Monday, January 14, 2019

NSI’s statement on the Peoples’ Resistance against the Citizenship Amendment Bill

New Socialist Initiative stands in solidarity with the people of Assam, Tripura and the other North Eastern states in their heroic struggle against the communally motivated Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). It was only because of the resistance of the people that the government couldn’t table the Bill for voting in the Rajya Sabha after surreptitiously passing it in the Lok Sabha. This is in fact a victory for all the progressive and democratic forces of the country,who have been fighting to save and expand the secular character of the nation. While the danger still looms large and there is a strong possibility that the government may try to bring back the bill in the upcoming budget session, the mass resistance of the people has demonstrated very clearly that the evil designs of the fascists in power will not go unanswered and that the people will fight back with all their might.

Perhaps it is a testimony to the success of the peoples’ resistance and the frustration of the fascist rulers that the Assam police slapped sedition charges against three prominent personalities of the state, who have been leading the mass resistance against the CAB in the state. Marxist literary critic Dr. Hiren Gohain, KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta have been booked under Sections 120(B), 121, 123 and 124(A) of the IPC. In Tripura, numerous protectors have been beaten up by the police and the state government has prevented civil society delegations from neighbouring states from visiting and meeting the injured. We appeal to all the left, democratic and secular forces of the country to condemn such fascist attempts to muzzle democratic dissent and raise their voice in solidarity with protesters.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Crises of Crony Capitalism: the Unraveling Incompetence of Modi Regime

(Report on the Public meeting by New Socialist Initiative on 24th Nov, 2018 by Sanjay Kumar)

Speakers: Prashant Bhushan, DrAtulSood (JNU) and DrRohit Azad (JNU)

Economy is unarguably among the most important component of any society. However, it is also true that informed discussions and debates on issues related to economy rarely enter public discourse. Instead, a moralistic populism which is quick to eulogise heroes and vilify villains dominates. In their opening remarks, the organisers of the public meeting on the above topic cited this lacuna in the political discourse in India as the context of the programme. For example, during the most recent national elections in the US, France and UK, an increase in the minimum wage was an important part of the opposition candidates’ campaign. In India that is highly unlikely. This absence is especially dangerous for left politics because it does not allow a critical class consciousness to emerge. Ever since independence movement we are witness to a longstanding populism in India, which talks of the poor, and how they need to be ‘helped’. Through this thepolitically powerful develop patronage over the weak. However, the poor in whose name economic policies are declared cannot be agents who make history, which any left politics needs.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

खतरे में लोकतंत्र - अपने पैरों से तेजी से फिसलती जमीन को देखते हुए दमनात्मक कदमों पर आमादा भाजपा

मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं और जानेमाने बुद्धिजीवियों की गिरफतारी पर न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव’  का वक्तव्य

न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव, पुणे पुलिस द्वारा अपने केसरिया आंकाओं के निर्देशों पर मनमाने तरीके से और दुर्भावना के साथ मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं, वकीलों, प्रोफेसरों और कवियों के घरों पर एक साथ डाले गए छापे और उनमें से पांच को - सुधा भारद्वाज, गौतम नवलखा, अरूण परेरा, वेरनॉन गोन्साल्वेस और वरवरा राव - मनगढंत आरोपों के तहत गिरफतार किए जाने की कड़े शब्दों में भर्त्सना करता है।

इन सभी व्यक्तियों की बिना शर्त तत्काल रिहाई तथा उनके खिलाफ बेहद दमनकारी गैरकानूनी गतिविधियां निवारण अधिनियम/Unlawful Activities Prevention Act/ के तहत लगाए गए फर्जी आरोपो ंको वापस लेने की मांग करते हुए, उसकी तरफ से यह भी कहा गया है कि उन दोषी पुलिसकर्मियों के खिलाफ भी कार्रवाई की जाए जिन्होंने इस कार्रवाई को अंजाम दिया है।

Friday, August 31, 2018

Democracy Under Siege ! With Ground Slipping Fast Beneath Its Feet, BJP government Resorting to Draconian Measures

A Statement Issued by New Socialist Initiative (NSI) on the recent arrests of human rights defenders and public intellectuals

New Socialist Initiative strongly condemns the arbitrary and malicious manner in which the Pune Police, at the behest of its saffron masters, raided the houses of leading human rights activists, lawyers, professors and poets in different cities simultaneously and arrested five of them - SudhaBharadwaj, GautamNavlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and VaravaraRao - under concocted charges.
Demanding immediate release of all these persons unconditionally and withdrawal of fabricated charges filed against them under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) , it also said that appropriate action should be taken against the guilty policemen as well involved in this act.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Monks Who Spew Hate

Why Jailing of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Did Not Become A News In This Part of Asia
Subhash Gatade  

“Ordered disorder, planned caprice, And dehumanised humanity…”
- Brecht (The Exception and the Rule)
(Quoted in )
“I have done my duty towards the country,”
Gnanasara told reporters as he boarded the bus taking him to prison. “Why should I regret?”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Time to Militarise Hindus, Hinduise the Nation!
How the advent of Hindutva Supremacism has accelerated arming of Hindus for sectarian violence
Subhash Gatade
Like every exclucivist ideology/organisation/formation which claims to be centered around a particular religion - may it be Islamism, Zionism, fanatic Buddhism - Hindutva has always entertained a dream of preparing/arming its followers to fight the 'others' and slowly albeit not so silently moving closer to usher into its dreamland of Hindu Rashtra. Its ideologues/leaders have been candid enough to point out to the faithfuls the 'internal enemies'' and ways to deal with them or exterminate them. All these preparations dotted by regular drills, games and other militant exercises serves as a counter to the the much publicised notion by the same people that 'Hindus are Cowards' 1 or "Islam was spread through the sword" which has been an item of belief for the Hindutva fundamentalists.

