Sunday, December 28, 2014

[NSI Statement] Harvest of Innocent Blood: The Democracy Deficit in Bodoland, Assam

Photo Courtsey: PTI
Once again, and very soon after the last instance of mass killings and displacement, another series of bloodshed and violence has rocked Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) - Assam. On 21st December 2014, two suspected militants of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland- Songbijit Faction (NDFB-S) were killed by the security forces in an alleged cold blooded encounter in the Chirang district of BTAD-Assam. In retaliation, on 23rd December, armed militants of NDFB-S attacked Adivasi villages in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Sonitpur districts. Since then it has resulted in the death of 81 people – 73 Adivasis including many women and children as well as 3 Adivasis killed in police firing on protestors. As a mode of retaliation Adivasi mobs killed at least 8 Bodo civilians. Since 23rd December, the entire BTAD and adjoining areas like Sonitpur district have been extremely volatile and under curfew. On 25th December, the Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, in a meeting with the top security top brass, which was also attended by the Assam chief minister Mr Tarun Gogoi, declared Government of India's resolve to fight terrorism and reportedly asked the security and intelligence apparati to ensure the elimination of the top leadership of NDFB-S within the next six months. Around 50 additional companies of paramilitary forces are being sent to Assam. The Army has also reportedly launched major operations in the Assam-Arunachal border region, in search of the NDFB-S militants.

The NDFB-S massacre of Adivasi civilians is not a pre-modern tribal savagery. In fact such violence is justified by notions of exclusive ethnic-homelands and nations, and their corollaries like aspiration for spatial homogenization and monopolization of resources by particular communities. The Northeast of the country is home to many armed mobilisations against the domination of Indian state that are driven by an ethnic conception of political community in a contiguous territory. The Bodos of the Assam valley started an armed movement for Bodoland in 1980s against their marginalisation by the dominant non-tribal Assamese. Following the time tested carrot and stick policy, the Government of India managed to win over a faction of the armed groups in exchange for internal autonomy under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The BTAD was formed in 2003. Curiously, even while the majority of citizens under the BTAD area identify themselves as non-Bodos the distribution of seats under the BTAD agreement is so designed that Bodos enjoy majority in the elected body. While a faction of the Bodo leadership settled to run the BTAD, the seeds were sown for inter-ethnic clashes and violence. 

Both Bodos and Adivasis are two of the most oppressed communities of Assam. The history of colonialism made them neighbours, just like the way Muslims of East Bengal origin became their neighbours in the early 20th century. All these communities have legitimate demands for political autonomy, but their rights have to be envisioned in such a way that they do not violate similar rights of other oppressed communities. It is precisely here that the democracy of India and its attendant institutional mechanisms have failed. Instead of creating space for a democratic dialogue between communities, which could have opened ways to resolve thorny issues between them, the security obsessed state in the Northeast, which looks at political problems primarily in terms of military solutions and opportunistic deals, creates ethnic polarization. It needs emphasis that the ordinary Bodo people have genuine democratic aspirations for greater political and economic autonomy. However, under the current political arrangements the legitimate aspirations of the Bodo people have been completely hijacked by power mongering among vested interests, which try to advance their politics at the cost of the rights of other ethnic groups. Hence, it has become a norm in the BTAD to pit ordinary Bodo people against similar non-Bodo people of the region. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Secular Stake- A Burden, or a Democratic Imperative?

Sanjay Kumar
Mr Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of MIM recently remarked in a media conclave that ‘Muslims are not coolies of secularism’. The statement made perfect sense for his politics. He is the leader a party that aims to mobilise voters on the basis of them being Muslim. The unprecedented success of Hindutva under Mr Modi in recent elections has upset many old electoral calculations, and opened new opportunities. Mr Owaisi is smelling a chance for the MIM to expand beyond its turf in Hyderabad, to regions where non-BJP parties have been getting the major chunk of Muslim votes with the slogan of secularism, seen principally as the promise of protection from riots. For Mr Owaisi, the remark serves multiple purposes. Average Muslim citizens are deeply disillusioned with a political process that has resulted in the utter marginalisation of their community.  For such voters, the statement is intended to clearly distinguish his party from the so-called secular non-BJP parties. It is calibrated to raise a doubt in their mind, why should only Muslims be expected to vote for such parties, when significant sections of the Hindus have sided with the communal BJP? It is also a preemptive answer to his political competitors and ideological critics, who are likely to accuse him of being communal.
Otherwise too, the secular discourse in India has largely become a minorities’ affair. It is said to be under threat when minorities are attacked. It is claimed to be flourishing when minorities rights are protected. A corollary belief among major sections of the so called majority community is that India  could have as well been non-secular if there were no minorities in the country, or if they are put in their place as the RSS political programme demands. It is not difficult to see that once secularism is equated with minority interests, the majority interests would be perceived as non-secular and with a passage of time the BJP style of politics would become the common sense of the majority. Should India remain, or rather become secular, only for minorities’ sake? Then, why should the majority be interested in secularism? Only because of their ‘good neighbourly’ sense, or to avoid civil strife of communal clashes? The tragedy and the farce of Indian secularism is precisely this, that ever since its initial conception and practice during the freedom movement, it has remained hostage to a majority-minority framework, and it has implicitly answered all the above questions in the affirmative. Nothing can be farther away from the real significance of secularism for a modern democracy. There have been many non-democratic secular regimes. Secularism though is a democratic imperative. What everybody, including minority citizens, lose in the absence of secularism are distinct democratic freedoms which only secularism can assure.
Secularism is most commonly seen as a particular set of state policies with reference to religious communities. In liberal democracies this set is assumed to have three components. Freedom of religion and non-discrimination by the state on the basis of religion are part of fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen. Once these two are accepted, it follows logically that the state has to keep itself separate from any religion, or equidistant from all religions, otherwise the followers of the religion closer to state will have privileges denied to the non-religious, or followers of other religions. Secularism as state-religion separation is however, only a part of the secular framework. A liberal constitution like the Indian one, is a secular document not only because of the special features it shows vis a vis religious communities, but because of its very spirit and basic conception. There was some discussion in the Constituent Assembly to start the preamble with words like ‘In the name of God’. The proposal was not accepted, and ‘We, the People of India’ were placed as the sovereign, deriving their power to give themselves a constitution from no other real or imagined source. The people, who were giving themselves the constitution, were obviously an imagined entity, but imagined as a collective of thoroughly ordinary and mundane humans. What made them the People was the belief that they were equal among themselves in some fundamentally political ways, and that as persons they had certain in-alienable rights. This latter pair of beliefs is nothing but the core idea of citizenship.

