Beginning this week, we are starting a column which will appear every Thursday. The name of this column, ‘Parapolitics’, is meant to indicate something that happens all the time, outside the formally designated sphere of politics, or what is sometimes called ‘the political’ by political theorists. As a matter of fact, most of such politics – parapolitics – takes place everyday and is deeply tied to our everyday lives. It is also what we may call ‘existential politics’: the dalit boys flogged by upper caste men inside a police station in Una, the woman of Unnao, whose family is decimated by the rapist’s henchmen, the mob-lynching to which Muslims are subjected on a daily basis, the farmer or the unemployed who commits suicide, the displaced adivasis or the workers who fight back – all these are instances of things deeply political but occurring away from or beneath the ‘proper’ domain of politics. The ‘proper domain of politics’ – that of state/government, parties, elections, alliances and so on – has repeatedly historically revealed its fundamental disconnect with such existential politics. Indeed, whenever faced by mass protests, the first response by the political class is to reduce it to the purported machinations of ‘opposition parties’. It cannot think of people, ordinary people, coming out in autonomous action. We might recall the response of the UPA government, at the height of the anti-corruption movement, challenging the locus standi of the protesters with the questions: ‘who are you?’ or ‘who has authorized you?’ etc Parapolitics is that unauthorized politics of everyday life, which often bursts out into the open but may also simply go on under the surface without any necessary public manifestation.
The most striking aspect of the present upsurge of popular anger around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as has been widely noticed, is the way defiant young women have become the face of the struggle. I am not referring here only to the women whose iconic images are circulating everywhere today, but also to the sheer number in which they have come out and the power with which they have been speaking their mind before the media. And they belong to all communities.
The ‘Guidelines’ feature a number of problematic provisions in the name of assuring a ‘safe and secure learning environment’ for students. These provisions, if implemented, will simply assert the state’s notion of morality and end up transforming students into submissive entities. The vision of ‘students’ in these guidelines is that of infantile beings who require ‘permission’ from authority figures (university administration, law enforcement officials and ‘parents’) at every stage of their life on and off campus.
One of the key provisions relates to the necessity of setting up police stations within university campuses. The presence of police forces within university campuses can only have a ‘chilling effect’ on student life, especially with regard to the quality of political activism and discussion. Universities are meant to be spaces of liberty and autonomy, and the presence of policemen on campus does not bode well for either. One can clearly envisage university authorities asking students to obtain ‘police permission’ to hold meetings, protests, screenings and simple gatherings. Ostensibly, the presence of a police station on campus is supposed to act as a deterrent to sexual harassment and sexual violence. Continue reading UGC Guidelines on the Safety and Security of Students in Higher Educational Institutions – Protecting Students or Building Walls ? Sujata Chandra→
Protests against the situation in Gaza have been held in Delhi yesterday, (Sunday, 13th July, and today, 14th July, in the morning). Yesterday, on Sunday morning, there was a peaceful protest in front of the Israeli Embassy – this came out of a call for protest by individuals. Yesterday, about a hundred odd people, including many young people, had gathered. I was present at this gathering. Some people made statements condemning the Israeli state’s aggression against the Palestinian people. The Delhi Police was present, but did not try to disrupt or disturb the protest. The protest happened right in front of the Israeli Embassy gates on Aurungzeb Road.
[ B&W pictures, courtesy Chandan Gomes. Colour pictures and cell phone video footage, courtesy, Bonojit Husain, New Socialist Initiative ]
Dear young women and men of Delhi,
I am writing to you again because I have been listening to you. This is a strange time, when everybody is talking, and everybody is listening, and the unknown citizen, who could have been any one of you, has transformed us all.
I was with you last night, from five thirty in the evening to around nine at night, while we walked together from the Vishwavidyalaya (University) Metro Station to Vijay Nagar, Kamla Nagar and the North Campus of Delhi University. There were around twelve hundred of you. Several of you held candles. You made yourselves into a moving blur of light. As the shopkeepers of Vijay Nagar, as the rent collecting aunties of paying guest accommodations, as the men and boys and girls and women on the streets and in the verandahs looked at you in wonder, you looked back at them, many of you smiled and waved. I could see some people in the crowd lip-synch with your Hallabols.
[ video of the night march near Delhi University ]
Mumbai has been in the grip of a wave of student suicides this past month. According to the Mumbai Mirror, as many as 25 suicides have taken place in the city in the new year, most of which have been by students. As expected, the media has tripped over itself reporting every sordid and tragic detail of the students’ personal lives, and public anxiety in Mumbai is climbing to the level of all-round hysteria. The general consensus is that there is too much pressure on young minds from schools and parents; the Maharashtra State government has reacted by issuing directives to all eight regional education boards in the state asking principals to arrange workshops to identify depressed students and urge them to seek psychiatric help. State education minister Balasaheb Thorat has promised a stress-free curriculum in school boards, and followed this up by a new rule that allows failure in one subject for an overall pass result in the SSC. A south Mumbai hospital has recruited a former depressive who has a history of three suicide attempts to counsel others against suicide. The Thane Mental Hospital has in the meanwhile gone one step ahead and created what they call a ‘20-minute anti-suicide psycho drama skit’ to be performed on the streets and in educational institutions. According to hospital superintendent Dr. Sanjay Kumavat, the skit will focus on the trauma that family members go through when a child commits suicide, and the ‘problems created by such a situation’ (Mumbai Mirror Jan 18th 2010) – this will hopefully prevent them from taking the proverbial ‘drastic step’.