Monday, May 28, 2018

[NSI Statement] New Socialist Initiative Condemns Hindutva Engineered and Inspired Atrocities on Dalits

Hardly a day passes without headline news of some or another atrocity on Dalits. On 24 May, a Dalit man in the Ahmedabad district was beaten and his house attacked by a gang of so called ‘upper’ caste men after he had attached Sinh to his name on his facebook post.  On 21 May a dalit ragpicker was beaten to death in a Rajkot factory. Atrocities on Dalits are occurring in the midst of a public ideological environment against them. On 26 May news came of a private school in Delhi asking 8th class students to write a note on how reservations help undeserving and unqualified people for their summer vacation homework.  According to National Crime Record Bureau reports for recent years, between 10 to 15 thousand cases of crimes are reported under the Prevention of Atrocities act every year; an average of 35 crimes per day. Many times more crimes actually go unreported. In 2016 Indian courts had over 45 thousand cases under this act. Out of the 4048 cases decided, conviction occurred in 659 cases only. That is, five out of six cases of atrocity against Dalits did not result in any punishment. The number of attacks against one of the weakest and the poorest sections of the society, and the abysmal rate of conviction would put any civilized society to shame, but India chugs along.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

दक्षिणपंथ की कीलें

जावेद अनीस

मोदी सरकार के चार साल हो चुके हैं, भारतीय राजनीति और समाज के लिये यह एक भारी उठा-पठक वाला दौर साबित हुआ है. इस दौरान हिन्दू दक्षिणपंथियों के बेलगाम रथ ने एक के बाद एक झंडे गाड़ने में व्यस्त रहा है. उनकी उपलब्धियां अभूतपूर्व है, आज देश में राष्ट्रपति,  उपराष्ट्रपति, लोकसभा अध्यक्ष, प्रधानमंत्री और 15 राज्यों में मुख्यमंत्री सीधे तौर पर भगवा खेमे से हैं और 6 राज्यों में सहयोगी दलों के साथ उनकी सरकारें हैं. भाजपा लोकसभा में सबसे बड़ी पार्टी तो पहले से ही है अब वो राज्यसभा में सबसे बड़ी पार्टी बन चुकी है.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Invisibility of Class in Popular Politics in India

Sanjay Kumar

(This paper was read as part of the workshop on Confronting the Rule of Capital in the Global South: Marxist analysis and class struggle in India on 4 May, 2018, at Marx 200 Congress, Berlin).

The name of the beast Marxists confront everywhere is Capitalism. We want to understand it theoretically and defeat it politically. This requires that we appreciate both its strengths and weaknesses. The exact nature of the rule of Capital in a society is both a reflection of latter’s universal properties, as well particularities of the given society’s politics and culture. Our hope is that an understanding of the rule of the Capital in a society like India will also throw light on its understanding in other countries.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

निशाने पर ‘‘जूठन’

पेरूमल मुरूगन, सोवेन्द्र हांसदा शेखर और अब ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी

-सुभाष गाताडे

तुम्हारी महानता मेरे लिए स्याह अंधेरा है..
मैं जानता हूं,/मेरा दर्द तुम्हारे लिए चींटी जैसा/ और तुम्हारा अपना दर्द पहाड़ जैसा
इसलिए, मेरे और तुम्हारे बीच/ एक फासला है/जिसे लम्बाई में नहीं/समय से नापा जाएगा।

ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिीक (जूता)

1997 में आयी वह आत्मकथा ‘‘जूठन’’ आते ही चर्चित हुई थी।

उस वक्त एक सीमित दायरे में ही उसके लेखक ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी का नाम जाना जाता था। मगर हिन्दी जगत में किताब का जो रिस्पान्स था, जिस तरह अन्य भाषाओं में उसके अनुवाद होने लगे, उससे यह नाम दूर तक पहुंचने में अधिक वक्त नहीं लगा। यह अकारण नहीं था कि इक्कीसवीं सदी की पहली दहाई के मध्य में वह किताब अंग्रेजी में अनूदित होकर कनाडा तथा अन्य देशों के विश्वविद्यालयों के पाठयक्रम में शामिल की गयी थी। एक मोटे अनुमान के हिसाब से देश के तेरह अलग अलग विश्वविद्यालयों में - जिनमें कई केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय शामिल हैं - इन दिनों यह उपन्यास या उसके अंश पढ़ाए जा रहे हैं।

The Crisis of Liberal Order in India and Successes of Hindutva Fascism

Sanjay Kumar

The last three and a half years of Modi government have made many Indians acutely aware of the threat Hindutva poses to whatever little democracy exists in the country. Minorities and Dalits have been physically assaulted by supporters of Hindutva with full state patronage. The bureaucracy and criminal justice system, which were already autocratic and corrupt, have been systematically infiltrated to communalise them further. Critics of Hindutva like Gauri Lankesh have been murdered in broad day light.Social media, which has emerged an important medium for country’s urban youth to form and express opinion, is dominated by troll armies of Hindutva that spread hatred and openly threaten people challenging Hindutva, or Modi government. Large sections of traditional media have become mouth pieces of the regime and brazenly pander to Hindu communal sentiments. The leader reigns supreme. The chaterrati in the media even applaud his mindless actions like demonetization. Opponents of the regime are openly branded anti-national, and brazen lies are spread about them. All sensible people of the country realise that the hatred, public violence, and communalization of state institutionsby Hindutva organisations are taking country towards disaster, and if it is to be saved Hindutva needs to bedefeated politically. The disaster India faces is that of a successful fascism. In times like these politically aware groups also have an additional responsibility.Hindutva does need to be defeated. However, this does not mean that the extant liberal mode of governance threatened by it be accepted uncritically.To the extent that the Hindutva is not a conspiracy, and roots of its success lie within Indian society and politics, it is also necessary to critically examine accepted notions of Indian democracy and society.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Crisis of Indian Democracy

