Bring the War Home! (Part I)

Amidst the impending war on people of Iran, and the ongoing oppression of peoples everywhere through military and financial means, we have limited choices.

One, we could claim refined patriotism that needs validation through the bumper stickers proclaiming, “I support my troops”. This will make some of us look politically correct, since the attacks are apparently not on civilians, but on terrorists (although for most of those among us who profess this first choice, the difference between civilians and terrorists is a matter of our stereotypes based on artificial dissonances—race, religion, nationality—than anything else). Our definition of terrorist is of course one that is rhetorically the most agreed upon, although politically it is the most disagreeable. Despite all the finer questions that complicate our lives, these among us will always root for the troops. Killing, raping, vandalizing, infiltrating, promoting ethnic violence, are all fine, so long as our troops are fighting their terrorists. In fact, the more violence there is, the more legitimacy, our troops gain. As Sister Nirmala implied for Missionaries of Charity that since poverty was God’s gift, it was required to be preserved.

And two, we could go on marching on the streets with pro-peace placards, be called crazy, and court arrests, hog headlines, and be butt of television narratives which pride on being liberal—they harp on the fact they manage to bring two opposing voices to engage in a debate cut short by ad industry’s dictates. But hey, since we are the liberal ones, unlike Fox TV, at least we have the voice of the Democrats on the television. Move on, shall we? So how did we stop the war in Afghanistan? Well, the liberals among us engage in congratulating each other for having persuaded the American troops to be out of the country. Its alright if we staged a stooge there who will play diplomacy with Pakistan and balance the power in our favor in the subcontinent. And how did we stop the war in Iraq? Why, of course we exposed the lies about the WMD. You see, there was no WMD, and the republicans lied about it, and we exposed that. And now, America is isolated.

Clearly, the first group of people who support troops and claim their brand of patriotism as genuine are psychically numb, and the lesser said about their glories and successes, the better it is. But at the same time, one would notice, that the second group, the liberal ones among us, are actually a bunch of opportunistic idealists with no sense of historical conditions.

Why I say that, is because it’s not the war against which we need to worry about so much. Rather we must identify the perpetrators and oppressed in a war situation and mobilize activisms accordingly. The moment we feel elated about WMD myth, we are accepting two prepositions to be valid: one that we are surprised at a politician telling a lie, and two, that if there were actually some WMD, then we would have anyway maimed the future Iraqi generations of children. Likewise, the moment we feel good about Afghanistan, or any other victim of the ‘cold’ war saga, we just look at the consequences (the installation of our favored man as a victory for the dissenting people), and never at the cause (that we might have produced a situation for the conflicts, and to prevent further deterioration, we must get the hell out of these places and let a world body decide a course of action).

Slogans against war are helpful in a society whose main ideology is peace. That’s a society where the state funds peace marches, and signature campaigns against nuclear war. Such informed agitation among the people is necessary to drive a people’s state through necessary checks and balances. Unfortunately, our overworking intelligence sources have already relegated such states to history’s dustbins.

But if we are talking about the elite democracies like the US today, assembly by peace-loving people will only be met with what they face ultimately. Peace activists court harmless arrests, their groups are infiltrated by police informers and yes afterwards, they are ‘allowed’ to continue with their job of opposing the regime. In a way it helps politicians of all kinds in this country to claim that this is not a country made up of kangaroo court, and that since citizens have a right to protest, this is indeed the best form of government that the people deserve.

In the end, the protesters are counseled by the state apparatus that the regime is serious about granting of freedom that enable the protest to go on within the stipulated rules. For example, it is alright to silently hold a placard of protest, but not to disrupt normal activities of other people on work. If you are the peace activist, then you go do your work, just the way your neighbor who is a business executive, does his/hers. Interesting, how the state controls the scopes within which ‘protests’ can take place, its expression dynamics, and the limitations (temporary arrests, and permanent FBI files).

Such a tactic of ‘allowance for opposition’ is so germane to western democracies that it works as a double-edged sword to further the governance mode. It declares the system as the most valid form of governance with active ‘help’ of the opposition. And at the end of the day, when the protestors are as free as they ever were, they come back home satisfied with their opposition tactics and claim the way even Chomsky does: that America is the freest country on the planet.

Behind the simplistics:

When played out, both assumptions confirm with the one-liner “Either you are with us, or with the terrorists.” Its like saying, “Either you support us/join us in war, or oppose us on the street.”

The dominant assumptions on the pro-war front are the following:
1. There is a war going on in Iraq/Iran
2. War is being waged against the terrorists
3. We need more external armed forces
4. We need more internal security
5. We should not stop our attacks till we have eliminated all terrorists off the world map

The dominant assumptions of the anti-war coalitions are the following:
1. War is evil
2. All wars should be opposed on principle
3. We should not break international law
4. We should save our children from dying in the war
5. War costs enormous human lives and money

I have run out of patience in coming down on the war mongers and their ‘classic’ arguments. These are blatantly racist, sexist, militarist people who would use any kind of excuse to either support the national armed forces, or join them and emotionally support those that join, out of pure guilt conscience at times owing to their equalizing the military with morality. More often than not, they will use moralist position to defend the indefensible, and introduce hysteria of necessity. For example, even if they will acknowledge that the military is doing something grotesquely insane (like prison torture) they will still carry on with it arguing that ‘without’ defense forces the country will be even more insecure anyway. Warning of such reactionary trends, the former president of America, Abraham Lincoln had said, “Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose — and you allow him to make war at pleasure. If today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’ but he will say to you, ‘Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.’”

Coming to the anti-war movement, there are some issues that need urgent addressing. Firstly, not all war is evil. Indeed, there is a categorical difference between imperialist war and war against the imperialists. Hence, not all wars need to be opposed. Having said that, it’s important to stress not on the ethics of international law, rather energy should be focused on making it mandatory to accept the international laws of sovereignty. Any country violating the aggression-related international law must be prohibited from taking part in the UN proceedings and must be stripped off its security council privileges if any. This alone may just rouse the consciousness of the country’s citizenry.

Lastly, the disgusting drama of “Bring our boys home” must be stopped. It’s highly sexist, since it assumes that there are no women among the troops. Secondly, its too self-centric, since it cares only for the troops of the aggressor country, at the cost of overlooking the various rapes and murders “our boys” commit while having field days in the war. It also unnecessarily sympathizes with the military brutes who are not necessarily innocent little creatures. We can perfectly understand a mother’s cry in wake of her son’s sacrifice at the war against Iraqi peoples, but what we must not encourage is the trend of glorifying the troop at the expense of such shallow patriotism.

(What’s the Alternative?
Next: Bring the War Home, Part II)

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Hindus, Muslims and Secular Traditions: Vande Mataram (Part II)

Vande Mataram debate has almost engulfed India these days. I would not claim it to be entirely of no consequence. And those who say that people should be left to sing what they want to, in the tradition of liberal democracy, in my view again, are continuing to enjoy a Hindu privilege. If for a moment, they would imagine how it feels to be member of a minority group being subjected to a song that was targeted against them, most of us would clearly understand the inherent pain. Muslims in India have been told from the beginning that they are citizens of a secular country, and it is the responsibility of the Hindu majority to live upto that expectation. There must not be any confusion in this regard.