Impossible Lesson

-Ravi Sinha
Far away from Peshawar five men and a woman sat in a physician’s waiting room in Lucknow. The television screen that ordinarily shows some Bollywood film or a cricket match had a news channel on. It was day after the slaughter of children. The assistant who maintains the waiting list of patients and collects the doctor’s fee said something very predictable, even if heart-felt, expressing his horror and revulsion. The matter would have passed as unremarkably as most things do most of the times, except for what an elderly gentleman waiting to see the doctor had to say in response.
In a feeble yet firm voice whose conviction and sincerity was unmistakable, he said – dhaarmikata ko badhaava doge to kattarta badhegi; kattarta badhegi to aatank upajega, haivaaniyat saamne aayegi.(If you will promote religiosity, fundamentalism will grow, and from that will emerge terror and barbarism.) After a pause he added – hamaare desh mein bhee yahee ho rahaa hai, haalaan ki abhee hum pehle daur mein hain, dhaarmikata badhaane ke daur mein. (Same thing is happening in our country too, although we are in the first phase so far – that of promoting religiosity.)
It was stunningly simple a statement with clear enunciation of a causal chain. No one spoke after that. Uncharacteristically, for Indians, no discussion followed and no rebuttals were made. The statement was surprising for a number of reasons. First of all it did not come from an atheist leftist. There are too few of them left in any case in this city of Majaz, Rashid Jahan and Sajjad Zaheer, and it would have been too much of a coincidence if both the patients waiting to see the doctor in that lean hour of the day belonged to this rare breed. (Others were either family members of the patients or the doctor’s assistants.)
The statement was surprising also because, despite widely held views to the contrary, it did not blame one particular religion for being more disposed than others to harbour and incite terrorism. Nor did it sing the usual song about true religiosity being antithetical to brutality and violence. If one were willing to honestly count all killings across millennia of human history, I have little doubt that religion will show up as the single biggest killer. There are those who deploy enormous erudition and scholarship in proving that it kills only when it becomes modern. There are others who would not tire of repeating that it kills only as a handmaiden of imperialism. Veracity of examples likely to be cited in support of such theses cannot be denied. And yet, the theses themselves are grievously mistaken. Religion kills for its own sake too. If others hire it frequently, they do so because it is extraordinarily effective at the job. Nobel winning physicist Steven Weinberg once said – … you have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But, for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
It does not take a great deal of erudition to know that the Thirty Year War in seventeenth century Europe had seen the biggest blood-bath before the world wars of the twentieth century broke that record. That can hardly be attributed to modernity or to imperialism. Nor did religion begin to kill children only in the modern times. The oldest of religious myths recount massacre of children. If one were to consider that the slaughter of all male children of Hebrew families at Egyptian Pharaoh’s orders is a story intended to portray the adversary in bad light, how does one interpret the same side reporting gleefully the extermination of all Egyptian firstborns in the last of the ten plagues unleashed by the Hebrew God on the Egyptians?
A mistaken view that seems to be widely held in this country considers Hinduism comparatively non-violent. The Hindutva brigade laments this. They would like to turn Hindus into ferocious warriors against other faiths. This sordid episode is currently in full bloom in the Indian society and polity. I do not fully agree with the gentleman in the clinic when he says that we are in the first phase of promoting religiosity that is yet to attain full-scale brutality and violence. Can one draw any such comfort after witnessing, for example, what happened during the Gujarat carnage of 2002?
If religion can kill even while preaching peace, compassion, brotherhood and spirituality, one can imagine the added ferocity when it openly preaches the virtues of violence. The current foreign minister of India has called upon the world to accept Gita as the global holy book. Honesty would demand that this appeal be accompanied with a disclaimer – this book is basically a call to arms and an incitement to violence. Lord Krishna went to great philosophical lengths to rid Arjun of the scruples the latter had about participating in the impending blood-bath of Mahabharat that would include killing his own cousins and relatives.
Speaking against religion is not a wise thing to do. It carries all kinds of dangers – exclusion and ridicule being among the more benign ones. It is not easy, therefore, to draw truthful lessons from histories and practices of religion. Nearly all of humanity that has lived so far has been religious and, by and large, it continues to be so.  How does one criticize or evaluate the mode of living of the entire human race? How does one bring its core beliefs under dispassionate and fearless scrutiny? It is not surprising that thinkers and theorists have had to plumb great philosophical depths and weave intricate theories around this issue. Obvious observations and simple truths would simply not do.
Undoubtedly there are things in the world about which precious little can be done. There are problems about which the best one can do is to go around them. And yet one learns about them not only because one is curious but also because one is always trying to cope with the world and make it better. One cannot do anything to gravity, and yet one keeps learning about it. In the process one does find newer ways to cope with it. Religion, unfortunately, is much like gravity. Lessons drawn from its history may invariably be impossible lessons, but even impossible lessons have their uses.
The poetically inspired moment in which Marx coined the phrase – opium of the people – has been the bane of every Marxist’s life. They have been mercilessly beaten up with this phrase and endlessly ridiculed for being juvenile. Hardly anyone reads the passage in the Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right from which the phrase gets plucked. It almost reads like an ode to religion when he says – Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. One wonders what Marx would say about religion after the slaughter of children in Peshawar. Would he say that it did the killing at the behest of imperialism? Would he say that seeds of a ferocious religious culture were sown in the Swat valley and elsewhere so that harvest of slaughters would feed the powers that rule over the planet, control its oil and own its wealth?
Anger and ridicule should be directed not towards what someone might say about religion. They should be directed towards what religion actually does. Its deeds are so grim and stark that even its sympathetic theorists are forced to raise questions about its conduct. Take for example the communitarian-idealist philosopher Charles Taylor who is famous for deploying exceptional intellect and erudition in making sense of the likes of Hegel, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and later Wittgenstein. In 2007 he came out with a 900-pages long book on the role of religion in history and civilization. The approach of this book, which he called The Secular Age, is too nuanced and its conclusions are too complex to be summarized here. While wrestling with the riddles of human thought and deeds in the dark alleys of history, myth and psyche with little light from the lamps of science and certainty reaching those alleys, Taylor emerges occasionally as if to catch a breath on the surface of manageable questions and simpler conclusions. I am tempted to quote from him, despite the risk of doing injustice to him and of exposing my own pretentiousness, in the hope that rational scrutiny of religion can be seen as a worthy enterprise.
Sources of primal frenzy, wild sexuality and plain slaughter have been debated within religious discourses themselves. More modern and humanist interpretations of religion have often castigated the primordial and naturalist versions for holding a view as if “all religion is ultimately Moloch drinking blood from the skulls of the slain” (The Secular Age, p. 648). I wonder if there have been similar debates within Hinduism where Kali and Shiva are reprimanded for such conduct. In any case, through an anthropocentric cleansing of ancient religions, at least in the west, it was hoped that religion would be rid of evil and frenzy, sex and slaughter,
“… in this anthropocentric climate, where we keep any idea of the spiritual, it must be totally constructive, positive. It can’t accommodate Kali, and is less and less able to allow for a God who punishes. The wrath of God disappears, leaving only His love…On the older view, wrath had to be part of the package…some people fry in Hell; and the others are only saved because Christ offered “satisfaction” for them. This was the heart of the juridical-penal understanding of the atonement. But in the anthropocentric climate, this no longer makes sense, and indeed, appears monstrous.” (The Secular Age, p. 649)
The question, however, remains. Why then, despite modernity, religion remains a prime instigator of bestiality and slaughter? Taylor discusses the question at various levels – biological, meta-biological, metaphysical, psycho-social, political and historical. Given his theoretical and ideological dispositions, he is inclined towards metaphysical explanations. Wading through complex arguments he arrives at a conclusion that puts part of the blame at modernity’s door. Modernity turns out in this account to be as self-righteous as religion. Citing examples of modern and non-religious violence, from the French Revolution to the War on Terror and Abu Ghraib, he accords equivalent status to Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin and George Bush.
I have put Taylor on display as an illustrative example. The point is to recognize the intrinsic relationship between religion and violence. If we have to understand our own specific predicament, we may have to step away from Taylor and go beyond his conclusions. After all, Peshawar and Gujarat happen here and not in Canada or Sweden. There must be some reason if religious slaughters and other barbarities of the present age tend to cluster in some parts of the world and not others.

