The idea of education being imparted without any compulsion to declare one’s religion is definitely a welcome thing
Principal’s office of Bethune College, Kolkata, which included Humanity as an option under the religion category. Image Courtesy: college dunia
A college admission form introducing new options under ‘religion’? Talking about humanity, secular, non-religious, atheism!
Well, in an ambience loaded with religiosity and its increasing conflation with the State, it is rather difficult to believe that some colleges may take such a creative step to convey how they see what is happening around them? No doubt this is a small step but, as noted by analysts, this is an attempt to break/challenge the ‘construction of identity, thought and social and political space, indirectly conveying the vision of a secular and diverse India.’
The significance of this little step can be better understood if one looks into the fact that the elections held to the 17th Lok Sabha — which has returned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power — have demonstrated that BJP is ‘the most preferred party of young India’. It drew support cutting across caste as well as class lines. This is the same BJP which, along with its ‘Parivar’ siblings, has consciously tried to conflate religion with exercise of power and has been successful in collapsing the majority faith into rabid nationalism that targets differences and dissent and other specific groups, as the ‘other’ according to its worldview.
( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/Religion-Humanity-College-Admissions-BJP-School-Education)
( Photo courtesy : The hoot)
(To be published in the special issue of ‘Janata’)
The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.
– Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1936), pp. 240–241.
If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.
– Ambedkar, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, p. 358.
India’s slow ushering into a majoritarian democracy is a matter of concern for every such individual who still believes in pluralism, democracy, equality and a clear separation of religion and politics. The way people are being hounded for raising dissenting opinions, for eating food of their choice or entering into relationships of their own liking or celebrating festivals according to their own faith is unprecedented. The situation has reached such extremes that one can even be publicly lynched for belonging to one of the minority religions or for engaging in an activity which is considered to be ‘suspicious’ by the majority community.
No doubt there is no direct harm to the basic structure of the Constitution, its formal structure remains intact, de jure India does remain a democracy as well as a republic, but de facto democracy has slowly metamorphosed into majoritarianism and the sine qua non of a republic—that its citizens are supreme—is being watered down fast. It does not need underlining that this process has received tremendous boost with the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces at the centrestage of Indian politics. Continue reading Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism
Guest Post by SANJAY KUMAR
Ramesh has been working as a daily wager in a Government of India office in Delhi for ten years. He is one of the army of peons, office assistants, security guards, gardeners, and cleaning staff which government offices, city municipalities, hospitals, schools and colleges of the metropolis employ regularly. He is a graduate, but gets the wage of an unskilled worker. He is among the fortunate ones who at least get government mandated minimum wage. Most private employers in the city violate the minimum wage act; either they pay less than the mandated amount, or make daily wagers work more than eight hours without any overtime.
Ramesh was pleasantly surprised this April when he noted a more than 30% increase in his wages. His daily wage that stood at Rs 360/ earlier was now Rs 513/. This was due to a Government of Delhi notification issued on 3rd March, 2017. The news was covered in the inner pages of some newspapers. Most TV news channels ignored it. Hence, it is not surprising that employees like Ramesh who are not associated with any organsiation of workers were not aware of this increase. Continue reading The Elephant in the Room – Silence on Class Issues in Indian Politics : Sanjay Kumar
..Everybody would agree that it is a challenging task to encapsulate a great wo/man’s vision in a few words- who as a public figure has impacted not only her/his generation but future generations, initiated or channelised debates in the society, led struggles, mobilised people, wrote thousands of pages and left a legacy for all of us to carry forward. …
To save time one can focus more on the last decade of his life – the most tumultuous period in his as well as the newly independent nation’s life – to know the important concerns which bothered his mind and how he envisioned the future trajectory of the movement he led and how he tried to chart a roadmap for the nascent nation with due support/cooperation and at times resistance from leading stalwarts of his time… Continue reading For A New Rendezvous With Dr Ambedkar – Focus on Last Decade of his Life
Guest Post by Sanjay Kumar
Death evokes strongest of human emotions. However, exploring and finding reasons behind a death is also part of our humanity. Legal codes in all countries demand criminal investigations of deaths due to the so called ‘unnatural’ causes. Medical sciences have advanced largely due to explorations of the other, ‘natural’ causes of death. Deaths due to completely avoidable reasons fall in a category of their own. How a society deals with such deaths is a good indicator of how it treats its living.
