Monday, September 25, 2017

BHU Alumnus Join Student's of BHU Protesting at Jantar Mantar on 26th September, at 4:30 pm

Former Presidents of BHU Students Union;
and Alumnus Join Student's Protest at Jantar Mantar on 26th September, at 4:30 pm

Call for joint action led and called by the BHU Alumnus along with students of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) at Jantar Mantar on 26th of September (Tuesday) at 4:30 pm.

The students will be reaching Delhi on Tuesday morning and will be present at Jantar Mantar to continue their protest against police atrocities, violation of fundamental rights of women students, gender-based discrimination and violence against women. 

Please join us at Jantar Mantar on 26th at 4:30 pm.
We also urge you to spread the word and request others to join. 

Prof. Anand Kumar
Dr. Anand Pradhan
Shri Mohan Prakash & Joint Action Committee and students of BHU. 

Seamus Heaney’s Advice to the Young. BY MARIA POPOVA“you’ve got to tell the world how to treat you... if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” James Baldwin

ANUJ SRIVAS - Hindustan Times Editor’s Exit Preceded by Meeting Between Modi, Newspaper Owner

'The Government is committed to the freedom of the Press': DG, Press Information Bureau

NB: That's good to hear! I suppose the reports below are false? Products of inebriated minds? DS
Over the past year, a number of instances have emerged highlighting  the inappropriate relationship between editors in organisations like the Times of India and Dainik Jagran and the ruling party and /or government officials. Stories deemed embarrassing to the BJP have been taken down with no explanation offered to readers. An op-ed article critical of the government’s handling of China was taken down from HT’s website in July 2017 - criticism on social media led to it being restored.

New Delhi: Hindustan Times (HT) proprietor Shobhana Bhartia’s decision to announce the abrupt exit of Bobby Ghosh as editor was preceded by a personal meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and objections raised by top-level government and Bharatiya Janata Party officials to editorial decisions taken during Ghosh’s tenure. The government insists the meeting was “confined to” Bhartia’s efforts to secure Modi’s participation in a flagship HT event. But sources in the newspaper say that in the run-up to that meeting, she faced sustained objections from senior ministers to aspects of HT’s political coverage, to Ghosh’s own views expressed on social media, and to the fact that he does not hold Indian citizenship. One of these minsters had even hinted at escalating matters to Modi. Ghosh, a journalist and editor with extensive worldwide experience, joined HT in May 2016 after successfully running Quartz and TIME magazine. His 16-month stint is widely seen as having perked up the 90-year-old newspaper, even if some of his editorial initiatives – notably the ‘Hate Tracker’ – have rubbed the BJP-led political establishment the wrong way. 

His departure from HT was announced by Bhartia on September 11. The fact that Bhartia’s statement did not say Ghosh had resigned, but that he would “be returning to New York for personal reasons” – and that Ghosh has made no public statement of his own – is seen as a sign within the organisation that his exit was forced.

China’s dystopian push to revolutionize surveillance. By Maya Wang

China’s dystopian push to revolutionize surveillance. By Maya Wang. August 18, 2017
As part of a new multimillion-dollar project in Xinjiang, the Chinese government is attempting to “build a fortress city with technologies.” If this sounds Orwellian, that’s because it is. According to the Sina online news portal, the project is supposed to strengthen the authorities’ hands against unexpected social unrest. Using “big data” from various sources, including the railway system and visitors’ systems in private residential compounds, its ultimate aim is to “predict … individuals and vehicles posing heightened risks” to public safety. And this isn’t the only project in China that aims to expand surveillance while denying people privacy rights. Across the country, local governments are spending billions of dollars implementing sophisticated technological systems for mass surveillance. The consequences for human rights are ominous.

Beijing’s impulse to surveil is certainly not new. But mass migration and privatization during the transition to a market economy have undermined the power of older practices that allowed the state to keep tabs on people, such as the “hukou” residency registration system. To bolster and broaden surveillance, the Ministry of Public Security turned to new technologies, launching the Golden Shield Project in 2000. The project aims to build a nationwide, intelligent digital surveillance network capable of identifying and locating individuals, as well as offering the state immediate access to personal records at the push of a button.

This dystopian project is bearing fruit. China’s pervasive Internet censorship and its use of countless security cameras in public spaces are well known. Recent reporting reveals authorities’ aspirations to enable facial recognition through upgraded cameras, to calculate citizens’ “social credit” scores based on economic and social status and to establish a national DNA database that logs genetic code irrespective of anyone’s connection to a crime.

Pakistani MP who says Imran Khan harassed her faces wave of abuse

When the Pakistani politician Ayesha Gulalai Wazir accused the cricket-star-turned-opposition-leader Imran Khan of sexual harassment, the vitriol unleashed against her was swift and vicious.
First, leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party – which Gulalai also belongs to – publicly denounced her and demanded 30 million rupees (£218,000) in compensation for damage to his reputation and “mental torture”. Then came the trolls. On social media, some said Gulalai, 31, should have acid thrown in her face, others that she should be whipped. She was called a liar and a carpetbagger. Mocking TV hosts asked, smirking, if she actually wanted to marry the man she accused. Gulalai says the political backlash is evidence of the abuse reserved for Pakistani women who venture to speak out publicly against harassment – abuse that increasingly takes place online.

