SACW 13 Jan. 2011 | Religions are anti women / Sri Lanka's Left, the State / India: Remember Kannabiran ; Shiv Sena thugs; Artists in Solidarity with Dr Binayak Sen
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Wed Jan 12 22:23:55 EST 2011
South Asia Citizens Wire - Dispatch No. 2696 - January 13, 2011
 The Female Factor: In Realm of Religion, Women Lose Out (Nilanjana S. Roy)
 Sri Lanka’s Left, the State and the Present as History (Kumar David)
 Dangerous Mission - India's growth rate cannot be made a national objective (Prabhat Patnaik)
 India: Kannabiran - Doyen of the civil liberties movement (Sudhir Krishnaswamy)
 India: Shiv Sena’s brazen act - Dictating team selection on parochial lines (editorial,
 Food For Thought:
(i) Revolution Highway - a novel by Dilip Simeon
(ii) Book Review - Why Salman Rushdie's book was burned (Maureen Freely)
(iii) Europe sex ed an 'attack' on religious freedom: pope
(iv) USA: Is Lockheed Martin Shadowing You? How a Giant Weapons Maker Became the New Big Brother (William Hartung)
(i) Artists In Solidarity With Dr Binayak Sen - Cultural protest (New Delhi, 15 January 2011)
(ii) Exhibit: 'Against All Odds: A Contemporary Response to the Historiography of Archiving Collecting and Museums In India' (New Delhi 13 - 27 January 2011)
The New York Times, January 11, 2011
THE FEMALE FACTOR: IN REALM OF RELIGION, WOMEN LOSE OUT
By Nilanjana S. Roy
NEW DELHI — In the week before a prominent Pakistani politician was assassinated for questioning the country’s blasphemy laws, a news report from Erbil in northern Iraq underlined how laws of this nature can be used against women.
Thirteen Iraqi Kurdish women’s rights activists were accused by a prominent Muslim cleric of “blasphemy and demoralizing Kurdish society,” because of their work in promoting gender equality.
The women have filed a police case and reportedly fear for their lives. An accusation of blasphemy is not to be taken lightly, as Aasia Bibi knows.
For the past year, the name of this Christian woman, a laborer and mother of five children, has become synonymous with Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. In June 2008, Ms. Bibi had an altercation with other female laborers, all of them Muslim. The exchange began after Ms. Bibi fetched water, and some of the women refused to drink it because she was Christian. This led to heated talk on the subject of Christianity and Islam.
The exact words that led to Ms. Bibi’s prosecution under sections 295-B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code have not been disclosed. Since this was an accusation of blasphemy, to repeat the words would be to perpetuate blasphemy. But they were apparently enough to make her the first woman to be sentenced to death under this law.
Ms. Bibi is still in prison. Early last year, newspapers and human rights advocates said that she had been paraded in the streets and gang-raped in Nankana Sahib, a district in Punjab Province.
Last week, the blasphemy laws claimed a prominent victim. The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. Mr. Taseer’s assassin was showered with rose petals by crowds who approved of his act. Mr. Taseer had drawn much criticism in Pakistan for his defense of Ms. Bibi and his demand for changes to the blasphemy law.
At prayers last Friday, witnesses were quoted in newspapers as saying that the imam of the Sultan Masjid mosque in Karachi denounced another outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, Sherry Rehman, a journalist and former minister of information and broadcasting, who has also called for revisions to the blasphemy law. According to the reports, the imam called Ms. Rehman a “kaafir” — an infidel — and “wajib-ul-qatl” — fit to be killed — in the course of his sermon.
The Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie notes blasphemy is considered unacceptable regardless of the gender of the accused. But the prohibition is part of a larger web of laws and practices that have served to restrict women’s rights.
“It was only a very few years ago that the Hudood Ordinance — among the most misogynistic laws ever made — were de-fanged, though it was impossible to overturn them because the right threw up such a stink,” she wrote in an e-mail, referring to the 1979 statute in Pakistan intended to reinforce Shariah law that led to many women who brought accusations of rape being prosecuted for extramarital sex. The 2006 Women’s Protection Bill transferred rape to the civil code. “A rise in power of the religious right invariably sees a decline in women’s rights.”
“What has become very clear these last few days,” she added, “is that if anyone invokes ‘Islam’ as reason for any action there are very few people willing to argue the point — even those who disagree are often silenced through fear. This is more true than ever in the aftermath of the Taseer assassination (or rather, the lionizing of his assassin). So those who invoke Islamic law as reason to keep women oppressed will be further emboldened.”
For Asian women, the consequences of questioning or speaking out against faith can be particularly sharp. In the early 1990s, the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen’s novel “Lajja” was banned, and she was forced into exile for her apparently blasphemous call for revisions to the Koran. Women’s rights groups in Bangladesh noted that the attacks on Ms. Nasreen by Islamic fundamentalists happened against a backdrop of rising intolerance and an increase in honor crimes against women, including the caning and stoning of women who were seen to have transgressed Shariah law.
