Friday, May 25, 2018

Book review: The Tragic sense by Algis Valiunas

Maya Jasanoff: The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World
Reviewed by Algis Valiunas

Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) remains the greatest English language novelist since Charles Dickens, and many of the best writers of the 20th century, including H.L. Mencken, Ernest Hemingway, and T.S. Eliot, paid homage to his excellence or came under his influence. And as one learns from the Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff’s new book, The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World, Conrad was a hero to William Faulkner, André Gide, and Thomas Mann. What’s more, “He has turned up in the pages of Latin American writers from Jorge Luis Borges to Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Juan Gabriel Vásquez. He’s been cited as an influence by Robert Stone, Joan Didon, Philip Roth, and Ann Patchett; by W.G. Sebald and John le Carré.”

A Pole by birth, for 20 years a merchant seaman by profession, a late-blooming novelist for whom English was his third language (after French and his native Polish), a spinner of yarns about seafaring ordeals and romances with dusky beauties, Conrad has been thought of by some as an exotic, a mere curiosity. Virginia Woolf denigrated his claims to high seriousness and - equally important in her snobbish milieu - to Englishness: his principal appeal was to “boys and young people,” he couldn’t properly speak the language he wrote in, and he had the “air of mystery” of the perpetual exile, a person of no fixed address.

But what Conrad really possessed was an imagination of global reach, a far departure from Woolf’s Bloomsbury insularity.

Democratic Liberties Only Belong To The Bold And Vigilant, Says Justice Chelameswar In Moving Farewell Speech

Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the Supreme Court judge who retired on Friday, urged the younger generation to question what they believe to be wrong and help fix systems, including the legal system in India. "I am convinced that democratic liberties only belong to the bold and vigilant people," the 64-year-old said during a farewell gathering organised by Lawyers Collective. "The docile and timid don't have liberties. Liberties are not something to be granted."

He said that it was the young people of India who had to take this upon themselves. "It was pointed out to me that over the last year and a half, I have undertaken to democratize the institution," he said. "It's the younger generation that has stood by me. The established and acknowledged constitutional lawyers and jurists attacked me from every side." Justice Chelameswar was one of the four Supreme Court judges who addressed a press conference earlier this year, criticising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and raising questions on how cases were allocated to various judges. "If something is good, it is to be preserved; if something is doubtful, it is to be checked and rectified; if something is bad, it is to be destroyed," he said. "I worked with that belief; I had nothing personal against anyone in the system."

The former chief justice of the Kerala and Gauhati high courts had turned downa farewell program that the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) wanted to organise for him. However, he attended a farewell by Lawyers Collective, an advocacy NGO founded by activist senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover. He described how young lawyers came forward where established seniors did not support him, and encouraged this questioning, reminiscing how he had learnt to ask "why" from his father, to whom he dedicated Friday's speech. "The established systems are such, that any questioning will not be taken kindly," he said. "You are required to have the courage, the determination to fight the system if you are to bring about a good change." He described how several former judges of the Supreme Court and various high courts congratulated him for his attempts to question the current functioning of the apex court, but chose to stay mum themselves. "Those who still have opinions but wish to remain anonymous is a problem," he said. "Speak up. That is what is stopping this country. Perhaps the younger generation will wake up."

Benedetto Croce, the Italian philosopher who defied Mussolini and called fascism a 'moral illness', believed that liberty is not a natural right but an earned right that arises out of continuing historical struggle for its maintenance. Croce defined civilization as the continual vigilance against barbarism..

see also
Posts on Judge Loya's mysterious death
The law of killing - a brief history of Indian fascism
Ajmer blast case: Two including a former RSS worker get life imprisonment

Sudan Is About To Execute A Teen For Defending Herself Against Rape

What do we know about Noura Hussein? The 19-year-old Sudanese woman is currently on death row in Omdurman, Sudan, for killing a man in self-defense. She was convicted of murdering her husband, who raped her on their “honeymoon.” When she was 16, Noura’s family attempted to force her to marry a man, despite the fact that Islam prohibits marriage without consent. Refusing the marriage, she ran 155 miles away from her family home to a town called Sennar. She lived with her aunt for three years, determined to complete her high school education and with her eyes on further studies. 

In 2017, she received word that the wedding plans had been cancelled and that she was safe to return home. It was a cruel trick. On her return, Noura found the wedding ceremony underway and was given away to the same groom she had rejected three years earlier. Defiant, Noura refused to consummate the wedding for a number of days. Her husband became increasingly aggressive, and before the week was over, forced himself onto his teenage wife. With the help of his two brothers and a cousin who held her down, her husband raped her.

When he returned the next day to attempt to rape her again, Noura escaped to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. In the altercation that followed, the man sustained fatal knife wounds. Noura went to her family; they disowned her and turned her over to the police. She was held in Omdurman jail until April 29, 2018, when she was found guilty of premeditated murder. On May 10, the man’s family was offered a choice: either accept monetary compensation for the injury caused, or the death penalty. The family chose to sentence Noura to death. Noura’s legal team has until May 25 to submit an appeal...
read more:

प्राइम टाइम : चैनलों का भारत बनाम लोगों का भारत

मंत्री जी अपने फैन्स को चैलेंज दे रहे हैं कि पुशअप करें. फिट रहें. ज़रूरत यह भी है कि हम उन्हें चैलेंज करें ताकि सिस्टम फिट रहे. क्या आप दुनिया में एक भी ऐसा देश जानते हैं जहां परीक्षा पास करने, मेरिट में आने के बाद नौजवानों को दस महीने तक नियुक्ति पत्र नहीं मिलता हो. you can name any country in english from ghana to russia. सरकार के चार साल पूरे होने पर अगर इन नौजवानों को जिनकी संख्या 3287 है, नियुक्ति पत्र मिल जाए तो प्राइम टाइम से ज़्यादा डाइनैमिक मंत्री का नाम होगा. लोग दुआएं देंगे. यह बात मैं इसलिए कर रहा हूं कि ये नौजवान वाकई बहुत परेशान हैं. अगर वित्त मंत्री पीयूष गोयल इन 3287 जवानों को आयकर विभाग में नियुक्ति पत्र नहीं दिला सकते तो फिर प्रधानमंत्री को बताना ही पड़ेगा कि मंत्री जी से ये काम नहीं हो पा रहा है. अगर पीएमओ में कोई भूले भटके प्राइम टाइम देख लेता हो उनसे भी रिक्वेस्ट है कि वे प्रधानमंत्री को बताएं कि दस महीने हो गए 3287 छात्रों को अभी तक नियुक्ति पत्र नहीं मिला है...

Beauty is in the Street: May 68 posters

The May '68 uprisings in Paris were notable for the artistry of the poster campaign which came out of the Atelier Populaire. A new book celebrates them

Before Twitter and Facebook provided that window into the consciousness of a ready made audience of thousands, would-be activists needed to work a little bit harder to grab people’s attention. The beautiful posters which came out of the Atelier Populaire (popular workshop) in support of the May ’68 uprisings in Paris are a wonderful reminder of this and a collection of the best can be seen in a new book, Beauty is in the Street. The fabulous collection of colourful screen prints... is the fruit of years of rummaging through flea markets, persuading other collectors to lend them and a degree of “delightful detective work” by the book’s editor Johan Kugelberg. When the wildcat general workers strikes paralysed the French capital in May 1968 it was in large part thanks to the role played by artists and art students who set up subversive poster factories such as the one in the lithographic department of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. The posters were colourful, spontaneous and produced rapidly bearing witty and, now often ubiquitous, slogans like ‘We are the power’, ‘Be young and shut up’, and ‘They’re poisoning you!’

“The posters are truly ephemeral and were rarely saved,” Kugelberg said. “It was actually frowned upon by the students and activists to save them.” Which, of course, made Kugelberg’s job as a collector all the more difficult. But with the help of an Atelier Populaire founder Philippe Vermés, he managed to track down a big enough body of work to stage an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London three years ago to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the uprisings. He decided to stage the exhibition having noticed that the “beauty and immediate communicative tone of the posters” was little known about outside of France and rarely documented. In both the book and the exhibition the iconic posters are accompanied by rare photographs of the students who made them and documentary images of the rallies.

“One of the most powerful ideas that resonates from Paris ’68 is the solidarity among the protesters which repeatedly transcended whatever societal strata a person could be pigeon-holed into,” he says. In the book’s foreword, Vermés quotes an old French motto: “Au mois de mai, fais ce qu’il te plait” which means “In the month of May, do whatever you like”. He writes, “[That saying] captures the fun and frolic of that time of year but May ’68, as it was branded, broke like a maverick from those carefree clichés. The 60s were serious, emblematic times for many of us who strolled into them in our mid-20s.” ..

Israeli court approves razing West Bank Bedouin village

NB: This is not justice. It is tyranny. DS

Israel’s supreme court has ruled in favour of demolishing a Palestinian Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, despite a campaign by European governments to save it. Campaigners said the hearing had been the final appeal open to the village of Khan al-Ahmar, located close to several Israeli settlements east of Jerusalem. It was unclear when the demolition of the village, home to about 180 residents, would take place. 

In its ruling on Thursday, the court said it found “no reason to intervene in the decision of the Minister of defence to implement the demolition orders issued against the illegal structures in Khan al-Ahmar”. The residents would be relocated elsewhere, it added, in a move critics say amounts to forcible transfer. The court ruled that the village was built without the relevant building permits. Such permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.

“This verdict takes away the absolute minimal protection the Bedouin communities received until recently from the court,” Shlomo Lecker, the lawyer representing the village, said in a statement. “By any standard of international humanitarian law, the verdict is an approval by the Israeli court of a crime against humanity.” The decision was likely to be met with anger by European governments, which had been fighting to save the village.

Last week the head of the British consulate-general in Jerusalem visited the village and said in a video clip published online that the planned demolition was a “matter of great concern for the UK and indeed for the European Union”. Earlier on Thursday, Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, announced 2,500 new settlement units in the West Bank. All settlements are considered illegal under international law.

CLAUS LEGGEWIE - Reappraising the politics of ’68

Retrospectives of 1968 tend to dismiss its socialism and instead to see identity politics as its primary legacy. Rightly so? Leggewie asks how far the New Left achieved its political goals and whether identity politics were necessarily incompatible with its anti-capitalist & social-revolutionary agenda.
Let it be emphasized: no social scenario, however desolate, justifies abuse of or discrimination against minorities. Nor, however, does the mere affirmation of cultural diversity, together with politically correct language, remedy deleterious social and employment conditions, which are again affecting women and minorities disproportionately. One has to keep an eye on both things – there are no major and minor contradictions, as Marxism-Leninism once saw it. Sexism and racism are one side of the story, the voters who defect to the far-Right because for decades they have not felt represented by established parties are the other... There can be no alternative between collective identity and class, between artistic and social critique, between equality and difference, between universalism and particularism. An ambitious politico-social movement must consider both strands in combination. Capitalism is more than an economic subsystem. As Karl Polanyi argued some seventy years ago, it is a mode of socialization that posits difference as inevitable. Today, not for the first time, it blames inequality and exploitation on those whom they affect.

