(Opening remarks in an ongoing discussion within New Socialist Initiative (NSI) on Left’s approach to Electoral Politics in Contemporary India)
The Speaker :
Ravi Sinha is an activist-scholar who has been associated with progressive movements for nearly four decades. Trained as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Ravi has a doctoral degree from MIT, Cambridge, USA. He worked as a physicist at University of Maryland, College Park, USA, at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad and at Gujarat University, Ahmedabad before resigning from the job to devote himself full time to organizing and theorizing. He is the principal author of the book, Globalization of Capital, published in 1997, co-founder of the Hindi journal, Sandhan, and one of the founders and a leading member of New Socialist Initiative.
The question of federalism and Centre-State relations has been on many people’s minds lately, given that the Centre in the Modi dispensation has been hell bent on usurping the powers of the states while slyly thrusting all responsibility on to their shoulders. As a matter of fact, it was precisely during the outbreak of Covid19, when there should have been maximum cooperation between the Centre and the States, that the strains started showing in a glaring manner. Very early on, it became clear that the Centre was intent upon using the pandemic to usurp more and more powers, while riding roughshod not only on the rights of ordinary citizens but also of the States. In dealing with the pandemic, not only were the mandatory consultations with the States not held, they were in fact simply handed over decisions. The most dramatic of all these, of course, was the completely bizarre manner in which the Lockdown was declared last year, at just four hours notice. The huge tragedy that followed was totally avoidable had there been prior consultations and had the Prime Minister, just for one moment, behaved like one. As a matter of fact, the record of this government over the past seven years has been pretty consistent in this regard at least. Continue reading Why Federalism Must Become the Fulcrum Of Politics In Coming Days→
Review of ‘Truth in Fetters : Broken Promises and Shattered Unity’
“Change is in the air”!
A retired academic who had his last assignment as Vice Chancellor of a leading university said to me the other day, while we were discussing the contemporary political scenario. Frankly admitting that he had supported Modi’s candidature then and had even discreetly campaigned for him, during 2014 elections, he said that what a ‘disaster’ it has been these last four and half years to our polity with him at the helm of affairs.
Both the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) events were “ultra-Left movements” also involving a small section of “jihadis”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley contended on Sunday.
In the case of JNU, the predominant section of those involved in the agitation was “ultra-Left” barring a small section of “jihadis”, who had their faces masked during a demonstration on the campus on February 9 in which anti-national slogans were raised, Mr. Jaitley said.
Ambedkar has become an insurgent figure today, breaking out of all the pre-set molds in which he was sought to be confined all these decades. He is no longer neither a mere Dalit leader, nor is he simply the Constitution-maker and constitutionalist who taught us to have faith in the law – the two comfortable and domesticated roles in which he has been presented to us so far by all interested parties and the powers-that-be. In the face of the new Sanghist/ fascist assault, he has broken his chains to come out on the streets, as universities and colleges across the country begin to reverberate with his spirit of rebellion. Ambedkar, the name and the face, is ubiquitous by his presence in all the struggles that mark this moment. Even as the struggle of the HCU students for justice for Rohith Vemula continues and the news of the first victory – their release on bail – trickles in, the figure of Ambedkar at the barricades gives the lie to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claim above: that HCU and JNU movements were ‘ultra-Left movements’ and ‘jihadis’, and that “the name of Dr Ambedkar was ‘unfairly used’ in the case of HCU. How easy it would be, Mr Jaitley, to thus pronounce the dog mad and go about your business, and how embarrassing to have to confront Ambedkar facing your police and lathis, your courts and prisons. Continue reading Insurgent Ambedkar and a New Moment in Politics→
The return of BJP to power in 2014 was the return centre-stage of the caste question. Not that caste had gone away. Far from it.But our public life had been unmistakably altered by caste radicalism in the last few decades. 1990s onwards, powerful and triumphant dalit voices – intellectual, literary and political – transformed the nature of our democracy such that questions of caste injustice and caste assertion could no longer be circumvented, passed over, as it was done in earlier decades, by both reactionaries and progressives. Nor could the dalit and the low-caste subject be any longer portrayed as mere outcast or victim. She had come into her own as an autonomous and assertive political subject, sometimes even the ruler. Christophe Jaffrelot called this India’s silent revolution, and rightly so. What we see today with the rise (and imminent fall) of Hindutva nationalism is an attempt at a counter-revolution, nothing less.