In Britain, performances of “Behzti,” a play by Gurpreet Bhatti set in a gudwara, or Sikh temple, that explored sexual violence within the British Sikh community were shut down shortly after its opening in 2004. The play was not performed until 2010, six years after Ms. Bhatti had received abduction and death threats from other Sikhs.
“Religion is assumed to be the domain of men, and women do not have much role in it,” the Indian feminist writer and publisher Urvashi Butalia said in an interview.
“But women generally do not have the right to question religion — this is something men hold on to tightly, and it’s not only in Islam. Look at all those so-called honor killings in India — all of them under the guise of religious sanction and tradition.”
This is the context against which Aasia Bibi’s case should be understood.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been used to persecute ethnic and religious minorities and to shut down free speech in general. But, as Ms. Butalia noted, there is a difference even here for women like Ms. Bibi and now Ms. Rehman.
“While the threat of death or excommunication hangs over all of those who dare to question religion, men or women, as in Taslima’s case, or Aasia’s case, or indeed Rushdie’s case,” she said, referring to the British writer Salman Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” drew death threats, “for women there is also the additional threat of sexual violence, and, while they remain alive, sexual stigma and targeting.”
“If Aasia was let off, she would have to live all her life with the tag of ‘bad’ or ‘blasphemous’ woman,” she said. “The threat of rape — the traditional weapon of humiliation — is very real indeed.”
A version of this article appeared in print on January 12, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune.
 Sri Lanka
groundviews, 13 January 2011
LANKA’S LEFT, THE STATE AND THE PRESENT AS HISTORY
by Kumar David
The notion of the present as history is of course borrowed from Paul Sweezy’s 1953 book by this title which adopts the standpoint of presenting the present as an ongoing process in which the past meets the possibilities pregnant in the future. The timing of an essay using this caption is inspired by the Seventy-fifth anniversary of the LSSP which fell on 18 December 2010. I will lead in to a discussion of the state with a few comments on the LSSP’s relationship to the first of five categories into which Sweezy, elsewhere, partitions the Communist Manifesto – historical materialism, classes and class struggle, the nature of capitalism, socialism, and the road to socialism (The Communist Manifesto after one hundred years; Monthly Review, August 1949). The state is not mentioned here, it is a topic that Marx explored later in the context of the 1851 coup d’état of Napoleon III and the Paris Commune and lies embedded in the theoretical framework implied in Capital I and III.
Historical materialism (“Man’s ideas, views and conceptions change with every change in the conditions of his material existence, his social relations and his social life”) is the concept that forever changed politics, economics, sociology and ideology; it has now seeped into all science. All discourse on society and the relationship between society and nature now bears its imprimatur. Furthermore, though the term systems theory did not emerge till the Twentieth Century – in cybernetics and automatic control, far removed from Marx’s domain – he was its de facto creator. Systems theory is about the interactions within and between complex interacting structures such as, in his case, the economic, political, ideological and military instances of a social whole. Structure, hierarchy, determined and determining, and the relative autonomy of subsystems, such relationships, though obviously not in this terminology, underpin his exploration of events and societies. He sought to think systems and the interaction between complex systems from materialist foundations.
Historical materialist and systemic modes of thought drove the LSSP from its inception to the mid-1970s and anchored its leadership of the working class and trade union movements, inspiration of the middle classes and its grasp of the nature of the state, pre and post colonial. The left’s collapse in recent decades is the practical side of forsaking theoretical perspective. The SLFP-subjugated neo-LSSP, neo-CP and DLF’s desecration of principles is synonymous with abandoning their once avowed raison d’etre, a Marxist perspective. Hence, the gimmicks of the UPFA-Left are different from 1970-75 coalition politics since the latter, even if flawed, was rooted in strategy, the former has lost sight of all intellectual discourse on the state.
The bourgeois democratic state
The capitalist mode of production distinguishes itself from all previous modes by the autonomy of the state, notably its relative autonomy from even the ruling class and the economy. In all previous social forms the state represented the ruling class and economy with considerable directness. In the Asiatic mode of production, the state consisted of the department of taxation and the department of war; there was little distinction between state-emperor-court and the ruling classes, their identity was direct, the extraction of taxes and corvée labour, brutally explicit. The symbiosis of state and ruling class was so manifest that instrumental descriptions of the state are meaningful. In feudal society, the monarch of the realm, the lord of the manor and the bishop are both state and ruler; the class itself was the state. In absolute monarchies the identity even permeated language; Henry V did not converse with Charles VI during breakfast; no England was chatting up France over bacon and eggs! The very person of the monarch embodied the state.
The autonomy of the state from class, crucially even the ruling class and the economy is a distinctive feature of the capitalist mode of production and is most developed in the bourgeois democratic republic, though it is a feature of all capitalist state forms. Though this autonomy is constrained as I will discuss anon, it is not a charade, a counterfeit or an illusion, it is real. The fascist state is so independent of the ruling classes that it physically abuses them. The welfare state is so susceptible to pressure that it can drive a capitalist economy to paroxysms of inflation, deficit and breakdown. Electoral politics in a parliamentary democracy can threaten the hegemony of the ruling classes. Nicos Poulantzas, among others, explored these concepts in Political Power and Social Classes (New Left Review Editions 1968), but couched it in the convoluted argot of the 1960s European Continental new left, that it made reading his book akin to choking on hardwood splinters. Still the core is worth extracting because the tantalising door opened by this autonomy seduces the left all over the world, sometimes reasonably and sometimes not, into populism, class collaborationism and reformism. I will take up this thread in Lanka in a moment.
First, however, some remarks about the limits of relative autonomy. When the democratic state undermines the capitalist economy, crisis arrives. The post-war Labour-led welfare state in the UK was responsive to pressure, which in time built unbearable burdens on the capitalist economy. Eventually, the ruling classes responded with Thatcherism’s big stick rolling back benefits, imposing harsh cuts and abolishing the welfare state. When stagflation and the good life of America’s most celebrated post war decades debilitated American capitalism, Reagan’s neo-liberalism arrived, curbed populist modalities and morphed the state.
In the developing world it was stark; the autonomy of the state was abolished altogether as two examples show. Salvador Allende’s democratic government was snuffed out when in his hands the state become a revolutionary instrument for social change. In Sri Lanka, in 1978, a parliamentary democratic state was jettisoned for authoritarian constitutional Bonapartism to thrust the country into neo-liberal economics and a relationship with global trade and investment markets.
The seductive autonomy of the democratic state
No question about it, the bourgeois democratic state is the most advanced (democratic, flexible, plural, accountable via the separation of powers, and where appropriate regionally devolved) state-form that the world has seen to date. It was not born overnight like Botticelli’s Venus emerging full-formed from the sea, but evolved through immense struggles spread over centuries. Cromwell’s English Revolution of 1648 climaxed forty years on in the constitutional monarchy of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, but it took till 1926 for women’s suffrage to cement democracy in the UK. In France, the land of the Enlightenment and the great 1789 Revolution, women won the vote only in the Fourth Republic of 1945. From American independence in 1783 it was eight decades to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, but in the fullness of time it took another century to secure the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Democracy came to Japan, Germany and India only after WW2; Brazil and South Africa even later – I am choosing great state examples. From the triumph of the capitalist mode of production to the autonomous bourgeois democratic republic has been a long, slow and arduous journey.
It does not surprise me that the state-forms associated with post-capitalist modes of production have been monstrosities, Soviet Stalinism, Eastern Europe, or dictatorships to varying degrees – China, Vietnam and Cuba; but it is still early days. It is unlikely that China or Vietnam will revert to capitalism and it is reasonable to expect, in the long view, that democratic states founded on non-capitalist modes of production and property relations will emerge. This is neither to whitewash authoritarian states nor weaken the battle against them, but one needs to be realistic about the timescale to which the tectonic forces of world history responds.
Since the seductive power of the bourgeois democratic republic lies in its relative autonomy from the ruling classes and capitalist economy, does it open space for the democratic state to be an instrument of social transformation? The goal could be social democracy (Europe), the overturn of property relations (Salvador Allende), reaching for a social order beyond capitalism (Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia) or writing a new constitution (the Communist project in Nepal). There is no a priori answer; it depends case by case, on circumstances and power balances. European social democracy has a chequered balance-sheet; Allende was drowned in blood, but was it foreseeable? The betting season is still open on Chavez, Hugo Morales and Nepal and some outcomes are less certain than others. However, there is no denying the seductive lure of the relative autonomy of the democratic state as an instrument for social change.
Against this background was it a betrayal for the left to enter into a democratic coalition government with Mrs Bandaranaike in 1970? Was the eventual failure to transform the state and the economy foreseeable and chiselled in stone as Bala and Edmund had it even then? Or was it a justified cake-making project that went wrong only in the eating? The hindsight answer doesn’t count; it is what to do then that is a measure of strategic thinking and statesmanship. This is the question that faced the LSSP in its then present as history. Those concerned with strategic political decision making will understand – that rules out political neophytes and the current UPFA-Left.
And another lot, modern-day old-fashioned (this is no oxymoron) Leninist revolutionaries shunning bourgeois democracy and treading, exclusively, the purest path to revolutionary victory are seeking the Holy Grail in forgotten places; as did the JVP of 1971. The relationship between the road to socialism and the relative autonomy of the bourgeois democratic state is perhaps the trickiest question confronting the left movement today in the present as history.
Let me next turn, in hindsight, to how and why NM and his comrades got it wrong. Of course 40 years on, even fools like you and I can work it out; let’s see.
Compromise, identity and leadership
The decisive error of the LSSP and its junior partner the CP in the 1970s was not so much entering a coalition but the way they conducted themselves in coalition. The left compromised on issues when it ought not to have. Rampant abuse of power by MPs including the chit system for government employment, widespread corruption of SLFP’ers, robbery of state property such as after the estates take over, and crucially, acquiescing in the oppression of the Tamil minority, these were some of the culpable articles of compromise. Would taking a stand have led to the break-up of the coalition government and was it wiser to have remained silent so as to achieve greater and grander goals? No, not just in hindsight, but right then and there the answer was no as was clear in ‘real-time’ to the Left (Vama) Tendency in the party.
