Showing posts from November, 2017

Indian Express editorial - Lift the gag on the Sohrabuddin case

The gag order by a special CBI court in Mumbai, restraining the media from publishing proceedings of the trial in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case, is questionable at best, and undemocratic in fact. It amounts to prior restraint which curbs not just the freedom of the press but also the citizen’s right to know. It does so in the name of “security”, without making even a minimally compelling case for how it is threatened if the media does its job. A public trial ensures that not only is justice done, but also that it is seen to be done. In effect, therefore, the court seeks to insulate from public gaze a matter which it says “appears sensational” — a judicial euphemism, perhaps, for the fact that the list of accused has featured an array of high-profile individuals such as ministers and high-ranking police officers of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, including BJP president Amit Shah and Gujarat anti-terrorism squad chief D.G. Vanzara, both of whom were discharg

The Vortex: Why we are all to blame for the nightmare of online debate. By Oliver Burkeman

The Vortex: the psychological whirlpool into which I can feel myself getting sucked almost every time I open Twitter, or Facebook, or any of the websites devoted to chronicling the mendacity and stupidity of the world – by which I mainly mean politics – in 2017. This metaphor is slightly self-serving, since it suggests not a failure of self-discipline on my part but an external force so strong I could hardly be expected to resist it. Still, that’s how it feels. Once the waters claim you, you’re no longer really in control. At the very edge, the Vortex exerts only a gentle pull, which usually manifests for me as the thought that catching up with the news might be a relaxing break from writing or household chores. Or it’s the inner voice arguing that having finally persuaded the baby to take a nap, I deserve the small pleasure of a few moments on social media. It’s rarely relaxing or pleasurable in practice. But by the time I remember that, the current is too strong: I’m already fir

Sioux Leader To Trump: ‘Leave The Office You Bought And Take Your Swamp Things With You’

A Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe leader issued a damning response Wednesday to President Donald Trump’s  “Pocahontas” slur  earlier this week during an event meant to honor Navajo Code Talkers. Harold Frazier, chairman of the South Dakota-based tribe, said he was “deeply ashamed” of Trump’s “disgusting” treatment of the World War II veterans and appeared to suggest that the president should resign. “The President of the United States had an opportunity to honor veterans and bridge gaps in the relationship Tribes have with the Federal government,” Frazier said in a statement sent to HuffPost. “Instead, he chose to disgrace himself, his position and the nation he represents.” Frazier continued, “The President of the United States wanted to utilize an opportunity to honor native warriors who defended this land to make a political attack. I have one for him, leave the office you bought and take your swamp things with you.” We do not own the land, the land owns us.. We came. We fought yo

Muslim girl meets Hindu boy. How our forbidden love blossomed in Canada

I met the man of my parents' dreams when I was a 20-year-old sophomore in university. Young and naive, I thought love meant meeting someone who my family would least resist; someone they'd "approve" of and proudly talk about with their relatives back home in Pakistan. My ideal partner would be a Sunni Muslim, in the upper-middle to rich socio-economic class, fair-skinned and from a "respectable" family. Deep down I knew checklist man was not right for me. I kept this checklist in the back of my mind. It's not something I ever questioned. I just knew deviating from these desirable traits would not sit well with my loved ones. But deep down I knew checklist man was not right for me — no matter how much my family tried to convince me otherwise. He wanted to put the expectations of his parents above everything else and follow the life path they had laid out for him. I, on the other hand, wanted to explore all that life could offer, make my own decisio

Purushottam Agrawal - Absurdity of epic proportions: Are people aware of the content in Jayasi's Padmavat? / Mukul Kesavan - Rajputs redux: Padmini's long afterlife

Malik Muhammad Jayasi sure composed his magnum opus Padmavat, glorifying a Rajput legend of valour, and casting one of the most powerful, competent Muslim kings as the villain of his narrative. Why is there an issue with Padmavati despite Sanjay Leela Bhansali reiterating that his movie is based on Jayasi's work? Malik Muhammad Jayasi belonged to the Chishtia order of Sufis. His miracle-legends have been part of popular memory. The most stunning miracle he performed -- the Padmawat -- has been around physically for five centuries. Jayasi composed his magnum opus in 1540 in Awadhi, its manuscripts were mostly found written in the Persian script. Taking the legend of Padmini from the oral traditions of Rajputana, Jayasi created a fascinating texture of legend, history and mythology (Hindu as well as Islamic), drawing liberally from his vast knowledge and life experiences. Padmawat was apparently an instant hit in the literary circles of north India, and was also translated into

