Showing posts from March, 2021

Majid Sheikh - Harking Back: Lahore’s ancient slave trade and the Aleppo connection

For centuries trade of exotic Eastern goods reached the markets of the Mediterranean Europe, Africa and Turkey. The very first ‘product’ – if we can call it that – were the slaves of the Punjab. Besides some gold, the most profitable product in the loot of the Turkish-Afghan invader, Mahmud of Ghazni, were slaves. In and around Lahore he collected 500,000 slaves which were sold in the slave markets of Samarkand, Bukhara and Constantinople (now called Istanbul). From there the choicest slaves were further transported to Italy where the large slave markets of Venice, Genoa, Sicily and Crete specialised in ‘high-priced’ slaves. They also forwarded slaves to Barcelona and Valencia. Slaves from the Punjab were taken as far away as Wales in Britain. Amazingly recent DNA tests show the Welsh as having some north-Indian genes. But then once wooden sailing ships started reaching far away portions of the world, we have the William Finch collection (Early Travels, 1609) telling us of the three

Mukul Kesavan - An Ashoka for our time // Navneet Sharma and Prakrati Bhargava: No space for liberal education

NB:  The authorities of a self-respecting university or college are expected to defend their staff and students. That was the case, anyway, when I was a student over 50 years ago. But Ashoka's Founders were so infuriated by Professor Mehta's criticisms of the Modi government that they not only pushed him out of the Vice Chancellor's position in 2019, but also thought fit to put an end to his place in the classroom altogether. Instead of protecting him, they threw him under the bus, to use a colourful American expression. They followed up the betrayal with sweet, even boastful, talk.  Everything is sweetness and light, it appears, there have only been some 'lapses'. Publicly humiliating one of your senior staff is a 'lapse' gentlemen? There is now afloat a smoke-screen about standing by academic freedom - as if that was at issue. The issue is whether teachers and students retain citizen's rights whilst remaining part of the university community. As long

India’s News Upstarts Challenged Modi. New Rules Could Tame Them. By Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar

Online portals have practiced aggressive journalism in a mostly compliant media landscape. But trolls and the government could now be empowered to stop them.  India’s prime minister has  cultivated and cowed  large parts of the country’s normally raucous news media in recent years as part of a broader campaign against dissent.  One group remains untamed: A relatively new generation of scrappy, online-focused news outlets. With names like The Wire, The Print, The Scroll, and NewsLaundry, these publications lack big corporate owners that Mr. Modi’s party can court. They also don’t depend on government advertising money that officials can threaten to withhold. Now, the platforms say, Mr. Modi is working to rein them in, too.  India’s media outlets had until Saturday to comply with new government rules that they say will force them to change or take down content if online trolls mount a concerted campaign of complaints against their coverage. It would also give the government sweeping new

America's gun madness: How guns went from tools to ideology to identity. By LUCIAN TRUSCOTT

Three letters: NRA. Beginning in the 1970s, the National Rifle Association transformed itself from a shooting sports organization into a political lobbying arm of the Republican Party.    How did we get from a little NRA indoor firing range with .22 target rifles to an entire convention hall filled with weapons of war and nostalgia for America's enemies from the Civil War and World War II? How did we get from guns as tools to guns as lifestyle? How did we get from guns manufactured specifically for target shooting and hunting to guns manufactured for killing people and styled as "military" and "tactical" and "assault"? How did we get from magazines like Field and Stream, featuring stories about hunting, to Guns and Ammo, featuring stories about the Hecker and Koch HK416A5 with its "slimline telescopic butt stock" and "Non-stop NATO Stanag 4694 top rail" and magazine capability holding up to 100 rounds of military-grade 5.56 X 45mm N

Deb Mukharji: For Indian Diplomats in Pakistan, the Run up To the 1971 War Was a Very Tense Time / Bharat Bhushan - Dhaka disconnect: Excellent relations marred by violent protests

Deb Mukharji: For Indian Diplomats in Pakistan, the Run up To the 1971 War Was a Very Tense Time      1971. The most cataclysmic year in the history of the sub-continent since the Partition of India in 1947. Even as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of  Muktijuddho , the War of Liberation, India’s  decisive military victory  over Pakistan and the emergence of Bangladesh in the comity of nations, one must remember the extreme price exacted by a vengeful Pakistan army, the countless innocent men killed, the countless women violated. There had been unease in the relations between the two wings of Pakistan from the very early days. Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s refusal to accept Bengali as a state language, even though it was the language of the majority, had caused him to be heckled in Dhaka University in 1948. The language movement simmered and burst into flames with the killing of students on February 21, 1952, since immortalised as ‘ ekushe ’, and now observed by the United Nations as Intern

