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If Gail Omvedt is Katherine Mayo, then Sugatha Kumari is …? Thoughts on Salman’s Predicaments

August 29, 2014

Salman Zalman is a young man from Kerala who has recently been arrested for an alleged act of disrespect towards the Indian National Anthem. As an observer in Kerala, I think young people like him who choose to get involved in public struggles for justice face a number of predicaments that were perhaps not so severe for my generation when we were young. For this reason, I do feel that members of my generation, those of us alive to public issues, need to be more open to the challenges that public-minded younger people face today. Read more…

In The Virile God’s Graveyard

August 28, 2014

( I had spent a week in Gujarat in February-March,2007 and published two reports in TEHELKA. Reproducing the first part to remind myself that it was again in  Gujarat where  the fear of ‘Love Jihad’ was invented in its present incarnation.)

For many Gujaratis, Narendra Modi is a man who provides material and spiritual comforts to his people.Gujarat is calm. And is on the march. Every village of the state is a jyotigram. Narmada water is flowing in abundance in the canals quenching the thirst of Gujaratis. “Was not Surat flooded a few months back and did not the people of Gujarat suffer?” I ask my driver. “No, was not Narendrabhai there to take care of everything?”, he replies. How can anything go wrong when Narendrabhai is keeping watch!

Narendra Modi, you see, does not have a family and he works round the clock, we are informed. I find Modi smiling down at us benevolently from the digital billboards that dot Ahmedabad. There is no escaping his firm developmental smile. “The man has impressive qualities. Gujarat is bound to forge ahead under this workaholic chief minister. A citizen may have doubts about  his secularism, but even his enemies don’t doubt his competence,” writes Gunawant Shah, a popular Gujarati columnist. Read more…

Reflections on Solidarity for Palestine in India: Urvashi Sarkar

August 28, 2014

Guest post by URVASHI SARKAR

Some sections of Indian civil society have reacted to Israel’s most recent brutalities in Gaza with outrage, and rightly so. In its pounding of Gaza which lasted over a month, Israel destroyed essential services and infrastructure, razed houses to debris and wiped out entire families.  Over 2000 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians, and of which over 400 were children. On the Israeli side, sixty-four soldiers and four civilians died. A shaky ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, announced in early August, did not last, with hostilities resuming almost immediately.

It is not uncommon to hear Indian voices supporting Palestine even at a time when right wing forces hold sway in the country; yet there is more to this support than meets the eye. There are internal differences on the matter of Kashmir for instance, regarding the extent to which parallels can be drawn between the Palestine and Kashmir conflicts.  The actualization of both conflicts dates back to the 1940s.  Both regions are heavily militarized; its people suffer routine human rights violations and both are undergoing prolonged self-determination struggles. Each year, Kashmir joins different parts of the world to observe Al-Quds day, held on the last Friday of Ramzan, to observe solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.  Popular anti-India protest sites in Kashmir, such as Ramban Chowk and Maisuma, are referred to as ‘Gaza’ in local parlance.  A Kashmiri teenager lost his life during firing by security forces, in an anti-Israel protest in South Kashmir in July this year. Read more…

Strength Of A Woman? Surabhi Shukla and Anubha Singh

August 26, 2014


The Sports Authority of India recently excluded Dutee Chand from the Commonwealth Games on the basis that her androgen level exceeds the ‘normal’ range thus enhancing her performance and giving her a competitive advantage over other women athletes. This test seeks to eliminate any ‘unfair’ advantage which some women may draw from tested ‘elevated’ androgen levels and is invoked only when women perform excellently in non-traditional competitive sporting arena. Failing to accommodate the role of environmental factors and variations in ‘female’ bodies, such tests are deep rooted in the ideas of gender stereotyping and discrimination and question women’s abilities to perform beyond traditional gender defined roles. Understanding international standards and the constitutional guarantee of fundamental rights in tandem, the unconstitutionality of these tests and the various rights violations visited upon the athlete Dutee Chand begin to surface. Instead of focusing on this incident as a conspiracy or a political scheme, it is time that the matter is seen as violation of rights of Dutee Chand both on the grounds of the test failing to meet international standards and on its patent unconstitutionality.


“I am completely shattered over the development. I am an athlete and wanted to bring glory to my country. All my efforts have gone astray,”

Dutee Chand as reported to the Daily Excelisor, 19th July, 2014 Read more…

When David Became Goliath: Lee-Alison Sibley

August 26, 2014


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…

Why should we stand for the national anthem?

August 24, 2014


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…

Scribbling in Dark Times

August 24, 2014


“In the dark times 
Will there also be singing? 
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

-Bertolt Brecht


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”

Read more…


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