It may not be an exaggeration to say that what has just transpired is nothing short of a peaceful counter-revolution. Counter-revolution, not because there was an imminent threat of revolution that has been put down, but because the big bourgeoisie has finally put an end to the challenge from mass struggles that corporate interests had been facing. Struggles around land acquisition, the pressures for environmental clearance that held-up corporate projects, social welfare programmes that came in the way of the most unbridled pursuit of profit, and subsidies that supposedly introduced market distortions – all these had been greatly troubling the corporate sector and their ideologues. A campaign was built up, gradually over the past few years, to install a strong leader with a solid majority, who would give the bourgeoisie a free hand. And it must be admitted today that most of us failed to see where and how that threat was building up. We failed to see that for at least three, perhaps four years, the idea of the ‘Gujarat model’ was being put in place as a shorthand for an unrestrained play to private big capital.
Even when we realized that Modi was being pushed seriously, our eyes were still fixed on the older question of Modi’s culpability or otherwise in the 2002 carnage in Gujarat. The dream of the Gujarat model was sold over the years in many different ways, among precisely those sections whose support the Left (in its broadest sense) would have liked to enlist. The UPA government, of course, left no stone unturned in alienating itself from its popular support. Thus while important social welfare programmes, formulated under pressure from popular and social movements lagged behind in implementation, the neoliberal axis of Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia pushed relentlessly on matters like abolishing subsidy on cooking gas and direct cash transfers. The UPA government’s experience, in fact, showed that you cannot be all things to all people; that the interests of the big bourgeoisie and those of common people stand in irreconcilable contradiction. The balancing act cannot really go on for very long. Continue reading Beyond the Elections – Need for a Vibrant and Credible Left→
The margins just got bigger. Many among those who customarily inhabit the centre have been pushed to the periphery. They are not my concern. There are analyses galore about why and how this has happened. I am not going to add one more to those. Margins exist on all sides. They encircle the political mainland from left and from right. Some might say there are no margins on the right. Everything on that side is mainstream. In any case, I will have little to say about the margins on the right.
My concern is with the left-side margins that now harbour the entire Left, although it is perhaps too soon for much of the traditional Left to acknowledge that. They are not likely, in any case, to listen to those of us who have spent a lifetime on the margins – partly because of our own follies and frailties but also because we have refused to succumb to the unsavory demands of the times. It is, after all, not our fault that we are born in a valley of historical time where the descent on the slopes of past glories has already come to an end and the ascent to the future ones is yet to begin. Continue reading Lessons for the Saner Segments of the Margins: Ravi Sinha→
क्या निराश हुआ जाए? कल सुबह से हजारी प्रसाद द्विवेदी का एक अन्य प्रसंग में किया गया यह प्रश्न मन में घूम रहा है. चुनाव नतीजों के पहले ही चरण में पिता ने फोन पर कहा: “यह तुम्हारा पहला कड़ा इम्तहान है.”पिता ने, जो अब जीवन की सांध्य वेला में हैं, कहा, “हम तो किनारे पर खड़े लोग हैं, तुम सब अभी इस जिंदगी के रेले के ठीक बीचो-बीच हो, भागने का न तो कोई उपाय है और ऐसी कोई भी इच्छा कायरता होगी. इसका सामना करो और इसे समझो.” हजारीप्रसाद जी और अपने पिता को कहना चाहता हूँ, वह जो रवींद्रीय ब्रह्मांडीय उदारहृदयता का स्वप्न आप सबने दिखाया था, कामकाजी रोजमर्रापन की तेज रौशनी में खो गया जान पड़ता है. शायद हम सब अब तक सो रहे थे,अचानक जगा दिए गए हैं. निराश या हताश होने की सुविधा नहीं है. समझने की कोशिश ही शायद इस यथार्थ का सामना करने के साधन देगी! Continue reading क्या निराश हुआ जाए?→
“Comrade! There is a man dying of thirst at the door. What is the Party line on giving water to thirsty people?”
