Guest post by ANANT MARINGANTI
I was on my way to the Basheerbagh Press Club at 5.45 pm Thursday, December 30 when my mobile rang.
“Have you heard the news ?” I knew what that ominous question meant. But who was it?
The friend who called was one of the listed speakers at the Free Binayak Sen meeting at the Press Club where I was going. It had to be someone both of us knew intimately. “Kannabiran. I am on my way. I can pick you up,” he said quickly. Continue reading KG Kannabiran (1929-2010)
This guest post was sent to us by JINEE LOKANEETA
On hearing about Balagopal’s passing, so many emotions go through my mind – perhaps the most selfish thought of them all is that the conversations I have been having with his writings in my own work in the last few years, will never be held in person.
Having known him as long as I can remember being political, my earliest memories of him were of this extremely quiet and intense person who would often come to our house, barely look around, let alone interact much. Those were the early memories where we would often have activists come to our house but I had little realization of what it all meant. Years later, at the founding conference of Progressive Students Union in 1993, I remember meeting Balagopal again (this time knowing what he meant to the left progressive movement yet trying to reconcile that image with my own lack of interaction with him at home). I cheekily asked Balagopal whether he remembered who I was, whether he remembered his comrade’s daughter who he had met over the years mainly in the domestic sphere, I don’t actually remember what he said, but being the truly democratic minded individual, he did acknowledge the moment, laughed and never forgot after that…
Continue reading Saluting a Revolutionary: Jinee Lokaneeta
A sense of irony is the only way for me to describe how I felt when I heard about Balagopal’s death. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives die of heart attacks. And despite the simplicity with which he led his life and interacted with people, every time one met Balagopal or heard him you always knew you were in the presence of someone extraordinary. Whenever he left after any meeting, Balagopal left you a little scared about whether you would ever see him again. As a result of the position that he took- against the violence of the state as well as the violence of the Maoists, you were always left with the lurching fear that any point of time, you would be given the news that Balagopal had been killed in an encounter.
At the same time it is perhaps not surprising that despite living a life which was scripted towards a violent death, it was only appropriate that his death transcended any partisan act of violence. Film maker Deepa Dhanraj captures the essence of Balagopal when she describes him as a ‘moral force’ whose authority emerged from the integrity with which he led his life and the courage with which he stood by his belief. If Balagopal was a regular anti violent activist or a pacifist, then there would have been nothing surprising about his stance on violence, and to argue for the importance of non violence would hardly be an act of courage. But for someone who had spent a better part of his life in struggles, and in battles against the impunity of the state, the commitment to an ethical position on violence becomes a deeply ethical choice of bravery.
Continue reading The Passing Away of a Hero – Goodbye Balagopal
Via Jamal Kidwai
[We are posting this piece by K Balagopal, hoping to continue our reflections on violence and non-violence in political movements. – AN]
The public arena is witness to dispirited discussion of the ineffectiveness of people’s movements, which are at the most able to slow down things, and nothing more. The discussion often turns around violence and non-violence, not as moral alternatives but as strategic options. Those who are sick of sitting on dharna after dharna to no effect are looking with some envy at violent options,
while many who have come out of armed groups find the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) fascinating.
It is good that there is some openness in the matter now, for dogmatic attitudes have done considerable harm. To say that one should not be dogmatic about violence may be morally a little unsettling but it is a defensible position even without adopting a relativistic attitude towards the preciousness of life or a casual attitude towards one’s moral responsibility for injury caused in the course of a struggle. More of that in the right context. But the
discussion will unavoidably be based on assessments of the effectiveness of the alternatives, and a distant view is likely to colour the reality with hopes and assumptions, even illusions. A realistic assessment of what each strategy has been able to achieve would better inform the debate.
The plain and stark fact is that while all strategies have been effective in curbing some injustice, none has succeeded in forcing the government to take back a single major policy in any sphere. And none has been able to reverse the trends inherent in the structures of society and economy. Yet no serious political movement or social struggle we know of is only for softening oppression or improving relief. The general understanding is that governance of the country – and may be the systemic infrastructure of society – is fundamentally wrong and needs remedying, maybe overturning. Do we know of any
effective strategy for that? I am not talking of political strategies,
but strategies of struggle that will successfully put pressure upon the State and the polity to stop them in their tracks. The struggle may be built around class or caste or any other social combination. It may in the end seek reform or the upturning of the polity. It may operate mainly or in part within the polity or keep out of it altogether. Whichever it is, the common problem is this: the experience of this country is that governments do not stop doing some thing merely because it has been demonstrated to be bad. Or even contrary to constitutional directives and goals. They stop only if going along is made difficult to the point of near impossibility. No democratic dispensation should be thus, but Indian democracy is thus. Short of that, you demonstrate the truth of your critique till you are blue in the face or shout till you are hoarse in the throat, it is all the same.
Continue reading Beyond violence and non-violence – K Balagopal