Nepal: Ode to Revolution!

As Nepal is declared normal, I find something is clearly missing…and I thought….


People of Nepal have finally “gained victory”
Although why the Crown relented appears a mystery
After weeks of active resistance; in face of military excesses
Took 14 deaths for the King to grant freedom to his subjects

Just when I thought, a specter was almost haunting Nepal
A specter of hope, and struggle to erase writings off the wall
The Monarchy has now heeded to its Big Brothers in crime
And the world media are already replacing remnants of grime

For the comrades: before the battle is won, the war has been lost!
Powers have hijacked the purpose of resistance at every single cost!
For I believe, freedom is ours to possess; not for the Royals to offer
Even as they recreate their myths, and even as we continue to suffer…!

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Medha Patkar: Revolutionary in a Fortress

Medha Patkar is a relentless and indomitable revolutionary. Her active campaigns for indigenous peoples’ causes form the means. Her endless struggles against corporate greedy motives shape her purpose.

She leads to inspire generations of collective beings that we often don’t find time and inclination to become while working within the framework of capitalistic expansions of individualistic self-centrism– to love our common land, our river, and the mother earth. And her convictions enthuse the world to consider genre of critical values that we often fail to notice—suffering all alone, and celebrating with others. Fighting on behalf of the landless. And fighting against the land-grabbers.

Sometimes, human beings as simple and beautiful as Medha Patkar are all we need for making the world a better place to live in.

Thanks are due, to fellow traveler Sivagami Subbaraman who sends me a thought-provoking critical article.

Revolutionary in a Fortress
By Shivani Chaudhry

The outside of the Intensive Cardiac Care Unit (ICCU) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi feels more like a police station than a hospital. Three policewomen, four male constables, a plain-clothes security officer, and a hospital guard create a daunting atmosphere. The police fortress monitors her and regulates all visitors. Even after they moved her out of the ICCU on April 16, nothing has changed. It is impossible to meet her. She has allegedly been arrested under Section 309, IPC, for attempted suicide, but no chargesheet has been filed. This is illegal.

With each day of the indefinite fast, Medha’s health deteriorates; her blood sugar level falls, her ketones rise, threatening irreversible damage to her kidneys. But she smiles, “The people of the valley are my inspiration.” Her feet are bandaged, she ironically points out how they are treating her psoriasis but not the real crisis (the dam). Despite her gradually failing physical condition, her will to fight is indomitable. She recalls cell phone numbers, quotes legal language, and rattles figures on megawatts, villages, and dam technicalities with unbelievable ease. Her body might object, but she dictates powerful statements and letters with a keen astuteness.

On the 10th day, the nurse brings her a glass of lemon water. But one sip and she spits it out. “This has sugar in it. Don’t cheat me.” From then on, the lemon and salt remains in her room, and Vijayatai, her close friend and a constant factor in her life for the last 20 years, mixes it in front of her. This is not a fast for publicity. It is not a fast for show or sympathy. It is a fast for a just cause. Let the fascist fallacy-flexing symbol of violence, Narendra Modi, see what an indefinite fast of a satyagrahi really means.

It is torturous. On the 18th day, she writhes in pain, she shivers as the blood in her veins has gone cold. “Why are you doing this to yourself,” I ask in anguish. “The fast is the last resort, always,” she tells me. “It is the point of ultimate commitment to the cause. It is not just a political strategy, but has to be perceived within the framework of your values and vision. Mediators are often wrong about the fast. They have to constantly be reminded that they need not worry about me, but about the valley’s life. We see it not as pressure, but as an appeal to the nation. When normal democratic means of a non-violent struggle fail, we are left with no other option.”

The doctors at AIIMS are supportive, their respect for her is evident. On the 20th day, though they plead her to take something, they do not force-feed her or put her on intravenous drip. “Once you’re in the war, whether violent or non-violent, you have to fight to the finish. I learnt this from my father, a trade unionist. Kabhi haar nahin manna.” Her parents have influenced her; her mother works for women’s rights.

As I write this, on the morning of the Supreme Court judgement (April 17), it’s the 20th day. “Why are you counting?” she asks. “I’m not,” I say, but I confess I am deeply distressed. Because I have lost faith in the Indian State and its institutions, because every norm of democracy is constantly being subverted, because violence is systematically being used against non-violent struggles. And I am afraid that the price of petty, fascist, power politics is being paid by someone I deeply respect and love: a global symbol of non-violence, truth and struggle.

Nepal: Whose side are you on?

Fellow blogger Mahesh Poudyal sent me a link indicating a hope that Nepal’s big brother might at last, have decided to take peoples’ side now! I went carefully through the Indian foreign secretary Shyam Sharan’s statements that he was alluding to. And although I certainly stand by Mahesh’ sentiments and support his enthusiasm, I may have to disagree with some of his optimism.

What Sharan says in regards to Nepal is two-fold. One, he offers an apology for a diplomatic faux pas. Yes, India had officially chosen to support the twin pillar of ‘monarchy and democracy’. At least one element, the monarchy, was something that huge majority of Nepalese people had got thoroughly fed up of. And Sharan’s recent statement that everything should be rather left for people of Nepal to decide is a poor rejoinder to correct the official stance. Two, even as he said it, this was an apology that was not meant to be. Because Indian administration still continues its big-brotherly demeanor towards Nepal, even within this narrative. I will explain the stances.

Apology:
The twin pillars of constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy is a hoax. Sharan, and every matured Indian strategist knows that no place can have both a democracy and a monarchy at the same time. Or at least when they are together, the existence is based upon dominance of one over another. In Sweden, the monarchy is a misnomer. And in Saudi Arabia, the democracy is.

The reason why Government of India officially lends support to the twin pillars is to maintain the status quo. For the alternative, long struggled for by the militant leftists, has simply not been an acceptable position for India. So India would rather have a Hindu royal killer call the shots, than have godless landless communists take over.

It was this apprehension that always led India’s cautious stance towards its neighbors and dealing with them through its Shark (spelled SAARC) diplomacy. The ruling elites of India, forever afraid of its own peoples’ movements clearly have never understood the resentments of peoples of neighboring countries against their own ruling elites. Except for a brief period when Indira Gandhi decisively stood with Bangladeshi peoples, India has always continued its apathy towards neighboring peoples’ struggle against their ruling class. And so, the administration’s ‘welcoming’ Nepalese King’s suggestions should not have left Indian foreign secretary chuckling after a day. India rendered a rather much delayed reaction only after the consistently engaged active resistance led by brave Nepalese peoples on the streets that invited global attention.

And Sharan, chose the biggest diplomatic line that’s never practiced, as the quick fix remedy: We have nothing to do with another country’s problems. Let their people decide.

Not an apology:
It’s well known that Indian administration welcomed Nepalese monarchy, even though it did not have a necessity to lend a supportive ear to a brutal anti-democratic regime. And yet, at the same breadth, upon this realization, India has officially never condemned the monarchy for its anti-people stances, even as now, there is a necessity to offer some constructive criticisms, at the very least. When India mouths ‘words of support’ to the unjust regime, then Sharan does not see it as an interference! Only when despite pricking conscience, India decides to remain silent, then the bureaucrat justifies it on grounds of non-interference policy! Nice for the dynasty. Unfair to the people who are braving police atrocities just so that someone will take notice and come to aid.

But with due respects, Mr Sharan’s sentiments are suspect. “Not accepting or refusing” King’s offer does not amount to “not taking sides”. Every diplomat of any worth should know that indifference means taking sides of the present ruling class. By not “condemning” in strongest possible words the police atrocities of Nepalese monarchy, its inhuman curfew impositions that has claimed more than a dozen civilian lives in the hands of perpetrators, and its continued state of emergency that has paralyzed peoples’ liberties –India has actively demonstrated its role in letting things remain the way they are, in effect, in favor of the monarchy.

Not only India has chosen sides to support the monarchy, simply by not supporting the people who are on the streets now, it has also chosen to amplify its anti-people stance too, by condemning the Maoists. Sharan says, “When we said India stands for multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy, we were reflecting nothing more than what the people of Nepal themselves and the political parties themselves had committed to. So, you should not take this as something that was prescribed by the Government of India.”

This is the classic case of double-talk. Obviously, for Sharan, ‘people’ must be a different breed. For he and his likes have always conveniently overlooked the people who have been oppressed and murdered because of anti-people regime in Nepal. For, these are not the people who have ever welcomed “constitutional monarchy” as much as Indian administration has fancied.

Naturally enough, Sharan says, “We are in touch with the political parties and we have been in touch with the Palace as well essentially to try and play as constructive a role as we can to defuse the situation. We have not been in touch with the Maoists.” That the Government of India is in touch with the Palace and yet not in touch with the main opposition, the Maoists, says a lot about the governmental bias. For more than decade, Maoists have been the only group of people protesting monarchy on matters of principles, and Indian administration has not just ignored them, but also condemned them from time to time. Within its own territory, Indian government has outlawed any such outfit too. Sharan knows only too well, that unlike anywhere else in the world, Maoists have a huge support base in Nepal among common people. So is there an official line?

