Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hindutva in Karnataka: Experiments in Terror

- Subhash Gatade

Note: This article is a chapter of the book ‘Five Years of Saffron Rule in Karnataka’ Edited by Ambrose Pinto S.J., Manak Publications, Delhi, P. 338, 2013

..Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an "ism" it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious system. But when we attempt to investigate into the essential significance of Hindutva, we do not primarily and certainly not mainly concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed..

(V.D. Savarkar, Hindutva, Delhi: Bharti Sahitya Sadan, sixth edition, 1989, pp3f)

Violence and terror are an integral part of any exclusivist organisation professing allegiance to a particular faith. In fact, violence or fact of violence and its domineering presence pervading all spheres of social-political life is a guarantee to consolidate the 'faithful', discipline the dissenter and further marginalise the 'other.' This part of South Asia where the unfolding project of democratisation - undertaken after the exit of the colonialists - has faced many hiccups seems to be a fertile ground for proliferation of such formations.

One is witness to the emergence/further consolidation of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist groups - trying to further bulldoze Tamil aspirations - in Sri Lanka, or the likes of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad exerting influence cutting across boundary lines or the likes of HuJi, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh - who were once synonyms of terror few years back - trying to regroup their forces in neighbouring Bangladesh. India, which never forgets to pat its back for 'successful democratic transition' has had its own share of violent groups engaged in furthering their own exclusivist agenda. While not much is heard of the Khalistani (Sikh nationalist) groups these days, which had created furore in eighties and nineties; activities and actions of Islamist groups get regular coverage. Hindutva supremacist groups are also found engaged in similar terror acts which are no less deadly or barbaric.

It has been more than a decade that this phenomenon of Hindutva terror - much bigger phenomenon than previously envisaged with- has raised its head again which saw many avoidable deaths. Here we witness activists, workers, Pracharaks of the 'cause' collecting arms, storing explosives, engaging themselves in arms training and making elaborate plans to put it at crowded places to have maximum impact. As noted in a statement by human rights activists, another disturbing aspect of this phenomenon, is that "[f]or long prejudice has ruled investigations, obscuring the role of organizations and their multiple affiliates in planning and executing of attacks and bombings in the country...The agencies, showing their abject bias, instead chose to pursue the beaten track of investigating Islamic terrorist organizations — despite clear evidence pointing in the opposite direction."

[Brief Report] Protest Held Against Unabated State Repression on Anti-POSCO Struggle in Odhisa

Today in a protest action, held outside Odisha Bhawan in New Delhi, initiated by New Socialist Initiative to condemn the continuing State repression and brutal attacks on the struggle against forcible land acquisition for a POSCO steel plant in Odisha, activists and representatives of various democratic and progressive organizations participated including those of Sanhati-Delhi, JNUSU, POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi, All India Students' Association, Democratic Students Federation, CPI-ML (Red Flag), People's Union for Democratic Rights, The New Materialist - JNU, Students for Resistance, Democratic Students Union, INSAF, All India Federation of Trade Union (New), SRUTI, Shramik Dunyia, All India Students Federation among others.

While addressing the gathering representative of various organizations reiterated the fact that in the continuum of brutal attacks on the struggle against forcible land acquisition for a POSCO steel plant in Odisha, the most recent case of repression has been the unlawful arrest of POSCO Pratirodh Samgram Samiti (PPSS) leader Abhay Sahoo from Bhubaneshwar airport by Odisha Police. This arbitrary arrest is clearly a part of the ploy to destabilize the People's Movement that has been fighting against the forcible land grab by Odisha/Central Government on behest of corporate interest (in this case POSCO).

Asit Das (POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity) appraised the protesters about the tensed situation that prevails in the movement area. Following Asit Das, among others, Subhash Gatade (Convener New Socialist Initiative), D. Manjit (Secretary, PUDR), Jai Sen (Senior activist and author), P.K Sahi (veteran trade unionist), Piyush Raj (Jt. Secretary JNUSU) addressed the gathering.

