagram as Art ‘Teacher’. His political consciousness saw him participate actively in the Quit India Movement in 1942, in Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan and later from 1962 onward as Secretary General (later Chairman) of the War Resisters’ International, the oldest world pacifist organisation based in London. From there he was able to extend his Gandhian values internationally. All of this, while continuing with his life as a prolific artist. Rather than view them as separate worlds or professions, Devi harmonises them within an ethical and conscionable whole. He has written widely on the inextricable link between peace and creativity, on child /basic education, Gandhi and Tagore, on politics and art, in English, Hindi and Bangla. In 2007 he was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi Ratna and in 2008, the Desikottama by Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan.