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‘Are you a Mulla or one of us?’

June 18, 2015

Apoorvanand with Ali Javed and Satish Deshpande

It has been ten days since the Muslims of Atali have returned.  Normalcy has been restored.  Or it is being restored, if we are to believe the grave voice of the police officer on the phone who very politely advises us against entering this Haryana village that was hit by anti-Muslim violence on 25th May.

“Please come back after a week.  The situation is very sensitive here, you should understand.  A misinformed ‘outside’ intervention might break the delicate peace we have managed here.”

We do not want to test the patience of the police men and women guarding the peace of  Atali, braving the merciless sun beating down on them.

“We are here precisely to understand this process of restoration of peace,” we make a vain attempt to convince the officer. “Your academic curiosity can wait, we cannot take a chance with outsiders. Memories of the conflict get revived with such visits.”

It is not very difficult to sense his growing irritation as we persist, but the phone line gets disconnected and cannot be re-connected.

We are not here to collect ‘facts’.  These are already known and follow a familiar storyline involving claims of harassment of women and, of course, a disputed mosque.  What is new and unfamiliar in Atali is that, despite their unresolved grievances, the Muslims were ultimately persuaded to return by their Hindu co-villagers.

However reluctant it might be, such a return is unheard of in the numerous instances of communal violence of the last decade.  On the contrary, geographies centuries old have been permanently altered in places like Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar.  Villages have turned their back on their own neighbours of several generations, and far from calling them back, have only stoked the hatred.  What is it about Atali that makes it different?

We are here to see the Atali that has brought back its Muslims. Read more…

Suicide of a ‘Criminal’ or Murder of the Stigmatized? : Anuja Agrawal

June 16, 2015

This is a guest post by ANUJA AGRAWAL

Criminal sets self ablaze outside police station’, says a small news item in a local edition of a leading newspaper. The report suggests that a 22- year- old ‘criminal’ set himself ablaze outside a police station in Nanded district, Maharashtra, after some members of his family were arrested. It claims that the young man was a known ‘property offender’ with three cases against him and goes on to describe how the police had been assaulted by his family members when they had gone to investigate a case filed against him by a local trader.  Why a ‘hardened’ criminal should have committed suicide outside the police station would elude the readers if they pondered over the content of this news item. But by now most of us would have moved to the next ‘story’ Read more…

An Open Letter to Mr Gajendra Chauhan by FTII Student

June 15, 2015

Guest Post by FTII student

As protests against the appointment of Mr Gajendra Chauhan as new chairman of the Institute gather steam, with students on an indefinite strike since 12th June and a joint protest being organised in Delhi on Tuesday at 11 am in front of I&B ministry in solidarity with the strike, here is an open letter written to the newly appointed Chairman by a FTII student.

Facts are also coming to the fore that not only Mr Chauhan but four of the eight members nominated under ‘Persons of Eminence’ category to the society also have saffron connections, further demonstrating how the Sangh Parivar is keen to change the very ethos and nature of these institutions and establish its regressive agenda.

Dear Mr Chauhan,

I am choosing to address you personally after listening to you respond on several TV news debates about the recent opposition against your appointment as Chairman at FTII. I am a student of FTII and part of the protest. Read more…

Muslims, Yoga and the Empty Heart of Fanaticism: Kaif Mahmood

June 15, 2015

Guest post by KAIF MAHMOOD

As a Muslim, a student of Comparative Religion and a practitioner of yoga for over a decade, I believe that both those Muslims who object to the practice of yoga on religious grounds and those others who force the practice on the unwilling, trivialise their own traditions in the service of power and identity politics. Neither is Islam an inane system of punishments and rewards, nor is yoga an ancient version of a modern gym. Both groups are a parody of what their traditions were meant to be, and pose to us the question of how to be culturally rooted without assuming an isolationist, chest thumping fanaticism of the religious kind on the one hand, and of a culturally deracinated, materialistic kind on the other – two sides of the same coin. I attempt here a reading of both the religious traditions involved in a manner that is both philosophical and personal.

The recent objections by certain Muslims over compulsory yoga in schools brings to mind a scene from Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi.

A group of RSS workers, waving black flags, stop Gandhi’s car and request him to not meet with Jinnah. Gandhi replies with a sorrowful agitation: “What do you want me not to do? Not to meet with Mr. Jinnah? I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian, and a Jew, and so are all of you. When you wave those flags and shout, you send fear into the hearts of your brothers. That is not the India I want. Stop it, for god’s sake, stop it.” The car moves on, leaving the protestors, including Nathuram Godse, in anger and incomprehension.