One hundred and eight people died in an explosion during a fire cracker festival in a temple in Kollam, Kerala on 10th April. According to reports, the district administration had not given permission for the event, citing hazards of firing crackers close to a densely populated area, and the fact that the fire cracking festivities were actually in the form of a competition. Yet, pressure from the powerful temple trust meant that the programme was held amid full police presence. The accident happened in one of the better governed states of India, which also boasts of a vigilant citizenry. Continue reading Public Burdens of Religion and the Lightness of Atheism : Sanjay Kumar
Guest Post by Ravi Sinha
Let me speak first of Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula. I never met him. I wish I had, although that would have made me hardly any worthier of speaking about him. Had I met him, I would have come to know that I shared with him a passion for science, nature and stars. I would like to think that he would have found in me, despite my being from another generation, a comrade-in-arms and a fellow campaigner for a better world. Perhaps I would have also recognized a few of the scars left over from a childhood spent in poverty. But, there, the similarities would have ended.
We were born in the same country but at two different locations in the social universe. Distances separating these locations are not traversable – reason enough for this universe to collapse. Instead collapsed this remarkable young man who longed to be “treated as a mind” – “a glorious thing made up of stardust” – and who did not wish to be “reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility…to a vote…to a number…to a thing”. He was crushed under the weight of a millennial civilization. His end was precipitated by the malignant political forces ready to use state power to banish all reason and every shred of freedom from modern institutions and public sphere. He may have chosen the mode and the time of his death but it was an instance of a death foretold. In choosing death he has challenged the powers-that-be in a manner and with a force that no demons of deception, no army of liars and no battery of ministers can defend against. Continue reading Before I Speak of the Stars…Ravi Sinha
“Lack of education lead to lack of wisdom,
Which leads to lack of morals,
Which leads to lack of progress,
Which leads to lack of money,
Which leads to the oppression of the lower classes,
See what state of the society one lack of education can cause!”
..Most people do not realize that society can practise tyranny and oppression against an individual in a far greater degree than a Government can. The means and scope that are open to society for oppression are more extensive than those that are open to Government; also they are far more effective. What punishment in the penal code is comparable in its magnitude and its severity to excommunication? Who has greater courage—the Social Reformer who challenges society and invites upon himself excommunication or the political prisoner who challenges Government and incurs sentence of a few months or a few years imprisonment?..
(Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah, Address delivered by Dr Ambedkar on the 101 st birthday celebration of M G Ranade, 18 th January, 1943)
Understanding or rereading a historical figure – whose life and times have impacted generations of scholars and activists – who has been subjected to praise as well scrutiny by best brains of our times becomes a challenging task. One gets a feeling that whatever has to be said has already been said and perhaps there is not much novelty left. An added challenge becomes when you are face to face with scholars/activists who could be considered experts on the issue having done more detailed and through work on the subject. Continue reading Reading Phule – Now No More Silences!
The following is an interview with PRADIP BAKSI, an independent Marx scholar based in Kolkata. He has translated and edited some of the notes and manuscripts of Karl Marx on mathematics and on the history of land relations in India. He has also written on Marx’s study of some of the natural sciences and technologies of his time. The interview was conducted by SANKAR RAY, a senior journalist based in Kolkata.
Sankar Ray [SR]: What are your views on the relevance of Marx for India today, in the context of the financial crisis continuing since 2008, a certain renewal of interest in Marx’s Capital and, of late in Piketty’s Capital for the 21st Century?
Pradip Baksi [PB]: Despite the echo of the title of Marx’s famous book in the title of Piketty’s bestseller, the latter is an exercise within one of the currently fashionable strands of Marx-innocent political economy. In contrast Marx’s Capital is a part of an unfinished and incomplete program of critique of political economy, proposing a continuous reconstruction of it as a science.
While marshalling a very large and interesting dataset on growing inequality within contemporary capitalism, Piketty proposes to make that inequality bearable through taxation within future capitalism, and thereby holds a brief for that very capitalism. Marx, it is true, left his critique of political economy incomplete and unfinished, but he never held any brief for capitalism.