When not yet a teenager I gravitated to the LSSP during the Hartal and only a dazzled student who crept into the electric atmosphere of the 1964 Samasamaja Conference; a plum for the Secretary of the University ‘Local’! But by the 1970s, together with others in Vama, we were young men and women, a great deal more mature and witnesses to the disastrous progress of coalition politics. The warnings signs were crying out to be heard; booming out you could say in the case of the 1971 insurrection, when a whole generation rose up. Tearing the country apart you could say when alienated Tamils were sent to the wall to take an oath to create their own nation. Shouting from the rooftops, you could say, when shortages, queues and prices drove the profane to scrawl crudities on pictures of the prime minister at prominent road junctions.
The greatest bungle was that the left parties were in a daze as the post-colonial pluralist state morphed into a Sinhala-Buddhist one over a period of about twenty-five years starting 1956. By Sinhala-Buddhist, I mean the hegemonic ideology of the nation, constitutional revisions, changes to the functioning of the state apparatus, making the armed forces and to an extent the police mono-ethnic, and the political alienation of the Tamils to a point where there was territorial dual power and civil war by the 1990s. The second great botch was that the left was blithely insensate to the reality that by appeasing the mildly authoritarian populism of Mrs B’s coalition it was clearing the road for the real authoritarianism of JR Jayewardene. (En passant, it is phoney to excuse the sordid sycophancy of today’s left ministers as a predestined outcome of 1970s coalition politics).
To get back to the 1970s, the LSSP continued to compromise and stonewalled even its internal critics, yours faithfully included: “Do you want to break-up the government comrade, long before our work is done?” Bernard, Leslie and Colvin would fire back (foxy old NM was the first to see that things were going amiss). In recognition of this loyalty to the cause of coalition politics what did the left get? It was kicked out in 1975, bereft of support and ridiculed as a laughing stock. Still, that generation of leaders was not akin to today’s epiphytes, hanging on for cabinet posts and perks of office. So why did they compromise? Why did they allow their left identity to wane?
It would have been possible for some leaders to stay in cabinet, while the party itself pursued a vigorous and critical political line among the people. It would have been possible to step out of cabinet but stay on the government benches pursuing an independent line of pressure. Many tactical options would have opened up if the party’s head was turned in a different direction. The point was that the leadership sought to move forward using the instrument of the state in which it was a stakeholder as the principal weapon of progress. It could point to the new constitution, the budgets, land-reform and the plantation economy. That is to say the relative autonomy of the bourgeois democratic state was thought to be an adequate instrument for carrying through fundamental changes of historical import. The strategy was not about using the foothold in government as a platform for mobilisation of the people outside government; the strategy was to use the hold on the state to bring change through the instrumentality of state power. This didn’t happen and this is why I say that the grave error was not actually entering coalition, but rather how coalition politics was conducted.
The end result was not only empty handed expulsion from government but also the loss of a generation to the JVP, the alienation of the Tamils from the left movement and thirdly, impotency in mounting popular resistance when authoritarianism and the dismantling of democracy came in the shroud of JR’s constitution and neo-liberalism. The LSSP and CP had lost the masses; they could no longer summon them to action. For the first time the LSSP and CP had lost the working class and intelligentsia, lost their base in the Western, Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces, and lost control of the city streets; all because they had lost their left identity.
An interesting question is why could not Edmund, Bala, Karalasingham, Percy Wicks, Reggie Mendis, a talented, principled and experienced pool that broke away to form the LSSP(R) win the vacated ground and emerge as an alternative? The answer is that they removed themselves from history; they had no presence in history. Had they remained within the mass left movement their presence would have mattered and they would have influenced events. Had they remained in the mass left they may have succeeded in changing how coalition politics was conducted and been the vehicle of an alterative strategy; they would have been a decisive ally in what Vama was not strong enough to do alone. In this context as one who was deeply involved in both Vama and the NSSP that later emerged from it I have no doubt that the former was the far more important phenomenon.
The Rajapakse regime will not buckle tomorrow, maybe not for a few years, but when it does, and with the UNP in extremis, the alternative is the left. There are two options, the obvious one the JVP, the other the as yet tentative left-identity faction consolidating in the LSSP. I do not need to say much about the JVP except two points. The JVP is wrong on war and devolution, but no way is it an anti-Tamil communal party. The communal parties of anti-Tamil arson, looting, rape and murder are the SLFP and the UNP. They and they alone are the demalu marau vehicles of Sri Lanka. Secondly, the JVP has changed from a conspiratorial entity to one that is more willing to work within a democratic framework. The complex experiences of the last two decades have had an effect, and in any case revolution means social transformation, not running around with hand bombs.
The new LSSP left grouping emerged in the run up to the party conference in October 2010 at which event it was roundly beaten. The perks and promises that lining up with Minister Tissa and Member of Parliament Padmasiri offer are an unbeatable lure for the majority of party members. But this is changing. Remarkably, the left group continued has continued to consolidate and spread its ideas and revived a broad seminar series through the Socialist Study Circle.
The LSSP left-identity group may well be the rallying point for a social democratic alternative in Lanka.
