Tag Archives: nationalism

Come on man, be clear, what comes first—Nation, or Democracy? Bodhisattva Kar translated by Ahona Panda

Guest Post by Bodhisattva Kar and Ahona Panda

(Written by Bodhisattva Kar in Bengali, First published in on 18 February 2016 by the Ei Samay newspaper.Translated into English by Ahona Panda)

“To you I confess today—what you all call a patriot, I am not of that kind.” After this confession of sparkling clarity, should we not catch hold of that man as an anti-national? So what if he is dead? If the dead can be rewarded with the Bharat Ratna, why can’t we frame the dead with a few charges of sedition? For God’s sake, all you good people, how did you make a song written by this man the national anthem? The man who—without any obfuscation—speaks through the mouth of the protagonist of Char Adhyaya—“They who do not take cognizance of that which is greater than patriotism, their patriotism is like crossing on a crocodile’s back.” Where did he get the audacity to dream of something greater than patriotism? And, he did not even study at JNU. “By killing the very soul of the country, the country’s life can be resuscitated: this terrible untruth is being announced in beastly roars by nationalists around the world and it makes my heart revolt with intolerable intensity.” How can you not burn the books produced by such a treacherous son of Mother India, who said such terribly instigatory things? Why do you worship him instead? Can anyone put their hand on their hearts and say that he wasn’t a Pakistani spy, just because of the niggling detail that Pakistan did not exist at the time he was writing? Did we not shoot Dabholkar or Pansare for agonizing quite a bit less than he did? Continue reading Come on man, be clear, what comes first—Nation, or Democracy? Bodhisattva Kar translated by Ahona Panda

As The People’s Republic of New Delhi Marches in the Free Air Students of Berkeley #StandWithJNU

As the people of Delhi march, sing, run and dance to freedom’s call, as they cock a snook at the shackles of nationalism, casteism and authoritarian stupidity, a gift of love from afar. Look at them standing in the free air! Look at them standing around a piece of earth unbound from the myopia of nationalism!


“This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity’s jurisdiction,”
 At the memorial to the 1964 Free Speech Movement on the campus of University of California, Berkeley, students and faculty stand in love and solidarity with JNU. #standwithJNU
 The memorial the 1964 Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, like the thing it celebrates, is both invisible and embattled. The monument appears to be a circle of concrete six feet in diameter, in the middle of the famed Sproul Plaza where thousands of students gathered to demand the right to free speech and academic freedom on one of America’s most prominent and celebrated public university campuses. But that monument is so much more than what can be seen. The concrete circle, bearing the inscription “This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity’s jurisdiction,” encompasses a 6-inch wide indentation into the ground that reaches into the soil below and 60,000 feet upwards into the sky, to the limits of American airspace. That is, in fact, the monument to free speech at Berkeley: 60,000 feet and 6-inches of invisible insistence that to speak freely is not and cannot be a right granted by any sovereign, mandated by any state. The width of the depression in the ground is as large as a person’s two feet. The ground on which they stand. From which they speak. This is the lasting monument to free speech at Berkeley. From a space as wide as our stance, reaching in an unseeable column of air to the limits of the stratosphere. A monument of air that can never, like free speech itself, be contained, torn down, or granted by another. It lies, unassuming, built as it is out of the immateriality of inalienable rights, in the middle of a campus that grapples daily with the legacy of that now 50 year old fight for the right to claim the space of the university as one of protest, of politics, of resistance.


But Berkeley, we mustn’t forget, exists on occupied territory. Its celebrated monument digs into soil that was taken, without recompense or acknowledgement, from the Ohlone people who were stripped of their lands, their language, their culture, and their lives in what America today celebrates as its great westward expansion. Thus, the monument to free speech at the University of California, Berkeley, roots itself into a soil it claims belongs to no nation and also reifies centuries of the genocide of indigenous people and of settler colonialism. This too is the legacy of the Free Speech Movement. Of the student-led activism that created Ethnic Studies programs across California and the rest of the United States. To stand in the 6-inch wide memorial is to stand in land that is occupied and to nonetheless believe that no occupation, no nation, no state, mandates our ability and our right to speak, to protest, to imagine otherwise the world in which we live.

From Berkeley to JNU. With love and solidarity.