“They [the party] have sent a message to women of Pakistan, that if you speak out against misuse of authority, you will face this kind of attitude,” Gulalai told the Guardian. “And this is from PTI who [say they] stand for change in Pakistan .. because of this culture, women will keep mum.” Gulalai says Khan began sending her “inappropriate” text messages in 2013, including sexual intimations and propositions to see him alone, and that he persisted after she rebuked him. She has declined to publish the messages, saying sharing them with the media would fuel further abuse. “His abusive brigade is always with him on social media,” Gulalai said of Khan and his supporters. Instead, she said she would present them to a parliamentary investigation and has called for a forensic audit of her and Khan’s phones. The Women’s Action Forum condemned the reactions to Gulalai’s allegations as “character assassination.” In a country where hundreds of women each year are murdered in so-called honour killings, public debasement of women carries real danger... read more:

see also

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pakistan: Deradicalising Our Universities - by Pervez Hoodbhoy

Last week’s exposure of a terrorist hive inside Karachi University (KU) prompted a remediation proposal by the chairman of the Higher Education Commission. His solution: if parents "switch off TV and internet early at night and send children off to bed", university students could be shunted away from terrorism. (The reference to adult students as bachas [children] is not unusual-university-going adults are generally considered kids incapable of independent thought.)

If flippant, this proposal trivialises terrorism. But if meant seriously, one fears for the future. HEC’s current counterterrorism strategy is to establish a "directorate of students" within universities so that challenges faced by "students and staff would be registered, analysed and resolved". Extracurricular activities-football and cricket chiefly-will supposedly keep students away from guns and bombs. Should one laugh or cry?

Down the chain of command it’s no better: Karachi University’s vice chancellor denied responsibility even after being presented police evidence that a terrorist network Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP) was operating from KU. The ASP has killed several policemen and a retired army colonel. But the vice chancellor and KU’s faculty say terrorism is the security agencies headache, not theirs. Security agencies disagree, having encountered well-educated terrorists now for many years. The police chief says the ASP’s head and fellow militants received BSc/MSc degrees from the applied physics department at KU. Others are from various universities in Karachi and Balochistan. The unsuccessful assassination attempt on Sindh Assembly’s leader of the opposition led to one suspected attacker being killed. He held a PhD. Football and cricket are supposed to keep students away from guns and bombs. Should one laugh or cry?

Arthur Koestler - A quintessentially twentieth-century life. By Daniel Gascon and Michael Scammell

Born in Hungary before becoming a communist in Germany, then a French Foreign Legionnaire, then a wartime propagandist for the British government – but, above all, a writer and thinker – Arthur Koestler was one of the most intriguing intellectuals of the twentieth century. Michael Scammell, the author of his official biography, 'Koestler, The Indispensable Intellectual', spoke to Eurozine partner journal Letras Libres about Koestler’s life.

[Daniel Gascón:] You have said that there was a yearning for utopia in Koestler and other writers. What does he have in common with other twentieth-century writers, and what makes him special?
[Michael Scammell:] What Koestler had in common with so many writers of his era (and what distinguishes him and them from our present generation) was hope. No matter how disillusioned they became with the societies in which they lived, or disappointed by their failures, both personal, social and political, they retained what looks to us now like a naïve belief in human possibilities and a conviction that the future would be better. 

Much of this optimism was fuelled, consciously or unconsciously, by the apocalyptic promise embodied in the October Revolution in Russia and the hope that the utopian goals set by the French Revolution – liberty, equality, fraternity – might at last be realized everywhere. We are only too familiar now with the catastrophic failures of the Soviet experiment, but you have to remember that those ideals held powerful sway throughout most of the last century (and are by no means dead even now). 

Tony Judt called Koestler ‘an exemplary intellectual’, Christopher Hitchens ‘a zealot’, and Mario Vargas Llosa has said that he was more a journalist than an artist. Do you agree with these descriptions?

I agree with Judt, if by ‘intellectual’ we mean someone who devotes the better part of his life to investigating ideas and if necessary sacrifices his comfort, his reputation, and even his friends for them. I disagree with Hitchens, because despite the element of zealotry in the way Koestler first embraced a variety of beliefs and political movements, he never entirely lost his critical faculties and was fearless in confronting his disillusionments when concluding he had been wrong. 

As for Vargas Llosa’s criticism, it was commonplace in Koestler’s lifetime, and, as Koestler pointed out, had also been levelled at a celebrated predecessor with similarities to Koestler: H.G. Wells. There is some truth to the charge, given the enormous size of Koestler’s output and his later turn to scientific interests, but I believe it is based on too narrow a definition of art. As someone who has written nonfiction all his life – and taught it at college – I would say there is an art to writing nonfiction that transcends journalism and expresses truths in ways that are perhaps not as sublime as the best poetry and fiction, but are none the less valid and effective for that. 

I would also say that, apart from Darkness at Noon and certain passages in Arrival and Departure and Thieves in the Night, Koestler’s best work is to be found in his nonfictional auto-biographies, Dialogue with Death, Scum of the Earth, Arrow in the Blue, and The Invisible Writing, and in the best of his essays… read more:

Joseph Conrad and the East. By DOUGLAS KERR

One of the most acute chroniclers and critics of the 19th-century European empires of the East was neither a historian nor a political scientist, but a Polish mariner. Douglas Kerr examines how Joseph Conrad mastered the narratives of empire in a language that was not his own.

Before he ever left home, Joseph Conrad knew what powerful nations and material interests could do to weaker peoples. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzeniowski, in Berdychiv in modern-day Ukraine in 1857, he belonged to a nation, Poland, which was no longer to be found on the map. His father Apollo, a writer and prominent Polish nationalist, was arrested and exiled with his family for anti-Russian conspiracy when his son was four years old. This was Conrad’s first lesson in the power of empires and the cost of idealism. Life was difficult and by the time he was 11, both his parents were dead.

Conrad never forgave imperial Russia: ‘from the very inception of her being’, he was to write in 1905, ‘the brutal destruction of dignity, of truth, of rectitude, of all that is faithful in human nature has been made the imperative condition of her existence.’ At age 17, the young Korzeniowski went to sea, serving first as an ordinary seaman and later as a ship’s officer, mostly in vessels of the British merchant marine. He learnt English in his 20s and developed an ambition to become a writer in this, his third language.

