Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Stalin: Waiting for Hitler. Ashoka University organises a lecture by Professor Stephen Kotkin

Ashoka University invites you to a lecture on Stalin: Waiting for Hitler
by Professor Stephen Kotkin from Princeton University.

Stephen Kotkin is John P. Birkelund '52 Professor in History and International Affairs; Co-Director, Program in History and the Practice of Diplomacy; Director, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies at Princeton University.  He is one of the most distinguished historians of our time.  

He is the author of several books including the highly acclaimed and path-breaking Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (1995) Steeltown, USSR: Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era (1991; 1993).  He has also written extensively on contemporary Russia.

Stalin: Waiting for Hitler is also the title of the second part of his two-volume biography of Stalin. The first volume, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power 1878-1928; was published in 2014

Date: 18th December 2017
Time: 5:30 pm onwards
Venue: Lecture Hall #2, India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi


See also
The Bolshevik Heritage (EPW, November 4, special issue on 1917)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Boxer

Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest..

Listen to Alison Krauss & Shawn Colvin sing Simon & Garfunkel's The Boxer

Lyrics
I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared,
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Asking only workman's wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on from the whores
On Seventh Avenue
I do declare
There were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there, le le le le le le le
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters
Aren't bleeding me
Leading me
Going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains, mmm mmm


Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie


Monday, December 11, 2017

Recapturing the future. By MILO RAU

In his keynote speech to the ‘Dialectics of Liberation’ symposium, delivered in Vienna on 24 November 2017, theatre director Milo Rau describes a nightmarish global economic system that, paradoxically, ‘began with the demand for liberation.’ He asks: What is to be done?

Since 1996, the civil war, which is in truth a war over the coltan and gold in the eastern Congolese earth, has left seven million people dead following over 1,000 cases of mass expulsion, mass rape or simply – intentional and planned – deprivation.

Dear friends
During the past two weeks, I was touring with my latest film The Congo Tribunal, which documents a civil society tribunal that we set up in the part of the eastern Congo afflicted by civil war. The tribunal put the local government, the United Nations, the World Bank and the large mining multinationals on trial. My tour took me to Germany, Switzerland and Belgium (unfortunately we have no Austrian screening licence, though one might be granted at some point).

Every evening, I watched my film about the Congolese mining industry once more. It is probably the same for most directors: the interesting part begins after the film is over, when the debate with the audience gets going. When in July we showed the film in the eastern Congo, in towns hit by the civil war and in mining villages, the screening was scarcely over before the audience started handing over evidence in the form of photos and written witness statements to our investigating judges and to myself. They reported that the economic crimes and massacres presented in our film continued to happen or they referred to completely different cases of which we should take note. Since 1996, the civil war, which is in truth a war over the coltan and gold in the eastern Congolese earth, has left seven million people dead following over 1,000 cases of mass expulsion, mass rape or simply – intentional and planned – deprivation.

When we screened our film in Hamburg, Berlin, Brussels, Zurich or Geneva, something similar happened: the audience came to us, they told of comparable cases, almost every Swiss, Belgian, German firm is implicated in a crime of the same or greater magnitude as the two companies that we cover in the film. Names were mentioned such as Monsanto, Glencore, VW, KiK. The longer one listened, the stronger the feeling became that we are all living in a nightmare, except that we are fully conscious.

Judith Butler and Başak Ertür - In Turkey, academics asking for peace are accused of terrorism

Last week the trials began in Istanbul of those who signed the Academics for Peace petition in January 2016. A total of 148 trials are scheduled through to May 2018, with new trials expected to be announced in the near future. Each focuses on a single individual, but the indictment is the same for all of them. If they are found guilty, each signatory faces a prison sentence of up to seven-and-a-half years. In the petition, entitled “We will not be a party to this crime”, more than 2,000 signatories sought a negotiated solution to the military conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). At a time of heavy clashes in Turkey’s Kurdish-populated towns, the petitioners objected to the continuation of violence against the Kurdish people, called for an end to the round-the-clock curfews that deprived the population of necessary provisions, and asked that the Turkish government resume talks with the PKK that the government itself had previously inaugurated. The petition referenced violations of international law and basic democratic principles, and accused the government of “deliberate and planned massacre and deportation”.

International solidarity is once again crucial at this time
Our colleagues in Turkey are facing criminal trials

Nearly 500 academics who signed have already lost their positions with no prospect of working again; some are now subject to travel bans; and some had their passports revoked, preventing them from working in Turkey or abroad. What is the substance of the indictments? The public prosecutor accuses the academics of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” under article 7/2 of the Turkish anti-terror act. The petition’s call to cease violence and comply with international law is taken by the state to be “propaganda” for the PKK. The indictment offers no careful reading of the actual petition. Most strange, then, that the indictment begins with the petition, citing it verbatim, and then concludes, without any argument, that it is a declaration that supports the PKK.


This is a wilful distortion and reversal of the clear meaning of the petition. In fact, the petition calls for a peaceful settlement, therefore it clearly does not affirm the violent aims and actions of any Kurdish group. And yet that word “peace” becomes code for “terrorism”.. Read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/11/erdogan-turkey-academics-terrorism-violence-kurdish-people


We know polluting cars are killing us. So why do we put up with it? - Abi Wilkinson

It doesn’t matter what new evidence is produced about the effects of air pollution. The extra 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK alone – roughly 10 times as many people as killed by drug overdoses. The irreversible damage it causes to children’s lungs while they’re still developing. The increased
risk of miscarriage for pregnant women. The vicious cycle of air pollution driving climate change, which then increases air pollution levels independently of other factors. By now, most of us are at least vaguely aware of the facts. Yet it’s impossible to suggest that driving unnecessarily is not a morally neutral act without immediately getting people’s backs up... read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/11/polluting-cars-killing-us-air-pollution

Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death. By George Monbiot

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is all the food going to come from? By the middle of this century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact. The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.
Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in south Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by the year 2050. Where will it come from?

Josh Gabbatiss - Sand mafias and vanishing islands: How the world is dealing with the global sand shortage

Sand seems like a limitless resource, but mounting evidence suggests this is far from the case. We use sand as a key ingredient in the production of glass, electronics and – most importantly – concrete, but the growing need for construction materials means in some parts of the world, supplies of sand are dwindling rapidly. Sand and gravel are now the most extracted materials in the world by weight, and since these products take thousands of years to form by erosion, demand is beginning to outstrip supply.The United Nations Environment Programme estimated that in 2012 the world used nearly 30 billion tons of these materials just to make concrete – enough to construct a wall 27m high by 27m wide around the equator.

