The ugly patriarchal politics of ‘Triple Talaq’ or unilateral ‘instant divorce’ through which Indian Muslim men (specifically Sunnis who follow the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence), can divorce their wives by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ thrice in a single sentence, has appeared once again in mainstream politics. In this board game played over Muslim women, you have two main players. On the one hand you have the ever-so-vocal and self-proclaimed representatives of Muslims – The All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) – and on the other hand, you have right-wing public figures of Hindutva, including our very own Prime Minister Mr. Modi, shedding tears of concern for Muslim women’s rights.
However Muslim women should not be deemed as agentless victims in this plot, and many are raising their voice against this practice by asserting their Koranic rights. Nonetheless, it is important to emphasize that while AIMPLB and Hindutva politics may seem to be polar opposites, the two have much more in common when it comes to curbing or denying Muslim women their rights. The male dominated AIMPLB is clearly vested in its project of misogyny even at the cost of denying Muslim women their Islamic right of longer procedures of divorce, that allow time and space for reasonable consideration before annulling a marriage. On the other hand, Hindutva men are no saviours of Muslim women either, as many instances both past and present have shown – including the recent spates of rape and murders (such as the Haryana rapes and murders by Gau Rakshaks and not to forget, the horrifying Muzaffarnagar violence not too long ago).
Since the death of a young and charismatic separatist named Burhan Wani, Kashmir has erupted into violence and chaos. Weeks of violent protests in the Valley have resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people and over 5,000 injuries. Kashmir is not new to violent protests and civilian deaths, but this time the intensity of the protest and the passion of the protesters is unprecedented. Continue reading Not Pakistan, but Modi has pushed Kashmir on the Brink : Ashok Swain→
Earlier this week, I tried to join the many dots of violence at universities into a coherent pattern. My central contention is:
Spirited resistance in campuses across the country suggests the politics of India’s youth are more fluid and assertive than expected. The mid-1990s empowerment of historically oppressed castes, narratives of economic aspiration from the 2000s and an instinctive suspicion of authoritarianism have come together to forge a bold poetic new politics of desire that has befuddled even ruthless and astute politicians like the prime minister.
Modi’s government uses outdated laws, a pliant police force and Hindu student organizations as a battering ram to crush this awakening, exacerbating the discord between a prime minister determined to stamp his authority on an unruly nation and students enraptured by a thrilling moment of unlikely solidarities that could define their generation.
We, the undersigned, students, scholars, and faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi against the illegal and unconscionable crackdown by police. We demand an immediate end to all police action on campus, a withdrawal of all frivolous charges against the President of JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, and other students, as well as an end to the campaign of harassment and intimidation against students at the university. With them, we affirm the autonomy of the university as a non-militarized space for freedom of thought and expression. Accordingly, we condemn police presence on campus and the harassment of students on the basis of their political beliefs. Continue reading University of Texas Students and Faculty stand with JNU→
We, the undersigned members of the Bangalore Research Network and a consortium of academics and researchers from Bangalore, declare our solidarity with the students and faculty of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi protesting the illegal police arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition. We unequivocally stand by them in affirming that universities are autonomous spaces for the free expression of a plurality of beliefs and cannot become military spaces of thought control that go against the very grain of a democratic society. With them, we condemn the blatantly authoritarian attempt by the police and the central government to witch hunt students on the basis of their political beliefs. We also condemn the unethical media trial of JNU students such as Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid. Continue reading Bangalore Research Network’s Letter of Solidarity with JNU→
