Showing posts from July, 2017

In the ruins of Magadh. By Ashutosh Bhardwaj

Kya isse kuch fark padega/ agar main kahun/ main Magadh ka nahin/ Avanti ka hun? Magadh ke maane nahi jaoge Avanti mein pehchane nahi jaoge WHILE IT IS easier to decry  Nitish Kumar ’s BJP embrace as yet another instance of rotten politics, the Patna text demands a different reading. Here are eight propositions to decode its narrative. One: Indian Politics is now an individualistic utilitarian act. It has moved beyond the Plato’s advice in The Republic that true politics is ethics in action. It now involves the art of managing multiple partners simultaneously, with the sole aim to maximising pleasure and power. It celebrates and legitimises narcissism. Many have practised this art before Nitish, he will also have his successors, some of whom will perform this art on him too. Two: The Patna episode was not a drama, but a novel. Such political coups, because of their curious turns, are often termed as “dramatic”. In great novels, of Paul Auster’s for instance, even t

'I died in hell': sacrifice of war dead remembered at Passchendaele

As the sun went down on Ypres on Sunday, the shale grey stone floor of the old Belgian town’s Menin Gate, the world’s first memorial to those who fell but who were never found during the first world war, was slowly covered by more than 54,000 blood-red poppies falling from its high arch. There was a paper flower for each name engraved upon the vast gate. A crowd numbering in the thousands, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Theresa May and the King and Queen of  Belgium , Philippe and Mathilde, watched as the poppies drifted down in the still evening air. The young voices of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, standing below the gate’s 14-metre-high ceiling, sang the Ypres hymn: “O valiant hearts who to your glory came, / Through dust of conflict and through battle flame; / Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved; / Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.” Amarjit Chandan - How they suffered: World War I and its impact on Punjabis... Forgotten role of

Armed Forces veterans write open letter to PM Modi: Condemn targeting of Muslims, Dalits

Highlighting the recent attacks on Muslims and Dalits in the country, the veterans of the Indian Armed Forces have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing their distress and condemning the relentless vigilantism of the self-appointed protectors of Hinduism. In the letter, the veterans said they stand with the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign and that the Armed Forces stand for “Unity in Diversity”. They added the current situation in the country is that of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion. They said, “what is happening in our country today strikes at all that the Armed Forces, and indeed our Constitution, stand for. We are witness to unprecedented attacks on society at large by the relentless vigilantism of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism. We condemn the targeting of Muslims and Dalits. We condemn the clampdowns on free speech by attacks on media outlets, civil society groups, universities, journalists and scholars, through a campaign of branding the

Slavoj Zizek on Christian conservatives' tolerance for vulgarity // Is the American republic built to withstand a malevolent president? By Michael Goldfarb

Christian conservatives don't support Donald Trump despite his vulgarity but because of it Public obscenity is sustained by a concealed moralism, its practitioners secretly believe they are fighting for a cause, and it is at this level that they should be attacked... To paraphrase the old Marx brothers joke, apropos Trump or Kaczynski: you look and act like a vulgar clown, but this should not deceive us – you really are a vulgar clown... How to account for the strange fact that Donald Trump, a lewd and morally destitute person, the very opposite of Christian decency, can function as the chosen hero of the Christian conservatives? The explanation one usually hears is that, while Christian conservatives are well aware of the problematic character of Trump’s personality, they have chosen to ignore this side of things since what really matters to them is Trump’s agenda, especially his anti-abortion stance. If he succeeds in naming conservative new members of the Supreme Court, w

Book review - Linda Grant on Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate

Life and Fate was written in the late 1950's & confiscated by the Soviet authorities. It was published in the West in 1980, and in Russia in 1988. Grossman died in 1964. Linda Grant says of it:  Novels fade, your immersion in their world turns into a faint dream, and then is forgotten. Only great literature grows in the imagination... and of its author :  He, like everyone else who survived the period of the 1937 show trials which liquidated the  revolutionaries of 1917, came to understand that guilt and innocence are meaningless when the state  decides the nature of reality.  Life and Fate ; Vintage  2011, p. xv Good men and bad men alike are capable of weakness. The difference is simply that a bad man will be proud all his life of one good deed - while an honest man is hardly aware of his good acts, but remembers a single sin for years on end : Life and Fate whenever we see the dawn of an eternal good... whenever we see this dawn, the  blood of children and old peo

Pratap Bhanu Mehta on the lessons of Bihar

There is an irony in trying to interpret Nitish’s break with Lalu as some kind of watershed moment in Indian politics. Does it represent the death of secularism? Does it represent the death of regional parties? But the blunt truth is that this moment is not a watershed, but merely a reminder of the eternal realities of Indian democracy: Indian democracy is politics all the way down. Any attempts to frame its realities in terms of encrusted master narratives is largely wishful thinking. None of the protagonists in this drama can bear the load of any deeper meaning. Nitish Kumar  has always been a politician’s politician. This has manifested itself in many ways. His first instinct has always been survival. He now has an enviable track record of managing to remain an indispensable figure in Bihar politics. His second instinct, like many politicians in India, is to ensure a relatively weak internal party organisation that ensures he is never challenged from the inside. He has combined

Vyapam Scam Accused Allegedly Commits Suicide In Madhya Pradesh

Praveen Yadav, an accused in the high-profile (MPPEB) scam, allegedly committed suicide on Wednesday, by hanging himself at his residence in Madhya Pradesh's Morena. Praveen, a resident of Maharajpur village was charged in 2012 in connection with the Vyapam scam. More than 40 people associated with the scam have died since the story broke in 2013. The deaths include accused and witnesses as well as a journalist who was investigating the story and have largely been under mysterious circumstances. The death includes the Dean of a Jabalpur Medical College Dr. Arun Sharma and the other is Aaj Tak journalist Akshay Singh, who was covering the scam. The scam involved 13 different exams conducted by Vyapam, for selection of medical students and state government employees (including food inspectors, transport constables, police personnel, school teachers, dairy supply officers and forest guards). The exams were taken by around 3.2 million students. Cases of irregularities in these entr

Book review: Imagining Pakistan: Religion at the Origins of Nationalism

Sohaib I. Khan on Venkat Dhulipala’s Creating a New Medina Dhulipala’s methodological posture is a refreshing departure from academic histories in which the saga of partition only unfolds through the hidden motives and intrigues of nationalist elites. At the very outset of the book, he therefore rejects the famous  “bargaining counter” thesis  that sees Pakistan as the unintended outcome of a failed political bargain by its founder  Pakistan’s descent into violent forms of religious extremism has recently become the subject of  best-selling books . Causal explanations for the country’s current state of crisis rely on either one or some combination of the following: incomplete modernization, persistent  religious dogma and super-stition  as impediments to secularization, disruptions in democratic rule by a strong  military junta ,  American interventionism  and surrogate warfare, etc. For those not captive to a view of the present, the roots of Pakistan’s religious predicament may ev

The Instigator: How MS Golwalkar’s virulent ideology underpins Modi’s India. By HARTOSH SINGH BAL

EVERY CULT OR ORGANISATION  typically carries forward the legacy of its founder, and it is rare for those who build upon that legacy to exercise the same influence—let alone exceed it. But the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, has never been a typical organisation, and, in this regard too, it stands out. It was founded in 1925 by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, but it bears the far more emphatic stamp of his successor, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar. While Hedgewar is referred to as Doctorji within the RSS, Golwalkar is known as Guruji. Golwalkar took over as the RSS’s sarsanghchalak, or chief, after Hedgewar’s death, in 1940, and held the post till his own death, in 1973. When he assumed charge, the RSS—also known as the Sangh—was still establishing itself, and did not have a major presence outside Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. Under him, the organisation passed through great turbulence: it played an incendiary role in the Partition violence, and was banned after the assassination of

Dunkirk Veteran Weeps At Film Premiere: ‘It Was Just Like I Was There Again’

Walking out of a Calgary, Canada, movie theater on Friday, where he’d just watched the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s highly acclaimed “Dunkirk,”  97-year-old war veteran Ken Sturdy was seen wiping tears from his eyes . “I never thought I’d see that again,” an emotional Sturdy, dressed in a jacket adorned with war medals and a military beret, told Canada’s Global News. “It was just like I was there again.” Sturdy, who is originally  from Wales , is one of the few surviving World War II veterans who was at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940. He was among the  330,000 Allied troops who were evacuated  from the French town as Nazi forces made their advance. More than 100,000 British and French troops perished in the battle, according to the BBC. What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Dunkirk. By John Broich Bloodless, boring and empty: Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk left me cold “I was 20 when that happened, but watching the movie, I could see my old friends again,” said Sturdy, who ad

Poland's president Andrzej Duda to veto law that would have put supreme court under control of ruling party

Duda said he consulted many experts before making his decision, including lawyers, sociologists, politicians and philosophers. But he said the person who influenced him the most was Zofia Romaszewska, a leading anti-Communist dissident in the 1970s and 1980s. He said Romaszewska told him: “Mr President, I lived in a state where the prosecutor general had an unbelievably powerful position and could practically do everything. I would not like to go back to such a state.” Poland’s president has said he will veto controversial judicial reforms that have sparked  days of nationwide street protests  and prompted the EU to threaten unprecedented sanctions. “I have decided to send back to parliament – in which case to veto – the law on the supreme court, as well as the law on the National Council of the Judiciary,” Andrzej Duda said in a televised announcement. “The law would not strengthen the sense of justice in society,” he added, explaining that his decision came after lengthy consulta

"Neoliberalism" isn't a left-wing insult but a monstrous political system of inequality. By Sam Kriss // A strong new voice in resistance to Trump

The One Word Guaranteed to Make the Corporate Pundit Class Squirm Neoliberalism is not particularly hard to define. It’s not only an ideology or a set of principles; it’s a system of practices, and an era, the one we’re living in now. What it means, over and above everything, is untrammeled ruling-class power, an end to the class-collaborationism of the post-war years and a vicious assault of the rich against the poor. This is achieved through market mechanisms, fiscal austerity and the penetration of capitalist relations into every possible facet of human life. It doesn’t mean that the role of the state vanishes—an essential precondition for neoliberalism is the destruction of working-class power and collective bargaining, and this has to be achieved, often brutally, through laws and their enforcement. There isn't just "some role for market forces" either, but their invasion into every fathomable social situation. Warehouse workers are electronically monitored and

Amrit Dhillon - Routine abuse of Delhi's maids laid bare as class divide spills into violence

The standoff between cooks, cleaners, drivers and childminders of the rich, who last week stormed across the well-manicured lawns at Mahaguna Moderne in Noida, a Delhi suburb, has turned from violent to political. Dozens of people whom residents believe took part in the angry uprising have been sacked, and in response trade unions are calling for a boycott of all domestic help. There is fury at what has been seen as the high-handed approach of a government minister who arrived to talk to  residents before making racial slurs against the rioters and refusing to meet slum dwellers. The 100-strong group of protesters consisted of workers who enter the high-rise complex daily yet are forced to take different lifts and corridors to their employers, and even have to use different glasses and taps to drink water. When Zohra Bibi, a part-time maid, went missing, her husband went to the complex to demonstrate together with his relatives and friends. It is claimed that Mithul and Harshu

Ann O'Loughlin - How the Trans-Siberian railway became the love train

Ann O’Loughlin set off across the Soviet Union nearly 30 years ago, looking for adventure and a chance to practise her Russian. Instead, she met a fascinating stranger in a leather jacket in the next carriage … The  Trans-Siberian railway , the greatest train journey in the world, is where our love story began. When I booked a ticket on the Rossiya train to travel from west to east through different time zones, I expected a great adventure, to rub shoulders with people from a very different culture and to try out the small bit of Russian I had diligently studied. Never did I expect to meet the love of my life and say “I do” by the time the train skirted around the far edges of Lake Baikal and out of the city of Irkutsk in Siberia. Ours was a holiday romance like no other; love kindled on that great iron road put in place at the time of the tsar and which tracks across the former Soviet Union week in, week out. Over four days as the train trundled its way through the heart of Russi

Donald Trump's Report Card: A Paralyzed, Scandal-Plagued Presidency That's Only Getting Worse. By Heather Digby Parton

He’s packed in more scandals, lies, errors and gaffes during this short period that any five presidents in their full four-year terms.  I feel like I’ve aged at least a decade since January. Each day is like a month. But it’s true. We are only at the six-month point and it’s time to take stock. Trump’s plans may not have had to come to full fruition but we can certainly judge whether or not this central promise of his American Carnage speech has born out: In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. As usual, he was projecting his own weaknesses onto others. I think most people who had followed the presidential campaign understood that this was a very bold comment coming from Donald Trump. No one has ever complained or cast more blame on everyone but himself than he has, including a r

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Dunkirk. By John Broich

Christopher Nolan’s  Dunkirk   is likely to be the most widely seen or read depiction of history released in 2017. So how does a British historian who teaches and writes about World War II rate it as history? In terms of accuracy, it rates pretty highly. There are no big, glaring historical whoppers. The characters whom Nolan invents to serve his narrative purposes are realistic, and his scenes depict genuine events or hew close to firsthand accounts. And why not, since fiction could hardly outdo the drama and emotion of the reality? Nolan  made clear  that he intended the film to be a kind of history of an  experience , and he succeeds about as well as any filmmaker could in conveying what it might have felt like to be on that beach... Dunkirk Finds New Ways to Subvert the Tropes of the War Film What’s missing from the film that a historian might add? In the film, we see at least one French soldier who might be African. In fact, soldiers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and

Tufail Ahmad on Abrahamic Hindutva // Khaled Ahmed - Pakistan: The monopoly of violence

NB : These are two significant and complementary articles on the insurgent political ideologies that hide behind religion. Despite many differences between developments in India and Pakistan, what is similar is the political campaign to abolish the distinction between legal and illegal violence. Instead of enforcing the supremacy of the state, the political leadership is encouraging vigilante groups to engage in violence. In Pakistan the situation is complicated by the fact that the state was founded on the ideal of Islam as civic religion. This made it easy for Islamo-fascists to push a violent, theocratic agenda. This process is also underway in Bangladesh . In India the RSS worked for decades to enforce an ideological dictatorship in the name of a Hindu communal interest. (Read more about sabotage of the law in India). Here Hindutva functions as did State Shinto in Japan - a project to impose a state religion. Many imagine it to be 'Hinduism', but at this article argues,