Monday, December 31, 2012

Notes from a Night Walk in Delhi University

- shuddhabrata Sengupta

[ Black & White pictures, courtesy Chandan Gomes. Colour pictures and cell phone video footage, courtesy, Bonojit Hussain, 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 ]

Sunday, December 30, 2012

People's March for Freedom from Fear



Delhi University Metro Station, Sunday 30th December, 5 pm

We Demand:
  1. Massive Expansion of secure, regular and accountable public transport.
  2.  Take over of private buses by State corporations.
  3. Ensure speedy delivery of justice in more than 100,000 cases of violence against women.
  4. Enact provisions for formation of anti-sexual harassment committees at all work places, colleges, schools, and other institutions. Constitute a democratic, effective and accountable body to ensure justice in cases of sexual harassment cases in Delhi University. Bring out regular reports cases and actions taken.
  5. Institute an independent tribunal to enquire and punish police, paramilitary and armed forces personnel accused of sexual violence. Install CCTV cameras inside police stations. 
  6. Repeal archaic provisions of Article 66A of IT Act and Article 144 which snatches from us our right to protest and express our democratic dissent. sack Delhi Police Commissioner for violently suppressing protesters. Remove Delhi University Vice-Chancellor for muzzling our protest. 
Call for the Freedom March has been given by many students, teachers, other people's organizations including New Socialist Initiative (NSI)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Statement by Women’s and Progressive Groups and Individuals Condemning Sexual Violence and Opposing Death Penalty

DECEMBER 24, 2012

On 16 December, 2012, a 23-year old woman and her friend hailed a bus at a crossing in South Delhi. In the bus, they were both brutally attacked by a group of men who claimed to be out on a ‘joy-ride’. The woman was gang raped and the man beaten up; after several hours, they were both stripped and dumped on the road. While the young woman is still in hospital, bravely battling for her life, her friend has been discharged and is helping identify the men responsible for the heinous crime.

We, the undersigned, women’s, students’ and progressive groups and concerned citizens from around the country, are outraged at this incident and, in very strong terms, condemn her gang rape and the physical and sexual assault.

As our protests spill over to the streets all across the country, our demands for justice are strengthened by knowing that there are countless others who share this anger. We assert that rape and other forms of sexual violence are not just a women’s issue, but a political one that should concern every citizen. We strongly demand that justice is done in this and all other cases and the perpetrators are punished. 

This incident is not an isolated one; sexual assault occurs with frightening regularity in this country. Adivasi and dalit women and those working in the unorganised sector, women with disabilities, hijras, kothis, trans people and sex workers are especially targeted with impunity – it is well known that the complaints of sexual assault they file are simply disregarded. We urge that the wheels of justice turn not only to incidents such as the Delhi bus case, but to the epidemic of sexual violence that threatens all of us. We need to evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large number of men who commit these crimes. Our stance is not anti-punishment but against the State executing the death penalty. The fact that cases of rape have a conviction rate of as low as 26% shows that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of charges.

Silent witnesses to everyday forms of sexual assault such as leering, groping, passing comments, stalking and whistling are equally responsible for rape being embedded in our culture and hence being so prevalent today. We, therefore, also condemn the culture of silence and tolerance for sexual assault and the culture of valorising this kind of violence.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Response to "[Delhi gang rape] Lest we forget and move on, yet again"

A response to Prachee Sinha's piece "Lest we forget and move on, yet again" which was published on this blog yesterday.

Delhi Gang Rape: A Political Response

- Sumandro (Riju)

Sharing a few thoughts about your note. I believe you have keen observations — empirical and theoretical — to make about the relations between revolutionary politics and women’s liberation (especially about the failures of the former to seriously address the latter). and I share my thoughts expecting that they will be clarified from your responses.

# You never mention ‘capital’. Not that all pieces of writing always must have that word, but it seemed quite pertinent a category for the event you wrote about. While sexual assault in particular and violence against women in general is surely shaped by feudal-patriarchal social structures that you mention, the everyday economic exploitation also create the underlying context of such violences. You do mention the term ‘justice’. but the piece does not explain what you mean by ‘justice’, neither does it explain the nature of the ‘onus’ to ensure justice. As you do not mention ‘capital’, and neither ‘state’, it becomes rather difficult to begin to define such a justice — not because such a justice must be delivered by capital and state, but because the social-material context of delivering such a justice is shaped by capital and state. Especially in the context of the event concerned — what would count as justice to this girl and her friend? As we write, the students of JNU Students’ Union blocks the road in front of the Vasant Vihar police station, Home Minister promise swift justice (five fast track court and all), and politicians across parties express their shame and explain how capital punishment is the answer to women’s freedom. As you say that the onus to ensure that violence against women becomes an ‘intolerable’ and ‘inexcusable’ act is upon all of us, it worries me how easily your statement would suit the purpose of such reactionary political responses. To clarify, I use the term ‘reactionary’ not as an abuse but a technical term that describes an act that restrengthens the liberal-democratic order.

# A key question that the event (of the girl being gang raped in the bus and his friend is beaten up, and both then thrown off the bus) raises is that of the political response. All responses I have heard of till now are reactionary, as they point out the failures of the capitalist state. the differences lie in how they define justice (capital punishment or not) and appropriate police intervention (CCTV and civilian-supported patrolling). Interestingly there is a convergent appeal to both the ‘sovereign’ (punish the unruly) and ‘pastoral’ (discipline and securitise the public spaces) modes of statecraft (ref: Michel Foucault).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

[Delhi Gang rape] Lest we forget and move on, yet again

- Prachee Sinha

A 23 year old young woman battles for her life in a hospital in Delhi. She was raped by a group of men, brutalized, beaten mercilessly and thrown out of a moving bus on Sunday night. Her fault: she was a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time; she dared to be in a public space at night; and she was with a young man with whom she had just finished watching a movie. According to some media reports, she was in fact taunted by the rapists about being out with a male friend late at night. This young woman is fighting to stay alive as we speak, and she may not make it, but if she does and decides to fight for justice, there will be an entire society, an entire system standing against her, blaming her for what happened to her, scrutinizing and judging her entire life, her choices, and her very existence.

This crime is particularly brutal, with horrific details emerging about what this woman has endured and the damage her body has suffered. I for one have no complain about the talk and interest that this case is generating. Even though I do think that putting the CCTV footage of the rape in the public domain is frankly disrespectful and offensive. It should be used as evidence in court and not as fodder for public consumption. Anyhow, media is making the case a headline, the police and government are acting fast under pressure of the public opinion, and everybody who is anybody is decrying it as a heinous crime, which it indeed is. And now the political parties have also jumped in with the BJP starting to make demands, the Aam Aadmi party starting to make comments. There is uproar in the parliament. The politicking and slugfest has just commenced. The girl is still critical and the police are still investigating and all the criminals are still not in jail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Ashes of Dharampuri

- Subhash Gatade

Rajamma, a resident of Natham, looks at her burnt house with vacant eyes. The more she looks at it, the harder the tears fall. Every part of her house — each brick painstakingly collected — is a small fountain of memories for her, reminding her of the backbreaking work done by her late husband at the local landlord’s house.