In retrospect: His first book, Almayer’s Folly, was published in 1895 under the anglicised name of Joseph Conrad. For some time he continued his career at sea before devoting himself full-time to writing. He wrote slowly, constantly struggling with deadlines and anxious about money, his work frequently interrupted by agonising periods of writer’s block and persistent illnesses. He did not achieve commercial success until late in his career. Conrad went on to write some 20 novels as well as some of the world’s greatest short fiction. Much of this work drew on places and people he had encountered during his voyages. At the end of his career, he told an interviewer that he simply wrote ‘in retrospect of what he saw and learnt during the first 35 years of his life.’

Most of the atlas of the world Conrad travelled as a sailor was marked in the colours of competing empires – British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian or Ottoman (there were also emperors in China and Japan). He sailed the Mediterranean and the Caribbean and was briefly a riverboat captain on the Congo river, working for the infamously rapacious Société Anonyme Belge pour le Commerce du Haut-Congo – an experience captured in his most famous tale Heart of Darkness (1899)… read more:

The tide is starting to turn against the world’s digital giants. By John Naughton

In his wonderful book The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began, the literary historian Stephen Greenblatt traces the origins of the Renaissance back to the rediscovery of a 2,000-year-old poem by Lucretius, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). The book is a riveting explanation of how a huge cultural shift can ultimately spring from faint stirrings in the undergrowth.
Professor Greenblatt is probably not interested in the giant corporations that now dominate our world, but I am, and in the spirit of The Swerve I’ve been looking for signs that big changes might be on the way. You don’t have to dig very deep to find them. Some are pretty obvious. In 2014, for example, the European Court of Justice decided that EU citizens had the so-called “right to be forgotten” and that Google would have to comply if it wanted to continue to do business in Europe. In May this year, the European commission fined Facebook €110m for “providing misleading information” about its takeover of WhatsApp. And in June the commission levied a whopping €2.4bn fine on Google for abusing its monopoly in search.

Since the European commission is the only regulator in the world that seems to have the muscle and inclination to take on the internet giants, these developments were relatively predictable. What’s more interesting are various straws in the wind that show how digital behemoths are losing their shine. 

Many of these relate to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and to the dawning of a realisation that Google and Facebook in particular may have played some role in these political earthquakes.

This was not because the leadership of the two companies actively sought these outcomes, but because people began to realise that the infrastructure they had built for their core business of extracting users’ data and selling it to companies for ad-targeting purposes could be – and was – “weaponised” by political actors in order to achieve political goals… read more:

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Students Injured As Police Lathicharge During Late Night Clashes At Banaras Hindu University // BHU Students Petition to Prime Minister

NB: The demands of the students are genuine and need to be attended to, not merely in BHU but in all campuses. But all the authorities are concerned about is their 'image' and that of the Prime Minister. Not only have protesting students been beaten up and injured, the authorities have now dubbed the protest the work of 'anti-national forces'. We should not be surprised - this is the stock response of the RSS/BJP to any criticism whatsoever. Whoever doesn't sing the praises of the Sangh Parivar and its government is anti-national. What is alarming is the extent to which university authorities, who are supposed to be autonomous and in charge of higher education, are rapidly transforming themselves into hatchet-men and censors for the ruling party. There have been repeated instances of this censorship - the last being a ban on a discussion of the Indian Constitution in Allahabad University. Meanwhile the atmosphere is full of intimidation and threat caused by the assassination of critics; hooliganism and pressures on the independence of the media. Indians who value democracy need to resist this disguised Emergency. We will have only ourselves to blame if we allow this government to deprive us of our rights and freedoms. DS

Seamus Heaney’s Advice to the Young. BY MARIA POPOVA“you’ve got to tell the world how to treat you... if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” James Baldwin
Videos: Scenes of police action against women student protesters at BHU show who was violent

VARANASI:  Just hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi left Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi following his two-day visit, clashes erupted at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) around 11 last night between the police and a group of protesting students who tried to enter the Vice Chancellor's residence. The police claim that the students threw stones at them and they had to lathicharge to contain violence on the campus. About six to seven students got injured in the incident.

The students claim that the police lathicharged without provocation and didn't even spare women students. They also alleged that the cops entered a girls' hostel. At least three motorcycles were set on fire in the violence allegedly by some of the protesters. The main gate of the university has been cleared of protesting students. The situation is under control, and officials say Dussehra holidays, which are about to begin, could diffuse tension.

While reacting to violence against protesting students, former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, "Lathicharge on BHU students is condemnable. The government must find solutions through talks and not force. There should be action against those involved." Students have been protesting against the university administration's alleged inaction and victim shaming after a first-year woman student reported an incident of molestation on Thursday.

The woman alleged that three bike-borne men harassed her inside the campus when she returned to her hostel on Thursday evening. The men abused her and fled when she resisted their attempts, she said. She alleged that security guards, who were right there, did nothing to stop them and her hostel warden, instead of taking up the issue with the administration, asked her why was she returning late to the hostel. The warden's response angered the students who sat on 'dharna' at the main gate later that evening. One of the students reportedly got her head tonsured.

Harish Khare on the conceits of mofussil minds. The demagogue’s spell is over

A reader is unhappy with the Prime Minister's remarks at the dedication of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Sunday. The dismayed reader writes a letter to the editor (The Tribune, September 20): "The remark was vitriolic and not in harmony with the celebratory occasion….Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the head of the largest democracy, should forsake the detestable job of a low-level party hatchet man." For the record, the Prime Minister had menacingly remarked that he had access to the "kacha-chitta" of all those who were opposed to the dam. News reports also noted that the Prime Minister pointedly did not mention Nehru, even though it was Nehru who had laid the dam's foundation stone.