February 1968. Radical leftists from all over the world are in West Berlin to attend the International Vietnam Congress. The main auditorium of the Technical University is packed to the rafters. A banner has been draped over the edge of the viewing balcony demanding the ‘liberation of all people from oppression and exploitation’. Hanging next to it is the resplendent image of Ho Chi Minh. The Tet offensive has just demonstrated the vulnerability of the US military in Southeast Asia and an American defeat has become a real possibility. 

Among those attending the conference is the little known French anarchist, Daniel Cohn-Bendit. The main attraction, however, is Rudi Dutschke, the charismatic leader of the Socialist German Student League (SDS). Dutschke delivers his speeches with deep pathos and is fond of citing Marx’s mantra about ‘the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being’. ‘Comrades! We don’t have much time!’ he exclaims on the second day. ‘Every day, we too are being crushed in Vietnam, and not just figuratively speaking.’ At this very moment, Dutschke is vacillating between giving up the fight or becoming a ‘real’ urban guerrilla. Shortly afterwards, he is vilified for appearing on the cover of the magazine Capital for a thousand deutschmarks. Then, in April, he is shot three times by a neo-Nazi on the Kurfürstendamm.

Josh Gabbatiss - One of world’s most endangered forests originally planted by ancient South Americans

Critically endangered swathes of forest found across parts of South America owe their existence to the indigenous people who have lived in harmony with them for centuries. Experts assumed monkey puzzle trees had expanded centuries ago due to wetter and warmer weather spreading across the region. However, new research suggests Southern Je communities played an active role in their creation, cultivating the trees for food and other purposes.

"Our research shows these landscapes were man-made,” said Dr Mark Robinson, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter.  “Communities settled on grassland, and then – perhaps because they modified the soil, protected seedlings or even planted trees – established these forests in places where geographically they shouldn't have flourished." Together with an international team of scientists, Dr Robinson realised that in areas of intense archaeological activity these trees were everywhere – where the trees had grown independently from humans they only grew on south-facing slopes.

Deciding to explore this further, the researchers found that monkey puzzle trees had undergone two massive expansions across the region. The first, which occurred around 4,480 to 3,200 years ago, was likely due to an increase in moisture – but this did not explain the second major pulse in tree growth that took place more recently, peaking around 800 years ago... read more:

Mexico's unmapped underwater caves - in pictures

Photographer Klaus Thymann has been exploring the underwater cave system of the Yucatán peninsula, diving 1km underwater to where salt and freshwater meet. By mapping areas that have been untouched by modern civilisation, he hopes to raise awareness of the natural and human heritage of this unique ecosystem that will hopefully result in greater protection. He talks to Eric Hilaire about making his journey into a film, Flows, featuring music by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke

Om Thanvi: The roving revolutionary -. Che Guevara in India

Che Guevara visited India at the end of June 1959 and stayed for two weeks. In the course of that official visit, he met Nehru, traveled around India, and was interviewed on All India Radio by K.P. Bhanumathy. When she prodded him, saying, “You are said to be a communist but communist dogmas won’t be accepted by a multi-religious society” , Che apparently replied, “I would not call myself a communist. I was born as a Catholic. I am a socialist who believes in equality and freedom from the exploiting countries. I have seen hunger, so much suffering, stark poverty, sickness and unemploy-ment right from my very young days in [Latin] America. It is happening in Cuba, Vietnam and Africa – the struggle for freedom starts from the hunger of the people. There are useful lessons in the Marxist-Leninist theory. The practical revolutionary initiates his own struggle simply fulfilling laws foreseen by Marx. In India, Gandhiji’s teachings had its own merit which finally brought freedom”. 

In other words, Che seemed to be saying that Marxism didn’t prescribe any specific trajectory of revolutionary emancipation whether from capitalism or from imperialist or colonial domination.

The ‘mysterious Krishna’ whom Che met (see link below) and was so impressed by was clearly V. Krishna Menon who was a passionate opponent of nuclear weapons and had liaised with Bertrand Russell throughout the fifties. We have at least one photo of Che conversing with Krishna Menon. They met on 3 July. About that conversation Che said, “While talking with Krishna, the learned Indian, we became aware of the evils of the means of mass destruction”. Strangely, when Che visited Calcutta, none of the leaders of the then undivided Communist Party of India went out of their way to meet him...

Che left Havana on 12 June 1959. He celebrated his 31st birthday in Madrid, and flew to Delhi via Cairo. His plane reached Palam on the night of 30 June. Since Che had no official position in the Cuban government, this “national leader of Cuba”, as he was described in official communications, was received at the airport by a welcoming committee of one, Deputy Chief Protocol Officer D S Khosla, who later accompanied him to the newly built Hotel Ashok in Chanakyapuri.

The Cuban delegation accompanying Che was likewise small: a mathematician, an economist, a party worker, a captain of the rebel army, and a single bodyguard. Pardo Llada, a rightwing broadcaster, also joined the delegation in Delhi. Though Llada was ostensibly sent to assist Che, it is rumoured that Castro wanted some respite from his popular daily radio programme in Havana. In any case, Che was not happy to have him, and Llada ended up returning home midway through the trip.

On his first morning in Delhi, Che met Nehru in Teen Murti Bhawan, the prime minister’s residence. Nehru had a soft spot for socialist countries, and Che clearly admired the Indian leader. “Nehru received us with an amiable familiarity of a patriarchal grandfather,” Che wrote in his report, “but with noble interest in the dedication and struggles of the Cuban people, commending our extraordinary valiance and showing unconditional sympathy towards our cause.”   

