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Learning from Babasaheb: Harsh Mander

August 23, 2014

Guest post by HARSH MANDER

Among most  secular progressive people in India today there is the belief – indeed an article of faith – that India has been, through most of its long history, a diverse, pluralist and tolerant civilization – the land of Buddha, Kabir and Nanak, of Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi. It is a culture in which every major faith in the world found through the millennia the space and freedom to flourish and grow, where persecuted faiths have received refuge, where heterodox and sceptical traditions thrived alongside spiritual and mystical traditions, and where ordinary people live and instinctive respect for faith systems different from their own.

All of this is true, and this is why the rise of a narrow, monolithic and intolerant interpretations of Indian culture – what Romila Thapar describes as the right-wing Semitisation of Hinduism – in new India causes us deep disquiet. But what our analysis does not stress often or deeply enough is that all of India, both old and new, has been also built on the edifice of the monumental inequality and oppression of caste, and that this is equally the story of India, old and new. Read more…

Who is guiding Modi’s economic thinking and what is their background?: Aditya Velivelli

August 22, 2014

Guest post by ADITYA VELIVELLI

The Modi government’s actions over WTO are a case of much ado about nothing. They have pointedly created a false perception over a non-issue so as to appear pro-poor. Modi said “Do we choose feeding our poor or getting good press world-wide?” Turn this statement around and one gets to see the truth of the matter. The real attempt here is “How to masquerade as pro-poor and get good press in India by using WTO?”

This demonstration of concern for the poor helps Modi’s government in implementing ultra-neoliberal economic policies in the coming months. To understand the game-plan one should only look at the people guiding Modi’s economic thinking. Read more…

Creeping Dictatorship: Concerns from Kerala

August 20, 2014

Guest post by THUSHAR NIRMAL SARATHY

 Are we living in a democratic dictatorship? ‘Democratic dictatorship’ is a much debated concept in Kerala.  I am referring not to that here but to the dictatorship of the executive led by democratically-elected politicians. Recent incidents seem to indicate that this is now an ever-growing tendency in our democracy.

A few months back, a notice with the photos of well-known public figures, which identified them as Maoists, appeared in the Mananthavady police station at Wayanad.  These were pictures of senior, very well-known activists who have fought battles for democracy in Kerala.  Following widespread protests, the police was forced to remove the notice. On 28th July this year, Jonathan Baud, a Swiss citizen was arrested by Valappad police for attending a commemoration meeting of a Maoist leader, Sinoj, who died in an accidental explosion at the forested Kerala- Karnataka border. Mr Baud was in India on a tourist visa. His arrest was big news in the media which had happily swallowed policespeak, and so he was also projected as a Maoist. The reports claimed that he had come here with the express purpose of attending the meeting, and that he delivered a solidarity speech there. Later, when the Commemoration Committee made public its own version of events, the police sensationalism was refuted and had to be withdrawn. The charge against Mr Baud are apparently limited to violation of visa conditions and it was admitted that he had no Maoist links. Read more…

September 5 as Teachers’ Day – The Dalit Critique: Abhay Kumar

August 18, 2014

Guest post by ABHAY KUMAR

While the schools and educational institutions of the country have been observing September 5 as Teachers’ Day since 1962, on the birth anniversary of the first Vice-President and second President of independent India Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975), a section of Dalits, mostly students, activists and intellectuals at public universities, are increasingly denouncing its observance. They contend that the birthday of Radhakrishnan, a Brahmin, should no longer be held as Teachers’ Day because he had made no contribution to the educational uplift of lower castes and classes. Instead they exhort people to observe National Teachers’ Day on January 3, the birth anniversary of the nineteenth century social reformer, and teacher from backward caste, Savitribai Phule (1831-1897).

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According to the biographer of Savitribai Phule, M. G. Mali (Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule, 2005), she was taught by her husband in a school run under the shade of a mango tree. Access to education enabled her to become aware about egalitarian movements at global level as she managed to read the biography of Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846), who fought for liberation of the Black. Later when she became a teacher, it was vehemently opposed by reactionary Brahmins who pelted stone and threw dung on her in order to “save” orthodox Hindu religion. When frustrated Brahmins were unable to deter the zeal of Phules about imparting education, they succeeded in reasoning with her father-in-law, Govinda Rao, to force them to leave home. She preferred eviction with her husband from home to giving up her mission on education. Despite the opposition, they continued to persuade parents to send their daughters to schools. As a result of their hard work, 18 schools were opened from 1848 to 1852. Her dedication to spread education, particularly among subalterns is self-evident from a few lines of her poem. ‘All gets lost without knowledge… We become animal without wisdom…So learn and break the chains of caste….Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.’   Read more…

Why I am an anti-Zionist Jew: Ray Filar

August 17, 2014

RAY FILAR on openDemocracy

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The Israeli government deliberately invokes terrorist attacks, rockets, and scary brown men in headscarfs to stoke the population’s fear, but I am scared of the racism Zionists use to justify the occupation.

The discussions in the comments that follow are equally instructive and interesting – do scroll down and follow those as well.

Don’t let the Magic Fade: Thoughts on Kudumbashree’s Sixteenth Anniversary

August 16, 2014

I do not write on Kafila as frequently as I used to because I don’t want to be writing stories of impending doom all the time. These are times in which we appear doomed, but it does not help to get obsessed with it; in fact, the obsession may actually hasten the downfall.

But these days, we also hear stories which may be told either way. For example, I can tell the story of the mining going on at Mookunnimala in Trivandrum as yet another episode in the continuing story of the destruction of our natural environment and its impending collapse. But I can also tell it another way, foregrounding the resistance that has shaped up there despite the formation of a deadly nexus of Kerala’s political parties, bureaucracy, predatory capitalists and other criminals against local people. Or, I can tell the story of the ‘development’ of the government school at Attakkulangara in the heart of Trivandrum city as another incident that proves the unrelenting march of ‘urban development’ which is nothing but shorthand for the steady takeover of prime urban space by corrupt officials and venal politicians. But it is also a David-and-Goliath tale of how a few dedicated members of the school’s old students’ association, and nature-lovers and environmental activists who go by the name Tree Walk  managed to draw the attention of others, alert authorities, and arrest the steady pace of these forces. Read more…

Happy Independence Day India, Blessings from Kashmir: Onaiza Drabu

August 15, 2014

Guest post by ONAIZA DRABU

??????????????????????????????????????Dear India,

As you celebrate yet another year of the glorious independence; the independence that was the beginning of an era of doom for most of us here, I must inform you that I was unable to get my morning bread. Sixty Eight is a big number and I’m sure the proceedings will be aplenty and that and you have plenty of ‘ache din’. Somehow, I have my doubts but then again, I’m sure our definitions of good differ greatly. However it may be, I have one tiny request.  Please let me eat my breakfast in peace.

It is still two days to go for the Independence Day Parade in Srinagar and I am one of the privileged few who live within a two-kilometer radius of the Bakshi Stadium, the place where the annual flag hoisting ceremony is held. Excess army is deployed all around and as in all such times, our local baker wasn’t allowed to open shop this morning.

As a child, I read your textbooks in school. I read about how Pinky and Shyam would go to their school for the flag hoisting on Independence Day and of course I’d wonder where this would happen. Independence day meant a crackdown or a curfew for all us kids here. Independence day meant that the morose army guy I hated to look at would stand at my gate, staring straight ahead with a blank, yet frightening constancy. Independence day meant my dedicated doctor of a mother had to walk to work for sometimes, they’d not even allow ambulances to ply.

The independence you celebrate to commemorate freedom has forever been associated with barbed wires on streets that restricted access to locations. It is ironical how roadblocks, surprise checks and general inconvenience is what I have forever associated with this independence. General inconvenience here also includes times where each one of the dozen, army-men on every street eyes you with contempt and suspicion. I snigger if you tell me we celebrate freedom on this day. To the many things that are already restricted here this day adds more. Read more…

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