While much has been made of the impact infrastructure developments such as roads and buildings have on the surrounding environment, little attention has been paid to the impact of extracting raw materials such as sand to build that infrastructure.  As scientists wake up to this new problem, it is becoming clear that sand scarcity is an issue with significant sociopolitical, economic and environmental implications. 

Dr Aurora Torres, an ecologist at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, is one of a handful of scientists investigating this issue.  Two years ago she began to research sand scarcity in depth, and soon found the problem was far bigger than she initially thought. “As we were digging into this topic, we started to find lots of conflict across the world, and lots of evidence that sand is becoming increasingly scarce – especially this year,” says Torres.  Torres and her collaborators outlined their findings in a recent paper in the journal Science titled “A looming tragedy of the sand commons”.

Historically, sand has been a common-pool resource extracted and used locally. But a combination of regional shortages, increased regulation and appreciation of sand mining’s environmental impact has turned sand from a local product into an expensive, globalised commodity. The trade value of sand has increased by almost six fold in the last 25 years. In the US alone, where sand production has increased by 24 per cent in the past five years, the sand industry is worth nearly $9bn (£6.7bn).

Though sand extraction rates are high across Europe and North America, the biggest consumers of sand are fast-growing Asian nations.  “Where it tends to happen is India, China, places where you have rapid and large amounts of construction,” says Dr John Orr, an engineer and expert in concrete structures at the University of Cambridge... read more:


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tom Phillips - Hundreds take part in rare protest in Beijing over migrant crackdown

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of the Chinese capital to pillory Beijing’s crackdown on migrant communities with chants of “violent evictions violate human rights”. Demonstrators gathered on the streets of Feijia village, about 12 miles northeast of Tiananmen Square, on Sunday for the small but rare rally condemning the eviction and demolition campaign. 


Activists say thousands of migrant workers have been forced from their homes in Beijing’s rundown periphery since late November when authorities intensified efforts to drive “low-end” migrant workers out of the city in the wake of a deadly tenement fire.  Sunday’s protest was not reported in China’s Communist party controlled press but videos and photographs of the event spread online, with human rights campaigners cheering the scenes.

“The ‘low population’ is hitting back,” tweeted Yaxue Cao, the editor of ChinaChange.org, an English-language human rights website. Footage showed crowds processing through the community, which is just north of the motorway leading to Beijing’s international airport and close to the 798 art district, itself the target of violent demolitions in the past. One group carried a white banner emblazoned with the phrase: “Baoli qugan qinfan renquan” - forced evictions violate human rights.
Eli Friedman, a Cornell University academic who studies China’s labour movement, said the protest – which coincided with the international human rights day – appeared to be the first since Beijing’s recent crackdown began. 

The demonstration suggested Beijing may have miscalculated how much outrage would be caused by the “ferocity” of its campaign, which has seen once vibrant migrant communities reduced to rubble. 
Friedman, the author of a recent article about the evictions called Evicting the Underclass, predicted authorities would now move swiftly to ensure that the protest was nipped in the bud.


“They have a very well-developed apparatus for responding [to this kind of protest] ... They do some divide and conquer [among protest leaders], they make some compromises, they pay a few people off … they might arrest a few people or sometimes even beat a few people up… But usually their repression is pretty targeted - they don’t do mass arrests in most cases - and they make the problem go away.”.. read more:


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Israel launches air strike on Gaza // Massive worldwide Rallies Condemn US, Courtesy Trump Jerusalem Call

Israel's military said its aircraft bombed militant targets in Gaza and the Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 14 people were wounded in the strikes, including a number of children. Reports on the number of injured ranged from 14 to 25 people, with one report saying six children were wounded.

The Israeli military said it had carried out the strikes on a Hamas training camp and on a weapons depot in response to rockets fired earlier from Gaza at Israeli towns. Witnesses told Reuters that most of the wounded were residents of a building near the camp. Of two reported rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, the first was claimed to have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defence system. A second fell short of Israeli territory according to reports in Israeli media… read more:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-gaza-air-strike-latest-jerusalem-protests-trump-injured-news-updates-a8100311.html

Trump declared Jerusalem Israel's capital because he feared losing his evangelical voter base
There are no fewer than 50 million evangelicals in America who, according to research, are convinced of the literal truth of Biblical prophecy. A recent survey found that 82 per cent of white evangelicals believe that God gave Israel to the Jewish people; a conviction shared by just 40 per cent of American Jews. Among these evangelicals there are those who believe in the prophecy of the “End of Days” foretelling Jewish control of all Jerusalem, a war of civilisations, and a choice of Jews to either embrace Christianity or die in the wrath of God...

Massive worldwide Rallies Condemn US, Courtesy Trump Jerusalem Call
Ayat Ahmad reports for Elbalad (Beirut, liberal) that Friday saw huge, angry demonstrations against the United States in the Palestinian West Bank, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere in protest of Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.read more:
https://www.juancole.com/2017/12/worldwide-courtesy-jerusalem.html

Bitcoin Could Cost Us Our Clean-Energy Future. By Eric Holthaus

NB: If anything further is needed to demonstrate the sheer insanity of capitalism and the lust for money, those who need convincing deserve what's coming to them. Sadly, its not just them who will pay the price.. DS

Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day… Already, the aggregate computing power of the bitcoin network is nearly 100,000 times larger than the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers combined. The total energy use of this web of hardware is an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. . That sort of electricity use is pulling energy from grids all over the world, where it could be charging electric vehicles and powering homes, to bitcoin-mining farms. In Venezuela, where rampant hyperinflation and subsidized electricity has led to a boom in bitcoin mining, rogue operations are now occasionally causing blackouts across the country. The world’s largest bitcoin mines are in China, where they siphon energy from huge hydroelectric dams.. By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been ignoring the bitcoin phenomenon for years — because it seemed too complex, far-fetched, or maybe even too libertarian. But if you have any interest in a future where the world moves beyond fossil fuels, you and I should both start paying attention now.
Last week, the value of a single bitcoin broke the $10,000 barrier for the first time. Over the weekend, the price nearly hit $12,000. At the beginning of this year, it was less than $1,000.