Sanjay Kumar

Indian democracy faces  an unprecedented crisis. We do not have to get into debates about whether the current regime is fascist, or not. It is clearly and cleverly, creating, as well egging on, a majoritarian politics, which for instance calls upon 'people of India' to target their selected enemies; minorities, leftists, anti-national liberals, etc.  What Nehru had warned against, a majority communalism masquerading as nationalism, is growing right before our eyes. This is no longer a possible conspiracy, or a plan of Nagpur headquarters, but an embodied reality in terms of popular attitudes, modes of behaviour and values. On the other hand, the Modi government is implementing many anti-people economic and social policies. But somehow the popular mobilisations against those are not able to cross a critical mass. We can compare and contrast the situation with Emergency when a particular leader and the state power became the symbol of anti people authoritarianism. Then, the idea that given a chance people will throw out the authoritarian leader seemed reasonable; and that is how indeed it turned out in 1977 elections. Now, the nature and modus operandi of 'authoritarianism' are different. How do you challenge a 'popular' authoritarianism, whose kit bag also contains legitimate 'democratic' tools. In any democratic project, it is ultimately the people themselves who assert their democratic rights and make society and state democratic. How do we address the people who are supporting anti-democratic politics. Old assumptions and methods will not work. It seems democratic politics now has to be 'molecular', work at micro-level, make people confront their own attitudes, modes of behaviour, and long held beliefs. At the other level, we have to unpack deeper and more rooted contradictions of the Modi regime with the people of India. Of course, all this is easier said than done. However, what we can call the 'self criticism' of the democracy in India, a self awareness of its blind spots  and limitations, can be a first constructive step.

So what are these blind spots and limitations? We can only briefly touch some of them here. Our understanding about democracy in India has generally worked on a simplistic notion of people, which can best be called populist. While presenting the draft of the constitution Dr Ambedkar had famously warned about the health and future of the plant on democracy in a social soil which was deeply anti democratic. He most likely had feudal, casteist, partiarchal hold overs in mind, which had made Indian society one of the most unequal and dehumanising in human history. People like Dr Ambedkar were deeply aware that in a society like India democracy will not be a spontaneous development. It was not that once a liberal democratic constitution is in place, the state and society will merrily start chugging along the path of democracy. We all know how the power of office (whose other name is corruption), money, and muscle have thrived in our society since independence. We have come to accept a narrow definition of democracy, which is mainly centered on regular elections and a modicum of freedom of expression and association for a small, relatively privileged minority. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Indians have been deprived of even basic citizenship rights, except of course the right to vote. Actually, the relatively small privileged minority also does not interact with state as citizens.  

There is no doubt that the past nearly seventy years of electoral democracy have expanded and deepened the stake people feel in the elected governments. Over time, many oppressed and deprived sections of society, which could not vote in  earlier  elections, have been mobilised, and in India we actually witness an interesting phenomenon that larger percentages of deprived and oppressed people vote than the privileged and the rich. Another interesting phenomenon is that this mobilisation has occurred at the level of community, mainly caste. It has been generally believed that participation of oppressed castes has broadened and deepened democracy in India. While this is true in its own special way, another parallel process got overlooked. All communities which become active during elections are actually 'created' communities, called into  action by leaders, parties and their ground level workers. If communities like these become the main mode of address to an average voter, then it is only a matter of time that an organisation gets successful  in mobilising the largest such 'community' , the Hindu religious community. This follows from the logic of the 'arithmetic' of electoral politics in our country. For some time many of us had thought that the pluralities of caste, language, and regional variations in India will not allow mobilisation of people around a monolithic Hindutva identity to be successful. Actually, it seems that in states like Asom and UP, Hindutva has gone around this problem. In UP it managed to mobolise non Jatav dalits and non Yadav OBCs by specifically targeting them under an the over all ideological hegemony of upper castes. In the process it managed to disempower nearly 18% Muslim voters. Actually this exercise of dis empowering a significant minority is not unique to India. In the US, in the past four decades, the Republican Party has evolved a programme which systematically disregards the interests to 12 percent African Americans. And, in all presidential elections the majority of white voters have always voted for republican candidates. This was the case even during 'landslide' Obama victories.

Among the blind spots of Indian democracy we must also touch upon its hugely compromising notion and practice of secularism. The unique brand of secularism in India has been called 'sarv dharm sambhav', which literally translates as equal attitude towards all religions. Opportunistic politicians have translated it to 'equal respect for all religions'. An idea like the latter is  completely against the spirit of secularism. Secularism in a democracy has two assumptions. One, the fundamental democratic values, those of equality and fundamental rights, are not based upon any religious idea. The people who give themselves a constitution do not derive this power from authority of any religious belief. In this sense the basic democratic values are secular. The second principle, that a secular state will not prefer any religion over others, is a requirement of the principle of equality. A consequence of the secular basis of democracy is that any religious practice which violate these principles, for instance the principle of equality, can be outlawed. No religious belief can sanction inequality. Indian state did outlaw untouchability, even though for many Hindus it was an article of faith. So a secular democratic state power can not follow a formula like equal respect, or equal attitude towards all religions. Yet it does not  mean that secularism is anti religion. It just does not entertain any religious sanction in its domain. It does not interfere in the sphere of personal beliefs, nor  does it deny believers the right to associate on the basis of their religion.