Capitulation - Dawn editorial on Pakistan today

NB : It is a long, complex and controversial history, but the steady slide towards tyranny was built into the communal politics deployed by the Muslim League in the 1940's. If the establishment of a civic religion (the use of religion by the state) was its goal in a power game; then the slide towards theocracy (the use of the state by the priesthood) was always a possibility. This became evident in the involvement of Muslim clerics in ML politics in the mid and late 1940's. It may provide comfort to some, but it is also pointless, to cite the 'secular' preferences Jinnah evoked in his Constituent Assembly speech, for once the process of communal mobilisation had begun, the way was open for clerics to gain the upper hand - and this began in the anti-Ahmeddiya riots of 1953.  There is simply no possibility of a stable polity in any part of South Asia if it is sought to be founded upon a single civic religion . (Here's a comment on Bangladesh ). The Hindutva gang

To find the extremism behind the Egypt terror attack, start with anti-Sufi preachers. By HA Hellyer

On Friday, more than 300 Muslim worshippers  were murdered , and scores more injured, by extremist Islamists in Egypt. There are quite likely a few reasons why this attack took place when it did, including the rejection of radical groups by this northern Sinai town. But one reason is a deeply ideological one, which relates to the Sufi character of the mosque where the massacre took place. That ideological component goes far beyond this particular attack – and, indeed, beyond one particular group. It is a problem that Muslim communities the world over must all tackle – a virulent strain of extremist thought that ironically rejects orthodoxy, while insisting it is the most orthodox. In much of the international reportage around this brutal massacre, words such as “Sufi minority” were used, as though Sufism was some kind of marginalised sect or cult, somehow dubiously related to Islam. That is not the mainstream of Islamic thought. Historically,  Sufism  was regarded by Islamic sch

Aditya Chakrabortty - The fat cats have got their claws into Britain's universities

Academia’s unfolding tale of greed goes beyond vice-chancellors’ salaries: it’s about how the decisions about their pay are made, and by whom.. Seven out of 10 vice-chancellors are either members of the committees that set their pay, or can sit on them Scandals aren’t meant to happen in British universities. Parliament, tabloid newsrooms, the City … those we expect to spew out sleaze. Not the gown-wearing, exam-sitting, quiet-in-the-library surrounds of higher education. Yet we should all be scandalised by what is happening in academia. It is a tale of vast greed and of vandalism – and it is being committed right at the top, by the very people who are meant to be custodians of these institutions. If it continues, it will wreck one of the few world-beating industries Britain has left. Big claims, I know, but easily supportable. Let me start with greed. You may have heard of Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell. As vice-chancellor of Bath University,  her salary went up this year b

Amnesty seeks criminal inquiry into Shell over alleged complicity in murder and torture in Nigeria

Amnesty International is calling for a criminal investigation into the oil giant Shell regarding allegations it was complicit in human rights abuses carried out by the Nigerian military. A review of thousands of internal company documents and witness statements  published on Tuesday  points to the Anglo-Dutch organisation’s alleged involvement in the brutal campaign to silence protesters in the oil-producing Ogoniland region in the 1990s. Amnesty is urging the UK, Nigeria and the Netherlands to consider a criminal case against Shell in light of evidence it claims amounts to “complicity in murder, rape and torture” – allegations Shell strongly denies. While the cache of documents includes material Shell was forced to disclose as part of a civil case brought against the company and many of the allegations are long-standing, the review also examines some evidence which has not been previously reported. It includes witness statements seen by the Guardian that allege Shell mana

Rohan Venkataramakrishnan - New reports tell us more about CBI judge’s death – and bring up fresh questions

A week after  Caravan  magazine published a  report  about the allegations made by the family of Central Bureau of Investigation judge Brijgopal Harkishan about the circumstances of his death in 2014, prompting  calls  from several prominent figues for an inquiry into the matter, further reporting has brought fresh details about the case – and some more questions. An  Indian Express   report  on Monday carried interviews with several witnesses at the scene insisting that there was nothing untoward about Loya’s death. This follows an NDTV  report  on the case, which also raised questions about some details in  Caravan’s  story, while leaving many unanswered questions about the affair. Investigate The Death Of CBI Judge Who Was Hearing The Sohrabuddin Sheikh Case, Says Justice AP Shah. (The silence of India's mainstream Hindi and English media is deafening) Arun Shourie On Why The SC Must Enquire Into Judge Loya’s Death, And Erosion of Institutions Loya was presiding over

