This is a guest post by R. Umamaheshwari
A wave, as in, something that engulfs, leaving you to suffocate and die, is a dangerous thing. It smothers to the point of numbness, listlessness, leaving the subject of that smothering out of synch with even a basic natural harmony of simple breathing. So, if at all, as the mainstream TV media brands are shouting at us to believe (all brands are included in this, with little difference in terms of projection of images or blaring of sounds couched in very urbane elite language of ‘dialogue’ that essentially means shouting down or politely stating the bias towards that so-called ‘wave’) that the idea of Modi is a ‘wave’, and if it indeed is a ‘wave’, then it is indeed dangerous. If the current spate of interviews with Modi are analysed, what I see is a man with the craftiness of a character playing with and teasing and flirting with the media, and making them hear just two words (to the exclusion of all else) – “good governance” and “development” (not necessarily value-less, non-problematic, opaque terms by themselves). He sits there pontificating to the journalists interviewing him about these two terms as if they existed in a vacuum; he is perpetually in a teaching mode to the journalist in question who is either listening in awe or seems to beam in a strange elite, urbane, civility and sometimes veneration and respectability even as he or she asks him questions on the Muslim massacres of Gujarat, almost empathising with him even as he plays ‘victim’ with such panache. This Modi cannot be a cruel perpetrator of crimes against humanity, it seems, from the image constructed through advertising and clever make-up and PR (obviously by industry that truly wants him to win for a never-before free-market loot that is expected from him as a token of appreciation post-elections, if at all he wins, which at the moment, is a mere idea, or a prediction based on the construct of the ‘wave’). Continue reading A Wave is a Dangerous Thing: R. Umamaheshwari
Guest post by UZAIR BELGAMI
I have been reading around of late and was surprised to see that there are actually still some people who think there is still a chance that Narendra Modi will not become PM of this country in 2014. Hah! Must be those minorities, or those Secularists, or those Communists who are saying and thinking this – all are Pakistan-lovers, Leftists and anti-nationals. I felt it is necessary I deal with these people through this article, in order to deal the ‘final blow’ before the elections. Continue reading Why Modi will become PM of India: Uzair Belgami
Guest post by KAMAL MITRA CHENOY
I first became conscious of politics as a student of economics in Kirorimal College, Delhi University in 1969 when I was elected to the students union executive committee. The same year I was persuaded by a senior to stand for the Delhi University Students Union’s Supreme Council. The latter body elected the DUSU office bearers. These were heady days with some of the leading pro- Naxalites students, students like Avdesh Sinha, who later became a highly respected IAS officer, and Rabindra Ray now a sociology professor in Delhi University. Another leading star who has written on his experiences was Dilip Simeon. I also became Left but did not agree with armed struggle. At this stage I watched the mainstream Left parties and along with Marxist texts read some Left Party pamphlets.
However, a deeper and much more expansive debate was snowballing where I joined in JNU in 1972. Prakash Karat who had earlier written a thought provoking book on the nationality and language question in India was widely respected as a political leader of the JNU students and a formidable theorist. In 1973, the Student Federation of India and the All India Students Federation of which I was the unit secretary aligned for the first time after the split in the communist movement in 1964. We called the alliance progressive democratic front. We were also attacked by an extremely erudite Trotskyist Jairus Banaji who considered us revisionist and quoted extensively from Marxist classics as well as literature, philosophy and the social sciences. Because of this challenge all of us had to do our readings. Continue reading Why I joined AAP and Quit the CPI: Kamal Mitra Chenoy
Guest Post by M AKHIL: Listen to the flourish. The stage is set, the side-kicks are in place and the sycophants are scampering tirelessly to welcome their emperor. Narendra Modi has started his journey to the high seat of Indraprastha.
Curiously enough, his current ride is being celebrated as a victory lap by his ardent supporters. A bit too quick, don’t you think? Especially for a man who was only a few years ago, in terrible danger of being convicted for one of the most gruesome state-sponsored genocides in the history of independent India. Of course, he hasn’t been convicted yet, but many of his ministers and close aides have been. Babu Bajrangi’s confessions on record must be more than enough proof for Modi’s culpability. 1 Alas! Facts get twisted in the most unimaginable ways as they threaten to blow away an edifice carefully built by a dominant plutocracy with immense help from the ‘State-Temple-Corporate Complex’. 2 Here, I shall attempt to bust the Modi bubble which is being ridiculously pumped up by the holy nexus, even as you are reading this. After all, the BJP is possibly the party with the highest following among Indian netizens and the online publicity team of the current supremo is meticulous. An alternative view will be stark, but hopefully it will serve as food for thought for those among us getting nauseated by the dominant narrative. Continue reading Lies, Damn Lies and NaMo – Why I do not support Modi and why you shouldn’t either: M Akhil
An obituary by ZAHIR JANMOHAMED: I first met Asghar Ali Engineer in January 2002 in Mumbai. I was a fellow with the America India Foundation and a few weeks later I would be posted to work with an NGO in Ahmedabad.