Formal talks took place before lunch, and Che explained that Cuba wanted to establish diplomatic and trade relations with India. Though Cuba did have a consulate in Calcutta, India had no diplomatic set-up in Cuba, with the Indian ambassador in Washington instead attending to Indian affairs in Cuba. The two delegations agreed to establish diplomatic missions as soon as possible, and post-lunch plans were made for the Cuban delegation to meet with Indian trade officials… read more:

How retaining Kairana has suddenly become tougher for BJP

With the JD(S) and the Congress joining hands to keep the BJP out of power in Karnataka, all eyes are now on Uttar Pradesh where bypolls for the Kairana Lok Sabha seat and Noorpur assembly seat are slated to be held on May 28. The bypolls hold much importance for the ruling BJP after the recent drubbing in the Gorakhpur and Phoolpur bypolls where arch rivals Samajwadi Party tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party to defeat the saffron party.

Moreover, after a show of strength by a united Opposition during the HD Kumaraswamy swearing-in in Karnataka, the BJP must have felt the pinch, and a defeat in Kairana and Noorpur will make it obvious that regional parties together can combat the ‘invincible’ BJP in the 2019 general elections. Unlike in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the Congress has joined hands with the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in a bid to deal another blow to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats. Kairana hit the national headlines before the 2017 UP assembly elections after the local MP Hukum Singh raised the issue of Hindu exodus from the area.  The bypoll in the seat has been necessitated following the death of Hukum Singh.

To cash in on the sympathy wave towards Hukum Singh’s family, the BJP has fielded his daughter Mriganka in Kairana. But RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan, who has the support of the BSP, SP and Congress, seemed confident too. Hasan’s candidature got a boost on Thursday after Lok Dal candidate Kanwar Hasan joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal at a meeting held in Kairana in the presence of Jayant Chaudhary, the national vice-president of RLD... read more:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Armed Rohingya group massacred Hindus in Myanmar, Amnesty International report alleges

An armed Rohingya group carried out at least one massacre of Hindu villagers in Myanmar’s conflict-wracked Rakhine state, an Amnesty International report has concluded. Ethnic conflict has convulsed the southeast Asian country in recent years, with the military accused of slaughtering members of the Muslim Rohingya minority in the majority-Buddhist country. But the new report 
from the human rights organisation suggests that a Rohingya group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) killed up to 99 Hindu women, men and children while also abducting Hindu villagers.

 “It’s hard to ignore the sheer brutality of ARSA’s actions, which have left an indelible impression on the survivors we’ve spoken to,” Amnesty International’s Tirana Hassan said in a statement. Myanmar’s government has justified a crackdown on Rohingya residents by saying they were suppressing an armed insurrection after attacks on police posts. The Rohingya have responded by suggesting that their communities suffered disproportionate and undiscerning government reprisals as a result. But while the Amnesty report accused Myanmar authorities of orchestrating a frenzy of “unlawful killings, rapes, and burning of villages” targeted at the Rohingya, driving a mass exodus to neighbouring Bangladesh, it said “no atrocities can justify the massacre, abductions, and other abuses” committed against Hindu villagers. “Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State”, Ms Hassan said. 

After ARSA members launched an assault on army installations in August of 2017, the report says, Myanmar’s security forces responded with an “unlawful and grossly disproportionate campaign of violence marked by killings, rape and other sexual violence, torture, village burning, forced starvation tactics and other human rights violations”. Security forces targeted all Rohingya in Rakhine state, the report alleges. ARSA responded by unleashing violence on Hindu people, according to Amnesty. It says the group killed some Hindu villagers “execution-style” and abducted others, with survivors recounting having been forced to convert to Islam if they wished to be spared.

The group denied having carried out a massacre

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

China Sentences Tashi Wangchuk to Five Years in Prison

Tashi Wangchuk received a sentence of five years in prison on charges of “inciting separatism”. His crime: advocating for the protection of Tibetan language. Regardless of China’s obligations to protect the Tibetan language under their own constitution, Tashi’s calls for the right to learn, read, write, and speak Tibetan freely were ignored. Instead, Tashi Wangchuk has been slapped with a five year sentence – a reflection of China’s racist policies against Tibetans. 

Read our (SFT) full statement here.

Tashi has not given up hope. As he appeals the verdict, here are two simple things you can do to support the global campaign:

  1. Sign the petition, addressed to the five governments who attempted to observe Tashi’s trial – the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada – and urge them to press China for Tashi Wangchuk's immediate and unconditional release.
  2. Write to your elected leaders and ask them to make an urgent statement condemning the sentence and calling for Tashi Wangchuk’s release.

An Indian education?

Thane Richard finds his study abroad experience in India an enormous disappointment.

I recently read an article in Kafila written by some students from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi that really made me think. To quickly summarise, the piece criticised the draconian views of the Principal of St. Stephen’s College regarding curfews on women’s dormitories and his stymieing of his students’ democratic ideals of discussion, protest, and open criticism. The students’ frustration was palpable in the text and their story felt to me like a perfect example of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Except Indian students are not an unstoppable force. Not even close.

In 2007 I was a student at St. Stephen’s College for seven months as part of a study abroad programme offered by my home institution, Brown University. In as many ways as possible, I tried to become a Stephanian: I joined the football (soccer) team, acted in a school play written and directed by an Indian peer, performed in the school talent show, was a member of the Honors Economics Society, and went to several student events on and off campus. More importantly, though, I was a frequenter of the school’s cafe and enjoyed endless chais and butter toasts with my Indian peers under the monotonous relief of the fans spinning overhead. Most of my friends were 3rd years, like me, and all of them were obviously very bright. I was curious about what their plans were after they graduated. With only a few exceptions, they were planning on pursuing second undergraduate degrees at foreign universities.

“Wait, what?! You are studying here for three years just so you can go do it again for four more years?” I could not grasp the logic of this. What changed my understanding was when I started taking classes at St. Stephen’s College. Except for one, they were horrible.

