All posts by weatthecommons

People’s Politics Is Not About People – the Lesson ‘Progressive’ Politics Taught Me

Note: this writeup is largely an ‘insider’ criticism about the ‘radical left’ that the writer has come in contact with, online and offline, mostly in Kolkata.

A few experiences with ‘progressives’:

Case 1: “He’s brilliant, y’know, he topped the Joint Entrance Examination! This organization has excellent members, many medical and engineering student.” – is how I was informed about a certain students’ organization. Many of the members of the organization often took pride in the academic records of their own and the fellow members. They took pride in the educational institutes which were ‘centres of excellence’. I saw some of them recently organizing a talk on meritocracy and the problematic conceptions of merit.

Case 2: A discussion was organized. The discussion was attended by quite a few, including students, some of them Dalits and Adivasis, who participated in the discussion. The chief speaker, however, was an upper caste teacher with no history of regular participation in anti-caste struggles. No one said a word when this speaker spoke. No one asked about his neighbourhood, the demographics, the flat-owners. However, there were several interruptions of enquiry – about landholding, demographics etc. in his village – when an Adivasi student was speaking right after him. The discussion was about caste oppression, organised by a platform against caste violence in college campuses.

Case 3: A conference was to be organized in protest against some atrocities. The progressives sat together to decide which persons to invite as speakers. The speakers’ list was decided according to how important the mainstream media finds the speakers.

Case 4: “Ew, look at all the fat on him!” said one progressive person, pointing at a fellow comrade. Another progressive fellow, at a different moment, said to a girl, “you’re pretty!”

Case 5: A progressive person, in a public meeting, described a girl, “she doesn’t do much, she just walks around the campus wearing shorts,” progressively making it a point to mention her clothing.

Case 6: A progressive fellow, eloquent in his description of alienation in the society and the cruelties of capitalism, mentioned of someone, “he’s a waste, he’s just a depressed guy who can’t stick to one job.” On another occasion, the fellow said to another guy, “it’s a low-skill job, which is why you’re paid so low.”

Case 7: A progressive election of committee members – one progressive fellow who has been part of the previous committee calls some others aside, and asks whether they would like to be a part of the new committee. One of them says this cannot be decided like this, others too must opine. Then, the member proposes the names in the meetings, and asks if anyone objects. No one does, and thus the committee is elected.

Case 8: A progressive fellow writes in a magazine that a ‘glorious minority’ emerging from ‘castles’ of progressiveness, which happens to be two of the elite educational institutes of the city of Kolkata, will possibly play a crucial role in ushering in progressive social change (or something of the sort).

Case 9: One progressive to another, “you need to get him into our organization before someone else recruits him into theirs! He seems to be hanging out more with them. What are you doing?”

Case 10: One progressive, at the dissociation from ‘JNU Nationalism’ in a statement condemning anti-Kashmiri violence and RSS-ABVP-media’s role in shutting down discussions on Kashmir, said that she could not stand for ‘militant anti-intellectualism’.

And so on. What I meant to say is that in its practice, as far as I have seen in my limited experience of them in Kolkata, ‘progressive’ politics often marginalizes the vulnerable, the shy one, the ‘ugly’ one, the one who’s struggling to carry on in a world that is so cruel to them, the ones without much ‘social capital’ and upholds the ones with it, just like the rest of the society does, as long as they sing its tune. It talks about debates and discussions, but finds ways to shut down interactions and forms mutually antagonistic cocoons within the ‘progressive’ circles, often through outright slander.