Now, all that is in the past.

Three weeks ago hordes of dominant caste people armed to the teeth launched a pre-meditated attack on their colony, supposedly to avenge the ‘humiliation’ caused by the marriage of one of their girls to a boy from her community.

Like many others in the colony, Rajamma is a dalit. The perpetrators belonged to the powerful Vanniar caste. She knows that she was saved only because a youth from the colony alerted them about the attack allowing some people to rush into the nearby fields.

Burned houses, smashed household items, bicycles, motorbikes, television sets. Torn schoolbooks, records, certificates and ration cards. This was the scene immediately after the attack on the three dalit colonies of Natham, Kondampatti and Annanagar in Naikkankottai, Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu. Of the 500 houses in the three colonies, over 268 were damaged/burnt.

The attack was brought on by the suicide of a caste Hindu over the elopement of his daughter. The mob, armed with deadly weapons and petrol bombs, indulged in a four-hour-long rampage. They broke cupboards, stole gold jewellery and cash before setting the houses on fire.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Bodoland (Assam) Violence and the Politics of Explanation

Bonojit Hussain

[Note: This is an expanded version of an article published in SEMINAR Magazine Vol. No-640, December, 2012. This version was first posted on]

EVEN though tensions were apparently simmering for many months prior to the outbreak of the violence in the month of July 2012 in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) area, but the immediate trigger was the killing of two Muslim youths, who were shot dead by unidentified gunmen on 6 July. The needle of suspicion pointed to the former cadres of the disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT). In retaliation, four former cadres of Bodo Liberation Tigers were hacked to death by a mob in the Muslim dominated village of Joypur near Kokrajhar town. What unfolded after that was the worst humanitarian crisis to have hit Assam in decades. 

During the crisis that unfolded in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) and the adjoining Dhubri and Bongaigaon districts, Assam witnessed the tragedy of nearly 500,000 people belonging to the Bodo and Muslim communities being forced to take shelter in 273 temporary refugee camps. These people will stand internally displaced, scarred and traumatized for months to come, if not years. An estimated 97 people have lost their lives and around 500 villages were burnt down. The magnitude of this human tragedy is overwhelming considering the short span of one month in which it occurred. 

There was an immediate need for a united humanitarian call to stop the killings and the violence on the part of community leaders and the administration, but the failure to do so created an atmosphere of extreme polarization, with leaders of both the Bodo and the Muslim communities hurling allegations and counter-allegations at each other. To make matters worse, leaders of the Bodo community, large sections of mainstream Assamese society, and a section of the media and the political class took it upon themselves to allege and prove that the responsibility for this human tragedy lies squarely on ‘illegal Bangladeshi migrants’ (often used as a shorthand for Muslims of Bengali origin in Assam) and that the undifferentiated Muslim masses inhabiting western Assam are ‘Bangladeshis’. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Statement: Shame on Maharashtra Govt for giving State Funeral to a Fascist Demagogue

- Statement Issued by New Socialist Initiative (NSI)

On November 18, 2012, Mr Bal Keshav Thackeray, the founder and leader of Shiv Sena was cremated with full state honours in Mumbai. State Honour in death is meant to pay homage to someone whose work in life contributed to the values espoused by the state. Why did a liberal democratic state proclaiming Gandhi to be ‘Father of the Nation’ give such an honour to a self declared admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nathu Ram Godse? The Constitution of India guarantees freedom and liberty to every citizen, irrespective of religion, caste, gender, place of birth or language. Against this, for nearly 46 years the politics of Mr Thackeray and Shiv Sena were based on selectively targeting communities, openly spreading hatred and perpetrating violence against them. What Shiv Sena calls Thokshahi, its method of doing politics, is brutal use of group muscle power, justified in the name of majority, against vulnerable minorities. Shiv Sena started its political journey with attacking Tamil speaking inhabitants of Bombay in the late sixties. It burnt down their restaurants, because, it argued Tamils were taking jobs away from Marathis. In early seventies it brutally attacked Dalit Panthers, the group of radical anti-castiest dalits who had risen against opportunism of mainstream dalit parties. It was also accused of the murder of Dalit Panther leader Bhagwat Jadhav. With the support of big business and police it attacked left trade unions of Mumbai, and to spread its terror killed the popular trade unionist and sitting CPI MLA Krishna Desai. Mr Thackeray was one of the few Hindutva leader who publicly gloated over the destruction of Babri Mosque in 1992. The pogrom of Muslims in Mumbai during the 1992-93 riots was planned and executed by Shiv Sena. Lately, it and its progeny, the MNS, have started attacking Hindi speaking migrants in Mumbai. It has burnt their taxis and shops. Along with the use of group violence, Mr Thackeray perfected the art of protection money racket, a rank criminality that partially explains the phenomenal growth in the personal wealth of top Shiv Sena leadership.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Demonstration Held Against Increasing Spate of Sexual Violence in Haryana

On Tuesday 16 October New Socialist Initiative (NSI) demonstrated at Haryana Bhawan at Copernicus Marg, New Delhi to condemn the Haryana government’s indifference to the rising cases of rape and other sexual violences against women As a mark of protest a memorandum addressed to the Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda was also submitted.

Apart from New Socialist Initiative (NSI), the memorandum was endorsed by Stree Mukti Sangthan, New Trade Union Initiative, National Alliance for People's Movement, Program for Social Action, People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and Nirantar amongst others.

A delegation consisting of Anjali Sinha from Stree Mukti Sanghatan, Praveen Kumar from New Socialist Initiative (NSI, Kusum from Jagori and Vikas from PUDR went to hand over the memorandum.

Who is afraid of Copyright Infringement?

On 10th of October a Public Meeting was organised by Campaign to Save D School Photocopy Shop, was held at Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. This event was a part of the long drawn campaign on the issue of ‘copyright infringement’ provoked by the clamping down on photocopying by the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group. The public meeting saw the attendance of several authors and people associated with the field of writing and publishing and discussed a range of issues and matters related to authorship, workings of the publishing industry, the Delhi University system of promotion and its nexus with publication houses. The meeting began with an introduction of the campaign and the law suit taken up by the three publishers against Rameshwori Photo Copy Shop on the “course pack”. In spite of the spontaneous nature of the campaign the need to caution against taking this as a stray incident was emphasised by Mr. Usman, a representative of the campaign. 

Touching upon the workings of the publishing industry Mr. Sudhanva Deshpande, Managing Editor, LeftWord Publishing expressed that he also works with the publishing house and emphasised that many from the publishing world are also with the campaign of the students and that the three publishers Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis group are not representative of them. Appreciating the organising of the public meeting on the issue of ‘copyright infringement’ Mr. Deshpande further stated on the ecosystem that needs to be in place for publishing of books to happen, knowledge is required to be shared and spread widely as possible and it makes sense to have a system where books are read and discussed. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mutant Modernities, Socialist Future

- Ravi Sinha

Modernity and socialism can be daunting subjects. Both have had a long history and both have impacted on humanity in ways few other ideas, systems or forms of life have. In a famous incident, perhaps not entirely apocryphal, Chou En Lai, when asked about the impact of the French Revolution on the western civilization by Richard Nixon, is supposed to have answered, “It is too soon to tell.”[1] It seems to me that Chou’s riposte would hold well, and with a far greater force, if the same question were to be asked a few hundred years from now about the impact of modernity or of socialism on the entire human civilization.

