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India’s Obsession with Elitism is Leading it to Ignore the Marginalized: Rupande Mehta

March 1, 2015

Guest post by RUPANDE MEHTA

Chances are you have heard about Sureshbhai Patel, a 57 year old man, beaten and left temporarily paralyzed by Alabama police. His only crime: while he was out for a walk, a neighbor reported a ‘suspicious’ and ‘skinny black guy’ in the neighborhood causing him extreme distress and nervousness to leave his wife alone at home.

Several elements of this case bring back the ghosts of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, two black lives taken away by police brutality – despite being unarmed, Sureshbhai was subjected to “extreme force” and suspected not because he was Indian but because he resembled a black guy – but also bring to the forefront the enormous emotional and financial support generated not only from Indians but also Americans who rallied behind Sureshbhai and the injustice meted out to him. In a matter of six days, donations worth $190,000 were garnered to help the Patel family with medical bills. The incident also provoked Alabama’s governor to apologize for police’s use of “excessive force” and to initiate an investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, along with the one being conducted by the FBI. Read more…

Reading Between the Lines – A Critique of the UAPA: Avani Chokshi

March 1, 2015

Guest post by AVANI CHOKSHI

It seems ludicrous that in a civilised democratic society like India, a citizen may be practically abducted by police, charged with perfunctory offences and incarcerated without bail on mere suspicion for an indefinite period of time.  But this is indeed the situation in present-day India, with duly passed legislation sanctioning the inhumane state of affairs.

The validity of unjust or immoral laws has long been debated, with two major schools of thought emerging- the positivist school and the naturalist school. The positivist school does not recognise any correlation between the legal system of a society and notions of what ought to be justice. The positivist framework mandates that the law is that ordained by the valid legislator, whereas the naturalist school of thought envisages some rights to be inherent by virtue of humanity of a person. Thus, an unjust law, as per the school of naturalist thought, would be no law at all; positivistic thought, on the other hand, would posit such law to be valid by virtue only of being ascribed to the law-making process. The Hart- Fuller debate  devolved around the law made by Hitler; with Hart contending that laws passed using proper procedure would always be valid and Fuller maintaining that no unjust rule could ever be law. India allows “procedure established by law ” to deprive people of their Fundamental Rights; a state of affairs which reflects positivistic thought in the founders of India. India’s judiciary has slowly moved from this strictly positivist setting to a more naturalistic and liberal interpretation  of the term. This shift has placed India closer to the guarantee of “due process of law” in the United States of America. Read more…

A poem for Rafida Ahmed Banna – Avijit Roy’s Partner: Irfanul Rahman Rafin

February 28, 2015
Avijit Roy and Rafida Ahmed Banya

Guest Post by Irfanul Rahman Rafin, translated from Bengali

[ Kafila normally does not carry poetry. But sometimes we make an exception, and we are making one in the case of this tribute by Irfanul Rahman Rafin, dedicated to Rafida Ahmed Banna, Bangladeshi blogger and partner of Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger who was attacked and killed by Islamist thugs while the couple were on their way back from the Dhaka Book Fair. Roy wrote regularly on the Bangla blog Mukto Mona, and had written several books about religious belief, doubt, homosexuality and other issues. He had recieved death threats from Islamist groups in Bangladesh in the recent past. Roy is not the only blogger, writer and intellectual to have been attacked in this way. Last year, Ahmed Rajib Haider, another blogger opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, was hacked to death in February by a gang of Islamist thugs.

Hundreds of people have come out in protest against the killing of Avijit Roy in Dhaka. The killings of Avijit Roy and Rajib Haider mirror the assasinations of Narendra Dabholkar, and only recently, of Govind Pansare, in India by Hindu Fundamentalist thugs. ]

Avijit Roy and Rafida Ahmed Banya

Avijit Roy and Rafida Ahmed Banna

Sister Banna, listen
by Irfanur Rahman Rafin (translated from Bengali)

I don’t have the words to beg forgiveness
But something still has to be said
So I whisper in your ear sister Banna
Seven brothers still stand by Parul

I know some will say it was atheism
I will say he was child of my mother
We will see if they or Nazrul was right
Those who claim divinity to take life

Do not believe their prophecies
Those who play games with corpses
The war began with bullets and fire
Bringing white shrouds to each home

In this land nobody’s life has value
I know blood flows equally for all
But sister Banna listen to these words
Even the hardest heart cries out today

February 28, 2015

বন্যাদি তুমি শোনো

ক্ষমা চাইবার ভাষা নেই আজ কোনো
কিছু একটা তো বলতেই হয় তাই
কানে কানে বলি বন্যাদি তুমি শোনো
বোন পারুলের পাশে জেগে সাত ভাই

জানি কেউ কেউ বলবে সে নাস্তিক
আমি বলে দেবো সন্তান মোর মা’র
দ্যাখা যাবে তারা নাকি নজরুল ঠিক
খুন করে যারা নিয়ে নেয় দায়ভার

তুমি বিশ্বাস করো না ওদের বাণী
লাশ নিয়ে যারা পাশা খেলে অগোচরে
বুলেট আর আগুন নিয়ে যেই হানাহানি
সফেদ কাফন নিয়ে আসে ঘরে ঘরে

জীবনের দাম এই দেশে কারো নেই
কোনো রক্তই বেশি লাল নয় জানি
তবু বন্যাদি তুমি শোনো আজ এই
দেশে পাষাণেরও চোখ জুড়ে আছে পানি

ফেব্রুয়ারি ২৮, ২০১৫

Widespread Protests in Dhaka Against Avijit Roy’s Killing by Muslim Extremists

February 28, 2015
Killing of Avijit Roy, image courtesy Sudin Chattopadhyay

Standing up to the killing of Avijit Roy, image courtesy Sudin Chattopadhyay


Soon after this brutal killing of the Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger, protests have begun across Dhaka. We extend our support to the struggle against the dangerous forces of religion-inspired extremism. See more detailed report in Al Jazeera here and The Guardian here.

B'desh protests against killing

B’desh protests against killing, image courtesy The Guardian

हम सब पानसरे

February 25, 2015

अभी पिछले साल की बात है जब जनवरी के मध्य में महाराष्ट्र के कोल्हापुर में ‘डा दाभोलकर की हत्या और तर्कशीलता/विवेकवाद’ विषय पर बोलते हुए कामरेड गोविन्द पानसरे, ने एक अहम बात कही थी कि अंधश्रद्धा के खिलाफ संघर्षरत रहे डा दाभोलकर की हत्या इसी वजह से हुई क्योंकि वह विवेकवादी थे। उनका कहना था कि

‘ऐसे सभी लोग जिन्होंने तर्कशीलता का रास्ता अपनाया, उसका प्रचार किया, उन तमाम लोगों को कुर्बानी देनी पड़ी है। तर्कशीलता की बलिवेदी पर अपने आप को न्यौछावर करनेवाले डा दाभोलकर न पहले शख्स हैं और न आखरी। तर्कशीलता और तर्कशीलता विरोध का यह संघर्ष आदिम काल से चल रहा है और उसमें बदल करना है या नहीं इसके बारे में आप को फैसला लेना होगा।’

निश्चित ही उस वक्त़ किसे यह गुमान हो सकता था कि महज एक साल के अन्दर शहीदों की इस गौरवशाली परम्परा में उनका नाम भी जुड़ जाएगा।

20 फरवरी 2015 को मुंबई के ब्रीच कैण्डी अस्पताल में कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी के इस वरिष्ठ नेता ने अपनी अन्तिम सांस ली। 16 फरवरी को सुबह जब वह अपनी पत्नी उमा के साथ सुबह टहलते हुए लौट रहे थे, तब मोटरसाइकिल सवार युवकों ने उन पर गोलियां चलायी थी। अपनी लम्बी जिन्दगी लेखन से लेकर आन्दोलन, संगठन निर्माण से लेकर रचनात्मक काम आदि तमाम मोर्चों पर एक साथ सन्नद्ध रहा यह सेनानी, चार दिन जिन्दगी और मौत से संघर्ष कर, यह जंग हार गया। इसे विचित्र संयोग कहा जा सकता है कि डा दाभोलकर की मौत और उनकी मौत के तरीके में भी एक समानता थी, मोटरसाइकिल पर सवार युवकों ने दोनों पर तभी गोलियां चलायी गयीं जब वह सुबह टहल कर लौट रहे थे। Read more…

Massive protests against Land Acquisition Ordinance at Jantar Mantar

February 24, 2015

For updates on the protest, visit Abki Baar Humara Adhikar






Images courtesy Abki Baar Humara Adhikar

Innocence Interrupted: Arshie Qureshi

February 23, 2015

Guest post by ARSHIE QURESHI

For a child born in Kashmir, the chances of living a normal life and even survival vary greatly from one region to another. Suppose you are born in the seemingly volatile stretch of Downtown. You may well turn out to be someone whose pictures are flashed on social media as the epitome of bravery, someone whose demise is imminent, and someone ready to wear the ‘Shaheed’ label. I arrived at this place at 4:30 on a cold evening. The room was crowded by women sitting with only one recognizable face; Shehzaad’s mother, Rubeena Akhter. Nobody spoke. The air smelled like rain. After a short while, a tall man in a brown-checkered pheran appeared. Leaning on the walls, he helped himself to one corner of the dimly lit but spacious room. He did not want himself to be identified as a ‘victim of conflict’.

For Shehzaad, life had been altogether different before. He had spent happy summers with his family in the town where violence, as it existed, had never appeared to him naked. By now, he is 23. He has become larger and properly bearded. The one thing which you can’t miss about Shehzaad is that he has giant brown eyes like a dairy cow. That’s what prompts my most idiotic lines of inquiry. Could someone who looks like that really pelt stones on streets? Idiotic, I know. “Do I have to tell you how I was supposed to have been killed that day?” he says, sounding like a gull. I hear a slow whimpering strangled with ache. This soon changes into full-throated babbling—a cascade of terrible, terrified pleading wails as he continued naming those who had been killed during the 2010 agitations.

Read more…


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