A few minutes before his presentation, I noticed him standing off to the side in silence, staring at the ground. I walked up and introduced myself. I was young, in my twenties, and I did not know what to say.
“As-salaam alaikum,” I said.
“Wa-alaikum salaam,” he replied.
I am not sure what response I expected but I thought that perhaps because he and I share the same faith that we might have a special bond, that my greeting would spark a conversation. After all, I always thought phrases like these serve less as greeting and more as an announcement, as in, I am part of the same religion as you.
But Asghar saab just held my hand and then put his hand on his heart. “Nice to meet you,” he said, and then stared at the ground again in silence. I thought it was odd, rude even.
As I continued to meet Asghar saab, I realized that he had very little patience for superficial connections. I witnessed this when I saw him greet crowds after his lectures. If you told him you were from the same caste or city he would not be as excited as if you told him that you also believe that we must fight patriarchy with the same vigor that we must fight communalism. Continue reading Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013)
Elsewhere on Kafila, we have published a 7000 word long response by Madhu Kishwar to Zahir Janmohamad’s open letter to her which appeared on 15 January, followed by Zahir Janmohamad’s response. Perhaps a few things need to be stated here clearly with respect to her ‘response’. It seems to me to violate every tenet of reasoned debate and argument and is replete with name calling and stereo-typing of not just the secularist ‘other’ [who is her real other, not the Muslim] but even of the adversary she is arguing with. So if Zahir is a Muslim, he has to be X, Y, Z and has to be believing in A, B, C. Everything starts and ends in bad faith. But then that is what distinguishes Madhu Kishwar from others. She is in her element especially in relation to those whom she disagrees with. With her there can be no disagreement – you have to be sneered and jeered at, irrespective of whether you are a Medha Patkar or an Aruna Roy. I suppose these are matters of personal style and I shall not dwell on them further.
Let me rather, turn to some of the more substantive issues raised in Madhu’s response. Zahir has answered most of them but it seems to me that a couple of vital questions still remain. Even here, though, a caveat is necessary. I have great admiration for Madhu Kishwar’s battle in defense of the rikshaw pullers in Delhi and have often said so openly to her as well as others. However, I do know that it is possible to talk to her when only we agree, which is very rare. On matters that we disagree about, I have decided that I do not want to enter into any kind of an argument with her. In any case, large parts of her ‘response’ are like Modi’s PR handouts, served to us without any sense of critical examination. Therefore, what follows below is not my reply to her but my reactions to a set of allegations she has raised about whosoever is opposed to Narendra Modi – all lumped together in a breathtaking move of reductio ad absurdum, first as secularists , who are reduced to Leftists/ NGO activists and finally to Congress-supporters (because, she says in her Modinama1, the Congress has been equally responsible for all the riots till date). I therefore, lay my cards on the table at the outset: I am an inveterate Modi-hater (and a Congress-hater as well, if that makes sense to anyone in her dichotomized universe) and Kafila is a forum with a certain, if very broad, politics that, at the minimum rules out being pro-Modi. Continue reading Spin Doctors, Propagandists and the Modi Make-over
This is a guest post by SAMINA MOTLEKAR: I come with baggage, with tags not all of my own making. I was born female, and as much as I want to be acknowledged as a person, I learnt early that it was pointless to deny so physical a part of my identity. I was born to Muslim parents, but that does not make me Muslim, a distinction that is unfortunately far too subtle for many minds to comprehend. Complacent in their own inherited identities, they pile on the labels smothering me into little boxes of their making. Female, Muslim, Indian – all accidents of birth. But not all of me is accidental. By age eleven, the idea of a deity in the sky, concepts of heaven and hell, were at best stories, at worst ramblings of deluded minds to me. Not for me the fence sitting of agnosticism. I was an atheist before I hit my teens, and my belief system has endured the trials and tribulations of time. Yet they call me Muslim.
Continue reading Meanderings of a Female Atheist Muslim Indian: Samina Motlekar