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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…

Letter of Solidarity with Greenpeace India: A Statement

April 24, 2015

The move by the central government to freeze Greenpeace India’s bank accounts and block sources of funds, is a blatant violation of the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association. It also seems to be an attempt to warn civil society that dissent regarding development policies and priorities will not be tolerated, even when these are proving to be ecologically unsustainable and socially unjust. These are dangerous signs for the future of democracy in India.

Specific allegations of legal violation contained in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notice are aspects Greenpeace India needs to respond to. However, the notice also charges the organization with adversely affecting “public interest” and the “economic interest of the State”. These charges give the impression that Greenpeace India is indulging in anti-national activities, using foreign funds. However, dissenting from the government’s development policies, helping communities who are going to be displaced by these policies to mobilise themselves, and generating public opinion for the protection of the environment can by no stretch of imagination be considered anti-national, or against public interest. Quite the contrary, any reasonable policy of sustainable development (which the government claims to adhere to) will itself put into question quite a few of the mining, power, and other projects currently being promoted. ”

Civil society organisations in India have a long and credible history of standing up for social justice, ecological sustainability, and the rights of the poor. When certain government policies threaten these causes, civil society has a justified ground to resist, and help affected communities fight for their rights. This is in fact part of the fundamental duties enjoined upon citizens by the Constitution of India.

Read more…

Bangladesh – Stifling A Country: Mahmud Rahman

April 24, 2015

Guest Post by MAHMUD RAHMAN

Mahmud Rahman is a writer and translator from Bangladesh who lives in California. He is one of 23 persons  who are facing possible contempt of court charges from the International Crimes Tribunal 2 in Dhaka for having signed a statement expressing concern over the same tribunal’s contempt of court sentence on the journalist David Bergman for some of his blog posts.

When I think about the state of free speech in the land of my birth, my memories take me back to 1970-71 when I was a higher secondary student in Dhaka, a time of upheaval when East Pakistan was making its way towards independent Bangladesh. Officially we were still under martial law, Ayub’s decade-long dictatorship deposed in favor of Yahya’s rule that came with the promise of elections. Political parties could organize, detainees were set free, the press could publish with fewer restrictions, and people began to launch new magazines and newspapers.

Every stripe of opinion found expression in print. Pushing aside the go-slow conservatism of existing newspapers, new ones emerged. Bengali nationalism, socialism, communism of various hues – all found expression in print. The main Islamist party’s paper acquired a modern press. Books were not that widespread, but you could easily get your hands on Russell and English socialists, and Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Mao. I remember engaging in a mix of agnostic, atheist, socialist, and liberal discussions.

There is something in that sort of ‘spring’ that beckons the young to amplify their voice. Two friends and I wanted to publish a magazine. We came up with a name – The Rebel – and of course, a logo. We split the writing among us. I can’t remember much other than we were inclined towards independence for East Bengal. Our perspective was no doubt seditious but we couched our language with a bit of caution. Did we even know that British-era laws required that publications be registered? In that climate, we felt the state wasn’t looking all that carefully.

Read more…

जनतंत्र में जन का अकेलापन

April 23, 2015

बाईस अप्रैल,2015 का दिन भारतीय संसदीय जनतांत्रिक राजनीति की पराजय के एक  दिन के रूप में याद रखा जाएगा. और इसकी वजह यह है कि एक किसान उस वक्त ‘खुदकुशी’ कर लेता है जब उसी के सवाल पर एक जनतांत्रिक प्रतिरोध सभा हो रही होती है.वह उस सभा से ताकत नहीं महसूस करता, वहां इकट्ठा समुदाय को अपनी बिरादरी नहीं मान पाता, खुद को इस भीड़ के बीच इतना अकेला पाता है कि  मंच से किसानों के हक में दिए जा रहे भाषणों और नारों से उसे यह आश्वासन नहीं मिलता कि उनमें उसकी आवाज़ शामिल है.अपनी आवाज़ उसे अकेले ही उठानी है. और  अदाकारी पर टिके इस जनतंत्र में वह तभी सुनी जा सकती है जब खुद नाटक बन जाए.

गजेन्द्र सिंह ने यही किया.भारतीय किसान के अकेलेपन को और कैसे जाहिर किया जा सकता था? इसे लेकर हम निश्चित नहीं कि यह खुदकुशी ही थी. कतई मुमकिन है कि यह दुर्घटना हो.कि गजेन्द्र सिंह का पाँव फिसल गया और उसके गले पर फन्दा कस गया. कि उसने जंतर  मंतर पर एक पीपली लाइव का प्रभाव लाने की कोशिश की जिसका त्रासद अंत हुआ. Read more…

All that is solid melts into air – the hologram protests in Spain: Geeta Seshu

April 23, 2015

Guest post by GEETA SESHU

The recent hologram protest projected on the street before Spain’s Parliament is an innovative attempt to subvert the country’s ‘citizen security’ provisions that criminalises public protest.

The video of the hologram protest is riveting and surreal, as ghostly figures of women and men march shouting slogans amidst night-time traffic. The figures are clearly distinguishable, the faces discernible. This isn’t computer-aided animation. It’s the real thing.

Or as close to real as a virtual thing can be.

The website ‘hologramasporlalibertad’ (Holograms for Freedom) provides for the subscriber to record her own message and, with a click, a hologram is created. An online petition explains that the ‘citizen security laws’, which obtained final assent in Spain in March, will ‘repress the freedom of peaceful assembly’.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 11.13.01 pm

Read more…

Building Solidarities: Harsh Mander

April 22, 2015

Guest Post by Harsh mander

Indifference is primarily born out of the failure and the fatigue of empathy. Empathy requires both a leap of imagination—to imaginehow the other feels—and solidarities of feeling—to feel the sufferingand humiliation of the other as though they were one’s own. In otherwords, empathy has both a cognitive and affective element: it engagesboth the mind and the heart. Empathy tends to flow more naturallywhen the suffering person is someone I can relate to and understand,someone whom I feel is similar to me in some essential, relatable way,because I can then better imagine what the other person is feeling.

Empathy breaks down when I can persuade myself that the ‘other’ is, in some ways, not like me, not fully human in the way Iand the people of my family, my community, my caste, my gender,my race and, indeed, my sexual preferences are. I can do so when Irefuse to see or acknowledge that people who are of a differentgender, caste, class, religion, sexuality or culture from me are essentiallyhuman in the same way as I am, when I am in the sway of normativeframeworks and politics which cultivate difference and fosterindifference. Read more…

Are We Legit? Roanna Gonsalves

April 21, 2015

ROANNA GONSALVES writes in Southern Crossings, a new blog run by a writers’ collective based in Australia, which aims “to reimagine Australia, South Asia, and the world, through South Asian bodies and minds.”

Aboriginal-flag-1-1024x548

One rainy Mumbai day, sitting in an Udipi restaurant, chai cup in hand, I told a dear friend I would soon leave for Australia.

“I’ll never leave India and be a second class citizen in another country”, my friend said. My chai turned colder and a crinkly skin formed on its surface.

Seventeen years later, I realise that in perceiving a hierarchy of citizens in Australia, my friend was right, but in a manner that he did not intend…

…[T]here were certain fundamental truths that I did not grasp before I got here: Indigenous people i.e. Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, are the First Peoples of this land and the waters that surround it; they formed the First Nations of this continent; this always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

We are not the perpetrators, the ones who wielded the guns in the forgotten wars between invading white settlers and Indigenous Peoples. We are not the victims. However, as mainly economic migrants from South Asia (I acknowledge the many South Asian refugees from the conflict zones of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka), we are not absolved of complicity.

We are beneficiaries of the genocide of Aboriginal people, the dispossession of their land, the loss of their homes, their families, their cultural values, their tongues, their songs. It is such soil that we step on when we first step into Australia, soaked not just with the promise of a ‘first world lifestyle’, but squelchy with the memory of massacre.

Read the rest of this uncompromising and challenging set of reflections here.

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