Sharan says, “If there are negotiations through which the Maoists can be brought into the political mainstream, but on the basis of the principles of multiparty democracy and on the clear abandonment of violence as a political tool, I think this is something that should be welcomed. So, yes, certainly there is a need for them to be brought into the political mainstream but it has to be on the basis of the principle of multiparty democracy and the renunciation of violence.”

It’s another classic case of big-brother arrogance. First to think that “multiparty democracy” is the solution, is to address the event, not the issue. India, the greatest multiparty democracy in the world, is a cruel joke in the name of participatory governance. Of course the bureaucrats gain the most from such system in India, and hence Sharan may not see the problem as yet. But people in Indian subcontinent know only too well, the fallacies of multiparty democracies in countries that do not have basic living amenities. No country is yet ripe for a true electoral democracy, simply because the developing economies (and large parts of first world as well) are just full of ignorant people devoid of any critical knowledge to distinguish one party from another. In so-called democracies, they merely end up voting one rogue or the other. And because enticing words like ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ are so addictive, and have a subsuming power to overwhelm people to sense of inaction, they are the least challenged terms as well. They are the most effective way to maintain ruling class status quo and ruling elites everywhere always benefit from such rhetoric.

Secondly, Sharan knows he is beating around the bush deliberately when he talks of bringing Maoists to “mainstream politics” through clear abandonment of violence as a political tool. First this is deliberate because he knows that left wing political activists are not “mainstream” politicians, and neither are they going to preach Gandhism (nor does nuclear power state India does, btw). Second, Sharan needs to remind himself that India is cozily in touch with the “Palace” which is owned by a violent oppressor of the first degree, who is a trigger-happy police-state ruler. Before actually “interfering” with Nepalese peoples’ aspirations of supporting the so-called violent Maoists who get killed every now and then, over the Palace, (out of the 14 deaths, Maoists did not kill a single person. 13 were killed civilians killed by ruling power!), Indian administration needs to mend its own ways.

Nepal Burning!

So who do the largest democracies of the world recognize? The power of the monarch, or the power of the people?
Who do the India, USA, EU listen to? The Nepali royal’s roars, or the Nepali subjects’ pleas?
Whose ways and manners the so-called civilized approve of? The gun-trotting police hounds; the abusers of basic human rights; the murderers of hapless civilians; the killers of women, children, the unemployed youth; the police dogs of a royal murderer-aggressor; the oppressors of teeming unheard millions?
Or
the marginalized voices long silenced; the women who refuse to anymore tolerate; the children with the non-violent weapon of protest; the organized unemployed; the unduly browbeaten; the peoples who remind the rest of the world that if not for ‘advanced’ world’s stoic privileged indifference, they would be also be enjoying lives of dignity.

More power to the Nepalese peoples for freedom, liberty, and ‘real’ democracy—-none of which is ever bestowed, nor negotiated, nor offered as a compromise.
The white American freedom was not ‘granted’ through negotiations with the Kings of England, the elite French liberty was not attained via cowardly compromise either, the bourgeois Indian democracy was not gifted by well-meaning British—each of them were snatched, and millions sacrificed their lives in protest against the oppressors.

‘Tis time, the preachers of today realized the only options they have left the Nepalese (and so many indigenous peoples in India too) are sense of frustration, alienation and revolution.

More pictures here….

In Search of ‘B-Span’!

The following article is authored by two of my dearest comrades.

In the quest for What Needs to be Done!

IN SEARCH OF ‘B-SPAN’:
The Promise of Black Media Self-Determination NOW

By Drs. Jared A. Ball and Todd Steven Burroughs

“If the people only knew/ The power of the people”
—From the 1970s song of the same name

“The Negro race has enough power right in our hands to accomplish anything we want to.”
—The late, great Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

“Power, culture and communication are indissolubly linked.”
­–– John Downing

Cell phones that record sound and take pictures. CD burners. iPods, audio and video. Digital cameras. Scanners. Mixtapes. Audio recording and posting software. Sites like youtube.com where anyone can post video.

Is this enough for a revolution? Nope, because revolutions overturn systems. But it’s enough for an evolution, or at least a movement toward one—if we choose to evolve.

We have historically spent decades complaining about mass media’s power to set the agenda of our minds, and we should. We must always remember that the term “media” is most often described narrowly and inaccurately by their technologies or methods of conveyance. Media are not merely “television, radio, film, books, internet, etc.” These are the technologies that make media available. Such a definition discourages a proper understanding of media as societal symbols, definitions, norms and ideology all intimately linked to questions of who will hold power and how will that power be maintained. As media are primary shapers of consciousness and, as the late, great Black psychologist Amos Wilson said, “consciousness may be perceived as the fundamental and essential form of power,” the charge with which we are faced is evident.

So we have slowly begun to take command of what’s in front of us.