One asks for trouble on other counts too when proposing to deal with these topics. They have both been explored and debated endlessly and both remain enormously controversial. In the domain of ideas and theories, they generate intense, sometimes fierce, intellectual passion. In the domain of real life, they give rise to monumental conflicts and struggles even as their influences continue to seep imperceptibly into ever deeper layers of societies and forms of life through pathways that are hard to track. One must have a good reason for raking up, as many might say, a subject where ashes of time find it difficult in any case to settle on an exasperatingly burning fire. Those too, who would like to continue stoking the fire of historical and emancipatory transformations promised by these words, would need a good reason for re-entering the subject. Whether I have one or not should best be left to be judged at the end of the hour, but one must hope to add something useful and meaningful to the debate.

It is not the case, however, that these two words – modernity and socialism – always invite similar reactions or attitudes. That, in fact, would have been surprising. After all, they belong to two different categories of concepts and they have been differently implicated in history during last several centuries. Socialism is supposed to be a system just as capitalism is a system. Or, more accurately, socialism is a transitional system that is supposed to take us beyond the capitalist system. Modernity, on the other hand, remains elusive to all exertions of capturing it as a well defined concept, category or entity. Such is the case even after enormous expenditures of formidable intellectual energy by philosophers, theorists and historians, including the legendary ones[2], across the last three or four centuries.

Among many commonalities and differences in attitudes evoked by these two concepts, one difference is especially noteworthy. More than a decade ago, my friend, Javeed Alam, came out with a book that he interestingly titled – India: Living with Modernity.[3] Given the history of modernity during the past two centuries, and especially the theorizations about it during the latter half of the twentieth century, it seems to me that everyone wants to live with modernity, but no one is willing to sign the papers. A kind of shamefacedness, if not outright concealment, is very commonplace, as is the case, in most societies, with the live-in relationship in its more regular meaning.[4] Societies that have lived with modernity for centuries take the pleasures and the comforts for granted, but there is a growing sense of weariness in the relationship. Other societies, charmed by modernity in more recent times, have entered into a relationship with it, but they keep announcing their being wedded to cultures, traditions and ways of life that would not sit well, in most cases, with the new relationship. Most curious is the case of intellectuals of the postmodern type who come from both kinds of societies. Like the fin-de-siècle artist who would paint ugly portraits of his live-in partner while keeping alive the romance of imagined seductions from the times gone by, these intellectuals draw such caricatures of modernity that pre-modern times begin to look attractive and desirable. Caricaturing appears to be an integral part of the intellectual strategy to facilitate the argument that modernity’s hands are soaked with blood of all the victims of capitalism and colonialism.[5]

Friday, July 27, 2012

Peace vigil held in Delhi against ongoing killings & violence in Assam

In condemnation of the ongoing ethnic violence in Assam, a peace vigil cum public meeting was held at Arts Faculty Gate, Delhi University on 27th July, at 2 pm. The vigil was organized by people from various parts of northeast residing in Delhi, along with concerned individuals, university members and other democratic organisations from Delhi. A press release (signed by 15 organizations and by prominent activists, academic and students) was issued condemning the ongoing killings and violence that has erupted in four districts of Lower Assam. The participants at the vigil demanded that immediate end to the killing and violence is brought about and the Assam government, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) administration and the Central Government takes full responsibility for the loss of lives and livelihood as a result of the clashes; and that they rehabilitate all those who have been displaced irrespective of ethnicity and religion. It has also appealed to the members of various communities in Assam to play a proactive role in stopping the mayhem. In the peace vigil activists, academics and students also condemned the political use of this tragic moment of violence and mayhem by various groups with vested interests to drive home their demand of deporting 'Bangladeshi immigrants'.

Below is the Press Statement along with the list of signatories:

Statement in condemnation of the ongoing ethnic violence in Assam

We the people from various parts of northeast residing in Delhi, along with concerned individuals, university members, various students’, teachers’, trade union, women’s, civil and human rights organisations from Delhi, strongly condemn the ongoing ethnic conflict with serious communal undertone that has erupted in four districts (Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang and Bongaigaon) of Lower Assam. This has been the most widespread and alarming conflict in the recent history of Assam.

In the last one week we have witnessed the tragedy of nearly 200,000 people belonging to the Bodo and the Muslim communities, being forced to flee from their homes and villages. Currently they stand internally displaced, and are scarred and traumatized. Official figures state that around 41 people have lost their lives so far, while unofficial estimates from the grounds are much higher. More than 400 villages have been torched down until now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Once There was Hindutva Terror ...?

- Subhash Gatade

Bomb blasts have taken place near the Delhi High Court, in Bombay , Bangalore etc. Within a few hours of such bomb blasts many T V channels started showing news item that Indian Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul-jihad-e-islam have sent e-mails or SMS claiming responsibility. The names of such alleged organizations will always be Muslim names. Now an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and next day in the newspapers the tendency is to brand all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers...Should the media, wittingly or unwittingly, become part of this policy of divide and rule?

- (Justice (retired) Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, October 10, 2011 at a get-together with mediapersons) 


What is common between the murder of the leader of a private army of landlords at the hands of his own gang members in faraway Bihar over distribution of booty, the felicitation of a terrorist lodged in jail as 'living martyr' ( zinda Shaheed ) in Punjab or the anointment of a hatemonger as the poster boy of the main opposition party ? Formally speaking there are no connections but if one tries to dig further few subterranean linkages become clear. Whether one agrees or not they exhibit the growing legitimacy of authoritarian, fanatic, exclucivist politics in this part of the subcontinent .

It is difficult to believe the manner in which the mass murderer called Brahmeshwar Singh was glorified and the state turning mute spectator to indiscriminate violence unleashed by his supporters (mainly his caste antisocials) or the manner in which two senior leaders of the saffron dispensation - ex Central Cabinet minister C.P. Thakur and Giriraj Singh, a member of Nitish's cabinet - vied with each other to delcare the murderer as another 'Gandhi'.

Not to be rest content the felicitation of the terrorist called Rajoana who had been instrumental in killing of innocents was accompanied by demands from the SGPC (Shiromani Gurudwara Prabadhank Committee) to have a memorial erected inside the precincts of the golden temple itself, in memory of those who were 'martyred' during the 1984 military action to flush out Bhindranwale and his close comrades.