A memorandum was handed over to the Joint Resident Commissioner (JRC), Odisha Government, New Delhi. The protesters  reminded that this was the fourth petition handed over to him in last two months; the protesters also conveyed to the JRC that if a response (to the petitions) are not given by his government within a month, there is a strong possibility that an indefinite sit-in demonstration will be held outside Odisha Bhawan in New Delhi.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

[Remembering Asghar Ali Engineer] Goodbye Asgharsaab

- Subhash Gatade

Mera azm itna buland hai ki paraye sholon ka darr nahin. Mujhe khauf aatish e gul se hai kaheen yeh chaman ko jala na de. (My intentions are so high that I am not afraid of the unknown blaze I am afraid of the fire of the flowers lest it burn the garden)- Shakil Badauni

I will never forget the sips of tea I shared with Asgharsaab in a tea shop at Wardha more than a year ago. I had hardly any premonition at the time that this would be my last meeting with him.

In fact my meeting him at Wardha was quite incidental. Friends active in the anti-communal movement under the banner of All India Secular Forum had organised a convention to discuss the unfolding situation and were keen that I share with the august gathering my understanding of Hindutva terror. Asghar Ali Engineer and Ram Puniyani were to speak on challenges before pluralism and democracy.

A public meeting at 'Magan Sangrahalay' a day before the convention which was addressed by the duo went well which was followed by cultural performance of a group from Gujarat. Asgharsaab was at his eloquent best, exhorting the audience to understand the dangers of growing communalisation of the polity and society.

It so happened that we three had to start together in the morning for our return journey on the second day of the convention, while I along with Asgharsaab were to return to our respective places, Ram had another meeting scheduled in the city.

Protest Against Continued State Repression on Anti-POSCO People's Struggle in Odisha

Odisha Bhawan, 1 Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, 11 am, 24th March, 2013

People's Struggle Against Corporate - State Nexus Long Live!

Over the last eight years, the people of Dhinkia, Patna, Gobindapur, Nuagaon and Gadkujang villages in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha have been resisting the corporate aggression and environmental destruction by the multinational steel giant POSCO and brutal state repression by the Odisha government. The central government has been a silent onlooker and an active facilitator of this blatant resource grabbing by POSCO and human rights violations by the Odisha state government. Over the last eight years, the people of the villages have been subjected to forcible land acquisition, loss of livelihoods, brutal attacks by the police and company-sponsored goondas, thousands of false cases and arbitrary arrests, and a virtual state of siege which has prevented most of them from leaving the villages for work or even for basic necessities such as medical treatment and education. Incidents have happened in which a person taking his sick child to the hospital has been arrested on the way, and the child abandoned on the wayside. Women, who have been in the forefront of the resistance, have been especially targeted, with even elderly women being beaten up mercilessly and arrested by the police. Four people have been killed in bombing incidents by goondas, three of them, Narahari Sahoo, Tarun Mandal and Manas Jena in March of this year. Among these, Tarun Mandal's brother, Dula Mandal, was killed in another bombing incident earlier. Recently, Abhay Sahoo, the leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti spearheading the movement was arrested arbitrarily by the police and charged under multiple false cases.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gujarat: Art Under Hegemony and Censorship

Hiren Gandhi and Swaroop Dhruv in conversation with Critique Collective (a NSI - Delhi University unit initiative)

Hiren Gandhi and Swaroop Dhruv
Artistic self expression is one of the first exercises of human freedom. The freedom to create art though, is often stamped with dominant ideologies and power relations. Rich and powerful try to buy and co-opt the artist; they may also put direct constraints in the form of censorship. The most effective and prevalent way for dominant ideologies and power relations to influence art is via hegemony, when such ideologies and relations get internalised by the artistic community so deeply that they escape its collective self-reflexivity. The most effective censorship is self-censorship. Art in the Gujarat of twenty first century, the first and the most successful laboratory of Hindutva, is passing through such a state of willful submission and denial. Critique brings below an interview with two veteran artists of Gujarat. Hiren Gandhi is a theater artist and activist. Swaroop Dhruv is a poet. They have resisted the force of hegemony in their art and fashioned counter art forms to assert their artistic freedom.

