Showing posts from June, 2018

Muntaha Amin: What Studying At Ramjas College Did To My Unquestioning Faith In Religion

Born into a very religious family, religion and religious teachings were taught to me as a way of life. The teaching was spoon-fed to me right from childhood. The notion that you can’t question God’s words, rulings, and commandments no matter what, and I believed in all of this and was a practising Muslim. With these teachings being my worldview, I was indeed an automaton to faith. But faith had somehow been more of fear of God’s punishment to me than love for God. And I guess that was the first undoing. I had internalised and normalised all kinds of things and never thought of anything as unjust and repressive. Education in school and higher secondary was yet another training for being automatons and machines in the system, of being – a utility, never questioning, never trying to look at the world from any other perspective, never questioning the ways of seeing. The end product was, very exclusively exam oriented approach, well, almost mugging up and scoring good in the exams which w

'Frankenstein's Monster': The Founder Of BJP's IT Cell Says PM Modi's Team Started The Rot

"What does the BJP need that could put it ahead of other parties?" During a car ride to a campaign venue in Uttar Pradesh in 2007, BJP president Rajnath Singh tossed an unusual question at his media assistant Prodyut Bora. The 33-year-old was taken slightly by surprise. He had been a part of the party for less than three years and didn't belong to a political dynasty. But he took his chance.  Remember, this was 2007, barely a year after Facebook and Twitter had been launched; the IT industry was booming and no party, Bora felt, had a narrative that could attract this new voting class of young professionals. A few months later, the Bharatiya Janata Party's 'IT Cell' was born, with Bora as a national convenor. Eleven years later, Bora, now also an entrepreneur in clean air technologies with an office in Gurgaon, says his brainchild has mutated beyond recognition.  "It's like Frankenstein's monster," he said. Soon after he joined

Sarah Boseley - The children working the tobacco fields: 'I wanted to be a nurse'

Tiyamike Phiri is 14, with the long skinny legs of a girl entering adolescence. In another world, she would be with friends in the school playground. Instead, she is bent double at the hips, gouging out weeds from the earth under a savage sun between banked rows of tobacco plants using a heavy hoe, made of a tree branch and a metal plate. She looks up in some wonderment, unused to questioning such a life for a child. She is not unusual. There are 18 tenant families on this tobacco farm in the Kasungu district of Malawi, each living in a straw hut. Only two of the other girls go to school, she says. Two-year-old Jackson Phiri stumbles past. He has a miniature hoe, fashioned by his father, Lazaro, because he cried every time he saw his mother and father set off for the fields carrying tools and wanted one for himself. There seems an inevitability about the lives of these children. “I left school last year because I had no school materials,” said Tiyamike, her eyes on the ground

Nayantara Sahgal speaks to Ajoy Bose: ‘We have a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency’

On June 25, 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India that lasted for 21 months. The period saw widespread human rights violations, jailing of members of the Opposition and a clampdown on press freedom. Forty three years later, journalist Ajoy Bose, author of a newly relaunched book on the Emergency, interviews Nayantara Sahgal, who wrote widely and critically about Indira Gandhi’s policies during the time. Four and a half decades after the Emergency, how do you remember it and what do you feel was its chief significance?:  Well to begin with, the chief significance of the Emergency was that we could not be complacent about our democracy. And that we had to be extremely alert to safeguard it. We also realised that we had taken our freedom of expression for granted and had enjoyed it even though, throughout the country, millions of people did not have the same protection against any kind of authoritarian rule or measures. So for me, the chief significance was that

Citizens Conclave on safeguarding the Constitution and protecting democracy

NB : This is the programme (along with an introductory note) that I received for a forthcoming Citizens Conclave on safeguarding the Constitution and protecting dissent and rights of minorities. I wholeheartedly support the idea of this conclave, but I think it is lacking in one significant respect. If there is a clear reason why the plight of Kashmiri Pandits need not be raised and discussed at a forum on inclusive democracy, then that reason should be made public . It is not a matter of privately-held beliefs, but of public responsibility, especially as we claim to be concerned with the fate of Indian democracy.  Here is the letter I sent to the person who kindly sent me the programme, and to some other persons associated with it. Four of them - thus far - have endorsed my suggestion, including Aruna Roy, Javed Anand & Purushottam Agrawal, but as I have not heard from the organisers and as the matter is urgent, I am posting it on this blog: Thank you for this invitation for a