This was not an isolated incident — all my fellow exchange students concurred that the academics were a joke compared to what we were used to back home. In one economic history class the professor would enter the room, take attendance, open his notebook, and begin reading. He would read his notes word for word while we, his students, copied these notes word for word until the bell sounded. Next class he would find the spot where the bell had interrupted him, like a storyteller reading to children and trying to recall where he had last put down the story. He would even pause slightly at the end of a long sentence to give us enough time to finish writing before he moved on. And this was only when he decided to show up — many times I arrived on campus to find class abruptly cancelled. Classmates exchanged cell phone numbers and created phone trees just to circulate word of a cancelled class. I got a text almost daily about one of my classes. My foreigner peers had many similar experiences.

I would sit in class and think to myself “Can you just photocopy your notebook and give me the notes so I can spend my time doing something less completely useless?” I refused to participate. Instead, I sat at my desk writing letters to friends. If it were not for the fact that attendance counted towards my marks, I would have never showed up at all. There was no need. I calculated the minimum attendance required not to fail, hit that target square on, and still got excellent grades. In one political science class the only requirements for the entire period between August and December were two papers, each 2,500 words. I wrote more intense papers in my U.S. public high school in a month. Readings were required but how can this be enforced when there is no discussion that makes students account-able for coming to class prepared? The only questions I heard asked during my classes were about whether the material being covered that day would be on the exam. Remember, this was not any regular liberal arts college - St. Stephen’s College is regarded as one of, if not the best, colleges in India.

The best learning experience I had was hundreds of miles from campus with four other students and one professor on a trek to Kedarnath during the October break. We had multi-day conversations spanning morality, faith, and history. During one memorable overnight bus ride our professor told us the entire Mahabharata epic from memory while we leaned over seats or squatted in the aisle to be closer to the campfire of his voice while the rest of the bus dozed around us. The thirst in these students was there and this professor exemplified passionate teaching, but the system was and is broken. Bearing in mind the richness of India’s intellectual tradition, my entire study abroad experience in India, from an academic standpoint, was an enormous disappointment.

To pause for a moment, here is the problem with me talking about this topic: right now many Indians reading this are starting to feel defensive. “Nationalist” is a term I have heard as a self-description as they defend Mother India from the bigoted, criticising foreigner. They focus on me rather than the problem… read more:

Arms Manufacturers Use Israel’s Massacres in Gaza to Test New Technology

BEN NORTON: It’s The Real News, I’m Ben Norton. I’m joined by Andrew Feinstein, who is a leading expert on the arms industry. He’s the executive director of Corruption Watch UK, and the author of the book The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, which was recently made into a film. Andrew is also a former Member of Parliament for the ANC in South Africa. Thanks for joining us, Andrew.

ANDREW FEINSTEIN: Great to be with you.

BEN NORTON: Today we’re going to be discussing the role of Israel in the US arms industry, and specifically the protests in Gaza. For the past six weeks now, protesters inside Gaza have been leading non-violent demonstrations and being gunned down en masse. There have been large massacres of unarmed protesters by Israel, and in fact, on Monday, dozens more Palestinians were killed. Thousands have been shot with live ammunition, including some experimental forms of munitions used by the Israeli military against unarmed peaceful protesters inside Gaza. How is this also related to Israel’s role in the U.S. and global arms trade?

ANDREW FEINSTEIN: So, a crucial component of the arms trade, and growing component- perhaps the fastest growing there is- is the broad area of homeland security, and of surveillance and repression equipment. By Israel attacking what are effectively, by all accounts, peaceful protesters- although, of course, Israel will reflect on them as something very different to that- Israel will then use that information, particularly with non-democratic autocratic regimes around the world- the regimes of Saudi Arabia, of the United Arab Emirates, various Arab countries of similar political systems- and they will say to them, “We have this problem on a daily basis, look how we are addressing it.”

So, we have these protests which are a threat to Israel’s national security- which in itself, is a very questionable point. But that’s how they would argue it. And they would then continue the argument that, “Look how we deal with this through our surveillance equipment, our equipment of ongoing repression of the occupied territories, we know exactly what the Palestinians are planning and when they’re going to plan it. We know who the ringleaders are. And this is how we deal with it, with not just brute force but also the competitive advantage that our technology gives us.”.

And they will speak to a variety of weaponry that is actually illegal to be used in the world. But Israel is signatory to very few of those multilateral agreements, such as the treaty to ban cluster munitions. So, we have seen, time after time, the use of cluster munitions, the use of various chemical weapons in the occupied territories by Israel, and the marketing of these weapons… read more:

Is Another World Possible? – Leo Panitch on Reality Asserts Itself

Prof. Leo Panitch says it’s a dilemma that the gradualism of European social-democracy and attempts at a more radical transformation have so far both failed; Panitch says a first step towards democratizing the economy is to make finance a public utility

PAUL JAY: Welcome back to the Real News Network. This is Reality Asserts Itself, and I’m Paul Jay. And we’re continuing our discussion with Leo Panitch, who joins us in the studio. Thanks for joining us again, Leo.
LEO PANITCH: Glad to be back, Paul.

PAUL JAY: So, one more time, Leo’s a professor emeritus and senior scholar at York University in Toronto, and co-author with Sam Gindin of Making of Global Capitalism, the Political Economy of the American Empire. We left off saying we were gonna talk about is another world possible, which was the theme of the world social forums, and I suppose many books and articles. I think there used to be, and this is because of the Russian revolution and maybe the Chinese revolution, the thinking always was you’d have some revolution, and you’d have this massive uprising and an insurrection, and here would come socialism and you would nationalize most of everything, and off you would go.