Critique (Henceforth C): Hiren bhai, please tell us first how the uniquely Gujarati popular culture like large scale participation in Navratre festivals, or lively urban openness which any one from outside notices, have affected your artistic endeavours? To an outsider these are signs of an open and vibrant culture, but to an artist living in Gujarat how do these influence her/his creativity?

Hiren Gandhi (Henceforth HG): When we started theater in 1970s the cultural environment of Gujarat gave us a lot of space. The concept of Modernity was entering Indian theater, it presented immense freedom to young artists like us, and we learnt a lot while coming to grips with it. Normally people say a play is written and seen. However, in our workshops we would start with an idea brought up by anyone of us, generally arising from concerns raised by modernity in the context of urban life then, and then all of us would stand around and start playing out characters to explore how that idea can be expressed in theater. So, the theater group Aakanth Sabarmati, of which I was a part for five years, and a group of poets called Hotel Poets, had enough space for our creativity.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Brief Report of NSI Organised Public Meeting on "Shahbagh Movement: A beacon of hope for South Asia" in Delhi

Welcoming the Shahbagh movement of Bangladesh- initiated by youth bloggers wherein hundreds and thousands of people have hit the streets of Dhaka, demanding strict punitive action against war criminals and their organisations, namely Jamaat-e-Islami — and how they are trying the reinvigorate the four basic principles of its formation namely democracy, secularism, socialism and nationalism, Mr Sumit Chakravarty, editor of 'Mainstream' underlined its historic significance for our times. He was speaking at a seminar on 'Shahbagh Movement : A Beacon of Hope for South Asia' organised by New Socialist Initiative, here in Delhi on the 14 th May at Gandhi Peace Foundation.

According to him clearly, at a time when the rest of South Asia is witnessing the rise of communal mobilizations, Bangladesh’s Shahbagh Movement stands apart as a unique and ground-breaking venture, for it has demanded that secular principles and ethos alone should guide and govern all politics. Thus, this movement is qualitatively and politically far more mature than, say, movements which arose from the womb of Tahrir square of Cairo.

A background note circulated by New Socialist Initiative, which is a newly emergent platform of the left, which recently had organised its founding conference in Delhi, for the seminar narrated how it is important not only to understand the significance of Shahbagh movement but also to understand why secular-democratic and left forces of India have till now maintained a studied silence on this historical movement

Speaking on the occasion, Noor Zaheer, famous author and activist said we should not limit ourselves to comprehend the struggle at the level of trial of war criminals only. In fact, the youth who has been joined by great masses of the people have understood that what lies in future for them if they do not fight fundamentalist forces who are trying to impose a very bigoted view in running of the government. People have become conscious that if the religious extremist forces are not dealt with then future of women and future of minorities would be quite bleak.

Javed Naqvi, Special Correspondent of 'Dawn' said that we are getting garbled messages from Shahbagh.He added that this sudden worldwide interest in Jamaat-e-Islami should also be expored and one should also look at the possibility of legitimate grounds of problematic people/organisations. Underlining the impact of economic policies peddled by the likes of IMF/World Bank, he appealed to the audience to explore the stand of Jamaat-e-Islami on IMF and that of Awami League on the same issue.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Citizen-Students and the University

 - Sanjay Kumar

[Note: This article was first published in the internet edition of Economic and Political Weekly, Sanjay Kumar teaches Physics at St Stephen’s College , Delhi University; and is associated with New Socialist Initiative - NSI]
The proposed 4-year undergraduate degree programme of the Delhi University is being pushed through in undue haste without adequate debate and public discussion. The special emphasis on Foundation and Integrating Mind, Body and Heart courses, controversial components of the 4-year scheme, is indicative of an extra-academic zeal. The pedagogical thinking behind these courses is authoritarian and against the spirit of liberal citizenship.