Furthermore, some of my beloved readers of this blog have vociferously attacked the communalism in Islam, and in fact to that extent shown solidarity with Bankim Chandra, the poet of Vande Mataram, who also happens to be the founding father of modern Bengali literature.

I am not surprised at the way both perceptions have been intertwined. However, I shall like to dispel some myths about the dismissal of Islam as a communal or fanatical religion, as many in the Hindutva brigade would like to portray it and influence some of us in that process in their abominable quest to establish a “Hindu Rashta”. Some even bring to question the credibility of Mohd. Iqbal who penned down “Sare Jahan se Achha” and compared it with “Vande Mataram”, which I think is a valid comparison, but a grossly non-issue, this time. I will attempt to make some clarifications within the limits of a weblog:

Vande Mataram vs Sare Jahan se Achha:

Let there be no doubt that the origins of the writings and the world-views of the authors are important in understanding the significance of any work. However, even while doing so, one should always keep in mind the socio-political context in which the works have been authored.

I have elaborated on Vande Mataram already in a previous post. The origin of the song was embedded in the work “Ananda Matha” which was just like every other written work of Bankim Chandra, a highly hindu supremacist literature. It clearly outlined Bankim’s aversion towards Muslim people and possibly could have sowed the seed among the Bengali community to later on engage in the religious animosities that eventually led to partition of India into two separate religious regions (East Bengal-Pakistan region and India).

Sensitizing the Bengali population to become reactionary elements in that age was the sole aim of Bankim Chatterjee, and he fairly succeeded in it (which is why the Hindu hymn became so popular to begin with). It can be said without a doubt Bankim was the founding father of reactionary Bengali literature and unfortunately as it is, quite a handful of works during that time thrived with feudal stories and patriarchal protagonists with entire omission of British misrule, (Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s stories included) thanks to the unmistakable popularity of this legendary writer.

Speaking of historical context, Bankim Chatterjee lived at a time that was not about “Islam invasion”, that his works were so apprehensive about. It was rather a time when British people had already invaded India. The primary enemies of Indian people were the British colonialists. And yet, Chatterjee was a loyal civil servant of the British administration, and worked as a deputy collector. And he was instrumental in sowing the seeds of two-nation theory through his works full of hatred for Muslims, who he used to describe as “Mlechhas”.

As regards Mohd. Iqbal, who is unfortunately brought to discussion in the context of Bande Mataram controversy, one can only say this. Mohd. Iqbal was a patriot of the highest order whose revolutionary songs were targeted against the British rule only. He had no expressed hatred against Hindus, although looking at growing popularity of Hindutva brigade within the Congress those days, he had sufficient reason to turn skeptical. Muslims, Buddhists and Dalits were among the most oppressed in India, and yet they were the least represented in the high echelons of Congress power. Congress was losing its secular focus with continued tension between Nehru and Patel. Despite Gandhiji’s reluctance, the Patel faction was growing in strength also due to the immense influence the Indian business houses had on sponsoring Gandhi’s visits and shelters at Ashrams. In disillusionment, Netaji Subhas also had to quit Congress. One needs to remember that the hindu fanatics had taken up so much of political space that Netaji Subhash was as unsure as Mohd. Iqbal about the eventual victory of Indians under leadership of mere religious reformers. Netaji was always known for his determined effort to persuade people to give up all their political differences and get united under the banner of Congress. He has emphatically stated that Congress was the only platform that needs support from people all across political spectrum, thus helping to enlist thousands of communists as well as receiving communist support to win the presidentship. However, Netaji was deeply influenced by the Soviet system of governance, its secularism and collective ownerships and he wanted to establish India in similar lines. Except for Nehru, who had himself visited Soviet Union and was a pronounced supporter of Marxist philosophy, Netaji could not gather support from any other major leader, finally leading to his quitting the party and forming an alternative Left organization.

It was during these times that Mohd. Iqbal also went through transformation as he was witnessing how the power structure of Congress was slipping into the hands of Hindu fundamentalists. He used to be a teacher in Philosophy after completing MA from Lahore University. During the college days, his radical poetry to destabilize the British rule with united efforts from Hindus and Muslims were inflammatory enough. At the same time, while on a short visit to London, Iqbal became conscious of the international Islamic revolutions against the European colonial powers, and his alignment towards Islamists became sharper. India was not merely struggling for independence from British during those days, one also needs to remember that some Hindu supremacists within the Congress were making clear their intent to get rid of Urdu as the lingua franca (which it was till that period), and to declare a Hindustan where Muslims would be tokenly represented as was the trend. Hindu leaders like Rajendra Prasad, Radhakrishnan, Sardar Patel were rabidly pursuing Hindu scholarships. And Gandhi himself was trying to adjust to Hinduism demands by “reforming” the religion, not condemning it. Clearly the country was about to be divided, just like Bankim Chatterjee had envisaged, the question was regarding when.

Bankim and Iqbal: Dichotomies

Again unlike Bankim Chatterjee who preached religious violence based on Militant Hinduism, Mohd Iqbal was deeply secular despite being a Muslim. And this is why there were attempts to caste aspersions on his popularity. Iqbal’s poetry were nationally sung and were widely popular (interestingly, it became popular even on the space when Rakesh Sharma made India proud by saying he saw “Sare Jahan Se Achha” from above when asked by Indira Gandhi about what India looked like to him while he was on the Soviet space expedition). Iqbal’s poetry was in Urdu, as opposed to Sanskrit, and that was a great dichotomy already. He was a Muslim revolutionary writing about the poor and the oppressed people of India grounded on realism of political economy. Chatterjee was a Hindu Brahmin reactionary who was writing about glorification of one-nation of Hindu India that was conditional upon annihilation of the Muslims. Whereas Chatterjee was preaching that deaths of Muslims were inevitable for India to be a proud nation, Iqbal was writing:

“Gurbat mein ho agar hum, rehta hai dil watan mein
Samjho wohi humein bhi, dil mein jahna hamara
Majhab nahni sikhata, aapas mein bair rakhna
Hindi hain hum, watan hain Hindustan humara”

(roughly translated it means: We are where our hearts are, and even when we reside abroad, our hearts live in our land. Thus artificial borders cannot separate our patriotic feelings. What of the religions? Our religions do not teach us to create enemies among each other. We are the people from the land of the Hind and shall remain thus despite religions and artificial borders.)

This was the great radical poet Mohd. Iqbal who wrote this “Taraana-e-Watan” among other brilliant works where he always stressed on Hindu-Muslim unity that was needed to overthrow the British rulers.

Sadly, the country was so taken hostage by the Hindu supremacists that they did everything possible to highlight Bankim Chatterjee’s conservative anti-Islam works while they continued to demean Mohd Iqbal. Any serious reader of progressive literature would be able to fathom the length at which Iqbal was subsequently saddened by the way his hopes for a united India was being shattered through the aspirations of the growing Hindu militancy even within the rank and file of the mainstream Congress.

I am reproducing a rare poem of Mohd Iqbal written to his beloved son, where he is asking his child to treat poverty as an asset, and not a weakness. Living the life of the oppressed calls for revolution against the foreign invaders, he declares. He directs his son to recognize that Mother Nature (interesting because its not a similar portrayal like Goddess Durga) has gifted a heart to him that must be used to appreciate the diversity of flowers (his stress on ‘Gul’ is consistently present in most of his poems, including another poem by the name ‘Gul Hai to Gulistan ho’. Also interesting, considering that flowers have universal appeal unlike nation-state names). Iqbal asks his son to dedicate life towards serving the poor and the oppressed in a colonial India and not get disheartened by inherent limitations. “Do not be a sell-out; Make a name amidst poverty!”

“Garibi mein Naam Paida Kar”

Dayare-Ishq mein apna muqaam paida kar
Naya Zamaana naye subh-o-shaam paida kar

Khuda agar dil-e-fitrat-shanaas de tujhko
Sukute-laal-o-gul se kalaam paida kar

Utha na shisha-garane-Firang ke ehsaan
Sifale-hind se mina-o-jaam paida kar

Mein shakhe-taak hnu meri gazal hai mera samar
Mere samar se maya-e-lalafam paida kar

Meri tariq amiri nahni fakiri hain
Khud-i na bech, garibi mein naam paida kar

I could go on quoting from the works of the great poet who did his best to promote religious harmony in the country that was facing threats from fanatic Hindus and insecure Muslims in terms of its future. And bowing down to the pressure of the Hindu revivalism that was to sketch a conditional secular country, Iqbal, like Malcolm X of African-American struggle, turned more towards recognizing the religious mainstream than secular alternatives. When he died in 1937, the entire country mourned the great loss whose expectations could not be lived upto by millions of people of the country who were engaged in falling into the traps of Hindu supremacists’ hatred towards Muslims as well British endorsement of the riots. What’s ironic is that Hindu atrocities those days were only usually tolerated with grief (as Gandhiji famously used to feel ‘sad’ about the conditions in a non-violent manner, which later allowed people like Patel to infiltrate Kashmir with terrorism), and it was continuation of a tradition. What’s often missed in the discourse is that most Muslims actually were converted from Hinduism because of the atrocities and caste-structures of Hinduism. Islam, despite its Shia/Sunni divisions never practiced “untouchability” which was a cornerstone of Hindu religion, and continues to exist even today in practice.

Finally, the categorical difference between Iqbal and Chatterjee was that whereas the former was a die-hard secular who wanted a “Hindustan” based on religious harmony, Chatterjee was a Hindu fanatic and British loyalist who wanted the country to be divided into two parts. Of course Chatterjee won by design since that’s also what the British wanted, and later on towards the late 30’s and early 40’s even the secular people of India had no other option than to accept the two-nation theory, simply because in the other case, there was a clear indication that India would have been ruled by Hindu Brahmins almost to the exclusion of Muslim leaders in power sharing. Even having more Muslim population in India than there is in Pakistan, today, India continues to oppress Muslims when it comes to relegating power.

Those who say that Congress is “appeasing” the minorities are entirely misguided. In fact, Congress, as much as the BJP, has been appeasing the majority in all respects, as a result of which the country’s power equation has fallen in the hands of Hindu Brahmin Supremacists.

Historical evidences, and why the right-wing never quite gets it right?

“Battle of Algiers” is considered to be a landmark in the history of cinema. And its Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo (who co-wrote it with the great Franco Solinas) shot Algeria while the Islamic revolution was defeating French colonialists in the 60’s. His extremely sympathetic treatment of cause of the revolutionaries won him great admiration from the progressive world, whereas the French were quick to ban the film in their country.

Encouraged by the response from the world over, he and his son went ahead to shoot Algeria once again, this time in the 90’s to get the pulse of the country under Islamic rule. Surprised as he was, his videos showed that people just could not tolerate his entry into the country, simply because he was a European filmmaker. However, after knowing that this was the man who had directed “Battle of Algiers”, he was immediately recognized by the new generation of people who greeted him, although with a little pinch of salt.

Seeing the commotion on the streets, a fellow European journalist asked him the reason behind Islam being such a violent religion. Such violent was it, that the Muslims even would not entertain a Marxist filmmaker like Pontecorvo, just because he was a European. Since throughout Pontecorvo was sad while shooting the second film in Algeria (and at some places children were spitting on his car), I was anxious to see how Pontecorvo responds to this stereotyped “European” question.

Pontecorvo, unfazed, replied that Islam was never a violent religion. Indeed its been violent from phase to phase since last 200 years only, and that marks the beginning of European colonization period. It was only in the manner that the European colonizers projected an image of the Muslim people as inherently backward that, they are now facing the wrath of a reaction (which is an ‘open wound’ still). He said he is convinced that the women in Algeria are not oppressed due to their religion, they are oppressed due to economic sanctions imposed by a group of elite colonialists who have made wealth by looting the Muslims during their illegal occupations. As regards the culture, Islamists were not ‘backward’ and the women were not ‘humiliated’. When asked why the women then covered themselves up in such primitive manner, Pontecorvo quoted a female Muslim doctor who said that burka is actually one of the most liberal outfit a woman can wear. It reveals the least and that’s why it makes the woman sexier. The point is to also see the perspectives of the other culture from different levels.

This is also a lesson one can get from the various radical postcolonial studies about how the Islam was never a regressive or oppressive religion in comparison to any other (every religion thrives on codes that are equally repressive). As in the case of India, MJ Akbar, the renowned journalist and author, gives the most comprehensive account about Muslim Rule in his book “Kashmir: Behind the Vale”.

He cites how Saiyyid Bilal Shah (called with love as Bulbul Shah) introduced Islam with love and compassion. That was a time when Kashmir was being ruled by Hindu King Sahadeva. Owing to Bulbul Shah’s immense popularity, there was great support for him, and consequently the King had befriended him in order to carry on the rule. In fact by the time Bulbul Shah passed away in 1327, the king, king’s brother and commander-in-chief of the army were all converted to Islam! The converted king had even constructed Bulbul Langar in Srinagar.

Two things can be noticed here. One, that the King was himself a convert, naturally a voluntary one. And there were many Hindus, predominantly lower castes, but also quite many Kashmiri Pundits themselves, who were horribly disenchanted by Hinduism’s orthodoxy and voluntarily converted themselves. In fact, works by Mulla Ahmed, the first Sheikh-ul-Islam, such as “Fatwa-i-Shihabi”, and “Shihab-i-Saqib” were immensely secular works that held more relevance to Hindus and Muslims than the epic superstitious mythologies of Hinduism.

Upon death of mongol expansionist Kublai Khan (1260-1294), there were huge tribal uprising that led to death of Beijing’s viceroy Lha-Chen-Dugos Grub. Tribes attacked the region Sonamarg valley, which was being ruled by Rama Chandra, who was the prime minister of King Sahadeva. But Sahadeva did not lend much support to Rama Chandra during the period of crisis when tribals attacked the area (in fact Sahadeva was supportive of the tribals). This betrayal led to Rama Chandra declaring himself as the King. As a rather feeble king, Rama Chandra was no match for Lha-Chen’s son Rinchin who attacked the king soon after. Rinchin had escaped the border and aspired to be a king, as much as his friend from Swat valley Shah Mir. Rinchin with support of Mir took over the palace. And Rinchin was declared the Lord of Kasmir on 6 October 1320. Interestingly, Rama Chandra’s daughter Kota who was in love with Rinchin much before the attack, quickly declared herself the queen.

Rinchin’s era is considered to be the golden age in the history of Kashmir, as Rinchin was a Buddhist and he wanted to spread peace throughout the region. He not only married Rama Chandra’s daughter, he also made Rama Chandra’s sons his prime ministers. But since Rinchin was a Buddhist, he could not rule over the state that did not have much Buddhist presence. Hence he decided to convert to Hinduism and called for the head priest. And as shocking as it may sound, the high priests of Hinduism declined to convert him, since they could not determine what caste in the hierarchy was King Rinchin!

Since the Brahmin pundits exercised this folly, Shah Mir found the opportunity to ask his friend to convert to Islam. Although Rinchin was skeptical, he soon saw the great Sufi divine Bulbul Shah at a prayer. Bulbul Shah provided Rinchin what the Brahmins could not: a casteless religion. Islam had no caste: it was built on the equality of humans and faith in the omnipotence of Allah and His last Messenger, the prophet Muhammad. To become a Muslim, Rinchin only had to utter the Qalimah: ‘La-e-laha illallah, Muhammad un-Rasul Allah’.

Rinchin thus became a Muslim, and Islam arrived not through violent coercion, but through peaceful understanding of a harmonious religion. Rinchin took the name Sultan Sadruddin, and built a mosque called Bodro Masjid. During his friend Shah Mir’s rule as Sultan Shamsuddin, a dynasty that lasted for 222 years, Islam had become the paramount religion of Kashmir, but because of its popular success and their identification with the Kashmiri people. Jonaraja described this rule:

“This believer in Allah, calm and active, became the savior of the people and protected the subjects.”

And throughout, despite the brahminical prejudices against the converted kings (Hindus and Budhhists who had turned into Muslims), the Muslim rulers were always sympathetic towards the high priests. It was the period when Nand Rishi or Lal Ded and other religious people flourished. In fact, Abul Fazl wrote in the Ain-i-Akbari:

“The most respected people are the Rishis who, although they do not suffer themselves to be fettered by traditions, are doubtless the true worshippers of God. They do not revile any other sect, nor ask anything of anyone. They plant the roads with fruit trees to provide the traveler with refreshments. They abstain from meat and have no intercourse with the other sex. There are 2000 of these Rishis in Kashmir.”

Moghul rulers likewise, and especially Akbar, were aware of the large Hindu population and worked towards their harmonious living. Firstly, it was the most practical thing to do, since any alternative could have called for doom. Tribal populations were always up in arms against any empire, and it could become a matter of time before Hindus got disenchanted and joined the revolution. To that end, the emperors were forced to be considerate towards diversity of religions. Needless to point out, just as characteristic of any empire (just like it is true in today’s so-called democracies running large thought controls called mainstream media), there were state propaganda working those days to lull people to passivity and relaxation instead of agitated uprising. And just like today’s cheap slavery and draconic hours of call centers, people were forced those days to seek cheap labor in works they had no interests in. But as evidenced, the secularism during the Muslim and Moghul periods were quite practiced at several levels.

“The fusion of Islamic culture with existing Indian culture achieved the most positive expression in the activities of the artisan classes of the towns and amongst the cultivators, as is evident from the socio-religious ideas of the time, and also in primarily artisan activities such as building monuments, the fusion being evident in the architecture of the period. The pattern of living in both these classes came to be interrelated to a far greater degree than amongst the nobility. Domestic ceremonies and rituals such as those connected with birth, marriage, and death became mingled. The converted Muslims were also heirs to long-standing rituals practiced by the Hindus. New ceremonies which had come with Islam, and which were regarded as auspicious, crept into Hindu ritual.”
(page 300, A History of India, Volume One. Romila Thapar.)

Upon deconstruction, what it merely suggests is that Moghul rule created more problems for the upper caste Hindu feudalists than the working peasants. The assimilation was seen more among Muslims and the working poor of India, than between Muslims and the upper caste people.

Now I will quote from Orissamatters, authored by SCP, who is an eminent journalist of Orissa:

“Kalhan’s classic work ‘Rajtarangini’ describes how the Brahmins conspired against Queen Dida as she was not patronizing to Brahminism and after her death, beheaded from behind Sri Tunga, the most powerful protector of the liberal policies of the Late Queen.
So ruthlessly the Brahmins known as Kashmir Pundits imposed their caste supremacy that the people exploited under caste apartheid jumped into Islam which was not vitiated by caste system. They not only became Muslims en masse, but also they became so with so much revengeful resolution that they drove away the Pundits from the soil.
The entire land mass that has now become Pakistan and Bangladesh was the dwelling place of Indians where our ancient people had established their own civilization. It is the Brahmins’ supremacist mentality that has helped Islam to spread in India.
So whosoever has embraced the Muslim religion in this Sub-Continent is an Indian who has revolted against Brahminism, against Brahminic caste apartheid.”

Eminent historian Irfan Habib says that Moghul rulers had even appointed Brahmins as administrators owing to their upper caste/class/knowledge backgrounds. And even in such positions, the Brahmins under the Moghul rule, did not amend their behavior. As an example, we shall take the case of ‘Satnamis’, a sect founded in 1657 by a native of Narnaul, who proclaimed himself to be of the tradition of the great monotheist Kabir, the weaver. They were opposed tooth and nail by the banyas and Brahmin caste people, since Satnamis (worshipper of the True Name or God) comprised people from sections such as sweepers, carpenters and tanners. “It was obviously owing to this contamination from contact with the untouchables that the sect became particularly hateful in the eyes of the orthodox,” says Habib. (Essays in Indian History, Tulika, New Delhi, 1995).
Isardas Mehta in “Futuhat-i ‘Alamgiri” quotes a loyal Hindu official of the Mughal government describing Satnamis as:

“That community, because of its extreme dirtiness, is rendered foul, filthy and impure. Thus in their religion they do not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. They eat porks and other disgusting things. If a dog has eaten from their bowl, they do not abstain from eating from it or show any revulsion.”

Thus, even during the Mughal period, the Hindu supremacists continued to hold sway, even in the face of definitive secular reigns by Akbar and Aurangzeb. Unfortunately, they continue to do so even to this date–to the extent that the stories of forced labor were exaggerated by the Hindu revisionists, without a mention of exploitation of workers to build temples. More than the Hindu kings, it was the Moghul rulers who played their part in promoting economic parity. Indeed Sir Walter Lawrence’s works show how in Moghul periods, women were given six annas a day for independent sustenance. And in projects involving large-scale labor, the main gates were written with inscriptions such as these:
“Na kardeh hech kas beggar anja
Tamame yaftand az makhzanash zar”.

(No one, it proclaims proudly, was shanghaied into beggar, or forced labor, for this imperial project; each worker was paid fully for his her labor.”)

This blog cannot go on in the direction of glorifying the Moghul rulers. Indeed far from it, this stands to condemn any of the rules by the kings and emperors, since none of them established peoples’ democracy. Also because of the stages of development those days, such dreams were quite distant. But in view of the current attack on Islam and an ignorant dismissal of it as a religion inherently violent, oppressive or backward, I thought it would serve well to do a small analysis of the situation using a critical historiography.