BJP’s Repeated Attempts to Bypass Legislature Are Threatening Parliament’s Authority. BY JAIVEER SHERGILL

When Narendra Modi stepped into the Parliament House for the first time in May 2014, the prime minister-designate knelt and touched his forehead on the main entry gate. “This is the temple of democracy,”  he proclaimed . However, owing to the arbitrary functioning of his government, this “temple of democracy” has witnessed a travesty of constitutional propriety on a number of occasions. The manner in which  repeated changes  in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates are being announced by the finance minister, when an amendment to the GST legislation is yet to be passed by the parliament, is a signal of the erosion of the authority and legitimacy of the parliament. It is a negation of the fundamental principles of our parliamentary system and constitutional provisions. Ours is a parliamentary system of government based on the Westminster model. The constitution has vested the power over the purse in the hands of chosen representatives of the people, thus sanctifying the principl

Illuminating India: photography 1857–2017

Photography arrived in India in 1839, originally used by the British to document the people, architecture and landscapes of the subcontinent. It also became a medium for Indian people to express their unique experiences of the country. A new Science Museum exhibition,  Illuminating India , brings to light previously overlooked Indian photographers who worked in parallel with their foreign counterparts from the 1850s onwards.. see photo gallery:

Do we really want Mark Zuckerberg to run the world? By John Harris

The question is almost a year old, and not currently being asked in quite the feverish way it was over the summer. But let’s try it again: could Mark Zuckerberg run for US president? The founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook began 2017 by announcing  his latest “challenge” : a pledge to visit the 30 US states he had never spent time in before, which has now been achieved. Along the way, he has made a point of meeting Trump voters, sampling the mood in post-industrial backwaters, and  seeing at first hand evidence of his country’s opioid crisis . He now  talks about the importance of community , and the need for his generation to find a collective sense of purpose, rather suggesting the leading actor in a school play about Bobby Kennedy. “ Some of you have asked  if this challenge means I’m running for public office,” he wrote back in May. The previous month, he had dinner with a Trump-supporting family in Newton Falls, Ohio, who didn’t seem to mind that he brought his own food and

China: campaign to evict Beijing's migrant workers

More than a hundred Chinese intellectuals and scholars have decried a “ruthless” campaign to evict thousands of migrant workers from Beijing. The latest round of evictions began in the wake of a fire on 18 November that killed 19 people in an industrial neighbourhood in south Beijing, and 17 of the victims were migrants. City officials have declared a 40-day campaign against “illegal structures”, which for years have housed the millions of migrant workers who run Beijing’s restaurants, delivery companies, construction sites, retail shops and a host of small factories. See China Labour Bulletin The open letter, which was addressed to the country’s leadership and circulated on Chinese social media, called the evictions “a serious trampling of human rights”. Signatories included professors, researchers, poets and artists and more names continued to be added. It criticised the lack of due process and rapid speed at which the campaign was being implemented. Videos and photos pos

Pentagon Papers and time when media was trusted

It has been described as a  Hollywood all-star team’s  riposte to Donald Trump. Steven Spielberg’s new film,  The Post,  headlined by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, dramatises the Washington Post’s publication of the classified Pentagon Papers, which exposed government lies about the Vietnam war. But while there are  well chronicled parallels  between the administrations and obsessions of Trump and Richard Nixon, the movie is also provoking debate about the role of media as watchdog – and whether a similar leak today would survive partisan attempts to discredit the messenger. Spielberg consulted  Daniel Ellsberg,  the Rand Corporation strategic analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers – a top-secret 7,000-page document detailing US strategy in south-east Asia from 1945 to 1967 – to New York Times journalist Neil Sheehan in 1971. It was a bombshell that revealed the White House knew it was fighting an unwinnable war. After the Nixon administration won a court injunction that stopp