Typically students under the 10+2+3 system of education in the country enter the university at the age of seventeen or eighteen. Time spent in the university helps students transition to adulthood. While there, they attain the legal age that confers citizenship rights and duties on them. The way they are treated in classes and in college and university offices; the rules of conduct they are expected to follow; and the extent and form of recognition they receive as adult citizens from the university– all have a lasting influence on how they imagine their citizenship. University life also involves informal and formal associations with other students and with teachers and staff. The form, purpose and operative principles of these associations shape the affective and cognitive behaviour of students, which partially determine the kind of public sphere they build later in life. This note discusses the recent developments in Delhi University and their implications for students from the perspective of citizenship.

Forcing Citizens to Become Better

Under the proposed 4-year degree course of Delhi University (DU), the students will spend up to one-third of their total class room time on eleven mandatory Foundation courses and two “Integrating Mind, Body and Heart” (IMBH) courses. Foundation courses include courses on governance and citizenship, geographic and socio-economic diversity of India, science and life, psychology, etc,. Little is known about the IMBH courses, except their category titles. It cannot be denied that knowledge about governance and citizenship, and the diversity of our country is useful and enlightening at any stage. This knowledge is integral to school education up to the tenth standard. Universities across the world require students to take non-core disciplinary courses, designed to inculcate "general awareness". But class time for such courses is generally miniscule compared to the time spent on other courses. Students may choose from a wide set of optional courses, and nowhere are these courses considered to be the foundation of an undergraduate education. The special emphasis on Foundation and IMBH courses in the 4-year scheme is indicative of an extra-academic zeal.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Notes on Science and Modernity

- Ravi Sinha

Science and modernity are widely considered among the most celebrated features of contemporary human civilization. Increasingly they are taken as the defining elements that distinguish our times from the times gone by. At such a sweeping level, there can be many other ways to characterize the contemporary. One can, for example, refer to capitalism, market, globalization, democracy or nation-states. One can also include various critiques of capitalism and the widespread resistance to its hegemonic and imperialistic avatars among the characteristic features of our times. Such characterizations, however, belong to a layer of historical reality that is more systemic than civilizational. Science and modernity, especially when taken as a correlated pair, characterize our times at a deeper level. They have, so to speak, seeped into the subterranean layers of contemporary historical reality.

On the face of it, such an assertion would appear to be far removed from the actual state of affairs in the real world. It would be rare, for example, to find a person whose beliefs and practices are fully consistent with established precepts of science. Such a search would be a fruitless endeavour, more or less, in any society on the planet. A similar anomaly is apparent in the case of modernity too. One can safely say that an overwhelming majority of humans in the contemporary world does not live by the canons or conventions of modernity. While few may be completely untouched by the laws and institutions of a modern polity or by the processes and pressures of a modern economy, most live by traditions and practices that do not sit well with basic attributes of modernity.

It can, perhaps, be argued that rather than being an anomaly it is more a matter of the time lag that necessarily exists between sowing the seeds of a culture and their actual flowering into a civilization. One can perhaps claim that, with passage of time, both science and modernity are destined to get entrenched in diverse cultures and emerge as common and universal elements of all future civilizations. While such an argument cannot be refuted easily or decisively, it cannot be accepted as a self-evident truth either. The long course of history since the twin emergence of science and modernity in the middle of the last millennium has gone through such disturbing episodes that one would be justified to have serious doubts about any such claim.

One can take the example of religious sectarianism that appears too often in its fundamentalist and murderous forms. The onward march of science and modernity was supposed to have progressively undermined the basis of religion and other forms of unreason, which would have, eventually, put an end to the long history of religious wars, riots and genocides. It would be hard to claim that history has progressed along such expected lines during recent centuries. The infamous genocides and carnages, such as those of Bosnia, Rwanda or Gujarat, are not merely the exceptions that spoil an otherwise pretty picture. They are the far end of the same spectrum that spans myriad forms of bigotry and superstition ailing even the most modern among societies. Combined with racism, patriarchy, misogyny, caste-ism and other longstanding ailments of similar kinds, these forms seem to make the world a dark place impervious to the values of reason, justice, equality and freedom. Can one really claim that humanity now has come under the sway science and modernity?