Not long ago, there was a time when such cultivated pettiness would have been music to many ears. No longer. Now, it is beginning to jar. There was a time when the country was in need of a catharsis. May 2014 happened. For a while, very many people found themselves dazzled — especially those who pride themselves on their technocratic detachment — by the sheer political energy, fast-talking, tongue-lashing leadership; the new anti-intellectual strain and invocation of popular nationalism seemed so natural and so very much in order.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Appeal for Solidarity and Action: Festival on Constitution Blocked: Allahabad University

NB: The Allahabad University authorities have acted in a brazen and partisan manner by forcing the cancellation of this event - and there are suggestions this was done under pressure from the Union Government. According to their logic, discussions on the Indian Constitution may only take place in states where the BJP is not in power. Does that mean the ruling parties in non-BJP ruled states are violating India's statutory law? In which case the Centre should dismiss them and install Presidents Rule. In addition, if the BJP/RSS find it offensive that Indian students should discuss the Constitution in states ruled by them, why not drop the subject from all university and school syllabi as well?

India is still a democracy, in case the university authorities need to be reminded of the fact. The RSS/ BJP talk about the Emergency as if they were the heroic defenders of democratic rights. It seems now that they wish to use democracy to deprive us of our right to speak. Should we presume that it might soon be declared be 'anti-national' to talk about the Constitution? Or is only the RSS permitted to discuss it? DS

RSS Ideologue Govindacharya: ‘We Will Rewrite the Constitution to Reflect Bharatiyata’

Here is a letter circulated by the organisers

Appeal for Solidarity and Action: Fest on Constitution Blocked: Allahabad University

Some of us came together to initiate a series of events by the name ‘Liberty Festival’ that would 
engage youth across different college and University campuses to talk and celebrate the Constitution of India. In this series, the next one was to be held in Allahabad University, on September 18, 2017. The conceptualization of the Liberty Festival was a day of discussions, theatre, films, workshops, paintings etc. where young people are encouraged to think critically. The idea is to aware youth about the Constitution and its rich legacy.

Based on this idea, students of Allahabad University approached the Vice Chancellor for permission to hold the event and received his written consent on 13.09. 17. The letter allocated the Senate Hall for the this event. He also agreed in this letter, to be the Chief Guest of event. Based on the permission, due arrangements began at our end.

However, as the mobilization began on the ground, the Vice Chancellor was contacted by senior officials from the Ministry of Human Resource Development inquiring about the event. After which, the permission for the venue was withdrawn. The withdrawal of permission was verbally communicated by the University administration. In this communication, it was mentioned that they (the University administration, especially the VC) have been pressurized to immediately cancel this event, as this is an anti-state event. We were asked why do we need to celebrate the Constitution here in Allahabad? By doing this, are we implicating that the functioning of this University is anti-Constitution? If we at all want to talk about the Constitution, then we should go to Bengal and Kerala and do such events. We were also asked to start events celebrating the Swach Bharat Abhiyan instead.

This was a gross violation all forms of agreeable norms and standards. Written permission confirming a venue was given by the University administration.  Based on which arrangements were made. Artists from Delhi had agreed to come and booking had been made. Cancelling the venue on the last day jeopardized the entire event, making sure that we fail to make any alternative arrangements. 

Meanwhile on social media and other platforms, ABVP and RSS groups launched a malicious campaign targeting the different guests who had committed to be present at the festival. (Attached the pamphlet circulated by ABVP) 

However, since there was no written communication cancelling the permission, we went ahead with the event. We assembled in the front lawns of the Senate Hall on Monday (September 18) morning in presence of police personnel. We initiated discussion on the Constitution and principles of equity, equality and freedom. More than 200 students participated in this discussion.

We seek your solidarity in protesting and raising our voice against blatant violation of freedom of speech and expression. We feel if we are stopped and blocked to celebrate our Constitution in University spaces, where minds of our future citizens are been nurtured and shaped, then where is our country headed after completing 70 years of independence and democracy.

We written an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, which has been published widely by various news daily (news links given below). 

We feel there is an urgent need to come together and stand up against a force that threatens to shut us down by branding us anti-national and anti-state. The incident in Allahabad University is not an isolated event, but what this incident indicates is severity of the problem. If students are not even allowed to talk and discuss the Constitution, then there is much to worry.

In Solidarity,

Concerned Citizens Group &
JAC, Allahabad University

News Coverage: 

See also

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stanislav Petrov, who averted possible nuclear war, dies at 77

A former Soviet military officer credited with averting a possible nuclear disaster at the peak of the Cold War has died at the age of 77. He was the only officer in his team with a civilian education.
Image result for Stanislav Petrov
Stanislav Petrov was on duty at a Russian nuclear early warning centre in 1983 when computers wrongly detected incoming missiles from the US. He took the decision that they were a false alarm and did not report them to his superiors. His actions, which came to light years later, possibly prevented nuclear war. Petrov died at his home in Moscow in May but his death has only now been made public. In an interview with the BBC in 2013, Petrov told how he had received computer readouts in the early hours of the morning of 26 September 1983 suggesting several US missiles had been launched. "I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it," he said. "All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders - but I couldn't move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan."

Although his training dictated he should contact the Soviet military immediately, Petrov instead called the duty officer at army headquarters and reported a system malfunction. If he had been wrong, the first nuclear blasts would have happened minutes later. "Twenty-three minutes later I realised that nothing had happened. If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief," he recalled. A later investigation concluded that Soviet satellites had mistakenly identified sunlight reflecting on clouds as the engines of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Petrov, who retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel, died on 19 May but news of his passing became widely known only this month, thanks to a chance phone call. German film-maker Karl Schumacher, who first brought Petrov's story to an international audience, telephoned him to wish him a happy birthday on 7 September only to be informed by his son, Dmitry Petrov, that he had passed away. Mr Schumacher announced the death online and it was eventually picked up by media outlets.

