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Periyar – Brahminism’s Nightmare: Satya Sagar

April 26, 2015

Guest Post By  SATYA SAGAR

Trust Markandeya Katju to rush in where angels fear to tread – casually disparaging the legacy of E.V.Ramaswamy Naicker or ‘Periyar’, founder of the Dravidian movement and arguably one of the greatest social reformers in modern India.

 According to former Justice Katju, in a recent post on his Facebook page, “Periyar ( E.V. Ramaswamy) was objectively a British agent, who preached caste hatred, particularly against Brahmins”

It is perhaps a fitting tribute to the revolutionary character of Periyar that, four decades after his death, he is still reviled by upper-caste Hindus of India,of both the Establishment and ‘anti-Establishment’ variety. And Markandeya Katju is not the only ‘secular, progressive’ intellectual  in this country to have such contempt for or very little knowledge of Periyar and his work. Read more…

Enabling Dissent, Defying Silence – In Memory of Sabeen Mahmud: Yaminay Chaudhri and Mariam Sabri

April 26, 2015

Sabeen Mahmud's Slippers

Guest Post by Yaminay Chaudhri and Mariam Sabri

[ This is a post from two friends in Pakistan responding to the tragic assasination of Sabeen Mahmud, activist and director of ‘The Second Floor’ (T2F) – a space that hosted many wonderful conversations and brave events. Sabeen was killed as she was going home after an event dedicated to a public discussion of disappearances and human rights violation in Balochistan.]

A normally quiet and desolate gali is packed with camera crews and hundreds of attendees for the funeral of Sabeen Mahmud. While there is a steady trickle of mourners entering and exiting the premises of the vibrant community space Sabeen created, the crowd waiting in the gali outside seems to be arrested by a mixture of disbelief, anger and grief.

Similar emotions paralyze us as we write about Sabeen in the past tense. It is difficult to believe she is gone, infuriating to think about the way she went, and, perhaps, the hardest to accept the beginning of her absence.

While watching her interview with PBS NewsHour last month, one is struck by how her cavalier attitude to fear and security, reverberates eerily in the wake of her murder.

“I grew up playing cricket on the streets” she said, “I just feel when the time comes, the time will come”.

Read more…

Save Handlooms – Don’t Repeal the Handloom Reservation Act!

April 26, 2015

Please sign this petition to the Prime Minister drafted by LAILA TYABJI  of Dastkar Delhi, appealing against the proposed repeal of  The Handloom Reservation Act, which protects both an ancient body of knowledge and skill, as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of handloom weavers.


Image courtesy Facenfacts


Handlooms are India’s unique heritage and the livelihood of lakhs of skilled handloom weavers.

A move is on to repeal The Handloom Reservation Act, which since 1985 has been protecting traditional Handloom weaves, especially saris, from being copied by their machine-made and powerloom competitors. It was a small but important protection for Handloom weavers, who otherwise struggle to survive. Their yarn, their designs and their markets are under attack.

Now the influential powerloom lobby has agitated successfully that this Act be withdrawn. To say that because we have powerlooms, we don’t need handlooms does not make sense. The handloom can create thousands of distinctive regional weaves and designs that no powerloom can replicate, and a tactile wonderful drape that is also irreplaceable by mechanised means. Globally too, more and more ecologically sensitive international buyers look to India as a source for the hand made.

Each weave has a cultural tradition and a story, each linking us to our social and cultural roots. If we remove the protection and incentives for handloom weavers to continue weaving their traditional products and saris, we would suddenly be bereft of both our past and our future.

Handloom lovers, it’s time to raise your voice! Join us in lobbying against the repeal of The Handloom Reservation Act.


Gajendra’s Tragic Death, Media Spins and the Indignation Industry

April 26, 2015

Gajendra, BJP and the Propaganda Machine

The tragic death of a farmer from Rajasthan occurs at a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party on 22 April 2015. The farmer, Gajendra Singh, hangs himself from a tree in full public view of the demonstrators, the media, the police. The electronic media had till then been barely covering the event, generally holding forth instead, in studio ‘debates’ among the opponents of AAP. Once this happened, the media spin doctors swung into action, and as Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted later, they seemed to work on an already decided script. Sardesai’s tweet said that there were clear instructions from the BJP to the media to focus only on the hung/ dying (or dead) man, and forget the rally. It seems, on a closer look, that the the second part of the instructions had perhaps already been given in advance – not to cover the rally and if at all, to attack it in sponsored studio debates. And of course, the BJP, which is the architect of the new Land Acquisition Ordinance, is an interested party in this game.

It is not entirely irrelevant to the overall politics of the media-BJP spin doctoring  of ‘reports’ that the AAP government in Delhi was perhaps the first in the country to announce what is without doubt the highest compensation to farmers suffering crop losses – Rs 50, 000/- per hectare for all farmers who have suffered damage. Nor is it entirely irrelevant that the Delhi government had lent full support to the anti-land acquisition struggles and Kejriwal had himself joined in the rally held by Anna Hazare and had now taken up the land issue in all seriousness.

Thus it happens that between the BJP and the big media propaganda machine, which has on at least two previous occasions completely blacked out AAP, the stage was set. Also at work in the media-AAP relationship over a longer term now, is the role of Mukesh Ambani’s media empire, given that on a range of issues AAP has directly challenged the latter. As an aside, let me add that a very senior journalist told a friend at the height of the Delhi election campaign, that in CNN-IBN/ IBN7, clear instructions had been issued to the staff not to give more than 20 seconds exposure to Arvind Kejriwal under any circumstances. If AAP swept the Delhi elections despite that, it must say something about the limits of the media game, at least as far as the majority of the population is concerned.

Gajendra singh being rescued, image courtesy

Gajendra Singh being brought down. Image courtesy

This time round, there was another constituency that was waiting to move into action – the Delhi elite, especially the radical elite whose hatred of Kejriwal is simply visceral, but which had been just about tempered by the presence in his team of People Like Themselves, darlings of the media. The latter had, to use an old Maoist expression, ‘wormed its way into the party’ and was intent on fighting an ‘ethical battle for inner party democracy’ against the ‘fascist Kejriwal’, a battle in which they were fully backed by the Ambani dominated media.

Read more…

Rattling the bag – Language Knowledge and the transformation of the university in South Africa and India: Dilip Menon

April 25, 2015

[Note: Recent events in South Africa – from raging student movements across university campuses to xenophobic violence in the streets of Durban – seem to echo so many struggles both inside and outside the university “here.” This is the second post from South Africa that seeks to listen and travel across. The first, by Richard Pithouse, is here.]

Guest post by DILIP MENON 

Susa lo-mtunzi gawena. Hayikona shukumisa lo saka
Move your shadow. Don’t rattle the bag

JD Bold, Fanagalo Phrase Book, Grammar and Dictionary, the Lingua Franca of Southern Africa, 10th Edition, 1977

In the bad old days in South Africa, whites spoke English or Afrikaans, the languages of command. When they did engage with those that did not speak English, there was Fanagalo, a pidgin based on Zulu peppered with English and some Afrikaans. Fanagalo was developed in the mines and allowed directives, if not conversation. The struggle against apartheid produced its freedoms, its heroes and heroines and new dreams of equality. As Richard Pithouse in his article shows, twenty years down the line the sheen has worn. Unemployment, xenophobia, violence, crime and a seemingly entrenched inequality dog our dreams. We live with the constant premonition of becoming an ordinary country, a nation like any other. Read more…

Occupational Hazard- Militarisation and Disaster Vulnerability in Jammu and Kashmir: J&K Coalition of Civil Society

April 25, 2015


Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society recently released a report called ‘Occupational Hazard: The Jammu Kashmir Floods of September 2014. The full report is available at The following is a short executive summary. 

The Jammu and Kashmir floods of September 2014, occurred in the most densely militarized occupied territory in the world, located in one of its most ecologically fragile– the Western Himalayan region—called the ‘third pole’ for its enormous glacial reserves of fresh water. Warfare, armed conflict and prolonged occupations are widely considered among the most environmentally destructive activities known to mankind. Yet the role of the massive military deployment, and the militarised governance structures of Jammu and Kashmir has not received much attention in this analysis. The military occupation of J and K has included the expropriation, and weaponization of huge areas of land, the building of large scale permanent military installations, and the creation of militarised infrastructure in the ecologically fragile Himalayas, which have contributed directly to the region’s disaster vulnerability. The occupation of civic amenities, public buildings and community spaces has also had a direct impact on emergency preparedness, evacuation and humanitarian response. Using official documents, news reportage, case studies, and oral narratives, the report explores the causes and impacts of the flooding, and local community responses, in terms of survival, rescues and relief. It also presents an analysis of the dominant media framing of the disaster, and the local resistance to media narratives of the militarised humanitarianism of the Indian occupying forces. This report thus raises questions of accountability, governance, media representation, political participation and democracy in the backdrop of a militarised occupation, at the disputed borders of a security state.  Read more…

An inability to grieve

April 25, 2015

Sarcasm in the  moment of death? For this you need to be evil. For, the first human reaction to death is silence. Even in the case of a normal death. It suddenly reminds us of our own mortality. Impermanence of our existence. When death is not normal, when it is an accident, a suicide or a murder, it shocks us. Or, it should. A life cut short unnaturally creates a void in us. A sense of unfulfillment. And our gaze turns inwards. We tend to become reflective. Words do not come easily to you. On  most of the occasions they sound false, even obscene. Therefore, we console the grieving not though words but by touching them. It is not easy to make sense of death, in whichever form it strikes us. Read more…


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