Hefazat-e-Jamaat, Nothing Else : On the Recent Developments in Bangladesh

-Subhash Gatade
Talibaner aar ek naam – hefazat-e-Islam!” (Another name for Taliban, Hefazat-e-Islam)
                                                                            - Slogan raised at Shahbagh square

To such a degree has Religion fuelled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity. Certainly it cannot be denied that Religion has proved again and again a spur, a motivator and a justification for the commission of some of the most horrifying crimes against Humanity, despite its fervent affirmations of peace. Let us, however, steer away from hyperbolic propositions and simply settle for this moderating moral imperative: that it is time that the world adopted a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against Humanity.

(Wole Soyinka, Source: Granta )


The above quote was part of a long intervention made by Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, and the first one from Africa, as part of UNESCO International High Panel, in a Conference on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence.(21 September 2012) . The immediate context for Soyinka’s speech – was the desecration and destruction of centuries old tombs of Muslim saints in Timbuktu, Mali by radical Islamist group Ansar-al Dime which had ‘discovered’ them to be unIslamic. There were rumours that the ‘invaluable library-treasures of Timbuktu may be next.’ on their agenda. Cautioning people about the fact that “[t]he science-fiction archetype of the mad scientist who craves to dominate the world has been replaced by the mad cleric who can only conceive of the world in his own image, proudly flaunting Bond’s 007 credentials – License to Kill.” he urged leaders to “..[u]nderstand this, and admit that no nation has any lack of its own dangerous loonies, be they known as Ansar-Dine of Mali, or Terry Jones of Florida, the earlier they will turn their attention to real issues truly deserving human priority. “

One was reminded of Soyinka’s words when one was witness to the march organised by the newly emergent group Hefazat-e-Islam ( can be loosely translated as ‘Defenders of Islam’) on the streets of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh and the consequent mayhem that followed. The contrast was evident even to laypersons.

While people of Bangladesh were seem to reinvigorating the spirit of its four decade old war of liberation, the campaign launched by youth activists and bloggers demanding exemplary punishment to war criminals was gaining further momentum, with tens of thousands of men and women congregating at Shahbagh square, and Bangladesh’s largest religious-political outfit, Jamaat-e-Islami was further finding itself in a tight spot since the war crimes trials began, as many of its leading activists stood convicted for their crimes against humanity during 1971, came the news that Hefazat-e-Islam, a relatively new group based in Chittagong, bursting out on the centre stage of the nation’s politics with its demands which were at complete variance with this new mood. While the overwhelming demand was to ban ‘politics based on religion’, the Hefazat brigade was seeking the exact opposite.

Hefazat-e-Islam activist demanding death penalty for Athiests

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Burma: Lest we don’t see, a genocide is in the making

-Bonojit Hussain

“We have to ask ourselves whether we may have over-romanticized its (Burmese pro-democracy movement within and outside of Burma) battles against the junta as a broader quest to bring pure, universal human rights to Burma, when in fact we had little evidence of a wholesale commitment to the principle of tolerance.” – Francis Wade (Thailand based Journalist and a keen observer of developments in Burma)

Since the summer of 2012 Burma has seen pogroms, massacres, riots of unprecedented scale against religious minorities, the latest being on the 30th April. Few hundreds have been killed and few hundred thousands have been rendered homeless.

Much has been talked about how it is a ploy by the hardliners in the army and the post-reform government to stall further reforms. It might be true to a large extend, but the silence of the pro-democracy opposition is intriguing. While many from the “pro-democracy” camp has remained either silent or ambivalent; many others have shown that they actually belong to the ranks of fundamentalist who in the pretext of unfounded “sense of self-victimization” are fomenting a near genocidal situation in the country.

The non-sectarian democratic forces within Burma would do a service to the country and to the world, if they can use their hard-earned moral authority to put a stop to the riots from turning into a full blown genocide. It is high time that all of us understand and recognize religious fundamentalism as a social reaction with fascist potentials and it must be unequivocally opposed and confronted.