The ongoing financial crisis has triggered some interest in these two books in some quarters. This financial crisis and this interest may or may not last long. I do not wish to speculate about that. The questions of relevance or otherwise of Marx for India, and for the rest of the world, however, are questions of a different order. Continue reading An Interview on the Continuing Relevance of Marx
Guest Post by RAVI SINHA
Far away from Peshawar five men and a woman sat in a physician’s waiting room in Lucknow. The television screen that ordinarily shows some Bollywood film or a cricket match had a news channel on. It was day after the slaughter of children. The assistant who maintains the waiting list of patients and collects the doctor’s fee said something very predictable, even if heart-felt, expressing his horror and revulsion. The matter would have passed as unremarkably as most things do most of the times, except for what an elderly gentleman waiting to see the doctor had to say in response.
In a feeble yet firm voice whose conviction and sincerity was unmistakable, he said – dhaarmikata ko badhaava doge to kattarta badhegi; kattarta badhegi to aatank upajega, haivaaniyat saamne aayegi. (If you will promote religiosity, fundamentalism will grow, and from that will emerge terror and barbarism.) After a pause he added – hamaare desh mein bhee yahee ho rahaa hai, haalaan ki abhee hum pehle daur mein hain, dhaarmikata badhaane ke daur mein. (Same thing is happening in our country too, although we are in the first phase so far – that of promoting religiosity.) Continue reading Impossible Lessons: Ravi Sinha
“ Why did Muktibodh became uniquely significant in the summer of 1964? Why did …almost all the weeklies, monthlies and dailies started introducing him to their readers?” Fifty years ago, Shamsher Bahadur Singh, asked this question in the preface to Chand Ka Munh Tedha hai, the first anthology of poems of Muktibodh being compiled.
Muktibodh then, was in a state of coma , being brought to Delhi from Rajnadgaon,a small town in Chhattisgarh, by his young writer comrades – like Harishankar Parsai, Srikant Verma and Ashok Vajpeyi, in a desperate, last ditch attempt to save their beloved elder poet. It was not be . He breathed his last on 11 September, 1964 at the AIIMS , before completing his 47th year. And in the words of Shamsher, the story of heroic struggle of his brief life and tragic, untimely death turned him into an event for the world of Hindi literature.
Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh continues to be an event of Hindi literature, the full meaning of which is still being discussed. And yet, he as a poet was not interested in portraying events . He was more interested in the drama of the human soul, rather soul of a human being, ravaged, wrecked and fatally wounded by industrial modernity. Living the life of a lower middle class family man, constantly changing jobs and places in search of a modestly secure life which would allow him to write the kind of poetry he wanted, he witnessed the humanness and individuality of the people being crushed under the ruthless wheels of capitalist modernity. Continue reading Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh: Put fire back into firewood
Guest post by Ravi Sinha
Modernity and socialism can be daunting subjects. Both have had a long history and both have impacted on humanity in ways few other ideas, systems or forms of life have. In a famous incident, perhaps not entirely apocryphal, Chou En Lai, when asked about the impact of the French Revolution on the western civilization by Richard Nixon, is supposed to have answered, “It is too soon to tell.” It seems to me that Chou’s riposte would hold well, and with a far greater force, if the same question were to be asked a few hundred years from now about the impact of modernity or of socialism on the entire human civilization.
One asks for trouble on other counts too when proposing to deal with these topics. They have both been explored and debated endlessly and both remain enormously controversial. In the domain of ideas and theories, they generate intense, sometimes fierce, intellectual passion. In the domain of real life, they give rise to monumental conflicts and struggles even as their influences continue to seep imperceptibly into ever deeper layers of societies and forms of life through pathways that are hard to track. One must have a good reason for raking up, as many might say, a subject where ashes of time find it difficult in any case to settle on an exasperatingly burning fire. Those too, who would like to continue stoking the fire of historical and emancipatory transformations promised by these words, would need a good reason for re-entering the subject. Whether I have one or not should best be left to be judged at the end of the hour, but one must hope to add something useful and meaningful to the debate. Continue reading Mutant Modernities, Socialist Futures: Ravi Sinha