The Kafquasquean metamorphosis of the hatemonger as 'development man' has been discussed for quite some time. With the recent national executive meeting of his party he inched further closer to his long cherished dream. Forget the fact that there have been more than 45 reports prepared by national-international human rights organisations over the bloody developments in the state under his rule and amicus curaie (friend of court) ordering his prosecution for various acts of omission and commission in the 2002 carnage. Forget the fact that thousands of people uprooted during those days are still condemned to live a life of internally displaced persons. Forget the fact that it is 'free for all' as far corruption in the higher echleons of power is concerned.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Call for Papers: "New Cultures of the Left" - First South Asian Historical Materialism Conference (New Delhi 3-4 April 2013)

The Delhi HM Conference “New Cultures of the Left”, the first South Asian Historical Materialism Conference, will be held at the Conference Centre, Delhi University, on 3-4 April 2013. The conference occurs against several backgrounds that make the revival of the left and the reemergence of Marxist and other forms of radical theory and politics imperative. These ‘backgrounds’ include the massive convulsions in the world economy from the financial crash of 2008 onwards; the great uprisings in the Arab world that dominated the whole of 2011 with their remarkable mass-based struggles for democracy; the emergence in the West of spontaneous forms of resistance to Austerity politics and its fierce attacks on the lives of millions of people both in and out of employment.

The background to the Conference also includes the consolidation of powerful capitalist interests in countries like India where big business now shapes public policy without the shackles of ‘socialism’, and government and business have jointly undermined the unions, massively casualised labour markets and accelerated the dispossession of whole communities. The consolidation, likewise, of deeply authoritarian tendencies, both secular and religious, that stand for the eradication of existing constitutional democracies and the rights they offer to the mass of citizens in favour of stronger, more repressive states or states reconstructed on non-secular ‘fundamentalist’ lines. And last but not least, the deep crisis of the Party-controlled left and its inability to debate issues in open, democratic and politically creative ways, much less to attract a new generation of workers and youth to the cause of a radical left politics and culture.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Let's stop pretending there's no racism in India

- Yengkhom Jilangamba

The mysterious death of Loitam Richard in Bangalore, the murder of Ramchanphy Hongray in New Delhi, the suicide by Dana Sangma and other such incidents serve as reminders of the insecure conditions under which people, particularly the young, from the north-east of India have to live with in the metros of this country. What these deaths have in common is that the three individuals were all from a certain part of the country, had a “particular” physical appearance, and were seen as outsiders in the places they died. These incidents have been read as a symptom of the pervasive racial discrimination that people from the region face in metropolitan India.

An institutionalised form

Quite expectedly, such an assertion about the existence of racism in India will not be taken seriously; the response will be to either remain silent and refuse to acknowledge this form of racism or, fiercely, to reject it. Ironically, most Indians see racism as a phenomenon that exists in other countries, particularly in the West, and without fail, see themselves as victims. They do not see themselves harbouring (potentially) racist attitudes and behaviour towards others whom they see as inferior.

But time and again, various groups of people, particularly from the north-east have experienced forms of racial discrimination and highlighted the practice of racism in India. In fact, institutionalised racism has been as much on the rise as cases of everyday racism in society.

In a case of racial profiling, the University of Hyderabad chose to launch its 2011 “initiative” to curb drinking and drug use on campus by working with students from the north-east. In 2007, the Delhi Police decided to solve the problems of security faced by the north-easterners in Delhi, particularly women, by coming up with a booklet entitled Security Tips for North East Students asking north-eastern women not to wear “revealing dresses” and gave kitchen tips on preparing bamboo shoot, akhuni, and “other smelly dishes” without “creating ruckus in neighbourhood.”

BRICS summit

Very recently, in the run-up to the BRICS summit in New Delhi, the Delhi Police's motto of “citizens first” was on full display, when they arrested or put under preventive detention the non-citizens — the Tibetan refugees. But the real problem for the security personnel cropped up when they had to identity Tibetans on the streets of Delhi. This problem for the state forces was compounded by the fact that Delhi now has a substantial migrant population from the north-east whose physical features could be quite similar to those of Tibetans. So, the forces went about raiding random places in Delhi, questioning and detaining people from the region. North-eastern individuals travelling in vehicles, public transport, others at their workplaces, and so on all became suspects.

Many were asked to produce their passports or other documents to prove that, indeed, they were Indian citizens and not refugee Tibetans. In some cases, “authentic” Indians had to intervene in order to endorse and become guarantors of the authenticity of the nationality of these north-easterners. The situation became farcical and caught the attention of the judiciary reportedly after two lawyers from the region were interrogated and harassed. The Delhi High Court directed the Delhi police not to harass people from the north-east and Ladakh. How much easier it would have been for the Delhi Police, if only citizenship and physiognomy matched perfectly.

But should one expect otherwise from these state and public institutions, given the fact that racism is rampant at the level of societal everyday experiences? For north-easterners who look in a particular manner, everyday living in Indian cities can be a gruelling experience. Be it the mundane overcharging of fares by autoricksaw-wallahs, shopkeepers and landlords, the verbal abuse on the streets and the snide remarks of colleagues, friends, teachers, or the more extreme experiences of physical and sexual assaults. It is often a never-ending nightmare, a chronicle of repetitive experience.

One also wonders if racial attitudes, if not outright racism, influence many more aspects of life than one imagines. For instance, whether there is any racial profiling of employment opportunities, given the concentration of jobs for north-easterners mostly in the hospitality sector, young women in beauty salons, restaurants and as shop assistants.

Visible and unseen

Of course, racism is difficult to prove — whether in the death of Richard or in the case of harassment of a woman from the north-east. And it should not surprise us if racism cannot be clearly established in either of these cases because that's how racism works — both the visible, explicit manifestations as well as the insidious, unseen machinations. Quite often, one can't even recount exactly what was wrong about the way in which a co-passenger behaved, difficult to articulate a sneer, a tone of voice that threatened or taunted, the cultural connotations that can infuriate.

How does one prove that when an autorickshaw driver asks a north-easterner on the streets of Delhi if he or she is going to Majnu ka Tila, a Tibetan refugee colony, that the former is reproducing a common practice of racial profiling? This remark could be doubly interpreted if made to a woman from the region — both racial and gendered. How do I prove racism when a young co-passenger on the Delhi Metro plays “Chinese” sounding music on his mobile, telling his friend that he is providing, “background music,” sneering and laughing in my direction? And what one cannot retell in the language of evidence, becomes difficult to prove. Racism is most often felt, perceived, like an invisible wound, difficult to articulate or recall in the language of the law or evidence. In that sense, everyday forms of racism are more experiential rather than an objectively identifiable situation.

Of course, every once in a while, there will be an incident of extreme, outrageous violence that is transparently racial in nature and we will rally around and voice our anger but it is these insidious, everyday forms of racial discrimination that bruise the body and the mind, build up anger and frustration. Fighting these everyday humiliations exhausts our attempts at expression.

If one is serious about fighting racial discrimination, this is where rules must change — by proving to us that in Richard's death there was no element of racism. Given the pervasiveness of racism in everyday life, why should we listen when we are told that those who fought with him over a TV remote were immune to it?

To recognise that racism exists in this country and that many unintended actions might emanate from racism can be a good place to start fighting the problem. To be oblivious of these issues or to deny its existence is to be complicit in the discriminatory regime. Also, the reason for fighting against racism is not because it is practised against “our” own citizens but because it is wrong regardless of whether the victims of racism are citizens of the country or not. One way to be critical of racism is to recognise and make visible the presence of racism rather than merely resorting to legalistic means to curb this discrimination.