In Conclusion:
The day of patriotic exhibition of India has passed us by. We can rejoice at its passage. To begin with 2006 is not the centenary of Vande Mataram. It was used this way solely for sensational purpose. In addition, even singing of National Anthem Jana Gana Mana is not compulsory and should not be. Hence Vande Mataram controversy was furthered solely for the political purpose. Lastly, Islam is unlike Hinduism. Just the way Hindu preachers know that Hinduism is an organically developed national religion that has always stayed inside India due to its exclusionary philosophy that forbids people from joining it (just like Puri Pandas are absolutely right in not allowing non-Hindus to enter Jagannath Temple since they know Hinduism quite well to be discriminatory), Muslims know it well that Islam is a global religion that is based upon spreading the word of the last Messenger of Allah, and hence it does not recognize a nation-state to be paramount. So certain religious people condemning certain other religious people because they think their base of religion is valid while other bases of other religions are not, amounts to mere assertion of misconception.

And the way the right wing brigade took advantage of death of Pramod Mahajan and statue of Bal Thackrey’s wife to cause unrest in the country, they are now trying to take advantage of a song-recital drama. News reports say that their Vande Mataram demonstrations are causing violence in muslim areas where the hindu fanatics are having a free hand in harassing the minorities in India. And this is simply intolerable and unacceptable, and every patriotic Indian must rise up against the narrow minded ignorant bigots of the rightist parties and stop them from further claiming that they represent us in any manner whatsoever. Its time for them to either gain newer knowledge and get rid of their professed idiocy, or prepare to face the wrath of the oppressed in coming times when the people of India will no more merely vote them out of power like a dying party of losers, but also wipe them off the public platforms where they stage hypocritical melodramas.

Lage Raho Munna Bhai: The Mahatma Strikes Back!

Well, some news is actually good!

Like the news that Munna Bhai is back with his friend Circuit to the silver screen! In an unflinching tribute to his beloved late father Sunil Dutt, who is much missed in this brilliant sequel, Sanjay Dutt has made more than acting come alive. Writer-Director Raju Hirani has once again excelled in popularizing the conventionally absurd, eulogizing the most susceptible, and sketching raw feelings with innate deftness of a master filmmaker.

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None of the Mumbai films released this year made much sense this year, with the sole exception of Madhur Bhandarkar’s Corporate, which dealt with feminism’s oppositional intersection with capitalism in a profoundly relevant manner. And in fact, all the rest of the flicks this year, were disastrous experience for someone who has grown up admiring Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt when it comes to Hindi film industry. In fact, the much touted movies like Kunaal Kohli’s Fanaa, and Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna were so pathetic that they deserve entry into the Bollywood Hall of Shame.

Before rushing to ImaginAsian theater, I had a sneak review of Lage Raho Munna Bhai, which did not say much (actually Jason Buchanan got the film’s plot wrong).

Moreover, the film really caught me off guard with introduction of Mahatma Gandhi, considering that with the exception of Kamal Hassan’s Hey Ram (2000), none of the recent movies have treated the Mahatma in a worthy light. In fact, the current crops of Hindi film industry directors have developed some sort of an obsession with making films ridiculing Gandhi and his ideals. So when Munna Bhai got Gandhi as his conscience keeper, it was alarming in the beginning. Indeed, in a scene, Munna came to practice “Gandhi-giri”, and rather displayed some of his own brand of “Dadagiri” to get things done. But as the movie proceeded, there were more complex crossroads between theory and practice that easily left anyone with a deep impression for appreciation.

Just like its predecessor, Munna Bhai MBBS, which radically destroyed the halo around the unholy medicos, this film while actually glorifying the academia, also does its bit to sensitize the fact that no knowledge is good, if it’s not shared. In a bitter way, it denounces the academic elitism of the ivory towers, and the gross arrogance characteristics of the ‘educated’ class, which apathetically witnesses powerful Godmen get away with superstitious spells, and takes active part in promoting such belief structures. It goes even to an extent of patronizing the Marxist analysis of history which is based on mass, not iconic struggles. When an elite history professor flaunts his knowledge on Gandhi, Circuit offers him a slice of his knowledge: history of the misguided youths.

Skillfully done, even the most ardent Gandhian would derive immense pleasure from the absolutely riveting portrayal of the Mahatma. On the flip, devoid of the Kamal Hassan sophistication in filming the Gandhian methods, Lage Raho Munna Bhai may have ended up simplifying Gandhi albeit a bit too much. But looking from the perspective of someone who equates October 2 with a ‘dry day’, the lessons from history is very well learnt with the vulnerabilities and humility intact.

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Sunil Dutt legacy:

Lage Raho Munna Bhai has unforgettable moments of Sanjay becoming a radio personality first, to woo his love, then to spread Gandhian messages, and finally to win back his love. One can only recall that Sunil Dutt indeed began his career as a famous radio personality on Radio Ceylon hosting an extremely popular “Lipton Ki Mehfil” in early 1950’s.

Beyond the obvious, Sunil Dutt would have continued to be proud of his son Sanjay, who has been in the past variously accused in aiding of terrorism cases. Like a statesman of high caliber and integrity that his father was while contesting polls from Mumbai, Sanjay Dutt has always silenced his apprehensive critics through his commitment to social justice instead. Sanjay’s unwavering allegiance to his father’s legacy can be traced in movies of his later career. A little known film “Tathastu” made this year starring Sanjay Dutt also reflects the father-son relationship at most beautiful junctions.

Sunil Dutt and his wife Nargis (Fatima Rashid) were widely known as brilliant leading stars for some of the finest Hindi cinemas of yesteryears. But the part that they have most inspired Sanjay with were their commitment to peoples’ causes. Nargis whose progressive works were well known was nominated to Rajya Sabha by Indira Gandhi herself. And Sunil Dutt, through his commitment to carry on the tasks that Nargis had left behind, joined politics in later part of his career. Contesting from Congress ticket would not have come easy for someone in Mumbai, the stronghold of right-wing Hindu fanatic bosses who continue to have a hold over film industry operatives. And yet, Dutt through sheer dedication in his various involvements at grassroots levels, won from his constituency for five terms and passed away while being at office. Not as a successful politician, rather as a conscientious objector and a secular progressive activist, Sunil Dutt liked to live his life.

Whereas right-wing hawkish Indian political leadership celebrated India’s nuclear state status, it should be remembered that Sunil Dutt went from Nagasaki to Hiroshima in order to condemn nuclear weapons. During Punjab crisis, despite anti-Congress wave, he walked 2000 km with his daughter and others from Mumbai to Amritsar in order to plead for peace. At a time when the country was enamored with being declared a superpower (a kind of ‘dadagiri’ if you may) in the making, Dutt traveled through the entire South Asian region in a peace expedition called “Hands Across the Borders”. More importantly, when Babri Masjid was demolished by the Hindu brigade in 1993, Sunil Dutt resigned from his seat as a Member of Parliament, in an exemplary gesture against the communal politicians. Such was the legacy of Sunil Dutt who led his entire political life fighting the communal elements spreading hate and religious intolerance. A peacenik, secularist, progressive politician, and a relentless campaigner in care for cancer and HIV/AIDS affected.

A lesson worth reliving:
Amidst the much mushroomed Bollywood movie scene that proclaims individualistic love, worse, individualistic infidelities, (of the Karan Johar and Mahesh Bhatt variety), misplaced history lessons of free market youths (like Rang De Basanti, hastily made films about Bhagat Singh), of inundated Diasporic cinema of regressive value (Deepa Mehta range of Fire and Water), of sheer reactionary brand of patriotism (Fanaa, Sarfarosh, Border etc), one has to pause awhile and watch Lage Raho Munna Bhai for whatever it has to offer. Its not just principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha that rejuvenates the undoubtedly best film of this year, but also the fact that anyone in the world can be a Mahatma, and indeed many already are Mahatmas through their committed lives for the sake of others. These Mahatmas are ordinary people like Munna and Circuit who even reform themselves to incorporate Gandhi’s talisman which behooves on us to take steps for the poorest of the poor and to behave appropriately to bring happiness in lives of people we otherwise consider ‘lower’ than us.

