Monday, 31 August 2015

Isis karaoke: satire’s answer to hate preachers with microphones

NB - We should try this out on some of our motormouth fanatics..DS

The Twitter users behind @ISIS_karoake delight in putting song lyrics into jihadis’ mouths – and they aren’t the only comedians who have found the courage to openly mock Isis

Peter Cook summed up the power of satire pretty well when he claimed to have modelled his comedy club, The Establishment, on the Weimar cabarets of Berlin, “which did so much to stop the rise of Adolf Hitler and prevent the second world war”. Satire isn’t a way to change injustice, it’s a way to live with it.

If you’re satirising Isis, it can also be a difficult pursuit. Isis doesn’t do much that is immediately comic. Even your audience may not be prepared to see the funny side of a repressive, murderous terrorist state. While Isis is certainly a deserving target, it’s still an easy target to miss. Brutality is hard to make light of, and mockery of Isis sometimes comes bundled with generic anti-Islamic, ham-fisted, unfunny jokes out there.

In light of this, no small amount of credit is due to the Twitter account@ISIS_karoake, which has been up and running for the past few weeks. The premise is simple – pictures of hate preachers and Isis fighters, usually armed with microphones, are captioned with song lyrics – but the juxtapositions are pitch perfect, instantly turning something sinister into something very silly. Taken cumulatively, they reimagine the whole of the Islamic State as one big karaoke bar.

It’s by no means the first attempt to satirise Isis by appropriating its material. YouTube user speissi takes soundtracks from Isis recruitment videos and matches them with the kind of images one more readily associates with YouTube: cats, video games and haywire appliances. The one called Allahu Akbar Washing Machine is perhaps the most representative of the genre.

Taking the piss out of Isis also requires courage – they tend not to have a sense of humour about themselves – especially if you’re doing it rather closer to the front line. The comedy series Selfie, which launched on Saudi TV network MBC in June, featured an episode that mocked Isis openly, earning its star, comedian and actor Nasser al Qasabi, mixed reviews – a combination of plaudits and death threats. One tweet read, “I swear to Allah that you will regret everything you have said. The Jihadists will not calm down until your head has been chopped off.” Nasser was also declared an apostate by a Saudi imam, who later apologised.

Last year, Iraq state television aired a comedy series called State of Myths, set in a fictional town that has come under the control of Isis. The show was broadcast across the country, and therefore readily accessible inside Isis-controlled regions. Quite apart from the challenge of producing a family-friendly comedy about the caliphate, the programme faced serious security issues: the writer remained anonymous, and several cast members kept their names out of the credits.

We still tend to make grand claims for the power of satire, and Isis seems pretty immune to ridicule. But when you’re faced with an image of a jihadist holding a microphone and belting out a Bee Gees cover, you realise that satire only really has to be funny.

Philip Oltermann - Günter Grass criticises refugee treatment from beyond the grave

For much of his lifetime, he was the personification of Germany’s moral conscience, with literary interventions on anything from postwar guilt to the Israel-Palestine debate. And it appears that even his death in April this year hasn’t dimmed Günter Grass’s determination to provoke debate.

In his last ever book, published in Germany at the end of last week, the Nobel prize-winning novelist and poet issues a beyond-the-grave warning about rising vitriol towards refugees. One of the poems in Vonne Endlichkait (On Finiteness) laments that Germans who were once refugees themselves now displayed the same level of intolerance towards refugees that they themselves once encountered.

Millions of Germans displaced from east-central Europe after the end of the second world war, Grass writes in the poem entitled Xenophobic, were met with cries of: “Go back to where you came from!” when they tried to settle in other parts of Germany. “But they stayed,” the author continues, and applied the same rejection to foreigners who came from far further afield.

The poem concludes on a hopeful note, suggesting that there will be a point where those “who have always been natives” will come to recognise their own strangeness in others. With uncanny timing, Grass’s posthumous work was published in the same week as Germany has seen a fraught debate on whether refugees from north Africa and the Balkans shouldn’t be seen in the same category as “native German” refugees.

In a talkshow last Thursday, prominent columnist and blogger Sascha Lobo had suggested referring to refugees (Flüchtlinge) as “displaced people” (Vertriebene) instead. One of the other members of the panel, Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann, described Lobo’s proposal as “an affront”. 
Germany has seen a spate of arson attacks on refugee shelters this year. In the 12-month period to June this year, the country has received 296,710 applications for asylum, more than any other EU member state.

But the refugee crisis is not the only political subject Grass tackles in his final collection of poems and prose sketches, most of them illustrated with the author’s own drawings. Mutti is an angry attack on Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who “says nothing with a lot of words” and is trapped by profit-seeking lobbyists who “blackmail her, mafia-like”.

Grass, an active supporter of the Social Democrats in his lifetime, bemoans his party entering a coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. He writes: “She can do it with everyone, until they are milked dry/ and hang creased and limply over a clothes hanger.”

In On Monetary Transactions, he casts a critical eye on “financial jugglers suffering from addiction to profit”, but also on public intellectuals rushing to pronounce a post-monetary era, in which “conkers” and “seashells” take the place of hard cash.

While Pope Francis moralises about the end of money, Grass wryly notes, the debt mountain is growing by the hour, “some day in November it burst through the cloud ceiling”.
In another short text Grass laments that the internet has alienated people from problems in the real world. He writes: “The bombs that go off daily in Iraq and the corpses lined up underneath sheets are only pretend dead and copies of real computer games; the crime scene that is Gaza merely a newspaper hoax that raises a laugh among billions of users, another shitstorm.”

In the eyes of many Germans, Grass’s status as the moral conscience of the nation was undermined by his 2006 admission that he had as a teenager been a member of the Waffen SS, the armed wing of the Nazi party’s paramilitary force. If Vonne Endlichkait has largely gained positive reviews so far, it is also because the political moralising is offset by more personal reflections on mortality.

There is a poem about his struggles with a hearing aid, reflections on the sound of his own cough and a prose piece on how Grass scares his grandchildren with his last remaining real tooth, illustrated with a scarecrow self-portrait. In one frank passage, the writer turns his trademark pipe into a symbol for impotence in old age, writing: “I go about my business with a stuffed pipe but without matches. In other words: my virility, the old busybody, has given up the ghost. Only lust is still sticking around, or pretends to be.”

Workers Demonstration Tomorrow 10am, 1st September 2015 Kamla Nehru Park to the DC Office Gurgaon

Workers Juloos and Sabha
Tomorrow 10am, 1st September 2015
Kamla Nehru Park to the DC Office Gurgaon
called by
Workers Solidarity Centre (Gurgaon-Bawal)

The campaigning around the strike-call in the past few days of listening closely to the rumblings in the factories and streets from Gurgaon to Bawal has been extremely energizing. Many independent factory unions and workers in the auto belt belt will strike day-after. We were also witness to great response to the campaign in the non-unionized garment industries where over 400000 wage-workers toil without end in horrendous conditions to produce clothes for the world. Mr.Modi's pro-capitalist reforms will not be taken lying down in this showcase zone of the developmental model in India, by Those-Who-Make-in-India.

More significantly than and connecting to the one-day general strike called half-heartedly by the Central Trade Unions, these concrete actions promise to connect to the already ongoing struggles/strikes in some factories since the last few months, like that of Uniproduct workers in Bawal, or TVS Bawal where apprentice workers unity was witnessed in the strike action last month. The earlier struggles from AutofitBaxter,ASTIMunjal Kiriu, Nerolac, Daikin, NSK, Hero Motorcorp to name only a few, are also not over, and many terminated, contract, permanent workers from these factories, strengthened in struggle, have taken a key role in the campaign by Workers Solidarity Centre in the last few days. Meanwhile all the four Maruti Suzuki factories have already declared the stopping of production day-after, which is significant given the extent of repression on these workers.

हिस्सा ले !
मजदूर सभा और जुलूस
1 सितम्बर 2015, सुबह 10 बजे
कमला-नेहरु-पार्क (गुडगाँव बस स्टैंड के नजदीक गुरुद्वारा के पास) से गुडगाँव DC कार्यालय
यह जुलूस--सभा मोदी सरकार द्वारा किए जा रहे श्रम-कानूनों में मजदूर-विरोधी बदलाव के खिलाफ 2 सितम्बर के अखिल-भारतीय मज़दूर हड़ताल के समर्थन में मजदूर सहयोग केंद्र (गुडगाँव-बावल) के तरफ से किया जा रहा है. DC गुडगाँव के पास सभी यूनियनों के तरफ से प्रधानमंत्री नरेन्द्र मोदी के नाम पत्र दिया जायेगा.

मजदूर-विरोधी श्रम कानूनों के खिलाफ 
मजदूर एकता जिंदाबाद!