On 30th April, in a small town called Okkan, 100 kms away from Rangoon, a Muslim woman on a bicycle bumped into an 11 year old Buddhist monk who dropped his alms- bowl, damaging it. Soon a Buddhist mob gathered and went on a rampage killing at least one person and destroying several mosques and torching Muslim owned poultry farms and houses.

The authorities later detained 18 people allegedly involved in the riot, including the woman who was involved in the accident with the young monk, accusing her of deliberate and malicious acts that insult religion. Rangoon’s Deputy Police Commissioner, Thet Lwin, while admitting that she had bumped on to monk by accident, told Reuters that “According to our practices, we need to send her for trial since she was involved in the root cause of the incident” and that it was up to court to decide her fate".

Since this latest incident of anti-Muslim riots, it has been reported that Muslim villages have erected bamboo fences around their villages and armed themselves with clubs and swords to protect themselves from possible attacks from the neighboring Buddhist villages.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

[Public Meeting] Shahbagh Movement: A beacon of hope for South Asia

Shahbagh Movement: A beacon of hope for South Asia

Speakers:Sumit Chakravartty (Editor, Mainstream Magazine),Kalyani Menon Sen(Feminist Activist and Researcher),Jawed Naqvi (Senior Journalist, Dawn) and Noor Zaheer (Author, Poet and Cultural Activist)

14th May; 5 pm onward; Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi

Background Note: Neighbouring country Bangladesh, is going through a great churning.. As we go to the press, there are reports indicating the mobilisation of fundamentalist forces and their attempts to scuttle the trials of the war criminals. Violence engineered by the activists belonging to Hefazat-e-Islam alongwith the Jamaat-Shibir clique, and the state's alleged highhandedness in dealing with the situation seemed to have further helped them up the ante.

Everybody knows that it is a direct reaction to the historic movement - popularly known as Shahbagh movement - initiated by youth bloggers wherein hundreds and thousands of people have hit the streets of Dhaka, demanding strict punitive action against war criminals and their organisations, namely Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, who forty-two years ago—at the time of the liberation struggle/war of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)—colluded with the Pakistan army and committed untold acts of atrocities on the general public.

It is true that by taking lead in this historic movement and persisting against heavy odds, the youth of Bangladesh are attempting to carry forward the forgotten legacy of all those unnamed martyrs who sacrificed their present for a better future for the people of Bangladesh - a future free of religious extremism, a future guaranteeing a life of dignity to everyone.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

एन.एस.आई - भोपाल द्वारा आयोजित परिचर्चा "शाहबाग (बांग्लादेश) का जनविद्रोह" का एक संक्षिप्त रिपोर्ट

यह 28 अप्रैल को एन.एस.आई - भोपाल द्वारा आयोजित जनसभा "शाहबाग (बांग्लादेश) का जनविद्रोह" पर एक संक्षिप्त रिपोर्ट है।

पडोसी देश बांग्लादेश इस समय काफी उथल पुथल से गुज़र रहा है जिसका कारण है की 42 साल पहले तत्कालीन पूर्वी पाकिस्तान (अब के बांग्लादेश) की मुक्ति संघर्ष में पकिस्तान की सेना का साथ देने वाले और जनता पर तरह तरह के ज़ुल्म ढ़ाने वाले युद्ध अपराधियों एवं उनके संगठनो के खिलाफ कड़ी कार्यवाही की मांग को लेकर लाखों की संख्या में जनता सड़क पर उतर आई है। आन्दोलनकारियों की मांग है कि युध्ह अपराधियों को कड़ी से कड़ी सजा दी जाए और जमात-ए-इस्लामी जैसे संगठनो पर पाबंदी लगा दी जाए और उसके द्वारा संचालित व्यावसायिक एवं अन्य प्रतिष्ठानों पर रोक लगा दी जाए।