(Yengkhom Jilangamba is a Visiting Associate Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Petition: Justice for the victims of Bathani Tola Massacre

You can sign the petition by clicking here

The Honourable Chief Justice, 
Supreme Court of India


The recent acquittal by the Bihar High Court of all the accused in the horrific Bathani Tola massacre of 1996 is shocking. 

On 11 July, 1996, 21 landless poor were slaughtered in broad daylight at Bathani Tola, a dalit hamlet in Bhojpur, Bihar, by the Ranveer Sena – a private army of landowners from the dominant castes.

All the victims were from oppressed castes and minorities, and 20 of them were women, children, and infants. 

The Ara sessions court had convicted 23 people for this massacre in 2010, sentencing three to death and 20 to life imprisonment. But on 16 April this year, the Bihar High Court has overturned the conviction, and acquitted all the accused. 

The fact that, 16 years after this massacre, not a single person stands convicted for the brutal and barbaric slaughter of innocents, raises disturbing questions about whether the oppressed and the poor victims of massacres can expect justice in our Courts. 

It is relevant that the massacre was preceded by a series of attacks and a campaign of open terror against the people of Bathani Tola by the Ranveer Sena, which enjoyed the support of several powerful politicians and parties. In spite of repeated intimations and appeals to the district police and administration, no preventive action was taken. And when the bloodbath played out for hours, the police remained a mute and passive witness, while the mob of perpetrators used swords and guns to butcher people, and set fire to homes. This complicity of the police and administration with the perpetrators continued after the massacre, leading to the weakening of the case against the accused, as noted by the Bihar High Court. Shamefully, the three police eyewitnesses to the massacre deposed in Court as witnesses for the defence! 

The Ranveer Sena was banned after the Bathani Tola massacre – but in spite of the ban, it continued to operate openly, committing several more such massacres in central Bihar. The Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in December 1998 in which 61 dalit landless poor were killed had been called a ‘national shame’ President of India, Shri K R Narayanan. 

The Commission of Enquiry headed by Justice Amir Das, which was set up after the Bathe massacre, to probe the political support received by the Ranveer Sena, was disbanded six years ago when the current State Government came to power in Bihar. The Ranveer Sena chief, Brahmeshwar Singh, is yet to be named in the FIRs of the Bathani Tola massacre and other massacres. In fact, the police informed the Ara court in 2010 that Brahmeshwar was an ‘absconder’ – when he was, at that time, a prisoner in Ara jail! Brahmeshwar Singh is now a free man – thanks to the fact that the State Governmentfailed to oppose his bail plea. The Bihar HC acquittal comes in the wake of this political climate of patronage for the perpetrators of massacres of the poor and oppressed. 

One of the survivors of the massacres who lost six members of his family, responding to the acquittal, asked, “Who, then, killed 21 people that day?” We, the undersigned, believe that the entire country and our system of justice, owes the people of Bathani Tola an answer to that question. And we write to you in the hope that the Supreme Court will correct the deep injustice to victims and survivors of Bathani Tola, and will take all possible measures to ensure that the perpetrators of this and other heinous massacres of the poor and oppressed in Bihar are tried and convicted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Protest against Evictions and State Repression in West Bengal

Join the Demonstration against Evictions and State Repression in West Bengal, 11.30 am, 25th April 2012, Outside Banga Bhawan, 3 Hailey Road, (Near Mandi House), Delhi

Comrades, we are witnessing today the militant resistance of slum-dwellers of Nonadanga against the eviction drive of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) through brute police force. Nonadanga presents us with the determination of the urban poor and working class to constitute an alternative form of social, political and economic power. The residents of Nonadanga have refused to budge from the site, have put up temporary shelters and a community kitchen, and are confronting the police everyday with their bare hands and their indomitable will, trying to hold on to whatever little they are left with. Since April 11, 5 comrades under Ucched Pratirodh Committee have persisted with a fast-unto-death in the site for 12 days with undeterred support of the entire slum, and beyond. Reconstruction and rebuilding of the demolished houses are being undertaken by them.

Nonadanga is a paradigm of struggle and unity that must be generalised across Kolkata, West Bengal and beyond. For, it’s only through the eruption of a hundred, thousand, million Nonadangas across the country – that the working class will be able to effectively pose its might and vision against the prevailing hegemony of neo-liberalism and its authoritarian political executive. In the absence of such a countrywide generalisation of urban resistance, the working masses of this country, including the residents of Nonadanga, have no hope in hell.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Marxism: Revisiting Some Basics

- Sanjay Kumar

Note: This is the text of a presentation made at the NSI Delhi chapter's winter study camp held in Samalkha, Haryana in December, 2011

I assume everybody here is interested in Marxism because NSI unequivocally espouses the political legacy of Marx. Some of us here are inquisitive about Marxism, they would have heard or read about it; some praise, lot of criticism and ridicule, but have not yet made up their mind about the beast. On the other hand, some of us here may unabashedly declare themselves to be Marxists. If that is not to be taken as a mere label, it implies that they place their personal histories in a definite ideological, social scientific and political tradition. The majority may lie in-between, understanding and agreeing with some Marxist ideas, but then also being also aware of and appreciative of other ideas which do not fit neatly into a clear Marxist schema. I hope what I am going to say will prove useful to everybody here, particularly to the in-between majority. 

Let me state in the beginning my take on Marxism. I think Marxism as a body of theoretical ideas and political practices marks an important milestone in the history of humanity. It raises fundamental questions about the world around us, and the place of humanity in it. It provides strong arguments to reject some answers. It gives revealing insights into the nature of human society. Some of the answers it leads to are path-breaking. It provides a world-view which is open (but not chaotic, random, multiple), questioning and critical (but not speculative), and engages with reality with the aim of transforming it (but is not pragmatic). I find Marxist world view liberatory, not because the way it helps in liberation from specific bondages, but what it tells us about the stakes involved in struggles for liberation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Event: Why is Indian State afraid of its Soni Soris?

Custodial Violence, Repression and Subversion of the Rule of Law

 A Discussion with

Himanshu Kumar (Social Activist)

Colin Gonsalves (Sr. Supreme Court Lawyer)

Venue: Activity Centre, Arts Faculty, North Campus, Delhi University. Time: 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm. Date: 29th March, 2012

Soni Sori is a tribal woman and a school teacher who was subjected to sexual violence in the custody of Dantewada Police, under the direction of the Superintendent of Police. Six months later, She is still languishing in a Chattisgarh jail awaiting justice, while her tormentor has just been awarded the President's Police Medal for Gallantry.

Soni Sori is not alone in her agony. Arrests, detentions and violence are increasingly being used by the state to silence activists, to put down mass struggles of the marginalized people for their rights and livelihoods. Irom Sharmila, Dr. Binayak Sen, Koodankulam protests - each is a stark example of mighty State crushing dissent and crinalizing protest through machinery meant to establish the Rule of Law. the discussion will explore how various institutions of Indian Democracy are responding to this assult on core democratic principles in the situation of conflict that exists in many parts of the country.

Organized by: All India Students' Association (AISA), Gender Studies Group, New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Stree Adhikar Sangathan.

"By giving me electric shocks, by stripping me naked, or by brutally assualting me and inserting sticks and stones into my body - will the problem of Naxalism end? Why are there so many atrocities against us women? I want answers from all of you living in this country." - Soni Sori

Petition: Speak out against the Delhi University administration for the disruption of Women's Day Celebration

Dear Friends

We, the students, faculty and staff of Delhi University and friends have been celebrating International Women's Day as an open programme with discussions and cultural events etc. since 1994, in the Arts Faculty, North Campus. This is an open gathering of individuals and organisations to honour this international day. Since March 8th this year fell on holi the gathering was postponed to March 14th.

For the first time, this year, the Delhi University's security guards stopped the programme and asked us to vacate the space immediately as no permissions had been taken. They stopped a play mid-performance and prevented us from holding any discussions and displaying any banners.

The university space has always been one of free dialogue and expression for all. We strongly object to this forcible silencing of our celebration and the closing off of university spaces for open discussions. It is particularly outrageous since celebrating International Women's Day at the Arts Faulty at Delhi University's north campus has been annual tradition since 1994. 

We demand:
  • An apology from the Delhi University administration for the disruption of the programme
  • The right to assemble as and when we like to express ourselves or demonstrate peacefully without "permission" 
  • Access to spaces across the campus for student activity and expression without surveillance and control

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Workers, Unions and the Left: Responding to the Global Crisis

- Rohini Hensman

Text of a talk by Rohini Hensman introducing her recent Book Workers, Unions, and Global Capitalism: Lessons from India (Columbia University Press, New York, and Tulika Books, New Delhi) at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, on 23 January 2012

I started working on what became this book more than ten years ago, because I felt there was so much confusion in the way that large sections of the trade union movement and the Left responded to globalisation. They took a straightforward anti-globalisation position which, by default, reinforced a nationalist reaction against globalisation. This went against all my Marxist internationalist instincts. Also, having been involved in trade union research for decades, it was obvious to me that many of the evils attributed to globalisation, such as subcontracting and the shifting of production, had been rampant for years or decades prior to it. Most disturbing of all, much of the anti-globalisation rhetoric was indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the extreme Right. (I have given examples of this in my book.) 

Therefore one of the first tasks I set myself was to come up with a working definition of globalisation that sorted out some of these confusions.

Defining globalisation

1. Anti-globalisation activists often called themselves anti-capitalist, and used the terms interchangeably. But if globalisation is capitalism by another name, why not simply call it capitalism? Substituting ‘globalisation’ for ‘capitalism’ implies that the real enemy is international capital: and that is dangerous. Opposition to global capital has been a defining feature of fascism since Hitler wrote, in Mein Kampf, ‘that the hardest battle would have to be fought not against hostile nations but against international capital’. At best, selective opposition to international capital propagates the illusion that capitalism can solve problems of poverty and unemployment so long as it remains national. At worst, it condones barbaric oppression and exploitation by indigenous capitalists, and encourages racism and xenophobia. Globalisation may be a phase of capitalism, but anti-globalisation can never be anti-capitalist, because genuine opposition to capitalism doesn’t distinguish between ‘national’ and ‘international’ capital, or support the former against the latter. 

2. A large section of the Left identifies globalisation with imperialism, and opposes it from this point of view. I won’t go into all the debates around imperialism that I have covered in my book, but just refer to one aspect: the relationship between imperialism, especially from the mid-19th century onwards, and the nation-state. Colonialism required the imperialist power to set up an administrative apparatus in the colony and to maintain a substantial military presence to deal with uprisings, but less traditional forms of imperialism have also relied heavily on extensions of state power outside the imperialist country: for example, the ubiquitous CIA, and US military bases around the world. Moreover, imperialist bourgeoisies demanded protectionism from the state, which benefited the working class in those countries too. As a result of nationalist ideology in the imperialist countries, ‘there arose a sudden community of interest between capital and the proletariat, which finds expression in an identical inclination of both classes to imperialism,’ as Max Adler put it. Lenin was even harsher, denouncing sections of the labour movement that supported their own bourgeoisie in World War I (which he saw an as inter-imperialist war) as a ‘labour aristocracy’ who had betrayed their own class. 

Thus nationalism and the dependence of capitalists on the military power of their own nation-state are central to imperialism. What is called globalisation, on the contrary, is marked by the emergence of advanced sectors of capital that rely on porous rather than protected national borders, and do not need military backing from a nation-state. It is very different from imperialism. 

3. Equally common on the Left is the use of the terms ‘globalisation’ and ‘neoliberalism’ as being more or less synonymous. Neoliberalism is identified as what came to be known as the Washington Consensus: the policies enforced by the IMF and World Bank. The short-term stabilisation measures include cut-backs in government expenditure, high interest rates and currency devaluation, while the longer-term adjustment measures include deregulating the economy, liberalising trade and investment, and privatising state enterprises. The primacy given to ‘free markets’ results in an implicit hostility to trade unions, which are seen as interfering with the freedom of the labour market.

Three Formidable Barriers to the Advance of Democracy

- Ravi Sinha

The key note address to the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy held in Allahabad, December 29-31,  2011

I must begin by expressing my gratitude to the organizers of this Convention and to this Forum for the opportunity and the honor you have given me by letting me address this impressive assembly. Also, I must congratulate you for choosing a theme that articulates, perhaps, the central challenge confronting all peoples and all nations of the world and more so for the peoples and the nations on the subcontinent. We are all witness to and victims of the times characterized by monstrous brutalities of war and deep scars of deprivations, inequities and oppressions. We live under a world order wherein those who brought, for example, untold tragedy and destruction to Iraq will never be brought to justice because they are the global hegemons. They will not be questioned about the hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi men, women and children; they will not be questioned about the thousands of dead and decapitated American soldiers; they will not be questioned about the trillions of dollars spent on the war and further trillions destroyed by the war; and they will not be questioned about the kind of Iraq they are leaving behind. 

We on the subcontinent, too, have suffered grievously and felt the heat from far too close. Afghanistan is a continuing saga of tragedy; Pakistan has been made to pay too heavy a price; and India too has not managed to steer clear of the catastrophe. And we know very well that when we count the countries that have suffered, the loss is borne invariably by the people and not by their rulers. But can we – the witness, the victims, the people – escape all responsibility? 

