At a time when the world is back to debating terror, it’s clear that the ruling regime in India has made certain that things tilt in a certain direction. On December 30, 2014, in what appeared to be a New Year gift, BJP President Amit Shah was let off on all charges linked to the 2005-6 murders of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati. While giving a verdict that seemed to be doing the job of defending Shah at every stage, the judgement held that Sohrabbudin was a crook and hence deserved to be nabbed. In doing so, there was a presumption that the “encounter” that killed him was genuine although the facts reveal that he was abducted and murdered (what followed with his wife Kausar Bi, raped and killed in custody, was truly brutal).
It was in the context of the Gujarat fake encounters that some movement had taken place towards justice for the victims and punishment for the perpetrators. Following the manner in which the Shah case has been managed, the possibility of other cases falling apart is very real. That is one of the reasons why people who engage in such issues must read a recently released book, Kafkaland: Prejudice, Law and Counter-terrorism in India. It’s written by activist-academic Manisha Sethi, who has been at the forefront of exposing random arrests in the name of fighting terrorism.
Read the full review here:
The sudden departure of MSS Pandian, historian, scholar and extraordinary teacher, adds a sense of emptiness to these terrible times. A massive heart attack following a gastro-intestinal complication, of which he wasn’t fully aware, took him away on 10 November 2014 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. On the way to the hospital in the morning he was worrying about the MA class he was to teach at 4:00 in the afternoon at the Centre of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he was a professor. He will be missed by his students, friends and colleagues. A radical, avant garde scholar with deeply egalitarian moorings, his work will remain an example of a prose that is objective, political and moral.
“For a man born in 1906 and witnessed the most acute battles around caste — whether it be M K Gandhi’s threat to suicide which robbed by means of the Poona Pact the ‘untouchable’ communities of separate electorate, or the nation-wide movement for temple entry by the untouchables, or the rise of the non-Brahmin politics in the Madras Presidency during the early decades of the twentieth century — R K Narayan’s forgetfulness about caste comes through as a bit surprising. But this feeling of surprise fades away when one does a closer reading of his autobiography. All through the autobiography, caste masquerades as something else and makes its muted modern appearance. For instance, writing about his difficulties in getting a proper house to rent in Mysore, he writes, ‘…our requirements were rather complicated — separate room for three brothers, their families, and a mother; also for Sheba, our huge Great Dane, who had to have a place outside the house to have her meat cooked, without the fumes from the meat pot polluting our strictly vegetarian atmosphere; a place for our old servant too, who was the only one who could go out and get the mutton and cook it.’ It does not need much of an effort to understand what ‘strictly vegetarian atmosphere’ or meat, which is specified as mutton (that is, it is not beef) encodes. It is caste by other means.The subtle act of transcoding caste and caste relations into something else — as though to talk about caste as caste would incarcerate one into a pre-modern realm — is a regular feature one finds in most upper caste autobiographies. Caste always belongs to someone else; it is somewhere else; it is of another time. The act of transcoding is an act of acknowledging and disavowing caste at once. In marked contrast to the upper caste autobiographies, the self-definition of one’s identity, as found in the autobiographies of the lower castes, is located explicitly in caste as a relational identity. The autobiographical renditions of Bhama or Viramma, two Dalit women from the Tamil-speaking region, the poignant autobiographical fragments of Dalits from Maharashtra, put together by Arjun Dangle in his edited volume Corpse in the Well, and Vasant Moon’s Growing up Untouchable in India are all suffused with the language of caste — at times mutinous, at times moving. Most often the very act of writing an autobiography for a person belonging to a lower caste is to talk about and engage with the issue of caste.5 In other words, we have here two competing sets of languages dealing with the issue of caste. One talks of caste by other means; and the other talks of caste on its ‘own terms’ ” MSS Pandian(‘One Step Outside Modernity: Caste, Identity Politics and Public Sphere’).
Excerpt from Afthab Ellath’s Wall.
“Everything that brought the country [the U.S.] to 9/11 remains in place.”
– Perry Anderson. (From Americana, his forthcoming book)