The Prime Minister’s monogrammed suit and the HRD Minister’s fake degree in the early days of the BJP’s 2014 electoral win were embarrassments dotting the uneasy calm that prevailed over the new digital, development avatar of the nation; even as a sense of the slouching beast waiting to break through the controlled, contained quietism was always there in deferred menace. And thus, when majoritarian sentiment fuelled the ‘Ghar waapsi’ campaign and the ban on cow slaughter found a mainstreaming in minority witch hunting, there was an eerie expectedness to these turns. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s minatory address, carrying the subtext of a communal cleansing in sinister remand, visibilized itself in the horrific lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri. Mostly civil voices of protest raged against this as well as against the organised killings of questioning rationalists like Pansare and Kalburgi. Sections of the thinking polity mobilised signature campaigns, petitions and an entire event like the‘Award waapsi’ drew attention to this vitiated political climate. Continue reading The Limits of Efficient Suasion : Rina Ramdev→
I will start this piece with a painful but short flashback tirade about myself. I moved back to New Delhi in 2014, after six long years in New York and Singapore. My decision to move back to the motherland was predominantly attributed to issues that a twenty-something grapples with when he or she is away from home and family. However, familial ties and emotional reasons aside, there was one factor which deeply resonated with me and was the driving force behind my decision to move back. This factor was – the liberty to express my thoughts and views on a topic, any topic, in an indulgent and lenient space, which, by virtue of being an Indian citizen, was guaranteed to me in India and not in other places. In India, this liberty transcended predictable spaces like classrooms, newsrooms and sophisticated editorial pages of the morning newspaper and was very organically present in the form of arm-chair political banter amongst friends and political conversations with family over dinner. Continue reading The India I Came Back To: Namrata Sharma→
We, the undersigned, students and research students from various states of northeastern region of India studying in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai would like to highlight on the unprecedented shrinkage of academic spaces across various universities in India. We condemn the politically motivated interferences of the state in Jawaharlal Nehru University and in Hyderabad Central University (HCU), and other universities. We also condemn the mob justice perpetrated by lawyers against students, journalist, activists etc in the Patiala House Courts, New Delhi, and media trial led by prominent journalists from New Delhi. Continue reading Solidarity Statement of Students from Northeast India, TISS, Mumbai 20th February 2016→
Dear Student from CDS who pasted the posters criticising our collective effort to stand with JNU
I write in response to the views that you expressed on those posters. First of all, let me tell you how much I’d have appreciated if you expressed those views openly right from the beginning, so that we could have had a proper debate. I do wish we stopped scribbling comments on each others’ posters – this is an open campus, and surely, we don’t practice the Sangh Parivar’s intolerance of a contrary opinion. No one, I assure you, will harm you in any way, and I am sure all my fellow teachers, students, and non-teaching staff will join me in assuring you thus.
One can only welcome the broad coalition that has sprung up against the assault on JNU and in defense of the right–eternally vouchsafed to students–to intellectual freedom. But the imperative of solidarity should not make us forget that this multi-pronged violence—ordered by the government, and assisted by police officers, university officials, lawyers and sections of the media—has been in the making for a while—at least a decade and a half.
The empowerment of a technocratic elite that presumes to know exactly what the ‘New India’ ought to do in order to be wealthy and powerful made much intellectual and artistic endeavour, not to mention political struggle, seem unnecessary. Its cherished epithet ‘jholawallah,’ aimed to scornfully delegitimate a whole spectrum of demands for justice and equality as well as a culture of reflection and debate. Wealth-creators and their lackeys in politics, business and the media have long been united in their contempt for intellectual dissent—roughly interpreted as anything that seems to impede or slow down their own progress towards more wealth and power.
Did you know that the return of awards by writers, film-makers and scientists was a plot hatched jointly by the United States of America, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Well, if you did not, you will probably not ever understand why the ‘tolerant’ multitude that turned out at Anupam Kher’s March for India rally today, could so vilely abuse and attack NDTV’s Bhairavi Singh and Aaj Tak’s Mousmi Singh. After all, it is one thing for the netas to simulate their anger and laughter on TV channels and elsewhere, but how do you actually get ordinary people to go crazy? How and why does the ordinary Hindutva footsoldier act the way he or she does? Basically, he (and occasionally, she) is made to believe things that most people would know to be false. So why does as innocuous an act as the returning of awards by writers become such a big threat to India’s position in the world and to the very existence of the government of the day? Well, because, it is not a simple matter of some writers acting out of their conscience but already a part of an international conspiracy plotted by the US-Saudi Arabia-Pakistan nexus!
Published below is the text of a note that has been circulating over different social media platforms. We have left the typographical and printing errors as they are in the original. Paranoid in its content, it is also illustrative of the way the RSS ‘rumour-machine’ works to produce lies. In earlier days, it used to start circulating from the morning shakhas via the shakha participants. Nowadays it moves from one social media platform to another, with lightning speed. Continue reading How the Hindutva Propaganda Machine Manufactures Lies→
In light of the recent spate of killings of noted writers and intellectuals M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, and Narendra Dabholkar, and the Dadri lynching incident followed by forced nation-wide attempts at cultural policing, we feel that the current political dispensation headed by the Prime Minister is mandating an atmosphere of violence and fear. Continue reading Statement by Academics Against Intolerance→
I’m glad you spoke. Even though it was devoid of any personal remorse and limited to calling the Dadri lynching an “unfortunate and unwarranted” incident at Sasaram. Even though it was to cash in on ‘communal harmony’ during an election rally in Bihar. Even though it was a mere paraphrasing of the President’s quote once before at Nawada (we know of your limited vocabulary beyond acronyms and your “may-the-force-be-with-you” love for quoting). Still, I’m glad that you managed something! However, the one thing that you have failed miserably to manage (and let’s leave the ambling economy and your familial relations out of this) is the ‘fringe elements’ that come as part of the ‘BJP family pack’ offer. Sadly, under your ‘good governance’, the fringe has been asserting itself as the mainstream. Even sadder is that under ‘you’, the fringe is the mainstream.
The icing on the cake are your own MPs and ministers. Initially, what I thought of as verbal diarrhea on their part is actually proving to be a string of comments that are a part of a larger orchestrated communication message. Each message has a defined audience suited to their language and idioms. They all suffer from a dangerous saffron strain, exactly the kind that has fathered the ISIS, the Taliban and so on. Whether it be Yogi Adityanath’s remark, calling on Hindus to organize themselves; or Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s unparalleled comparison between a “Ramzaada” and a “Haramzada”; or Nitin Gadkari’s reminder of the government being one of “Rambhakts”- all seem to be competing for being the most ridiculous. Did you mean “Hindutva First” and not “India First”? I’m sorry that I was so awestruck by your gazillion rupee election campaign (the one thing that you managed brilliantly) that I didn’t read the fine print. Therefore, it is not your failure, it’s mine. Had I voted sensibly, Mohammad Akhlaq wouldn’t be dead today. Continue reading A Letter to Modi from a Former Supporter: Bhawni Mehrotra→
Narendra Modi has finally spoken. More than a fortnight after a Muslim man was lynched in Dadri by a Hindu mob over rumours of storing and eating beef, the prime minister summoned his deepest indignation and employed the strongest adjective he thought befitted the murder: “unfortunate”. “The Dadri incident or the opposition to Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali are sad and undesirable,” he told the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika in an interview.
In Modi’s esteemed view clearly, Dadri shouldn’t be given undue importance. It should be treated like another law and order issue – “regrettable” is all it deserves. In the prime minister’s book, the mob lynching of 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq can be clubbed with the cancellation of Ghulam Ali’s concerts in Mumbai and Pune after threats of violence by the Shiv Sena. Continue reading The Man And His Words→
Why the Silicon Valley (Generally) Loves Narendra Modi
“Indians are the most prosperous group in the United States of America,” said comedian Rajiv Satyal, the compère of the Narendra Modi speech at the San Jose Arena in the Silicon Valley on Sept. 27. No flash of Gandhian embarrassment stood in the way of the booming cheer that followed. Later on when repeated technical bungling (ironic next to the tech bombast of the setting) led the compère to step back on stage, he kept repeating this idea alongside “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” to keep the ardor up among the 17,000-strong crowd. There appeared to be a few thousand more outside, either supporting or protesting the event. Several U.S. legislators were present, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Modi said nothing about Dadri, he just brought beef into the Bihar election
The media, however, rushed to report that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence on the Dadri lynching during his speech in Munger. But what has happened is actually the reverse. Modi has cleverly brought beef into the centre-stage of Bihar’s electoral battle.