The difference between one who breaks down walls of separation and one who creates them could not have been clearer. Read more…

प्रचारक का स्त्री चिन्तन

June 12, 2015

जुबां फिसलती है और शायद बहुत अनर्थ करा देती है।

बांगलादेश की जनाब मोदी की ‘सफल यात्रा’ के बाद उनके हिमायती शायद यही सोचते हैं। यह अकारण नहीं कि ‘स्त्री होने के बावजूद शेख हसीना द्वारा किए गए कामों की तारीफ कर’ बुरी तरह आलोचना का शिकार हुए प्रधानमंत्री मोदी के चीअरलीडर्स का कहना रहा है कि यह जुबां फिसलने का मामला है और उसकी इतनी आलोचना ठीक नहीं है।

अगर सन्देह का लाभ देकर इस मसले पर बात न भी की जाए, मगर आप इस मौन की किस तरह व्याख्या करेंगे कि उन छत्तीस घंटों में उन्होंने एक बार भी सुश्री इंदिरा गांधी का नाम नहीं लिया, जो बांगलादेश की मुक्ति के वक्त भारत की प्रधानमंत्री थीं । अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी के नाम बांगलादेश सरकार द्वारा दिया गया पुरस्कार स्वीकार किया, मगर बांगलादेश की मुक्ति के बाद जिन वाजपेयी ने उन्हीं इंदिरा गांधी को ‘दुर्गा’ के तौर पर सम्बोधित किया था, उनका एक बार नामोल्लेख तक नहीं किया।

यह निश्चित ही भुलने का मामला नहीं था, अगर ऐसा होता तो उनके साथ इतना बड़ा दल गया था, वह उन्हें अवश्य याद दिलाता। दरअसल यह उपरोक्त नाम को लेकर जुबां को सिल देने का मामला था। पूछा जाना चाहिए कि क्या होठों पर कायम चुप्पी क्या राजनीतिक क्षुद्रता का प्रतिबिम्बन था ? या उसके कुछ और मायने थे। Read more…

Cities, Smart or Self Reliant? Rajendra Ravi

June 12, 2015

Guest post by RAJENDRA RAVI

The incumbent government has reportedly resolved to build a hundred smart cities in near future. And the concept seems to have taken our world by storm offering little space, if any, for a dissenting voice. Of course, a few tremors of resistance have emerged from areas where the lands are being acquired or have been marked for acquisition. For, resistance is something that is perennial: it never fails to strike back when the forces of eviction and deprivation come together to uproot people from their habitats. Human history stands witness to the fact that it is the mass protest and organized resistance that have compelled the development machinery to re-evaluate its orientation. Arguably, the tendency has actually reinforced and deepened the institution of democracy.

However, let us not overlook the fact that every community or a social group on this globe has taken the course of migration in its quest for development either as a conscious decision or compulsion. As a consequence, the phenomenon has substantially influenced the nature and configuration of habitats, leading the small hamlets to become large villages and bigger villages morphing into towns. Eventually, these very towns end up being cities. This has been quite a predictable trajectory of human development. Historically speaking, the process has involved efforts both at the level of government and the society at large. But, at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that the government has a far more crucial role to play in it – a role, which is always informed by the ideological outlook of various political parties and governments. This role is also conditioned by the fact whether or not the parties and governments in question seek to build an egalitarian and democratic society. Read more…

Iceland Jailed Bad Bankers While Modi Govt Bails Out Defaulting Sugar Mills

June 11, 2015

In February this year, Iceland jailed four of its rogue bankers for market manipulation and for defrauding ordinary people. No, the heavens did not fall. Thunder and lightning did not strike. The wrath of God did not descend upon the people of Iceland. On 13 February 2015, Reuters had reported:

Iceland’s Supreme Court has upheld convictions of market manipulation for four former executives of the failed Kaupthing bank in a landmark case that the country’s special prosecutor said showed it was possible to crack down on fraudulent bankers. Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, Kaupthing’s former chief executive, former chairman Sigurdur Einarsson, former CEO of Kaupthing Luxembourg Magnus Gudmundsson, and Olafur Olafsson, the bank’s second largest shareholder at the time, were all sentenced on Thursday to between four and five and a half years. –

In less than four months since this happened, Mathew Yglesias reported in Vox Business and Finance two days ago that the economy had in the meanwhile done quite well:

Yesterday, Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, announced a plan that will essentially close the books on his country’s approach to handling the financial crisis — an approach that deviated greatly from the preferences of global financial elites and succeeded quite well. Instead of embracing the orthodoxy of bank bailouts, austerity, and low inflation, Iceland did just the opposite. And even though its economy was hammered by the banking crisis perhaps harder than any other in the world, its labor didn’t deteriorate all that much, and it had a great recovery.

For those who have seen the brilliant documentary film Inside Job, which exposed the unscrupulous game played by the bankers and the financial oligarchy in defrauding millions of ordinary people and eventually triggering of the financial crisis in the US and the world at large, the story of Iceland’s descent into the dystopic neoliberal world must still be fresh in their minds. Read more…

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