It is true that we have not elected the hegemons and it is not by choice that we live under the present world order. It is also true that the systems under which we live in our respective countries are not designed by us, nor is it the case that we can overthrow them the moment we realize that they are not in our favor. The world order and the economic and political systems through which it operates have all had a long history and the people, even though they do make history in the long run, cannot remake it according to their wishes and desires and at every moment of their choice. The blame, therefore, lies principally with the systems and with the history. But can we claim that there is no element of willingness and complicity on our part when it comes to the functioning and the survival of this order? Can we claim that we are free from all traits that may be deployed in the service of the systems we live under? If by magic the hegemon is made to disappear and the systems it presides over are made to crumble, do we have all that it takes to realize the revolutionary and the democratic potential?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Victory Against Work Place Sexual Harassment after a long Drawn Battle

Ms. Park who has worked for 14 years at a subsidiary company of Hyundai motors at Asan, Korea was dismissed from her job after she complained about sexual harassment in her workplace. Ms. Park in a remarkable effort to get justice went the distance that many others had not dared to go. She held a Sit-In protest of 197 days demanding for the punishment of the perpetrators and for her reinstatement. During those 197 days, she held Sit-In protest not only at the factory gate but also in front of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. While she was on the Sit-In protest, she was repeated assaulted by company hired guards at the both venues and as a result of the assaults she even had to spend four weeks in hospital.

In the support of Ms. Park’s resolute struggle against Sexual Harassment and violation of workers’ right, Korean Metal Workers Union and NGA:SF Korea (Network for Glocal Activism: School of Feminism) decided to initiate an international campaign which resulted in a press conference in front of the headquarters of Hyundai Motors on 25th November 2011.
Press Conference in front of Hyundai Headquarters

The press conference was supported by and the public statement issued was signed by New Socialist Initiative (Delhi Chapter, India), Stree Mukti Sangathan (India), Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights, Asian Pacific Workers Solidarity Links, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development (New York, USA), Sahgnnoksoo (Seattle, Washington, USA), Change to Win (USA), Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment-GABRIELA (USA), Center for Workers Education (India), Women Workers Lead (India), MAKABAYAN (The Philippines), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (The Philippines), Workers Assistance Center (The Philippines), General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (Nepal), Qingdao Workers Hotline (China), Labour Action China (Hong Kong), Asian Monitor Resource Center (Hong Kong), National Free Trade Union (Sri Lanka), Thai Labour Campaign (Thailand), Serve the People Association (Taiwan), Salud Intergral para la Mujer (Mexico), Red Genero y Economia (Mexico), Migrant Workers Trade Union (Korea), International Metalworkers' Federation, International Union of Food, Building and Wood Workers' International, International Trade Union Confederation, Metal workers union (Slovakia), Federasi Serikat Pekerja Metal (Indonesia), National Union of Metalworkers (South Africa), United Auto Workers, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. 

Letters of protests were also sent by various organizations to The Ministry of Employment and Labor, The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, The Hyundai Motors demanding reinstatement of Ms. Park and that the perpetrators be brought to book.

To mount more international pressure on Hyundai Motors and Korean Government a call for Global Action day was announced and demonstrations were held outside Hyundai Motors dealership in various countries on 2nd December 2011. In United States alone, from New York to Los Angeles, 75 demonstrations were held outside Hyundai motors dealership. Unfortunately, the Indian Trade Union centres did not pay heed to the global call for solidarity nor did Hyundai Motors Employee Union, India undertake any solidarity action.

Finally, after this long drawn battle by Ms. Park and the international solidarity campaign, The Ministry of Employment and Labor (Korea) was forced to intervene. 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor considered the mental trauma that Ms. Park underwent as an industrial accident. The ministry further decided that it would pay her medical expenses she incurred during her protest. It is the first time in the history of modern Korea that the victim's mental pain after sexual harassment on the factory floor shop has been regarded as an industrial accident. 

Hyundai Globis (the logistic wing of Hyndai Motor), Hyungjin Company (the sub-contractor of Hyundai Motors), Korea Metal Workers' Union and Ms. Park signed an agreement according to which Hyungjin Company has: 
  • To dismiss the offender by 31th January, 2012 and has to reinstate Ms. Park by 1st February, 2012.
  • To pay wages for the months that she was unfairly dismissed.
  • To prohibit any gendered disadvantages at the work place.
  • To prepare comprehensive measures to prevent recurrence of sexual harassment.
  • To set up the program to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Interview: Hindutva terror has had a long gestation period

- Vicky Nanjappa

His book Godse's Children -- Hindutva Terror In India is creating quite a storm. The author, Subhash Gatade, (a leading member of New Socialist Initative NSI) is an engineer by training and a freelance journalist and translator by choice. He has written extensively on issues of communalism and Dalit emancipation.

His book focuses mainly on the phenomenon of Hindutva terror and their perpetrators. While discussing his book he also goes on to say that the term Hindu terror should never be used and instead it be called as Hindutva terror.

In this interview with Vicky Nanjappa, Gatade, firstly, discusses why many cases remain unsolved and adds that the job of the investigating agency has been highly unsatisfactory; secondly, he stresses that only continuous vigil by people would ensure that the law of the land remains supreme; and, thirdly, warns that we should be wary of the majoritarian mindset which dominates what is known as civil society of our country.

Tell us a bit about your book and how it has been received?

The book mainly focuses on the phenomenon of Hindutva terror which has made its presence felt in the first decade of the 21st century.

It is underlined in the beginning that all sorts of terrorisms may it be by state actors or non-state actors (which includes jihadi terror/Islamist terror/fassadi terror as well) need to be questioned, challenged and ultimately eliminated. It is broadly divided into five sections.

The first part deals with the historical background of the case and makes it clear that Hindutva terror is not a recent phenomenon.

Starting from the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, at the hands of Nathuram Godse, it also brings forth hitherto less reported incidents involving Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists in terror acts such as the Shikarpur bomb blast (Karachi, 1947, Economic and Political Weekly, July 8, 2006) which saw deaths of two pracharaks or the terror plot discussed by Rajeshwar Dayal, the first home secretary of United Province then in his autobiography (A Life of Our Times, Orient Longman, 1999) which exposed the sinister design of the RSS workers to organise a pogrom against Muslims in western Uttar Pradesh.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pakistan at the Cross-Road: Views from a Young Student from Across the Border

[This article was published in CRITIQUE, Vol-1, Issue-3. Critique is a Quarterly brought out by the Delhi University Chapter of New Socialist Initiative (NSI)]
- Saadullah Awan
In the address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on the 11th of August 1947,  Mohammad Ali Jinnah stated, “If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor..”

Over the 64 years of the existence of the nation, the ominous statement has been forgotten in the archives of other religious, political and communitarian rhetoric of our politicians and leaders. It is not necessarily their fault. Who is the average Pakistani? Is he the middle-aged man toiling away on the vast land of his landlord in the scorching heat of the Sindh deserts, only to be paid a paltry sum? Is she the old Punjabi woman who washes the clothes and cleans the bathrooms of the upper middle class in the metropolis of Karachi for less than minimum wage? Or is he the Pathan truck driver transporting goods, driving alongside BMWs and Landcrusisers, and smoking hashish at the end of the day, to drown his miseries away?

The only common denominator about the masses in Pakistan, it seems, is the fact that they are mostly illerate and poor. Around 73% of the population lives on under 2 US Dollars a day and the literacy rate for men is a mere 67% while for females it is 42%. Another common denominator is religion: 97% of the population of 180 million is Muslim.

