Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose revolves around a series of murders that take place in a Benedictine abbey of the fourteenth century. One of the intriguing structures in the abbey is the library. Except for the librarian, no one else is permitted to enter this library. If anyone attempts to enter, they are murdered. For the library treasured not only texts that proclaimed the ‘truth’ but also texts that discussed matters that are ‘heretical’. What if an innocent monk driven by curiosity exposed himself to the latter? What if he comes to know things he should not be knowing? What if he turned into yet another rebel, conspiring to bring down the Catholic Church? Such was the fear. Continue reading Return of the Inquisitor
‘Slum dog millionaire,’ the Oscar award winner film, on a closer reading, is a parable on the theme of merit. It raises the question of merit and resolves it through the presentation of a variety of evidences to prove the protagonist’s legitimacy to claim certain social spaces. This is akin to the conventional, judicial way of claiming legitimacy through evidences when imposed on persons from certain cultural locations. The film revolves around the question of merit and poses the question of who is meritorious enough to participate in a prestigious quiz contest that would make the winner a millionaire. The eligibility criteria for participating in such contests are never disclosed, but the hints and rules of the game are always in the air. Continue reading How meritorious is ‘Merit’?
Ashraf K & Jenny Rowena
Two years ago on the 17th of May the Kerala police entered the Muslim residential area of Beemapalli, a small seaside town in Thiruvanathapuram, and shot down 5 men and injured 52 other men. They also killed a sixteen year old boy by attacking him with the bayonet of a gun. This was one of the biggest police firings that had ever happened in the history of modern Kerala. The police claimed that it was done to control the “communally inspired mob” of Beemapalli that was trying to attack the neighboring Latin Catholic community and Church. However the fact finding reports by the PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) and the NCHRO (National Confederation of Human Rights Organization) tell us a different story. According to the findings of these organizations, there were no communal conflicts at that point in Beemapalli, which caused the Police to fire at the crowd. Continue reading Beemapalli Police Firing: Kerala’s Own Cultural Amnesia
Another fateful moment for the 140-year old Indian Circus fraternity: on Monday, April 4, 2011, the Supreme Court banned the employment of children below fourteen years in circuses. Acting on a petition filed by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the Hon’ble Court directed the Union government to conduct simultaneous raids in all circuses to liberate the children. In order to, “To implement the fundamental right of children under Article 21A [right to education], it is imperative that the Central government issue suitable notifications prohibiting the employment of children in circuses within two months.”(The Hindu, April 19, 2011). In their petition the non-government organization noted that at least 500 girls were employed illegally in about fifty circuses across India. The petitioners proposed to notify circus as a “hazardous industry” and prohibit the employment of children less than fourteen years in circuses. The group also held campaigns in front of many circuses. Continue reading Children of a Lesser God
The Hindu reported (April 1, 2011) that Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment, has written to the Prime Minister expressing the following concerns. First, that India reconsider its plans to import reactors from Russia, US, and France, and instead concentrate on Indian-made reactors. The reasons for this are straightforward. Indian nuclear engineers have much more experience working with CANDU reactors that have been operational in India for the last three decades. They will take a long time to gain the expertise to master entirely new designs (in some cases untested anywhere in the world), structures, and operational techniques. Second, he points to concerns expressed by many, including a former head of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, that the AERB needs to become a statutory body entirely independent of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE, the body that controls and runs India’s nuclear reactors), in order to be a credible regulatory authority. Continue reading The Risks of Nuclear Power
I have this habit of writing…writing to a person, or a particular audience; friends I feel would make the time to read and appreciate the effort. I have never really written for the ‘pure’ sake of writing, without the need to be heard or read; writing for an audience gives you intention, it helps you discern, think through and edit and polish, in other words, it helps you be careful with your choice of words and the tone of the larger message (if there is one). I enjoy putting myself through that discipline…it helps me grow in its own little ways. But lately I’ve been learning to appreciate ‘careless’ writing (if one could call it that), writing or narrating incidents and varied experiences as they come, as it happens in its totality. Now I know I am already playing with words and sentences by using terms such as ‘totality’ and sentences such as ‘as they come or happen’, and those are bound to get complicated surely. My harmless intention though is a simple jotting down of thoughts, a rambling, without the burden of creating a flow or trying to leave impressions, without the pressure of approval. I want to experience the joy of writing for the sake of writing, and though terminologies and categories and many other factors come into play, I write carelessly and try and speak of a feeling beyond emotions, language beyond words…The idea of speaking without using language or words, seeing without eyes, hearing without ears is a possibility I want to entertain and keep company with, at least for these days, these times… Continue reading Unlearning,Unwriting
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”. Continue reading Theatre of Reservation
The ongoing debate over the use of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Kashmir is typically couched in terms of a choice between the potential political gains and the potential threat to law and order that may follow from its withdrawal. In fact, this law, and others like it, goes to the heart of the constitutional provisions that govern this or any country that subjects itself to the rule of law. The short-term political considerations that pit the military, political leadership, and advocates of autonomy and civil liberties against each other currently dominate the discussion of this issue. The narrow considerations of competing interests and claims make it possible to side-step fundamental issues of justice and citizenship that are directly troubled by this law. The AFSPA not only violates the spirit and letter of constitutional governance, it has hollowed out its institutions by normalizing what should be only a temporary condition imposed under extraordinary circumstances.
The Act is built around two exceptional legal standards, namely, the state of Emergency and the condition of Immunity. The combination of emergency and immunity is what gives the Act its special character; while each condition may appear to require the other for its full expression, it is the simultaneous exercise of these two conditions that make this Act the grave threat that it is to us all. Continue reading The AFSPA and the Constitution
Prime Minister Mayawathi scrapped the Sonia Manmohan UID Tracking System (SMUT) today, just over two decades after it was introduced, to almost universal acclaim. Gandhians hailed it as a tribute to the Father of the Nation on his birth anniversary and recalled that the first direct action of Gandhi was against carrying ID cards in South Africa.
The move was supported by the association of school teachers—the designated data collectors—who were getting beaten up every year by those who did not get loans despite having SMUT numbers. Moreover, every vacation of theirs was spent updating the database. Also welcoming the move were the IAS officers’ association. SMUT exposed IAS officers flying to China without departmental permission through Kolkatta. They maintained that their interest had nothing to do with the order of the Supreme Court that all official papers be signed with the individual SMUT of the person concerned. The SC had held that since SMUT was accessible to private parties, it has to be given under RTI. The last ditch attempt by the IAS lobby to amend the law during then Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi’s only term was struck down by the court. Continue reading UID Scrapped! NASCUM calls for Bharath Bandh
Nisar main teri galiyonn pe aye watan ke jahan
Chali hai rasm ke koye na sar utha ke chale ( Faiz Ahmad Faiz)
India is at peace and all the jubilations are coming from those quarters that otherwise shed tears relentlessly for Muslim Women. For them India is a tolerant nation now, no vehemence, no contempt, no hatred. They have suddenly remembered that poor Muslim whose only struggle in life is to get a square meal for his children. They are cherishing the verdict, admiring the government, and few have gone to the extent of recommending ‘Bharat Ratna’ to all the three judges.
Like the marginalized Indian Muslim woman who has herself started believing that wearing “Burkha” is a duty and her role is to serve her husband and remain confined to the four walls, an ordinary Muslim has very cleverly and cunningly been reduced to a second class citizen that he is standing with his hands joined to say in gratitude my lord you are so benevolent that you have given the verdict in favour of the Hindutva brigade and our houses have been saved from being attacked and charred. Continue reading Questioning is a Crime Now