The Telegraph, 13 January 2011
- India’s growth rate cannot be made a national objective
by Prabhat Patnaik
While there will be general agreement that the judgment in Binayak Sen’s case represents a gross miscarriage of justice, most people will attribute it to the overzealousness of a lower judicial functionary, or, at the most, to the prevailing atmosphere in the state of Chhattisgarh. If the trial had been held elsewhere, they would argue, Sen would not have got the verdict he did. They are probably right, just as those who attribute the bringing of sedition charges against Arundhati Roy and Syed Ali Shah Geelani to the overzealousness of the Delhi police, and against Sudhir Dhawale to the overzealousness of the Maharashtra police, may well be right. But such overzealousness, instances of which are multiplying alarmingly, thrives within, and derives sustenance from, a certain ambience. This consists of the increasing tendency, under the current neo-liberal dispensation, to see any basic ideological opposition to the parameters of official policy as anti-national. The tendency, in short, is to criminalize ideological dissent. Of course, one must not cry wolf, but one must not ignore this tendency either. To do so will be fatal.
No less a person than the prime minister, while speaking to probationers of the Indian police service in the capital the other day, invoked a curious argument against the Maoists. He did not just make the usual criticism — that Maoists were attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by violent means. He went on to add: “If we don’t control Naxalism, we have to say goodbye to our country’s ambition to sustain a growth rate of 10 to 11 per cent per annum”. And this, he clarified, is because central India is where the bulk of the country’s mineral wealth lies. In short, 10 or 11 per cent growth rate is elevated to the status of a national goal. Anyone who opposes policies that seek to achieve this goal is therefore acting against the national interest, and is ipso facto anti-national.
The reification involved in this piece of reasoning, as Karl Marx would have noted, is astounding. A nation can have objectives, such as the eradication of poverty or the elimination of hunger or the removal of illiteracy or the maintenance of full employment or the achievement of an egalitarian order. But the mere rate of augmentation of the mass of goods and services produced cannot possibly be a national objective. True, some, including the prime minister, would argue that this rate of augmentation holds the key to the achievement of the national goals just listed, but this is a particular ideological position. Others may have a different position on the relationship between growth and poverty. To posit the growth rate as a national objective is to sanctify one particular ideological position above all others as a nationally accepted one, and hence to decry anyone who opposes it as anti-national. Decrying those who oppose a particular ideological position as being anti-national is to implicitly criminalize dissent.
The prime minister, let us not forget, was not talking to a group of his party functionaries, but to budding police officers, whose job consists of identifying what constitutes criminal activity. He was, in short, articulating an official position. Besides, given his intellectual eminence, what he says both expresses and sets the trend for the thinking of the entire establishment. His remarks, therefore, have to be taken very seriously.
More than a century-and-a-half ago, John Stuart Mill, while theoretically anticipating a “stationary state” (that is, zero growth economy), had nonetheless remained unfazed by the prospect. He had declared that he would not mind a stationary state as long as the working people were better off in it. Mill had thus implicitly advanced two propositions. First, the condition of the working people did not depend upon the rate of growth of the economy, that it could be better even in a stationary economy than in a growing one. Second, what mattered to him, and hence, by inference, what should matter to society according to him, was not the rate of growth per se but the condition of the working people. Both these propositions of Mill, a liberal, are diametrically opposed to what the official neo- liberal argument advances today and wants to elevate to a national consensus.
The fact that Mill was right, that high growth may be accompanied by increasing poverty, is amply demonstrated by the recent Indian experience itself. Indeed, the empirical evidence for absolute impoverishment in the recent period of high growth is overwhelming. Let us briefly look at this evidence. The official criterion for the identification of poverty (until it was changed recently after the Tendulkar committee report) has been the intake of 2,400 calories or less per person per day in rural India and 2,100 calories or less in urban India. By this criterion, poverty has certainly increased. Direct measurement of calorie intake suggests that 74.5 per cent of the rural population was “poor” in 1993-94, and 87 per cent in 2004-05. The corresponding figures were 57 per cent and 64 per cent respectively for the urban population. (These figures, based on National Sample Survey Organization data, are from Utsa Patnaik, Economic and Political Weekly, Jan 23-29, 2010, and their veracity cannot be questioned.)
Foodgrain absorption figures confirm this conclusion. Per capita foodgrain absorption (defined as net output minus net exports minus net increase in stocks) which, in round figures, was 200 kilogram per annum in British India at the beginning of the 20th century, declined drastically to less than 150 kg by the time of independence. Strenuous efforts by successive governments in Independent India raised it to 180 kg by the end of the 1980s. But there has been a decline thereafter, marginal at first but precipitous after the late 1990s, so much so that per capita foodgrain absorption in 2008 at 156 kg, according to the estimate of the Food and Agriculture Organization, was lower than in any year after 1953. The period of high growth is precisely the one associated with reduction in foodgrain absorption, and hence with significant absolute impoverishment.
But the official position apotheosizing growth as a national goal and vilifying any opposition to it as anti-national, is not only a reification, and a vacuity, it is also dangerous. This is both because it criminalizes ideological dissent, and because it implicitly justifies corporate control over the State. If 10 or 11 per cent growth is elevated to a national goal, then obviously the agents through whom this goal is to be achieved — especially in the neo- liberal era when the public sector and public investment are frowned upon, namely, the domestic and foreign private corporations and financial interests — must be kept happy. The State must cater to their caprices, so that their “state of confidence” is kept high, and they undertake the investments necessary for high growth.
Since the alternative approach, of taxing the corporate and financial interests and using public investment as the means of raising growth, has been eschewed (even as growth itself has been apotheosized as a national goal), the achievement of this goal necessarily requires appeasing these interests by putting the entire State machinery at their disposal. It necessarily means corporate control over the State machinery. And when the prime minister talks of the need to get unhindered access to the mineral wealth of central India as the means to achieve the “national goal” of 10 to 11 per cent growth rate, he obviously means ensuring unhindered access to this wealth by corporate interests.
This is precisely what has been happening. The series of scandals that the nation has watched with stupefaction over the last few weeks is only one manifestation of the extent of this corporate control.
Such corporate control inevitably brings forth resistance. All such resistance necessarily threatens the “national goal” of growth, and hence is labelled anti-national, that is, criminal. The criminalization of dissent is immanent, therefore, in the corporate control over the State machinery, and the reified view of “national goals” is a justification for such control. Many have rightly attacked the draconian laws which have been introduced in the statute books in many states and under which protesters are punished. These laws, which are often attributed to the authoritarianism of this or that political formation, really spring from the authoritarianism inherent in the corporate control over the State. The renowned economist Paul Samuelson, a political liberal, had reportedly remarked that economic liberalism can be practised only under political authoritarianism. Contemporary India testifies to the truth of this remark.
The author is professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
The Sunday Guardian
KANNABIRAN: DOYEN OF THE CIVIL LIBERTIES MOVEMENT
by Sudhir Krishnaswamy
(Dr Sudhir Krishnaswamy is Professor of Law, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences)
K.G. Kannabiran passed away on 30 December 2010. India will enter the second decade of the 21st century without its leading civil liberties lawyer for the last four decades. It would be contrary to Kannabiran's iconoclastic and irreverent manner to write a hagiographic sentimental obituary. The greatest tribute that I can pay to his life would be to recognise and celebrate his approach to law and lawyering that should inspire generations of lawyers to follow his path. My qualifications to write this obituary are tenuous: I am not a practicing lawyer by profession nor am I a personal friend or confidant. So I cannot share with you war stories at court nor can I render an alternative account of his life and punctuate it with touching personal anecdotes. I write this as an academic lawyer who has followed his life and work from a distance but with an acute awareness that he embodies an approach to cause-lawyering that exemplifies the best traditions that any lawyer in India should aspire to.
The typical Indian lawyer revels in their anti-intellectual approach to law. They scoff at any attempt to theorise law and insist on the irrelevance of these academic efforts to their everyday practice. Kannabiran was similarly disenchanted with academic theorising that employed obtuse prose and neologisms that required an academic translator to make such texts intelligible. However, he practised and refined an ecumenical approach to legal scholarship that would stand the most rigorous academic scrutiny. He engaged with the case law of the courts which he subjected to close reading and critical analysis in his court room practice as well as writing. His essay on the evolution of the law of personal liberty in India after Independence is an excellent illustration of his ability to coherently weave together decisions of the Indian and US Supreme Courts, speeches in Parliament and the Constituent Assembly, Pashukanis, Dworkin and Anatole France to expose the misinterpretations of Article 21. Anyone who reads this essay is left in no doubt about the essential continuity of legal practice and legal theory — any good practitioner inevitably develops keen theoretical insights into law.
K.G. Kannabiran practised and refined an ecumenical approach to legal scholarship that would stand the most rigorous academic scrutiny.
I met Kannabiran for the first time in Bangalore on the sidelines of an Alternative Lawyering Conference in 2001. The conference traversed varied engagements with law and the legal system that could be characterised as "alternative lawyering". I was struck by the steadfastness with which Kannabiran advocated an old-fashioned engagement with substantive law and the legal system. At a time when "revolutionary commitment" was assessed by the shrillness of your denunciation of law and the legal system and one's distance from the practice of law in the courts, Kannabiran stood out as a beacon of rationality and moderation. While he was aware that "in a perpetually misgoverned society, any movement for good governance ... according to law becomes rebellion" he did not recklessly conclude that law was irretrievably an oppressive device that should be shunned and disregarded. His exceptional career as a human rights defender for over four decades stands testimony to the value of a critical but extensive engagement with law and the courts in India.
A civil liberties law practice in India requires one to grind out many days at the uninspiring and chaotic criminal courts across the country with few and irregular successes and more frequent failures. Our post-Independence paramilitary forces compound and accentuate the failings of our colonial police forces, making structural change look remote. In this bleak scenario, a civil liberties lawyer needs great fortitude and resolve to stick to this task.
Kannabiran's long innings holds out many lessons for those who will follow in his footsteps. His capacity to carry himself lightly and to avoid drowning under the weight of his political convictions endeared him to all those who came across him. I suspect that his deep engagement with history and literature allowed him to develop a unique perspective to his work that allowed him to celebrate the victories and to bear the losses with equanimity. His draft of a letter to a judge titled "Sanjay Dutt in the First Person" highlights these sensibilities. The letter begins, "I am no Gandhi or Tilak or Castro, yet I think I have a right to make a statement. I am not like them, though I am as well known as they were in their days, but I am not as great." The letter then sets out a scathing account of the role of the criminal justice system in the 1993 Mumbai riots.
Kannabiran has left us with a rich legacy in the courts and through his writing. Ironically, he passed away in the same week that Binayak Sen was convicted of sedition as if to remind us of the enormity of the challenge to make India a reasonably civilised country governed by the rule of law. His response to this court order would not be to condemn the legal system and advocate its abolition, but to redouble one's efforts to compel the courts and our legal system to rectitude. Our dedication and efforts to achieve these tasks would be a truly worthwhile tribute to his life and work.
 India - The Right wing Thugs of Shiv Sena:
The Tribune (Chandigarh), 8 January 2011
SHIV SENA’S BRAZEN ACT - DICTATING TEAM SELECTION ON PAROCHIAL LINES
It is a sad consequence of the abdication of authority by the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra that a group of political activists belonging to the youth wing of the Shiv Sena was able to dictate the selection of the Mumbai University hockey team for an All-India Inter-University Hockey Tournament and force the exclusion of some outstation players. Reports say around 50 Shiv Sainiks marched into the Khalsa College campus in Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon, where the Mumbai team for the fortnight-long tournament was to be announced, and told those in charge to give preference to locals if they didn’t want the matter to be taken up by “higher authorities” of the Sena or its youth wing, the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena. After spending a couple of hours on the campus, the activists left with the team they wanted. Out of the five outsiders who were from Haryana and Rajasthan but were studying in Mumbai, three had been dropped.
One can hardly hold it against the team selectors when the state government’s own record of protecting the people against political goons has been pathetic. Indeed, the Shiv Sena’s record in the past year speaks for itself. It thrashed non-Marathi auto and taxi drivers, attacked movie theatres that screened “My Name Is Khan”, threatened to sabotage Rahul Gandhi’s Mumbai tour, banned and burned a book written three decades ago and anointed Shiv Sena supreme Bal Thackeray’s son Aditya as the future of the party. As so often in the past, the government in Maharashtra timidly acquiesced in all the excesses of the Sena activists. It is this attitude that has turned the Shiv Sena into a Frankenstein monster whose one call for a bandh paralyses life in the entire business capital of the country.
Hitherto, the Shiv Sena’s connection to sporting matters was normally restricted to cricket and Pakistan. The latest action will embolden the Sena goons to extend their destructive influence to other sports too. It would be unfortunate indeed if such attitude as was displayed in the latest incident leads some other states to act in retaliation against Maharashtrian youth. It is time the state government called a halt to this brazen parochialism. If it does not, the consequences could be grave.
 Food For Thought:
(i) REVOLUTION HIGHWAY by Dilip Simeon
Penguin Books India
ISBN : 9780143414698 Edition : Paperback Format : B Extent : 344p (Fiction)
[For all the reviews see: http://revolutionhighway.wordpress.com/ ]
society review by maureen freely
WHY SALMAN RUSHDIE'S BOOK WAS BURNED
Sunday, January 9, 2011
In the opening pages of this dense but fascinating polemic, Kenan Malik describes how the fatwa against Salman Rushdie changed his life. The Indian-born son of a Hindu mother and a Muslim father, Malik had grown up in Britain amid "Paki-bashers" and the racist National Front. It was racism that had driven him into far-left politics as a student, but it was the Enlightenment ideals of equality and social justice that he took with him when he graduated. Malik became a research psychologist and occasional journalist with a commitment to activism.
In January 1989, he was shocked when 1,000 Muslims marched through the northern city of Bradford and ceremonially burned a copy of Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses" in front of a police station. Almost overnight, he writes, the image of that burning book became an international "icon of the rage of Islam." Yet it made no sense to Malik, who had organized anti-racist protests in Bradford three years earlier. Where had the rage come from? And why was it dressed in religious clothing?
He received his first answer from a man Malik identifies only as Hassan, a former Trotskyite and an acquaintance who had become disaffected with the "white left" and with the fearful and obsequious Muslims of their fathers' generation. Hassan saw a "need to defend our dignity as Muslims" so that no one - "racist or Rushdie" - could trample on it. Hassan had become an "errand boy to the mullahs," Malik writes, "inspired by bookburners, willing to shed blood for a thousand-year-old fable that he had never believed in."
In the chapters that follow, Malik charts the circuitous route by which Hassan and so many others found solace in a virulently anti-Western, political Islam that bore little relation to the faith of their immigrant parents, for whom religion was "deeply embedded [but] never all-consuming," expressing "a relationship with God, not a sacrosanct public identity." If Britain now has a problem with homegrown suicide bombers, it is, he asserts, because of policies that have not only impeded integration but have taught an entire generation of immigrants that they are not truly British, that they do not - and never will - belong.
Malik looks favorably upon the United States, which in his view sees itself as a nation of immigrants and so offers a positive narrative for newcomers. Britain, however, has kept immigrant communities separate. Rather than address immigrants directly, it has handed them over to the care of self-appointed community leaders who use their positions to enrich themselves and push a conservative religious agenda. It is they who have created a breeding ground for Islamist fundamentalism.
Malik argues that jihad as we understand it is a thoroughly modern concept, forged not just in the mountains of Afghanistan but in Western cities. He shows how the media and the wizards of geopolitics stoked the fire from the outset, with the book-burners of Bradford becoming pawns in a power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Each had been investing ambitiously in organizations in Britain and elsewhere to promote its own extreme brand of Islam.
Though by issuing a fatwa the Ayatollah Khomeini got the upper hand in the Rushdie controversy, Britain's Muslims did not take orders from any imam or ayatollah. The bombers who took part in the coordinated attacks on London's transportation system in 2005 were influenced by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But, Malik says, they were full of Western narcissism - middle-class, entitled, disinclined to deny themselves modern pleasures. Their ease with contemporary mores cut them off from Islamic traditions. "Today's jihadist does not submit himself to the will of the collective," Malik writes. "Only through death do jihadists join their imagined community."
After beginning his story with a book-burning, Malik ends it with the bombing nearly 20 years later of the London publisher of Sherry Jones's "Jewel of Medina," a novel about the prophet Muhammad's youngest wife. The Rushdie book-burning in 1989 sparked intense debate over the reach of free expression, especially when it offends religious sensitivities. By the time of the 2008 bombing, however, it was generally accepted that free speech must take into account Britain's many diverse religions - which sounds likes a move toward greater tolerance and integration.
But in Britain the issue is more complicated than that. The nation lacks an equivalent of the First Amendment, and though it has a tradition of free expression, there is no clear legal defense for it. Since 2008, it has been illegal to incite religious or racial hatred. Because the law is vaguely worded, it can be used against anyone who criticizes religion in the public domain. Britain's unelected Muslim leaders were among those who proposed the law, and they continue to have a powerful influence on the definition of religious hatred, both in the courts and in the media.
Few writers have untangled the paradoxes and unintended consequences of political Islam as deftly as Malik does here. But in the end his real subject is not Islam. It is Britain's mismanagement of immigration and how this has led to the weakening of its purchase on Enlightenment values and, most particularly, free expression. Though confined to the British case, the book offers a cautionary tale that will speak to everyone concerned about the worldwide erosion of civil and human rights after Sept. 11, 2001.
bookworld at washpost.com
Maureen Freely is a professor at the University of Warwick and the translator of five books by the Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.
FROM FATWA TO JIHAD
The Rushdie Affair and Its Aftermath
By Kenan Malik
Melville House. 266 pp. $25
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(iii) EUROPE SEX ED AN 'ATTACK' ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: POPE
(iv) USA; IS LOCKHEED MARTIN SHADOWING YOU? HOW A GIANT WEAPONS MAKER BECAME THE NEW BIG BROTHER
by William Hartung
(i) ARTISTS IN SOLIDARITY WITH DR BINAYAK SEN
An afternoon of cultural protest by artists, musicians, poets, film directors and writers against the persecution of Dr Binayak Sen will be held on 15th January at Jantar Mantar from 2-7 PM under the banner of ‘Artists for Human Rights’.
Among those participating are well-known film directors Aparna Sen, Gautam Ghose and Sudhir Mishra together with musicians Rabbi Shergill and Susmit Bose. Among the poets and writers attending the cultural protest will be Ashok Vajpeyi, K.Satchidanandan, Kumarnarain, Mangalesh Dabral, Gagan Gill, Sanjay Kundan, Teji Grover, Khursheed Alam, Mukul Priyadarshini and Gauhar Raza.
There will also be music performances by other artists and student bands from different colleges in Delhi in solidarity with Dr Binayak Sen.
All are invited to come and attend the protest.
For further information contact:
Satya Sivaraman: Ph: 9818514952
Manisha Sethi: 9811625577
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(ii) INVITATION PRESS CONFERENCE & PREVIEW
Lalit Kala Akademi, National Academy of Art, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, is organizing a major exhibition entitled ‘Against All Odds: A Contemporary Response to the Historiography of Archiving Collecting and Museums In India’ from 13 to 27 January 2011 at Lalit Kala Akademi Galleries, 35 Ferozeshah Road New Delhi. This exhibition on Indian Contemporary Art is curated by Arshiya Lokhandwala, Curator and Gallerist. This show will showcase works of art by 20 well-known Indian artists.
Details of the exhibition is as follows:
Exhibition title: ‘Against All Odds: A Contemporary Response to the Historiography of Archiving Collecting and Museums In India’
Cuarted by: Arshiya Lokhandwala
Date: 12 January 2011
Time: 3:00 pm
Venue: Lalit Kala Akademi Board Room, 2nd Floor, Rabindra Bhavan, 35, Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi 110001
Ph: 011 23009200 or 23387621
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