Finally, the vexed relationship of caste in India with democracy need to be addressed. The electoral democracy has largely succeeded in reducing struggles against caste oppression to a politics of representation. While the reality is that in the era of electoral democracy and reservations for oppressed castes in state jobs and educational institutions, caste inequalities morphed into newer forms, which the politics of representation fully integrated into existing structures is often unable to address. It is in this regard that Rohith Vemula's suicide note becomes an important window to the lived reality of politically and socially conscious Dalit youth. Second, an important observation of Ambedkar in Annihilation of Caste is that as long as Hindus remain caste ridden, Hindu society is actually not a society. Caste fragments, and arranges society hierarchically so that any large scale unity becomes difficult. A public sphere, in which any individual rights bearing citizen interacts with others as their equal, is an important part of  any democratic society. Continuing salience of caste in Indian society has limited and compromised the possibilities of public sphere in India?

The text is based upon author's presentation at a round table on the same title organised by People's Alliance for Democracy and Secularism on 15th July, 2017. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Populism and 'Post Truth': The Two Misrepresentations of Extreme Right Wing in Liberal Discourse

Sanjay Kumar

Populism has emerged as the latest bad word in the liberal commentary on current politics in the West. The understanding is simple. Populist politicians are supposed to appeal to the 'people' and stoke their jealousy against those who are economically, socially and politically successful. Why should liberal commentators be bad mouthing an appeal to the people? After all, is not democracy supposed to be government 'of the people, by the people, for the people'? To appreciate the liberal disdain of populism, it helps to unpack its conception of state and economy. The basic idea is that running a modern and complex state and economy is a specialists' job, much beyond abilities of ordinary people. That is why the liberal model of governance advocates representative democracy, rather than direct democracy. A related worry is the lack of cultural and civil behaviour of the masses. Masses vs classes, the former lacking public rationality and civility, while the latter being defined by these properties, is an apt description of the underbelly of liberal understanding of society. Depending upon how democratic a particular liberalism institutional structure is, the avenues to reach to the level of 'classes', through education, money, culture, etc. may be more or less open to individuals from different social strata. The liberal criticism of populism rests upon seeing it as a misguided, ill-informed and foolhardy attack on those without whom the political and economic system would not work.

Extreme right wingers relish the populist tag. It is a profitable wrapper over a racist, misogynist and communal core. What others see as racism and misogyny, someone like Trump sees as his courageous disregard of 'political correctness'. And he genuinely believes that his conduct has allowed ordinary people to challenge a public censorship liberal elites had forced on them. Same for Modi; he sees his open espousal of Hindu communal interests as unshackling the Hindu pride from emasculation by a pseudo-secular ruling elite. Besides targeting entrenched elites, extreme right wingers like Trump, LePen, or own Modi, also use national jingoism, racism, misogyny, and bigotry to advance their politics. The populist label given by liberal commentators fails to address the threat these pose to selected minorities. It fails to face up to the disdainful and ugly realities to social life. 

Another word used in liberal discourse to identify extreme right wing is 'post truth', designated as the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries. The implication is that popular opinion now is somehow being easily swayed by emotionally charged rhetoric and fake news having no factual basis. The claim that this is happening only now is odd. The history of liberal media and politics is littered with selective reporting, commentary and demagoguery. Radical thinkers like Chomsky have uncovered how these tactics are used to create consent in liberal democracies. It was not too long ago that newspapers like NYT and Times were calling their readers to march to the drumbeats of war on Iraq on fake charges of weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam Hussein. Elected leaders like Blair were presenting 'sexed up' intelligence in the parliament to prepare their country for a war of aggression. The story was repeated without any remorse with regard to Libya and Syria. Nor is it the case that liberal media and politicians indulge in such skulduggery only for aggressions against third world countries, and are truthful saints when reporting on internal politics. The way even moderate left leaders like Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, or Malenchon have been lampooned, and their policies against austerity and increasing taxes on the rich ridiculed would put shame to any claims of fair reporting and neutrality. Websites circulating fake news and rumours, and claims of leaders like Trump or LePen are only more brazen and less polished attempts to create a favourable public opinion. To create a wall separation of between them and liberal discourse, with truth and facts on the one side, and 'post-truth' on the other is a motivated attempt to disguise the long history of dissemination of false information and propaganda by the liberal establishment. 

Neo-Fascism, not Populism 

Extreme right wing in the West is growing in the space opened by the legitimacy crisis of the existing liberal mode of governance. The neo-liberal political economy has unsettled existing patterns of social expectations, and meaning of social life and relations. Globalisation of production, information and culture, and continental level migrations are producing fundamental changes in working lives and public environment; opening opportunities, as well as causing crisis for many. All such changes would be expected from any advance in technology. What is unique to neo-liberalism is a market model of society in which the public sphere is increasingly becoming privatised. This is depriving people of public support to deal with sudden and unsettling change. While many ordinary people feel helpless against these changes, the rich are becoming super rich; taking inequality of income, assets and personal security to obscene levels. Alienation and insecurity are the primal fears on which the right wing is growing. This, however, is only one part of the story.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lucknow Public Meeting: Democracy and People's lives लोक जीवन और लोकतंत्र

Democracy and People's lives

A Lecture by Dr Ravi Sinha

Time: 5.30 p.m. 4th June 2017
Jaishankar Prasad Sabhagar, Kaiserbagh, Lucknow

The world today witnesses rise of the rightwing at the global level which has generally remained on the margins after second world war. This rise is taking place through democratic routes only. Normally while discerning the menace of fascism which is unfolding before us via 'democratic' routes, the role of capital, finance, corporate houses, globalisation gets discussed but the role of 'people' and their 'lives' in this phenomenon get neglected. With this lecture, we intend to address this issue at the global level as well as in the context of India.

New Socialist Initiative (NSI) is organising this lecture. NSI - as you might be aware - is an ideological-political platform of the left which is committed to reorientation of revolutionary politics. Our attempt is to present a fresh critique of the present day capitalism, propose an outline of the new system which can provide an alternative to it and strengthen the attempts to fashion left politics in our times. No doubt, it can be accomplished by engaging in ideological preparations, internal debates - discussions along with social experiments and model building.

Dr Ravi Sinha, who is a leading member of NSI, is a well known Marxist intellectual and has been associated with the left movement for more than four decades. He is the principal author of the much-acclaimed book 'Globalisation of Capital - A New Modus Operandi of Global Capitalism' (1997) and has been a founding member of the Hindi journal Sandhan. Hundreds of his articles in English-Hindi have appeared in various publications 

You are cordially invited to join us for the programme and participate in the discussion.

New Socialist Initiative
Contact : 9565802785, 09868940920

Monday, May 1, 2017

The New Social Order in Uttar Pradesh

- Sanjay Kumar

UP elections results stunned everyone, losers as well as victors. With 40 percent of votes, the BJP managed to get more than 75% of the state assembly seats. Other major parties of the state, SP and BSP, were left far behind licking their wounds, even though these parties had managed to retain their core vote parcentages of 28% (in alliance with Congress) and 20%, respectively. The appointment of Adityanath Yogi, the mahant of Gorakhnath Math, as the chief minister, and actions of his government like the banning socalled illegal abbatoirs, anti-Romeo squads, and loan waiver of small and marginal farmers, are indications that the BJP government in state is clearly aiming for a new social order, an order which it hopes will consolidate its political success. 

Politics and Society under Bourgeois Democracy

Bourgeois democracies create a specifically mediated relationship between politics and society, through which both, politics and society shape each other. Politics and state action are not passive reflections of the social order. Rules of electoral politics in India have meant that majority governments have been easily formed with votes of even 30% of the electorate. Political success requires agency, conscious planning and organisation. All indications are that from micro level booth management to sending subtle messages to its core voters, the BJP simply out maneaouvered its opponents in UP. Politics, which ensures access to state power, the most organised agency in society, is actually a vehicle to mould society. RSS has been working on this premise for decades. Now that the BJP is in power at center and many large states of the country, there should be no doubt that it is going to try to turn India according to its ideology and vision. However, it will be wrong to attribute political success purely to the actions and abilities of players. Actually, political success itself is premised upon social influence. The latter can take diverse forms, from outright domination, hegemony with passive/active consent, to negotiated compromises. Hence, the political success of the BJP itself is based upon an underlying social dynamic. Through a combination of events, the BJP under Modi has been successful in tapping into this dynamic. What is this dynamic? What is the nature of its influence over society? How far the trends of this dynamic match with RSS gameplan? Also, what kinds of social currents are agaisnt this dynamic, and how can it be countered? There is little doubt that progressive and democratic forces in the country need to address these questions for making sense of the BJP success and developing credible alternatives. 

A lot has been written about how in this election, and before these in Asom and in 2014 Loksabha elections, BJP has been able to form majority governments by completely disregarding Muslims. The obverse of this is the consolidation of large sections of Hindus under a politicla programme which has a clear anti-minority agenda, and whose violent consequences have been evident for many years now. Persecution of minorities is an established fact of Indian social and political life, a lot has been writtten and discussed about it. However, a curious fact about discussions on, and activism against Hindutva is that little light is thrown on Hindu society which is giving its politically allegiance to Hindutva. We need to turn our lens towards the socalled 'majority' community and explore processes that are turning it communal. Without this we will be forced to argue that the success of Hindutva communalism is purely a result of propaganda, conspiracy, organisational acumen, etc (depending upon one's ideological orientation, any one of these can be picked) of the RSS/BJP. Without such an analysis we can not show and convince Hindus that the path of Hindutva is actually a path of complete disaster for India as a society. Hindutva is bad for every Indian, not just for minorities. The UP election results are as good an opportunity as any other, to have a look at the ways the Hindu social order, despite its many bewildering and contradictory diversity, is changing; changes which at present appear to be strengthening Hindutva appeal. 

Resurgence of 'Upper' Caste Hegemony: Caste has changed, but is still a dominant fact of social life in most of India. For more than five years UP was ruled by a Dalit woman. This is an unprecedented fact in more than three thousand years old history of Hindu society. Yet, caste has not disappeared. It remains perhaps the most common identity, both in private and public life, and has morphed into newer forms of hierarchy and social power. The so called upper castes, which constitute about 20% of UP population, remain the most influential caste group in society. Like in the rest of India, these castes dominate urban economy, bureaucracy, education sector, judiciary, media, and even non government sector organisations. Upper castes do not dominate UP through control of land and traditional institutions of rural society, the way their ancestors did upto two generations ago. Capitalism, political mobilisation of other castes in electoral democracy, and reservations in bureaucracy and educational institututions have meant that the old order with its naked violence and Brahmanical inhumanity is dead for good. 

'Upper' castes remain self-conscious of themselves as the upper castes in society, despite a number of inner fissures, and many among them actually living in poverty. Upper caste influence in UP takes different forms in different parts of social life. Their hegemony is most clearly visible in the media and public discourse. A popular movie like Dabang based on UP, has a Brahmin police officer as the hero, a Prajpat (of potter caste) as his love interest, and wrestler of a Netaji (not so hidden reference to upstart Yadavs) as the vile villain. All vernacular newspapers, tv news channels are owned and managed by upper castes. The upper caste self-representation is hegemonic because it is accepted as universal, while self-representations of other castes like of Yadavs, or Jatavs, are self-conscious particular. Notice another fact. While political commentators routinely refer to other castes and Muslims, as 'vote banks' of particular political parties, upper castes, to all contrary evidence, are rarely mentioned as a 'vote bank'. 

The political hegemony which upper castes enjoyed during the freedom movement, and under Congress rule, has been seriously eroded by subsequent political developments. In a nutshell, the Hindutva programme of BJP is a chance for upper castes to regain their political hegemony. This has been evident for many decades now, ever since the internal haemorrhage of Congress in the late eighties. Upper caste dalliances with SP and BSP were only tactical to serve immediate interests. Hindutva is a different bandwagon altogether. Like the national development plans of Congress earlier, Hindutva by design is a project with hegemonic pretensions, which aims to represent the entire Hindu society. Nationalism and development are the programmatic elements of this project, suitably modified from earlier Congress variants to match the neo-liberal political economy. In the present circumstances there is a natural gravitation of upper castes towards it. Now that the BJP has got a national level presence in Modi, it is very sure that upper castes form its natural core of voters. Like Congress earlier, it does not have to do anything special to attract them. Hindutva forces and 'upper' castes together can share in the glory of 'leading the nation'. 

This is very much evident in the results of recent elections. Upper castes now have more than double the number of elected members in the current assembly than their population ratio. Around half of BJP MLAs are 'upper' caste. According to election observers 'upper' castes this time maintained a strategic silence in conversations before elections, while in earlier elections they had been publicly vocal about their preferences (Messages, Mathematics and Silences in BJP's UP Win, Radhika Ramaseshan, EPW, 27 March, 2017). This was in consonance with the 'dog whistle' strategy of the RSS described by a pracharak as ' Man hee man se vote deejiye, sayam rakhiye apnee vaani par'. The aim was to keep political opponents, mainly Muslims confused. The BJP election arithmatic was simple. Gather other caste voters, who may be disgruntled with the Yadav dominated SP and Jatav dominated BSP, around the core of upper caste voters. This strategy is in obvious harmony with upper caste intentions to regain hegemony, for which they need to successfully counter politically organsied Yadavs and Jatavs. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Davids have again humbled Goliath: Why no one is celebrating POSCO victory?

- Subhash Gatade

Photo courtesy: The Hindu

Big news - at times - go completely unnoticed.

(Thanks to the mediatised times we are passing through)

And thus it did not appear surprising that the decision by Posco, the South Korean steel giant, the fourth biggest in the world, to exit the proposed 12 million tonnes a year steel plant in Odisha did not cause much flutter. Yes, newspapers duly reported POSCO India's 'request to the Odisha government to take back the land provided to it near Paradip' where it was supposed to invest 52,000 crore Rs.' The letter stated company's 'failure to start work on the proposed plant'. 

Perhaps none from the media wanted to showcase a negative example which is at variance with the efforts by the powers that be to project the idea of 'ease of doing business' here. Undoubtedly at a time when the government is keen to attract foreign capital and inducing it in very many ways, the way in which a Corporate Major - supposed to be one of the leading in the steel sector - had to exit from its project can easily shake their confidence about investing here. Or was it to cover up the fact that over the years how the South Korean Steel Major had dealt a heavy blow to the local environment by felling down more than eight lakh trees at the project site and residents are demanding accountability and compensation over such large-scale environmental destruction. What is more disturbing has been the fact that while the Union Environment Ministry never gave permission to cut the trees the MNC with due help from the local administration and law and order machinery went ahead with it. A case has been filed before the National Green Tribunal about this issue. 

The question arises why did POSCO decide to quit despite receiving continued support from the central as well as the state government? Remember the company had been handed over 1,700 acres of land by the Odisha state for the project and around 1,000 acres of land was still lying with the state which it had acquired for the project. In fact, the Odisha government went ahead with the forcible land acquisition for the steel plant despite the fact that POSCO did not have an environmental clearance for the project. And also the environmental clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on January 31, 2011, had also been suspended by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 30 March 2012. 

Whether it had a 'change of heart' about concerns expressed by local people - who were leading and continuing with the struggle which was billed as one of the 'largest social movements in recent times' - about the devastation it had brought out in the lives of the people or the company decided to become 'green' and decided to discontinue the project.

Definitely not.

Photo provided by author
Capital or capitalists never get moved by such humanitarian concerns ( which are exhibited by lesser mortals like us). Soul of capital or capitalists rest in profit only. It is the sole criterion for it to make decisions. (As an aside if capital/capitalist would have been really 'moved' by human misery neither we would have seen giant armament factories manufacturing weapons of death or and human trafficking becoming 'lucrative' business or crores of children slogging out on peanuts).