Poulomi Saha

University of California, Berkeley

Solidarity with JNU and Conversations on Kashmir: JKCCS

Guest Post by Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society

Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) expresses its solidarity with the striking students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. We have watched with a sense of horror and dismay, the violent criminalizing of student democracy and dissent, not just at Jawaharlal Nehru University but across Indian campuses in the recent past. Having long and intimate knowledge of violent repression and legalized impunity that Indian state is capable of, especially against those it considers ‘anti-national’ we are not surprised by these events, but have a special empathy with all who suffer its horrors. We demand the release of all student dissenters and political prisoners in the custody of the Indian state, and an end to acts of policing and surveillance on campuses, and targeting of students on the basis of political beliefs and speech.

The Kashmiri students in different colleges and universities in India, who have always faced discrimination and intimidation time to time, are now feeling the extreme regressive and oppressive means used by right wing groups and the government. After being hounded, Kashmiri students have begun leaving Delhi. There are several places where the landlords, in whose properties Kashmiri students were renting flats, have asked the students to vacate. These experiences of Kashmiri students are part of the larger reality faced by Kashmiri youth in Jammu and Kashmir and in India. The voices of dissent in Jammu and Kashmir have been dealt with administrative detentions under Public Safety Act, illegal detentions, torture, surveillance and killings by armed forces including the most recent one of Asif and Shaista at Pulwama on 14th of February.

We also view with alarm, the reports about the cynical use of Kashmiri students studying in Delhi as hostages in the politically illegitimate process of government formation in Srinagar.

We are dismayed that the public narrative about the recent events has often descended into disputes over Indian ‘patriotism’ and the shrill condemnation of a few ‘fringe’ ‘radical’ ‘traitors’ for ‘irresponsible’ slogans. These sentiments are neither mere slogans nor represent the ‘fringe’ in Kashmir, the very place they were made in reference to. As Kashmiris, we believe that the right to self-determination is inseparable from the right to political association, dissent and free expression, and these rights cannot be selectively asserted or upheld. In the competitive public proclamations of nationalistic credentials, what has been lost is that courageous act of defiant solidarity with the Kashmiri people’s struggle for justice and self-determination, that lies at the heart of these debates. Despite the disavowals and the state repression, the solidarity with the political rights of the Kashmiris is growing and spreading, as events in Jadavpur University demonstrate. We acknowledge the emerging spaces in Indian civil society to converse on the question of Kashmir, beyond nationalist framings. We hold out hope for future alliances with students, groups and individuals willing to engage in honest conversations, in which they alone do not determine the boundaries of what can or cannot be said, thought or felt.


The Tendency of the Price of Young Life to Fall and the Hope that it May Rise

The war on young people continues. In this post we will only consider it’s arithmetic. Not even its algebra, simply its arithmetic.

I am prompted to do this by a strange acoustic co-incidence. While standing as part of a cordon of faculty and friends protecting the students of JNU on the public meeting on the 13th of April from a handful of ABVP activists who liked invoking blood and bullets in their slogans, I head one that stayed with me, and made me revisit a question that often bothers me.


This was the slogan ‘Hanumanthappa hum sharminda hain, tere qatil zinda hain’. (‘Hanumanthappa we are ashamed, your murders are still alive’ ). Lance Naik Hanumanthappa, as we all know now, was a thirty two year old soldier of the Indian army who survived six days under an avalanche on the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir and then died of multiple organ failure in a Delhi military hospital. His young body must have had a tremendous and a passionate yearning for life. Sometimes I think of what a fine father or husband or lover or friend a man who loved life so must have been, could have continued to have been.

Continue reading The Tendency of the Price of Young Life to Fall and the Hope that it May Rise

An ‘Anti National’ Response from JNU to the ‘Nationalist’ RSS: Pratim, Gargi and Lenin

Guest Post by Pratim, Gargi and Lenin.

As writers, historians, scientists, film makers, poets, actors and others return their awards in protest against the rising intolerance and anti-rational climate in this country, we in JNU keep stocking up accolades of a different kind. These accolades are ones which are very generously gifted to us from the RSS and its affiliates. These accolades come in more than fifty shades, only highlighting the deep seated trouble that these folks have in seeing this University up to them, despite their attempts to tarnish it. A few days back the ever-so-absurd/islamophobic/irrational Subramaniam Swamy endowed JNU students with the honours of being ‘Jehadis’, ‘Naxal’ and ‘Anti-National’.