The 2013 report:
On 26 September 1983, the world was saved from potential nuclear disaster.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Julio Rebeiro - Panchkula everywhere: Police in India today are not expected to uphold the rule of law, but of the party in power

The apparent threat to transfer the Director General of Police (DGP), Haryana, following Gurmeet Singh’s (I refrain from adding Baba or Ram Rahim to his real name) arrest remained in the realm of speculation. It would have constituted a great travesty of justice if those who wield the power to appoint and transfer had shifted the blame from themselves onto the shoulders of the police chief.

The police in India today are not expected to uphold the rule of law. They are trained to do that but as soon as officers are absorbed into the system they quickly learn that all they are required to do is uphold the rule of the party in power. There was a time when politicians were wary of expecting senior police officers to blindly toe their line, irrespective of the moral, ethical and, more importantly, legal merits of their instructions, communicated directly or through trusted intermediaries. This is not the situation today. Politicians of all parties and ideologies treat the bureaucracy and the police as private fiefdoms that will bow to their wishes as and when demanded.

It was not so bad some years ago. If the seniors resisted, or even refused, they were not summarily transferred. On the contrary, they may even have gathered some admirers among the political class. Politicians who did not like this intransigence were disappointed, to put it mildly, but they did not think it prudent to challenge the positions adopted on sound legal grounds by police leaders.

Personally, I have no doubt that in Haryana, oral instructions were given to the DGP to trust the promise of the Dera’s core leadership to keep the peace. But I am not willing to blame Manohar Lal Khattar for being sweet on Gurmeet Singh. After all, politics involves essentially a quest for power and Singh was in a position to deliver a massive number of votes to Khattar’s party. The Congress, or any other political party in its place, would have done likewise.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


"Maybe the reason young radical thinkers are not impressed by pleas to recognize “ambiguity and contingency” is because what they have seen in their lifetimes is a lesson in some pretty unambiguous facts about how capitalism works.

Even rock-ribbed neoclassical economists are coming around to the view that forty years of stagnant wages might have something to do with the attack on unions; that the decline of the labor movement in turn accelerated the shift to the right in politics; that this shift in turn led to a pretty successful evisceration of what little social support the state gave to the poor; that when the mad rush for short-term profits finally drove the economy into the tank, the state returned the favor by passing off the costs to the public and handed over trillions of dollars to the banks.

There was no contingency or ambiguity in any of this. It was a quite predictable result of a highly successful class war that transferred political power firmly over to elites. This is what capitalism looks like when the class struggle turns ugly. When self-styled progressives preach the gospel of contingency and ambiguity in times like these, is it a surprise that people turn to Marx for a little clarity?"

NB: 'A little clarity'. Marx's contribution to the human conversation was immense; and his analysis of capital a seminal criticism of capitalist modernity. This becomes evident whenever capitalism undergoes one of its periodic crises, and it must be said, the economic and political situation today is extremely dismal. But the ideological components of his system, including historical necessity (as in 'laws' of history), the inevitability of revolution, the use of naturalistic metaphors in political argument (as in 'force is the midwife' of every society 'pregnant' with a new one); and the lack of a phenomenology of violence - these features of his thought do not provide clarity. Warnings about ambiguity and contingency carry weight because the activities and ideological practices of Marxists in power have given rise to grave questions - to put it mildly. In this centenary year of Bolshevism, surely the history of revolutionary regimes should make us think about the distinction between truth and certainty? Find below some contributions to the conversation - DS

Months after its release, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is still getting praised in reviews and sitting near the top of bestseller charts. If the invisibility of a system is a marker of its ideological success, this can’t be a good sign for capitalism. It’s no surprise that people are curious about the causes of the injustice that surrounds them. Average workers’ wages in the US have fallen sizably from 2007 to 2012; in the same period, over 90 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent; while around 46 million Americans live in poverty, the gap between corporate profits and workers’ wages has never been greater. Piketty’s conclusion that capitalism, if left unchecked, generates a concentration of wealth among a tiny minority sits well with this lived experience.

Nikolai Berdyaev: The Religion of Communism (1931) // The Paradox of the Lie (1939)

NB: Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874-1948) was a Russian religious and political philosopher. He was among 160 non-communist intellectuals and scholars, deported from Russia in 1922 on Lenin's orders (after interrogation by Felix Dzherjzinsky, of the secret police), for being spies and counter revolutionaries. Berdyaev  had also been convicted of blasphemy for criticising the Russian Orthodox Church; and in 1913 was sentenced to deportation for life to Siberia. The outbreak of war saved him. 

Here are two of Berdayev's essays, on communism; and on the lie - on which also see: Alexandre Koyré The Political Function of the Modern LieI need hardly point out the relevance of the function of lying and deceit in this era of ideological tyranny. The so-called 'parivar' currently ruling India might be surprised to learn how close its instincts are to the totalitarian stream within the communist movement. There was an anti-Bolshevik stream as well, which is another story. As Berdayev says, 
'The lie is the chief foundation of the so-called totalitarian states, and without an organising lie they could never have been created.. the lie can even seem the sole truth..'

Berdayev's 'christian existentialist' critique of communism contains this sentence: "For what is most terrible in it is the mixture of truth and falsehood.."  and this paragraph: "The Russian people did not achieve their ancient dream of Moscow, the Third Rome. The ecclesiastical schism of the seventeenth century revealed that the muscovite tsardom is not the third Rome. The messianic idea of the Russian people assumed either an apocalyptic form or a revolutionary; and then there occurred an amazing event in the destiny of the Russian people. 

