Showing posts from November, 2015

CHAPAL MEHRA - Having the Freedom to Love Freely, Above All Else

They mock me if I fall silent I’m done for if I dare speak – From Kafi 16, Madho Lal Hussein. On November 29, a few thousand people will walk in Delhi to celebrate queer pride. As they do so, they will be reinforcing their right to love. This event is particularly poignant in times of love-jihad and intolerance. As they march, they will be walking a well-plotted path in the sub-continents history, which has celebrated and accepted expressions of same-sex love in the past. A history that was systematically decimated by our colonial rulers to end our diversity and plural traditions, one that we are also actively working to destroy today. Delhi Queer Pride makes a statement on ‘muzzling’ of individual rights The story of Madho Lal Hussain, one of the most celebrated and revered medieval saints of the Indian subcontinent, is an illustration of this tradition. A Sufi, Hussain’s passionate love for a young Hindu man named Madho is well-known. He loved him so fervently that he

Mohammad Taqi - They shut down my column: Under General Sharif, the Pakistan army is carrying out a war against diversity of opinion

Pakistan’s globetrotting Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has been peddling the ostensible success of a military operation called Zarb-e-Azb in assorted world capitals. The director of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Lt General Asim Saleem Bajwa, has unleashed a social and conventional media blitzkrieg that creates a halo of accomplishment, nay infallibility, around his boss, General Sharif. But in tandem with the military’s media blitz is its undeclared war on dissent, which impugns, maligns and tries to ostracise those in the intelligentsia who refuse to buy the military’s version of events. This low intensity, systematic war on the diversity of opinion in Pakistan barely gets local or international attention. During my morning ritual of going through emails this past Friday (November 27), I spotted one from my op-ed editor, which read: “It is with an extremely heavy heart that I regret to inform you that Daily Times will be unable to accommodate your daring an

Pratik Kanjilal - Ban on Satanic Verses: We now have a global culture of complaint which justifies violent responses

Twenty-seven years after the event, P Chidambaram, former cabinet minister of the  Congress  party, has admitted that the ban imposed on Salman Rushdie’s  The Satanic Verses  by the government of Rajiv Gandhi was ill-conceived. Indeed, it must number among the least palatable actions of that government but since it only limited access to one book, and since the Internet now allows the embargo to be run very easily by those who want to read it, it seems to have faded from public memory. In the Rajiv Gadhi era, the politically sanctioned 1984 violence against Sikhs in Delhi set a precedent whose shadow now falls across the country. Bofors set the keynote for gigantic scams to come. The Shah Bano case was a shameful infringement of the legislature on the turf of the judiciary. In comparison, the banning of a book seems trivial, but it was the first shot across the bows in a global war on culture which continues to intensify. The timeline of the  Satanic Verses  controversy shows

Alissa Scheller - 2 Degrees Will Change The World // Protesters gather around the world for a strong climate change deal

World leaders are meeting in Paris this month in what amounts to a last-ditch effort to avert the worst ravages of climate change. Climatologists now say that the best case scenario — assuming immediate and dramatic emissions curbs — is that planetary surface temperatures will increase by at least  2 degrees Celsius  in the coming decades. This may sound like a small uptick, but the implications are profound. Rising temperatures will destroy plant and animal habitats, and reduce yields of important food crops. More people will be exposed to the ravages of flooding and drought. But if the nations involved in the Paris talks stay on their current emissions track and don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures could go up by almost 6 degrees Celsius this century, according to the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body that advises the U.K. government on climate issues. The consequences of a heating globe are already being felt in Alaska, which is  warming tw

Ashutosh Vandana - A voice, under 35: Right place, wrong T-shirt

I was detained at the film festival in Goa for wearing an FTII T-shirt Come November and the cinephile in me gets ready to return to Goa. Each year, I come to this beautiful state because I love being by the sea, feeling the cool breeze in my hair, eating the local food, the warm smiles and easy conversation of Goans — but, most importantly, I return because I want to immerse myself in the world of the films playing at the International Film Festival of India (Iffi). I have been visiting the festival for the past five years and can say with some authority that it is the most exhaustive and exciting film festival in the country. One gets to see big releases and also small, obscure films; old classics as well as experimental works. One gets to meet movie lovers and develop new friendships, forged over the ties of cinema. This year, however, things have been different. I have been denied the chance to be a part of this cinematic carnival — only because I am a student at the Film an

Book review - Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World

Atheism in the Ancient World - by Tim Whitmarsh Reviewed by REBECCA N. GOLDSTEIN The philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, beloved by generations of Columbia University students (including me), was known for lines of wit that yielded nuggets of insight. He kept up his instructive shtick until the end, remarking to a colleague shortly before he died: “Why is God making me suffer so much? Just because I don’t believe in him?” For Morgenbesser, nothing worth pondering, including disbelief, could be entirely de-¬paradoxed. The major thesis of Tim Whitmarsh’s excellent “Battling the Gods” is that atheism — in all its nuanced varieties, even Morgenbesserian — isn’t a product of the modern age but rather reaches back to early Western intellectual tradition in the ancient Greek world. The period that Whitmarsh covers is roughly 1,000 years, during which the Greek-speaking population emerged from illiteracy and anomie, became organized into independent city-states that spawned a high-achieving

MRINAL PANDE - What Lies Behind the Hairsplitting Over Dharma, Panth and Secularism

It is no surprise that a state whose law and order machinery is headed by a minister with such semantic predilections will tend to look the other way when various members of his ‘panth nirpeksha’ government justify the use of violence in defence of their ‘dharma’ For authorities fearful of free and open debates, semantic impoverishment... weakens the autonomy of individuals. As the political lexicon shrinks, so does the space for free debate.  As the authorities start providing all acceptable definitions, citizens gradually cease to be aware of the fact that there are moral values beyond the platitudes of ‘development’ and ‘India first’ that uphold real democracy and which they must fight for... In the days to come, the struggle for the future of India as a free and truly inclusive democracy is going to take place more and more in the realm of language. And it will be made even more intense by the mass media and social media. What Lies Behind the Hairsplitting Over Dharma, P

Ratna Kapur - The Dark Shadows of Tolerance

The concept operates as a gatekeeper, drawing a line between those we like and those we do not. It does not offer any vision of transformation and, in the face of systemic or structural inequalities, becomes a substitute for justice. The use of the term ‘tolerance’ is being bandied around in the public space in ways that invariably assume it has a progressive meaning. In response to protests by writers and others against acts of violence and intimidation and the government’s failure unequivocally to condemn them, ruling party ministers and spokespersons have insisted that they are “tolerant” and that India is a country where “tolerance” is a way of life. In reality, tolerance means different things to different people and the use of this word as a shield underlines the problematic nature of the concept. In the context of the colonial encounter, tolerance was the glue that enabled civilizing missions and colonial adventures in the name of taming the ‘barbarous other’ who was vi

Yubaraj Ghimire : How the growing chasm between India and Nepal is widening at all levels

The expanding hiatus between the governments of Nepal and India seems to be replicating itself at various levels of the society on both sides. Last week, school children waving placards– mostly appeals to  Narendra Modi  to the end humanitarian crisis in Nepal– formed a human chain in as 17-km perimeter ring road in Kathmandu. While the students paraded on the streets, the government framed a protest letter against the Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) for shooting at four Nepali citizens in the eastern Nepalese Sunsari district, from within Nepal territory allegedly as part of the drive against fertiliser smuggling. A similar incident took place on Sunday as 13 SSB personnel, six of them armed, entered another district in the east, allegedly in hot-pursuit of dacoits. Security agencies of Nepal took them in custody for few hours, and then released them after the Indian side said such incidents will not recur. However, with trust deficit increasing on both sides, motives are being attr

Book review: Aziz Ansari on modern romance

Modern Romance , Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg reviewed by Devapriya Roy  Getting married and starting a family was once seemingly the only reasonable life course. Today we’ve become far more accepting of alternative lifestyles, and people move in and out of different situations: single with roommates, single and solo, single with partner, married, divorced, divorced and living with an iguana, remarried with iguana, then divorced with seven iguanas because your iguana obsession ruined your relationship, and finally, single with six iguanas (Arturo was sadly run over by an ice cream truck). When we do marry, we are marrying for love. We are finding our soul mates. And the tools we have to find our soul mates are incredible. We aren’t limited to just the bing bongs who live in our building. We have online dating that gives us access to millions and millions of bing-bongs around the world. We can filter them in any way we want. When we go out, we can use our smartphones to tex