[ Here are five joyous excerpts of recordings from a recent night on the JNU campus – after Kanhaiya Kumar came back – recorded by a young person called Veer Vikram. We do not know who Veer Vikram is, but came across his Youtube Channel, and were struck by the raw freshness of the voices and of the footage. So we are sharing them with you, saluting the generosity of Veer Vikram, who recorded these and uploaded them on to Youtube for everyone to enjoy. May there be many long nights of joy, music, dancing and poetry – in campuses, factories and neighborhoods – everywhere Think so what a beautiful sight a ‘vishaal jan jagaran’ (as distinct from a ‘bhagawati’ jagaran) can make in different corners of Delhi, and in every city and town where young people can no longer take the rubbish offered by TV channels and the Modi regime. The revolution will be danced, sang, dreamt, recorded, uploaded, downloaded, shared and enjoyed. No more words necessary ]
This guest post byALIA ALLANA is a despatch for Kafila from Damascus, the Syrian capital. All photos by Alia Allana
“You don’t think I’m afraid?” asked Bouthaina Shaaban, advisor to Syrian President, Bashar al Assad.
We were sitting in the Ministry of Protocol in Damascus and she tugged on her black pearl necklace and fidgeted with her black and white tweed jacket. She had more reason to be afraid, she said – not just because she was a woman but also because she is a supporter of the current regime.
This guest post byALIA ALLANA is a despatch for Kafila from Homs, Syria. All photos by Alia Allana
He was found shot in the chest, bleeding on the streets, alone.
He has no name. He’s just another struggling body in the hospital in Homs — only he’s much younger than most. He’s only four. He doesn’t move, his small frail body is gobbled by wires. The doctors say he hasn’t opened his eyes, hasn’t made a sound, nor has he called out for anyone. Saliva runs down his mouth but there is no one to wipe it off his face. This isn’t the first case and the doctors fear it won’t be the last. There will be other children who will take his place, there will be more victims of random shooting, more deaths and no one knows by whose gun. Continue reading A Despatch from Homs: Alia Allana→
The last book François Furet wrote before his death in 1997 was called The Passing of an Illusion. At the very beginning of the first chapter of that book, Furet spelt out the central question driving his study:
What is surprising is not that certain intellectuals should share the spirit of the times, but that they should fall prey to it, without making any effort to mark it with their own stamp. […] twentieth century French writers aligned themselves with parties, especially radical ones hostile to democracy. They always played the same (provisional) role as supernumeraries, were manipulated as one man, and were sacrificed when necessary, to the will of the party. So we are bound to wonder what it was that made those ideologies so alluring, that gave them an attraction so general yet so mysterious.
Furet’s book emerged from an autopsy of his own past as a as a Communist “between 1949 and 1956.” He wrote, further, that his years as a Communist bequeathed to him an enduring desire to unlock the mystique of revolutionary ideology. Given this, it’s not difficult to see why he pioneered some of the most brilliant historiographical work on the French Revolution. The question we are concerned with here is the one I have quoted at length above; for it seems that in our own day, this strange romance between (formerly) fiercely independent intellectuals, scholars, activists and the – a – party, continues.
The latest document of this affair is a long essay by Arundhati Roy (once famous for her declaration of herself as an”independent mobile republic”), titled ‘Walking with the Comrades,’ published in the latest issue of Outlook. It makes for exciting reading, as a lot of well-written travel literature does; but it is significant for another reason: in the current debate over ‘Operation Green Hunt,’ with many versions of ‘ground realities’ fighting amongst themselves, this document is Roy’s attempt at producing an (her) authentic truth, so immersed in the charming details of revolutionary existence that everything else becomes secondary. If we were ever to perform an autopsy of our twentieth century’s ‘Communist’ pasts, ‘Walking with the Comrades’ would probably be as good a place to start as any. Continue reading Moonwalking with the Comrades: Anirban Gupta Nigam→
The most dangerous and worrying feature in the last two weeks is the resurgence of visceral anti-Maoist politics.
The line between the liberals and right wing has suddenly blurred and they are united in their hatred of the former rebels. The Kathmandu middle class, a part of which gave the benefit of doubt to the Maoists in the polls, had to cough up concessions under Baburam Bhattarai’s fiscal regime. With the recent video revelations, they have veered away even further. The urban lower middle class suffered during eight months of misgovernance with price rise, and collapse of services and is hoping the next government may provide some relief.
The army establishment has reasserted itself and is actively hatching plans to undermine Maoists. Most of the press, with ownership and editorial staff affiliated to ‘mainstream’ parties’, is toeing the NC-UML line. And erstwhile sympathisers in the Indian establishment are now sick of what they see as Maoist duplicity – the recent rediscovery of the ‘nationalist’ rhetoric has put them off further. Continue reading ‘Either we finish what we started, or get finished’→
This entire crisis complicates politics for the simple reason that no side feels that it has lost. Don’t mistake this for a win-win situation. It is a situation where all sides are smug, their ambitions are stoked, and they are even more unwilling to make any concessions.
This has actually been a problem right since the 12 point deal. The king got dumped. But besides that, no actor has had to relent on their fundamental interests and give concessions.
The army, after a temporary cooling-off period, was rehabilitated and its privileges were protected. For GP Koirala, April 2006 was a moment to take over the state apparatus and keep the seat warm for his daughter, while protecting the interests of the NC class base. The Maoists saw the entire process, and the polls, as a tactical victory on way to state control.
In the last fortnight, this tenuous situation has only got more retrenched. The NA’s political role and links and divisions within may have got totally exposed. But the top brass feels they have won a huge victory and will be even less amenable to civilian control. The Maoists may not have succeeded in throwing out Katawal, but they feel they have won a moral victory by resigning and are complacent that the political stalemate cannot be resolved without them. UML and MJF think this is their chance to lead the government. And NC is already thrilled at the money that will come with the ministries. Continue reading The resignation aftermath→
In the six months that Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has been Prime Minister, he has realised that running a state is more complex than waging a war.
Since mid-August when he took charge, the PM has had to deal with multiple challenges – an intense ideological debate within his party; a deadlock in the peace process; breakdown of consensus with the G P Koirala led Nepali Congress (NC); acrimony between the defence ministry and Nepal Army (NA); opposition from sections of civil society suspicious of Maoist commitment to democratic norms; rampant lawlessness in the eastern Tarai and ethnic assertion in eastern hills; the collapse of basic services with 16 hour power cuts; and the impact of the global meltdown with remittances dipping. Continue reading A Fragile Peace in Nepal→
[Dissidence comes along with responsibility. If that sounds an utter sell out, one has to look back no further than the career and oeuvre of John Milton, whose 400th Anniversary is being celebrated around the world.]
Students of English literature usually do not prefer meddling too much with politics, especially if that comes in the way of appreciating the hermeneutics of the text, the lyricism set aside for the work of art. Sophisticated scholars have learnt to deftly negotiate and work with Marxism, new historicism and cultural criticism, without compromising on the finer points of close reading. They have also welcomed areas like textual studies and performance and newer genres like memoirs, broadsheets, travelogues, petitions, graphic fiction and so forth within the critical ambit with a careful eye that such forays do not destabilize the Great Book tradition. Students of politics and the political, on the other hand, have a certain distrust for soft aesthetic options. In one interesting recent interview, James Scott, who routinely uses Zola and Tolstoy in his classes and works, lamented in jest on his status at the Yale Political Science Department as an outlier, blaming it onto the ascendancy and monopoly of formal and rational choice models in the discipline.