I know I too am far from its vices. I’ve been insensitive, casteist, patriarchal, ableist and so on, and I still often am. This is not guilt-mongering, this is the admission of a problem which needs at least an attempt at a solution. Similar problems exist in various ‘progressive’ quarters, those I am acquainted with, with very little admission, and far less attempts at finding a solution. Take the case of caste. Leftist politics, the kind I’ve seen and have been a part of, owes much to Dalit-Adivasi movements and articulations in developing its understanding of caste oppression and it still has a long way to go, but I’ve hardly seen many admitting to this contribution of Dalit-Adivasi politics (which now compels even the arch-elitist leftists to give a lip-job in condemning the conventional idea of merit and meritocracy). Interestingly, many of the voices critical about Dalit politics (‘identity politics’) do not ascribe any general negative description to left politics. I have come across a post on Facebook strangely describing Salwa Judum as ‘identity politics’, since Salwa Judum talked about getting rid of non-Adivasi ‘outsiders’ from Adivasi-inhabited lands. I wondered if the same poster would also draw an analogy between Marxist-Leninist leftist politics and proponents of theocracy, since the former speaks of a group of ‘vanguards’ who are of an ‘advanced consciousness’ and thus more fit to be leaders, quite like the theocrats who find their religious leaders to be of advanced consciousness. I wondered whether the leftist who described the Dalit-Bahujan web-platform Round Table India as ‘cynical’ (as if after all these years of ignoring and marginalizing the caste issue, there is no reason to be cynical) would also describe Kafila, a website run by various university professors and ‘scholars’, as casteist, if such general descriptions are to be given to them. At the same time, I am hardly acquainted with the various strands of Dalit politics, but I’ve come across constitutionalist, patriarchal, elitist assertions claiming to be propagating the anti-caste cause.

There is no ‘pure’ human being, not even close, nor can there be in this society where one’s self-preservation and gratification are often at odds with those of others. The term ‘progressive’ assigned to oneself is thus often little more than vacuous self-aggrandizement. Yet we must engage with each other, and find modes of socialization that are beneficial to all parties involved. We should engage with all, and at the same time, while oppression exists, we should all have relatively ‘safer spaces’, for it is hard to imagine a person who is not oppressed in some ways. This is cliché, but needs repetition – if the gratification of one rests on the subjugation of another, then that is a problem. Even the informal social networks that we create are often based on hierarchies within, which we need to be mindful of and guard against. We need to stop celebrating social capital in all our engagements. It is NOT politics against oppression where oppressed people don’t get much space to express their thoughts. Neither does it help when various kinds of oppression go unnoticed. We need to get greater participation for all in a political process, find out ways in which people are wrongly excluded from greater and more meaningful participation, and try to resist them.

by Sutanaya

A Report on Caste Oppression That Has Not Seen the Light of the Day

At a time when Dalits are protesting all over the country over Rohith Vemula’s death, we must realize it is pent up anger against institutional casteism, systemic Brahmanism – it is not just about the death of one “scholar who did not use his SC quota” only “who loved reading Carl Sagan”. Those who need such justifications to appease their casteist notions of merit and ‘deserving victim’, either need to mend their ways or step aside, lest they get burnt in the fire of passion that is raging in the country right now. “A Specter is haunting Brahmanism” as a poster read, but not just that of Rohith, but that of a Dalit upsurge, a caste based rebellion. Rohith’s suicide  murder just ignited a volcano waiting to explode.  It only makes sense now to produce a piece on caste oppression that has not been printed in official media (according to the essay itself) – not only because it contains accounts of caste based discrimination but also precisely because it was rejected by Brahmanical media on grounds that there wasn’t “enough proof”.  No peace without justice. 

Rohith – We Shall not Forget, We Shall not Forgive

From Gutta Rohith’s Facebook post:

By Shahina Nafeesa (Translation- Renu Ramanath)

2010 September: To reach the village of Chinthula in Ranga Reddy District you have to travel around 60 kilometers from Hyderabad. That journey was in search of the home of R. Balaraj, who had been a Ph.D Scholar at Central University of Hyderabad. Balraj was researching on Telugu Literature. During the second year of his Ph.D. Balraj hung himself to death. He would have become the first Ph.D. holder from his community, even from his locality. In the tiny, two-roomed house made of laterite there were Balraj’s father, mother, two sisters and brother. He was the only literate one in the household. All others did their caste occupation: tethering cattle. Continue reading A Report on Caste Oppression That Has Not Seen the Light of the Day

The Baba Ramdev-JNU episode – Some Notes on Politics and Education

Here’s a quick observation on the Times Now Newshour Debate on barring Baba Ramdev from speaking at a conference at JNU.

Shehla Rashid, JNUSU vice president and AISA activist said that she and her comrades would not have physically stopped Ramdev and that this was a “civil way of protest” by writing a letter of opposition to the JNU administrators; that this was a case of “principled opposition” – i.e. the main reason for barring him from speaking at the conference was because of Ramdev’s regressive views and because they saw it as an attempt to thrust right leaning elements down the throats of JNU students.