Continue reading An ‘Anti National’ Response from JNU to the ‘Nationalist’ RSS: Pratim, Gargi and Lenin

Why should we stand for the national anthem?


With increasing reports of people being arrested for not standing for the national anthem,  it’s a good idea to remember why they stopped the practice of playing the thing in cinema halls in the first place – nationalism cannot be coercively produced in people’s breasts through such inane, superficial and empty gestures.

And the converse – just because you dont stand up for the national anthem, it doesn’t make you anti-Indian. You may just have another idea of India,  or you may show your concern for “India” by some more concrete gesture, or through your politics.

As Anmol Karnik asks:

If we play the national anthem before a television show begins at home, would people stand up? I doubt it. Most people who do it, do it because it’s not socially acceptable to sit down when everyone else is standing. It’s being part of the herd, so there’s probably some part of unity embedded in it, but unity in a forceful and degrading manner.

Just as a matter of interest, this is what the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 says:

Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

There is thus, no legal obligation whatsoever to actually stand while Jana Gana Mana plays.  Continue reading Why should we stand for the national anthem?

भगत सिंह और आज का नौजवान: अपूर्वानंद

कभी कभी हर समाज में ऐसे क्षण  आते हैं जब उसे अपने अस्तित्व के तर्क की पड़ताल करनी पड़ती है. उस समय वह अपने किन बौद्धिक संसाधनों का प्रयोग करता है और किन स्रोतों से तर्क की सामग्री जुटाता है, यह  काफी महत्वपूर्ण है.क्या एक समाज के रूप में भारत के लिए अभी ऐसा ही कोई क्षण उपस्थित हो गया है? एक ऐसा तबका है जो भारत नामक किसी एक सामाजिक इकाई के बौद्धिक औचित्य को ही नहीं मानता. उसकी बात जाने दें.भारत अभी भी अनेकानेक लोगों के लिए एक यथार्थ है जिसकी अपनी भावनात्मक और बौद्धिक वैधता है.वे उसे बार-बार समझने और अपने लिए आयत्त करने की कोशिश करते हैं.इस क्रम में वे किनकी ओर  देखते हैं? Continue reading भगत सिंह और आज का नौजवान: अपूर्वानंद

Dear Pakistani friends, Put yourself in my shoes

I did not want to write this post.

There are enough Indian voices, from Times Now to Hindutva Online, who point fingers at Pakistan. Like M Ziauddin of the Express Tribune newspaper, I think that the two countries need more unpatriots – not people who ‘hate’ their own countries but who question their own nationalist narratives. People who ask: could we be wrong? Asking questions of yourself is difficult, and blaming the other is instant gratification of ego. Questioning yourself has long-term rewards in helping you make peace with yourself.

I am forced to write this piece because I continue to see well-meaning Pakistanis online continue to complain about the Bad Hospitality given by India to the Pakistani women’s cricket team in Cuttack in Orissa. The complainants online have included some of my Pakistani friends whom I know to be liberal, peace-loving and well-meaning, and who have clearly been influenced by some clever propaganda that is deliberately not showing them the full picture. Continue reading Dear Pakistani friends, Put yourself in my shoes

Seeing Pakistan from Juhapura: Zahir Janmohamed


Since I started conducting research in March 2011 about the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots, I have learned that the worst way to begin a conversation with a Muslim here in Ahmedabad is to ask about the 2002 riots. I was an eye-witness to the riots in 2002 and I thought my experiences might make some Muslims in Gujarat feel more comfortable speaking with me. I was wrong.

Sometimes I had to interview a person four or five times before they felt comfortable speaking about the 2002 riots. The reasons are varied. Some feel there is no use speaking about the riots as they know justice will never come under Narendra Modi’s watch. Others feel exploited by NGOs and Islamic groups who have used their stories to raise funds for their organizations abroad. And others, as one rape survivor told me, do not want to “relive the trauma.”