For a generation of Indians who take fancy in opposing reservation policies for the oppressed class of people, for those youths who take great pride in their ‘superior’ religions and ‘higher’ castes; for those youths who take pride in their ‘high culture’ sophistication in pursuing ‘cleaner’ high society life, those who gloat in their higher ‘merit’ academic lifestyles, and for those arrogant and innocent and cool and the chic, Lage Raho Munna Bhai will probably provide the greatest lesson of life. This film is the quintessence of the Marx and the Mahatma.

A must-see. A must-felt movie.

Vande Mataram as a Hindu Hymn

There is no reason why Vande Mataram, the Indian national song, should be in controversy any longer. This song should be now scrapped and deleted from its current status.

Ever since India’s ‘independence’, this song has created controversies, and for obvious reasons. However, just as the ‘secular’ leadership of India had tried to suppress the skeletons in its cupboard, the opportunistic media had also vociferously supported the need for the song to go on in its truncated form.

And India, mostly kept ignorant about the damaging consequences of having such a song was lulled into believing that everything was well so long as we could come to a consensus. For the consensus, however the four power estates of Indian democracy utilized a) the voices of Hindu seculars approving the song’s first two paragraphs, b) the voices of Muslim seculars approving the same paragraphs, c) the voices of Hindu fanatics demanding the whole song to be made compulsory, and d) the confusion of the vast majority of Indians who had no clue whatsoever of any possibility of controversy over a ‘patriotic’ song. But the structure deliberately left out a segment of public which had from the beginning staged protest against the song.

Since the mainstream premise of such a song begins with unquestioned patriotism, anyone who opposes an element within that realm is at once accused of being anti-national. Hence, the remaining group of people, the fifth group which fervently opposed the song everytime, unfortunately most of the time comprised radical Muslims, were denounced to the extent of being silenced by the media.

Bankim Chandra as a Patriot: The lies my teacher told me

In matters of social concerns, half-truths are synonymous with blatant lies. This is so, because half-truths promote biases, prejudices and stereotypes. The text books that most of us studied during our school days were full of the half-truths. This is nothing surprising or exceptional, though. Every government under a popular democracy has to resort to lies in order to sustain its power base. Hence the dominant Congress with its pseudo-Gandhian philosophy also worked towards integrating its lies by to projecting a reconciled difference and reaching a “consensus”.

There is nothing wrong in reaching a consensus, but in this attempt, the critical voices should not be silenced systematically either. And in this case, Vande Mataram should not have been allowed to triumph in a land that should have had it banned subsequent to pursuance of its ideals of secularism. Rajendra Prasad whose fanaticism with Hindutva is well known, of course wanted the song to be given equal status with national anthem. This was unfortunate, although not entirely unexpected of him, considering that the rabid religious elements still wanted to declare India as a Hindu Rashtra. But the condescending statesmen of the time also acquiesced to the demand, albeit in the truncated form.

The future generations of India were not to be told of the lies and deception that went behind projecting Vande Mataram as a national song. As a result, today most people do not even think twice before patronizing the song. Even the ardent Hindu fanatics forgave a Muslim composer making tunes and money off the obsession.

The colonial crisis?

The demands by the rightist brigade to make the song compulsory in educational institution has raised eyebrows. In this case, again, the criticism has mostly come from religious minorities, even at the expense of being categorized as anti-national. We all know it too well how the Hindu fanatics are running to any extent to blame the Muslims of India as instigators of terrorism instead of looking within for managing a society based on complete anarchy and making living off the institutional ignorance. And now, the Hindu supremacists, whose ideological forefathers were infamously hands in gloves with the imperialists (and which is why they were banned from contesting polls in secular India) have picked up sensitive threads of patriotism.

In the classic case of ignorance, the mainstream media propaganda, clearly overlooks certain facts that people of India have right to know and act upon. Here they are in a nutshell:

1. Anti-Muslim: Bankim Chattarjee, the man who wrote this song Vande Mataram was a rabid Hindu fundamentalist whose goal was not emancipation of India from the clutches of the colonialists, rather to establish a Hindu Rashtra by any means. His stress on Islam corruption of India is not only devoid of the highly secular past of India during the Moghul rule, but also smacks of religious chauvinism targeted against Muslim freedom fighters of the colonial period.

Historian R.C. Majumdar writes, “Bankimchandra converted patriotism into religion and religion into patriotism”. In fact Anand Math, the work from which Vande Mataram is derived, is a text of Hindu nationalism, and not Indian nationalism. The work is selectively targeted against Muslims all over the texts. Anand Math is a Hindu temple where there are scenes of Jivananda calling Muslims names: “We have often thought to break up this bird’s nest of Muslim rule, to pull down the city of the renegades and throw it into the river – to turn this pig-sty to ashes and make Mother earth free from evil again. Friends, that day has come.”

A G Noorani (Frontline, January 2-15, 1999) quotes M.R.A. Baig’s analysis of the novel in which the song finds exclusive place:

“Written as a story set in the period of the dissolution of the Moghul Empire, the hero of the novel, Bhavananda, is planning an armed rising against the Muslims of Bengal. While busy recruiting, he meets Mahendra and sings the song ‘Bande Mataram’ or ‘Hail Mother’. The latter asks him the meaning of the words and Bhavananda, making a spirited answer, concludes with: ‘Our religion is gone, our caste is gone, our honour is gone. Can the Hindus preserve their Hinduism unless these drunken Nereys (a term of contempt for Muslims) are driven away?’… Mahendra, however, not convinced, expresses reluctance to join the rebellion. He is, therefore, taken to the temple of Ananda Math and shown a huge image of four-armed Vishnu, with two decapitated and bloody heads in front, “Do you know who she is?” asks the priest in charge, pointing to an image on the lap of Vishnu, “She is the Mother. We are her children Say ‘Bande Mataram'” He is taken to the image of Kali and then to that of Durga. On each occasion he is asked to recite ‘Bande Mataram’. In another scene in the novel some people shouted ‘kill, kill the Nereys’. Others shouted ‘Bande Mataram’ ‘Will the day come when we shall break mosques and build temples on their sites?””

2. Pro-British: If there ever was a piece of Indian literature that was most pronouncedly pro-colonialists, then it was Anand Math. Interestingly, and naturally enough, the right wing political parties have picked up their ideal role model in Chatterjee since their ideologues were themselves allies of the British rulers in India. Anand Math is replete with anti-Muslim slogans, no doubt. But it also celebrates the British rule in India. It in fact goes to the extent of saying that British were friends of India, and it was only the Muslim people against whom the Hindus should fight against.

In the last chapter of the work, the author speaks through the supreme character: “Your task is accomplished. The Muslim power is destroyed. There is nothing else for you to do.
Your vow is fulfilled. You have brought fortune to your Mother. You have set up a British government. Give up your fighting. Let the people take to their ploughs. Let the earth be rich with harvest and the people rich with wealth.
There are no foes now. The English are our friends as well as rulers.”