Some examples:

  • Many of our national gatherings, including the National Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, are webstreamed from beginning to end by broadcastURBAN.com.
  • Activists from across the country have created websites that contain large portions of audio, some historical some current (ex: voxunion.com, brothermalcolm.net).
  • The Chicago Defender, a historic Black newspaper, has begun “Chicago Defender Inside Black America,” a podcast. Interview subjects have included journalist/author Robin Stone, cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson and Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.
  • We have established at least two national oral history interview projects–the National Visionary Leadership Project, based in Washington, D.C. and The HistoryMakers, based in Chicago.

Obviously, the five corporations that control the vast majority of what Earth knows about itself are not losing sleep over any of this. They still have access to political and economic power, and they have used it well to block any education or inspiration not sanctioned by them. (Our great ancestor, the African world historian John Henrik Clarke, repeatedly wrote and said that Europeans not only colonized the world, they colonized information about the world.) Unfortunately, we, like the other groups of consumers that comprise America, are following the “program.” And the scores of websites that now exist do not compare to the easy accessibility of CDs and DVDs from Hollywood and Bad Boy, or the so-called “free” media of radio conglomerates who pump the worst hiphop on the air 24 hours a day.

And it’s not like we can depend on cable channels and radio conglomerates such as Black Entertainment Television, TV One, the Black Family Channel and Radio One. They want to make money. Period. And with very few exceptions, they would not “waste” money providing information that would get Black people to critically examine their cultural environment. Programming like that won’t get you enough money to buy a mansion, a stable and some horses. Today we are in no greater proportional control over media or Black image and cultural expression than at any other point in our history. Ours is to reclaim a mission begun so many years ago to produce and provide media generated for our community’s benefit. We need to assure the production of news targeted to Black America that is not filtered through a dependency on White-elite-corporate funding. It is precisely this model that has resulted in a vapid substitute where ostensible Blackness is presented as authentic control or concern. A new mass medium (or media) must be cultivated in an insulated manner that allows for Black-centered news to reach the mass of Black America. It is essential and today’s need is no less so than at any other point in our history.

So, with apologies to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and the title of his last book, where do we go from here—chaos or community? Only the future knows, and it’s not telling.

But since King was brought up, the past has some bearing. King once said of education what could equally be said today of education and media. “Whatever pathology may exist in Negro families,” King wrote in that last book of his, “is far exceeded by this social pathology in the school system that refuses to accept a responsibility that no one else can bear and then scapegoats Negro families to do the job.”

Or how about this quote, from the same book? “How shall we turn the ghettos into a vast school?” King wrote. “How shall we make every street corner a forum, not a lounging place for trivial gossip and petty gambling, where life is wasted and human experience withers to trivial sensations?”

With the vast majority of Black America concentrated in about 30 metropolitan areas, what is becoming increasingly clear is that with increasingly less and less money, Black people could establish and sustain either an educational channel—or, at least, a forum for downloads, since channels could soon be a thing of the past. Such an institution could, eventually, help to solve some of our informational and spiritual needs. We could clear out our attics and basements and provide the world with raw historical memory not edited for the white, corporate mainstream—“content” that would make the Ancestors content.

The implementation of that idea, though, would require a kind of unity that wouldn’t get a 21st century “race man” or “race woman” a Porsche, a prestigious fellowship or a spot on the lecture circuit. We would need more than leadership summits on C-SPAN every February. We would have to want, and pay for, the same power over our own (perception of) reality as those who formed the broadcast networks and public television wanted—and got, thanks in no small part to white supremacy.

Any attempt at community uplift must consist of community consensus. This requires unfettered communication. We cannot continue to hold “State Of The Black Union”’s that are dependent either on white corporate giants like McDonald’s and Exxon or the graciousness of a C-SPAN that was created by the power players in the lily-white cable industry to protect itself from federal regulation. The 21st century must have an improved, multi-media Black national news service far more substantive than a Black-faced conduit for Disney, a la Radio One and its constant pipelining of ABC Radio Network News on its many stations. National agendas need national news on an ongoing basis. A B-SPAN would be part of that solution.

Jared A. Ball, Ph.D., is a professor of African American and Media Studies at the University of Maryland and Frostburg State University. Ball is the founder of “FreeMix Radio: The Original Mixtape Radio Show.” He is also the managing editor of Words, Beats and Life Journal, the nation’s first academic hip-hop journal. Details on his activist work, including many of his media efforts, can be found at voxunion.com. Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D. (tburroughs@jmail.umd.edu) is a media scholar and historian who lives in Hyattsville, Md. His media criticism column, “Drums In The Global Village,” ran in Black newspapers nationwide from 1992 to 1999.