Myanmar military committing mass murder - UN official urges world to act after at least 114 killed in in one day

NB : The Indian government, along with Russia, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, sent representatives to a military parade to mark Myanmar Armed Forces Day on March 27. This is especially shameful in the midst of a massacre of civilians - including children by the Army. Bangladeshis may recall the massacre of 1971, and the Blood Telegram by the US Consul in Dhaka. Of the Russian and Chinese  governments we may expect no respect for human rights. And the Indian government has joined this parade of contempt for humanity. This is India's conscience in the midst of a human calamity. There will be no peace in Myanmar until the criminal military regime is dismantled. And maybe Aung San Su Kyi will regret her silent complicity with the same regimes' treatment of the Rohinyas.  DS The defense chiefs from Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the US issued a joint stateme

Fedor Stepun, 1884-1965

NB:   Fedor Stepun was a Russian writer, editor, professor, po litical commentator. In 1922, he. along with over 200 non-communist intellectuals perceived as hostile to the Bolshevik regime . was arrested and ordered to leave the USSR within a week. They included the philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, and scores of other academicians, writers, artists, editors of journals etc. DS .. we must remember that it's not the blinded wrongdoers who are primarily responsible for the triumph of evil in the world but the spiritually sighted servants of the good - Fedor Stepun, 1884-1965    In 1914, Stepun was called up to serve in the First World War. He was commanded to the 12th Gunners Artillery Division in the rank of lieutenant, and, after an initial period in the Far East near Irkutsk, Stepun served throughout the Ukraine and Poland. The March revolution found his division in Galicia, and he was soon sent to Petersburg as part of an army delegation. Stepun became a representative of the front

Book review: The Apocalyptic New Campus Novel

Early in graduate school, I had a curious dream. I had finished my dissertation, but no job was forthcoming. Taking pity on me, my department hired me to perform the functions of a janitor-cum-chambermaid. A pathetic scene followed. I found myself down on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor tiles of the humanities building, choking on the fumes of cleaning fluid, squeezing my rag into a bucket of dirty suds. Students teemed past holding lattes. My former professors averted their eyes. “At least I can tell people I work at Harvard,” I thought madly, as hot tears spilled down and mingled with the lemon disinfectant. The Life of the Mind -  Christine Smallwood Reviewed by Charlie Tyson I recalled this nightmare of bourgeois indignity while reading Christine Smallwood’s debut novel of academic precarity,  The Life of the Mind  (2021) — the book’s key theme is the production of waste, and the task of cleaning up afterward. Smallwood’s sendup of contemporary academic life follows Dorothy

Frank Swain: The device that reverses CO2 emissions

The year is 2050. Walk out of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, and drive north across the sun-baked scrub where a few remaining oil pumpjacks nod lazily in the heat, and then you'll see it: a glittering palace rising out of the pancake-flat ground. The land here is mirrored: the choppy silver-blue waves of an immense solar array stretch out in all directions. In the distance, they lap at a colossal grey wall five storeys high and almost a kilometre long. Behind the wall, you glimpse the snaking pipes and gantries of a chemical plant. As you get closer you see the wall is moving, shimmering – it is entirely made up of huge fans whirring in steel boxes. You think to yourself that it looks like a gigantic air conditioning unit, blown up to incredible proportions. In a sense, that's exactly what this is. You're looking at a direct air capture (DAC) plant, one of tens of thousands like it across the globe. Together, they're trying to cool the planet by

SOPHIE KIDERLIN: The biggest banks have poured $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels since 2016. J P Morgan tops the list of contributors

NB : Anyone who still needs evidence that capitalism is the structural form of nihilism may reflect on these facts:  DS     Banks funneled more money into fossil fuels in 2020 than in 2016, according to a report by the Rainforest Action Network. JPMorgan, Citi and Wells Fargo were the biggest financiers from 2016 to 2020. Funding of the companies most responsible for fossil fuel use and production increased by over 10% in 2020. The world's 60 largest banks have poured $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels since 2016, despite many of them committing to the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change in 2015 or following net-zero climate  strategies, according to a report published on Wednesday by a group of environmental action groups. The 2021 Fossil Fuel Finance Report, titled ' Banking on Climate Chaos'  and authored by various organizations including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, showed banks in fact invested more in fossil fuels in 2020 than 2016. Overall, funding for

Amita Baviskar: Ashoka and After: The Universities We Believe In

After having worked most of my life in a public university and research institute, I started teaching at Ashoka last year. So my response to the many commentaries on the ongoing debacle at this private university comes from being an outsider as well as an insider. This ‘squint-eyed perspective,’ as fellow-sociologist Satish Deshpande has described it, is also a habit acquired over years of participant-observation, our discipline’s classic method of engaging with the world. Double vision seems to be a dubious faculty to take pride in, but I feel it is indeed what helps most of us academics – or for that matter, anyone who practises a vocation where ideals wrestle with rude political economy – make sense of our work. First, let’s set aside the schadenfreude that a crisis in an institution like Ashoka inevitably attracts. Any number of commentators on social media can barely disguise their glee that a fast-rising university, flaunting its glittering faculty, hyped by its marketers as

SC stands up for voicing disapproval, backs editor Patricia Mukhim

Expressing disapproval of a government’s action “cannot be branded as an attempt to promote hatred between different communities”, the Supreme Court said Thursday while quashing an  FIR against Patricia Mukhim , the editor of Shillong Times, over a social media post about an incident of assault on some non-tribal youth in Meghalaya last year. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat also said that “free speech of the citizens of this country cannot be stifled by implicating them in criminal cases, unless such speech has the tendency to affect public order”. According to case records, Mukhim’s post on July 4, 2020, described the previous day’s attack on the youth, who were playing basketball, “at Lawsohtun…unacceptable”. In the post, she demanded that “the attackers allegedly tribal boys with masks on…should be immediately booked”…. More posts o

নিজেদের মতে , নিজেদের গান l Citizens United!

Watch - hear this brilliant protest song by Citizens United, in Bangla তাসের দেশ' হেঁকে বলছে 'চলো নিয়ম মতে' দূরে তাকিয়ো নাকো ঘাড় বাঁকিয়ো নাকো চলো সমান পথে চলো নিয়ম মতে কাদের তৈরী নিয়ম? কারা বলছে না তাকাতে... ঘাড় বাঁকাতে নিষেধ করছে কারা? যারা আমাদের দেশটাকে সুচতুরভাবে নিয়ে চলেছে ধ্বংসের দিকে..তাদের তৈরী করা অমানবিক, অগণতান্ত্রিক নিয়ম এর বিরুদ্ধে আমাদের এই গান- 'নিজেদের মতে নিজেদের গান' - আমাদের সুর ভাবনা ছড়িয়ে পড়ুক পথ থেকে পথে, বুক থেকে বুকে I SONG CREDITS: Lyrics - Anirban Bhattacharya Composer - Subhadeep Guha Singers - Arko Mukhaerjee , Subhadeep Guha , Anirban Bhattacharya , Anupam Roy , Anindya Chattopadhyay, Rupankar Bagchi, Debraj Bhattacharya , Sampa Biswas , Surangana Bandyopadhyay , Ujan Chatterjee , Rwitobroto Mukherjee, Riddhi Sen Violin - Pritam Dhamsa & Percussions : Nilanshuk Dutta Violin :Pritam Ghosh Guitar & Dotara : Subhadeep Guha Recorded at - Aural Workstation Recorded by - T

Rajendran Narayanan: What I learnt about power and privilege when I quit Ashoka in 2016 / Yogendra Yadav: No one is asking the right questions about Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s ouster from Ashoka University

NB: Democratic rights are not presented to us on a platter by managements, howsoever liberal they portray themselves to be. Professor Rajendran Narayanan's experience is evidence of that; as well as of the truism that our access to the justice and fair-play is directly linked to our socio-economic status. That is why workers, and even teachers need to combine and why the right to form trade-unions are an essential part of a democracy. The treatment meted out to Professor Mehta could and should have been met by firm resistance, but in the absence of a functioning teachers association; and of a tradition of active non-violent campaigning, this did not happen. We need to relearn the forgotten practice of satyagraha. And unless we start now, Indian democracy is doomed. Not just Ashoka University. DS Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation from Ashoka University has been met with widespread condemnation from various academics. Rightly so. He is one of the foremost scholars and an articulate c