David Smith - How family separations caused Trump's first retreat – and deepened his bunker mentality

Official figures showed that more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents between 5 May and 9 June;  a secret audio recording  captured some crying for “mami” and “papa”. America looked at itself in the mirror and did not like what it saw. All four living former first ladies spoke out. Church leaders raised their voices. Liberal cable news host Rachel Maddow broke down in tears during a live broadcast. Bruce Springsteen, performing on Broadway,  told his audience: “We are seeing things right now on our American borders that are so shockingly and disgracefully inhumane and un-American that it is simply enraging.”...  “Something in Donald Trump’s reptilian brain couldn’t understand the morality but understood that using children as bargaining chips is politically toxic. The fallback position we’re in now is equally toxic. He went from the government kidnapping children to the Department of Defense setting up internment camps for families.” It was the week that Trump dis

Andrew Griffin - Einstein's theory of relativity proved right outside our solar system in huge gravity experiment

Einstein has been proven right in spectacular style. Scientists have conducted a precise test of the way gravity works outside our solar system. It marks the first time that Einstein's general theory of relativity has been tested at such a large scale. The general theory of relativity, also known as GR, was first proposed in 1915. But its implications are huge, and therefore have never been tested fully. Despite that, scientists rely on it to explain the strange behaviour of our universe. The new study shows that they haven't been wrong to do so. For instance, scientists have known since 1929 that the universe is expanding, but in 1998 found that the expansion had sped up and was going more quickly than it did in the past. That can only make sense if the universe is filled with a mysterious substance called dark energy – but that in turn relies on GR being correct at the scale of galaxies. As such, our very understanding of the universe relies on GR being correct.

It's A Beautiful Day - White Bird

It's A Beautiful Day - White Bird White bird In a golden cage On a winter's day In the rain White bird In a golden cage Alone The leaves blow Across the long black road To the darkened skies In its rage But the white bird Just sits in her cage Unknown White bird must fly Or she will die White bird Dreams of the aspen trees With their dying leaves Turning gold But the white bird Just sits in her cage Growing old White bird must fly Or she will die White bird must fly Or she will die The sunsets come, the sunsets go The clouds roll by, and the earth turns old And the young bird's eyes do always glow And she must fly She must fly She must fly White bird In a golden cage On a winter's day In the rain White bird In a golden cage Alone White bird must fly Or she will die White bird must fly Or she will die White bird must fly.. .  White Bird was the dove of peace .. this was an iconic anti war s

Book review: Philosophy is dead

Raymond Geuss -  CHANGING THE SUBJECT: Philosophy from Socrates to Adorno Reviewed by JONATHAN RÉE Back in the 1970s, Raymond Geuss was a young colleague of Richard Rorty in the mighty philosophy department at Princeton. In some ways they were very different: Rorty was a middle-class New Yorker with a talent for reckless generalization, whereas Geuss was a fastidious scholar-poet from working-class Pennsylvania. But they shared a commitment to left-wing politics, and both of them dissented from the mainstream view of philosophy as a unified discipline advancing majesti-cally towards absolute knowledge. For a while, Rorty and Geuss could bond as the bad boys of Princeton. The philosophical establishment denounced people like Rorty and Geuss as relativists, bent on destroying the sacred distinction between truth and falsehood. But they defended themselves by pointing out that even if there is such a thing as an almighty final truth, it looks different from diverse points of view, and

'Barnacled angels': the whales of Stellwagen Bank – a photo essay

John Berger  wrote of the ‘”narrow abyss of non-comprehension ” between ourselves and other animals. That abyss is implicit out here, in the open ocean. Given what we have inflicted on these animals, and given the future threats they face, this protected zone seems like a modern Eden. Surrounded by jumping, feeding humpbacks, circled by minke and fin whales, with white-sided dolphins weaving in between, it seemed to me that merely bearing witness to this wonder was enough. They were in their moment, and so were we. At the tip of Cape Cod, a sandy spit reaches out into the Atlantic, like an arm, towards a vast underwater plateau where humpbacks gather each summer to feed. This is the US marine sanctuary of Stellwagen Bank, where for the past three weeks I’ve been a guest on the  Dolphin Fleet whalewatch boats , working out of Provincetown. I’ve been  coming here for 18 years ; it’s where I learned about whales. I’m inordinately fond of these animals and like me, they  come back here

Book review: How Democracy Ends by David Runciman

David Runciman:  How Democracy Ends Reviewed by Mark Mazower Democracy dies in darkness” runs the slogan on the Washington Post masthead, but if democracy really is dying around us, its demise has never been so loudly heralded nor so brightly lit. Even before Donald Trump’s emergence as a presidential candidate, it was clear that the global trend away from authoritarian regimes to democratic ones had slowed down; his rise was accompanied by a barrage of authors’ warnings that we are heading back into the 1930s. Never have the last days of Weimar seemed so worthy of study. Historians have developed a nice sideline in self-help manuals for a life of underground resistance to tyranny. David Runciman’s bracingly intelligent new book is both a contribution to this debate and a refutation of it.  How Democracy Ends  shares the widespread sense that representative democracy is not doing well, but argues powerfully against screaming fascism at every turn. History, as Runciman state

Michael Fuchs - Trump's family separation policy is as damaging to America as Abu Ghraib

The words “Abu Ghraib” have become synonymous with torture, a black eye for America that has damaged US national security. Donald Trump’s policy of ripping children away from their parents at the border is a new black mark on America that could also undermine US national security. The forced separation of families is Trump's 'Katrina moment' Massive Protests Around the USA America’s power comes from its values: freedom, the rule of law, respect for human rights. Whatever problems America may face at home, America’s democratic system enables itself to correct wrongs in the pursuit of a fair, just society. Whatever mistakes the United States makes in its foreign policy, America still endeavors to infuse its foreign policy with these values. When America does not live up to these values, it is less safe. The experience of the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib is instructive. After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it used Saddam Hussein’s jail as a place to torture Ira

The best books on Hegel: recommended by Stephen Houlgate

G W F Hegel is one of the most divisive figures in western philosophy. He influenced Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Adorno and countless others. And yet, he is seen as perhaps the most obscure and inaccessible philosopher to read. Is he worth engaging with? How should we read him? Stephen Houlgate, a philosopher at Warwick University, gives us an in-depth look at Hegel. Who was Hegel? What sort of philosophical context should we place him in? Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770, an exact contemporary of Beethoven and Wordsworth. He was almost nineteen when the French Revolution broke out and this had a great impact on him. There’s a story that he and Schelling and Hölderlin, who were contemporaries of his, went out and planted a ‘freedom tree’ on 14 July, 1793 and danced a revolutionary French dance around it. Even if this story is not true in all its details, it indicates that they responded enthusiastically to the  French Revolution . “People often describe Hegel as

Stephanie Kirchgaessner - Outcry over far-right Italian minister's call for Roma 'register'

On Monday Salvini ordered the census and the removal of all non-Italian Roma – which he called an “answer to the Roma question” – and said he wanted to know “who, and how many” there were. “Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them,” Salvini said on Telelombardia. Salvini is on record as having praised Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist leader, and his new policy has sparked comparisons by the centre-left Democratic party to ethnic cleansing rules introduced   in the late 1920s that also targeted the Roma. “The interior minister does not seem to know that a census on the basis of ethnicity is not permitted by the law,” Carlo Stasolla, president of the Associazione 21 Luglio, which supports Roma rights, told the Ansa news agency. “We also recall that Italian Roma have been present in our country for at least half a century and sometimes they are ‘more Italian’ than many of our fellow citizens.” Hitler's annihilation of the Romani

51st Victim: IB Officer Investigating Vyapam Scam Killed In A Road Accident

58-year-old Ajay Kumar Khare, a senior Intelligence Bureau inspector who was involved in the investigation of the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, was killed on Sunday evening  when a speeding car hit him in Trilanga area, said the police on Monday. (NB: This report is dated June 9, 2018). The accused car driver fled the scene after the accident, investigations are still on to nab him.  Sabotage of Indian criminal justice continues: Aseemanand’s ‘disclosure’ missing from court Posts on Judge Loya's mysterious death Khare was riding his scooter on his way to visit his under-construction house in Akriti Retreat Township at Kolar Road. Officials from Shahapura police station told  The Asian Age , “A black car hit the scooter he was riding from the rear and dragged him for a few metres. He sustained grievous injuries to his head and several parts of the body and died on the spot.” A passer-by rushed Khare to nearby Kolar Community Health Centre, where the doctors pronounced him