बांग्लादेश के जनांदोलन के समर्थन में भोपाल NSI की टीम ने भोपाल में एक परिचर्चा का आयोजन दिनांक 28 अप्रैल 2013 को किया। इस परिचर्चा का मुख्य उद्देश्य बांग्लादेश के आन्दोलनकारियों द्वारा उठाई जा रही मांगो का समर्थन करना और आन्दोलनकारियों द्वारा उठाई जा रही मांगो पर चर्चा करना था और साथ ही भविष्य में ये आन्दोलन का रूप क्या हो सकता है इस पर चर्चा करना भी था। इस कार्यक्रम में मुख्य वक्ता के तौर पर बोनोजित हुसैन उपस्थित थे बोनोजित दिल्ली NSI टीम के सदस्य है।

Sunday, May 5, 2013

No Mr. Umari, Shahbagh Is No Imperialist Conspiracy

- Subhash Gatade

GUWAHATI: The echo of the Shahbag protest in Bangladesh was heard about 200 miles away here on Sunday with citizens, under the banner of Janamat, expressing solidarity with protesters in that country. Janamat, a Guwahati-based socio-cultural body which organised the solidarity meet here, said that the issue raised by the Shahbag protesters is relevant to India in general and Assam in particular because both the countries' secular and democratic fabrics are threatened by communal forces.

       Solidarity meet in city for Shahbag protest. Times News Network, April 29, 2013

Representatives of different Gonojagoron Mancha across the country on Friday suggested spreading its activities to grassroots level to aware people about its demands. They urged all to be united to fight against Jamaat-Shibir and move forward with a view to realising their demands …Around 300 representatives from 167 gonojagoron manchas from seven divisions attended the daylong representative conference at Senate Bhaban of Dhaka University to express their views and suggestions to strengthen the movement.

Imran H Sarkar, spokesperson for the Gonojagoron Mancha, announced a mass rally at Mymensingh on May 18 and a grand rally at Projonmo Chattar in Dhaka on May 31 at the end of the conference.
                                                                                       The Daily Star, May 3, 2013

Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari, President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, (Born in 1935), seems to be a learned man, at least that's what his biographical details tell us. Elected for the second time as Ameer (President) of the Jamaat he is known to have 'authored more than thirty books' and is 'considered an 'authority on human rights in general, and women and Islamic family system in particular'. Interestingly, despite his long innings in social-political life and exposure to the outside world his understanding of some crucial developments in this part of the subcontinent seems to be at variance from what can be said as a general consensus around the issue.

The manner in which he and the organisation he leads reacted to the recent developments in Bangladesh, the emergence of what is known as Shahbagh movement - the spontaneous movement initiated by youth seeking 'exemplary punishment to the war criminals' and banning of 'politics based on religion' - is an indicative of this disconnect between what Maulana Umari and the organisation he leads thinks and what actually happened.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Protest Call and Joint Statement: Condemn Police Excesses in Lower Suktel Project area in Balangir, Odisha

Protest Against Excesses and Brutality of Odisha Police
 11 am, 7th May, 2013, Odisha Bhawan, 1 Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi

Scrap the Lower Suktel Dam project immediately

We, the undersigned, are anguished and appalled by the brutality and excesses of Orissa Police on peaceful demonstrators and concerned citizens near Magurbeda village of Balangir District in Orissa on 29 April 2013. At least 40 persons received severe injuries in this unprovoked lathi-charge and police brutality. We strongly condemn such police action and demand that responsible policemen be brought to book immediately!

Shockingly, during this standoff police dramatically turned into a confrontation, women were pulled by their hair, thrown on ground with policemen deliberately trampled over their feet and private parts as if they were trying to get confessions out of hardened criminals – all this under the supervision of the Sub-Divisional Police Officer and the Sub-Collector of Balangir, the latter with magisterial power.

It is absolutely unacceptable that state police in tacit approval of the state government engage in such brutality on peaceful protesters. The Odisha government needs to explain to its people as why Lower Suktel area has virtually become a war-zone, when people are democratically pressing for their demands.