However it isn’t prudent to generalize the population on these lines. Most people in Pakistan base their loyalties not on being Pakistani but on ethnicity and religious sects they think they belong to.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


[This poem was published in CRITIQUE, Vol-1, Issue-3. Critique is a Quarterly brought out by the Delhi University Chapter of New Socialist Initiative (NSI)]

- नरेश कुमार


सर्र-सर्र, पों पों पों, ढम-ढम;

सब नज़र आते हैं, सुनाई देते हैं सड़क पर;

लेकिन इन सब के साथ-साथ अक्सर होती है सड़क पर 

खटखट, खटखट, खटखट।

खटखट, अक्सर सुनाई नहीं देती 

और न ही इसे सुनने की ज़रूरत समझी गई है अभी तक।

खटखट, टोह सिर्फ़ रास्ते की नहीं लेती,

चो़ट महज़ सड़क या फुटपाथ पर नहीं पड़ती;

यह खटखट कोशिश है उन दरवाजों को खटखटाने की

जो अब तक खोले नहीं गये।

और इस कोशिश की गवाही इतिहास या समाजशास्त्र की किताबें नहीं बल्कि

खरोंचे लगी टाँगें या फूटा हुआ माथा दिया करते हैं।

ये निशान महज़ निशान नहीं है।

बल्कि सबूत हैं उन कोशिशों के

जो दरवाजों को बन्द रखने के लिए लगातार की जा रही है।

और बयान इस बात का कि खटखट हो रही है।

और ज़्यादा और तेज़।
नरेश कुमार दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के कमला नेहरु कॉलेज में इतिहास के प्राध्यापक हैं

The University and the Struggles of People with Disability

[This article was published in CRITIQUE, Vol-1, Issue-3. Critique is a Quarterly brought out by the Delhi University Chapter of New Socialist Initiative (NSI)]

Dr. Nikhil Jain 

University is a place for creative learning. Introduction of several new market oriented courses has changed the meaning and objective of higher education. The recent change in the structure in the higher education through semesterisation and privatization has led to a tremendous shift in the teaching and learning process. The teaching pedagogy has been influenced by the growing need of the market. This has not only disturbed the autonomy of the universities but also has jeopardized the interests of the subaltern communities. The democratic norms and culture has totally been unsettled with this change. 

Apart from these mainstream issues, there exist several serious issues which still lie at the margins and go unnoticed. The question of accessibility is generally understood only with respect to people with disability. But it has an equal significance for others. For example the facility of ramp and lift does not only enable an Orthopedically Handicap but also supports the aged. Similarly, an audio archive at colleges not only supports a visually impaired person but also allows others to listen to important recorded lectures. The meaning of accessibility goes much deeper. It refers to the degree and nature of connectivity to a larger environment and the acquisition of resources by all. 

In Shera's Den

[This piece was published in CRITIQUE, Vol-1, Issue-3. Critique is a Quarterly brought out by the Delhi University Chapter of New Socialist Initiative (NSI)]

- Rijul Kochhar 

There used to be a time in the University of Delhi when people possessing anything below even a shade of superhuman prowess had to ‘negotiate’ with daily existence. You had to be careful, of a number of worthies—of dilapidated structures and fast vehicles, of roguish sidewalks and earthly drains, of dark minds and nefarious designs. For the disabled then, venturing anywhere for anything really was a venture into the heart of an abyss. One didn’t know whether one would make it in and out with all body appendages intact; but hey, it was an existential game of Russian roulette: you had as good a chance as anybody else, and you knew that! The absence of facilities—footpaths, pavement, toilets, transport, recreation, access to libraries, etc.—was indeed a shame for everybody, but a shame that was cheerfully accepted, borne, and tempered by a genuine desire to help one another. Or, made bearable by the realism of the poverty of our claims, and its resultant apathy. It was an apathy slowly tempered, and it was of great use to us. There was, in this schema, no place for diabolical intent, or deceptive deliverance. 

But we did it happily then: there were hardly any appropriate structures to tread on, roll over, sit on, or admire; that sleek umbrage of a stadium didn’t exist in the very heart of the university grounds; fancy sidewalks — with Braille! — didn’t emerge the night before and promise the hoary land of equal opportunity. All you had were the trees, the good dust, the certainty of uncertainties, and a handful of kind folk in the university offices. You simply made peace with this that you had—a chance to sit in dignity in a classroom and listen to the sonorous rotations of a dangerously clinging old fan, or an even older ‘specialist’ of the field. You walked or rolled to where you had to get to; someone helped. If you were very lucky, you had a friend who lasted; if you were in vogue, you had a pack. 

Giving Real and Substantive Recognition to the Human Rights of Physically Challenged Individuals

[This article was published in CRITIQUE, Vol-1, Issue-3. Critique is a Quarterly brought out by the Delhi University Chapter of New Socialist Initiative (NSI)]

- Dr. Sanjay Jain 

“Persons with disability (Hereinafter PWD) are human beings” is a statement of breathtaking banality. Normatively this statement may not be challenged but practically speaking, it reflects an ideal to be achieved rather than a statement of facts. Till recently, PWDs were considered to be a burden on a family, civil society and the state. Social consciousness rendered them invisible, as if human civilisation did not exist for them, resulting thereby in an absolute denial of their ‘right to be human’. The focus of this paper is to highlight this denial in the legal consciousness of our polity, and the peculiar nature of legal interventions in addressing the rights of the physically challenged. 

The peculiar nature of legal interventions 

By law, disability is thought to be worthy of legislative cognisance and compensation only if it is acquired by an able-bodied person, resulting in the loss of earning capacity or utility . This is evident from a close scrutiny of legislations like the Employees’ State Insurance Act 1948. Clearly, the medical model of disability was at the foundation of the all these legislations. According to the this model, the acquisition of disability constitutes a violation of rights of able-bodied persons and therefore disability per-se is not worthy of legislative action. The medical model focuses on the medical traits of the PWD’s specific impairments. This has the effect of locating the “problem” of disability within the person. The medical model encapsulates a broader and deeper social attitude – a tendency to view the disabled as a problem and therefore, as an object for clinical intervention. 

University Life: Of a Special Kind

- Vikant Maurya, an undergraduate student in St. Stephens College, in Conversation with Sanjay Kumar and Bonojit Hussain of Critique Collective

Vikant composing in Braille
As Vikant runs from room to room in Seva Kutir looking for chairs for us, it is clear that he is very familiar with every corner, turn and nook of the building. He tells us later that he lost vision very early, but even then as a child in his village in Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh he would run through village alleys, field paths, and to his family mango grove. Whiffs of air, sounds and smell created an enticing world, full of discovery and freedom. Perhaps it is the quietness of Seva Kutir and village life that sharpen his sixth sense, enabling him to fly. However, the life of a physically challenged undergraduate in one of the most sought after colleges of Delhi University is not always a run of joy. There are struggles, which at times come out in his poetry. 

Excerpts from an interview:

Question: Vikant, if you let your dreams fly for a moment, where do you think you will be in ten years from now? 
Vikant: Most likely I will be teaching in a college. History and Hindi are my strong subjects, I could be teaching either of these.