But if you ask Muslims in Ahmedabad about Pakistan, chances are you will walk home with a notebook full of comments. Earlier this week I went around my neighborhood of Juhapura—an area pejoratively known as “mini Pakistan”—and asked residents for their comments on Pakistan. The answers are telling. Continue reading Seeing Pakistan from Juhapura: Zahir Janmohamed

Bhupen Hazarika – The Sub-nationalist Imagination of a Universalist: Bikram Bora

Guest post by BIKRAM BORA

The unprecedented number of mourners crowding the otherwise sleepy streets of Guwahati at night following the demise of the maestro, proves testimony to his genius. In his life, there was no dearth of followers, some logical, some blind; while in his death, grief engulfs both the sections. What could be the reasons for Hazarika’s powerful grip over people’s emotions? It can’t be just his musical dexterity; it’s more the aura surrounding him, emanating from his multi-dimensional persona and life-span.

Continue reading Bhupen Hazarika – The Sub-nationalist Imagination of a Universalist: Bikram Bora

“I never knew this before, but now I know I am a human being”: A despatch by Caelainn Hogan from a new country

This guest post for Kafila comes from CAELAINN HOGAN, an Irish journalist who was in Juba for South Sudan’s independence day, 9 July 2011

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All photos by Caelainn Hogan

At midnight on the eve of independence, the birth of the Republic of South Sudan was heralded with an outburst of celebrations. In Juba, the capital city, people ran through the streets singing and ululating, in the delirium of a moment they never though would come to be. In a local church the congregation sang happy birthday to the new nation. The next day at the official declaration ceremony thousands gathered to witness the new flag raised high and to sing the national anthem together. Many broke down in tears, thinking of loved ones who had fought or struggled and never got to see this day. The declaration brought an end to a long history of conflict; one that many believed could now be relegated to the past. Others still found inspiration and strength in the past, singing the old revolutionary song, “We will never surrender”. Continue reading “I never knew this before, but now I know I am a human being”: A despatch by Caelainn Hogan from a new country

Maoist dilemmas in Nepal

Exactly four years after a peace accord the end of Nepal’s civil war, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is going through a deep existential crisis. This was most starkly reflected in the separate political documents presented by chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, senior vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, and another vice-chairman and ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai at an extended party meeting in Palungtar of Gorkha district last week. Almost 6,000 delegates – including 1200 Maoist combatants from UN-monitored cantonments – reviewed the party’s achievements and failures after entering the peace process, and discussed the future ‘political line’ the party should adopt. Continue reading Maoist dilemmas in Nepal

India Bans US Professor from Kashmir, threatens Indian writer with sedition charges: JKCCS


November 2, 2010

On November 1, 2010, shortly after 5.10 am, Professor Richard Shapiro was denied entry by the Immigration Authorities in New Delhi. Richard Shapiro is the Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco. He is also the life partner/husband of Angana Chatterji, who is the Co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK) and also Professor of Anthropology at CIIS. Continue reading India Bans US Professor from Kashmir, threatens Indian writer with sedition charges: JKCCS

Ecstatic Archaisms of Aurobindo Ghose – Prasanta Chakravarty


In Reflections on Revolutionary Violence Aditya Nigam makes some nuanced points about the nature of Maoist violence and by contrast, comments on the bedrock character of democracy itself. Can we trace the sublime cult of blood and gore further down, to the founding principles of Forward Bloc, for instance? Or espy it in the millennial longings of a few Gita wielding swadeshis, for that matter? One may begin to see a pattern.

Continue reading Ecstatic Archaisms of Aurobindo Ghose – Prasanta Chakravarty

Gun Salutes for August 15, 2008

Anniversaries are good opportunities for reflection. I write this in the early hours of 15th August, 2008, the 61st anniversary of Indian independence.

The events of the past few months, and the past few days, in the Indian administered state of Jammu and Kashmir have demonstrated how well and how equally (or not) the police, paramilitaries and armed forces of the Indian Republic treat different kinds of protesting crowds. The facts that I am about to discuss are good measures with which to think about the relationship between acts of power, different kinds of people, sovereignty, life and death in the Indian nation state as it has evolved over the past 61 years.

The region of Jammu in the province of Jammu and Kashmir has been caught in the grip of a fierce agitation against the revocation of the land transfer to the Amarnath Shrine Board. We have all seen footage of angry SASS (Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti) activists brandishing trishuls, setting up roadblocks and burning tyres, the agitation has spread to different parts of India

Continue reading Gun Salutes for August 15, 2008