Monday, March 27, 2017

[Racism Alert] Statement by The Association of African Students in India (AASI)

In yet another brazen instance of racism against Africans in India, a FIR was filed and 5 Nigerian students were baselessly arrested in Greater Noida on charges of murder and cannibalism. Later, on Sunday, after protests by AASI and due to lack of any evidence police released the 5 students from custody. You can read more about this horrendous incident here

AASI members protesting outside the police station in Greater Noida on Sunday. Photo: AASI

Outraged and troubled by these continued racist assaults, harassment and intimidation The Association of African Students in India (AASI) has issued this statement today. 

Statement by The Association of African Students in India

The Association of African students in India is calling on the government of India to taking concrete steps to protect the lives and properties of all African students in India, and especially in Uttar Pradesh following the recent false allegations laid on five Nigerian students.

  • We are tired of the appeasement and promises made by the Indian government and therefore we will be taking stringent actions.
  • Failure to secure the lives of African students and to ensure maximum security in areas where African students live, we will write to the African Union to cut all bilateral trade with India.
  • We will ensure that all the local media houses in our respective countries get details of the growing racism which African students are facing in India.
  • We will ensure that a detailed report on the barbaric racism African students are facing in India is sent to the high levels of all African governments and heads of state.
  • We will ask African students in our respective countries to stop making India their study destination with immediate effect.
  • We will call for a nationwide protest inviting all international media houses.

Samuel T. Jack 
President (AASI)


Saturday, March 25, 2017

UPDATE from POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) as on 24 March 2016

Picture Courtesy:

Dear Friends,

As you may know from the media about recent the statement by Odisha’s Industry Minister, Devi Prasad Mishra that “POSCO confirmed the withdrawal of its project by requesting the Odisha government to take back the land transferred in its name”. We strongly believe this is not just a victory for our people but also the victory for the all the peasants, fisher folks, forest dwellers who are democratically fighting to protect their land, livelihood and environment. This is a victory against false propaganda, intimidation, false cases and threats of forcible eviction. This is a victory against the invasion by a global capitalist giant like POSCO in partnership with the Central and State Governments. Since this Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project was the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) investment in this country, it has to be treated as a symbol of struggle against globalization and India’s freedom. We sincerely convey our thanks to all activists, organizations, people’s movements, progressive intellectuals, like minded Political Parties, media and concerned individuals who have extended support to our struggle. 

We strongly condemn the Odisha government’s decision that land acquired and transferred to POSCO will be kept in the Land Bank. The statement of Odisha’s Industry Minister, Devi Prasad Mishra in the Assembly of Odisha was “Steps are being taken for fencing the land by Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO)”. This is illegal, undemocratic, anti-peasants, and unwarranted. The Odisha government must follow the Supreme Court decision on the pattern of Singur where land of farmers acquired by Tata's Nano plant in West Bengal was returned to them.

The government of Odisha must respect the unanimous resolution by Dhinkia Gram Sabha (Panchayat level assembly of adult members) i.e. on 18th of October 2012, where more than 2000 people participated in the meeting and resolved that the land used for beetle vine cultivation is clearly under the rights provided to the Gram Sabha under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Claims on the forest lands approved and recommended by the Palli Sabhas of villages (Dhinkia, Govindpur…) are still pending for recognition and no step has been taken to recognize their rights. We are strongly determined to reoccupy our farm lands and reconstruct our vineyards for the cultivation of betel leaves. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

योगी परिघटना -उत्तर प्रदेश में ’हिन्दू राष्ट्र’की दस्तक

स्वदेश कुमार सिन्हा

4 जून 2006 - “जब अयोध्या का विवादित ढांचा गिराने से हमें कोई रोक नही सकातो राम मन्दिर बनाने से कौन रोकेगा.”
“गंगा में मूर्ति विर्सजन के दौरान होने वाला प्रदूषण सबको दिखता है , लेकिन बकरीद के समय हजारो निरीह पशु काशी में काटे गये हैं उनका खून गंगा जी में बहा है क्या यह प्रदूषण नही है” ?

जून 2015 - “जो लोग योग का विरोध कर रहे हैं उन्हे भारत छोड़ देना चाहिए , जो सूर्य नमस्कार को नही मानते उन्हे समुद्र में डूब जाना चाहिए.”

अगस्त 2015“मुसलमानो की आबादी तेजी से बढ़ना खतरनाक रूझान है यह एक चिन्ता का विषय है केन्द्र सरकार को उनकी जनसंख्या घटने के लिए सख्त कदम उठाने चाहिए.”
फरवरी 2015 –“हम पूरे हिन्दुस्तान को हिन्दू बनवा देंगे, पूरी दुनिया में भगवा फहरवा देंगे। मक्का में गैर मुस्लिम और वैटिकन सिटी में गैर ईसाइ नही जा सकते,  हमारे यहाँ  सभी लोग आ सकते है। ’’

अगस्त 2015-  लव जेहादको लेकर योगी जी का एक वीडियो सामने आया था जिसमें वे अपने समर्थको से कहते हैं कि हमने फैसला किया है कि अगर वे एक हिन्दू लड़की का धर्म परिवर्तन कराते हैं तो हम सौ मुस्लिम लड़कियों का धर्म परिवर्तन करायेंगे। बाद में योगी ने इस वीडियो के बारे में कहा कि हम इस मुद्दे पर कोई सफाई नही देना चाहते।

