Category Archives: politics

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON AMU’S RAMZAN CONTROVERSY

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Image Courtesy: Google Image

Aligarh Muslim University [AMU], every now and then, hits the headlines in the mainstream media. Not much opposed to its tradition, it is now also in the news-debate regarding a strong allegation put by a section of people that, non-Muslims are not being provided food in the hostels of AMU during the month of Ramzan.” Before going to any kind of explanations and clarifications regarding this nuanced issue, I would like to draw your attention to see what kind of messages being circulated in the internet/media.

AMU should not adopt the policy of disengagement with criticism rather the non-disengagement policy will bring spring blossoms to it.

First of all, an online media platform has reported, Nadeem Ansari, vice-president of the AMU students’ union, confirmed to Scoop Whoop News that this indeed is the tradition for “more than 50 years”. Asked how do non-fasting students manage during this time, Ansari said that they “arrange for their food” and it has never been an issue.” Moreover, AMU’s Dean Students’ Welfare member Prof Jamshed Siddiqui said “the tradition of not serving breakfast and lunch in hostel mess has been in place for years and that there are “standing orders” that no food will be served in any function in the campus.” However, the enthusiastic DNA reported that “Jyoti Bhaskar, a student of Mass Communication and a prominent youth activist at the AMU said, “It is sad that religious angle is being given to this entire issue.” “There is a provision in our hostel to provide us lunch (during Ramzan) if we give it in writing.”

Then you come to this post where different viewpoints have been put forward by the resident students of AMU. One female student from Begum Sultan Jahan Hall is claiming that there is no problem of getting food during Ramzan. Coherently enough, another male student from AMU provided a counter-argument of non-availability of meals during Ramzan in most of the Halls. Please mind the phrase- “in most of the Halls”. I will come back to it later. Yet another website called The Lallantop declared that the “Hindu students are starving there at AMU campus as no breakfast or lunch is being served”. However, the authorities have claimed that those [Muslims and non-Muslims both] want to have lunch during the month of Ramzan can approach the authorities in writing.

In this entire episode, one thing is clear that both the parties are losing a beating fight. One section is portraying the half-chewed fact and the other one is trying to save the image of AMU from being fallen prey to communalised discourses. Even the try is to show that AMU’s policy is largely inclusive and not exclusive in nature whereas the actual controversy is largely meted out on the ground that whether food is being served to Gair-Rozadars [those who do not fast] or not during Ramzan. Now, let’s move towards my points and arguments.

But before making any expert comment at this political outset, let me introduce myself first. I have been a student of AMU from 2008 till 2014. In the six-years of my AMU life, I stayed five years at Mohammad Habib Hall and the remaining one-year of my stay I dwelled at Sherwani Hall. I witnessed the six occasions of Ramzan. Frankly speaking, whatever the issue is, giving it a communal colour will lead you to a fool’s paradise. One more thing I should clarify here is that if someone is looking for an objective truth in this issue, will be a futile exercise. All are subjective interpretations. Even, I can only share some valid arguments regarding the scenario in Habib Hall during my stay. Let me come to all the arguments one by one.

First, whether food is being served to non-Muslims during Ramzan or not. This statement is equally valid and invalid too. Indeed food is being served but the point is when. The usual timing of serving food to all the resident students was sehri, iftar[1] and dinner and Habib Hall was of no exception. Breakfast and lunch are missing from most of the boys Halls, which is synching with Dean Students’ Welfare member’s statement, whereas the same is being served to the girls’ hostels [Abdullah Hall, Indira Gandhi Hall and Begum Sultan Jahan Hall], if I am not wrong. During my stay at AMU, when I shared the story of non-availability of lunch during Ramzan, my female friends would reply me with opposite facts. When I asked them the reason, they told me that the mess in the girls’ hostels are run by private bodies whereas it is not the case with Habib Hall, at least. One probable explanation of not-providing food during Ramzan might be like this; as most of the staffs [even in some cases all] working in the dining halls are Muslims; working in the dining may break their fast [loosely speaking]. But one could still be in apprehension about the validity of this claim.

Secondly, as opposed to my experience I shared in the earlier paragraph, an article reported, Another hostel, Habib Hall, on the other hand, prepares food at regular hours for non-fasting students, but only on demand. Dr Suhail Sabir, provost, Habib Hall explains, “Since the number of students eating lunch in mess is very low, we don’t make it as usual but on demand. If any student wants lunch, he can inform the mess incharge and food will be prepared for him. There are several non-Muslims who’ve demanded food while several others have not. We make food accordingly.” Although the Provost of Habib Hall is claiming of serving food on regular basis now, it was not the case during my tenure. I do not know the actual scene of Habib Hall now but still I have apprehension about this claim. However, as Dr. Suhail Sabir has been a good, hard-working and dedicated Provost as he has proved his credentials by bringing revolutionary changes in the picturesque of Moshinul Mulk Hall during his tenure, he deserves little criticism. Taking the cue of his honesty forward, I hope that his words about Habib Hall were implemented well before AMU hits the headlines.

But, one thing is very much appreciable of my Rozadar friends that they will not leave you alone while they are having their iftar. They used to invite people around to attend them in iftar as they regularly did this to me. I cannot remember a day, during my AMU life, when I was not invited for iftar by any of my Rozadar friends. This issue of food is about the policy of AMU administration and not about Muslims and non-Muslims. Giving this issue a communal direction is absolutely unwarranted. Dining issue has always been a problem in AMU, be it quality, quantity or both. Every now and then the rhetoric of solving the dining issue comes, but eventually it is being tactfully dealt to rest it in peace. The dining issue needs immediate consideration from the administration.