Eugene McCarraher - The People’s Republic of Heaven

The People’s Republic of Heaven:  From the Protestant Reformation to the Russian Revolution, 1517–1917   By  Eugene McCarraher This year marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution of October 1917. Toppling the provisional government that had overthrown the Romanov dynasty in February, Lenin and the Bolsheviks did more than deal a coup de grâce to the old regime; they sparked a wave of revolutionary upheaval that eventually washed over almost every continent. (The Cold War, usually dated from 1945, arguably began with the seizure of the Winter Palace.) The fear of revolution among bourgeois elites in the North Atlantic world induced them either to support fascist movements or to compromise with the working classes.  The fascist alternative culminated in tyranny, genocide, and global warfare; the compromise enabled the “golden age of capitalism,” when high wages and widespread access to disposable income - ensured by labor unions and welfare states -fueled rates of econ

Why I’ve Had Enough of George Orwell. By BEN JUDAH

Why is it always Orwell o’clock? Why is everything mildly unpleasant about government instantly Orwellian? Why is every banal propaganda effort obviously  1984  sprung to life? Why is it all as crushingly predictable as the Orwell Prize, the outstandingly foreseeable new  Churchill And Orwell  double biography, and now a new life-size bronze Orwell statue outside the BBC? There is a simplicity and a clarity to Orwell’s prose. It flows nicely. But  there is also nothing special about it other than the fact it has been canonised as the ultimate in English authorial excellence. This is still very much a surprise to me, because there is just so much wrong with it. Are the violent caricatures of Jews in  Down And Out In Paris And London  really defending the downtrodden in 1933? Are the rantings (against amongst others, vegetarians) in  The Road To Wigan Pier  even coherent? Were the baying hysterical yellow people forcing a European into  Shooting An Elephant  really an appropriate

Roger Scruton: The great swindle - fake ideas and fake emotions have elbowed out truth and beauty

Whatever you think of Foucault and Rorty, there is no doubt that they were intelligent writers and genuine scholars with a distinctive vision of reality. They opened the way to fakes but were not fakes themselves. Matters are quite otherwise with many of their contemporaries....   In Foucault’s view, all discourse gains acceptance by expressing, fortifying and concealing the power of those who maintain it; and those who, from time to time, perceive this fact are invariably im-prisoned as criminals or locked away as mad - a fate that Foucault himself unaccountably avoided...  Foucault’s approach reduces culture to a power-game, and scholarship to a kind of refereeing in the endless ‘struggle’ between oppressed and oppressing groups. The shift of emphasis from the content of an utterance to the power that speaks through it leads to a new kind of scholarship, which by-passes entirely questions of truth and rationality, and can even reject those questions as themselves ideolog

Pakistan: The flames of bigotry. By Zahid Hussain

IT all started with just few hundred zealots blocking Islamabad’s main highway. Now into its third week and with thousands more joining in, the blockade has virtually  brought the administration to its knees . Pampering and pleading have failed to move the defiant clerics; even the court order to end the siege has fallen on deaf ears. The paralysis of the state has given the fanatics a greater sense of empowerment. What is more troubling is that the flames of bigotry are sweeping across other parts of the country creating a dangerous confluence of religion and politics. The controversy over the missing oath that has apparently been exploited by the newly formed Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) to whip up religious sentiments has turned into more of a political issue bringing the beleaguered government under severe pressure. It is the fear of a blowback that seems to have limited the option of using force. The repeated extension of deadlines and seeking the help of religious l

Shyam Benegal on the Padmavati controversy: Are threats to be made without rebuke? Will the government remain a mute spectator?

As the storm over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming historical film Padmavati refuses to blow over, award-winning director and former MP Shyam Benegal talks about how he dealt with fact and fiction in his films and iconic TV series, Bharat Ek Khoj, based on  Jawaharlal Nehru ’s Discovery of India. He also heads the committee appointed by the Centre to frame new guidelines for Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC). Excerpts from the interview: With Padmavati, there have been problems raised by certain people. What are your thoughts on these objections made by those outside the CBFC? No one appears to have seen the film, other than the filmmakers. No one really knows what it contains. The Shri Rajput Karni Sena must clarify, as it claims to know what it contains. Biographies run into trouble with families, but this is the portrayal of a mythical character. Does this make it a problem of another order? As far as Rani Padmini or Padmavati is concerned, her existence is vi