Whether or not that worked in Russia and China … I shouldn’t say whether or not, because in the long run, we know it didn’t. Whether that works in some conditions in some places, perhaps it did to some extent in Cuba, but it’s hard to believe that this insurrectionary model is applicable to a Europe or a North America or any of the advanced capitalist countries at any rate. How do you see a socialist, and I think you have to distinguish between socialist aspects of the economy and a change of which class has political power, because they’re connected, but not necessarily the same. How do you envision that process?

LEO PANITCH: Yeah, you’re right in what you said about the state and perception that you could change things overnight in an insurrectionary revolution that would last. I think the experience has been how hard that is to do and even if change did occur, it occurred in a way that those societies got isolated from the capitalist system. This produced a form of rapid industrialization that was undemocratic. If it was planned, it was centrally planned in an undemocratic manner, and that proved its undoing in many respects.

But the other side of the problem is those socialists who adopted a gradualist perspective, also ran up against the limits. The parties that were parliamentarist, electorist, the social democratic parties, some of whom remain Marxists, until officially at least, until the last quarter of the 20th century. They introduced, in so far as they got elected to government, they introduced certain reforms, which they always presented as building blocks to an eventual socialism, getting beyond capitalism, but those reforms ran up against the limits of being embedded in a capitalist society. So the welfare reforms were structured in such a way, partly due to bureaucratic and capitalist opposition, but also because of the logic of the system, that they didn’t give you enough so that you didn’t need to go back to work or upset the labor market, right.

And the nationalizations, in so far as they occurred in some crucial industries, they were usually of industries that were failing. The state would take them over. They were run in a fashion that didn’t allow for workers’ control because it would always be said that the workers would give away the secrets of the industry or the corporation to competitors, and anyway workers aren’t capable of running such complex things. So, they were statist in their form, not democratic, and increasingly oriented themselves to be competitive. And as these reforms, these public institutions didn’t have an enormous base of support, initially they did. And in so far as there were fiscal problems, tax problems inside capitalist states, they would say, “Well, we need to open up those arenas to capital accumulation,” which becomes the basis of public-private partnerships, but also the privatizations that we’ve lived through.

PAUL JAY: And many of the reforms have since, of Thatcher, Reagan and others have gone away.
LEO PANITCH: Have been reversed, that’s right… read more:

Anti-Sterlite protests: Several injured in clashes with police in Tuticorin; Sec 144 imposed

Several were injured after the Tamil Nadu police resorted to lathi-charge on Tuesday as protests against Sterlite’s industrial plant intensified in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin). Residents are demanding the closure of the plant, citing that the pollution it generates is causing serious health issues. 

The agitation against Sterlite Copper, which represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited, recently escalated after the company announced the expansion of its unit in the city. Sterlite Copper, which currently operates a 400,000-tonne  per annum unit in the city, maintains that it has received necessary permits and has not violated any norms. With hundreds of residents and social activists protesting, there is a heavy deployment of police in the coastal city. Personnel have been rushed from neighbouring districts of Madurai and Virudhunagar to bring the situation under control.

DMK working president and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin condemned the “police atrocities” that took place during the protest this morning, reported news agency ANI. He is among many political leaders who have lent their voice to the anti-Sterlite protests.

Former military personnel protest over 'one rank one pension' demand

Thousands of retired military personnel on Sunday piled on pressure on the NDA government to implement the “one rank one pension” (OROP) scheme, holding protests in Delhi and cities across the country and saying the campaign will be intensified with the launch of an indefinite hunger strike.
In Delhi, former armed forces personnel gathered at Jantar Mantar for the protest. A series of ‘mahasangram’ rallies also were organised in cities around the country.

Officials of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), which is spearheading the protests, said an indefinite relay hunger strike will be started from 9am on Monday. Batches of 15 people will join the relay hunger strike, which will continue till the government announces a date for implementing OROP. The IESM decided to launch the protests after a meeting with defence minister Manohar Parrikar to discuss the OROP issue ended inconclusively.

More posts on OROP

Maj Gen (retired) Satbir Singh, vice-chairman of the IESM, told the media: “The protest will continue till OROP is implemented. There will be rallies across the country. After the rally, there will be an indefinite hunger strike.” Singh said the former military personnel intended to hand over their medals to the President, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces, as a mark of protest. The former military personnel are expected to meet President Pranab Mukherjee later in the day. The NDA government has said several times it is committed to the OROP scheme but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Parrikar have not set a timeframe for rolling it out.

"Whenever there has been any requirement for national security, for earthquake, for floods or in case of a disaster, the army has always been there first to take suitable action. But when it comes to the finances, giving perks, giving benefits, the Indian Army becomes the last organization in this country," Maj Gen (retd) SR Sinho told reporters. "This system of OROP has been pending for many years. Whenever the elections come, lots of promises are made by various parties that it will be executed soon. 8,000 crores is not a very big amount for a country like India, which has a huge army budget," he added.

Modi brought up the issue during his last monthly radio address and sought more time from the retired personnel to implement the scheme. He has also said his government is trying to frame a definition of OROP that is acceptable to all stakeholders. The former military personnel have written a letter to the Prime Minister, seeking the implementation of OROP as soon as possible. The OROP scheme is aimed at ensuring that all retired personnel, who have the same rank and the length of service, receive the same amount of pension, irrespective of their date of retirement. Under the existing policy, military personnel who retired before 2006 receive less pension than those who retired later. The OROP scheme has been a long-standing demand of nearly three million retired military personnel. More than 600,000 war widows are also expected to benefit from the scheme.