This is the context of the song that goes on to celebrate Hindu religious deities entirely and exclusively.

Baahute tumi maa shakti
hR^idaye tumi maa bhakti
tomaara i pratimaa gaDi
mandire mandire
TvaM hi Durgaa dashapraharaNadhaariNii
kamalaa kamaladala vihaariNii
vaaNii vidyaadaayinii namaami tvaaM

Its target is the Muslim people of India and their tradition which has been blatantly misrepresented in the work. And its ally in the vicious hatred campaign is the British rule in India. The mothers in Bande Mataram are the Hindu goddesses and there is no reason why people of other religions should be forced to sing their praises. Just because certain Bengal revolutionaries used this slogan and popularized it, and some more Bengali intellectuals upheld Bankim Chatterjee as an iconic litterateur, it does not mean the great peoples of India will forget the rich multi-cultural tradition that has been in existence in the country since centuries now and in the name of Hindu chauvinism, people should not be misled any further to denounce Moghul rule and celebrate British Raj.

Knowingly or unknowingly, people have believed in the mainstream history of India from almost a harmless angle. They believe that Gandhi was the ‘father of the nation’, that Congress was the party that gave freedom to India, they believe that Hindus contribute the most to the country’s cultural landscape, and they celebrate Saraswati and Sivaji. People are apparently content with the reservation policies working against the Dalits, with nominal celebrations of Islam culture, with not paying reparation to the tribal peoples for having snatched their dear lands.

Even as these acceptances come as mediocre consensus of some form to carry on with a liberal democracy, these have been still in a Gandhian tradition of positive compromises. Our objections should not be towards the social fiber of Indian constitution which is secular, democratic and socialist in its spirit. But if anyone tries to enforce their religious ideals down the future generations of the country, one and all of us must stand in solidarity to oppose the vicious steps. Once and for all, it must be declared that India is not a Hindu country and no Hindu glorifications can take place at an official level, not even if some right wing fanatics come to power once in a while.

We have had many a dramatic stands of consensus in the past. Indeed, this has been the policy of Indian ‘nation’ since its very birth. Although the country is composed of different nation-states, we declared a consensus that we were almost one nation. Although India had distinctly different language groups we declared Hindi as the adopted core. Despite numerous tribal and distinctly exclusive peoples historically inhabiting the country, we agreed that it was a country of the Aryas.

Need to oppose the reactionaries:

But what’s missing from the discourse is not the sense of agreement, but the sense of disagreement. We never studied anything where the genuine disagreements were brought forth for healthy dialogues. We agreed India was the most ancient civilization, that Paravati and Laxmi were goddesses, that Hindus needed more festivities than any other religious groups, that New Delhi needed to be the capital city and Vande Mataram was the national song.

The problem is not in the ultimate acceptance of something as official policy. This is needed for sound governance. The issue at stake is the manner in which the officiating agencies of India never propose the need for the measures that would seriously dwell upon critical issues at stake. Everywhere, regional and national chauvinistic forces are at work in India. The conservatives are creating vandalisms all over with their openly racist and primitively backward views, starting from setting up Saraswati Vidya Mandirs which goes unchallenged even though separation of education from religion should be the spirit of secularism, to install statues in parochial terms. They go on to disrupt Valentines Days, link Muslim cricketers and filmstars with underworld, even as they have formed the most pernicious underworld themselves, only operating wide open in the corridors of political power. They go on to revise history to celebrate Shivaji and claim a Gujarat civilization named after a Hindu goddess. And as their wont, they go on to celebrate their fellow hindu fanatic, one Nathuram Gadse, the killer of Gandhi by revising text books to omit the assassination incident.

We have been taking all these lying down even as the rightist brigade, safely harbored by the domestic business houses of India continues to celebrate the absurd. And now they want the rest of the country to celebrate these sectarian crimes as well, and hence there is a need for the rest of us to resist and desist the temptation to fall into the opium trap. The trap works variously. At times, the enlightened people just assume that its alright if things are this way or that way. Thats the Hindu privilege some people enjoy since their feelings do not get hurt, as long as the hymn remains as the national song.

And if the secular Hindus and religious Muslims of India have not denounced the song in such a serious manner to seek its withdrawal as India’s national song, it speaks of their great tradition of tolerance to Hindu bigotry. This should not be misconstrued as an organic weakness and allowed to be taken advantage of any further.

Vidarbha Farmers: Genocide, not Suicide.

I am unsure if Shakespeare had such premonitions engulfing his worst tragedies, but the Hindu superpower India with its proud “economic growth rates” has been forcing me to wonder if we are missing the coming signs of the times. The tell-tales are here, the hints of misfortune are looming large, the sustained oppression by the Indian state on its peoples with “foreign aids” is rampant. And yet somewhere since last couple of years a major chunk of world’s geographical region is dancing away at a maddening pace, drinking the drink of its blood and dancing the dance of its death.

The world’s largest democracy is also the biggest booming free market economy. With exception to no other land today, the enthusiasm of the urban youths of India has emerged pure, and unbridled. The mass popular culture of subservient bollywood films, inferior diaspora literatures and profit hungry mainstream media have a projection of jubilance, of multifarious vibrancy in social lives that’s almost instantaneously appealing. In no contrast, the elite high class societal circles are doing their Manhunts, race courses and business parties, relatively different in degrees since they were upto the social mischiefs even decades before the educated mass had its date with ‘freedom’.

Far too often this comfortable dichotomy of mass/class paradigm finds entry into the social consciousness. Whether the cart drives the horse or the horse does it becomes a redundant issue so long as the movements occur for both. In economics, its called a trickling down effect of the riches of the rich which the rest have a privilege to enjoy depending on which ladder of the hierarchy are they located at the time of the rain.

What’s super ironic at such junctures of “progress” in any society based on the premise of those who define the progress is that the ladder is usually placed upon a pedestal to begin with. That is, the hierarchy of profiteers does not begin with the ground, but with the elevated first step that misses the dirt and the wretched entirely before the stepping up can take place.

These dirt of India, entirely absent from global long-term memory are the peasants of the country who hold the ground, but who do not feel the trickles falling on them. Remember how during the natural disasters, helicopters throw relief goods targeted at some places which are usually devoid of women and children. And even when the women and children are present, somehow they don’t succeed at running for the food packets because they are busy holding the grounds under thatched roof, doubly oppressed by the central governments and their oppressive patriarchal custodians. Case against the peasants is almost similar. In a predominantly agrarian economy like India, ever since its “independence”, the ruling class has acted like patriarchs while overstepping and conveniently ignoring them on its way to new heights of power.

Not that, anything else was expected of the ruling elites class characters. Systematically suppressing every peasant rebellion in India during the British rule, the rulers (kings, british, and Indian elites) promised non-violent glories in place of revolutionary emancipation. Although the different strands of national struggle for liberation against the colonialists needed to find support among the larger revolutionary masses, the people were half sensitized about the nature of the national struggles engaged in by a faction of elites who surely fought the foreign power, but also because they wanted to hold onto their own.

Five year plans in India were formerly known to be based on a socialistic desire to industrialize the country soon after the British were shown the door. But instead, the plans with every phase systematically were fine-tuned to improve the lot of the secondary and tertiary sectors at the cost of the primary. This suited the class characters of the ruling elites of course, but what’s more distressing is that it was accepted almost unequivocally as a “progress” for the country which housed more than 80% peasants, that constituted as much percentage of below poverty line populace for the whole country.