Monday, December 15, 2014

दस्तारबंदी और मुस्लिम समुदाय में नेतृत्व को लेकर कुछ सवाल

जावेद अनीस

पिछले दिनों दिल्ली हाईकोर्ट ने इमाम अहमद बुख़ारी द्वारा अपने पुत्र को नायब इमाम नामित करने के लिए किये जा रहे ‘दस्तारबंदी’ समारोह पर अपना फैसला सुनाते हुए कहा था कि वे जो कुछ करने जा रहे हैं उसकी कोई कानूनी मान्यता नहीं है और इस आयोजन का मतलब नायब इमाम की नियुक्ति नहीं है। इस सम्बन्ध में याचिकाकर्ताओं और सरकार द्वारा दलील दी गयी थी कि चूंकि जामा मस्जिद वक्फ बोर्ड की प्रॉपर्टी है इसलिए इसका उत्तराधिकारी इमाम नहीं तय कर सकते, यह वक्फ बोर्ड की जिम्मेदारी है। हालांकि यह अंतिम फैसला नहीं है इस मामले में आगे भी सुनवाई होनी है, जो की 28 जनवरी को होने वाली है जिसमें कोर्ट द्वारा सभी पक्षों को नोटिस भेजकर हलफनामा दायर कर अपना-अपना पक्ष रखने को कहा गया है।

कुल मिलकर कर इस फैसले का सार यह है कि बुखारी 22 नवंबर को होने वाली दस्तारबंदी का आयोजन तो कर सकते हैं लेकिन फिलहाल इसकी कानूनी मान्यता नहीं होगी इस बारे में स्थिति 28 जनवरी को होने वाली सुनवाई में ही साफ हो पायेगी।

इस पूरे विवाद की शुरुआत तब हुई जब पिछले दिनों जामा मस्जिद के विवादास्पद “शाही इमाम” सैयद अहमद बुखारी द्वारा अपने उन्नीस वर्षीय बेटे सैयद शाबान बुखारी को अपना जांनशीन बनाने की घोषणा करते हुए कहा गया था कि 22 नवंबर 2014 को दस्तारबंदी की रस्म के साथ उन्हें नायब इमाम घोषित किया जाएगा। विवाद और गहराया जब बुखारी ने बात का खुलासा किया कि इस दस्तारबंदी रस्म में शामिल होने वाले मेहमानों की उनकी सूची में भारत के प्रधानमंत्री का नाम शामिल नहीं है, लेकिन पाकिस्तान के प्रधानमंत्री नवाज शरीफ को इसमें बुलाया गया है, सैयद अहमद बुखारी का कहना था कि ‘चूंकि यह उनका निजी कार्यक्रम है और वे किसे दावत में न्यौता भेजेंगे और किसे नहीं यह उनका अपना निर्णय है।‘ जैसा कि अपेक्षित था बुखारी के इस निर्णय को लेकर जबरदस्त विवाद हुआ और इस बहाने सैयद अहमद बुखारी एक बार फिर सुर्खियों में आ गये। 

यह वही जामा मस्जिद है जहाँ 1947 में जब दिल्ली के मुसलमान बड़ी संख्या में पाकिस्तान जा रहे थे, तब देश के प्रमुख स्वतंत्रता सेनानी मौलाना अबुल कलाम आजाद ने इसकी प्राचीर से मुसलमानों को संबोधित किया था, उनके इस भाषण का लोगों पर बहुत गहरा असर हुआ और बड़ी तादाद में मुसलमान जो पाकिस्तान जाने के लिए अपना सामान बाँध कर तैयार थे उन्होंने हिन्दुस्तान को चुन लिया। उनके इस मशहूर भाषण के शब्द कुछ इस प्रकार हैं- "जामा मस्जिद की ऊंची मीनारें तुमसे पूछ रही हैं कि जा रहे हो...कल तक तुम यमुना के तट पर वजू किया करते थे और आज तुम यहाँ रहने से डर रहे हो। याद रखो कि तुम्हारे ख़ून में दिल्ली बसी है। तुम समय के इस झटके से डर रहे हो...वापस आओ यह तुम्हारा घर है, तुम्हारा देश”।

Sunday, December 7, 2014

[Statement] In Solidarity with the Search for Mexico's Missing 43 students


the families of the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, 

the students of the Rural Normal Schools,

the people of Mexico fighting against State repression:

We, students and concerned citizens of India, condemn the murder of six people and the disappearance of 43 students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School from the town of Iguala in Guerrero on 26 September 2014. The disappeared students were taken by the Police on this day and have since been missing. In India too, we have been witness to a long history of impunity of the State Armed Forces that have been consistently used against democratic and peaceful forms of protest and organisation. We are shocked by the gravity of the crime that reflects the deep-rooted culture of impunity built over many years in Mexico, and perpetuated by the 'War Against Narcotraffic' intiated 8 years ago. Your pain is our pain. 

In the search for these disappeared students, we have to come know that several mass graves were uncovered pointing to the many more disappearances over the years. We are aware this is not an isolated incident and is only the last in a long series of disappearances and murders. According to Amnesty International, over 22,000 people have disappeared without any proper investigations into these crimes. We stand in solidarity with you in your fight against repression and violence of the Mexican government and the impunity it provides. We salute your struggle in the search of your beloved children and in demanding the State's accountability and transparency in their disappearance.

We stand by you in your courage for having come out into the streets of Mexico to confront the violent State that has tried every trick up their sleeve to malign and divide your voices for instating a true democracy. We are watching the manner in which instead of heeding your demands, the Mexican government is responding with more and more repression and arbitrary detentions. We have faith that this will not deter you from continuing to demand justice, and remain inspired by your courage. You are not alone. We stand by you in this important moment in the building of a truly democratic Mexico and send our revolutionary greetings from other side of the world. 

In solidarity,

New Socialist Initiative
Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union
All India Students Association
Students Federation of India
Democratic Students Front
Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge
Krantikari Naujawan Sabha (Revolutionary Youth Council)
Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini
Extra-Judicial Execution Victims' Families Association, Manipur
Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Kashmir
National Alliance of Peoples' Movements
Human Rights Alert
North East Students Organisation, Delhi
Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA (Group)

Photo by  Erika Lozano

Saturday, December 6, 2014

[PADS Public Meeting on Babri Mosque Destruction] Secularism A Democratic Imperative

On the 22nd Anniversary of Destruction of Babri Mosque

People's Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)

invites you to a discussion on 

Secularism A Democratic Imperative: Is Democracy Possible Without Secularism?


Prof. Achin Vanaik, Dr. Ghazala Jamil, Dr. Sanjay Kumar

Tapti Hostel Mess, JNU, 9 pm, 8th December

December 6, 1992 must count as the darkest day in the history of independent India. While the crowds mobilised by organisations of the RSS destroyed the Babri Mosque in a planned conspiracy, the institutions of the Indian state, elected state and central governments, police and judiciary stood by as mute spectators. This was the culmination of a long campaign of communal hatred and violence. Thousands of Indian citizens were killed in riots during the run-up to, and after the demolition of, the Babri Masjid. Yet the nature of our society and politics is such that not only have the perpetrators of these crimes gone unpunished, they have reaped a rich political dividend. 

The victory of the BJP in the last elections has given a significant push to the Hindutva project. Minority targeting and riots are becoming more brazen and routine. Even while minorities are facing the brunt of the Hindutva assault, other Indians will be grossly mistaken if they think it does not affect them. Hindutva is a totalising project driven by a revanchist, casteist, and misogynist ideology. It valorises violence and targets the vulnerable. It seeks to control what all Indians can think, read, see, wear or even eat. In the name of tradition it attacks youth making their own choices, and it criminalises alternate sexualities. It is trying to propagate mythology as historical truth. All Indians who value freedom, equality, truth and human solidarity are targets of its violent politics. 

The Modi avtar of Hindutva is successful due to a marriage of mutual convenience with corporate capital. And, as a true partner of Indian capitalism, the new government is working overtime to reverse the little welfare rights to employment, land and forests that Indian workers, farmers and adivasis had won. As the ten years of UPA rule showed, the bourgeois hegemony in India can exist without overt Hindutva violence. However, the Modi regime provides the right amount of ruthlessness and state violence against the working poor that the capitalist class needs in times of economic recession. It cannot be denied that under Mr Modi, the BJP has been able to get the support of many sections of the lower middle classes, and also of oppressed castes and adivasis, which add to its core of upper caste and upper class Hindus. In typical Fascist fashion it has skilfully sold the hope of achhe din to the helpless and alienated sections through saturated media projection of Mr Modi as the ultimate saviour. It has successfully harnessed traditionally rooted prejudices and the violences of everyday life for propaganda against the minorities. Freedom loving Indians confront a project of bourgeois hegemony, supported by state terror and fortified by mass appeal. 

Diverse trends of Indian electoral politics, namely caste mobilisations, social justice, economic populism, regional aspirations, and social movements, which were considered adequate antidotes to communal venom, failed to stop the Hindutva success in the last elections. Why is communal fascism so successful after six decades of constitutional democracy and secularism? Surely, part of the answer lies in what has gone on in the name of democracy and secularism in the country. Finding this part of the answer, and unearthing the limitations of democracy and secularism in India, is the first responsibility of those who uphold these two values. The common understanding of democracy equates it with institutional means that establish the rule of the majority. This understanding misses the conditions that legitimise the very notion of majority. Can a majority rule that does not arise in conditions of equality, and which does not obey the principle of equality, ever be democratic? How can a society with pervasive caste, gender, ethnic and religious oppressions and brutalities and economic exploitation be made democratic? 

Secularism in India is understood in two distinct ways. One current believes it to be a modern import imposed by a westernised elite on a deeply religious society; as if the life in India before its Constitution declared it to be a secular country did not have secular aspects! If equality among citizens is the starting point of any democracy, then it follows that a democratic state cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. Hence, it is impossible to even imagine a democracy without secularism. The other trend sees secularism merely as a state policy of dealing with diverse religious communities, the so-called majority and minority communities, in an even-handed way. This trend misses the fact that secularism is also essential to ensure freedoms that are necessary for a secular way of life for every citizen, irrespective of her/his community. No religious authority or community can curtail rights of any citizen. The practice of secularism in our country has mostly been tortured. Presidents of our secular republic routinely inaugurate or lay foundation stones of temples. Our courts have declared official ceremonies with vedic mantras and havans to be not in violation of secularism. Our state has miserably failed to protect the rights of women from community based personal laws. A serious lacuna is the failure to realise that the democracy and secularism of the state shall remain under threat if social life in families, communities and the public sphere is not democratic and secular. 

December 6 is also the death anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, which guarantees the right to equality to all Indians. Communal politics is a direct violation of this right. December 6 is also the day to pay homage to Dr Ambedkar and recommit ourselves to realise his ideals.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

मुस्लिम दुनिया का संकट और भारतीय मुसलमान

जावेद अनीस

"उठो ! अहमद शाह अब्दाली, मुहम्मद बिन कासिमशहीद सईद अहमद और पैगम्बर व उनके साथियों की तरह...एक हाथ में कुरआन और दूसरे हाथ में तलवार लो और जिहाद के क्षेत्र की ओर निकलो।".... इराक़ और सीरिया की रेगिस्तान की मिटटी से उठनेवाली पुकार सुनो,ढाढस बाँधो और जिहाद की मातृभूमि अफगानिस्तान की ओर निकलो।" यह पुकार अंसार-उल-तौहीद द्वारा अपने ट्विटर अकाउंट में जारी किये गये विडियो में है। एक अंग्रेजी अखबार में प्रकाशित खबर के अनुसार विडियो में दिखाई दे रहा नकाबपोश 39 वर्ष का सुलतान अब्दुल कादिर आरमार है जो कर्नाटक के भटकल गाँव के एक छोटे व्यापारी का बेटा है। अगर यह खबर सही है तो यह पहली बार है जब एक भारतीय द्वारा सार्वजनिक  रूप देश के मुसलमानों को वैश्विक जिहाद के लिए आह्वान किया गया है। पिछले दिनों कश्मीर में भी आईएसआईएस के झंडे लहराने कि घटनायें सामने आई है 

बिन लादेन की मौत के बाद सुर्खियों से दूर रहे अलकायदा का जिन्न भी बोतल के बाहर आ गया है। अलकायदा की तरफ से जारी एक विडियो में अल जवाहिरी ने एलान किया है कि अब उसका  इरादा भारतीय उपमहाद्वीप में अलकायदा का झंडा लहराने का है। जवाहिरी के मुताबिक उसका संगठन अब "बर्माबांग्लादेशअसम,गुजरात और कश्मीर में" मुसलमानों को जुल्म से बचने के लिए लड़ाई लड़ेंगा उसने भारत में तथाकथित “इस्लामिक राज” के वापसी की भी बात की है।

उपरोक्त घटनायें इस ओर इशारा करती हैं कि ग्लोबल जिहादियों के निशाने पर अब भारत और यहाँ के मुसलमान हैं, भारत के मुसलमानों ने अलकायदा के सरगना के आह्वाहन का सख़्त अल्फाज़ो में मुजम्मत  की है, लेकिन इस मुल्क के वहाबी इस्लाम के पैरोकार भी हैं जिनका सब से पहला टकराव उदार और सूफी इस्लाम के भारतीय सवरूप से ही है

इस्लामिक स्टेट भी उसी पोलिटिकल इस्लाम की पैदाइश है जिसकी जडें वहाबियत में है, इनका दर्शन चौदहवी सदी के ऐसे सामाजिक-राजनीतिक प्रारुप को फिर से लागू करने की वकालत करता है, जहाँ असहमतियों की कोई जगह नहीं है, उनकी सोच है कि या तो आप उनकी तरह बन जाओ नहीं तो आप का सफाया कर दिया जायेगा

पाकिस्तान के मशहूर कार्टूनिस्ट साबिर नज़र ने तथाकथित “अरब स्प्रिंग” को लेकर एक कार्टून बनाया है जिसमें दिखाया गया है कि विभिन्न अरब मुल्कों में बसंत के पौधे थोड़े बड़े होने के बाद जिहादियों के रूप में फलते–फूलते दिखाई पड़ने लगते हैं, शायद अरब स्प्रिंग की यही सचाई है अपने आप को दुनिया भर में लोकतंत्र के सबसे बड़े रखवाले के तौर पर पेश करने वाले पश्चिमी मुल्कों ने अपने हितों के खातिर एक के बाद एक सिलसिलेवार तरीके से इराक में सद्दाम हुसैन,इजिप्ट में हुस्नी मुबारक और लीबिया में कर्नल गद्दाफी आदि को उनकी सत्ता से बेदखल किया है, इन हुक्मरानों का आचरण परम्परागत तौर पर सेक्यूलर रहा है। आज ये सभी मुमालिक भयानक खून-खराबे और अस्थिरता के दौर से गुजर रहे हैं, अब वहां धार्मिक चरमपंथियों का बोल बाला है “इस्लामिक स्टेट” कुछ और नहीं बल्कि तथाकथित अरब स्प्रिंग की देन है।  

इस्लामिक स्टेट द्वारा आज बहुत कम समय में इराक़ और सीरिया के एक बड़े हिस्से पर अपना कब्ज़ा जमा लिया गया है इराक जैसा मुल्क जो पुराने समय में मेसोपोटामिया सभ्यता के नाम से विख्यात रहा है, जो एक समय शिक्षाव्यापार,तकनीकसामाजिक विकास, संस्कृति को लेकर काफी समृद्ध रहा है, आज अपने आस्तित्व के संकट से गुजर रहा हैअपनी धरती में दफन अकूत तेल के वजह से यह मुल्क समृद्ध तो अभी भी है, लेकिन इसी तेल की वजह से उसे नए जमाने के साम्राज्यवादियों की नज़र लग गयी है और यह मुल्क आईएस जैसे घोर अतिवादी संगठन के चुंगल में फंस कर मध्ययुग के दौर में पहुँच गया दिखाई पड़ता है।

Monday, November 10, 2014

‘Kiss of Love’ in Delhi, Confronting the RSS

- Vasundhara Jairath and Bonojit Hussain

(This brief report was written immediately after the protest on Saturday near the RSS office in Delhi. It was later published in Kafila. Here the report is reproduced with few additions made by the authors. The English translation of the Hindi quotes used here was done by Shuddhabrata Sengupta of Kafila).

In the first of its kind in India, youth in Kochi launched a campaign called ‘Kiss of Love’ to challenge the moral policing of the Hindu Right. While that protest was attacked by right wing thugs and suppressed by the police, this form of protest has since spread to different parts of the country like Hyderabad, Bombay and Calcutta. Today, the ‘Kiss of Love’ protest was held at nowhere short of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) head office in New Delhi. A few individuals took the initiative and gave a call for this protest on Facebook with the title, ‘Sanghi Gunde Hoshiyar, Tere Samne Karenge Pyaar’ (Sanghi thugs beware, we will love in front you).

A screenshot of the facebook event

Within a day of giving this call on Facebook, self-professed RSS-affiliated cadres began trolling the Facebook event page. These trolls splashed the phone numbers and other personal details of the organisers all over the internet calling out to fellow right wingers to call, threaten and intimidate the organisers, who received death threats and threats of sexual assault throughout last night. Over 1000 abusive and threatening comments and messages were posted within 24 hours. Bajrang Dal on Facebook gave an open call to attack the protestors. While they deemed the proposed protest as going against Indian culture, they made repeated threats to sexually assault women leaving little to the imagination of the place of women in their version of Indian culture. While most comments are not worth repeating here, below are few samples of some of the most sanitised threats on the Facebook event page:
“मित्रों ये फर्जी पेज है इसे ज्यादा गंभीरता से लेने की जरूरत नहीं है, किसी मूर्ख ने इसे अफवाह फैलाने के लिए बनाया है, कृपया आप लोग क्रोधित होकर किसी को गाली ना दें, आप सोच भी कैसे सकते हो कोई दिल्ली जैसे शहर में ऐसा करने की हिम्मत जुटा सकता है, एक बात सदा याद रखना मित्रों हमारी दिल्ली कल भी हिंदुत्व का सबसे बड़ा गढ़ थी आज भी है और कल भी रहेगी , अगर ऐसा होता भी है तो यहाँ ऐसा करने वालों का क्या हाल होता है कल आप लोग देखेंगे, चिंता करने की कोई बात नहीं है वो कोई ऐसी वैसी जगह नही है बल्कि दिल्ली मेट्रो का स्टेशन है, जिसकी सुरक्षा हमारे CISF के देशभक्त सैनिक करते हैं, वहां रंडापा मचाने वालो का पिछवाडा तोड़ दिया जाता है , जहाँ बिना CISF की मर्जी के परिंदा भी पर नही मार सकता, सोचो वहां इन लौंडो व रंडियों का क्या हाल होगा, वैसे किसी भी अफवाह को देखते हुए आज ही सूचित कर दिया गया है CISF वालों को बाकी का नजारा कल आप लोग न्यूज़ चैनलों पर देखना …”
Friends this is a fake page, there is no need to take this page very seriously. Some fool has made this page to spread rumours, please do not get angry and curse people here. How can any one even think that they can dare to have the courage to do such a thing in a city like Delhi. Remember, one simple thing friends, our Delhi was a fortress of Hindutva yesterday, it is so today, and it will remain so tomorrow. Even if someone tries to do something, you will see what happens to them, so there is nothing to worry about. The venue where they say they will gather is not some ordinary plae. It is a metro station. The security of the metro station is in the hands of our patriotic CISF soldiers, Anyone doing anything slutty there will have their backsides broken. Without the CISF’s say so, not even a bird can flap its wings here. Think what fate can befall these sluts and their toy-boys. In any case, keeping all the rumours in mind, we have informed the CISF soldiers already. What else can we say – wait and see what happens tomorrow on the news channels.
"संघ कार्यालय के सामने kiss कर प्रदर्शन करेंगे -
अंग्रेज़ों की नाजायज़ औलाद
आओ शौक़ से आओ पर निम्न बातों का अवश्य ध्यान रखना
अपने जन्म देने वालों को अपनी अंतिम इच्छा अवश्य बता कर आएं,
बच भी गए तो किसी अस्पताल में अग्रिम बुकिंग करवाकर आएं,
एम्बुलेंस की व्यवस्था पहले से कर के रखें,
हो सके तो तुम जैसी गन्दगी पैदा करने वालों को भी साथ ले कर आएं
ताकि उन्हें भी तुम्हें पैदा करना का अफ़सोस हो."
"The bastards (Illegitimate children) of the English will 'KISS' in front of the RSS Headquarters in Delhi. Come by all means, but keep in mind the following points :
Tell the woman who gave birth to you about your last wishes before you come.
And make sure to have made an advance booking for a bed in a hospital, in case you get out of here alive. And call ambulances in advance.
If possible, get the people who gave birth to filth like you to come with you, so that they can regret the folly of giving birth to you."
Even at such short notice 300 to 400 people turned up for the protest, including students, researchers and young teachers of Delhi University, JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia, Ambedkar University and scores of other concerned citizens. The reason this protest spread to so many different parts of the country so quickly is precisely because the Hindutva right wing custodians of ‘Indian culture’ and their aggressive moral policing have become increasingly emboldened. It is worth mentioning here that the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, recently launched a campaign in the Delhi University campus against “Love Jehad” and the “menace of live-in relationships” as they go counter to “Indian culture”.

Feed The Poor, Go To Jail

- Subhash Gatade

Whether serving food to the homeless is a crime?
Ask Arnold Arbott, known as Chef Arbott, a 90 year old man from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who along-with two other members of a Church charity faces potential jail term for at least six months for the same ‘offence’. In fact his name finds prominent mention in the police records in the past week for breaking the new city ordinance which has come into effect recently which characterises his act as breach of law, according to reports.
Talking to a newsperson he said:
“These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. They don’t have a roof over their head. And who could turn them away?”
Report published in ‘Independent’ tells us that he has been a campaigner of sorts who had sued the City of Fort Laurderdale when he was banned from feeding the homeless on the beach. (1999) and the court vindicated his stand and declared that the rule was against the constitution.
It may be mentioned here that starting in about 2006; several cities began arresting, fining, and otherwise oppressing private individuals and non-profits that feed the homeless and less fortunate.
Las Vegas happened to be the first city which banned feeding the homeless (2006) under the ostensible reason that ‘..[g]iving food to people already in the public park violated statutes requiring permits for gatherings of 25 or more people. “When the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada took issue with this interpretation of permit laws, the City took a more direct approach: “it explicitly outlawed the sharing of food with anyone who looked poor.” Another reason given by the city Mayor to enact such a regulation was to “push all homeless feedings indoors where it would be safer” but according to civil liberty activists it was not to protect the health of the homeless but “to protect city’s image in a tourist area”.
Coming back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida the new regulations – which has come into effect or is planned to in Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, and Philadelphia – ‘[r]equire groups to be at least 500 feet away from residential properties and food sites are restricted to one per city block, but charities have criticised the rules as forms of implementing social cleansing.’

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ghulam Azam: Death of a War Criminal

Subhash Gatade


Ghulam Azam. Photo:
Wily strategists meet their nemesis in unexpected ways. 

Ghulam Azam, the once all powerful leader of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, who died recently, might have brooded over this old dictum, in his last days in detention. It was only last year that he was sentenced to 90 years of imprisonment for his crimes against humanity which he committed when people of the then East Pakistan - today's Bangladesh - had risen up against the occupation army of Pakistan in the year 1971.

It was not surprising that the funeral of this man who evoked intense hatred and loathing from a large cross-section of the population of Bangladesh for his role during and after the liberation of the country witnessed protest demonstrations all over the country. There were even demands that his body be sent to Pakistan for final rites and should not be buried here. 
“The janaza (funeral prayer) of a war criminal can never be held at the national mosque,” 
Ziaul Hasan, chairman of Bangladesh Sommilito Islami Jote, an alliance of progressive Islamic parties, said at a human chain near the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque where Azam’s body was taken for funeral prayers. (The Telegraph, 27 th Oct 2014).

It is now part of history how as Ameer (Chief) of the then East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami he had played a pivotal role in forming collaborator forces with the Pakistani army- namely Shanti (peace) Committee, Razakar, Al Badr, Al Shams. He was the ‘torchlight’ who guided massacres of intellectuals in Dhaka at the end of the conflict.(Dec 71). As the official charge sheet tells Al-Badr, the militia floated by Jamaat-e-Islami, was entrusted the job of exterminating Bengali intelligentsia by the Pakistani military in mid Dec 1971 - because it was believed that they were the brain behind the struggle for independence.

The facts regarding the bloody period which accompanied Bangladesh’s emergence have been recounted n number of times. It need be noted here that Bangladeshi authorities claim that as many as 3 million people were killed in this struggle, while news outlets like BBC have quoted the figures in the range of 3,00,000 to 5,00,000 for the estimated death toll as counted by independent researchers.An official Pakistan government investigation after the debacle of 1971 - under the Hamoodur Rahman Commission after ‘acknowledging its mistakes’ itself had put the figure as 26,000 civilian casualties.

Even after emergence of an independent Bangladesh after the nine-month-long Liberation War in 1971, Ghulam Azam continued in his crusade to thwart its survival, as he tried in vain to revive East Pakistan and spread propaganda against Bangladesh for several years.After the assassination of Sheikh MujiburRahman in the year 1975, he had returned to Bangladesh on August 11, 1978 on a Pakistani passport. He subsequently got back his citizenship and re-joined his position as the Ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

[NSI Statement] For Women's Right to Choice and a Gender-Just Delhi University!

In a bid to make Delhi University a gender-just space we hail the right of women and men to love freely, choose their partners with freedom, irrespective of caste, class, region, religion or ethnicity, and the right to choose their sexuality. We celebrate love as an emotion that allows people to relate to other human beings in a way which enriches us by associating with others on the basis of equality. However, women's right to make choices about their own bodies and lives have been resisted ever since these ideas were first articulated. Instead, it is something that has been earned by the struggles and toils of the women's movement in India and across the world. The Delhi University administration along with the Delhi police and several right wing student organisations have frequently invoked the issue of women's safety and security as a smokescreen to monitor and control the freedom, mobility and sexuality of youth, particularly women. Instead of undertaking the urgent task of making the Delhi University and its surrounding areas safe for women at every hour of the day and night, these authorities and organisations lay the onus of the safety of women, on women themselves. Early hostel curfews for womens' hostels are the starkest example of this. 

We are committed to creating a university campus free of sexual harassment. We urge everyone to work towards ensuring a safe and secure Delhi University, by educating men and boys who objectify and disrepect women and other genders. We urge university authorities, police officials, student organisations and all individuals to work towards educating individuals against misogyny and training in gender sensitivity. We urge all to take up the issue of the recent dismantling of Ordinance XV(D) that had been put in place after much struggle in order to create mechanisms to prevent and deal with cases of sexual harassment in DU. Education of youth must include awareness about an individuals' constitutional rights, including the right to choose a partner and marry anyone of any caste or religion, and awareness about the Special Marriages Act. 

Instead of focusing on substantive issues that contribute to creating a safe and secure Delhi University, a campaign has recently been launched by a right wing student organisation to ensure "women's safety and security" in Delhi University by emphasizing two issues. They intend, as has been reported in the media, to educate (Hindu) women so as to prevent them from being 'lured' into marriage by Muslim men followed by forced conversion, and from the "menace of live-in relationships" that run counter to "Indian culture". The frenzied rhetoric of Love Jihad, the phrase coined by the Sangh Parivar to point to marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men, has gained ground since the election of the BJP to power in the Center. All of this is being pursued in the Delhi University too, all in the name of ensuring safety and security for women. "Indian cultural values" are invoked to curb women's right to freely choose their partner. 

It is in the name these same "Indian cultural values" that the Indian State continues to deny the existence of marital rape arguing that sex between a husband and wife can never be coercive. This is based on the higher status given to a man's conjugal rights than to a woman's right to choice, to say no to sex and to take decisions about her body. The simple denial of marital rape is the biggest example of the crass patriarchal nature of "Indian cultural values". It is in the name of these same values that women are morally policed, and the onus of sexual harassment and violence is placed squarely on women, blaming them for the clothes they wear, the time of night or day they move around, and the company they keep. From the outrageous suggestions such as calling your rapist "bhaiya", blaming foods like chowmin for creating heat, somehow only in men's bodies, for their uncontrollable sexual urges, blaming education for rising sexual crimes against women, or suggesting sexual violence only takes place in urban India and not in rural Bharat, the Sangh Parivar along with other regressive institutions such as Khap Panchayats have repeatedly and in no uncertain terms attempted to hold women and their choices responsible for sexual violence against them. These are the same forces which kill couples for choosing partners of their own choice, often from different castes. These are the same forces which beat up couples on Valentine’s Day claiming it goes against "Indian culture". There is little space in this scenario for individuals to make their own choices about their own lives, particularly women, and instead a set of non-negotiable rules are imposed with violence and aggression. 

The act of "raising awareness amongst women about the menace of live-in relationships" smacks of a patronising attitude that treats women as though they know little about the world. If we are truly to make the Delhi University a safe and secure space for women and other genders, we must stand first and foremost for women's right to choice and respect women as thinking individuals who are capable of making decisions about their own lives.


Delhi University Chapter
New Socialist Initiative (NSI)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

‘Rip Van Winkle’ and Raman Singh Government

-Subhash Gatade
Can an elected Panchayat deprive a section of its own people belonging to a minority community its constitutionally granted right to practise its religion - e.g. organise prayers or engage in religious propaganda and have sermons ?
Or can it ever deprive them of their mandatory quota of grain under PDS (public distribution system)?
Anyone conversant with rudimentary understanding of law would reply in the negative. It appears that in Chattisgarh they do it differently. In fact, Sirasguda, Kunguda and many other villages in Jagdalpur and adjoining areas in the state are in the news for similar reasons.
Few days back a team of civil liberty activists belonging to PUCL had visited the villages and had come back with stories of intimidation faced by a section of the villagers - mainly belonging to Christian community - at the hands of Hindutva fanatics. Many amongst them have even left for Jagdalpur fearing reprisal attacks by them. These tribals are being pressurised to 'return to Hinduism'.
The local MP from the area - belonging to BJP - had organised a big 'reconversion' programme (presented as 'gharvapasi') in Kunguda on 11th October which 'witnessed' 33 tribal families embracing Hinduism. It is rumoured that the actual figure was low and many of the 'convertees' were Hindus only. The big congregation organised on this occasion was followed by a procession in the village itself where anti Christian slogans were raised which further terrorised the people.
A tragedy is that the local media is either silent over these developments or is presenting one sided versions of the whole developments there. And as far as the police is concerned it is no better. The very fact that resolutions of the local Panchayats are being used to deprive the minority Christians ( all of them tribals) of their basic constitutional rights does not seem to be their concern. The hapless christian tribals are even denied grain under PDS Scheme.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NSI Public Meeting: Can Caste be Swept Away?

New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Public Meeting

Can Caste Be Swept Away?


Bhasha Singh 
(Senior Journalist, The Outlook)
 Prof. Satish Despande 
(Department of Sociology, delhi school of Economics)
Prof. N. Sukumar
(Department of Political Science, Delhi University) 


Subhash Gatade
(Author and NSI Activist)

3 pm onwards; 15th October, 2014 

Venue: Seminar Room, Department of sociology, Delhi School of economics, Delhi University

Background Note: It is cleaning season in India. Country's prime minister has gone to town with a broom. He started the campaign to clean India by sweeping a dalit neighbourhood of erstwhile untouchables, seemingly breaking many caste barriers. There are very few public defenders of caste system nowadays. After the affirmative action for lower castes in educational institutions and government jobs has begun to show some results, upper caste men and women, whose ancestors only three generations ago fought tooth and nail to not yield even an inch of their caste privileges, now cry and organise under the slogan of equality. Are we witnessing the spectacle of caste being swept away into the dustbin of history? 

Reality of India is too complex for this simple hope. If caste appears to be disregarded, or flouted, in some domains, its prejudices and violence are flourishing in others. The day country's news channels were busy showing the prime minister sweeping a dalit bastee in the heart of the capital, a young woman of Madurai in Tamil Nadu was burnt alive by her family for marrying a dalit. She could have been from anywhere in the country, from Haryana in the North to Maharashtra in the West, or Bihar in the East, to have met a similar fate; if not murder, certainly social ostracism. In all villages, where majority of Indians live, habitation areas are divided along caste lines; upper and dominant castes occupy the most secure central areas with easiest access to public utilities like road, school, and panchayat ghar; and dalits live on the outskirts. In cities too, where caste markers are less visible, caste networks are the most effective resource the poor fall back upon while searching for job and habitation, Here too dalits occupy the most low paying jobs and occupy most vulnerable habitations. Come election time, the caste distribution of any constituency is the primary data for electoral calculations of every major political party. Caste distinctions have strong correlation with differences in income, education, and access to most sought after jobs. Caste remains a major determinant of personal life experiences. It stamps marriage and friendship of Indians, from a landless agricultural labourer to high professionals integrated into global economy. Yet, when one looks at the self-articulation of influential Indians about their country, caste is one social reality rarely discussed. The vision of the great future that country's prime minister painted for his fawning NRI audience at the Madison Square in New York had not a single reference to caste. Country's popular media, soap operas, films rarely refer to caste, in striking contrast to religion which is almost always carried on the sleeve. 

Why these two contrasting features of caste, its overwhelming presence in social reality, while simultaneous absence in dominant discourses? In fact, the absence of caste in India's dominant imaginings is not really an absence, a silence resulting from ignorance, lack of familiarity or interest. This absence is a symptom of a carefully crafted sub-text about caste, that serves the interests of a certain type of caste hegemony. Take the 'Swachh Bharat' campaign, a five year campaign to make India clean. If the campaign is successful, it will certainly make life better for every Indian, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. What better proof can there be of the universal concerns of the Indian state, or the currently ruling Bhartiya Janta Party, for the welfare of all? The inaugural 'event' of the campaign saw country's prime minister sweeping a Balmiki basti on 2nd October. But, why a dalit basti? Are these the dirtiest of the places in the country? Decades before Mr Modi went for his sweeping errand in the said bastee, Gandhi had lived there for a few days. Country's media and chatterati only saw the association with Gandhi on 2nd October, and his emphasis on cleanliness. But Gandhi had started his struggles with cleanliness by cleaning the community latrine at his Tolstoy Farm in South Africa, which did involve breaking some serious caste taboos. This was much before he started the practice of living in Dalit bastees for a few days at a stretch, mainly after his conflict with Ambedkar over separate electorates for the then untouchable castes. Gandhi also chastised caste Hindus, even declared the Bihar earthquake as a divine punishment for the sin of untouchability. He was rightly criticised by Tagore for spreading gross irrationality and superstitions. However, he at least had the moral courage. The current breed of leaders of the 'Hindus' are obviously of a different kind. Our prime minister is a proud Hindu, he would surely know that surroundings of Hindu temples, or places of pilgrimages like Banaras, are among the filthiest in the country. Why not start a campaign of cleanliness from there? No secularist would have criticised him for exhorting his co-religionists to keep their places of worship clean. Yet, only a dalit basti is seen fit for starting the national cleanliness campaign! Why? Because in the caste ridden popular consciousness of India, both dirt and broom are associated with dalits, the Balmiki caste in northern India, and other similar dalit castes in other parts of the country. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

हैदर के बहाने

-जावेद अनीस 

सियासत बेरहम हो सकती है, इतनी कि ऐसा जख्म दे कि वह नासूर बन जाए , ऐसा नासूर जिसे कई पीढ़ियाँ ढ़ोने को अभिशप्त हों , आगे चलकर यही सियासत इस नासूर पर बार-बार चोट भी करती जाती है ताकि यह भर ना सके और वे इसकी आंच पर अपनी रोटियां सेकते हुए सदियाँ बिता सकें। 1947 के बंटवारे ने इन उपमहादीप को कई ऐसे नासूर दिए हैं जिसने कई सभ्यताओं-संस्कृतियों और पहचानों को बाँट कर अलग कर दिया है जैसे पंजाब, बंगाल और कश्मीर भी। इस दौरान कश्मीर भारत और पाकिस्तान के लिए अपने-अपने राष्ट्रवाद के प्रदर्शन का अखाड़ा सा बन गया है। पार्टिशन से पहले एक रहे यह दोनों पड़ोसी मुल्क कश्मीर को लेकर दो जंग भी लड़ चुके हैं, छिटपुट संघर्ष तो बहुत आम है। आज कश्मीरी फौजी सायों और दहशत के संगिनियों में रहने को मजबूर कर दिए गये हैं। खुनी सियासत के इस खेल में अब तो लहू भी जम चूका है। आखिर “जन्नत” जहन्नम कैसे बन गया, वजह कुछ भी हो कश्मीर के जहन्नम बनने की सबसे ज्यादा कीमत कश्मीरियो ने ही चुकाई है,सभी कश्मीरियों ने। 