Notably, Amitabh Patra, a journalist-filmmaker, who was shooting the confrontation, was purposefully targeted and rounded up by about a dozen policemen who beat him and kicked him ceaselessly on his head and face. Policemen seized his two cameras and broke both even as he lay unconscious for several hours. We would want an explanation from the government as what authority the Odisha Police has got to stop filmmakers from shooting such stand-offs? Under which rule of law, the Odisha Police has the power to strike at a journalist or a filmmaker with such brutality with intention to damage his head, when he was only a witness to what was going on? More shockingly, under pressure from the police and administration, the doctor at the government district hospital was refusing to admit Amitabh despite visible head injuries until a few local activists and journalists made a noise and forced him to do so!

Police brutality in Lower Suktel

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Economics: Dismal Science or Powerful Dogma?

- Anirban Kar

“Most people take capitalism for granted…From this point of view one can understand and criticize what happens within the framework of the system; one can neither understand nor evaluate what happens to the system itself.” - Paul Sweezy; The Theory of Capitalist Development.

In this short note, I shall try to sketch the role of Economics as a discipline in the capitalist world order. I shall argue that the prominence and the crisis of Economics are organically linked with the dynamics of capitalism and hence a critique of its present state of pedagogy and research must be situated within this broader framework. This note has three sections. In the first section, as a prelude, I briefly discuss how Economics originated as a separate discipline from Political Economy during the heyday of laissez-faire capitalism. The second and the third section look at the role of Economics as a tool and an ideology of Capitalism, respectively.

Origin of Economics

“In fact, the whole world may be looked upon as a vast general market made up of diverse special markets where social wealth is bought and sold. Our task then is to discover the laws to which these purchases and sales tend to conform automatically.”

Leon Walras, one of the founders of Economics, wrote in 1874, while setting the agenda for Economics as a discipline. This was the time when capitalism was blooming in Western Europe and North America. For the first time in human civilization, indeed, wealth of a society appeared in the form of commodities which was produced at a massive scale, was bought and sold in market places and was circulated around the world. As soon as production decisions came to be determined by market conditions, it became important to understand ‘the laws’ of market. Focus shifted away from understanding the dynamics of social relations, which are governed by material conditions to the study of individual behaviour and optimal use of scarce resources. Economic system came to be understood not in terms of relation between men and men but in terms of relation between men and commodities; Political Economy gave way to Economics. It is not a coincidence that the book by Leon Walras, mentioned above, was titled ‘Elements of Pure Economics’.

Economics as a tool

Through the peak and trough of capitalism, different schools of thought made its way into mainstream Economics. However the central debate revolved primarily around the same set of issues: Does market allocate scarce resources efficiently? If and when this is not possible, can efficiency be achieved through a degree of state control? Can institutions and regulations be designed for this purpose? And finally, how aggregate level economic phenomenon (such as prices, production and consumption) arises from individual actions, essentially limited to economic decision making (capturing atomistic relation between men and commodities)? To summarize, Economics got busy with ‘smaller’ questions; about adjusting the Economy to suit the need of the hour. Understanding the dynamics and contradiction of capitalism, its historical path of development, increasingly, got relegated to back seat. Economics became a tool for capitalism. This had multifarious effects on the pedagogy and research of Economics. I shall touch upon a couple of issues.

Increasing specialization: With advancement of knowledge, a degree of specialization is perhaps inevitable. But the degree of specialization Economics has witnessed is simply astounding. For instance, the current issue of American Economic Review (considered to be the top Economics Journal) listed papers under following categories; Recessions and Retirement, Economics of Automobile Sector, Law and Economics, Labour Economics etc., not to mention exotic categories, such as, Wine Economics and Economics of Arts. However this was expected. Since Economics was preoccupied with repairing parts and components of capitalist economy, knowledge of each component became a specialized field. Incentives and punishments were also realigned to support this form of fragmented studies. For instance, research works in Economics now appear primarily as standalone articles and not as a body of knowledge in the form of thesis or books. In a competitive market for academic positions, where researchers are evaluated by number of publications, specialization is naturally more remunerative than development of a broader perspective.