The argument by Prasenjit Bose (ex-JNU, economist) went like this: it is an academic keynote address – you cant question a person who delivers such a lecture because they are supposed to have impeccable academic record (like “Nobel laureates”, in his words), so naturally the question of rebutting Ramdev’s views at the conference does not arise, thereby him being barred was legitimate. This is a very dangerous mindset – how can someone be considered beyond question, no matter how decorated their academic record may be? This culture of defining “scholarship” by degrees or how many papers they have presented in famous institutions or published in celebrated journals or how many awards they may have bagged is deplorable. There are so many of these scholars who can speak unimaginable bullshit, devoid of any factual or logical consistency. Surely all of us who were unfortunate enough to sit through these painstaking academic sessions must have experienced that. Most of us may be too conformist to admit that. Continue reading The Baba Ramdev-JNU episode – Some Notes on Politics and Education

Anukul Chandra – A “Baba”, His Followers and Us

সেই কাল থেকে পাড়ায় অনুকুলচন্দ্র ঠাকুরকে নিয়ে আদিখ্যেতা চলছে। পুরো আদিখ্যেতার সিস্‌ন তো – দুর্গা পুজো, কালী, লক্ষ্মী, বড়দিন (অবশ্য হয়ত অধিকাংশ হিন্দু বাঙালীদের কাছে মুসলিম কোনো অনুষ্ঠান কেবল একটা ছুটির দিন মাত্র, কাজেই এর মধ্যে মুসলিমদের কিছু থেকে থাকলে সেটাকে “সিস্‌ন” এর প্যাকেজের বাইরেই রাখলাম) – তার ওপর এই অনুকূল বাবা। সত্যি বলতে কি লোকটাকে বা এই “কাল্ট” নিয়ে বিশেষ কিছুই জানতাম না। এতই ঝাঁট জ্বলছে ন্যাকামোগুলো মাইকে বাজাচ্ছে বলে যে খানিকটা বাধ্য হয়েই একটু গুগ্‌ল মারলাম। তো লোকটা ছিল ব্রাহ্মণ এবং কাস্টিস্ট। বর্ণ বিভাজনে এবং “সবর্ণ” বিবাহকেই একমাত্র উচিত পথ বলে প্রচার করতেন। আর নারী সম্পর্কে এই অনুকূল বাবার কি বক্তব্য? “প্রকৃত” ভালো নারী একমাত্র সেই-ই যে নিজের ভেতর মাতৃত্বের গুণগুলোকে যেমন দয়া, মায়া, স্নেহ, ক্ষমা, সতীত্বকে বাঁচিয়ে রাখে, না হলে সে কীসের নারী? নারীদের সম্পর্কে অনুকূলের এইরূপ সব পুরুষতান্ত্রিক “হিতপদেশ” “নারীর নীতি” নামক একটি সংকলনে পাওয়া যায় (অনলাইন ফ্রিতে আছে)।

Facebook page on Anukul Chandra
Facebook page on Anukul Chandra

 অন্যান্য বাবা-টাবাদের মতই যত সব আবল তাবল ব্যাখা দিয়েছেন “বিজ্ঞান” নিয়ে – কসমস থেকে শুরু করে বায়োলজি, সব কিছু নিয়েই। এটা তো ভণ্ড ঢাপ্পাবাজ বাবাদের চিরকালীন প্র্যাকটিস – গুলগাপ্পিগুলো “বিজ্ঞানের” মোড়কে প্রেসেন্ট করা। যাতে “অথেনটিক” শোনায়। প্রশ্ন উঠতে পারে – কেন তাহলে এই সব বাবাদের প্রতি নিবেদিত প্রাণ ভক্তরা নিউটনদের নিয়েই সন্তুষ্ট না থেকে এই বাবাদের কাছে যান। আসলে মধ্যবিত্ত থেকে শুরু করে নিম্নবিত্ত – সবারই অনেক না পাওয়া, দুঃখ থাকে। কিন্তু প্রাকৃতিক বা সমাজ বিজ্ঞান কখনই মিথ্যা আশ্বাস জোগাবে না। সেই শূন্যস্থানটা পূরণ করতে পারে কেবল ধর্ম বা অলৌকিকতায় বিশ্বাস।আর হ্যাঁ, হয়ত এইসব অনুষ্ঠানে গরীব বড়লোক সকলকেই দেখা যায়, কিন্তু এই সামাজিক আয়োজনগুলোকে অনুভূমিক মনে করার কোনো কারণ নেই। এ যেন সেই হ্যাবারমাসের “(বুর্জুয়া) পাবলিক স্ফিয়ারের” মত – আপাত দৃষ্টিতে দেখে মনে হবে যে সব শ্রেণীর মানুষ একসাথে এসে নিজেদের মধ্যে “সমান্তরালভাবে” আদান প্রদান চালাচ্ছে (এক্ষেত্রে তা ধর্মীয় আকারের)। Continue reading Anukul Chandra – A “Baba”, His Followers and Us