ऐसी कोई फिल्म याद नहीं आती है जो कश्मीर को इतने संवदेनशीलता के साथ प्रस्तुत करती हो लेकिन शेक्सपियर प्रेमी फ़िल्म डायरेक्टर विशाल भारद्वाज अपनी नयी फिल्म 'हैदर' में कश्मीर और “जन्नत के बाशिंदों” के दर्द को बहुत ही संवेदनशीलता के साथ उकेरने में कामयाब रहे है। इसी बात को लेकर आज दोनों मुल्कों में हंगामा बरपा है, दरअसल भारत और पाकिस्तान दोनों मुल्कों में कश्मीर पर खुल कर और अलग नजरिये से बात करना “टैबू” माना जाता है। पाकिस्तान में तो 'हैदर' रिलीज़ ही नहीं हो पायी क्योंकि वहां के सेंसर बोर्ड का मानना है कि फिल्म में कश्मीर को लेकर कुछ विवादास्पद बातें हैं और उन्हें इसके कहानी के कुछ हिस्सों पर एतराज़ है। इधर भारत में भी ‘हैदर’ को तारीफ के साथ साथ विरोध का भी सामना करना पड़ रहा है,सोशल मीडिया में इसको लेकर काफी विरोध हो रहा है।

लेकिन 'हैदर' कोई कश्मीर पर बनी फिल्म नहीं है और ना ही इसके मेकर ऐसा कोई दावा करते हैं,यह तो शेक्सपियर के मशहूर नाटक “हैमलेट” पर आधारित हैं, विशाल खुद कहते हैं कि ‘मैं 'हैमलेट' को कश्मीर में बनाना चाहता था लेकिन मेरी फिल्म में एक तरह से कश्मीर ही 'हैमलेट' बन गया है’। इससे पहले भी विशाल भारद्वाज “मैकबेथ” और “ओथेले” जैसी शेक्सपियर की रचनाओं पर 'मक़बूल' और 'ओंकारा' जैसी फिल्में बना चुके हैं। लेकिन इस बार उन्होंने “हैमलेट” को 'हैदर' बनाने के लिए ज्यादा यथार्थवादी और संवदेनशील कैनवास को चुना। एक फिल्मकार के लिए 'हैमलेट' और कश्मीर को एक साथ चुनना दो नावों की सवारी की तरह है, लेकिन फिल्म मेकिंग भी रचनाकर्म होता हैं और फिल्म मेकिंग जैसे बाजार पर निर्भर एरिया में दो नावों पर सवारी के लिए हिम्मत और काबलियत दोनों की जरूरत पड़ती है।

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Swach Bharat Abhiyan: Too Many Erasures

- Subhash Gatade

What is important to note that the Conference of the Untouchables which met in Mahad resolved that no untouchable shall skin the dead animals of the Hindus, shall carry it or eat the carrion. The object of these resolutions was twofold. The one object was to foster among the Untouchables self respect and self esteem. This was a minor object. The major object was to strike a blow at the Hindu Social Order.

The Hindu Social Order is based upon a division of labour which reserves for the Hindus clean and respectable jobs and assigns to the untouchables dirty and mean jobs and thereby clothes the Hindus with dignity and heaps ignominy upon the untouchables.

(The Revolt of the Untouchables, Excerpted from Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability : Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol 5 (Mumbai : Govt of Maharashtra, 1989, 256-58)


The inauguration of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, (Clean India Campaign) with much fanfare, with ministers, bureaucrats and others holding Jhadoos (brooms) evoked an interesting reaction from a ragpicker Sanjay who lives in Mehrauli with his parents. “These are the same people from whose houses we pick up garbage every day. This is part of our life. We don’t really understand why they are making it such a big deal,” (PM’s Swachch Bharat Abhiyan has no place for Delhi’s 3 lakh rag pickers, Mallica Joshi , Hindustan Times New Delhi, October 03, 2014))

Sanjay happens to be one among a population of around 3,00,000 rag pickers (according to rough estimates) in Delhi, who are largely invisible and as expected live on the margins of society. It is a different matter that they play a major role in garbage management - right from collecting waste to segregating it for recycling. NGOs working with them feel that the city can easily come to a halt without them because they are the one 'who perform the basic task of taking garbage from people’s houses to dumps in most parts of the city.' At the time of Commonwealth Games held in Delhi few years back, the then state government had even provided few hundred ragpickers with dress and safety equipment etc 'acknowledging' the services they rendered to keep the city clean. 

Time seems to have changed now. As the above mentioned Hindustan Times report further adds; 'The government seems to be in complete denial of their presence even as they reap the benefits of their hard work."

The complete marginalisation of the ragpickers from the much tommed tommed Swachh Bharat Abhiyan does not appear surprising. It is rather symptomatic of the many other 'silences', 'erasures' which accompanied its launching. While analysts have rightly pointed out the manner in which legacy of the Mahatma is being 'reduced' to cleanliness obliterating his lifelong struggle against colonialism and communalisms of every kind and for an inclusive polity not much attention has been paid to the fact that the thrust of the campaign is to project a very samras (harmonious) picture of our society where cleanliness or the lack of it is connected with our 'duty' (Kartavya) towards 'Bharat Mata'. 

Perhaps one can have a look at the oath administered by the PM to everyone who joined this campaign.
“Ab hamara kartavya hain ki gandagi ko dhoor karke Bharat Mata ki sewa karein.” (Now, it is our duty to serve Mother India by removing the dirt.)
Did anyone hear any word about the pernicious 'caste system' during all the media frenzy which witnessed its launching ? Definitely not. In fact caste and related discriminations have become so common and ingrained in our psyche that the media did not find anything newsworthy in it. Perhaps when every other officer was getting ready to have his/her own moment with a broom in hand the mediawallahs decided not to talk about this unique system of hierarchy - legitimised by the wider society and sanctified by religion -which has condemned a section of its own people to the 'profession' of cleaning, sweeping and scavenging. What to tell the outside world that half of India still defecates in the open and there are lakhs of people who are still engaged in this 'profession' of shit collection. In fact, we have designated communities who have been 'forced' in this dehumanising work since centuries together

On closer look we can find that they go by many names in various parts of the country. As Gita Ramaswamy discusses in her book 'India Stinking' (Navayana, 2007) : They are Bhangi, Valmiki, methar, chuhra in Delhi, Dhanuk in UP, han, hadi in Bengal; mehtar, bhangi in Assam; methar in Hyderabad; Paki in coastal Andhra ; thotti in Tamil Nadu; mira, lalbegi, chuhra, balashahi in Punjab. Names may be different but they share the same fate : they belong to the bottom of the Hindu social hierarchy and are untouchables. And under the caste hierarchy, castes that consider themselves superior does enjoy a wider range of choice of occupations but the erstwhile untouchables, today's dalits have the least desirable occupations - removal of human excreta, cleaning, sweeping, leatherwork, skinning of dead animals, removal of human and cattle corpses, rearing of pigs etc. 

We know that despite sixty plus years of independence, while moneybags here can easily compete with moneybags in the advanced world, while rulers of India yearn to make 21 st century as India's century, there has not been any qualitative change in the lifeworlds of the majority of the dalits who are still lying at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Yes, a small section among them has definitely taken advantage of the affirmative action programme and is on the path of upward mobility, but for the majority amongst them, their is no qualitative change in their situation marked by deprivation and discrimination.