There was a moment’s silence at the other end of the telephone and then the Great Ideologue said, “That is reformist activity. Tell him we can give our lives for the Revolution but cannot- as matter of policy- give water to the thirsty”
“But Comrade, he will die at our doorstep if we don’t give him water. Think what the bourgeois media will say then”
“You are right. Positive media coverage is important as that is the only way we reach the masses these days. But before you give him water to drink first ask him whether he believes in public or private supply of water” Continue reading The Party Left and Aap: Satya Sagar→
‘Turn in any direction you like, caste is the monster that crosses your path. You cannot have political reform, you cannot have economic reforms unless you kill the monster.’
Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar
‘If Lenin was born in India , he would not have even let the idea of revolution come to his mind before he had completely buried casteism and untouchability’
The Indian left today presents a very contradictory picture. As opposed to many left formations/movements in different parts of the world which witnessed decline/3reverses after the Soviet collapse, it has been able to sustain itself and at places even expand itself. Yes, the movement is far from united, there are ruptures and divisions at various levels, which at times even prove deadly, but if one is able to look at the cumulative impact of what is known as left and contrast it with many other countries, situation does not appear that bleak.
It’s sustenance and continuation amongst heavy odds, does not mean that it is not beset with challenges. The challenge of outlining its emancipatory vision of social transformation for 21 st century, devising innovative strategies of mobilisation and rejuvenating itself organisationally still remains. It also needs to reboot itself to address few important issues which are of key importance for any radical restructuring of Indian society and state. Undoubtedly, its failure on this count has cost it heavily. Question of dalit emancipation or the whole struggle for annihilation of caste forms one such core issues which demand serious attention. Continue reading Cast Away Caste – Breaking New Ground …→
Hazare, khwahishein aisi, ke har khwahish pe dam nikle bahut nikle armaan, lekin, phir bhi kam nikle
Hazare, so many desires, that every desire takes our breath away
so many hopes, and yet so few
(with due apologies, for liberties taken, to Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, sometime poet and native of Delhi)
On the ninth of april, this year, I wrote a posting on Kafila titled – ‘At the Risk of Heresy : Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare Tonight‘. A little more than four months later, I have to say I have not yet found reasons to celebrate. But I am not in mourning either. What follows is my attempt to think this through, in all its contradictory character. For once, I am not even trying to be consistent. If my argument occasionally faces two directions at once, it is probably because I feel the needs to be double faced in order to understand a double-faced moment. When all the talk is only of the need for honesty, one might want to stake a claim to being double-faced, if only for the sake of breaking the moral monotony.
My head has been in a whirl the past few days with a single question – how do we on ‘the Left’ manage so unerringly to be exactly where ‘the people’ are not, time after time?
At this moment I don’t mean the organized Left, for the Left parties have been cautious about criticizing the current upsurge; they strongly defended the right to democratic protest when Anna Hazare and his colleagues were arrested, and now have launched a Third Front initiative on the issue of corruption and the Lokpal Bill; the students’ front of CPI (ML), AISA, has been organizing militantly on the issue for a very long time now, and is very much part of the campaign.
I mean the few hundreds who form my own community, the people with whom I have organized protests and run campaigns and sat on dharna and drafted petitions; struggled against communal violence and sexual harassment, for queer freedom and workers’ rights, against the nuclear bomb and nuclear energy, in support of reservations and against the moves in our universities to hold up appointments to reserved posts. Many of these people I know personally, some are among my closest friends, and many more I know as part of the broad Left/secular non-party tendency in the country’s politics, where I feel most at home.
‘The chief executive officer of a Greater Noida-based gear manufacturing company [Graziano Transmissioni India Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of an Italian TNC] was lynched to death inside factory premises on Monday, allegedly by a group of dismissed workers.’
‘“Around 125 dismissed workers armed with iron rods barged into the factory and went on rampage. They broke computers and machinery and smashed windowpanes. When Lalit tried to pacify them, they assaulted him with rods,” board of director Ramesh Jain told Hindustan Times.’ See report here
‘Companies in the area are known to employ contract labour in large numbers, though the law clearly states that such workers can be used only for non-core functions and not on the shop floor.’ says another report.