On the Politics of Happiness


Thanks to the years of efforts of women’s rights activists, today it has become obligatory at least within certain sections of society to problematize the private, even if reluctantly. Though much remains to be done, today we have something called the politics of pleasure, where even so-called consensual sex does not remain outside the purview of critical scrutiny. The dualisms of dominance and subjugated, active and the passive have been rightly recognized as worth rigorous examination. Close on the heels of feminist concerns, are those of the historically marginalized castes. The academic “mainstream” took a while to allow feminists to be taken seriously, but now Gender Studies or Women’s Studies courses are being initiated in some institutions and universities. Caste is getting special attention from a wide variety of social scientists who are drawing expertise from their own as well as other disciplines to enrich our understanding of how caste operates, discriminates and so on. Wherever applicable, race and ethnicity studies are also not that unpopular and works on these areas are getting appreciated.

All this is well and good. So what is the problem? The thing is, none of this operates in vacuum. When we “study” caste or class for instance, it should not escape our minds for one second that the researcher as well as the subject or context of study is also tied together in dynamically existing social relations. These relations will necessarily be of hierarchy and they will not cease to be even if one is say an Ambedkarite or Marxist researcher. In other words, the material, objective basis of class and caste (and other similar) relations are never suspended so that the researcher can have a “neutral”, unadulterated field of action. In the specific instance of India, class and caste (or other suitable categories if available for application) operate in a manner so as to make it very difficult to separate the intellectual-manual labor divide from Brahmanical tendencies, because of the well known exclusion of the non-Brahmanical castes from the right of education (in the sense we, the “educated”, largely mean it).

As is well known, the phenomenon of caste is progressively hierarchical, i.e. it is possible for one to move up the social ladder by becoming more Brahmanical. A notable way of achieving that is by being able to establish that their intellectual labor is now worth more (this valuation is obviously not in the conveniently calculable Marxian terms but in more intangible, subjective ways) than what they used to provide earlier. Now let us examine the practices of activists in the intelligentsia, in the academic world. Even though they may acknowledge superficially that they are in some ways privileged (alas to those who are privilege blind even at this level), they continue to celebrate and harbor a sense of superiority over those not considered so erudite, educated, intellectually gifted. It is not just the casteism inherent in the distant way the non-teaching staff of the institution is treated during an academic session. You find it in the way a particular intellectual, be it Arundhuti Roy or Meena Kandasamy, is given special attention for saying something quite plain, perhaps something that the not so celebrated guy on the street is also aware of, in one way or the other.

It is in this special privileging of a particular manner of articulation, of a particular arrangement of labor, which takes the form of being an intellectual and earning a certain credibility from an elite circle that is considered more valuable intrinsically, that the roots of Brahmanism lie. Indeed, it cannot be explained with precision in the sense as defined by the parameters set by the same casteist system that perpetuates such exclusionary, discriminatory tendencies. It lies in privileging intellectual labor over manual labor even as you express solidarity with the movements and struggles of that “uneducated” class. It is like the “white savior complex” that we find in most of the Hollywood that even remotely touches upon the race issue. Or closer home in the “male savior complex” in mainstream movies where it is the boy who has to salvage the situation and get ‘his girl’ out of trouble. I am not doubting the genuineness of the efforts of those who extend such solidarities and participate in working class movements and so on. I am just saying that it would be hypocritical to deny that when you upload your picture with a book written by you and which has just been published, you are not exposing the pleasures that you derive from the exclusionary establishment that the world of academics is. It may appear ridiculous to many to raise such objections about what appears to be a ‘simple display of excitement or happiness over one’s hard work’. However, let us not forget the time when it was considered pretty commonsensical that the only designated place for the woman is the kitchen.

by Kisholoy

Emerging Outlines of Student Discontent – #OccupyUGC

writes Pratik Ali.