Instead of the Third Rome in Russia, the Third International was achieved, and many of the features of the Third Rome pass over to the Third International. The Third International is also a Holy Empire, and it also is founded on an Orthodox faith. The Third International is not international, but a Russian national idea"- cited Benedikt Sarnov, Moscow Union of Writers in Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., p. 446-447

Here is the full text of The Religion of CommunismMen's attitude as regards Communism has been, up till now, rather emotional than intellectual.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Why inequality in India is at its highest level in 92 years

By Soutik Biswas: Did India’s economic reforms lead to a sharp rise in inequality?
New research by French economists Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty, author of Capital, the 2013 bestselling book on capitalism and increasing inequality, clearly points to this conclusion. They studied household consumption surveys, federal accounts and income tax data from 1922 - when the tax was introduced in India - to 2014. The data shows that the share of national income accruing to the top 1% of wage earners is now at its highest level since Indians began paying income tax.

The economists say the top 1% of the earners captured less than 21% of the total income in the late 1930s, before dropping to 6% in the early 1980s and rising to 22% today. India, in fact, comes out as a country with one of the highest increase in top 1% income share concentration over the past 30 years," they say.

To be sure, India’s economy has undergone a radical transformation over the last three decades.
Up to the 1970s, India was a tightly regulated, straitlaced economy with socialist planning. Growth crawled (3.5% per year), development was weak and poverty endemic. Some easing of regulation, decline in tax rates and modest reforms led to growth picking up in the 1980s, trundling at around 5% a year. This was followed by some substantial reforms in the early 1990s after which the economy grew briskly, nudging close to double digits in the mid-2000s.

Peter Bradshaw: The Wife review – Glenn Close is unreadably brilliant as author's spouse plunged in late-life crisis

There’s nothing more dangerous than a writer whose feelings have been hurt.” The speaker is Joan Castleman, the charming, enigmatically discreet and supportive wife of world-famous author and New York literary lion Joe Castleman. It is a fascinating and bravura performance from Glenn Close, in this hugely enjoyable dark comedy from director Björn Runge, adapted by Jane Anderson from the novel by Meg Wolitzer. Perhaps it’s Close’s career-best – unnervingly subtle, unreadably calm, simmering with self-control. Her Joan is a study in marital pain, deceit and the sexual politics of prestige. It’s a portrayal to put alongside Close’s appearances in Dangerous Liaisons and Fatal Attraction. This is an unmissable movie for Glenn Close fans. Actually, you can’t watch it without becoming a fan – if you weren’t one already.

The Castlemans are on the plane to Sweden, ready for Joe to get the Nobel prize. Yet they are being pestered on the flight by a certain Nathaniel Bone, part stalker-fan, part parasitic hack who wants Joe to cooperate with a warts-and-all biography he is planning to write. Joe gives him the contemptuous brush-off but Joan cautiously advises a more diplomatic treatment. It is a key moment in this hugely enjoyable drama when things begin to fall apart.

Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the cantankerous and conceited old writer, a man now childishly addicted to praise and luxuriating in his colossal quasi-Bellow reputation. Christian Slater is the insidious and dangerous Bone. Max Irons plays Joe’s moody son David who also has plans to be writer, desperately needing the old man’s approval and yet prickly and resentful at Joe’s sorrowing criticisms of his work – criticisms which do not convey any great reassurance that his son has chosen the right career. And there is an unsettling moment in his Stockholm hotel suite when the great man appears not to recognise the name of one of his own characters. Is Joe succumbing to dementia?

And of course Close plays Joan, a woman much loved and admired within Joe’s circle of acquaintance: supportive helpmeet, mother – soon to be grandmother – and deeply affectionate spouse, apparently happy with a life lived in the titan’s shadow. Yet everyone is aware of a difficult truth; despite Joe blandly telling people at these cocktail parties that his wife “doesn’t write”, Joan had her own literary ambitions as a young woman. Joe’s moment of Nobel triumph appears to be triggering a late-life crisis in Joan… read more:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Aporias of Marxism / Archaism and Modernity. By Enzo Traverso

Enzo Traverso is an Italian historian who has written on issues relating to the Holocaust and totalitarianism

The Aporias of Marxism
In a letter to Walter Benjamin, dated 13 April 1933, Gershom Scholem described the rise of Nazi Germany as ‘a catastrophe of world‑historical proportions’ which permitted him for the first time ‘to comprehend deeply’ the expulsion of the Spanish Jews in 1492: ‘The magnitude of the collapse of the communist and socialist movements,’ he wrote ‘is frightfully obvious, but the defeat of German Jewry certainly does not pale by comparison.’ [56] These words, written in Palestine by a historian of the Cabbala who had left Germany almost ten years before, seem today a good deal more lucid than any of the Marxist analyses of the time.

In 1933very few intellectuals were aware of the fact that Hitler’s rise to power signified the end of Judaism in Germany. The Jews, as Scholem bitterly observed in this same letter, were powerless and continued desperately to cling to a national identity that had been obstinately constructed over a century of assimilation. The National Socialist laws were soon to abolish at one shot the gains made by emancipation. The great majority of the tens of thousands of Jews who left Germany were intellectuals and left-wing militants, Socialists or Communists, whose Judeity made their position even more hazardous and precarious. The official institutions of the Jewish community, notably the Zentraverein, tried to find a form of coexistence and accommodation with the new regime. [57]

Source for German archival materials:
National Citizenship Law & Law for the Protection of German blood and German Honour (1935)
The Romanies: Anti-gypsyism to the Holocaust and after

The workers’ movement was no more ready to deal with the catastrophe.

The eloquence of silence - The choice is between speaking up and keeping quiet. By Samantak Das

About a month ago, a US-based cousin was driving back home from work when the car in front of her braked in such a way that she was forced to pull over. The driver of the car, a large White woman, got off her vehicle, came up to my cousin, said, "You f***ing black w****, go back to your own country!" then turned on her heel and walked away. In her 20 years in the US, my cousin, a university professor who works with poor, marginalized and dispossessed groups of people (including many 'illegal immigrants'), had never had to face such visceral racial hatred. She has worked in areas where there are poor Whites who might legitimately feel deprived and upset, whose anger could easily have focused on her - a woman of colour, doing what many feel is a White person's job - and turned violent. But it never had. Until now.