If you had bought $100 in bitcoin back in 2011, your investment would be worthnearly $4 million today. All over the internet there are stories of people who treated their friends to lunch a few years ago and, as a novelty, paid with bitcoin. Those same people are now realizing that if they’d just paid in cash and held onto their digital currency, they’d now have enough money to buy a house.
That sort of precipitous rise is stunning, of course, but bitcoin wasn’t intended to be an investment instrument. Its creators envisioned it as a replacement for money itself — a decentralized, secure, anonymous method for transferring value between people.

But what they might not have accounted for is how much of an energy suck the computer network behind bitcoin could one day become. Simply put, bitcoin is slowing the effort to achieve a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. What’s more, this is just the beginning. Given its rapidly growing climate footprint, bitcoin is a malignant development, and it’s getting worse.

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin provide a unique service: Financial transactions that don’t require governments to issue currency or banks to process payments. Writing in the Atlantic, Derek Thompson calls bitcoin an “ingenious and potentially transformative technology” that the entire economy could be built on — the currency equivalent of the internet. Some are even speculating that bitcoin could someday make the U.S. dollar obsolete. But the rise of bitcoin is also happening at a specific moment in history: Humanity is decades behind schedule on counteracting climate change, and every action in this era should be evaluated on its net impact on the climate. Increasingly, bitcoin is failing the test.

Digital financial transactions come with a real-world price: The tremendous growth of crypto-currencies has created an exponential demand for computing power. As bitcoin grows, the math problems computers must solve to make more bitcoin (a process called “mining”) get more and more difficult - a wrinkle designed to control the currency’s supply. Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day. And miners are constantly installing more and faster computers. Already, the aggregate computing power of the bitcoin network is nearly 100,000 times larger than the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers combined... read more:
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/12/bitcoin-cost-us-clean-energy-future.html


Lisa Hymas - Climate change is the story you missed in 2017. And the media is to blame

Which story did you hear more about this year – how climate change makes disasters like hurricanes worse, or how Donald Trump threw paper towels at Puerto Ricans? If you answered the latter, you have plenty of company. Academic Jennifer Good analyzed two weeks of hurricane coverage during the height of hurricane season on eight major TV networks, and found that about 60% of the stories included the word Trump, and only about 5% mentioned climate change.

Trump doesn’t just suck the oxygen out of the room; he sucks the carbon dioxide out of the national dialogue. Even in a year when we’ve had string of hurricanes, heatwaves, and wildfires worthy of the Book of Revelation – just what climate scientists have told us to expect – the effect of climate change on extreme weather has been dramatically undercovered. Some of Trump’s tweets generate more 
national coverage than devastating disasters.

Good’s analysis lines up with research done by my organization, Media Matters for America, which found that TV news outlets gave far too little coverage to the well-documented links between climate change and hurricanes. ABC and NBC both completely failed to bring up climate change during their news coverage of Harvey, a storm that caused the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the continental US. When Irma hit soon after, breaking the record for hurricane intensity, ABC didn’t do much better.

Coverage was even worse of Hurricane Maria, the third hurricane to make landfall in the US this year. Not only did media outlets largely fail to cover the climate connection; in many cases, they largely failed to cover the hurricane itself. The weekend after Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, the five major Sunday political talkshows devoted less than one minute in total to the storm and the humanitarian emergency it triggered. And Maria got only about a third as many mentions in major print and online media outlets as did Harvey and Irma, researchers at the MIT Media Lab found.

John Feffer - What’s the Matter with Eastern Europe? Welcome to the Birthplace of Trumpism

(In America).. thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, rich, right-wing, anti-liberal individuals and foundations have had an outsized impact on politics. Buoyed by the support of the Koch brothers and others, the Trump administration will do everything possible over the next three years to bankrupt the economy through tax “reform,” pack the courts with anti-liberal judges, shed federal personnel, gut federal regulations, and otherwise ensure that the government it hands to its successor will be as close to drowned as possible...

He was a rich businessman, an outspoken outsider with a love of conspiracy theories. And he was a populist running for president. In 1990, when Donald Trump was still beyond the furthest outskirts of American politics, Stanislaw Tyminski was trying to become the new president of post-communist Poland.  He shared something else with the future Trump: nobody in the political elite took Tyminski seriously.  That was a mistake. He was the standard-bearer for a virulent right-wing populism that would one day take power in Poland and control the politics of the region. He would be the first in a long line of underestimated buffoons of the post-Cold War era who started us on a devolutionary path leading to Donald Trump. Tyminski’s major error: his political backwardness was a little ahead of its time. In true Trumpian fashion, Stan Tyminski couldn’t have been a more unlikely politician. As a successful businessman in Canada, he had made millions. He proved luckless, however, in Canadian politics. His Libertarian Party never got more than 1% of the vote.

In 1990, he decided to return to his native Poland, then preparing for its first free presidential election since the 1920s. A relatively open parliamentary election in 1989, as the Warsaw Pact was beginning to unravel, had produced a solid victory for candidates backed by the independent trade union, Solidarity. Those former dissidents-turned-politicians had been governing for a year, with Solidarity intellectual and pioneering newspaper editor Tadeusz Mazowiecki as prime minister but former Communist general Wojciech Jaruzelski holding the presidency. Now, the general was finally stepping aside.

Running in addition to Mazowiecki was former trade union leader Lech Walesa, who had done more than any other Pole to take down the Communist government (and received a Nobel Prize for his efforts). Compared to such political giants, Tyminski was an unknown. All three made promises. Walesa announced that he would provide every Pole with $10,000 to invest in new capitalist enterprises. Mazowiecki swore he’d get the Rolling Stones to perform in Poland. Tyminski had the strangest pitch of all. He carried around a black briefcase inside which, he claimed, was secret information that would blow Polish politics to smithereens.

