The Fish Pond

You May Contemplate, Complicate, Create, Ponder, Muse, Confuse, Provoke, Evoke…
You May Fish Or Become Fish Or Water Or Pond….
(To Tell The Truth We Dont Give A Damn) :-)

Seema Duhan Speaking

My first exchange with her left me with a sense of pleasance and an attraction yet to be understood, however, it was enough to thrill me to explore the depth of her persona and not let the opportunity slip away. Subsequently, I proposed her for an interview with me. She was Dr. Kaushal Panwar, an emerging Dalit thinker and intellectual. Before I begin unveiling my understanding of her, I shall explain that though I had decided to structure the interview in formal question and answer fashion, but during the interaction I lost my track and just flowed with unfoldings and decided to give it a biographical touch while setting down. There is a deliberate attempt to not let it appear as merely a dialogue between two individuals but a textured narrative account.

What led Kaushal Panwar – a girl born in the most marginalised caste of ‘Valmiki’ among the subaltern Dalit castes of a village ‘Rajoud’, Kaithal District, Haryana, to become Dr. Kaushal Panwar – a Sanskrit Scholar? The journey in itself is a saga of uprising for liberation from bondage. Kaushal as a child was closest to her father in the family and youngest of the three siblings. She learnt the ways of being a rebel in the early age and the course is continuing. Brothers who could not leap beyond high school were never treated specially against her. Father, who was a daily wage labourer, taught her early in life not to compromise upon the consciousness of righteousness.

History is witness to numerous instances, when oppression meets rebellious character; it had been the oppression mostly that had to retreat finally. In Kaushal’s case too, history was willing to absorb one more incident. In sixth standard, yet a child, Kaushal had to opt between Home Science and Sanskrit. She never wanted to study Home Science, background for which was nurtured by the non-liking for the daily household chores. Playing, studying and roaming around with her father used to consume her everyday life. Nevertheless, she had hunch that her decision to opt for Sanskrit would be meeting such an outrageous reaction. Her desire to study Sanskrit instead of Home Science caused enough heartburn to the subject teacher Surender Shastri – a Brahmin. Initially he tried to dissuade her by passing abhorring comments like “What use do studies have for you? After some years you have to do cleaning in our houses only”, “What a corrupt time is it, even Dalits can dare to study Sanskrit?”

Theatre of Reservation

Anand Teltumbde’s ‘One More Reservation’ (EPW, April 3-9, 2010) indirectly legitimizes the anti-reservationists’ disguise as the pro-reservationists. Reservation is welcomed by the anti-reservation public to articulate their hegemony. Many of those who support the cause of reservation in public are against the rights of the marginalized communities in their private lives. Let us call it the ‘Theatre of Reservation”.

Notion of the theatre of the reservation is not mere a construct based on narrow identity politics and mechanical claims for their epistemic priority. I would like to demonstrate the theory/praxis of the theatre of the reservation. For instance an OBC student who discriminates a dalit student by calling his/her caste name and in the same breath speaks for the reservation of dalits and OBCs. An artifical construct of Dalit-OBC is constructed here for a reactionary-pragmatic purpose of reservation for the OBCs. An elite-caste-hindu woman can argue that dalit women are ‘vulnerable’ in reservation discourse and discriminate the same dalit women in her private space. Islamophobic public in private can speak for the rights of Muslim students in the pseudo-secular intellectual field.In other words,communities that share the islamaphobia in their private spheres of lives become vocal about the reservation policies for the Muslim students in the private life. By drawing these diverse social spaces, I argue that mere reproduction of the meta-narratives on reservation is not adequate for the endless displacements of the reservation discourse (see IUT for more education details). The academic enclosures,in a Bourdieun sense, is produced within the hegemonic space of academic institutions. Why such ‘theatres of reservation’ are more articulate in the time of pro-reservation?

Theatre of reservation gains its strength through the silence of the academic mandarins from the marginalized communities. It thrives on the pedantic comedies of the subaltern intellectuals. It promotes the status quo whispers of the marginalized-split intellectual personalities.

When Two Muslims Meet: The Media(ted) case of Madani and Shahina

Shahina K K, a journalist with Tehelka went to Karnataka to prepare an investigative report on the case on Abdul Nasar Madani, the Chairman of PDP. Madani had spend almost 10 years in Jail as an undertrial in the 1998 Coimbatore blast before he was let off without any charges on 1 August 2007. In her report (Why is this man still in prison?, Tehelka, December 4th, 2010) Shahina tried to look into the police story that Madani had conspired in the Bengaluru blasts in separate meetings two years ago — one which took place in Madani’s rented home in Kochi and the other in the Lakkeri estate in Kodaku Karnataka.

Here, she not only talks of the reports about the many people who have questioned the police story – like James Varghese, the owner of Madani’s rented house in Kochi, and Madani’s brother Jamal Mohammed – but she also investigates the witnesses whose accounts have led the court to deny Madani bail. According to her investigations Shahina finds out that many of the witnesses have things to say that goes against the police story. For instance, Yoganand, a BJP worker whose testimony is recorded in the charge sheet, Shahina reports, does not even know that he is a witness in the Madani case !

Disposable Biographies? A Naxalite Turned Muslim

C.K. Abdul Azeez, scholar, writer, thinker, former Naxal leader and the working chairman of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was jailed last September. Three weeks back he was released on bail on the condition that he presents himself and signs at the Madurai CBI Court daily. Just a few days after Madani’s arrest, CBI arrested him in connection with a 1994 bank fraud case. As Chairman of Madani Legal Aid Cell, Azeez had been managing all the cases against Madani. Though newspapers reported his arrest, it went without any debate or discussion in the public sphere of Kerala.

The bank fraud case involved the theft of 86 lakhs from the Ghatkopar East branch of the Bank of Maharashtra and the DN Road branch of the Bank of India in Mumbai. The Maharashtra police investigated the case against Azeez and nine other persons, some of whom were bank employees and later it was handed over to the CBI. They submitted the charge sheet in 1998. Azeez and two others were declared absconding. According to the CBI Azeez was hiding in Dubai. It is said that in September 2010, a CBI official recognized him while he was giving an interview regarding the Madany case. After this a CBI team from Chennai went to Bengaluru and arrested him. The PDP leadership says that there is a clear cut conspiracy behind Azeez’s arrest in a case almost two decades old.

Azeez had been quite active in public since he joined the PDP in 1994. His name was even touted as the possible candidate from Ponnani constituency in the last Lok Sabha elections. He was also publicly active in leading campaign for the LDF candidate during these elections where the PDP supported the LDF. He had also been on stage with the CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Madany during the campaign. More importantly he was also a regular contributor to various dailies and channels across the state. Yet the CBI says he was hiding in Dubai and chose to “catch” him just a few days after Madani’s arrest.

I have only seen C K Abdul Azeez in Television channels and read two of his books. One, Oru Muslim Pourante Viyojana Kurippukal (Dissent Notes of a Muslim Citizen) published by Haritham Books,Calicut. The other, Enthukondu Madani? (Why Madani?) was published by a small publishing house which do not exist now and whose name I cannot even remember. He has also published articles in mainstream Malayalam periodicals such as Maadhyamam and Mathrubhumi.

Azeez was a Naxalite in the 1970s. In a conversation published recently in Mathrubhumi Weekly between former Naxalites including Azeez, Somashekharan, Civic Chandran and Babu Baradhwaj, Azeez once again asserted his strong, anti-establishment stands.

A R Rahman and Mylapore Blues

The popularity of the Airtel ringtone brought a new `audience’ to the Indian music scene. Airtel claimed that in 2009, Airtel users completed over 200 million music downloads. Wall Street Journal reported that it is “mobile, not net that drives Indian Music Sales. Sales of ringtones and songs on phones already make up about 30% of the Indian music industry’s 7.5 billion rupees ($168 million) in total revenue and are expected to account for two-thirds of an 18.7 billion rupee market in 2012, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers.” So, mobile music has become a new genre. It came a long way since cell phone operators used asked` ring tones? What’s that?’ when the Finnish computer programmer Vesku Pannen tried to talk to “operators and handset makers into offering a selection of popular hit” and finally finish operator RADIO NINJA launched the first commercially-available ringtone service.

The most interesting trend, I think is the entry of a composer like AR Rahman into this space. He had composed jingles before, but the `music space’ created by mobiles is different. Popular culture is all about sharing. Mobile phones’ features have made this `sharing’ a great technological possibility. It is a place where a listener has more control over `what she listens’ than any other earlier audio devices. A R Rahman’s commitment towards the new music space is what makes him different from the other music composers in India. He is with the listener. Rahman says “The listeners no longer think in terms of perfect or imperfect. They want different voices, standards be damned.”

This new music space, the mobile phone, is not an `uncontaminated’ place like a Victorian music hall. The technological possibilities of sharing have made the mobile phone a `dangerous’ device. The main aspect of this new space is its `everydayness’. It doesn’t claim immortality or `classic’ status.