The eve of India’s 66th Independence Day is a time as good as any to read this poem by RABINDRANATH TAGORE, even as India gets ready to sing to martial tune another Tagore poem, Jana Gana Mana. This English translation was published at the end of Tagore’s 1918 book, Nationalism.
THE SUNSET OF THE CENTURY
(Written in the Bengali on the last day of last century)
Guest Post by M AKHIL: Listen to the flourish. The stage is set, the side-kicks are in place and the sycophants are scampering tirelessly to welcome their emperor. Narendra Modi has started his journey to the high seat of Indraprastha.
Curiously enough, his current ride is being celebrated as a victory lap by his ardent supporters. A bit too quick, don’t you think? Especially for a man who was only a few years ago, in terrible danger of being convicted for one of the most gruesome state-sponsored genocides in the history of independent India. Of course, he hasn’t been convicted yet, but many of his ministers and close aides have been. Babu Bajrangi’s confessions on record must be more than enough proof for Modi’s culpability. 1 Alas! Facts get twisted in the most unimaginable ways as they threaten to blow away an edifice carefully built by a dominant plutocracy with immense help from the ‘State-Temple-Corporate Complex’. 2 Here, I shall attempt to bust the Modi bubble which is being ridiculously pumped up by the holy nexus, even as you are reading this. After all, the BJP is possibly the party with the highest following among Indian netizens and the online publicity team of the current supremo is meticulous. An alternative view will be stark, but hopefully it will serve as food for thought for those among us getting nauseated by the dominant narrative. Continue reading Lies, Damn Lies and NaMo – Why I do not support Modi and why you shouldn’t either: M Akhil→
In the early hours of Saturday morning, a secret execution was carried out by the Indian government. Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, was put to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. Afzal’s family in Kashmir were cruelly denied a last visitation. They were informed that the Indian President had rejected his mercy petition, and of his imminent execution, by mail—the letter reached Afzal’s wife Tabassum two days after he was executed and buried in an unmarked grave inside Tihar Jail.
Meanwhile, across the border in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis from all walks of life have occupied Shahbag Square near Dhaka University, outraged that a notorious war criminal might walk free after having been spared the death penalty by the Bangladeshi International War Crimes Tribunal. Abdul Quader Mollah, leader of the right-wing Islamist party Jamaat-i-Islami, and convicted of multiple counts of rape, torture and murder, was photographed flashing a victory sign as he left the court. Continue reading Lessons from Delhi and Dhaka: Nagesh Rao and Navine Murshid→
Ever since the news of Afzal Guru’s execution broke out on the 9th, I have witnessed my personal space descend into a state of chaos. I woke up that morning to a number of emails/facebook messages by friends requesting me to join them at Jantar Mantar to protest against Guru’s execution. Many called that particular protest farcical, some even going to the extent of labelling these young men and women as traitors. Battle lines were drawn and a country stood divided. The more I thought about the execution, the more it saddened me. I could see myself and people like me (the ordinary citizens of this great nation) as pawns in a game of ugly power play, waiting to be sacrificed at the altar of ‘opportune moment’. Continue reading What Afzal Deserves: Chandan Gomes→
As I sit writing this, on the 26th of January, 2013, in various parts of the territory of the Republic of India, soldiers either already have, or are about to begin marching in formation. In New Delhi, the capital of India, their parade is accompanied by tanks, heavy artillery and replicas of nuclear warheads. In the part of the province of Jammu & Kashmir administered by the Indian Union, in several provinces of the north-east, and other areas where the writ of the state runs entirely on the basis of its armed might, Republic Day, as this date is called, is an occasion for search and cordon operations, ‘crackdowns’ and the creation of a Potemkin village like ambience in the zones (usually heavily guarded stadia) where the republic insulates itself from the public. In New Delhi, the naked, obscene exhibitionism on the axial avenue of Rajpath of a nuclear weapons power that maintains the second largest armed forces in the world, even as millions of its subjects subsist at sub-Saharan levels, is an annual ritual. Apparently, this ritual is conducted to commemorate the founding of the Indian republic through the coming into force of its constitution in 1950.
The first amendment to the Indian Constitution, passed in 1951, allows the government to impose “reasonable restrictions” on a citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression, in order to protect “the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.
The means to impose these “reasonable restrictions” are described in several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc). Section 298 of the IPC makes punishable words uttered “with the deliberate intent of wounding religious feelings”; section 504 addresses “intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace”; section 153 makes punishable speech acts that lead or could have led to rioting; section 295A could land you in jail for three years over “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings”; section 153B permits the punishment of speech acts that question any social, religious or linguistic group’s allegiance to the Constitution of India or that such a group be denied Constitutional rights. Read more…