Tyminski managed to get a toehold in national politics because, by November 1990, many Poles were already fed up with the status quo Solidarity had ushered in. They’d suffered the early consequences of the “shock therapy” economic reforms that would soon be introduced across much of Eastern Europe and, after 1991, Russia. Although the Polish economy had finally stabilized, unemployment had, by the end of 1990, shot up from next to nothing to 6.5% and the country’s national income had fallen by more than 11%. Though some were doing well in the new business-friendly environment, the general standard of living had plummeted as part of Poland’s price for entering the global economy. The burden of that had fallen disproportionately on workers in sunset industries, small farmers, and pensioners… read more:
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176359/tomgram%3A_john_feffer%2C_drowning_liberalism_in_the_bathtub/#more



Friday, December 8, 2017

Khaled Ahmed on criminalisation of religion in Pakistan / Farzana Shaikh - Return of a spectre called blasphemy

In the first week of November, an obscure Barelvi organisation called Tehreek-e-Labbaik ya Rasool Allah (TLRA) came from Lahore to Islamabad and staged a sit-in in Faizabad blocking access to Islamabad from Rawalpindi. The mob worshipfully followed a foul-mouthed wheelchair-riding leader, Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi who wanted the federal law minister lynched for blasphemy against the Prophet PBUH. The dharna went on for three weeks.

The government trapped in the Supreme Court “corruption” cases, which might dislodge it from power, didn’t take any action for over a fortnight. The SC took suo motu notice not realising its writ visa-a-vis religion had died long ago. It sounded comic asking the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) government to use force to get rid of the mob. The mob’s objective was to empower Barelvi Islam, characterised by a culture of devotion to the Holy Prophet and tolerance of sects which is not the strong point of the dominant Deobandi school. The Deobandis possess muscle because of their selection as proxy mujahideen with not a little help from Saudi Arabia and other Arab patrons.

The Barelvis took their disempowerment through Deobandi jihad lying down despite their numerical majority; but they were aroused to rebellion by the swagger of the Deobandis who often grabbed their mosques with state connivance. Then something happened to the Barelvis in Karachi’s terrorist melting pot and they emerged as Sunni Tehreek ready to punch back. The traditional cult of devotion to the Holy Prophet helped them focus on the blasphemy law and the Ahmadi community already apostatised by Pakistan’s constitution. Tehreek’s assault on Islamabad found the government in the familiar posture of prostration.

Lisa Campbell - I was a mother to 2,000 people

When Lisa Campbell arrived in Greece in November 2015 to help care for the flood of refugees she planned on staying for just a few weeks. She ended up running a refugee camp - until it was suddenly closed last month. What made an American Mormon grandmother of six leave behind her family and her job to deal with the chaos of Greece's refugee crisis?

Like most people in the US, I hadn't been aware of the scale of the refugee disaster until the pictures of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach started being shown on US news in 2015.
But it wasn't until I actually got here and saw for myself the piles of life jackets and the boats stacked on the beach that the magnitude of it really hit me. I had taken a leave of absence from my job and planned to be in Greece for 45 days. My assumption was that I would find people who were housed, fed, and had basic services available.
Lisa Campbell hugs Mustafa, a young resident of the camp, as he prepares to leave the camp
Lisa Campbell hugs Mustafa, a young resident of the camp, as he prepares to leave

That first morning on the island of Lesbos, I went out on my balcony and I could see nine boats coming across from Turkey already. You hear people say that the boats are overloaded, but to see 50 people get off of a boat that would be full with 10 is overwhelming. I can't tell you how many times people would get off the boat and literally kiss the ground. That grabs you... 

It was hard to wrap my head around what I was seeing. I was horrified at the stories that I heard. I was also happy to be able to help, happy to see that these children, once you got them into some dry clothes, were still looking for the first toy they could find. There's probably not an emotion that I didn't experience, standing there day after day on the shore, watching the boats come in. And that's how my journey in Greece started.

When I got to the refugee camp in Oinofyta, on the mainland north of Athens, there was nothing there - just tents and army catering. I had no refugee experience, but I'm a do-er. After Hurricane Katrina, I helped start a non-profit called Do Your Part. We had worked in disaster zones before, but this was our first refugee crisis. I just started doing. I organised, planned, and built...read more:




Book review: Ballad of a Wounded Man - The allure of Hollywood author Clancy Sigal

It’s good to know that if you live long enough, history turns your antagonists into clowns and bitterness recedes into reminiscence. Meanwhile, new political clowns take the stage, new witch hunts are mounted, and the lady writers keep scribbling about the brutal men.

Clancy Sigal: Black Sunset: Hollywood Sex, Lies, Glamour, Betrayal, and Raging Egos
Reviewed by Laura Kipnis 

A decade or so ago I was asked to participate in the test-drive of a software platform, funded by a big foundation, designed to revolutionize the concept of the book group. A bunch of other women writers and I were supposed to read Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, which had been scanned into this software, and type our comments in the margins of the book; then the reading public would join in, blogging about our comments, all of which would effectively transform TGN into an exciting interactive text. I think the master plan was that virtual book-reading collectives would soon erupt worldwide and literacy would flourish, though for reasons I never learned, none of this got past the beta stage.

When we arrived at the section of TGN where the Saul Green character first appears—this is Anna Wulf’s tormented, magnetic American boarder, with whom she’s fated to fall “hopelessly in love”—as someone always pleased to have a bit of literary gossip to share, I said that Saul Green was based on Clancy Sigal, the American writer and Communist who was one of Lessing’s lovers. Sigal had himself written a novel in which Lessing was a character, I wrote, adding, “I read his autobiography years ago but remember nothing of it.”

Something about Saul Green has always riveted me. Maybe it’s that he so transfixes Anna: He’s bristling, disruptive, mocking, all too fuckworthy. She claims to hate the “brutal sexual inspection” he subjects her to on first meeting—“there was no humour in it, no warmth, just the stockman’s comparison-making”—but it’s not like her inspection of him is any less brutal: She scrutinizes his suspicious pallor, the way he covers his lies with compulsive verbiage, the whimpering in his sleep, the neurotic isolation he exudes. Even the way he stands, like a caricature of an American in the movies: “sexy he-man, all balls and strenuous erection.” He’s a cad, sleeping his way through left-wing London, but she’s never met a man with as much insight into a woman—or such a “real man” in bed. She humiliates herself by reading his diaries to find out which of her friends he’s bedding on any given day; when she dreams about him, he’s an “old dwarfed malicious man” with a great menacing penis protruding through his clothes.

Shortly after my comment about the Saul-Clancy connection, a reader with the handle “Brutalman” posted on the blog section of the website: “What a pity Laura Kipnis could not remember Clancy Sigal’s ‘autobiography.’ (Actually, ain’t no such animal, but still.) That hurts.” This took a few beats to process. Who on earth would know whether or not Clancy Sigal had written an autobiography? He wasn’t exactly a household name. Also, there was something about the phrase “ain’t no such animal” that struck me—it reminded me of Saul Green himself, who’s always calling Anna “lady,” like a movie gangster or cowboy (“Lady, you sure know how to make me feel a hick”), and correcting her naïveté about life… read more: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/024_04/18861

Excerpt: The first time Clancy Sigal went to jail he was 5. His mother, a Socialist union organizer, had been arrested in Chattanooga, Tenn., for violating social and legal norms when she convened a meeting of black and white female textile workers. Hauled away to the jailhouse, she took Clancy with her.  As an American Army sergeant in Germany, he plotted to assassinate Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. A victim of the movie industry’s Communist-baiting blacklist, he represented Barbara Stanwyck and Humphrey Bogart as a Hollywood agent (but improvidently rejected James Dean and Elvis Presley as clients).  

During a 30-year self-imposed exile in Britain as an antiwar radical, Mr. Sigal was the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing’s lover and flirted with suicide as a sometime patient of R. D. Laing, the iconoclastic psychiatrist.  In short, in a mixed-bag life of almost a century, Mr. Sigal had enough rambunctious experiences to fill a novel — or, in his case, several of them. He drew on his escapades in critically acclaimed memoirs and autobiographical novels, developing a cult following, especially in Britain. But when he died on July 16 in Los Angeles at 90, he had never quite equaled the fame and commercial success achieved in the United States by other stars in his literary constellation — none of whom burned more blisteringly.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tom Phillips - The gentrification of Beijing: razing of migrant villages spells end of China dream

“The Chinese [authorities] have a way of being brutal that is often related to a very substantive project,” says Saskia Sassen, a Columbia University sociologist whose latest book, Expulsions, examines the driving forces behind such evictions. “Yes, [driving out the poor] is definitely always in there – but is there also something else?”.. City officials deny they are seeking to banish Beijing’s estimated 8 million migrant workers and claim their focus is saving lives by clamping down on illegal, unsafe and overcrowded buildings. Last week Beijing’s Communist party chief announced 
that ensuring safety and stability was now his “biggest political task”. But the scenes of migrants being driven from their drab rented homes – captured in heart-wrenching smartphone videos – have sparked public outrage just weeks after Xi began his second term promising citizens a “new era” of power and prosperity. . “It is a humanitarian crisis,” says Zhang Lifan, an outspoken political commentator involved in a petition condemning the government’s treatment of people he calls refugees. 

Inside the shell of one of dozens of derelict buildings in this condemned migrant community, a cinnabar-coloured calendar was nailed to the wall, adorned with the face of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his inescapable political slogan: “CHINA DREAM”. Outside, as night fell and roadside puddles hardened into black ice, rural migrants who had come to China’s capital chasing pavements of gold set about dismantling their own. In the village of Sanyingmen, a family of restaurateurs from Anhui, one of east China’s poorest regions, load the fruits of their labour onto the back of a van: a mattress, a wardrobe, a grease-stained cooking pot. A man from Jiangxi province scavenges internet cables from a heap of demolished shacks, having been given 24-hours to vacate his home.

Such scenes are playing out across Beijing after authorities launched a 40-day housing crackdown following a deadly tenement fire on the city’s southern outskirts which killed 19 people, eight of them children. Activists believe authorities are using that blaze as a pretext to accelerate ongoing efforts to drive tens of thousands of “low-end” migrant workers out of the city.

Beside a sea of bricks that had been the heart of a once-bustling settlement, a man takes aim at his president’s pledge to rule as a champion of the poor. “I think what is happening is that ... Xi Jinping has water in his head,” he fumes, a teary eye giving way to anger as he recounts how officials gave Sanyingmen’s residents until 7am the next day to leave. “I’ve no idea what the China dream really means,” the 40-year-old says. “My nights are sleepless. How can I possibly dream?”.. read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/08/beijing-gentrification-china-migrant-villages-destroyed

JOINT STATEMENT OF ORGANISATIONS IN RAJASTHAN Jaipur, 7th December, 2017

JOINT STATEMENT OF ORGANISATIONS IN RAJASTHAN Jaipur, December 7, 2017

THE RAJSAMAND HATE CRIME IS CONDEMNED BY US STRONGLY, NOT ACCEPTABLE AT ALL

CM Vasundhara Raje Resign NOW
Home Minister Gulah Chand Kataria, Resign NOW
Prime Minister unambiguously condemn this attack
Stop the Culture of Violence and Hate and giving impunity to killers of hate crimes

Press Note 

All organisations of Rajasthan are shocked at the recent developments of what is happening in the State in terms of lynching of Muslims, the latest one being carried out on the 25th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition, a murder in cold blood of Mohammed Afrazul a 48 year old migrant  from West Bengal in Rajsamand, Rajasthan. There is only one demand that Vasundhara Raje, should resign now. She does not deserve to hold on to the post even for a day in the context of the absolute impunity provided to these killers and their supporters. The Home Minister of Rajasthan Gulab Chand Kataria, has proved his incompetency in controlling these crimes which has left the Muslim Community even more insecure.  The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister need to unambiguously condemn this crime.

The latest killing of Mohammed Afrazul from West Bengal is very disturbing. The attack leading to the murder was shot by a mobile along with the confessions of the murderer Shambhu Lal Regar, appealing to the people of Mewar “that the people with Islamic Vichardhara are all over in black clothes outside Masjids, in public places and around, they are a threat to our cultural heritage and destroying it. Just like Maharana Pratap had decided to fight Islamic Jehad, So do we, have to eliminate the present Islamic Jehad. So I have done it, it may be good or bad, but I have done it. Because I felt that I have to do it. I am a law abiding citizen, but you die only once, so why not eliminate them and then die. Why should we be killed them. That is why I did it. 25 years ago the Babri Masjid was demolished but even that has not changed anything, So I am going to surrender tomorrow in the Rajsamand Mahadev temple. All the Bhai and Behen, the people of Mewar support me, I am surrendering in front of you. Jai Mewar, Jai Bharat, Jai Hind”. In the video where he is seen to kill the man, he is also talking of ending love jehad

Both the videos of the killing and the confession along with photos of the charred body have gone viral on social media.  Although the police have arrested the murderer Shambhu Lal Regar and the nephew who had shot the video, but it is important to reach the people who motivated him to carry out this murder.

This is not the first such killing that is happening. It’s the fourth in the last nine months, showing absolute impunity to the killers of Muslims.  We would also like to state that there have been many incidents where Muslims have been attacked as part of hate crimes and not been killed so the number of incidents are huge.  The killings in the last nine months are as follows:

The first one being that of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer and cattle rearer who died on the 3rd of April, after being attacked by a crowd of so called Gau Rakshaks in Behror, Alwar on the 1st of April. The killers named by him were not even arrested, instead 7 others have been arrested and are all out on bail.

The second killing happened on 16th June in the name of Swach Bharat Abhiyan of comrade Zafar Khan, the Municipality chairperson and other Safai Karmachari beat him to death in Pratapgarh town, when he was opposing their naming and shaming policy as part of making Pratapgarh open defecation free. The police has not arrested anybody, claiming that he died of a heart attack, completely protecting the municipality people.

The third killing happened on the 10th of November, 2017, in the early hours, when Umair Khan and his colleagues were transporting cows and were shot by so called Gau Rakshaks in Govindgarh Tehsil, Alwar district. The killers carried the body to a railway track 15 kms away and tried to destroy all evidence of the face and the body. Out of the seven killers only two were arrested and instead, the victims of the firing, Tahir and Javed are now behind bars.

What happened yesterday in Rajsamand on the 6th of December is the 4th killing. Our demands are

Clear and unambiguous condemnation of this and other hate attacks by the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister.

CM Vasundhara Raje resign now.
Immediate arrest of all the killers and attackers in hate crimes in Rajasthan.
Provide absolute security to all the Muslims in the State.
Stop this culture of hate and violence against Muslims as it will seep into every dimension of our lives and it will be difficult to stop it.
The BJP party which is in power with 160 MLA out of 200 needs to stop giving protection to these killers.
The RSS hate programme needs to be banned.

We are,
Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangatha, Rajasthan Nagrik Manch, Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, National Federation of Indian Women, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Jan Vichar Manch, Dr. Ambedkar Vichar Manch, Welfare Party, Jamait
Islami Hind, Zari Handloom Work Union, SIO, Rajasthan Samagra Sewa Sangh, Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, SFI, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Suchna evam Rozgar  Adhikar Manch, Dalit Adhikar Kendra, National Muslim Women Welfare Society, Vividha, Mahila, Punarvas Samooh, NAPM, SDPI, Samta Gyan Vigyan Samiti, RUWA, Pink City Zari Handloom Work Mazdoor Union, Aaritari Zardoz Ekta Sangathan, HRLN, Zamayte Ulema Hind, JDU, Samajwadi Party,, Rajasthan Kacchi Basti Federation, Jaipur Kacchi Basti Maha Sangh, Jaipur district unit of CPIM, CPI, CPI ML, Liberation, MCPI, Banjara Yuva Shakti Sangathan, AIDMAM, Rajasthan Mahila Kamgaar Union.

76 Shanti Niketan Colony, Kisan Marg, Jaipur 302015
Phone number: 0141-2708917,9351562965, 9887158183

UN signals 'end' of throwaway plastic. By Roger Harrabin

The end of the era of throwaway plastic has been signalled by UN environment ministers meeting in Kenya. They signed off a document stating that the flow of plastic into the ocean must be stopped.
Scientists welcomed the statement, but were unhappy the agreement was only based in principle, with no firm targets or timetables.

Ministers say it's a milestone because it shows governments, industry and the public that a major change is needed. Vidar Helgesen, Norway's Environment Minister, has been leading the UN debate on plastic pollution. He told BBC News: "What we came here with was the need for action. The starting point was aiming for zero emission of marine litter. So it's effectively a breakthrough for zero emission of plastic into the ocean."

He admitted that this was really only the start of action against plastic litter.  Li Lin from WWF International told BBC News: "Today we have seen quite good progress on marine litter and micro-plastics… read more:
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42252233

Debbie Weingarten - Why are America's farmers killing themselves in record numbers?

The US farmer suicide crisis echoes a much larger farmer suicide crisis happening globally: an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.

It is dark in the workshop, but what light there is streams in patches through the windows. Cobwebs coat the wrenches, the cans of spray paint and the rungs of an old wooden chair where Matt Peters used to sit. A stereo plays country music, left on by the renter who now uses the shop.

“It smells so good in here,” I say. “Like …”
“Men, working,” finishes Ginnie Peters.
We inhale. “Yes.”

Ginnie pauses at the desk where she found her husband Matt’s letter on the night he died.
“My dearest love,” it began, and continued for pages. “I have torment in my head.”
On the morning of his last day, 12 May 2011, Matt stood in the kitchen of their farmhouse.
“I can’t think,” he told Ginnie. “I feel paralyzed.”

It was planting season, and stress was high. Matt worried about the weather and worked around the clock to get his crop in the ground on time. He hadn’t slept in three nights and was struggling to make decisions. “I remember thinking ‘I wish I could pick you up and put you in the car like you do with a child,’” Ginnie says. “And then I remember thinking … and take you where? Who can help me with this? I felt so alone.”

Ginnie felt an “oppressive sense of dread” that intensified as the day wore on. At dinnertime, his truck was gone and Matt wasn’t answering his phone. It was dark when she found the letter. “I just knew,” Ginnie says. She called 911 immediately, but by the time the authorities located his truck, Matt had taken his life.

Ginnie describes her husband as strong and determined, funny and loving. They raised two children together. He would burst through the door singing the Mighty Mouse song – “Here I come to save the day!” – and make everyone laugh. He embraced new ideas and was progressive in his farming practices, one of the first in his county to practice no-till, a farming method that does not disturb the soil. “In everything he did, he wanted to be a giver and not a taker,” she says.

After his death, Ginnie began combing through Matt’s things. “Every scrap of paper, everything I could find that would make sense of what had happened.” His phone records showed a 20-minute phone call to an unfamiliar number on the afternoon he died.

When she dialed the number, Dr Mike Rosmann answered.
“My name is Virginia Peters,” she said. “My husband died of suicide on May 12th.”
There was a pause on the line.
“I have been so worried,” said Rosmann. “Mrs Peters, I am so glad you called me.”

Rosmann, an Iowa farmer, is a psychologist and one of the nation’s leading farmer behavioral health experts. He often answers phone calls from those in crisis. And for 40 years, he has worked to understand why farmers take their lives at such alarming rates – currently, higher rates than any other occupation in the United States… read more:



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem statement is an act of diplomatic arson. By Jonathan Freedland

Not content with taking the US to the brink of nuclear conflict with North Korea, Donald Trump is now set to apply his strategy of international vandalism to perhaps the most sensitive geopolitical hotspot in the world. With a speech scheduled for later today that’s expected to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and reaffirm a pledge to move the US embassy to the city, he is walking into a bone-dry forest with a naked flame.

For the status of Jerusalem is the most intractable issue in what is often described as the world’s most intractable conflict. It is the issue that has foiled multiple efforts at peacemaking over several decades. Both Israelis and Palestinians insist that Jerusalem must be the capital of their states, present and future, and that that status is non-negotiable.

But it’s not just important to them. The Old City of Jerusalem contains the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest mosque in Islam, to say nothing of its enormous significance to Christians, meaning that even the slightest move there is felt by billions. It is a place where diplomats have learned to tread with extreme care. There is a reason why no US administration, no matter how pro-Israel, has changed its policy toward the city in the nearly 70 years since Israel’s founding.

But here comes Trump, oblivious to precedent and indeed history – even in a place where history is a matter of life and death – stomping through this delicate thicket, trampling over every sensitivity. The risk is obvious, with every Arab government – including those loyal to Washington – now issuing sharp warnings on the perils of this move, almost all of them using the same word: “dangerous”.


Let us be clear. Most advocates of an eventual two-state solution believe the only way to resolve the Jerusalem issue is for it to serve as the capital of both states: East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Then, and only then, would be the right moment to start moving embassies and issuing statements of recognition. Until that day, any act that pre-empts an agreement between the two parties on the city’s future is reckless and needlessly incendiary.. 
read more:


Vikas Khojo Yatra. November 29 to December 10; Gujarat, 2017

Vikas Khojo Yatra
29th November- 10th December 
Gujarat, 2017

Day 7: 5th Dec: Village Kadoli, Sabarkantha District
The Ockhi cyclone approaching Gujarat got heavy rainfall in many areas that the yatra had planned to cover. With the temperature dipping, it became difficult for people, especially women to gather in public spaces. The yatra rescheduled its route and reached Kadoli, a small village in the Sabarkantha district in the evening, instead of heading towards Surat, where the weather conditions are poor. Here village elders, women and youth gathered, despite the bad weather, to listen to the students on the yatra. 

During the interaction, a woman got up say that the small corruption in the state is not done by individuals, its been pushed by the system. The government pushes people down that lane. She shared that her son is a police constable. He is a graduate but has been getting paid only Rs. 8,000 per month, which is so low that he can't even support a family in the city. She asked if the government is not forcing him to become corrupt? She asked is this vikas that they have bargained for ?

Day 6: 4th Dec: Mahesana: 
The yatra covered Mahesana, the home constituency of the Deputy Chief Minister of Gujarat, Nitinbhai Patel. The yatra performed at the gathering in the main Toranvali Mata chowk of Mahesana, Dhangandra basti and then at the Sajjan pur village near Mahesana. Even with Mahesana been a stronghold of current government, people gathered to speak of lack of jobs, rising price, problems of GST and devastating effect of demonetisation. At the end of the meetings, people pledged to uproot the present corrupt government from Gujarat in the upcoming elections. 

Day 5: 3rd Dec: Sunder Nagar:
The yatra reached Sunder Nagar today. Sunder nagar is a district headquarter about 220 km from Amreli. In Sunder nagar, the yatra performed in Haripur Colony, Malwan Village and finally at Sajjan Pur. At every meeting, large number of women and youth gathered. They shared their miseries about poor state of agriculture and government's complete ignorance of the poor and marginalised. 

In one of the meeting, a woman stood up to share that they as farmers love their land the most, but when it comes to catering to the needs of their children, they are left helpless. Her son, wanted to study so they sold their land to send him to a private college in the city. They sold their precious piece of land in the hope that one day the son will finish his education and will get a job. The land will no longer be needed to feed them, their son's job will. But now, the son has returned with a degree which can't get him a job. He runs a small tea stall in the city. 

At the end of the meetings, all gathered pledged by the Constitution of India and by the 6 crore people of Gujarat and that they will expose the government that has cheated them in the name of development and filled coffers of Ambani's and Adani's, and make sure they are defeated in the upcoming elections. 

Day 4: 2nd Dec: Amreli:
The yatra travelled from Rajkot to reach Amreli today. Amreli is a small town about 112 km from Rajkot. In Amreli, the yatra performed first at the main Amreli Bazaar Chowk. The performance of the youth attracted a significant crowd, who participated in the discussion that unfolded post the street theatre. Mostly from the business community, the people gathered shared how their business was affected due to the recent policies of the government. Demonetisation and GST has severely affected their livelihood and the market is at its lowest. They shared that they are also wondering who's Vikas is this? Next, the yatra moved to the Railway Colony Ground. Here again there was a significant crowd gathered to listen to the youth signing the vikas khojo song. As they sang, where they asked that vikas has gone missing and they are looking for it all over, people clapped and cheered. The session ended with youth pledging to find true vikas and standing up against deprivation and exploitation. 

 Day 3: 1st Dec: Rajkot
Today the truck yatra first reached Jamnagar Medical College and Commerce College in the morning. Next it travelled to Rakjot and performed at the main chowk of Rakjot. Post which it went on to address a women's meeting at Swaminathan Hall near the Zila Panchayat office. Women spoke of their disappointment with the present government and at the end of the meeting pledged to defeat the government that has fooled them for so long. 

Day 2 : 30th Nov: Jamnagar: 
The truck yatra travelled from Porbander to reach Jamnagar today. In Jamnagar the yatra travelled to different parts of the city and finally stopped to perform at the main chowrah of Jamnagar. They performed the street theatre, distributed pamphlets and engaged with people with the message. The crowd then pledged to rise up against injustice and vote for true development. 

