Tag Archives: power

Objects in the Mirror are Closer than you Think – Beyond the Rhetoric of Otherness: Lata Mani

Guest post by LATA MANI

Political discourse in the contemporary period is by marked an affective intensity. Regardless of the issue an acute depth of feeling is in evidence. Righteousness, betrayal, entitlement, anguish and aggression suffuse arguments across the political spectrum. What seems at stake is not merely the desire to speak but to have the terms of one’s discourse deemed legitimate, to be understood as one understands oneself. The sizzle, crack and snap of rhetoric expresses the heightened temperature. One could credibly interpret it as the sound of an existing order breaking down under multiple pressures. This would however be a partial explanation. The surcharged atmosphere is equally evidence of the ties that bind those passionately disagreeing with each other. And therein lies a clue. Continue reading Objects in the Mirror are Closer than you Think – Beyond the Rhetoric of Otherness: Lata Mani

The Indian Illusion: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

Some time ago, I wrote an article seeking to dissect certain myths about Indian politics – and the class that dominates it, despite protestations to the contrary, the middle-class.[1] It is one of the habits of this class to see, and self-pityingly portray itself as victim – of mass politics, reservation policies, the great unwashed, of politicos bent upon appeasing the poor at the cost of sound principles and policies. Its conviction, of course, is that India was great, and on the cusp of becoming so again. This unfading glory is no more to be disputed than the existence of the sun, although opinions differ upon the precise placement of our golden age.

To the rabid fanatics of Hindutva, it resides in an unspecified Vedic time, when Hindus (not Indians) mysteriously succeeded in inventing aeroplanes, dynamite, nuclear weapons, the wheel, zero, and what have you (and mysteriously losing most of these wonderful things). To the Nehruvians, it is the age of Akbar, Ashoka, Harsha, periods of syncreticism and unique tolerance, where people of different faiths lived together peacefully and a composite culture flowered. To them, and to Gandhians, it also resides in the figure of Gandhi and the tradition of practical spirituality. To the fanatics of Islam, it is probably the age of Alauddin Khilji, the reign of Aurangzeb, and so on.

The never-ending debate about India’s pasts contains a diversity of opinions; however, on its future destiny, these begin to converge. The RSS and BJP believe, for example, that India is destined to become a great industrial power. So did Nehru, and assorted Indian Marxists. Indeed, it is an article of faith for the burgeoning middle-class (mostly, but not entirely Hindu) that India can, should and will equal China to become a great power, economic and military (thus leaving Japan and South Korea in the dust). Continue reading The Indian Illusion: Shashank Kela

A hunt, the aftermath, angry Indian men and a tragedy: Rahul Roy

Guest Post by RAHUL ROY

Nivedita Menon ends her commentary on the unfolding Tehelka sexual assault case in Kafila by asserting – “the time has come. It is now”. It should be, but is it? Are we witnessing the end game of an old Indian patriarchal sport called sexual assault? The sport is akin to another old game called the royal hunt that was an important part of elite political culture of South Asia. The rules of the sport were then as now heavily loaded in favour of the royal huntsman – weapons, support teams, timing, everything required for the thrill of a kill were with powerful men out to conquer. The expeditions however were not just about the kill. The sport was also a means of asserting authority over tracts of the wild and those that lived there and were by some misfortune not aware of prevailing authority structures. The royal hunt was an event to showcase to subjects the might, prowess and authority of the elite rulers. It was the stamping of power over human as well as animal kingdom. The royal huntsman could not but win. He could not but kill.
Continue reading A hunt, the aftermath, angry Indian men and a tragedy: Rahul Roy

We Are Where We Know Not What Befalls Us… in Bengal!

Kahan le Chale ho... (image courtesy Small Strokes)
Kahan le Chale ho... (image courtesy Small Strokes)

Ham wahaan hain jahaan se hamko bhee
kuchch hamaaree khabar naheen aatee

Roughly translated literally, this famous couplet of Ghalib’s would mean: “We are at that place from where we do not get any news about ourselves”. A somewhat surreal place to be in! It is not just that you are holed in, a place where you are cut off from the world and no longer get any news of the outside – say Plato’s Cave. This descent is into a Cave from where you get no news about yourself! You are in a state of incommunicability with your own self. Clearly, a Self that is deeply at odds with itself.

This is clearly the place where the Bengal communists have descended. Else, who could not have seen the avalanche coming? Even when they lost the 2009 parliamentary elections, they thought that they lost because those sitting in Delhi’s AK Gopalan Bhawan chased the chimera of the Third Front (and they have been repeating this till yesterday, everyone from Buddhadeb to Gautam Deb)! Of course that was a chimera but to delude yourselves that your defeat had nothing to do with your own doings, that ‘the people’ oh love you soo – that is only possible when you have descended into that surreal space.  The interesting thing is that apart from the self deluding communists of the CPM brand, even the ordinary person on the street knew what was coming. Continue reading We Are Where We Know Not What Befalls Us… in Bengal!

Maoist Revolution, Liberal Naivete

Responding to the call by the Home Minister and prime Minister of India to halt violence to facilitate talks, Maoist leaders ridiculed them and asked them to get their history right. According to them it was wrong to say that the ‘war’ that is now being played out in the theatre of the jungles of  Chhatisgarh, Jangalmahal of Bengal, Jharkhand , Orissa and other states is of recent origin. This is only the latest   phase of the “people’s war” that is being waged since 1967 and would not stop until the ultimate objective of establishing Communism is achieved.  The Constitution of the CPI(Maoist) is very unambiguous, “The ultimate aim or maximum programme of the party is the establishment of communist society. This New Democratic Revolution will be carried out and completed through armed agrarian revolutionary war i.e. the Protracted People’s War with area wise seizure of power remaining as its central task.”

Area wise seizure of power is what the Maoists are busy with. They have succeeded, partially or fully in many areas of different states. What needs to be understood is that it is not development they are opposed to as is evident from the statements of their leaders.  They are ready to let development activities take place, provided it is under their supervision. They are interested more in making themselves the lone political voice of the people. One should ask why do they keep abducting, harassing, threatening or killing the members and leaders of other political parties in the areas where they rule using the strength of their guns? Why do they force people to resign from other political parties? Their answer is very simple: whoever is seen to interrupt or impede the armed people’s war is either a class enemy or an agent of the class enemy represented by the state and is therefore on the other side of the war.
Continue reading Maoist Revolution, Liberal Naivete

Reflections on Revolutionary Violence

In the last one year, I have often found myself going back to a conversation I had had with a Maoist ideologue. As it happened, it was he who started interrogating me about my stand on violence. ‘So, you have become a Gandhian?’ he demanded. I must confess I was a bit taken aback, not quite able to figure out the context of this poser. ‘What do you mean by Gandhian’, I kind of mumbled. Pat came his reply: ‘Well you have been making some noises lately about Maoist violence, haven’t you?’ Suddenly it all became clear. Through this ridicule, he was trying to appeal to that part of me that still remained marxist – presumably now buried in some remote past – and to resurrect it against my ostensible ‘non-marxist’, ‘liberal’ present (for which ‘Gandhian’ was some kind of a short hand code). I found myself at a loss of words. Does a criticism of the mindless and nihilistic violence of the Maoists make one a Gandhian? Is there no space left between these two polar positions? The conversation did not go very far that day but has kept coming back to me ever since.

Continue reading Reflections on Revolutionary Violence