The dominant narrative around the recent JNU incident has been that the unwarranted police action and the concerted acts of violence, incitement and misinformation that followed are all part of a determined push by the saffron brigade. After love jihad and beef, the story has it, it is “sedition” and “Pakistani agent” this time—we are living in a state of undeclared emergency. A sense of disbelief and apocalyptic doom seem to underpin these sentiments, along with a nostalgic optimism for a quick return to harmony and normalcy. But such things have happened far too many times, and far too often for us to harbour such illusions. For what we are going through is in effect a recalibration of that normalcy.
To read political slogans literally is an absurdity. But in the hands of the present government, it is a calculated absurdity that reads “Bharat ki barbadi…” as armed conspiracy against the state. The variables are many—arrests, fake tweets, rampaging lawyers, patriotic house-owners and now, open calls for murder. But the calculus resolves itself into the same formula every time: national/anti-national.
At the outset, the opposition to the attack on the university campus seems to have coalesced around two points—first, maintaining a safe distance from the “anti-India” slogans raised at the meeting; and second, showing themselves as the real nationalists, standing against the saffron thugs in patriot’s disguise. Partly in response to a vicious media campaign, videos of “real nationalist” speeches at the protest venue are being posted on social media everyday. We are told at length about the “real” Indian behind the deshdrohi, his credentials, and how he wants his India to be. Things reached a disturbing pitch when spokespersons of the traditional Left went on record to express their displeasure at the real culprits not being caught. Without doubt, the saffron brigade cannot be allowed the prerogative of deciding what “the nation” means. But why do so from the flimsy ramparts of sedition? Continue reading Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa
Guest post by ANKUR TAMULI PHUKAN
Many of us who have been studying the political process in Assam were surprised when we received the news in December 2009 that Chairman Arabindo Rajkhowa and some of his colleagues of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had been arrested in Bangladesh. This moment had to come some day, but we were not prepared to face it. We were familiar with the brave and somewhat legendary image they had created for themselves and needed time to believe that they could be defeated. Continue reading My Days with Nationalism in Assam: Ankur Tamuli Phukan
Guest post by TANMOY SHARMA
Last week, when an eight member delegation of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) returned to Guwahati after the first round of peace-talks with the central government in New Delhi, the response in Assam is a mixed bag of emotions. Arabinda Rajkhowa, the ULFA chairman who led the delegation, while addressing the press, said that they had been assured of an honourable solution to the three decade long Assam conflict by the Prime Minister. Earlier, on 10th February the ULFA made history by coming to the talks table in New Delhi for the first time with no firm pre set conditions on its agenda. It is understood as of now, that no substantial talks would begin before the Assam assembly elections which are expected to be held in April-May this year. However this ‘familiarisation exercise’ of the centre with one of India’s most influential and violent separatist outfits at such a crucial time is a hugely significant move in contemporary history of the insurgency-hit election bound Assam. Continue reading Talking to ULFA: Assam’s Peace Myths and Reality: Tanmoy Sharma
Guest post by BISWAJIT ROY
It’s a welcome development that Arundhati Roy, G N Saibaba, Mahasweta Devi, Sujato Bhadra and others have condemned the killing of Maoists’ POW and Bihar policeman Lucas Tete as reported by Bengal Post. The civil society personalities sympathetic to the Maoist cause and human rights groups in general are sometimes criticized correctly for being silent on brutalities by Maoists and other insurgents while opposing the atrocities by the security forces and private armed squads, in case of West Bengal, CPM’s armed cadres. The Maoist leadership’s response to the intellectuals’ criticism is still not known. But the condemnations seemed to have played a role in their decision to free the rest three policemen. In an earlier occasion in Bengal, senior Maoist leader Kisenji had succeeded in extracting a huge media mileage by using the captive officer-in-charge of Sankrail police station as a pawn to bargain with the state government.
It is another matter that the Maoists could not extract much from the government except bail for some tribal and non-tribal women undertrials who had been languishing in jails as Maoist sympathizers. But the high-profile drama over Kisenji’s on-camera vitriol against the Centre and state in full camera glare and the eventual release of the ‘POW’ police officer through the good office of media persons had definitely made Kisenji a household name in Bengal and allowed him to occupy the political center-stage.
Continue reading Lucas Tete, Maoist violence and K Balagopal: Biswajit Roy