Day 1: 29th Nov: Porbander: 
The Vikas Khojo Yatra was flagged off from Porbander on 29th Nov, 2017. After which the yatra travelled to different parts of the city stopping to talk to people. The yatra stopped at the chowpati area of Porbander last evening and later today morning at the Kamla Nehru Chowrah, where they performed the nukkad natak known as 'vikas khojo' . This play showcases the true face of development of Gujarat. Through the theatre the youth ask the audience if lack of jobs, slumping of business, lack of security for women, lack of livelihood for the poor is the Vikas that they as people of Gujarat want ? At the end of the play, the youth burnt their degrees as a symbol of protest against the development model that has only robbed the common citizen of their rights and life. Finally all gathered to pledge that they will all make sure that they rise up in the face of this model that has only brought deprivation and exploitation

Please help support the students and youth as they question the present narrative of development and stand up against the chilling silence in the face of fear. Lend your support by spreading the word, join them at the campaign and contribute to their struggle. 

Please contact: 9713895923


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pratap Bhanu Mehta - Events of December 6, 1992 assaulted both secularism and Hinduism

The 25th anniversary of that fateful day in Ayodhya when the Babri Masjid was demolished brings a sense of foreboding. The psychological and historical significance of that day is complex. But when all is said and done, it has to be admitted that the worst of our political tendencies that were on display on December 6, 1992, are now in the ascendant. Open majoritarianism and divisiveness is now a dominant cultural and political sensibility. The nature of the act that brought down the Babri Masjid structure, a form of violent vigilantism, is freely accepted in politics. The idea that something nebulous like community sentiment can trump the Constitution, values of equality and individual liberty, and the rule of law itself, is now considered political common sense.
The sensibility that informed the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, a kind of coarse, mediocre and insecure aggression, has become second nature to politics. The transformation of Hinduism that the events in Ayodhya represented continues unabated. Instead of its highest philosophical aspirations being guided by the plenitude of the world and a blissful realisation of the Self, Hinduism’s aspiration became defined by raw assertions of power. Its leadership, if we can call it that, came to be characterised by an odd combination of agitators and new-age hucksters.

Piety was replaced by a will to power. The cultural ideal that Ram constituted was finally reduced to a single point. The living reality of Ram, in an effective sense, had till this point never been erased. But by reducing Ram to a crude historical drama, India for the first time assaulted Ram. That fateful day assaulted the Ram of Valmiki, Tulsi and Kamban and countless other real Rams. They replaced it with the Ram of L.K. Advani and Adityanath and Ashok Singhal. Did faith live or die that day?

Then there was the corruption of all political parties under a feigned faith. As the Congress once again does the rounds of temples, it is worth remembering that it was its duplicity, its double-speak on constitutional values, its attempts to run both Hindu nationalism and Muslim identity politics together that brought us to this pass. Whatever its professed values, its credibility was reduced to a point from which it is still not recovered. The BJP had its ups and downs since the movement, but its organisation and commitment made sure that its views penetrated across a range of civil society institutions. But it is politically reaching a point where it will be hard for it to deny its core supporters the satisfaction of the temple being built. Almost all the elements of building the temple, creating a political momentum, opening up institutional spaces, are being put in place. We will give in out of sheer weariness. But the scars of divisiveness will continue.

Indian institutions have never been strong, and riot victims from numerous riots, including 1984, still await justice. But the role of non-elected institutions should come under the scanner. Cases were not swiftly disposed of from the early Fifties, keeping the ground perpetually open for facts on the ground to be distorted. Despite the Liberhan Commission, the leaders in that act of vigilantism have, 25 years later, not been called to account. The psychological message that sends, that you can get away with anything, so long as you can invoke faith, damages institutions.

For years, the Supreme Court has tried its old trick of a modus vivendi by deferring the decision. Now the Court has decided to resume hearings in February next year. It will not be appropriate to speculate how it will rule. But it is a fair institutional point that the Supreme Court has damaged its reputation and credibility so much over the last few months that it will have to go the extra mile of care, fairness and probity to ensure that whatever its judgement, justice is not only done, but seen to be done.

There is no question that on that day, a significant number of Hindus felt, even if briefly, a sense of catharsis. The range of psychological complexes behind that need to be unpacked. At a very immediate level, the rank opportunism of the Congress during the Eighties left the country insecure; from Salman Rushdie to Shah Bano, it was easy to indict the Congress. Thanks to the Rajiv Gandhi years, Nehruvian secularism became a byword for opportunism and corruption, not for liberty and rule of law. So the symbolic destruction of the so-called Nehruvian order became a live force in Indian politics. The demolition of the masjid represented that.

Second, as V.S. Naipaul, one of the few writers who has the depth to go to dark psychological spaces, understood, there were too many suppressed histories in India; and the simple-minded historical pieties and institutional control of the Left-Congress alliance on history could no longer cope with these. The sense that many Indians have, of being denuded of their history and their own power to write it, was and remains widespread. Stories of cultural oppression win out because there is sometimes a comfort in victimhood; it directs attention away from our failings. But more deeply, we could never say: It should not matter what the medieval India story is, let the historians argue it out. But we cannot tie the fate of the present to what happened in the 16th century. It binds us to the past more than it liberates the future. Babri Masjid is the symbol of the tyranny of the past over the future.

Hindutva as an ideology was constituted by resentment because it saw Hinduism as constituted by three deficits: It has no political centre, its history has been marginalised by others, and it is internally weak and divided. Ayodhya was the cheap psychological recompense for these deficits. It attempted to give a Hinduism a political identity and centre, it attempted to reclaim history, and one could always have a consciousness of strength by targeting minorities. But this sense of lack, once internalised, cannot be easily satiated because it is a flight from reality. It does not have the inner cultural resources to make Hinduism creative and progressive; instead, it sees diversity, creativity and plenitude as a threat. It has no ethical mooring, because its idea of strength is a crude masculine assertion, not the power of inner conviction. The agitators tied themselves to the yoke of the temple, because they felt Ram’s presence, his karuna, the least. The events of December 6, 1992 assaulted both secularism and Hinduism, and the consequences are still to play out fully.
http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/babri-demolition-ayodhya-verdict-ram-mandir-supreme-court-hindutva-that-fateful-day-4969723/

see also
The Broken Middle (on the 30th anniversary of 1984)

Documents of the Sampradayikta Virodhi Andolan
Purushottam Agrawal - Why does the RSS hate the idea of India ? (2001)