Many, many Indian fathers are tweeting selfies with their daughters making it one of the highest trending topics on twitter recently. These selfies are being posted in response to PM Modi’s appeals to his country during his monthly radio address to the nation as a part of theBetiBachao, BetiPadhao (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) campaign.Many including several celebrities from the sports and movie business have lauded this initiative from the Prime Minister of India by posting touching father-daughter pictures. Continue reading The Sociology of#SelfieWithDaughter : Saba M. Hussain→
Among the epithets, most frequently hurled at Arvind Kejriwal by the BJP, in the run up to the Delhi assembly elections, were ‘anarchist’, closely followed by ‘urban naxal’. What is it about AAP that threatens the Sangh Parivar to a point of exhibiting such great hysteria and anxiety?
AAP, despite some novelties, is after all a very mainstream political formation, operating completely within the ambit of the Indian Constitution and no pretensions of turning the system upside down?Is there something deeper happening here?
One possibility is of course that, in its name-calling, the BJP presumed the average Delhi voter would run scared, straight into the waiting arms of Papa Modi. In that case then, it was obviously a complete misreading of the public mood of anger and defiance against established national parties. Continue reading Peace, bread and politics of AAP: Satya Sagar→
Yes it’s a simplistic dichotomy, but there is really no better way to describe the current Delhi elections. On the one hand, a little ragtag army of Davids behind “Mufflerman”, as his faithful supporters affectionately call him, a person in baggy sweater and sneakers, one you wouldn’t look at twice if you passed him on the road.
On the other hand, a massively funded, aggressively confident Goliath, openly backed by the corporate bodies and full-page ads, riding a national “Wave” higher than most Tsunamis, topped by the 56-inch chest of “Modiman”, even if recently modestly covered by a 12-lakh rupee vest.
On the one hand, a fearful and awed media establishment donating PR for free to the seemingly invincible King of Gujarat, and on the other, an aam aadmi, a volunteer-cadre run campaign and a palpable vibe of trust and openness on the ground. I know I know, some will say it’s all ‘perception management’ and PR, but barring the googly of the 2 crores party donation thrown at the opportune moment, if Mufflerman’s party was any cleaner, it could have given Lalita ji’s Surf a run for its money. Whatever the result on the 10th (and there is reason to be hawk-eyed about the possibility of tampering as Nivedita Menon’s post has urged), how does anybody not get what a miracle this alone is, in a political economy with a black economy of a size that is higher than the GDPs of most smaller countries? Perhaps this is in fact about hope and fear after all, however clichéd that sounds.
Text of the Dr Asghar Ali Engineer Memorial Lecture
I begin this lecture paying tribute to my very dear friend, Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, with whom I had the rare privilege of working with for close to two decades. Dr. Engineer was a unique scholar-activist, totally committed to the dream and vision of a humane society that honours the values of diversity and where human rights for all are the defining point.
In this regard, he may have been among the first persons who realized the dangers of divisive communal politics. It was he who set the trend seeking the causal factors behind communal violence, doing his own meticulous investigation after such riots. He contributed massively to reforms that took place in the Bohra community, on the issues of secularism and finally, in the interpretation of Islam. We need to learn a lot from him in order to strive for a society that values peace, amity and compassion.
Where are we standing today? What are the major threats to Indian democracy, today, even more menacing with the coming of the Modi Government?
The factors contributing to his victory have been several. The unstinted support given to him by India’s corporate; the fanatical zeal of the RSS and its lakhs of volunteers; the role of a corporate controlled media; the false projection of the ‘Gujarat model of development’; and the polarization of society along religious lines
The promise of Achhe Din – Good Times – has vanished into thin air. Despite the steep fall in the prices of crude oil in the world, the overall ‘cost of living’ continues to going up. The promise that all the black money stacked abroad will be brought back within six months or so and that we would be surprised to see 15 lakh deposited in our accounts, has been forgotten. The pattern of (good?) governance is only visible in the centralization of power around one person, Modi. Gradually the cabinet system of governance is giving way to one man’s autocratic ways, with secretaries of Government departments reporting directly to the PM.Continue reading Indian Democracy and the Current Political Dispensation: Ram Puniyani→