Agrarian Crisis Continues:

Agrarian crisis in India are nothing new. Indeed, without any effort to bring the peasantry back to cultural fold, the homegrown capitalists of India have only heightened the crisis with every passing phase. As a result, what we have today is indiscriminate murders of peasants of India. Forcing them to lead lives without a sense of human dignity or basic standards of life, they have been forced to take extreme steps. While some have invariably joined the naxal movements to raise up arms against the Indian state, many are killed by the state power structure.

The media, the maneuvered toy of the Indian capitalists plays the corporate tune at such mass genocide committed by Indian state. More than 800 peasants have been killed in this kharif season alone. The Indian media not only portray these heroic submission to state atrocities as “suicides”, it also pities the deaths. The world must remember that the peasants who are dying every day in India are not committing “suicides”. Indeed, suicides are reactionary steps taken voluntarily by people weak by their willpower. Indian peasants have been among the most brave lot of all peoples of the world when one considers the British oppressions and Indian government atrocities upon them. Despite that, the peasants have carried on with unmatched courage to face the “man-made” disasters perpetrated upon them by the ruling class. If now there have been deaths subsequent to this, just as there are everytime following artificial famines, its not because of their inability to pay off debts, its because of the state power machine inflicting deadly repressive measures against them in particular.

Suicide Pathology of the Elites:

Indian intelligentsia, pathetically devoid of critical reflections have been allowing the corporate media to thrive on assumptions about the citizens. Firstly, there have been no suicides in Vidarbha. Suicides are caused by people themselves. These deaths of peasants are state-aided murders.

Ramu Bhagwat’s report in an unforgivable mistake of Indian fourth estate called, The Times of India, is headlined “3 farmers kill selves; toll 200 in 2 months”. Even after an effete shame of a prime minister by the name of Manmohan Singh visited Dhamangaon village with empty rhetoric which made him famous at Oxford last year, these farmers died because they were unable to repay Rs 13,000 to State Bank of India. That’s how much for two farmers lives? Remember its less than $300. Or in Indian urban class value today, less than half of what a first IT job gets a teenager in a month.

The government of India gleefully enjoying its power trip has not resigned following hundreds of murders it commits on its poor by forcing them to death, because it clearly has no morality. Its opposition, the absolutely brazen right wing coalitions, who at the first place assisted their private business funders to cause price hikes is also unabashed in its hypocrisy. But the worse, the Indian media and the watchdogs of so-called democracy are continually harping on their masters’ tunes by calling deaths as suicides, as though it were the fault of the farmers, and lulling the rest of India into web of ignorance.

That, people have expressed disgust at Manmohan Singh’s promises which has not even helped them to gather little money to sow seeds after saplings were washed away by rain, has been completely lost on the mainstream perception. That if one contextualizes the background of peasant crisis in India, one will realize that this is no sudden aberration on part of teeming millions of peasants but a continuation of systematic exploitation unleashed upon them specifically during the days of the British and during anti-people regimes of Indian state which decidedly started favoring private industries at cost of public cooperatives. And most importantly, that the Indian journalists and researchers are not entirely ignorant of the agrarian crisis and the stoic silence around the issue which is a great socio-political crisis of neo-liberal India.

Despite the social significance of the struggle of the peasants against the Indian state, the self-professed enlightened young and old analysts have decided to treat the deaths as some personal deviance. Indeed, since suicide is a cognizable offence under the law, perhaps the peasants have been declared as criminals by the media experts.

Pathetic pity of indifferent experts:

Take a look at NDTV. Just like Times of India, this mainstream grapevine has a report by Supriya Sharma who proposes that the “suicide epidemic of this scale should be seen and treated as a crisis of mental health”. Indeed she goes on to interview a psychiatrist to trace the etiology. Whereas psychiatry is not such a despicable path to solutions, after all, that the media have a habit of finding problems elsewhere than where it is most obvious is something worth reflecting over. Dr Patil, the subject of Sharma’s study says of a farmer “patient”: “He lost his crop due to the rains. Last year he lost his crop because there were no rains. So for the last 2-3 years he consecutively lost money. So he got depressed.”

She goes on to report:

“When a farmer is in distress, if we could call doctors from Akola or a government official, he feels someone is there to listen to him. And if no one listens, he may feel ignored and contemplate suicide,” said a local.

All the cases are a grim encounter that reinforces the fact that the sprt in suicide cases in the region should be seen and treated as a crisis of mental health.

Journalists like Sharma are no simplicists, indeed no reductionists either. They are even literate to the point that they find a need to complicate the situation further to understand it better, in a perfectly academic fashion. But what happens in the process is that their limitations guide their intuition than their grounding in social history of the people they survey. As a result, the superficial flourishes, the blame-game continues at the most trivial manner and the headlines surge them to promotions since they systematically let the system go do its own brutalization even as people are “treated” for mental illnesses.

Oppressors’ aids for the brutalized people:

I will not delve into the other pathetic media stances where the need for peasant revolution for today’s India has been dismissed abjectly to the extent that there is no such mention to begin with. The kinds of questions that are being raised are only sufficiently complimenting the kinds of answers the corporate nation of India today seeks. For example, the conscientious journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai through their media request donations to help farmers by using heart-rending pictures. Tax-exemptions for the rich are obviously on the offing. Sardesai and his likes receive huge accolades for their so-called social concern, to “help the needy”. And the guilt-free doners go back to business of furthering their oppressions.

The cyclic amnesia of the Indian elites while it comes to dealing with their own crimes, (which they translate as peasant suicides) is beyond mere reproach. These are punishable offences that the elites must be taken to task for. Equitable distribution of wealth is not a role of some politicians sitting high on an elected platform. This takes place only through organized revolution by the oppressed classes against the feudal lords of India (who by mistake presume they are some advanced capitalist class, even as they continue to practice the most extreme form of casteism,—Karan Thapar was pronouncedly against the Dalits when it came to reservation issue, for example—sexism,–corporate houses washed their hands off for the murder of HP female employee at the dead of the night, and class society—the division between the rich and the poor has never been so widely marked ever before in the history of India—some people talking of donation of crores of rupees, and most other sell their children for paltry sums on astonishingly regular rate as in states like Orissa.

What we need at the moment is to organize the farmers to demand not aid, but reparation. The peasants of India in the past have upstaged the royal families, they have forced the colonialists out through mass uprisings, and now they need to get rid of the new feudal class of India, the class of oppressors who have been systematically making way for capitalism in India, to make gains for their own class interests, and detrimentally working against the farmers who have been rendered without food, housing and education, far too much, far too long. The feudal ruling elites of India did not demand reparations from the British and facilitated their comfortable exits so that they would continue from where their masters had left. But the peasants and farmers and working class of India must gather up all their might to ensure reparation for the exploitation they have been unleashed upon. And nothing less than an organized revolution by the most oppressed will replace the course of history.

Do not call their sacrifices suicides as yet. They are the martyrs of a feudal India in protest against the elitist rule in their name carried on by confessed agents of imperialism. And these ruling class of liberal politicians, conservative religious cults, their police, military, nuclear regime, and media stooges will be forced to tremble.

Watch out for the wrath of the wretched!