ये योगी आदित्यनाथ के कुछ चुने हुए विवादित बयान हैं अपने उग्र हिन्दुत्व की अवधारणा में संघ परिवार को भी पीछे छोड़ने वाले अजय सिंह विष्ट उर्फ योगी आदित्यनाथ के उत्तर प्रदेश का मुख्यमंत्री चुने जाने पर न केवल देश के धर्म निरपेक्ष मानस अपितु बहुत से ’’उदार हिन्दुत्व ’’ के पैरोकार भी आश्चर्यचकित हैं. वास्तव में इस चयन ने कई पुराने मिथको को ध्वस्त किया है तथा कुछ नये गढ़े भी हैं. सन् 2002 में गोधरा हत्याकाण्ड के बाद समूचे गुजरात में भड़के दंगो ने मुस्लिमो के नरसंहार का योगी ने खुलकर समर्थन किया था, उन्होने गोधरा हत्याकाण्ड के बाद एक विशाल जनसभा में कहा था, “मैने मोदी जी से बात की है और उनसे कहा है कि हमारी तरफ से एक विकेट गिरने पर दूसरे पक्ष की दस विकेट लेना अपने घरो पर केसरिया झण्डा फहराइये और अपने आस-पड़ोस के मुसलमानो की संख्या गिनिये। हमें जल्दी ही कुछ करना पड़ सकता है”,(इण्डियन एक्सप्रेस के वर्गीज जार्ज की रिपोर्ट).

Monday, March 20, 2017

[From the Archives] Hindutva-isation of a Gorakhnath Mutt: The Yogi and the Fanatic

Note: This article was first published in on October 7, 2004

- Subhash Gatade


The last two decades of the 20th century have been witness to the coming to the fore of the careful and planned unfolding of what one sociologist calls 'spatial strategies of Hindutva'. Ranging from the then-obscure looking Ayodhya focussed place/site based strategy in the early 80s to the shameful use of many religious Yatras or the N number of Political Yatras it undertook, it has thus taken under its ambit places/sites, areas as well as routes to spread the homogenising and hegemonic agenda of Hindu Rashtra. No doubt barring a few disasters ( like the recent 'India Shining' Yatra) this strategy has paid rich dividends to the saffron combine.

What can be considered the key elements of this strategy? The 'success' of such a 'place/area/route' centred strategy hinges around basically two things: one the particular site/place should be 'invested with a unique particularity' and two, the 'other' should be implicated in it.

The movement for the 'liberation of Ram Janam Bhoomi' which ultimately led to the demolition of a four-century old year mosque and the biggest communal conflagration in post-independence India to the periodic raising of tempers at Mathura/'Krishnajanambhoomi' or Kashi Vishwanath Temple/Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi can be called the centrepiece of their activities in the 90s. But apart from focussing themselves on these 'sacred places' and further staking claim to 30,000 more similar shrines/mosques/mazars spread all over the country one was also witness to the playing out of the another type of 'place centred interventions' by the Hindutva forces which apparently had 'secular ' overtones. The controversy over the Hubli Idgah Maidan and the attempts to unfurl Tricolour over it had been a case in point. 

Another type of such interventions can be categorised by looking at the changes wrought in at places/ sites which claim a syncretic tradition. The homogenising/hegemonising project of Hindutva has continued with its feverish attempts to destroy the composite character of such places. Baba Buddhan Giri is a case in point. While a few such places have really succumbed to the 'hinduisation' drive but at many places it has been difficult for them to break the communal unity of the broad masses of the people.

A third category of 'place centred' interventions has involved the gradual Brahminisation/Hindutvisation of temples, mutts which had remained outside the Brahminical fold and had their genesis in the revolts of the subalterns in the medieval times against the stranglehold of Brahminism. The way the historic Veershaiva movement started by the great Basava as a cultural rebellion is being slowly co-opted in the Hindutva fold or the way a section of the famous Nath movement is being co-opted in the overall gameplan of the Hindutva forces is for everyone to see.

Definitely the efforts of the Hindutva brigade which have cleverly made plans, provided space, built networks or started agitations supposedly to involve them in their grand project have played an important stimulating/catalytic role in their metamorphosis but these type of 'external' interventions cannot be said to be solely responsible for the ensuing changes. At times one has also been witness to the way the 'internal' dynamic also plays a role in their transformations. Apart from the rising political ambitions of the chief Guru whose influence is widespread, the internal squabbles among the mutts have also played a role in their transformations. At times the growing 'Sanskritisation' of the followers of a particular mutt has also rather forced the chieftains of the mutts to shed a few of its overtly nonBrahminical rituals or introduce a few Brahminical rituals.

This brief write-up focusses on the hinduisation/hindutvaisation of a famous mutt in eastern Uttar Pradesh which has the potential of impacting the regional politics in a big way.


Adityanath, Date of birth: 5 June 1972, Political Experience: Won the Lok Sabha elections in 1998 and 1999 from Gorakhpur. In 1998, Adityanath was the youngest legislator in the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. The young yogi is the successor to former Hindu Maha Sabha president Mahant Avaidyanath at the Gorakhpur temple and is at the forefront of the Hindutva agenda. Education: B.Sc (Maths) from Garhwal University... Pet projects: Education and cow sheds. His office proudly claims that the MP started 18 educational institutions including a polytechnic; and Gorakhpur has 15 cow sheds... His office claims he checked smuggling of beef from his constituency to Bangladesh. 

Meet Hindutva's Young Flag Bearer [Parul Gupta, Friday, April 09, 2004 Times of India]