New Delhi World Book Fair 2015
February 14–22 | Pragati Maidan
Three Essays Collective
is present at
Hall No 1R
Stall Nos. 49 & 50
New Delhi World Book Fair 2015
February 14–22 | Pragati Maidan
Three Essays Collective
is present at
Hall No 1R
Stall Nos. 49 & 50
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:
Excerpt from the review in EPW by Sharib Ali
What Kafkaland: Prejudice, Law and Counterterrorism in India has to say is indeed odd and tragic. Sethi’s canvas is specific. It is not Kashmir, not the north-east, not “Naxal”. It is bomb blasts, attacks, conspiracies in “mainland” Indian cities and towns, which have together constituted the charge of “Islamist terrorism” – one of the fundamental signifiers post-2001. Meticulously examining more than 30 cases in their entirety including charge sheets, trials, media reports, conversations, etc, and the public discourse around them closely controlled by the “security analysts”, the “experts” and talk shows with police officers and politicians, as well as a close look at the military industrial complex, Sethi lays bare what Talal Asad calls “death dealing in liberal democratic times”. In the first thorough account of India’s war on terror, Sethi shows how the Indian state, in its indigenous ways, has conducted its war on terror by killing, maiming and accusing its own people of waging a war against it. How the state has rewritten its laws to suit its needs. And how it has in an ultimate sovereign act raised itself above its laws and transformed the taking away of the fundamental right to life into “breathtakingly sterile officialese”, or the sheer domesticity of Ab Tak Chhappan where Nana Patekar’s wife asks him to wash the blood stains off his shirt while giving instructions for the perfect sambar preparation.
To read the full review, go to http://www.epw.in/book-reviews/securing-nation-state-terrorist.html
Surabhi Chopra is co-editor of ON THEIR WATCH: Mass Violence and State Apathy in India. Examining the Record. She is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong. She researches transitional justice, national security and the rights of the poor. She replies to four questions we posed before her.
Harsh Mander initiated the project that led to On Their Watch. Harsh had been involved in the movement for the right to information. He had also been deeply involved in a grassroots movement for justice in Gujarat after 2002, called Nyayagraha. Nyayagraha activists were using the Right to Information Act in their work, and Harsh was keen to use this law on a larger scale in relation to communal violence.
I had been using the RTI Act in my own work as a human rights lawyer. Seeking official information about preventing torture had led to some interesting discoveries, and I felt that the RTI Act could be used much more in documenting grave abuses of human rights and responding to them. So I was drawn to a project that would use the right to information for learning more about some of the most serious episodes of violence that India has seen.
The International Development Research Centre, and Navsharan Singh in particular, supported the research. A small team of people got involved in the project. Some, like Prita Jha, Suroor Mander and Anubha Rastogi, had experience in law and human rights. Rekha Koli had worked on using the RTI Act on a range of issues, and coordinated the rather sprawling right to information endeavor we launched. We sought official records on mass violence in Nellie in 1983, Delhi in 1984, Bhagalpur in 1989 and Gujarat in 2002.
Aneesh Pradhan in conversation with Nalini Taneja about his book Hindustani Music in Colonial Bombay and some key issues in contemporary Hindustani art music.
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What in your view are the key problems in historiography of Hindustani music, as well as musicology that derives from it?
Until the last two decades or so, historiography of Hindustani music was largely restricted to hagiographies and the study of one or more treatises. Hindustani music was almost regarded as an occurrence in a vacuum, without any reference to the socio-cultural, political and economic contexts within which the music was being made. However, this idea of history has changed greatly, and we have to thank non-Indian scholars and Dr. Ashok Da. Ranade, eminent scholar-musician, for bringing to the subject critical writing and path-breaking analysis. Today, Hindustani music is being written about not just by ethnomusicologists, but also by anthropologists and historians. While this has increased critical inquiry into the subject and has thrown up several important questions, I must hasten to add that there is often a lack of dialogue between the scholarly work and the oral tradition. In other words, the absence of familiarity with the performing tradition and its worldview, often restricts the scholarly work from adopting a multi-layered approach. Likewise, performers are often not informed about recent research, and are therefore content with the myth and legend that they have been conditioned by.
Prita Jha is co-editor of ON THEIR WATCH: Mass Violence and State Apathy in India. Examining the Record. She is a human right activist working in Gujarat. She replies to four questions we put to her.
Q.: The book is based on painstaking field-work. The chapter on Gujarat, written by you, is the longest. The hurdles you faced in Gujarat, where officials are very reluctant to part with any substantial information, should be enormous. How did you manage to conduct this study?
PJ: The challenge of conducting the research in Gujarat was indeed enormous. Unlike other episodes where there were a few violence afflicted districts, in case of Gujarat almost all districts of Gujarat were affected and FIRs (First Information Reports) were registered in hundreds of police stations. So, there was a kind of unexpected avalanche effect as far as RTI (Right to Information) responses were concerned. Keeping track of them was very difficult. The ten RTI applications we sent to each district, got transferred to hundreds of police stations in some instances. Sometimes we received a district level response but many times we did not.
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.
Kafkaland explores the grisly underbelly of counterterrorism, where prejudice and lawlessness are the standard operating codes. From Mumbai to Bangalore, to Delhi to Madhya Pradesh, it examines some of the most prominent terror cases to show that the hallmark of terror investigations is not simply a casual subversion of norms but cynical prejudice and brutal violence inflicted in the knowledge of absolute impunity. It also examines the disquieting trend of judicial abdication, wherein the courts indulgently ignore signs of torture, lack of evidence and absence of procedural norms, while trying terror cases.
Kafkaland challenges the dominant narratives of counterterrorism and the emerging security-industrial complex. Kafkaland is where impunity, bias, suspicion are sustained by laws, where erosion of constitutional guarantees is advertised as internal security, where corporate greed masquerades as national interest. (Available from October 30)
Manisha Sethi is currently Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. She teaches at the Centre for Comparative Religions and Civilizations, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. She is also Associate Editor at Biblio: A Review of Books. Her book Escaping the World: Women Renouncers among Jains was published in 2012. Sethi is an activist with Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (www.teacherssolidarity.org).
The Delhi Lectures
Mass violence and State apathy in India, Examining the record
Prejudice, Law and Counterterrorism in India
notes on politics, education and culture
The Musical Journey of Gangubai Hangal
Three Essays and an Atlas
By Perry Anderson, December 2014
Essays on Kashmir, Poems in Translation
By Suvir Kaul, December 2014
Life and Communism and Everything
By Ralph Russell, January 2015
By Daya Varma, January 2015