End the regime of exploitation-repression in the name of Labour Law Reforms!
Make the 2nd September 2015 all-India Strike successful !
on behalf of Workers Solidarity Centre (Gurgaon-Bawal)
Rajpal (09466167876), Khusiram (9911258717), Amit (09873057637)

Watch Anne-Sophie Mutter play extracts from The Four Seasons at the Edinburgh international festival

The Edinburgh international festival has been offering a wide and varied programme of music both classical and contemporary for those who can’t face the prospect of another fringe comedian asking the audience if they remember Spangles. And we’ve teamed up with the festival to bring you a series of exclusive short films of the very best performers at work.
We began last week with Anna Calvi and Heritage Orchestra, but today it’s the turn of the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, performing extracts from the first and third movements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. She’s accompanied by the Mutter Virtuosi, made of young musicians granted scholarships by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation. “It is particularly difficult nowadays for highly talented young instrumentalists to receive the necessary support during the crucial early years,” Mutter says. “In addition to the huge sums of money spent on lessons, in many cases financing a suitable string instrument poses great problems as well. Along with high purchase costs, there are the necessary insurance fees. Also expensive are trips to the world’s great artists — contacts that are essential for the development of a young musician. The support of young artists presents a challenge to everyone to whom the future of musical life is as important as it is to me.”
Click to see (and hear) the video

Sunday, 30 August 2015

OLYMPIA SHILPA GERALD - How to Wreck a University. The crisis in Pondicherry University

Even at its bustling best, this south Indian Union Territory retains a sleepiness which its tourism department loves to plug as ‘Peaceful Puducherry’. But  just 12 kilometres outside the city, this image of calm is belied by the turmoil at Pondicherry University, which has been besieged by student protests, vandalism and vigilante violence. After a month of  disturbances, there is finally hope among students and faculty that the university will return to routine. This follows a communication from the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) ordering Vice-Chancellor (VC) Chandra Krishnamurthy—whose stewardship of the university triggered the unrest—to remain on “compulsory wait until further orders … in the interest of restoring normalcy to Pondicherry University.”

The Pondicherry University Student Movement (PUSM), supported by the Pondicherry University Teachers Association (PUTA), have been demanding the ouster of Krishnamurthy—VC since January 2013—citing plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts in her resume, administrative malpractices and human rights violations.

In the past week, pro-Krishnamurthy sections of the teaching and non-teaching faculty, along with some students, have targeted those protesting against her, ransacking departments, destroying equipment and interrupting classes. Even as cases and counter cases (for instance a case filed by the Registrar against PUTA for harassment) were booked, regional and linguistic tensions surfaced among students. The Joint Action Committee (JAC), which comprises various campus associations, alleged they were an outcome of divisive tactics deployed by the VC’s supporters.

But a deep sense of fear has long lurked in the campus. “We have been walking around in groups even when we go to the mess or the hostel, since the day we launched the protest,” said an apprehensive male student. “In the course of the protest, students have been lathi-charged by cops and roughed up by the VC’s henchmen, said another postgraduate student.

The detention and torture of a male student for 27 hours and the suspension of two female students who complained of sexual harassment on campus in 2014—the NHRC is probing the former while the Madras High Court reprimanded the university for the latter—has aggravated the sense of anxiety over safety on campus. “Anytime anyone has voiced a serious issue, goons have been deployed to intimidate them,” says a research scholar.

Some faculty who have kept away from the protest also say their decisions are shaped by fear. “For many of us, the university is also our home and we fear thugs may turn up at our doorstep anytime,” says a humanities professor. “It is appalling that we do not have the basic right to teach or learn freely, without being terrorised,” adds a senior professor.

Read more: 

Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi, target of previous threats, shot dead in Dharwad // Rationalist’s cold blooded killing shocks Karnataka’s literary capital // Bajrang Dal leader says another rationalist next

Kalburgi had often spoken up against blind religious belief

MM Kalburgi

NB - This is the third such murder of a renowned rationalist whose ideas were disliked by the so called Parivar. The assassins obviously had little compunction in killing a venerable gentleman of letters in the evening of his life. We now hear that a Bajrang Dal leader has hailed the assassination and threatened another prominent rationalist. This body is an RSS front and the public has a right to know whether this NGO (yes, that's what it is) approves of political assassination as a means of enforcing its 'line' on Indian culture and religion

We should not be surprised. After all, Narendra Dabholkar was warned he would meet the fate of Mahatma Gandhi. How is this different from the murder of the Syrian scholar Khaled al-Assad by the Islamist fanatics of ISIS? Or the systematic murder of secular bloggers in Bangladesh? There is every likelihood that this case too, like the murders of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, will go unpunished. Unless Indians decide to protect their democratic rights, we shall all live under the threat of assassination by the hoodlums who have gained confidence under the new dispensation. Rest in peace, Kalburgi sahib. We shall remember you in our battle to uphold the freedom of thought. DS

Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi was shot dead at his home in Dharwad on Sunday morning. According to Dharwad city police, two assailants rode up to Kalburgi’s house on a motorcycle and shot the scholar at close range in his head and chest when he answered the door. The identity of the assailants & the motives behind the murder are unknown at this point.
Former vice-chacellor of the Kannada University in Hampi, Kalburgi had an illustrious and richly rewarded academic career. He won the National Sahitya Akademi award in 2006 for a collection of research articles called Marga 4. He had also been awarded the Karnataka State Sahitya Akademi Award, Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award, Janapad Award, Yakshagana Award, Pampa Award, Nrupatunga Award and Ranna Award.

The 77-year-old scholar often spoke up against blind belief and so was no stranger to controversy. In June last year, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal in Dakshin Kannada accused Kalburgi of hurting the Hindu sentiments. Kalburgi had supported the late UR Ananthamurthy by saying, at a seminar about Karnataka’s Anti-superstition Bill, that there was nothing wrong in urinating on stone idols. Ananthamurthy himself drew the ire of Hindu groups when he recounted doing this in his childhood. The VHP and Bajrang Dal burnt effigies of Kalburgi and had demanded his immediate arrest.

One of the biggest controversies Kalburgi found himself in was back in 1989 over his first Marga treatise, a collection of papers on Kannada folklore and religion that included articles about Veerashiva saint Basava, his wife and sister. Kalburgi received death threats and had to recant references to the Veerashaiva founder Basava, his wife and his sister. At the time Kalburgi said in an interview that he recanted many years’ work tosave the lives of his family members. But, he said, he also committed intellectual suicide on that day.

Kalburgi was a champion of the Kannda language and was highly critical of the Karnataka government’s plans to shut down Kannada-medium schools. Kalburgi’s murder is a reminiscent of the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013 and social activist Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in February. Both men were shot at close range while on their morning walks.
Voice of rationality silenced by two bullets, shot point-blank

Rationalist’s cold blooded killing shocks Karnataka’s literary capital

By Aravind S Kamal
Dr. MM. Kalburgi (78), renowned Kannada writer, research scholar and rationalist has entered the history books as the first litterateur from Karnataka to be shot dead allegedly for his views on idol worship and Hindu rituals. Though no group or persons have claimed responsibility for shooting Dr. Kalburgi at point blank range at his home on Sundaymorning, initial reports suggest that right wing activists might be involved.

People and political leaders in Dharwad, the literary capital of Karnataka that has produced the highest number of Jnanpith awardees in Kannada, are still in a state of shock and disgust. For, this kind of cold-blooded murder targeting litterateurs was unheard of Karnataka till date.

Born in Vijayapura (Bijapur) district in 1938, Dr. Kalburgi studied Kannada literature and taught at the Department of Kannada, Karnatak University, Dharwad, one of the oldest universities in Karnataka. He was also the vice-chancellor of the Kannada University, Hampi, Ballari (Bellary) district. He had won several important awards, including those from Central Sahitya Academy, Karnataka Sahitya Academy, Pampa Award, Nadoja Award and Nrupathunga Award.

He had authored over 100 books in Kannada and was a natural orator too. He was considered an authority on Vachana literature (propagated by the 12th century philosopher and social reformer Basavanna). In fact, Basavanna was opposed to religion, religious practices and Brahminical rituals. Followers of Basavanna are called Lingayats in Karnataka and Dr. Kalburgi belonged to the same community. Of late, Dr. Kalburgi had developed a penchant for such subjects and they reflected in his public speeches, which led to anger among a section of society.

Last year, the police had filed a case against him for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Hindus after he criticized idol worship quoting a literary work of another celebrated writer and Jnanpith awardee late Dr. UR. Ananthamurthy. Not to be cowed down by such intimidations, Dr. Kalburgi continued his campaign against idol worship and Brahminical rituals.

His home in Dharwad town was targeted by miscreants, who pelted stones and bottles. In another instance, activists disturbed his public speech when he raised the issue of idol worship. For the last eight months, the police had deployed personnel outside his home and they also accompanied him wherever he went, as he faced threats because of his comments. The litterateur had never revealed in public whether he received any threats directly or indirectly.

Only 15 days ago, he requested the police to withdraw the special protection given to him. On Sunday morning, around7:40 am, two youths knocked his door and his unsuspecting wife ushered them in. Introducing themselves as students of the professor, they entered his room and shot him twice in his forehead. Before Dr. Kalburgi’s wife could come to her senses, the youths had fled on their motorbike.

While the circumstances leading to his death suggest that some rabid elements could be behind the incident, the police have not issued any official statement because they do not have any clues as of now. That a litterateur has been targeted in Karnataka for his sharp criticism of idol worship is something that has bewildered the police. Dr. Kalburgi led a content life with all his children pursuing different professions. There was absolutely no family feuds or property disputes that can provide different motives to the murder.

The police have to start probing the case from the scratch. Another hurdle for the police is that there were no official complaints or incidents involving right wing activists against Dr. Kalburgi in the last six months. Establishing a motive for the murder will be a major challenge. The police have to rely on the description of the killers to be provided by Dr. Kalburgi’s wife, who is still in a shock. If the police do not get it right from the beginning, this case in all likelihood will remain an unsolved mystery!

The gruesome killing of Dr. Kalburgi has already sparked widespread protests across Karnataka with the police bringing the situation under control. Now, there are calls to observe bandh in North Karnataka district to condemn the killing.

see also
Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti
Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism in India
Rationalist under threat of arrest for exposing the “miracle”
India's god laws fail the test of reason
India's new theocracy

Voice of rationality silenced by two bullets, shot point-blank

The Broken Middle - my essay on the 30th anniversary of 1984
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: Inquiry Commission Report (1969)
The Abolition of truth
RSS tradition of manufacturing facts to suit their ideology
Communist Party of India's Homage to Gandhiji October 2, 1947 // Communist Party's Appeal to the People of Pakistan August 15, 1947
V.D. Savarkar and Gandhi’s murder
Madhu Limaye's (senior socialist leader) observations on the RSS (1979)

A Hard Rain Falling (on private armies and political violence in India) (EPW, July 2012)

Veterans plan OROP as Bihar election issue

Military veterans, whose protest for the implementation of the one rank, one pension scheme entered the 76th day here on Saturday, may announce holding of a rally in Patna if the government does not meet their demand by Monday. As part of “intensifying the agitation” in the absence of any favourable decision by the government by August 31, the ex-servicemen said they would launch a mass awareness campaign in Bihar against the Union government.

To more States
“Not just Bihar, we will be going to all election-bound States. We are going to tell the people when you elect your leaders, be careful and make sure they will fulfil their assurances,” Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh (Retd.) told The Hindu. “We will plan a rally in Patna at an appropriate time, we have not done it so far,” he said when asked if a possible date had been fixed. Another retired Army officer, who is part of the front, said the veterans would recalibrate their strategy based on the government’s response.

A campaign by ex-servicemen in Patna ahead of the Bihar elections is likely to have political implications for the NDA combine that is pitched in a direct battle with the Janata Dal (U)-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress coalition. The Congress-led UPA had announced OROP, and the BJP had announced implementing it as an election promise. The unfulfilled promise could hurt the BJP which counts a large proportion of ex-servicemen among its supporters. Members of the United Front for Ex-servicemen, which has been agitating at Jantar Mantar here, have hardened their stance after talks failed with the Army chief and PMO officials on Thursday night.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

ALAKA M. BASU - Swamped by Ignorance and Prejudice, But Certainly Not By Muslims

The last thing we need is for reproductive decisions to be dictated by base motives that pit ‘us’ against ‘them’ and for women’s bodies to be used to wage a proxy war in which the only winner is ugly sectarianism

The recently released 2011 census tables on religion tell us that Hindus now number (that is, in 2011 they numbered) 966 million (966257353 to be precise) and Muslims 172 million (172245158 to be precise); in other words, Muslims have grown by 34 million over the span of 10 years while the now close-to-a-billion Hindu majority has added 139 million to its own numbers. These statistics have generated some anxiety and paranoia among a large number of people on Facebook and Twitter, with only a minority of these social media users being more sanguine that ‘our nation’ is not being taken over by ‘other’ people.

Misleading media coverage
Demographic fear-mongering is not unique to India and not new in India. Even before the release of these census figures, pronouncements on fearsome demographic imbalances periodically hit the news whenever ‘religious’ leaders – Hindu or Muslim – feel that they have not attracted enough attention lately. Our media rush to give them attention and also take it upon themselves to contribute to the cause.

Thus one national daily had a large front-page headline declaring “Hindu Population Falls, Muslims Rise”, while another one declaimed, “Hindu population declined; Muslims increased: 2011 Census.” Only the rare patient reader who went beyond the headlines would realize that it wasn’t the absolute number of Hindus that had fallen (as I said, that number has risen by 139 million), just that their proportion in the country had dropped by 0.7% between 2001 and 2011. At that kind of rate of change—and especially given that birth rates have been dropping for all sub-sets of the population in the country—we will have to be reborn several times before we see any reversal of the Hindu majority in the country, notwithstanding a Vishwa Hindu Parishad spokesperson’s claim that the census numbers were a ‘red signal for Hindu existence’.

Emerging trends
In the coming weeks and months, there will undoubtedly be more sophisticated analyses of some of the interesting details that underlie these broad statistics. Some of it has already begun in the media: on regional differences in religious group growth rates (for example, that Muslims in the south have lower fertility than Hindus in the north); on the socio-economic determinants of religious differences (for example, that once we control for income and education, the Hindu-Muslim gap in birth rates narrows significantly, even if Muslim fertility still remains somewhat higher than Hindu); on religious differences in gender discrimination (for example, that Muslims have much lower levels of female sex selective abortions than Hindus, even if they are in increasing danger of aping the discriminatory practices of their Hindu neighbours); on trends in religious group fertility (for example, that fertility declines are currently sharper among Muslims).

These elaborations are useful for two reasons. One, they are of interest because they help us better understand the micro-level motivations and compulsions and constraints that underlie macro numbers. Secondly, these elaborations have a very useful policy role – if the goal of development policy is to improve the lives of a country’s citizens, then we need to know what their needs are. For example, do Muslim women have an unmet demand for contraception, and if they do, is this a need that cannot be met by the female sterilisation that is the predominant form of birth control offered by our family planning program, in practice even if not in principle?

Data needs analyses for policy, not politics
Policy planners also need to know what the consequences of high or low fertility are, as opposed to the determinants that take up so much of our time; not the rabble rousing political consequences that wilfully exploit these census numbers, but the consequences for women and families in terms of health, education and standard of living, as well as larger level consequences on the environment, savings rates and so on.

However, at the public level, these analytical elaborations of differentials by religion in population growth rates are unfortunately being largely deployed to explain or ‘defend,’ the differentials. This is well-meaning, but it does not address two important matters. First, Indian Muslims do not and should not need to explain or defend, or have explained or defended on their behalf, their preferences or behaviour, whether on childbearing or on cricket teams, to establish their Indian credentials.

Secondly, and more importantly, these analyses do not address the right of all women, Muslim or Hindu, Sikh, Christian or Jain, to control their own reproductive selves and the duty of state and society to help them exercise such control. India is a signatory to the Plan of Action of the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, in which the central commitment is to the rights of women and families to decide for themselves what their family size will be.

Women’s right to reproductive choice
A paranoid and supposedly threatened Hindu majority leadership has no right to tell Muslim women to have fewer children or to exhort Hindu women to have more (as is also often done). And a paranoid and supposedly threatened Muslim minority leadership has no right to tell its women to keep breeding in the larger community’s interest.

As the bearers (and rearers) of children, women everywhere need the freedom, the physical ability and the psychosocial information to work out for themselves when—as well as, if at all—to begin childbearing, with whom to have children, and when to stop. Reproduction – whether any children, many children, or few children – is not a social or religious duty. And it certainly is not a patriotic duty, even if Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini once thought so, and even if worried Japan and Singapore and Italy today, less loudly, think so. The last thing we need is for something as intimate as reproductive decisions to be dictated by base motives that pit ‘us’ against ‘them’ and for use women’s bodies to be used to wage a proxy war in which the only winner is ugly sectarianism.

Miho Janvier - Amazing sights from the International Space Station

Imagine seeing the lights of cities spreading around the Nile Delta and then in less than an hour gazing down on Mount Everest. The astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are among the lucky few who will have this humbling, once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the beauty of Earth from space.
The ISS doesn’t just offer spectacular and countless views of the natural and man-made landscapes of our planet. It also immerses its residents into the Earth’s space environment and reveals how dynamic its atmosphere is, from its lower layers to its protective magnetic shield, constantly swept by the solar wind.
The best views are seen from the Cupola, an observation deck module attached to the ISS in 2010 and comprising seven windows. So, what are the amazing sights that you can see from the space station?..

See photos/videos:

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

R.K.MISRA - Painful Patel Punch: A National Social Re-engineering Experiment!

Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it scum floats to the top. But those who do so must bear the burden of the stink.

Both stirred and shaken, Gujarat is going through turmoil-filled days as it’s affluent and numerically strong patidar (patel) community mounts a fierce assault for OBC reservation that is straining the fabric of inter-community harmony to it’s tensile limits.

Fearful of a Patidar led-Anandiben Patel- government caving in to their demands, a counter-movement against it is building up as well.Two days ahead of the Patel’s biggest ever show of  community strength on August 25, the Other Backward Classes(OBC) mobilized  members from the 146 communities in it’s fold  for a dharna  near the Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad on August 23.The SCs and STs symbolically joined  it  and the tone and tenor were distinctly repudiatory of the  Patels.”Any move by the government or any community to snatch our rights will first ensure  this government’s pack up and thereafter  force us,  the laboring class to take to a naxalism style stir". warned their leaders. Within hours the first indicators of the  caste tensions building  up came to the fore  when Patels and Thakores(an OBC caste) clashed with lethal weapons in Ranosan village of Mehsana district in North Gujarat leaving 12 of them injured. This is the very village from where the Patidar agitation started over  45 days ago.

As Patel leaders demonstrating superb managerial prowess  and financial resource management  are making known their resolve to carry the agitation  beyond  the boundaries of the state, the contours of a larger design are slowly beginning to emerge. With the state government  now veeering round to state that it is neither feasible  nor possible to accede to their demand, the new slogan emerging is ‘either us reservation or no reservation’. This in effect means  that either the Patels should be given reservation in the OBC category or there should be no reservation for anybody.

As a further indication of their resolve to escalate the stir the patidar leadership has also reached out to retired Col. Kirori Singh Baisla who successfully led the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan even blockading traffic  passing through  their state to the country’s capital for a day.

Gujarat has been the crucible for important political experiments since long. It was the Dandi march initiated from Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad  on March 12,1930 by  Mahatma Gandhi leading to the salt satyagraha, and  civil disobedience movement which triggered off massive public indignation taking India to freedom 17 years later. Again it was the student led Navnirman agitation  from Ahmedabad in 1975 which led to the fall of the first Chimanbhai Patel headed Congress government. This purely student led  stir  triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to the rise of Jayprakash Narayan, followed by clamping of Emergency  and ultimately the installation of the Morarji Desai headed, first non-Congress government at the centre in 1977. 

Ironically it was Chimanbhai Patel who had subsequently quit the Congress and lent covert support to a  Patidar led anti-reservation stir that  ensured the fall of yet another Congress government in Gujarat ,this time  headed by Madhavsinh Solanki. The government fell within four months of being elected in 1985 with a majority of 149 seats in a House of 182  seats , a record that remains unbeaten to this day, not even by Narendra  Modi.

Another major political experiment was  the one spearheaded by the Hindu Dharma Jagran Manch (HJM) an affiliate of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal carried out in December 1998 in the solely tribal Dangs district in South Gujarat bordering Maharashtra.This was after Swami Aseemanand- who  subsequently figured in cases of hindu terror and spent extended time behind bars-was posted in  Dangs in 1995 by the RSS to set up an ashram and undertake ‘tribal welfare’activities. It was thereafter that a ‘shabari mahakumbh’was held here in 2006.

Raising the bogey of threats to the ‘hindu tribal  majority’ a string of Christian places of worship were attacked  beginning Christmas  in 1998. The violence targeting Christian tribals and missionaries spread to other areas of  South Gujarat. Such was the national and international outcry over the incidents that took place during BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel’s rule that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi had to visit Dangs. The violence against the minority Christian community had a twofold objective. Firstly to prevent  tribal conversions  to Christianity through creation of a fear psychosis and secondly to divide the  tribals who formed  the core of the Congress vote-bank.

There are reasons to believe that Gujarat is once again the subject of a pilot project on social engineering. There is not an iota of doubt that a spirited and energetic youth leadership is spear heading the  agitation with  dedication and drive. But  it is also clear from the  speed  and skill, finesse and financial acumen with which  it is spreading like wildfire  that there are  sharper watchful eyes, who, while allowing it to progress are monitoring it all the way. Political analysts see in it a larger game-plan.

Both the RSS and the present Prime Minister are known to be votaries of a single point reservation-only for the economically backward class. Thus, if Modi and the RSS could have their way they would want to do away with  caste-based reservation. Not even easier said, much less easier done. 

As has been the case on numerous other occasions, no better place to carry out  an experiment under controlled conditions than Gujarat. For one, the Sangh Parivar and the various  RSS organs have been able to strike deep roots over the almost 20 year old BJP rule post-1995. A case in point is the spread of the innocuous  ‘pag pada sangh’, which is VHP shaded, and  has struck deep roots right into homes. It is now almost a ritual that on sacred occasions people-men, women even children-walk to key places of worship, some as distant as 350 kms away with public spirited people and organizations making arrangements for their rest, recuperation and  food  enroute. Many such organizations exist in a variety of spheres ensuring  penetration and pursuance powers for the Parivar organs in the social fabric of the state.

In the case of the Patidar stir, intelligence agencies have already supplied to authorities the names of  BJP and other sister set up leaders involved in  behind-the scene-organisational affairs. The chief minister, Anandiben Patel  and other senior leaders also had a closed door meeting with RSS leaders at Modi’s  old  ‘Sanskardham’ office on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on August 23. At the end of it a statement for public consumption said that social harmony in the state should not be disturbed and we are discussing what role we can play in easing  tensions.

It is common knowledge that Patels constitute one of the largest block of BJP supporters. They moved away from the Congress  in the aftermath of 1985. This tilt followed the attempt to marginalize  them through  the KHAM (Kshatriya, harijan, adivasi, muslim) configuration, successfully implemented by former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki. Modi also tightened his grip over Gujarat in the almost 13 years that he held sway in the state. 

Thus Gujarat is the ideal place for a controlled experiment of this nature which involves building public opinion for such a major  but  extremely sensitive political experiment. Why otherwise would the  BJP Patel MLA whose office was vandalized by the agitators refuse to file a police complaint? Why have 37 Patel legislators and seven ministers been virtually silent spectators? Why has the government been taking a soft as satin approach to the agitation? It is only now when voices are being raised by the OBCs and the SCs and STs that it has begun to make some bold paper announcements.The instructions to the cops, however is to exercise great caution.

If the RSS has an agenda, Narendra Modi has an unorthodox delivery mechanism stretching beyond the strangulating confines of the government .This enables  forward movement as well as withdrawal without being seen to be doing either. Have we not noticed it in the sudden rash of high profile ‘ghar wapasi’ events  that started hogging media space after a series of rash public utterances by BJP-Sangh constituent leaders? It was deliberate and planned, mainly to  bring the issue into sharp focus for purposes of a national debate on an anti-conversion law, variants of which have already been implemented in Gujarat. The purpose served, a quiet withdrawal and it  died down soon after. 

For those who know the inner mechanics,’ ghar wapasi’ is a year round continuing programme of the parivar being pursued  quietly. As is said, the greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly hidden in the shadows. So do disasters.

also see

Chennai: Screening venue of 'Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai' changed after alleged threats from Hindutva lobby // Video of hooliganism by 'parivar' activists at DU campus

NB: This account of an event in Ramjas College 1988 may interest all those who are facing violent censorship today - DS

The screening of Nakul Singh Sawhney’s documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai was scheduled on Tuesday across the country in 50 towns and cities. The documentary, which traces the aftermath of the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in west Uttar Pradesh, has been at the centre of protests across the country. In Chennai, the documentary was to be screened at renowned art critic Sadanand Menon’s Spaces in Besant Nagar. However, there were threats made allegedly by Hindutva groups. When the screening organisers complained to the police, the police did not provide security. Instead, they reportedly persuaded the organisers to change the venue. People who had gathered at Spaces, protested the change in venue, with some even calling it ‘state-sponsored censorship’. The documentary was then screened at Goethe-Institut.

Deepanjana Pal
Blocked in Delhi University, documentary 'Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai' is a must watch
Interestingly, only a few of the victims of violence point fingers at any political party. Most are simply furious with the state government for not protecting them and struggling to comprehend that those who were friends till a few weeks ago, are now enemies.

Video of hooliganism by 'parivar' activists at DU campus
A comprehensive video about everything that happened when ABVP goons disrupted a screening of 'Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai...' at Kirori Mal College. They heckled and threatened teachers and students at the screening. But the students stood up to their lumpenism. Please do watch and share:
Also see:

Report of the first NDA government's (1998) brazen attempt to 'revise' Gandhi's Collected Works. Hundreds of whimsical deletions and changes were noticed by well-known scholars and Gandhians in India and around the world, who viewed them as an insult to scholarship, and demanded an end to such attempts to play with historical documents. Read the history of the controversy. Tridip Suhrud, now director of Sabarmati Ashram, wrote a detailed analysis of this shameless behaviour in EPW in November 2004. It was only after the defeat of the NDA government that the fraudulently 'revised' edition of the CWMG was withdrawnin 2005

More on violent censorship by political hooligans of various stripes:

More on censorship