Before last year’s general election, the Congress-led UPA government allocated Rs 500 crore for the OROP scheme. Following its electoral victory, the BJP-led NDA government increased the allocation to Rs 1,000 crore. But experts have said the actual requirement for immediately implementing the scheme could be more than Rs 8,000 crore.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Jessica Valenti - The recent mass shootings in the US all have one thing in common: misogyny

The massacre at Santa Fe high school last week that left 10 people dead – most of them students – seems to have something in common with so many other mass shootings that happen in the US: misogyny. The shooter, one victim’s mother claims, targeted her daughter as the first victim because she rejected his continued harassing advances. How many more tragedies have to happen before we recognize that misogyny kills? 

The longer we ignore the toxic masculinity that underlies so many of these crimes, the more violence we’re enabling. Sadie Rodriguez told the LA Times that her daughter Shana Fisher “had four months of problems” from the Santa Fe shooter. “He kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no.” A week before the shooting, she says, her daughter stood up to the shooter and “embarrassed him in class”. 

This comes not even a month after the van attack in Toronto that killed 10 people and injured 13 more – violence enacted by a man who was reportedly furious that women wouldn’t sleep with him. Before that there was the 2015 shooting at an Oregon college by a young man who complained of being a virgin with “no girlfriend”. In 2014, there was Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and left behind a 140-page sexist manifesto and videos where he warned: “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.” In 2009, George Sodini killed three women at a gym in Pennsylvania after lamenting online that younger women wouldn’t date him.

Even in the mass shootings where the stated motive isn’t disdain for women, there’s often a history of domestic or sexual violence from the killer. Since the attack, we’ve heard Republican leaders blame the violence on everything from Ritalin use and video games to lack of religion in schools and even abortion. (Never guns, of course – despite the fact that this is the 22nd school shooting in the US just this year.) And even though feminists continue to raise the alarm about the common thread of sexism and misogyny in these crimes, too many people seem to be missing the point... read more:

R Prasannan: Drunk on the dregs of Nehruvian history

Daphne du Maurier’s little known novel The Flight of the Falcon is about two brothers Aldo and Beo who grew up in Fascist and post-war Italy. When Aldo discovers that he was an adopted child, he keeps the discovery to himself, and begins to make Beo and everyone else believe that Beo is the adopted one. The pretense grows on Aldo; he puts on the airs of an aristocrat, belittles his brother on every occasion, invents family myths, fakes legends, and creates pretentious traditions to assert his false ancestry.

Many in the Sangh Parivar are doing much the same these days. They have realised that their earlier-gen leaders hadn’t been there in the freedom movement. Neither among Tilak’s extremists, nor among Gokhale’s moderates; neither with Gandhi’s non-violent masses, nor with the violent revolutionaries like the communist Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad or Birsa Munda. When Congressmen, communists, socialists, swarajists and even anarchists were burning British clothes, boycotting British courts, defying British laws, and facing British batons and bullets, several of the Sangh men were doing vyayam in their sakhas. The odd one or two, like V.D. Savarkar who did break a British law or two, soon chickened out and got out of prison after signing on British-dotted apology lines.

For all their love for militarism and regimentation, hardly any one of them had gone forward to enlist in the Indian National Army with Netaji Bose, Mohan Singh and Shah Nawaz Khan. Nor had any Sangh men been found among the brave ranks of the communist-inspired sailors who raised the tricolour of national freedom on Royal Indian Naval ships. So what do they do, to capture the patriotic legacy? Simple! Do what Aldo did. Belittle the Beos, fake the legends, falsify history, and vilify the virtuous. An easy target has been Tipu. No Tipu Jayanti, please—they have decreed. Shall we have Cornwallis’ Jayanti then? Or Wellesley’s?

Another Beo they have targeted is Jawaharlal Nehru. A Goebbelsian propaganda is on across social media platforms, aimed at belittling his legacy. Anonymous posts, dripping with toxin about his ancestry, his progeny, his character, and his role in the national movement are flooding social media groups. Documents are being faked, often in the language of the lumpen, but with imagination of the vile and wild, to show that Nehru had betrayed Patel, told on Bose, spurned Nepal’s offer to merge with India, shooed away the ‘king of Kalat’, and even agreed to sale of Gwador to Pakistan!

Pastimes of the lumpen? Perhaps yes. But sadly, even respectable members of society, the genteel uncles and aunts who greet you in the morning with wise thoughts and vasudhaiva kutumbakam prayers, are falling prey to this game of the vice and the vicious, and happily indulging in sujana-apavaad-paap. The cancer of vilification has spread to even the highest echelons of the state and come to mislead even the helmsmen of Hindustan. A few days ago, the nation witnessed the prime minister being misled into believing and mouthing false histories. At a poll rally in Karnataka, he talked about Nehru having insulted Kannada pride by humiliating his two army chiefs who had hailed from Karnataka. Not only was the entire anecdoting imaginary, but even the dates of the tenures of the chiefs were wrong.

Perhaps, that was nothing. The lowest point in our political discourse had been reached weeks earlier when the incumbent prime minister, speaking within the precincts of Parliament, denigrated the first prime minister, the founding-father of India’s liberal parliamentarism. Reign in the false prophets, prime minister! As has been warned in the Sermon on the Mount, they “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”.

Also see: 
A  subaltern fascism? - by Kannan Srinivasan This is an examination of certain aspects of the history of the Hindu Mahasabha and the political career of its sometime leader, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

Book review - Tehseen Thaver: Three More Questions about What is Islam?

In many ways this book is an act of un-inheritance

The first chapter of Shahab Ahmed’s magnum opus What is Islam? titled “Six Questions about Islam” sets the stage for achieving the book’s underlying purpose: disturbing commonly held popular and scholarly understandings of what gets counted as Islamic. Ahmed’s central contention in this chapter is that the valorization of prescriptive legal discourses as most properly Islamic has seriously distorted our conception of Islam as an intellectual and lived tradition. This initial chapter represents a sustained and extensive argument for resuscitating what one might call an Islamic Humanities that in Ahmed’s view is too often marginalized as either “culture,” or as less than adequately Islamic. In its broadest sense then, this chapter, much like this book, represents a painstaking exercise in subverting commonly held assumptions regarding what does and does not count as Islam/Islamic.