If I conclude my arguments, I could only say one thing that the issue is not about Muslims versus non-Muslims rather the issue is dining versus the AMU administration. Closing the dining during Ramzan will bring [and has already brought] negative images to AMU. Even the surrounding dhabas are closed in this month and the only way out is to cook. When a student is regular member of a dining hall, why should s/he be subject to cooking during this month? Why this double-standard? Despite of some communally directed and misleading headlines in the news, AMU still did not prove itself to claim its position beyond criticism. When AMU faces criticism, a sub-intellect kind of argument-“as BJP is in power, it is trying to communalise the environment”- is ready to come out from some sections of AMU. This pre-conceived notion needs to be deconstructed. It is always not profitable to perceive every action of any particular political organisation with suspicion although RSS-backed-BJP has its politics thieved on hatred. The issue of dining in AMU should have been given serious attention and it is good that a political organisation has taken up the issue. AMU should not adopt the policy of disengagement with criticism rather the non-disengagement policy will bring spring blossoms to it.

The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Development Studies Kolkata and has been a student of AMU from 2008 to 2014. He can be reached at @modontanti

[1] Please bear with me if I write the Urdu/Arabic words improperly.

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

keep-calm-and-acknowledge-my-intellectual-superiority

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

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

Two Responses to the ‘World’ about Its Obsession with Alan Kurdi

A few weeks ago, a photograph of a toddler washed ashore became famous world-wide. Not only did the mainstream media receive it with the usual zeal with which sensational news is grabbed and broadcast, it also resonated with social media channels, wherein many people got something simple to express concern about. In a sense, it seemed to many that the ‘world’ had united for a common-cause, something linked to the salvaging if not (we don’t use ‘not just’) of human beings then of humanity for sure. Charlie Hebdo carried caricatures in its next issue that, many say, point to the decadence of European culture. We present below two responses.

Popular Art and photo-journalism are in crises

 

The questions for the first response are taken from what has been said of these two Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

“So close to the the end... Promo! 2 Combo children for the price of one”
“So close to the the end… Promo! 2 Combo children for the price of one”
“This proves that Europe is Christian. Christians walk on water. Muslim children drown.”
“This proves that Europe is Christian. Christians walk on water. Muslim children drown.”

Charlie Hebdo and their apologists argue that the true intent of these cartoons is to mock the systemic apathy of European culture, based as it is upon consumerism, reckless display of wealth, religious dogma, etc. On the other hand, CH has once more been accused of racism and islamophobia, of deliberate sadism targeting desperate populations. A glimpse of these debates can be seen here[i]. Continue reading Two Responses to the ‘World’ about Its Obsession with Alan Kurdi

It is a “Power” Struggle Alright! – A Centrifugal Take on Recent Movements

Protest against power tariff 2

“আন্দোলনই ঠিক করে দেয় আন্দোলনের পথ”। It roughly translates into a movement decides its own course. This catch phrase has been doing rounds lately quite a lot in some of the prominent movements taking place in and around Kolkata – for instance the SSC movement, Bardhaman univ movement and now, what seems to be increasingly gathering momentum, the anti power tariff hike struggle. It is no coincidence that this catch phrase is constantly being used. It is because of the presence of a very distinctly identifiable group of student[mostly]-activists who have begun to identify themselves as “independent”, more vociferously so since the Hokkolorob movement.

Now what do we make of this catch phrase? [I insist on calling it a catch phrase for the following reasons : 1. it keeps getting used and reused a lot, through photo-posts or status updates of those in or associated with the struggles or with the group in question, i.e. it is used as a marketing or sales tool for the movement and 2. there is generally no elaborate explanation of the concept as a follow up. These two, I believe are characteristics of catch phrases which have recently come to dominate the pattern of political rhetoric largely mediated by social media. As I have argued elsewhere, “campus democracy” and “independent student movement” are also examples of such “Empty signifiers” which are more empty than they might appear at first sight.

Now that I have sufficiently established “movement takes its own course” as a strategic catch phrase, let us proceed towards analyzing it. One very obvious way to react to it would be to say, why bother? Ultimately it is the movement that matters and it is after all just a slogan and if it stays hit and manages to attract people, let it be. Unfortunately, it is difficult to leave the matter at such a rudimentary level of investigation. Let us give an example why it would be problematic to do so. For instance, I distinctly remember the debates that arose when a Maoist sympathizing student organization had negatively portrayed prostitutes in one of their slogans whose core matter may have been otherwise progressive. Therefore, what a slogan or catch phrase is constitutive of in terms of its symbolic cannot be taken lightly. Continue reading It is a “Power” Struggle Alright! – A Centrifugal Take on Recent Movements

What the FTII Movement Is – and is Not

To start with, a teaser – does any movement against a saffron guy mean it is a movement against saffronization?

I will get straight to the point. Since I don’t have a political career at stake, I am able to call a spade a spade. I am able to say this since I am not concerned about the number of cadres I am able to net for my organization that values ideology far less than it does blind following. The FTII movement, the one that originated at FTII itself and not the solidarity demonstrations here and there, was NOT against saffronization. Or at least there is very little evidence that it was. It is far more likely that the movement was an expression of anger about the image of a “center of excellence” being tarnished. In an interview to journalists, FTII students who were at the forefront of the movement clearly mentioned that they would not have a problem with a Vinod Khanna or a Shatrughan Sinha (a right winger) occupying the post of FTII chairman. Continue reading What the FTII Movement Is – and is Not