This is a guest post by LEE-ALISON SIBLEY
Back in the 1960s when Hollywood was making a number of movies based on biblical stories, they came out with Orson Welles as King Saul in “David and Goliath.” I was a little kid when I saw this movie, but I remember identifying with little David who yes, played beautifully on his harp, and used his slingshot with divine accuracy. I also remember the monster Goliath – he was huge and ugly and represented the Philistines, our enemies. I cheered in my head and my heart for David to defeat the monster and he did, so that I could feel the good guys won and God was indeed on our side, the side of the Israelites.
Like any idealistic Jew, though not religious, I went to Israel to work on a kibbutz in the summer of 1971. I was in the south, near Eilat and the border with Jordan. Young and naïve, I was friendly with everyone I met — the Sabras of Israel, the Christians in Bethlehem, and Arabs in Gaza. In Gaza? Yes, I was there with a British fellow from the kibbutz who was picking up some cane furniture he had ordered. I wasn’t supposed to be there, of course, and when an Israeli army jeep spotted me, my friend was in big trouble. “Get her out of here immediately!” was the order he shouted. I guess it had something to do with my appearance and that there were no other women on the street at that time. Like I said, I was friendly with everyone – my parents did not raise me to hate, they raised me to love. The Israelis tried to make me feel guilty for not staying in Israel, but I kept saying, “I’m an American, my home is the U.S.A.” Still, I certainly supported Israel and every person I met there had lost someone, a family member or a friend in a war and I felt very sad for them and angry that they lived with the constant threat of attack. Read more…
With increasing reports of people being arrested for not standing for the national anthem, it’s a good idea to remember why they stopped the practice of playing the thing in cinema halls in the first place – nationalism cannot be coercively produced in people’s breasts through such inane, superficial and empty gestures.
And the converse – just because you dont stand up for the national anthem, it doesn’t make you anti-Indian. You may just have another idea of India, or you may show your concern for “India” by some more concrete gesture, or through your politics.
As Anmol Karnik asks:
If we play the national anthem before a television show begins at home, would people stand up? I doubt it. Most people who do it, do it because it’s not socially acceptable to sit down when everyone else is standing. It’s being part of the herd, so there’s probably some part of unity embedded in it, but unity in a forceful and degrading manner.
Just as a matter of interest, this is what the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 says:
Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
There is thus, no legal obligation whatsoever to actually stand while Jana Gana Mana plays. Read more…
“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
There are moments in one’s life when one really feels perplexed.
You find yourself in a situation which you had never envisaged before.
Most of your predictions about the unfolding situation have gone awry or have not proved upto the mark.
One wants to remain calm, to contemplate things around you, take a break, but I know that for people gathered here – activists, writers committed to a cause, political workers – there is no such luxury. As rightly put by Jose Maria Sison, Filipino poet and revolutionary in one of his short poems
“The Tree Wants to be Calm
But the wind will not stop”
A youth from Peroorkada (Kerala) was arrested on Wednesday by the police on charges of showing disrespect to the national flag and the national anthem.
The police said Salman, 25, and his six friends, including two women, had showed disrespect to the national anthem while it was being played inside a movie theatre in the city on August 18. A few others who saw the group remaining seated and allegedly “making catcalls” when the anthem was being played lodged a complaint with the police.
This incident comes just days after a student was arrested in Karwar, Karnataka for similar charges. The Kumta police had arrested Jabeer Khan, a student for allegedly forwarding a message, that according to the complainant, mocked the National Anthem and India.
Statement by concerned citizens on the arrest of Salman and demanding his immediate release
On August 20th night 12 pm Salman a student and social activist from Trivandrum was picked up by the police from his home in Peroorkada. The immediate accusation against him was that he had insulted the national anthem while it was being played in a theatre, where he had gone to watch a movie. Later his comments on Facebook where he questions nationalism as a philosophical and political concept were also pointed out as a reason for his arrest. It is also being reported that there was a deliberate attempt to frame him by some right-wing hindutva groups and that they are the ones who are behind his arrest.
There is a lack of clarity regarding his arrest and the way it was conducted, late in the midnight hours of August 20th. It is clear, though, that none of the customary norms were followed during his arrest. Even after it was said that Salman was taken to the Thampanoor station, the police themselves later denied this. For a whole night and the next day even Salman’s parents had no access to him. In fact, Salman was taken from prison to prison like it is usually done with so called ‘notorious terrorists’ and the police refused to give out any information about him both to his parents and to the lawyers who had contacted them. It was onlyon August 21st evening that it was made known that there was an FIR recorded against him and that a case was registered under IPC act 124 A and 66 A charging him of sedition and of sending offensive messages through communicative service. Though there were many other students with him it is surprising that it was only Salman who was picked out and arrested. Read more…
Guest post by HARSH MANDER
Among most secular progressive people in India today there is the belief – indeed an article of faith – that India has been, through most of its long history, a diverse, pluralist and tolerant civilization – the land of Buddha, Kabir and Nanak, of Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi. It is a culture in which every major faith in the world found through the millennia the space and freedom to flourish and grow, where persecuted faiths have received refuge, where heterodox and sceptical traditions thrived alongside spiritual and mystical traditions, and where ordinary people live and instinctive respect for faith systems different from their own.
All of this is true, and this is why the rise of a narrow, monolithic and intolerant interpretations of Indian culture – what Romila Thapar describes as the right-wing Semitisation of Hinduism – in new India causes us deep disquiet. But what our analysis does not stress often or deeply enough is that all of India, both old and new, has been also built on the edifice of the monumental inequality and oppression of caste, and that this is equally the story of India, old and new. Read more…
Guest post by ADITYA VELIVELLI
The Modi government’s actions over WTO are a case of much ado about nothing. They have pointedly created a false perception over a non-issue so as to appear pro-poor. Modi said “Do we choose feeding our poor or getting good press world-wide?” Turn this statement around and one gets to see the truth of the matter. The real attempt here is “How to masquerade as pro-poor and get good press in India by using WTO?”
This demonstration of concern for the poor helps Modi’s government in implementing ultra-neoliberal economic policies in the coming months. To understand the game-plan one should only look at the people guiding Modi’s economic thinking. Read more…