Ahmed presents a lengthy meditation on his profound dissatisfaction with current conceptualizations of Islam in multiple disciplinary fields. The object of his protest is best captured in his own words: “analysts, be they historians, anthropologists, sociologists, or scholars of art or religion, are often frankly unsure of what they mean when they use the terms ‘Islam/Islamic’ or whether, indeed, they should use the terms at all.” According to Ahmed, the difficulty confronted by scholars in pinpointing what Islam/Islamic is, is symptomatic of a deeper problem. Current conceptualizations, he argues, fail to account for the variety of hermeneutical registers that cohere within the Islamic tradition and through which Muslims have sought to make meaning, produce values, and establish norms. But why is this so? In Ahmed’s view, the failure to adequately conceptualize Islam as an analytic category and historical phenomenon emerges from the pervasive assumption that prescribed law – a single
hermeneutical trajectory within the tradition – represents the only determining source for what counts as Islam.

This assumption, he insists, has blinded us to a host of possibilities and questions surrounding the question of What is Islam? In a definite sense, the objective of this chapter is to attune, reorient, and ultimately condition the reader to recognize and eventually embrace a host of alternative possibilities regarding what is Islamic. Ahmed organizes his project to establish the Islamicity of a number of traditions, discourses, and practices often left out or sidelined in most conceptualizations of Islam by presenting six case studies. To each of these case studies, he poses and then proceeds to answer the same underlying question: Is this Islamic? At the risk of some reduction, these six exemplary questions are: what is Islamic about Islamic philosophy? When Sufis claim to have transcended the strictures of law, is that Islamic? Are Suhrawardi’s (d. 1191) philosophy of illumination and Ibn ‘Arabi’s (d. 1240) concept of Unity of Existence (wahdat al-wujud) Islamic? What is Islamic about Islamic art? Is the divan of Hafiz (d. 1390) and the ethos it epitomizes Islamic? And finally, is the consumption of wine Islamic?

The bulk of this chapter is devoted to rehabilitating each of these discursive fields and practices as incontrovertibly Islamic. Ahmed’s twin arguments are: first, these traditions and practices were not marginal to Islam and Muslim societies; to the exact contrary, they were at the center of the most powerful and influential intellectual and political circles in most medieval and early modern Muslim societies. And second, the relegation of art and literature to the realm of culture as opposed to religion is conceptually and historically untenable... read more:

see also

Book review - Zombie History: Timothy Snyder’s bleak vision of the past and present.

By Timothy Snyder
Reviewed by Sophie Pinkham

What happens when conspiracy theorists insist that activists are Russian dupes? The Road to Unfreedom offers a bleak vision of politics for future activists: one in which all change comes from above, and ordinary people cannot be trusted.

Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian whose scholarly reputation rests on his wide-ranging histories of Central and Eastern Europe. Trained at Oxford, Snyder demonstrated a capacity for research in some 10 languages and a willingness to engage with many different areas of specialization; his colorful prose increased his work’s potential appeal for nonacademic readers, as did his ability to cover large swaths of territory and time. His most important early work, The Reconstruction of Nations, mapped the development of Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Belarusian nationhood from 1569 to 1999, and was met with wide acclaim from academic reviewers.

Capitalizing on his credentials as a historian, over the past decade Snyder has positioned himself as a public intellectual, shifting from academic histories to more popular works, writing for magazines like The New Republic and The New York Review of Books, and appearing often on the national and international speaking circuits. His first popular success was 2010’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, which set out to tell the story of the millions of people—especially Jews, Ukrainians, and Poles—who were killed between 1933 and 1945 in the area between central Poland and western Russia. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Bloodlands offered a conceptual revision, grouping the victims of Hitler and Stalin together and arguing that the Nazi and Soviet governments spurred each other on to increased violence.

Among academics, Bloodlands was met with much praise but also with substantial criticism. The conflation of Stalinist and Nazi crimes seemed morally righteous to some but grossly reductive to others. The somewhat arbitrary temporal and geographical framework omitted important episodes of political violence in the region; by conflating Nazi and Soviet tactics, Snyder elided important differences between them—most notably that the Nazis explicitly planned to exterminate certain ethnic groups, while Soviet violence was more complex in its aims and methods, and more varied in its results. Snyder was also criticized for focusing on the intentions and actions of a select group of political leaders while giving short shrift to the many other historical forces at play, such as the actions of local governments and populations. Some critics bristled at his use of historical juxtapositions that implied connections without making clear arguments to establish them: for example, Bloodlands’ 1933 starting date, which suggested a link between Hitler’s seizure of power and the Ukrainian famine of that year.

But specialist criticism was drowned out by mainstream praise. The jacket of Snyder’s next book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, featured a blurb from Leon Wieseltier describing the author as “our most distinguished historian of evil,” and also featured praise from Henry Kissinger (whose own evils fall, apparently, beyond Snyder’s purview). Building on 
Bloodlands’ argument that Nazi and Stalinist violence were mutually catalytic, Black Earth offered an eccentric interpretation of the Holocaust as a phenomenon produced largely by Hitler’s ecological anxieties about food scarcity and by the Nazi and Stalinist destruction of states. For Snyder, Hitler “was not a German nationalist…. He was a zoological anarchist.” That Hitler rose to power by capturing state institutions and that the Holocaust was perpetrated with the help of technology and sophisticated organization at the level of the state did not hamper Snyder’s argument... read more: