Showing posts from October, 2017

Niha Masih: 33 years on, wounds of anti-Sikh riots victims haven’t healed

The camera is turned on and a mic clipped. “Attar Kaur hoon main” (I am Attar Kaur),” says the woman. She then narrates her story, exactly the way she has done year after year. The voice of the 65-year-old sounds tired but the tears are fresh. As she wraps up her interview to a Chandigarh-based Punjabi channel, Kaur says, “Har saal November mein media wale aate hain, aankhein ro-ro ke dukh jaati hain, mudda utha hai, phir saal bhar chutti. (Every November mediapersons come calling; my eyes hurt from all the crying. The issue is raised for a few days and then forgotten for the rest of the year).” It’s that time of the year again. October 31 marks 33 years of anti-Sikh carnage that started hours after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her Sikh bodyguards. Large mobs killed around 3,000 Sikhs, most of them men. Delhi saw the worst of the violence that swept many parts of India. In 2012, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told a sessions court in Delhi that the

Book review: How Facebook and Google are leading us to a ‘world without mind’. By Sushil Aaron

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” -Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, now executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc. humans are outsourcing thinking to machines... algorithms are relieving humans of the burden of choosing and thereby eroding free will itself. Big tech firms like Facebook, Google and Amazon have become indispensable presences in our lives. We are addicted to these platforms as they steer us to unseen news, gossip, products and entertain-ment. We check our mobiles through the day, attempting to skate over micro-moments of anxiety and boredom through the endorphins that clicks and ‘likes’ generate. We are experiencing a civilizational transition and thinkers in various disciplines are grappling with the significance of the moment. Among them is Franklin Foer, a former editor of the New Republic, who offers a fascinating look at how Big Tech is reshaping humanity, democracy and world culture at

Saudis on the move? By Javed Anand

Has the Saudi monarchy gained enlightenment overnight? Is that why it is unleashing a religio-cultural revolution in the desert kingdom? Or are we witnessing the spectacle of a state-sponsored mirage? Judging by the headline-grabbing royal decrees and pronouncements in the last 30 days, it appears the Saudis are at last on the move. But a closer look suggests that what we are seeing is not quite what we are likely to get. On September 26, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issues a royal firman granting Saudi women the license to drive beginning June next. What follows barely three weeks later — October 17 — is breath-taking. A royal order announces the formation of a global body of elite Islamic scholars to vet the entire Hadith corpus (purported sayings of Prophet Mohammed) in order to “eliminate fake and extremist texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts which have no place in Islam, the religion of peace”. A s

Sheldon Wolin and 'Inverted Totalitarianism'. By Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin, our most important contemporary political theorist, died Oct. 21 at the age of 93. In his books “ Democracy Incorporated : Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism” and “ Politics and Vision ,” a massive survey of Western political thought that his former student Cornel West calls “magisterial,” Wolin lays bare the realities of our bankrupt democracy, the causes behind the decline of American empire and the rise of a new and terrifying configuration of corporate power he calls “inverted totalitarianism.” Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Wendy Brown , a political science professor at UC Berkeley and another former student of Wolin’s, said in an email to me: “Resisting the monopolies on left theory by Marxism and on democratic theory by liberalism, Wolin developed a distinctive — even distinctively American — analysis of the political present and of radical democratic possibilities. He was especially prescient in theorizing the heavy stat

Talk at your own peril, warns Abhinav Chandrachud in Republic of Rhetoric

Be silent. Even before Salman Rushdie declared India to be in the grip of a "cultural emergency"; before the culture of bhakt vitriol became a social phenomenon; before the Supreme Court asked the Law Commission of India to propose a penalty for hate speech; before 2016 turned out to be the year of sedition and 2017 that of defamation-free speech was under threat in India. That fascinating, tangled backstory of our right to speak freely is what scholar, author and advocate of the Bombay High Court, Abhinav Chandrachud, unravels in Republic of Rhetoric: Free Speech and the Constitution of India. He digs deep into legal, political and historical records, uses anecdotes to show how the law played out in practice and in policy, from the British period to the present, and hammers home the point that India is still waiting for a radical legal transformation, one that would unshackle its laws-especially, the legal limits of speech-from the colonial past. The right to freedo

Hridayesh Joshi - Death of a killer lake

Standing almost 4,000 metres above sea level on top of the Chorabari glacier, we look down at the remains of a lake. The memories of the havoc caused by the now-dried lake are hard to erase. Photo by Hridayesh Joshi On the morning of June 17, 2013, Chorabari lake breached its banks, bringing a massive flash flood -complete with debris and boulders – down the slope to the temple town of Kedarnath. It almost wiped away the town and then roared down the Mandakini – one of the main tributaries of the Ganga – and killed thousands in Uttarakhand. Many are still missing and several bodies are still being discovered in the higher reaches of the Himalayas. A thin thread of water trickles down the middle of the lake bed and drains out through the broken embankments. The lake where the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were immersed – leading to its official name Gandhi Sarovar – is now a collection of mud and sand. Until it burst its banks, Chorabari was one of 14 lakes spread over the Mandakini rive

Jairus Banaji - Revolution Destroyed

As the Left celebrates the centenary of the Russian Revolution this month, it is important to learn lessons from its tragic fate. The Russian Revolution is a startling paradox. It was a revolution largely based on the working class, the first workers’ revolution in history, creating a state that was  not  a workers’ state. This searing paradox would clinch the fate of the radical left for the rest of the twentieth century, since the chief outcome of the revolution (the regime known as ‘Stalinism’) would exert a preponderant influence on radical sectors of the left in countries like India no less than in Europe, and crucially affect the course of major political events internationally, most notably, Hitler’s unimpeded rise to power at the end of the twenties and the tragic fate of the Spanish Revolution a few years later. As Don Filtzer showed in his seminal book  Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization , by the 1930s the working class in the Soviet Union ceased to exist a

Virtual anxiety: The disturbing new reality of life online. By Olivia Sudjic

The internet promised transcendence of the physical, but has developed into a no man's land where incomprehension, lack of ethics and insufficient regulation meet. This lawlessness at once part of its appeal and its central problem. Currently, those who benefit most from the internet are those who run it, and Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg may soon run for president of the United States. His intimate understanding of the digital fabric of our daily lives, not to mention his contribution to the way the last election went, means he'd likely win. Anyone who still thinks internet culture is superficial can wake up now. After all, what's so superficial about Facebook? It is deeply human to look to others, compare and copy. But to gratify natural drives to the extent social media enables is the same as binge-eating fast food because it is natural to be hungry. I think of King Midas, and how everything he touched turned to gold. Do we want to be that app-happy? To l

I Cannot Accept Hindutva Because I Am a Hindu. By NAYANTARA SAHGAL

NB: Thank you Nayantara. Genuine followers of every faith can learn from what you have written  DS The other day, an acquaintance of mine asked me why I was opposing Hindutva. What did I have against it? I told her why. I said I opposed it for two reasons. One reason is personal and the other is political. Let me begin with the personal. I cannot accept Hindutva because I am a Hindu. By this I don’t mean only that I was born a Hindu, but that I am a believer. My religion is important to me. I draw daily strength and sustenance from it. It is central to my life and thought, and to my behaviour toward believers of other faiths, for Sanatan Dharma teaches that the world is our family. To millions of Indians, of whatever faith, religion matters. And all truly religious people know that God has no chosen people. We are all equal in the eyes of the creator. So it is unbearable to watch my religion being transformed into what it was never meant to be by people who call themselves Hin

Prem Panicker - Modi's Unwillingness To Listen To Criticism Has Knocked The Halo Off His Head

The crowds that thronged Delhi to celebrate Narendra Modi’s swearing-in breathed that purified air through the Modi mask that had during the election cycle been elevated to a fashion statement. And in response to Modi’s triumphant speech, they responded to his call of "Achhe Din" with chants of "aa gaye", in a symphonic chorus of sycophantic adoration. The crowds responded to Modi's call of ‘Achhe Din’ with chants of ‘aa gaye’. Those were heady days. The air was perfumed with faith – "the substance,” says Hebrews 11:1, “of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” A nation saturated with a carefully constructed narrative of UPA non-performance, endemic corruption, and policy paralysis had found faith in the mythological "Gujarat Model"; it now sought evidence of turbocharged performance in the headlines. On May 28, 2014, Modi  talked tough  to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Also on May 28, the Modi Cabinet in its first form

'BEING A REFUGEE IS A HUMAN CONDITION': Katie Kilkenny interviews Ai Weiwei

Non-stop self-documentation has long been both a statement and a safeguard for Ai, who is an outspoken critic of his native China. It was his opposition to the regime- recording his monitored, heated  confrontations , and even  physical abuse  at the hands of Chinese authorities - that helped Ai achieve international fame. It was also his opposition that inspired his Chinese supporters to meet with him in person, despite close monitoring by the  Xi administration . Ai will later  Instagram  my picture (#nofilter), just as he will Instagram the photos of other journalists visiting him that day. It's all part of his daily routine for documenting his life on  Instagram  and  Twitter  for his cumulative 700,000 followers—in between major exhibitions, public performances, and documentary releases. We're here to   discuss Ai's latest major release, and one of his most ambitious, the documentary  Human Flow . Many may be most familiar with Ai's works about China - his

As Germany and Spain prove, history – with all its wounds – is not over. By Natalie Nougayrède

History is back in Europe. The Catalan referendum and the German election illustrate this spectacularly. The scale of the far-right vote in what was once East Germany and Catalonia’s apparent march towards independence may look like they happened on separate planets – to be sure, they are fuelled by different political beliefs – but they both have to do with pent-up frustrations. Citizens who feel that they have been insulted have gone to the ballot box, and in some cases taken to the streets, to protest. In both situations there is a vivid historical backdrop, with memories of Europe’s 20th-century nightmares playing an important role: in Catalonia, the fight against fascism and Franco; in the east of Germany, the experiences of Nazism and Soviet communism. In Leipzig and the nearby small town of Grimma, I was told about how citizens felt their self-esteem had been trampled on. German reunification has not led to a shared sense of community. Rather, it’s compared to colonisation: “w

Gujarat HC Allows Zakia Jafri to Appeal for New Probe in Modi’s Role in 2002 Riots

 In what appears to be a silver lining in an otherwise adverse judgment for Zakia Jafri, the wife of Congress politician Ehsan Jafri who was killed by a mob in the Gulberg Society massacre in Ahmedabad during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots, the Gujarat high court on Thursday allowed her to move the courts to request a fresh investigation into the alleged criminal role of the then chief minister Narendra Modi and 61 others. Zakia had  moved the high court in 2014  against the closure report filed by the Supreme Court-appointed special investigative team (SIT). Zakia had also alleged in her petition that the 2002 riots were part of a larger conspiracy involving Modi and others. The closure report  –  submitted by the SIT in 2012  at a trial court hearing Zakia’s pleas – had stated that the SIT could not find any “prosecutable” evidence against the accused persons, as a result of which it could not press any charges against Modi and others. Protesting this, Zakia had appealed to th

Catalonia: A personal response LUKA LISJAK GABRIJELCIC

The attempt by Catalan authorities to hold a referendum on independence was marred by violence on Sunday, 1 October. Several hundred people – including approximately 30 policemen – were hurt in clashes between security forces and citizens attempting to vote in the referendum, which had been denounced as illegal by the Spanish central government. For the past 18 days, the editor-in-chief of Slovenian Eurozine network partner journal  Razpotja , Luka Lisjak Gabrijelčič, has been commenting on the events in Catalonia via a series of Facebook posts. Lisjak Gabrijelčič is an intellectual historian of nationalism and a translator from Catalan to Slovenian, and is part of the Catalan Weekend project group, organized and founded by the Òmnium Cultural association, an informal group of scholars and journalists founded in 2015 who regularly visit Catalonia to observe, discuss and critically engage with the process of independence. He was not in Catalonia for the referendum. Here, in the

Blow by blow: the assault on academic freedom in Turkey. By AYSE CAGLAR

Since 2015, the curtailment of academic freedom and the diminishing autonomy of universities in Turkey has attracted attention in the Turkish and international media. As the assaults on academic institutions in Turkey assumed unprecedented dimensions – with massive purges, restrictions and control on academics and universities imposed by the government, especially after the failed coup attempt in July, 2016 – these attacks on and violations of academic freedom have rightly become the subject of numerous reports, communiqués and calls from Turkish and international academics and institutions and human rights organizations.  The erosion of the universities’ autonomy has been part of the systematic dismantling of democratic institutions in Turkey. This requires analysis in the context of the broader dynamics of the reconfiguration of authoritarian and democratic politics which we also observe in places like Hungary, India and Russia. Here, however, I focus solely on the inner working

Faced With 100-Crore Defamation Case, Journalist Who Reported On Jay Shah's Business Refuses To Back Down

Journalist Rohini Singh, who investigated into the alleged irregularities in business enterprises run by Jay Amitbhai Shah, BJP President Amit Shah's son,  for  The Wire , has stood up for herself after being slapped with a defamation case. In a Facebook post, she made her stance clear, explaining that her job as a journalist is to speak to truth to power and she wouldn't desist from it.  According to reports , Jay Shah has sued the independent news portal for Rs 100 crores, after the latter ran a story outlining alleged financial irregularities involved in his business transactions. Based on filings available with the Registrar of Companies, Singh reported that Temple Enterprise Private Ltd, a company of which Jay is director, increased its turnover by a staggering 16,000 times since the BJP-led government at the Centre came to power under the prime ministership of Narendra Modi. Jay's father is a close associate of the PM and a leading light of the BJP. From Rs 15,

Sreenivas Janyala - His smile and his mother’s tears of joy were worth the effort, says Police

“The boy was crying but as soon as I took him in my arms, he became quiet, looked at me with eyes wide open and a big toothless grin followed. It filled my heart with happiness. The moment may have been captured by camera, but it will remain etched in my mind forever,’’ said Inspector R Sanjay Kumar of Nampally Police Station. The four-month-old infant was rescued 15 hours after he was kidnapped late on Wednesday night. “The boy’s smile and his mother’s tears of joy were worth the team’s effort. The boy was crying when he was rescued. He kept crying even after he was handed over to his mother. At that time, I took him in my arms, rocked him gently and he stopped crying. Then he looked at me and gave the widest smile I have ever seen,’’ Inspector Sanjay said. Late on Wednesday night, four-month-old Faizan Khan was kidnapped while he was sleeping beside his mother Humera Begum (21) on the pavement near Himmatram Jewellers in Nampally. Humera, a beggar, woke up at 4.30 am and aft

Anna Politkovskaya Award shared by Pakistani Activist and Gauri Lankesh

A month after her violent death at the hands of unknown assailants, Lankesh has been posthumously honoured with the Anna Politkovskaya Award, instituted by the Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR) organisation. She is the first Indian journalist to win the prestigious award,  reported  Hindustan Times . Lankesh, 55, shares the award posthumously with  Gulalai Ismail , 31, a human rights and peace activist who lives in Pakistan, and who, like Lankesh, is a fierce critic of Islamic extremism. Ismail has received many death threats for speaking out against the Taliban. RAW in WAR is a London-based, NGO that supports human rights and victims of war. It established the  Anna Politkovskaya Award  in 2007 to honour the memory of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in Moscow in 2006 because of her courageous reporting of the second war in Chechnya. According to a  report in  The Wire , while announcing Gauri's win, the award committee, in a statement, said, &q

Sixth mass extinction of wildlife also threatens global food supplies / Guardians of the grain. By Chitrangada Choudhury

The sixth mass extinction of global wildlife already under way is seriously threatening the world’s food supplies, according to experts. “Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” said Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, a research group that  published a new report on Tuesday .  “If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said in an article for the Guardian. “This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing. It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.” Three-quarters of the world’s food today comes fr

Notes Ban 'Largest Money-Laundering Scheme Ever': Arun Shourie To NDTV

Arun Shourie, former union minister, was categorical today in blaming the  economic slowdown  on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's shock outlawing of high-denomination notes a year ago. "It was the largest money-laundering scheme ever, conceived and implemented entirely by the government," Mr Shourie told NDTV today. It was an "idiotic jolt" he continued, "everyone who had black converted it into white." The RBI has said that nearly 99 per cent of the banned currency has been returned to banks, which suggests that black or untaxed money was not destroyed by the giant move. He was quick to add the new national sales tax -- the GST -- to the list of the government's misdeeds, stating that though it was an important reform, it had been poorly implemented. "The rules have been amended seven times within three months," said the former BJP member in support of his claim, adding that what makes it worse is the "event management of the GST

Giles Fraser - The truth about capitalism is out as Marx’s magic cap starts to slip

Wasn’t this supposed to be the party conference in which the Tories reminded everyone of the virtues of market capitalism?  “Tories need to start explaining the unassailable truth that markets don’t just make us richer, they make us happier too,”  urged the former chair of Northern Rock, Matt Ridley, in the Times.  “Time for a full-throated Tory defence of enterprise and capitalism,”  insisted Simon Heffer in the Telegraph. With Comrade Corbyn riding high, it has been quite some time since economic liberals have so felt so threatened to their ideological core. Next month it will be a hundred years since the Bolsheviks took power in Russia. Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the right have assumed that the argument against communism had been won, and won decisively. But the young are picking up their Karl Marx once again. And just at the point when the right seem to have forgotten their lines. Viscount Ridley argues that capitalism makes us better people as well as ric