The decision on part of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to scrap the Non-NET Fellowship for research scholars (when students were expecting a raise after student demands; JRF, a merit-based fellowship taken by just a small fraction of those who pass the NET, was raised by more than 50% last October) drew some holes in a can of many worms. This should not be looked as the only factor leading to the protests that we know as #OccupyUGC, though. Students have witnessed in recent years increased insecurity in the university-system: teaching jobs are mostly on contract, ill-defined, with arbitrary powers exercised by college-administrations, greater measures for discipline and control (like CCTVs and biometric attendance), more Continue reading Emerging Outlines of Student Discontent – #OccupyUGC

Why Not Being in an Organization Need Not Mean Individualism and Egoism

This piece is for all those who so vociferously defend “doing organizations”. Right at the onset, let me clearly point out that I am not anti-organization per se – a democratically functioning organization which allows individual voices to be heard is indeed necessary. But what about the nature of the organizations at present? Do they function democratically, internally as well as externally (i.e. vis-à-vis other orgs and society at large)? There is a good reason to doubt that. Given that is the case, isn’t it perfectly possible for an otherwise politically motivated person to not join any of the organizations because they find them ideologically problematic? Of course there can be reasons other than ideological concerns that may make a person avoid an organization. Some of these reasons may be personal, which is an entirely different matter.

I know that the pro-organization brigade will pounce on me at this stage and say – how do you know for sure that all those who say they are not doing organizations for ideological reasons are actually not acting that way for personal reasons? To them, I will say, yes, I am not sure. It can be difficult to separate the personal from the ideological at times. But that can also be a product of the organization’s doing. Particular leaders may make it a point to suffocate the voices of certain cadres within the organization. Is it so outlandish that a personal disliking can also develop towards such leaders (or other members for that matter)? Indeed such a disliking can have a rather political color to it. Let’s now ask the “organizationists” a return question – what makes you people so sure that those who are in them organizations are there entirely for ideological reasons? Indeed, it is quite possible that romantic attachments, blind following of some “dada” or “didi” or just the basic socio-psychological need for association is the driving motivating factor behind being in such organizations.

So is it justified to stifle someone’s opinion just because they happen to be an “individual”? The way most organizations, including the leftist ones, operate today, it is extremely difficult to remain within them while being critical of their activities. Hierarchical as most of them are, it would be immensely hard to avoid internal censorship. Expression of dissent is strongly discouraged, such is the organizational structure and modus operandi. The only way to remain in an organization is to either give your critical approach up or become an obedient cadre or to compromise with your ideals. You will be forbidden to openly criticize your organization, so what option will you have other than to toe the official line? Yet, if a person chooses not to do any such organization but still remains politically active, why should that person’s opinions be considered any lesser? Yet, rarely do we see, apart from a few “elite” and glorified intellectual elites (research scholars, teachers etc) or a handful of well known individual activists, individuals getting a space during movements or any other political process for that matter.

On the contrary, what we usually see is that there is always a slandering against certain individuals, especially if they are critical of the current organizations. Strangely, even those organizations who are otherwise at each others’ throats, join hands in building popular opinion against such individuals. Indeed, it is as if being an “individual” automatically means one is being escapist, opportunist, egoist and what not. I urge the “organizationists” to consider this aspect of the individual-organization binary as well. It is a false dichotomy I admit, but it cannot be denied that the present situation demands that a special focus be given on the rights of individuals to express their opinions and make meaningful contributions without hindrance from organizations.

by Kisholoy

Scrapping non-NET Fellowship: No Merit in That

Here I would try to argue that the University Grants Commission’s decision to scrap non-NET fellowship is problematic by calling into question the idea of merit and entitlement based on which some are trying to justify this decision.

After the JRF amount was hiked, many expected that the same would happen for the non-NET fellowship amount which stood at Rs. 5000 and Rs. 8000 per month for MPhil and PhD students of central universities who are not getting any other UGC fellowship. However, the committee that was deliberating on the topic of increasing this fellowship amount has decided to scrap the fellowship altogether.

Then, what could be the argument in favour of continuing with the fellowship? After all, aren’t we talking about students who could not qualify for JRF, and hence have proven themselves ineligible? Why must the government waste more money on them?

If we are to honestly answer this question, a look at qualifying for JRF as a metric for eligibility must be called into question. For that, let us take a look at the ‘education’ system.

Schooling: What Is Excellence?

This education system provides education in a language that is not accessible to most, in a manner that actively dissuades students from thinking critically and analytically, and with content that is tainted with class, religious, caste, gender, and other biases. Broadly speaking, the education system has different approaches towards the poor, the Dalits, women and the ‘third’ gender, the disabled in the society, people from various ‘underdeveloped’ parts of the country, and neither last nor the least, the disobedient and the critical thinker – the said categories are NOT mutually exclusive. And the idea of excellence in such a system reflects all those biases.

What is excellence in a system where in maths and sciences, your tried-and-tested formula for excellence is a list of ‘suggestions’ – questions which will presumably appear in the examinations you are preparing for, which either your elite private or government school or your tutorials whom you pay a shitload of money will provide you with, so that you can ‘excel’ by mugging up the answers to those questions? What is excellence in a system where the teachers trained by the same rote-learning methods will not accept a correct answer because that answer does not come from the books or notes they have mugged up? What is ‘good writing’ in a system where students speaking various dialects are forced to write in the elite Brahminical dialects (which are not even recognised as dialects, but are seen as the ‘shuddh’ expression of the language) and are penalised with humiliation and low grades when they struggle with it? What is ‘good history’ in a system that is mostly preoccupied with the lives of the rulers, and that too with strong Hinduist Brahminical taints and hardly permitting analytical expressions from the students, demanding mostly memorising of dates of battles and names of rulers? What is excellence in literature in a system where the literature of and by the marginalised in terms of caste, class, ability, language, culture and gender hardly finds its way into the textbooks, and while their stories in their narration stay far from the syllabi, the literature by the authors revered by the elite is almost never subjected to critical analysis to explore the existing oppressions in different social systems and to inspire thoughts regarding how to change the systems? What is excellence in a system where ‘specialised’ education methods and equipments for PwD students are seen as a waste of public money where a little spending could have made it possible for many of them to study the subjects they would’ve liked to, even though the government has money for the bureaucrats, parliamentarians and corporations? And how easy for a student to speak up for their rights when they are crushed under the weight of the one teaching this monstrosity of an education system strives so hard to impart – that you deserve to be treated as shit if you fail the system?

‘Underdevelopment’, or deliberate negligence on part of the governments to provide proper educational facilities, has turned getting education into a struggle for many poor, dalits and tribals. The lack of teachers, books, pencils, blackboards, computers, internet, various educational toys to aid the learning process, free time from housework and other labour, electricity, guidance from parents and other sources etc has created and keeps on broadening the gap in accessing materials necessary for their ‘good performance’ in schools between the poor students and their wealthier counterparts.

Colleges: An Open Space?

The schools send some through to colleges and chuck the rest out at various levels. In higher education, along with rote learning, marginalisation based on class, caste, gender, ability, culture, good English which is a privilege of the elite too enters the rank of ‘merit’, further throttling the expressions of most of the marginalized, both in the classroom and on the answer script which determines one’s entry into the next stage. The silencing mechanism incorporates, among others, ridiculing and ignoring their contributions to classroom discussions, both by teachers and many other elite students. This delivers a blow to their confidence and takes a toll on their studies.

A System of Exclusion

UGC-NET is the crowning glory of such a system. Further, it espouses another attribute present in the education system – that of exclusion through competition. Whether you will get the JRF does not depend on your score alone, rather it also depends on how others perform on it. This other attribute of the education system fosters animosity among students and reduces cooperation and learning from each other. Many have attacked UGC-NET for its stress on rote-learning, but that will tell only part of the story. It is not to be seen as an aberration of the education system, but as reflecting its values. And the education system is not to be seen as some benevolent failure, but is to be seen as a violent system which has integrated the values of irrationality and uncritical obedience to authority which protects its classist, Brahminical, elitist fabric.

This education system needs to be overhauled for a better one, and that will not happen in isolation while the society continues with its classist, casteist, ableist, patriarchal, elitist practices. But this decision to scrap non-NET fellowship is a step clearly against that direction, as this will deny many a shot at MPhil and PhD, making higher education further exclusive to those with privileges and barring many from the marginalized a chance at contributing to the academic discourse and changing it for the better. The MPhil and PhD students are research workers, and the non-NET students are paid quite low for their work, which often involves travel expenses to field sites, libraries etc, purchasing of books and other materials, arranging for accommodation and food where there are no free hostels and messes and so on. Even access to many online journals and articles are privileged and one has to pay if one is outside the privileged circles. The elitist ‘logic’ that justifies a lower payment to a contract teacher compared to a permanent teacher, a higher payment to a manager compared to a factory worker (where this education system worked to determine their positions in the society) is the same ‘logic’ where JRF and non-JRF students’ getting differential compensation for the same work finds justification. It is high time we rebelled against this.

For a more detailed exploration of the casteist nature of merit, see this.

by Sutanaya

Caste Atrocity in CSSS: Can the Savarna Apologise?

by Georgy Kuruvilla Roy

(This article has been taken from Round Table India, with the author’s and RTI’s permission.)

While the debate between Huma Dar and Partha Chatterjee over the past week has been enriching and enlightening; the point of this article however, is to show as Klemen Sarkoja sings “the structure of the joke is that this so called progressive intellectual, in order to score his small narcissistic point, oh, I dusted the balls, totally ignores the suffering there”. I have no intention to either speak about Israel or Kashmir or refugees or anything. My intention here is to bring all of your attention to one particular incident that happened in the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, and ask my teacher Partha Chatterjee what his stance is with regard to all that happened here while you were here. Maybe you might have forgotten what had happened here because you were thinking about Israel or if you haven’t please do enlighten us with your take is on the incident.

The incident that happened on July 15 involves a contract labourer at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata. The said laborer, belonging to the Dalit Muslim category, was made to do sit-ups in front of a lot of other staff of the Centre by the Registrar. This was done as the laborer did not pick up the chairs as his supervisor asked him to do the day before, for some meeting that had happened. Continue reading Caste Atrocity in CSSS: Can the Savarna Apologise?

“Court”ing Controversy – A Brief Review

film Court official
Vira Sathidar as Narayan Kamble in “Court”

Court is a 2015 Marathi film by Chaitanya Tamhane. While from the name itself it becomes clear that the film has something to do with “court kachari ka chakkar”, it is only on seeing it can one fully appreciate why this movie is a great watch for any sympathetic observer of the progress of human rights, law and their systematic violations in India. The film starts with scenes of some children taking tuitions from one Narayan Kamble, who is the central character of the film. After taking his classes, we find him taking a bus to a spot where a cultural program is taking place to commemorate a (fictional) “Wadgaon massacre”. He is then invited to a stage where he sings a powerful song that calls upon the exploited masses (and evidently, the exploited castes) to identify the exploiters and rise up against them.  From the picture of Ambedkar in the background, it is clear that caste oppression is one of the central themes of what comes later in the film to be called Kamble’s cultural troupe’s performances. Kamble is interrupted by cops who come and arrest him on charges that a song of his had reportedly led one gutter cleaning worker to suicide some days back. His case is taken up by a lawyer named Vinay Vora (played by Vivek Gomber) who has a personal interest in pursuing cases where human rights are likely to be violated. What follows in the film is an elaborate portrayal of not just the court proceedings that seem to make a mockery of justice (more on that later), but also of the personal life experiences of Gomber, the public prosecutor as well as the judge. In course of this portrayal, what we learn is not only the different lifestyles, social statuses and cultural values but also the different life views and ideological standpoints of these major stakeholders in the case. Continue reading “Court”ing Controversy – A Brief Review