The change, of course, is due to the election to the country's highest office of a man who wears his racism, sexism and bigotry as a badge of pride, who makes no bones about the fact that he sees the United States of America as an essentially White, Christian, 'masculine' nation, where all other ethnic and religious groups (not to speak of women) are present on sufferance. Donald Trump's narrowness of vision, stridently racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, his characterization of Blacks and Mexicans as drug dealers, rapists and thieves, are not just disturbing and deeply scary in themselves, they also embolden others of his ilk to express thoughts and perform actions they might otherwise have kept to themselves. Witness, for example, the open display of Confederate flags and Nazi swastikas in rally after rally or the murderous car attack on anti-racism protestors in Charlottesville last month.

Perhaps an even bigger tragedy than his own bigotry is Trump's repeated refusal to even acknowledge, let alone condemn, that of others. American media, especially online journals, have noted time and again the ways in which such wilful blindness and calculated silence regarding acts of racism, sexism and other kinds of bigotry have led others to spout hate speech and commit hate crimes; how the once-defunct and all-but-forgotten Ku Klux Klan is once again news; how violent crimes against non-Whites and incidents of gender and racial discrimination have grown since Trump assumed office.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“How dare they celebrate, this is our India, we will not allow this to happen.” People of Bengaluru defend Indian democracy

Karnataka Turns Out to Embrace Gauri Lankesh (see photos)
BANGALORE: More than the act itself, the celebration, the abuse and the complete vilification of Gauri Lankesh by groups of goons - most of them unwilling to even disclose their identities on the social media they patrol - turned the Bangalore protest into a mammoth show of solidarity laced with visible anger. It is also the primary reason why the people who poured out on the streets, from all over the city, the state of Karnataka, and from all over India had no hesitation in pointing a finger at the right wing forces for the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

Whosever killed her obviously did so to strike terror, to silence voices like hers, and to send out a message as many of the trolls declaring themselves BJP supporters themselves stated on the social media, that this fate would befall those who insisted on questioning the government, and taking on the RSS and the BJP. A senior BJP legislator in fact, said as much in his initial comments after Lankesh was felled by cowardly gunmen at her residence. If this was the intention then clearly her assassins and their supporters have not succeeded. While the assassination clearly shocked India, it did not silence Indians. In fact, protests broke out across India - even in BJP ruled states - against the crime with citizens making it clear through articles, interviews, programs, slogans, speeches, that they were not prepared to accept the message and retreat indoors in fear.

This was palpable in the huge demonstration today, with speaker after speaker, slogan after slogan, pointing fingers at her killers, warning the ruling party at the centre that no one would keep silent, with people of all ages, and all walks of life pledging not to remain silent, but to speak out, not to be fearful, but to act. Swami Agnivesh, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury were amongst those who called out the RSS, pointing at the celebration within the right wing outfits after Lankesh/s murder. Kannada was also on full display, with speeches and placards in the home language. This is a simmering just under-the-surface issue with local groups and even the ruling Congress party campaigning against the imposition of Hindi. As demonstrators said, if the intention was to just strike fear those who killed the journalist have not succeeded. “We have not seen such a huge demonstration here in a long while,” was the voiced consensus.

Most did not know Lankesh, had not even read her but were part of the demonstration to raise their voice against the assassination and as they said,to warn those who killed her “we will not be silenced.” A young social activist said she has ‘goosebumps’ just to see so many people coming together to protest and warn the right wing forces. “We will not tolerate this, we cannot,”she said angrily. The image of the frail woman lying felled by bullets, said many in the demonstration has stayed with them. The anger was directed against the BJP/RSS supporters on the social media and perhaps a group of students spoke for many more when they said, “how dare they celebrate, this is our India, we will not allow this to happen.”

It was clear from the emotions that ran high, that the fear if any after her assassination had long since been replaced by anger. Putting together all the demands that came from individual protestors the people want immediate arrest of the killers, speedy trial, action against those who celebrated her murder, apology from them, but above everything it was a march of solidarity for each other, for democracy, for rights and for justice.

A pre-history of post-truth, East and West. By MARCI SHORE

Postmodernism was conceived largely by the Left as a safeguard against totalizing ideologies. Yet today, it has been appropriated on behalf of an encroaching neo-totalitarianism of the Right. Is French literary theory to blame? And can a philosophy of dissent developed in communist eastern Europe offer an antidote?

Kto vinovat? Who is to blame? ‘Blaming is irresponsible’, Agnes Heller answers, ‘It is responsibility that should be taken. It is responsibility that must be taken.’ In eastern Europe, the philosophy of dissent was a philosophy of responsibility. ‘Patočka used to say,’ Havel wrote in ‘The Power of the Powerless’, ‘that the most interesting thing about responsibility is that we carry it with us everywhere. That means that responsibility is ours, that we must accept it and grasp it here, now.’

In 2014, Russian historian Andrei Zubov was fired from his Moscow professorship for comparing Putin’s annexation of Crimea to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland. Two years later, at a festival in the post-industrial Czech city of Ostrava, Zubov spoke to a large audience about the task of historians. ‘My dolzhni govorit’ pravdu’, he said. We should speak the truth. This declaration – all the more so when uttered in Zubov’s baritone – sounded quaint, even old-fashioned. In particular, the Slavic word pravda – truth – invoked with no qualification and no prefix, suggested a bygone era. Who believed in truth anymore?

The end of ‘The End of History’ arrived together with the end of belief in reality. The Cold War world was a world of warring ideologies; in the twenty-first century, both American capitalism and post-Soviet oligarchy employ the same public relations specialists catering to gangsters with political ambitions. As Peter Pomerantsev described in Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, in the Russia of the 2000s, distinguishing between truth and lies became passé. In this world of enlightened, postmodern people, ‘everything is PR’.

Reality television has rendered obsolete the boundary between the fictional and the real. Truth is a constraint that has been overcome; ‘post-truth’ has been declared ‘word of the year.’ In Washington, the White House shamelessly defends its ‘alternative facts’. At the beginning, American journalists were taken off-guard: they had been trained to confirm individual pieces of information, not to confront a brazen untethering from empirical reality. The New Yorker captured the desperation with a satire about the fact-checker who passed out from exhaustion after the Republican debate. He had to be hospitalized; apparently no one replaced him.

In any moment of crisis, a long Russian tradition poses two ‘eternal questions’. The first: Kto vinovat? Who is to blame? Did postmodernism’s critique of the ontological stability of truth unwillingly create the conditions of possibility for ‘post-truth’, now exploited by oligarchic regimes on both sides of the Atlantic? Is French literary theory and its ‘narcissistic obscurantism’ at fault? ‘I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face,’ wrote Michel Foucault. ‘Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same.’ Was it not always suspicious that literary theorists like Paul de Man and Hans Robert Jauss – each of whom had a vested personal interest in disassociating his youthful wartime self from his post-war scholarly self – elaborate so passionately a philosophy of the inconstancy of the I, the nonexistence of a stable subject, stable meaning, stable truth? Does Jacques Derrida not bear some responsibility for Vladimir Putin?

The second eternal question: Chto delat’? What is to be done? Is there an antidote to postmodernity? If so, where can we search for it? ‘Postmodernity’ has a history. It came not from nowhere, but rather from ‘modernity,’ which in Europe historians have traditionally dated from the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment. In the beginning, God was merely sidelined, relegated to a minor role as human reason took centre stage. ‘Sapere Aude! “Have courage to use your own understanding!” – that is the motto of enlightenment,’ Immanuel Kant famously wrote. Later (in the 1880s, to be precise), God was killed off entirely (speculatively by Dostoevsky, definitively by Nietzsche). Now the philosophical stakes of compensating for an emasculated-turned-nonexistent God became still greater. God had fulfilled epistemological, ontological and ethical roles; his death left an enormous empty space. Much of modern philosophy can be described as an attempt to replace God, to find a path to absolute truth in God’s absence.

The search for a path to truth was the search for a bridge: from subject to object, inner to outer, consciousness to world, thought to Being… read more:

see also

Articles on ideology in East Europe

AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA - ICHR Blocks Manuscript on Freedom Struggle Because It Makes the Sangh Look Bad, Alleges Historian

While Hindu-right organisations, under the patronage of the Narendra Modi government, are claiming spaces within the spectrum of associations with instrumental roles to play in the India’s nationalist movement, the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) – the primary government-sponsored institution for funding historical research and publications – has found itself in the dock for allegedly trying to bury historical work that looks into the counter-productive role played by the Sangh parivar during the freedom struggle.

Renowned Indian historian Arjun Dev has alleged that the ICHR, probably under the influence of the Modi government, has been sitting on a manuscript that he submitted two years ago on August 1, 2015. The manuscript is part of the ICHR’s Towards Freedom series, which was conceived as a project to compile records and documents from the last ten years of the freedom struggle (1938-1947). The manuscript, edited by Dev, is a compilation of documents on political developments in the year 1941. Speaking to The Wire, Dev said that it is divided into three parts – the nature of the nationalist movement in princely states of colonial India, the role of communal politics and labour and peasant movements during the period.
Dev suspects that the second part, which includes original sources that portray Hindu nationalist organisations such as the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS in poor light, may have been the reason for the delay in the manuscript’s publication. He added that the ICHR has not sent the manuscript to print despite the fact that the volume has already been approved by the general editor of the the project, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, who is also an eminent historian. “As is the norm for publication, the general editor has already approved the manuscript and has sent his letter of approval to the member-secretary of the ICHR. Despite this, the ICHR unprecedentedly referred the manuscript to an expert panel, which raised objections to some portions of the book,” he said.

News18 had earlier reported that the expert panel, whose names have not been disclosed by the ICHR, has cast doubts over the credibility of the some documents related to some speeches of Hindu Mahasabha leader, and later Bharatiya Jana Sangh’s founder, Syama Prasad Mookerjee. “The other objections pertain to mention of a particular community for disturbances in Dacca on March 17, 1941, too much emphasis on farmers and labour movements and the overall communist tone of the volume,” the report noted. The manuscript contains important speeches made by and quotes from Hindu-right leaders like Mookerjee, V.D. Savarkar and B.S. Moonje, a possible reason the ICHR has deliberately delayed publication.

In June this year, Dev wrote to the ICHR chairman Y. Sudershan Rao seeking an explanation on the council’s delay in forwarding the manuscript to the Oxford University Press and also asking why his manuscript was sent to another expert panel after it was approved by the general editor. “You see,” said Dev, “seeking the opinions of unknown experts is a departure from the convention, from the already laid down procedures. Moreover, the so-called experts’ comments had no academic value. The comments betrayed a complete lack of literacy in reviewing a manuscript.”

“My manuscript is a mere compilation of documents written by political parties, the government and different leaders in 1941. None of it is my analysis. By delaying the publication, the ICHR is keeping important information outside public domain,” added Dev. He further said that the second part, which may have rubbed the ICHR the wrong way, does not single out only Hindu nationalists but also contains detailed documents about the Muslim League and other associations. “Even if we leave that aside, there are significant details about the nationalist movement in princely states, an area which has not seen much historical research. The documents can create new areas of research for historians. It is a pity that the ICHR has not sent it to the press,” said Dev… read more: