SACW - 9 Sept 2018 | Bangladesh: Shahidul Alam / Pakistan: Secular Sisterhoods / India: Section 377 ends / Feminist Revolution In Syria / Asia: waste management / Latest Incarnation of Capitalism

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Sat Sep 8 17:10:43 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 9 Sept 2018 - No. 2999 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Bangladesh: “The mixture of Islam as a state religion adjoining secularism is not healthy.” – Sara Hossain
2. Pakistan: Faith no criterion for public service - Press release by HRCP
3. Secular Sisterhoods in Pakistan - Book Review by Aneeqa M. Wattoo
4. The Supreme Court of India Decriminalises Homosexuality, Puts An End to Section 377 (6 Sept 2018) | reports, commentary and a link the Judgment
5. India: Human Rights 
  (i) India: Those in Authority Want to Arrest the Growing Consciousness About Human Rights | Manoranjan Mohanty
  (ii) India: Why the UAPA must go | Jawahar Raja
6. India: Rose Petals for a Terror Convict | Subhash Gatade
7. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - Protest video -- Coalition Against World Hindu Congress Chicago 2018
 - India: Two members of parliament from the BJP want a national commission for men, What's up?
 - India: High Court loses its cool over leaks in Dabholkar murder probe | Times of India, 7 sept 2018
 - India: The World Hindu Congress (WHC) in Chicago (7-9 sep 2018 - with participation of RSS chief and the Vice president of India
 - The gaushala games - Edit. by Times of India Regarding Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath’s election promise
 - India: Cartoons on the supreme court of India decriminalising same sex relations and the diapproving homophobic clerics
 - India: Homophobia of the clerics - upset with supreme court order of 6 sept 2018
 - Abbas Bhai, Forgive Me for Revealing Your Pain to the World
 - India: The Conspirators Behind Gauri Lankesh Murder - A graphic via twitter

::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
8. Bangladesh Court Refuses To Hear Photographer Shahidul Alam's Case
9. Imran Khan govt succumbs to Islamists pressure, cancels appointment of Ahmadi economist | REUTERS
10. Section 377 verdict in India: Full text of select editorials
11. India: Cartoonist P Mahamud Wins the First PEN-Gauri Lankesh Award for Democratic Idealism
12. India: Stop persecuting Lois Sofia, stop crushing dissent
13. India: ‘Government Is Preparing The Ground For Decline Of Rural Jobs Programme’ - Jean Dreze Interviewed | Shreehari Paliath
14. India: The Four Thorns in Sanatan Sanstha’s Flesh | Yogesh S
15. India: The dead tell tales | Sankarshan Thakur 
16. Book Review:: Antoinette Burton. Africa in the Indian Imagination: Race and the Politics of Postcolonial Citation
17. Amid Death & Despair, A Feminist Revolution Is Happening In Syria | Rahila Gupta
18. Asia's waste management failures reach crisis levels- Japan offers lessons . . . | Geoffrey Jones 
19. The Latest Incarnation of Capitalism | Grace Blakeley 

On the sidelines of the LSE-Berkeley Bangladesh Summit held at LSE in June 2018, Mahima A. Jain interviewed to Bangladeshi lawyer Sara Hossain, who was a panellist discussing “Civil Society and the State”.

Lahore, 8 September 2018. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious concern over the government’s decision to withdraw its nomination of Dr Atif Mian for the Economic Advisory Council (EAC).

3. SECULAR SISTERHOODS IN PAKISTAN - Book Review by Aneeqa M. Wattoo
. . . there is much to reflect upon in post-colonial Pakistan when feminists who draw global attention to cases of gender abuse are warned not to ‘wash their dirty laundry in public’ and are routinely labelled ‘native informants’ and ‘imperial collaborators’. Afiya S. Zia’s brave and insightful book, Faith and Feminism in Pakistan, draws attention to the history, achievements and threats faced by the secular feminist movement in Pakistan today. In this welcome intervention in the field of gender in South Asia, Zia attempts to challenge a dominant historiography that she claims has failed to recognise the potential of feminist movements in Pakistan.

New Delhi, 6 Sept 2018: A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously decriminalised part of a 158-year-old colonial law that made "unnatural" sex a criminal offence under Section 377. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra termed the part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that relates to sex against the order or nature between men and women as irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.

by Manoranjan Mohanty
Mounting state repression acknowledges the growing solidarity among the oppressed. The August assault has opened up political possibilities for the opposition in the run up to 2019.

by Jawahar Raja
The UAPA is an undemocratic law that allows governments to use the cover of ’terrorism’ to stifle dissent.

by Subhash Gatade
The presence of BJP and VHP leaders in the ‘grand welcome’ for Ajmer dargah bomb blast convict Bhavesh Patel in Bharuch is not the first instance. Such gatherings for fanatics are becoming common in Hindutva supremacist circles.

 - Protesters briefly disrupt World Hindu Congress in Chicago
 - Protest video -- Coalition Against World Hindu Congress Chicago 2018
 - India: Two members of parliament from the BJP want a national commission for men, What's up?
 - India: High Court loses its cool over leaks in Dabholkar murder probe | Times of India, 7 sept 2018
 - India: The World Hindu Congress (WHC) in Chicago (7-9 sep 2018 - with participation of RSS chief and the Vice president of India
 - The gaushala games - Edit. by Times of India Regarding Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath’s election promise
 - India: Cartoons on the supreme court of India decriminalising same sex relations and the diapproving homophobic clerics
 - India: Homophobia of the clerics - upset with supreme court order of 6 sept 2018
 - Abbas Bhai, Forgive Me for Revealing Your Pain to the World
 - India: The Conspirators Behind Gauri Lankesh Murder - A graphic via twitter
 - India - Malegaon Case: Court Defers Framing of Charges Against Lt Col Purohit, Others

 -> available via:
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::

Bangladesh Court Refuses To Hear Photographer Shahidul Alam's Case
Shahidul Alam was arrested on August 5 for making "false" and "provocative" statements on Al Jazeera and on Facebook Live during massive student protests in Dhaka

Agence France-Presse | Updated: September 04, 2018 18:23 IST

A lower court rejected the bail, his lawyers moved to the high court but the court did not hear the case

Award-winning photographer and rights activist Shahidul Alam, whose month-long detention has triggered an international outcry, failed to win bail on Tuesday after Bangladesh's high court refused to consider the request, his lawyer told AFP.

Alam was arrested on August 5 for making "false" and "provocative" statements on Al Jazeera and on Facebook Live during massive student protests in Dhaka.

Rights groups, UN rights experts, Nobel laureates and hundreds of academics have called for the immediate release of the 63-year-old, who says he has been beaten in custody.

After a lower court rejected a bail petition for Alam last month, his lawyers moved to the high court in Dhaka and a hearing was set for Tuesday.

But "the court did not hear the case because one of the judges (said he) felt embarrassed to hear the case," lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told AFP.

Barua said the judge did not give any further explanation.

He said Alam's legal team was now trying to get the case heard by another bench of the high court.

Alam's arrest capped a turbulent month in Bangladesh as teenage students poured onto the streets for nine straight days after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus.

Alam had told Al Jazeera that the protests were the result of pent-up anger at corruption and an "unelected government... clinging on by brute force" that had looted banks and gagged media.

He is being investigated for allegedly violating Bangladesh's internet laws, enacted in 2006 and sharpened in 2013, which critics say are used to stifle dissent and harass journalists.

Alam whose work has appeared widely in Western media and who founded the renowned Pathshala South Asian Media Institute faces a maximum 14 years in jail if convicted, along with others detained during the protests.

The photographer told reporters outside court last month that he had been beaten so badly in police custody that his tunic needed washing to get the blood out.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has demanded his release, denouncing authorities for targeting activists and journalists instead of prosecuting those who attacked students when last month's protests were broken up.

Last week activists beamed images of Alam onto buildings in Kathmandu during a seven-nation Asian summit that included Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The Hindu
Under Pakistani law, Ahmadis are forbidden from calling themselves Muslims or using Islamic symbols in their religious practices.
Pakistan's new government cancelled the appointment of a renowned Princeton economist to its Economic Advisory Council, after a strong backlash against the choice of a member of the Ahmadi religious minority, an official said on Friday.
The failure of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government to resist pressure to drop economist Atif Mian reflects the increasing clout of hardline Islamists, whose parties won around 10 % of the vote at the last July election.
Faced with a looming balance of payments crisis that may force the country to seek a fresh bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or other lenders, the government had picked Mr. Mian to join an 18-member council to advise the Prime Minister.
Mr. Mian (43), a scholar in finance and macroeconomics, is regarded as one of the world's top young economists.
The Prime Minister's adviser on media, Iftikhar Durrani, confirmed that Mr. Mians appointment had been revoked, while the government's main spokesman alluded to the pressure the government had come under from religious quarters.
“The government wants to move forward with the religious leaders and all segments of society, and if one nomination gives a different impression, then it's not appropriate,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Twitter.
Mr. Chaudhry had defended Mr. Mian's appointment, saying: ”Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority.”
The government, however, changed course following a widespread social media campaign criticising the appointment and protest threats by the emergent ultra-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik party.
Under Pakistani law, Ahmadis are forbidden from calling themselves Muslims or using Islamic symbols in their religious practices. They face discrimination and violence over accusations their faith insults Islam, including impediments blocking them from voting in general elections.
The Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims but their recognition of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the sect in British-ruled India in 1889, as a subordinate prophet, is viewed by many of the Sunni majority as a breach of the Islamic tenet that the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger.
“Whenever and wherever any Ahmadi is needed to serve the nation they will be the first to offer their services,” community spokesman Salim Ud Din told Reuters when asked to comment on Mr. Mian's removal from the council.

The Times of India
September 7, 2018

Step out fearless: Homosexuality is no crime. From fearing state and society, gays now have law on their side

Supreme Court has consigned over 150 years of discrimination against the LGBT community, wrought by enactment of the Indian Penal Code in 1860, to the annals of history. Section 377 IPC, that denied India’s homosexual citizens the right to pursue their sexual orientation, applies no more to consensual sexual behaviour. In restoring their rights to equality before law, personal liberty, privacy and life with dignity – all fundamental rights guaranteed to an Indian citizen which should have been theirs from birth – a grave constitutional wrong that questioned the Republic’s commitment to minority rights stands corrected. The next logical step would be to recognise gay marriage.

Supreme Court (SC) has also ejected from its precedents the problematic verdict of December 2013 that recriminalised homosexuality and its observations about “so-called rights of LGBTs” who constituted “a miniscule fraction of the country’s population.” This had stoked much unease over law giving precedence to social mores over constitutional morality. But subsequent judgments including the historic Right to Privacy verdict and the present one have conclusively rejected the state’s right to police bedrooms or deny constitutional rights to a minority.

From Justice Chandrachud beginning his judgment by noting “The lethargy of the law is manifest yet again” to Justice Nariman concluding that “it is clear that Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 have all been transgressed without any legitimate state rationale to uphold such provision”, SC’s focus on individual rights promises to bridge the gap between constitutional aspirations and ground realities. After all, current Indian politics is predisposed towards religion and caste – or more broadly towards large collectives having strength of numbers. This is where a judiciary committed to democracy and constitutional values is the last resort for harried citizens.

Recall how in reuniting Hadiya with her husband or quashing bans against Padmaavat, SC faced down majoritarian impulses. For similar reasons, successive governments shrunk away from amending 377. Before SC recognised privacy as a fundamental right, government stood in opposition, regarding it as an abstract concept. After helping demolish 377 and more cases like Aadhaar and adultery awaiting their turn, the privacy judgment may just have begun impacting our lives in concrete ways. What Supreme Court does in the realm of safeguarding individual liberties must shine like a beacon for lower courts to replicate. The defence of a person’s rights – even when you disagree with that person – keeps democracy, dissent and diversity alive.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India. 

o o o

The Hindu
September 07, 2018

The right to love: on Section 377 verdict

The Supreme Court ruling on Section 377 furthers the frontiers of personal freedom

The stirring message from the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment decriminalising gay sex is that social morality cannot trump constitutional morality. It is a reaffirmation of the right to love. In a 5-0 verdict, a Constitution Bench has corrected the flagrant judicial error committed by a two-member Bench in Suresh Kumar Koushal (2013), in overturning a reasoned judgment of the Delhi High Court reading down Section 377 of the IPC. The 2013 decision meant that the LGBTQ community’s belatedly recognised right to equal protection of the law was withdrawn on specious grounds: that there was nothing wrong in the law treating people having sex “against the order of nature” differently from those who abide by “nature”, and that it was up to Parliament to act if it wanted to change the law against unnatural sex. The court has overruled Koushal and upheld homosexuals’ right to have intimate relations with people of their choice, their inherent right to privacy and dignity and the freedom to live without fear. The outcome was not unexpected. When the courts considered Section 377 earlier, the litigation was initiated by voluntary organisations. When those affected by the 2013 verdict approached the Supreme Court, it was referred to a larger Bench to reconsider Koushal.

In the intervening years, two landmark judgments took forward the law on sexual orientation and privacy and formed the jurisprudential basis for the latest judgment. In National Legal Services Authority (2014), a case concerning the rights of transgender people, the court ruled that there could be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (2017), or the ‘privacy case’, a nine-judge Bench ruled that sexual orientation is a facet of privacy, and constitutionally protected. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra’s opinion lays emphasis on transformative constitutionalism, that is, treating the Constitution as a dynamic document that progressively realises various rights. In particular, he invokes the doctrine of non-retrogression, which means that once a right is recognised, it cannot be reversed. Taken together, the four opinions have furthered the frontiers of personal freedom and liberated the idea of individual rights from the pressure of public opinion. Constitutional morality trumps any imposition of a particular view of social morality, says Justice R.H. Nariman, while Justice D.Y. Chandrachud underscores the “unbridgeable divide” between the moral values on which Section 377 is based and the values of the Constitution. Justice Indu Malhotra strikes a poignant note when she says history owes an apology to the LGBTQ community for the delay in providing the redress. The dilution of Section 377 marks a welcome departure from centuries of heteronormative thinking. This is a verdict that will, to borrow a phrase from Justice Chandrachud, help sexual minorities ‘confront the closet’ and realise their rights.

o o 

The Telegraph
September 7, 2018


Discrimination - eventually - is transient. This is the message of hope that can be gleaned from the Supreme Court's historic verdict that has overturned parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that had, for over 150 years, criminalized homosexuality. The progress of civilization is predicated on the nimbleness of thought. Almost five years ago, the Delhi High Court's 2009 judgment decriminalizing gay sex between consenting adults had been struck down by the apex court, dealing a crushing blow to those who seek to uphold the principle of equality. The present ruling would restore the public faith that India's highest court remains a cherished fount of wisdom that also possesses the magnanimity, courage and litheness in thought to address not just older conflicts but also the lacunae in India's judicial apparatus. It is not without reason that one of the judges happened to mention the "lethargy of law" in the given context. It would be limiting to view the pronouncement as a triumph for India's persecuted sexual minorities only. The spirit of the decree should be seen as a society's reaffirmation of the foundational principles of equality, privacy, dignity, the autonomy of individual choice and so on. This commitment, however, cannot be taken for granted, even in democracies. Contagions such as prejudice, regressive morality and even majoritarianism - the blight of New India - can combine to undermine the rights that have been guaranteed by the Constitution. The Supreme Court's unambiguous rejection of antiquated sensibilities - a "Victorian morality" in the court's view - in favour of "Constitutional morality" in its assessment of a prejudiced, discriminatory legal code is thus as heartening as its indictment of majoritarianism trampling liberty.

Yet, the victory for the LGBTQS community will remain partial if it remains excluded from rights and entitlements. Perhaps the court had this embedded culture of exclusion in mind when it stated that decriminalization is only the beginning, and that the Constitution envisages a lot more. The Supreme Court has done all that it can to make Indian society more representative. The momentum that has been generated must now be carried forward by the political constituency. The marginalized - not just sexual minorities - must be able to live, work and love in the manner that they choose to without fear. That is democracy's litmus test.

o o

The Tribune
September 7, 2018

Equal in love
No bar on consensual sex between adults

THE Supreme Court on Thursday lay to rest Section 377 that criminalised and discriminated specific sexual acts in private between consenting couples. No political party can take credit for the battle fought twice in the Supreme Court to remove the colonial vestige. Rather the engine behind the initiative were individuals not earlier involved in activism, NGOs and, what are today dismissively called, ‘human rights’ lawyers.  The striking down of Section 377 should bring an end to the stigma, silence and violence that triggered a sense of shame and loss of self-esteem among those whose natural inclinations made them opt for a different sexual orientation. As a result, several of the petitioners confessed to having had to grapple with depression, self-harm and other mental health issues, including suicidal attempts.

It was ironical that while the British have legalised gay marriage, the political class in its former colonies, including India, Singapore and Malaysia, besides 60 other nations, pandered to majoritarian or religious sentiments in preserving Section 377 in their statute books. Sexual orientation and gender expression form an integral part of an individual’s identity the world over and the five-judge Constitutional Bench rightly observed that the 150-year saga of criminalising gay sex was ‘irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary’. Over years, the rationale of this illogical law seeped into popular consciousness, giving rise to extremely prejudicial societal behaviour towards people with a different sexual orientation.

At a wider level, the judgment ought to be framed in the context of a blow against a particularly virulent strain of religious conservatism that tends to view the ‘other’ in a judgmental manner instead of being tolerant, inclusive and empathetic to those with a different orientation. Justice Indu Malhotra felt that history owed an apology to the LGBTQ community for denying them rights and compelling them to live a life of fear. That may be a bridge too far. For now the liberation from an atmosphere of blackmail and harassment by authorities should be adequate compensation as activists gear up to cross the next Rubicon — legalising same-sex marriages.

o o 

The Asian Age
September 7, 2018

Landmark SC order: Gay sex not a crime

Same-sex relationships had been badly affected by rigid and systematic discrimination with gays also subjected to police harassment.
People react after the Supreme Court verdict which decriminalises consensual gay sex, in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)
 People react after the Supreme Court verdict which decriminalises consensual gay sex, in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

In a truly historic verdict, the Supreme Court has ruled that consensual gay sex is no longer a criminal offence in India. A tyrannical colonial-era law on the statute book for 157 years, including in independent India for 71 years, refused to acknowledge that differences exist in sexual orientation. The right of consenting adults of the same sex to intercourse was a criminal offence. The striking down of parts of Section 377, in a unanimous verdict, is a truly liberating moment for those with a sexual orientation that may be different from the one between male and female in more traditional sex, which subsumed the reproductive process. The Chief Justice’s words — “I am what I am. So take me as I am” — rang clear and true on what was a red-letter day for a large section of people with different sexual orientation as well as those of indeterminate sex among the LGBTQI community and who have been discriminated against for just that reason.

Constitutional morality must not be interpreted literally, the judges said. The old law punished “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. Ostracised sections of society can now live without fear. It’s a matter of individual identity, and violence and even stigma against those who don’t conform to the majority’s mores, and are considered “straight”, is a violation of human rights.

India can consider itself a modern society now even if it takes more time for the ruling to sink in and all sections of society begin to accept in a wholesome way that sexual preferences differ from individual to individual. Same-sex relationships had been badly affected by rigid and systematic discrimination with gays also subjected to police harassment. Given the liberty to be open about their sexual preferences and orientation, such people can also freely seek medical help, if indeed such help is needed.

“Sexual orientation is natural and people have no control over it,” a part of the judgment read. This has been so historically, as made out from epics and ancient texts. To have regressed then into accepting a British law and perpetuating discrimination in the land of the Kama Sutra was unnecessary. Further, a landmark order decriminalising gay sex was passed by the Delhi high court in 2009, later overturned in the Supreme Court in 2013. The changing times have at last been recognised by the highest court too. The judges cannot change history, but they have given a future for those with a sexual orientation that does not fall under the male-female category. It is also logical that any kind of sexual activity with animals remains a penal offence under the same section. In this defining moment, what becomes clear is that the State, which has no business in bedrooms of citizens, cannot rule over private lives.

o o 

Deccan Chronicle
September 7, 2018
DC Comment
Landmark Supreme Court order: Gay sex not a crime

“Sexual orientation is natural and people have no control over it,” a part of the judgment read.
India can consider itself a modern society now even if it takes more time for the ruling to sink in and all sections of society begin to accept in a wholesome way that sexual preferences differ from individual to individual.
 India can consider itself a modern society now even if it takes more time for the ruling to sink in and all sections of society begin to accept in a wholesome way that sexual preferences differ from individual to individual.

In a truly historic verdict, the Supreme Court has ruled that consensual gay sex is no longer a criminal offence in India. A tyrannical colonial-era law on the statute book for 157 years, including in independent India for 71 years, refused to acknowledge that differences exist in sexual orientation. The right of consenting adults of the same sex to intercourse was a criminal offence. The striking down of parts of Section 377, in a unanimous verdict, is a truly liberating moment for those with a sexual orientation that may be different from the one between male and female in more traditional sex, which subsumed the reproductive process.

The Chief Justice’s words — “I am what I am. So take me as I am” — rang clear and true on what was a red-letter day for a large section of people with different sexual orientation as well as those of indeterminate sex among the LGBTQI community and who have been discriminated against for just that reason.

Constitutional morality must not be interpreted literally, the judges said. The old law punished “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. Ostracised sections of society can now live without fear. It’s a matter of individual identity, and violence and even stigma against those who don’t conform to the majority’s mores, and are considered “straight”, is a violation of human rights.

India can consider itself a modern society now even if it takes more time for the ruling to sink in and all sections of society begin to accept in a wholesome way that sexual preferences differ from individual to individual. Same-sex relationships had been badly affected by rigid and systematic discrimination with gays also subjected to police harassment. Given the liberty to be open about their sexual preferences and orientation, such people can also freely seek medical help, if indeed such help is needed.

“Sexual orientation is natural and people have no control over it,” a part of the judgment read. This has been so historically, as made out from epics and ancient texts. To have regressed then into accepting a British law and perpetuating discrimination in the land of the Kama Sutra was unnecessary. Further, a landmark order decriminalising gay sex was passed by the Delhi High Court in 2009, later overturned in the Supreme Court in 2013. 

The changing times have at last been recognised by the highest court too. The judges cannot change history, but they have given a future for those with a sexual orientation that does not fall under the male-female category. It is also logical that any kind of sexual activity with animals remains a penal offence under the same section. In this defining moment, what becomes clear is that the State, which has no business in bedrooms of citizens, cannot rule over private lives.

o o

The Indian Express
September 7, 2018

The long road to equality 

SC’s Section 377 verdict brings a belated but soaring moment. It’s a victory for individual and minority rights, underlines primacy of Constitution as a transformative document

In the case of Section 377, judiciary has been supported enthusiastically by civil society, more reluctantly by the political class, to deliver a much belated but historic reform.

Section 377 IPC is irrational, indefensible and arbitrary,” the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday while striking down a law that had oppressed India’s LGBT community for more than 150 years. What consenting adults do in their bedrooms is no longer the business of the state. “The sexual orientation of each individual in the society must be protected on an even platform, for the right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution,” the five-judge bench ruled.

That, in itself, makes the verdict historic. But the judgment must also be celebrated for tying the issue of sexual freedom with questions of minority rights, the protection of which is essential in any system that calls itself a constitutional democracy. “Constitutional rights cannot be held hostage to majoritarian consensus and popular morality,” said the apex court.

While striking down Section 377, the five-judge bench delineated the law’s discriminatory character. “Section 377 IPC assumes the characteristic of unreasonableness, for it becomes a weapon in the hands of the majority to seclude, exploit and harass the LGBT community. It shrouds the lives of the LGBT community in criminality and constant fear mars their joy of life. They constantly face social prejudice, disdain and are subjected to the shame of being their very natural selves.”

The judgment then tries to locate homosexuality “as a matter of identity”. “Attitudes and mentality have to change to accept the distinct identity of individuals and respect them for who they are rather than compelling them to become who they are not,” the five-judge bench notes. It quotes scientific research to show that the behaviour is “as much ingrained, inherent and innate as heterosexuality”. In doing so, the bench makes a strong case for the rights of the individual. “The LGBT community possess the same human, fundamental and constitutional rights as other citizens do since these rights inhere in individuals as natural and human rights. Respect for individual choice is the very essence of liberty under law”.

Thursday’s verdict is in line with the apex court’s recent inclination to subject some of its past verdicts to scrutiny — this was most noticeable in last year’s ruling on the privacy issue. In fact, a major portion of that landmark verdict was devoted to Section 377. The court had weighed its 2013 ruling that resuscitated Section 377 against the Delhi High Court’s verdict of 2009 that decriminalised homosexuality and had come out in support of the latter. “Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual,” it said.

In a fundamental sense, the verdict that reads down the colonial-era law is an affirmation of the principles that underlay the privacy verdict. “The mere fact that the percentage of population whose fundamental right to privacy is being abridged by the existence of Section 377 in its present form is low does not impose a limitation upon this Court from protecting the fundamental rights of those who are so affected by this Section,” the court has said.

Its words, “The constitutional framers could have never intended that the protection of fundamental rights was only for the majority population,” while intended as a critique of its 2013 judgment, have resonance beyond this case. In fact, the court notes that the “struggles of citizens belonging to sexual minorities is the struggle against various forms of social subordination. This includes various forms of transgression such as inter-caste and inter-community relationships, which are sought to be curbed by society. What links LGBT individuals to couples who love across caste and community lines is the fact that both are exercising their right to love at enormous personal risk and in the process disrupting existing lines of social authority”.

The battle against Section 377 has politicised generations of activists, influenced popular culture, sparked public discussion and debates — within the LGBT community as well — and raised awareness around sexuality and gender-related issues. Thursday’s verdict acknowledges this socio-political context: “The challenge to Section 377 has to be understood from the perspective of a rights discourse. While doing so, it becomes necessary to understand the constitutional source from which the claim emerges. When a right is claimed to be constitutionally protected, it is but necessary for the court to analyse the basis of that assertion”.

The richness of the verdict lies in the way the five judges link their understanding of the discriminatory nature of Section 377 with the role of the Constitution as “a transformative document”. “Our Constitution is a living and organic document capable of expansion with the changing needs and demands of the society”. The verdict calls upon courts to “act as sentinel on qui vive for guarding the rights of all individuals”.

CJI Dipak Misra, introduced the verdict with a call to “vanish, prejudice and embrace inclusion and ensure equal rights”. The judiciary has, time and again, proved it is up to the task. In the case of Section 377, it has been supported enthusiastically by civil society, more reluctantly by the political class, to deliver a much belated but historic reform.

11. India: Cartoonist P Mahamud Wins the First PEN-Gauri Lankesh Award for Democratic Idealism

Cartoonist P Mahamud Wins the First PEN-Gauri Lankesh Award for Democratic Idealism

ICF Team

September 5, 2018

Cartoonist P Mahamud was awarded the first PEN-Gauri Lankesh Award for Democratic Idealism today in Bengaluru on the first anniversary of journalist Gauri Lankesh's assassination. The prize money for the award is one lakh rupees. 

The award celebrates what Gauri Lankesh stood for — a life of commitment to equality and justice, fearlessness and above all, a strong connection with the idea of an India where diverse voices can speak with freedom. That the first award has gone to a cartoonist is significant. Cartoonists such as G Bala and Satish Acharya have been arrested or lost their jobs because of their cartoons. The award does more. In the face of multiple attacks on freedom of expression in India today, it insists that voices like Gauri Lankesh, and her counterparts in journalism, art, cartooning, film, literature and activism must be allowed to speak up, loud and clear.

P Mahamud has always been very vocal about the advancement of social and economic justice through his work. In the past, he worked as a freelance cartoonist with Taranga, the Kannada weekly, The Guardian of Business and Politics, the English newspaper, Andhra Pradesh Times and the Kannada newspapers Mungaaru, Jana Vahini, Prajavani and Vijaya Karnataka. His works have always offered a non-partisan critique of political corruption, communalism and caste prejudice, in the country in general, and in Karnataka in particular. He has also published a book of his cartoons around the Ayodhya controversy, an anthology of his political cartoons titled Vyanga (Vi)chitra, and  participated in the Sahmat workshop, “Cartoonists Against Communalism” in 1993. 

PEN was founded in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers. PEN defends the rights of writers internationally. PEN has three centres in India – Delhi, Bombay and South India. PEN South India was founded in 2017 and is based out of a different city each year.

This annual award has been instituted by PEN South India and Delhi. A jury will be established each year, to identify the recipient of the annual award. The first award is being given to an individual or an organisation who has worked in Kannada, and the jury consists of Chandan Gowda, Sangamesh Menasinakai, Arshia Sattar, and Vivek Shanbhag. 

The Times of India
September 4, 2018


If you call the government fascist will you be branded a terrorist and summarily arrested? This ironical turn of events has actually come to pass for research scholar Lois Sofia.

Travelling on a flight from Chennai to Tuticorin in which BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan was also travelling, Sofia shouted “fascist BJP government down, down”. She was taken into custody after Soundararajan filed a complaint with the airport police. It sends a very worrying message about political leaders’ intolerance and their eagerness to use their power and privileges to crush criticism.

Note that it wasn’t the airline that took this call, on Sofia causing public nuisance. Why couldn’t Soundararajan let Sofia’s slogans pass unpunished? Surely politicians should take criticisms, even if yelled at them, in their stride. After all, their own supporters would also be doing plenty of yelling at the opposition.

All this sound and fury is the oxygen of democracy. Or as the Supreme Court opined last week, “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy.”

Soundararajan has been quoted as saying that she thought she shouldn’t ignore a terrorist, an accusation grounded simply in Sofia using the word ‘fascist’ and raising her fist.

The immediate need is for the persecution of Soundararajan to stop. Over the longer term political leaders must grow more tolerance for criticism. It can hardly be the right of their supporters alone. Youthful passion should not be crushed with colonial style whips.


‘Government Is Preparing The Ground For Decline Of Rural Jobs Programme’

Shreehari Paliath, September 7, 2018  

Mumbai: In the budget for 2018-19, the government allocated the largest sum for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the world’s largest job-guarantee programme, since its launch in 2006. Yet, the allocation was no more than the 2017-18 revised estimate (that approximates actual requirement) of Rs 55,000 crore. In 2012-13, the share of MGNREGS was 55% of the rural development ministry’s allocation, and has since dropped seven percentage points to 48%, IndiaSpend reported on May 4, 2018.

Further, the wage payments to MGNREGS workers have been routinely delayed. Nearly 57% of wages due were unpaid at the end of April 2018, as per government data. The delays were “simply not acceptable”, the Supreme Court said, warning that red-tape could not be “pedalled” as an excuse to deny payment, the Business Standard reported on May 18, 2018.

Jean Drèze, a development economist and activist who is one of the architects of MGNREGS, says stagnation of real wages and the government’s chronic inability to ensure timely and reliable wage payments is discouraging workers from taking up MGNREGS work, which will lead to a decline of the scheme.
Drèze is a visiting professor at Ranchi University. He has taught at the London School of Economics and the Delhi School of Economics, and has recently authored ‘Sense And Solidarity – Jholawala Economics for Everyone’, a collection of essays from opinion pages written between 2000-17, highlighting his action-oriented research. With Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, he has co-authored ‘Hunger and Public Action’ and ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions.’ Dreze has travelled across rural India to work and research on social inequality, elementary education, child nutrition, health care and food security.

In an email interview with IndiaSpend, Jean Drèze speaks about the issues dogging MGNREGS, the use of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in the public distribution system, and the idea of a quasi-universal income that would transfer a basic income to a target population.

There have been reports of starvation deaths in Jharkhand, some of which have been blamed on technical glitches in the process of linking bank accounts with beneficiaries’ Aadhaar numbers, leading to them being denied access to subsidised foodgrains through the public distribution system (PDS). In 2016, you wrote that “the main vulnerability today, at least in the states I am familiar with, is not identity fraud but quantity fraud”. Have the circumstances changed since 2016? Has Aadhaar linking improved or worsened the situation?

Two careful studies of the PDS in Jharkhand have recently emerged [only one has been released to the public as of now], and despite some differences, they agree on important points. First, there is little identity fraud, such as duplicates, in the lists of ration cards [through which beneficiaries access PDS]. The streamlining of ration-card lists, mainly using the Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011, happened soon after the National Food Security came into force, and before Aadhaar came into the picture.

Second, the principal vulnerability is indeed quantity fraud. Quantity fraud mainly takes the form of what is called katauti in Jharkhand. Katauti means that the PDS dealer gives everyone a little less than their due, say 32 kg of rice instead of 35 kg, for an Antyodaya [poorest of the poor] household. Both studies indicate that katauti remained much the same after Aadhaar-Based Biometric Authentication (ABBA) was made compulsory in most ration shops [PDS outlets]. That is what one might expect, since ABBA is powerless to prevent quantity fraud.

Third, these studies suggest that ABBA led to a new type of fraud, at least initially. Briefly, when someone fails the biometric test, his or her rations are often appropriated by the PDS dealer. The closing stocks are supposed to be adjusted against the next month’s allocation, but that did not happen for a long time.

Aside from this, the imposition of ABBA has caused significant exclusion problems, especially for vulnerable groups such as single women and the elderly. In short, the outcome of ABBA in Jharkhand can be summarised as “pain without gain”. This is not an appropriate technology for rural Jharkhand, where connectivity problems are rampant. Smart cards would be more appropriate there. Unlike ABBA, smart cards do not depend on internet connectivity or biometrics. They have been used with good effect in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, why not Jharkhand?

In close to a decade until 2016-17, more than half the participants in MGNREGS have been women. Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, women person-days fell nearly 3 percentage points from 56.1% to 53.4%, as per government data. What are the reasons for the high participation of women and the present decline? Should the fall in total women person-days be a cause for concern?

The high participation of women is a very positive feature of MGNREGS. India has one of the lowest rates of female labour force participation in the world, an issue that received little attention until recently. Of course, Indian women do a huge amount of work at home and on the family farm, but that does not enhance their economic independence since most of it is unpaid. And the economic dependence of women on men is one of the main drivers of gender inequality in India. Only a woman who has nowhere to go would take the kind of oppression, humiliation and violence that so many Indian women endure within the household.

Against this background, MGNREGS work is an important opportunity for Indian women. Evidently, it is an acceptable form of employment for many of them, perhaps because it is available close to their homes, at a public worksite where they can work with their husband or other women, if need be. MGNREGS worksites are also free of private contractors, who are a major source of harassment for female workers. Further, MGNREGS wages are higher than what most rural women would be able to earn elsewhere, and they are deposited in women’s own bank accounts. So it is not surprising that large numbers of rural women have participated in MGNREGS, not only as casual labourers but at all levels. This is a valuable development, for which MGNREGS gets too little credit.

The small decline in women’s share of MGNREGS person-days, from 56% in 2016-17 to 53% in 2017-18, is possibly a concern but I think it is too early to tell. If the decline persists, it will certainly be an issue.

The present government seems indifferent towards MGNREGS, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi having said that it is “a living monument” to the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) policy failures. What is the future for the jobs-creation programme as the government tries to increase employment and speed up growth?

I would not make too much of this passing remark of the Prime Minister. The central government’s actions are more important, but they happen to be consistent with the Prime Minister’s statement. The Modi government has grudgingly accepted that MGNREGS is here to stay, but it is preparing the ground for a decline in the programme by keeping the wages constant in real terms year after year. The stagnation of real wages, along with the government’s chronic inability to ensure timely and reliable wage payments, is discouraging rural workers from taking up MGNREGS work. Sooner or later, this is likely to translate into a decline in MGNREGS employment. In fact, I believe that it is already happening in some states, though it is hidden in official statistics because of a revival of fake work attendance.

When workers lose interest, corrupt middlemen step in and fudge the records to siphon off MGNREGS funds. There are also other reasons for growing corruption in MGNREGS, including misguided technological innovations that create new vulnerabilities such as the nexus between private contractors and data-entry operators. Between the wage-payments crisis and the revival of corruption, MGNREGS seems to be losing steam right now, in some states at least.

There has been criticism about the quality of work completed under MGNREGS. Do you believe this aspect is misunderstood? While MGNREGS is a crucial source of employment and social security, is there an alternative where skilling/re-skilling of workers could also be undertaken?

We know little about the quality of MGNREGS works, all the more so as it tends to vary a great deal across states and worksites. The best MGNREGS works have high rates of return, judging for instance from a recent study of MGNREGS wells in Jharkhand. [The study found that nearly 95% of completed wells were being utilised for irrigation, leading to a near tripling of agricultural income in the command area.] The worst are useless, as many other works in the same state illustrate. But how MGNREGS works are distributed between these two extremes is hard to guess.

My sense is that in the better-governed states, MGNREGS is reasonably productive on average. This is borne out, in the case of Maharashtra, by a recent study from the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research. But much remains to be done to achieve similar standards of work quality across the country.

As far as skill formation is concerned, one option would be to reinforce the skill formation component of MGNREGS itself. There is a perception that MGNREGS is just about unskilled work like digging, but in fact, it also includes a skill-formation component. Indeed, aside from casual labourers, MGNREGS employs a large number of people in different capacities–skilled workers, worksite supervisors, barefoot engineers, social auditors, data-entry operators, Gram Rozgar Sevaks [‘village employment assistants’, which are administrative positions], and so on.

Being contractual staff, most of them move to the private sector at some stage, with the benefit of the skills they have learnt under MGNREGS. This skill-formation aspect of MGNREGS could be strengthened, for instance through better training programmes for worksite supervisors and barefoot engineers. Perhaps some sort of skill ladder could also be built into MGNREGS, so that workers have a chance to become worksite supervisors, supervisors to become Gram Rozgar Sevaks, and so on. This is a little futuristic, but some steps could be taken in that direction at least.

The aspirational districts programme looks to improve the socio-economic indices of 115 backward districts in India, many of which fall in the so-called “BIMARU” states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, considered laggards in terms of growth and development). Earlier there was the backward regions grant fund (BRGF). Why are some regions continuing to fail to develop? How much of it is cultural and institutional? What are the solutions?

One thing that India lacks badly is a strong sense of universal minimum standards. For instance, every school should meet some minimum standards in terms of facilities, teacher-pupil ratio and so on, wherever it is located. Of course, the Right to Education Act does set some standards. But in practice, it is still considered alright for schools in deprived areas to lack the basics. You don’t have to go to the country’s backward or aspirational districts, as they are called, to see this. You can see it in any small town, by comparing public facilities in privileged areas and deprived neighbourhoods.

I mention this because it seems to me that the district is not necessarily the best unit to think about when it comes to spatial disparities. In the most advanced districts, there are backward pockets, and in the most backward districts, there are prosperous areas. This struck me when I visited Mewat, one of the poorest areas in the country, at a time when it was still in Gurgaon district, one of the country’s most prosperous districts. When special grants are allocated to the backward districts, there is a risk that they will end up doing little for the deprived areas of these districts. A different approach would be to ensure minimum standards across the country, such as RTE norms for every school, an all-weather approach road for every gram panchayat [cluster of villages], electricity for every village, and so on.

In this approach, the poorer districts would still get most of the resources, since they have the largest shortfalls from minimum standards, but the resources would go where they are really needed, including deprived areas in other districts. All this, of course, is easier said than done. But the Backward Regions Grant Fund did not achieve much and the aspirational districts programme does not even seem to have a budget. So it is worth considering an alternative approach.

It has been close to two years since demonetisation. Has the rural economy recovered or is it still battling the after-effects?

I doubt that anyone really knows. If you believe the official statistics, the crisis was short-lived and the old trends are back. These trends are bleak as far as the rural economy is concerned. The growth rate of agriculture is sluggish, certainly compared with the rest of the economy, and real agricultural wages are barely rising.

Having said this, the official statistics have lost some credibility. For one thing, the Modi government is a bit of a public-relations agency, and it is hard to believe that economic statistics are not being massaged here and there. For another, there is little direct evidence on the informal sector, which accounts for a large part of the rural economy.

Annual economic statistics for the informal sector are largely based on economic modelling, using formal-sector data and whatever little information is available on the informal sector from periodic surveys. This approach may be good enough for estimating medium-term trends, but it is not geared to measuring the short-term impact of a shock like demonetisation. It is, thus, quite possible that the rural economy is faring worse, or rather even worse, than official statistics suggest. But we are in the dark on this.

As agrarian distress rises, the government is attempting to double farmer income by 2022. Could you share your views on universal basic income (UBI) or quasi-UBI to farmers and agriculture labourers as advocated by Arvind Subramanian, the former chief economic adviser to the government of India?

The promise to double farmers’ incomes by 2022 is meaningless. For one thing, it would require a growth rate of 20% per year in real terms for four years in a row. That’s just a pipedream. For another, we have no reliable data on farmers’ incomes, so this promise does not commit the government to anything tangible.

As far as income-transfer proposals are concerned, the term UBI is inappropriate. The idea of basic income is that it covers the basic costs of subsistence. None of the current proposals for India meet that criterion. There are various proposals for a quasi-universal income top-up (QUIT), in the sense of modest income transfers aimed at a large majority of the population. I am not at all opposed to the idea of a QUIT for rural areas, but the modalities pose difficult questions. For instance, who is eligible, how much is to be given to different categories of eligible households, and should it be in cash or kind?

In the Rythu Bandhu scheme [farmer investment support scheme launched by the government of Telangana] projected by Arvind Subramanian as a quasi-UBI, the modalities look far from ideal. Only landowners are eligible, and the transfers are proportional to the amount of land owned. That sounds very regressive.

On the other hand, these modalities may be less regressive and more rational than the current structure of power and fertilizer subsidies, and indeed, Subramanian’s proposal is to replace the latter with the former. But in practice, it is not happening, and the Rythu Bandhu transfers, as I understand it, are supplements and not substitutes for other subsidies. So this does not look like a good model at all.

My view is that the poorer Indian states already have a QUIT scheme in the form of the PDS, though it is in kind rather than cash. Unlike Rythu Bandhu, the PDS is progressive, and not restricted to landowners. In these states at least, it would be better to consolidate the PDS than to introduce ill-designed cash-transfer schemes. The disastrous consequences of the recent experiment with “DBT for food subsidy” in Nagri Block of Jharkhand is an important warning in this regard.

(Paliath is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

Yogesh S
06 Sep 2018

As per the SIT, the group headed by Amol Kale had plans to assassinate playwright Girish Karnad, Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami of Nidumamidi Mutt, and rationalists K.S. Bhagavan and Narendra Nayak.

Rationalists under threat

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Wednesday, which also happened to be the first death anniversary of activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh, revealed that a group headed by Amol Kale, arrested in connection with Lankesh’s murder, also had plans to assassinate Girish Karnad and Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami of Nidumamidi Mutt from Bengaluru, and rationalists K.S. Bhagavan in Mysuru and Narendra Nayak in Mangaluru, immediately after Gauri Lankesh. The investigation of Amol Kale, a former convener of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) by the SIT of Karnataka, has established the fact that the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh were ideologically motivated; and have brought to light a larger conspiracy to silence the voices against Hindutva politics.

The investigations have shown that the Sanatan Sanstha and its volunteers had a full-fledged plan to kill all those who opposed their idea of a Hindu Rashtra. During the course of its investigation, the SIT recovered two lists from Kale containing names of 34 targeted individuals who had publicly condemned Hindutva politics. One of the lists named Karnad, a well-known playwright and activist from Karnataka, followed by Lankesh. The second list had 26 other names. KS Bhagwan, BT Lalita Naik, Veerabhadra Channa Mallikarjuna Swamy of Nidumamidi Mutt, C S Dwarakanath, Yogesh Master, Chandrashekhar Patil, Banjagere Jayaprakash, Patil Puttappa, Nataraj Huliyar, Baraguru Ramachandrappa, Chennaveera Kanavi, Narendra Nayak, and S M Jamadar.

The four names that the SIT revealed on Wednesday, have been attacked in the past by Hindutva outfits in the state...

Why Were These Four Targeted?

Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad a Jnanpith, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee had on several occasions attacked Hindutva forces. One such occasion was a public gathering in Mysuru in 2004. He noted that none of the scriptures mentioned words like Hinduism and Hindutva, and also pointed out that these words were RSS ideologue Veer Savarkar’s contribution to carry out their regressive politics. On another occasion in 2015, Karnad had said that had Tipu Sultan been a Hindu, he would have enjoyed the status that Shivaji enjoys today in the pages of history. These instances had enraged the extremist Hindutva groups and resulted in him being attacked.

The playwright has been a staunch critic of Hindutva forces.

Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami

Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami is the pontiff of the Nidumamidi math, a Veerashaiva Lingayat seminary in Gulur of Kolar district. The pontiff and the math follow the philosophy of 12th century philosopher Basavanna. M M Kalburgi, who researched the philosophy, argued that Lingayats, the followers of Basavanna, were not Hindus. Lankesh, a Lingayat, also advocated this. Both Kalburgi and Lankesh were assassinated for their support to the LIngayat movement that demanded independent religion status for Lingayats.

Saffron-clad Chennamalla Swami does not represent anything that the saffron robes in today’s India have come to embody. On the other side,  he and Nidumamidi Math have had a strange relationship with the rising saffron-clad advocates of Hindutva ideology. On July 25, 2015, Swami in Davangere had said,

“Children or young people are often ordained as swamis. At their age they have no idea of what ascetic demands are or what renunciation is all about. It has not been possible even for people meditating in the Himalayas to achieve complete celibacy. They have strayed at times. They are riddled with questions and have had to battle paradoxes. When such is the case, how can we expect our swamis, who live a life of luxury in maths, which have come to resemble palaces, to practice celibacy? Including the Nidumamidi math, there is no 'satvik' environment left in any of our seminaries to practice celibacy...”

The SS  and its affiliates aim to establish a HIndu Rashtra by building armies and killing their enemies. For them and Hindutva forces in general, a saffron-clad swami critiquing Hindutva outfits is the real threat.

K S Bhagavan

“It’s (Hinduism) a religion that has flourished disintegrating people based on the four-fold caste system,” was what K S Bhagavan, Kannada writer, had said in response to threats by Bajrang Dal and other Hindutva forces. Bhagavan had in 2015 had said that the Bhagavad Gita was a sectarian text which legitimises discrimination. Enraged by this, the Hindutva forces had threatened him but he refused to apologise. Speaking to The Hindu newspaper about these developments, Bhagavan had said,

“After attaining Independence, they did not try to educate the masses on the drawbacks of religion. There was this euphoria of freedom. Only the communists attempted to do this in a small way. The ignorance of religion by the masses is now being exploited by fundamentalists.”

A staunch critique of the exclusionary politics and ideology of Hindutva, he has on several occasion been attacked by the likes of Bajrang Dal.

Dr. Narendra Nayak

The president of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations and a godman debunker, Nayak has earned enemies from among the superstitious and religious fanatics. There have been reports of various attempts made in the past to eliminate Professor Narendra Nayak, a notable rationalist, based in Mangalore.

Professor Nayak’s name was seventh in the hit list that was released on the internet following the murders of Pansare and Kalburgi. He has been facing death threats and has been attacked in the past – the reason why he has also been given protection. Speaking to Newsclick, Nayak recollected talking to Lankesh about her safety. He says, “Gauri had laughed it off by saying, nothing like that would happen. I do not know if she was remarking on the threat to her life or denying the protection.”

Nayak says the first time he received a threat was nearly three decades ago. He, along with several others, had moved the High Court of Karnataka challenging the grant to the land to a mosque at Mangalore Harbour. Such a grant, Nayak had argued, would open the floodgates for a number of such demands. He had obtained a stay order from the court, following which, he had received death threats and was also attacked on number of occasions. He has been provided a gunman by the police since July 2016.

Questioning the existence of god, ghosts and other supernatural powers is seen as a threat to the religious belief system. Rationalists, who invoke science to explain and debunk superstitions, are the enemies of SS which is a factory of superstitions. SS, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), hundreds of gau raksha samitis, and networks of named and unnamed Hindutva organisations, that pledge for Hindu Rashtra, are functioning fearlessly in the country now. With the patronage of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government, these organisations continue to carry on with their terror activities in broad daylight. 

Sankarshan Thakur 
The Telegraph
September 05, 2018

Somewhere in his copious meditations on the nature of Soviet Russia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had made a remark whose truth has far outlasted the life of his oppressor regime. Paraphrased, the sense Solzhenitsyn conveyed was that violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Violence, inspired mass violence in particular, is easier enacted than erased. Very often, it lives on in the decibels of denial.

There lie layers and layers of subterfuge in the recurrent trapeze bouts of blame the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party play over 1984 and 2002. For every reference to the horror of 1984, the Congress brings up 2002, and for every reference to the unspeakable crimes of 2002, the BJP raises 1984. And so it plays on and on in a nauseous loop, the excess of allegation and the absence of admission. Perhaps, in a cynical fashion that we have unfortunately been inured to, it serves the interests of political parties to spar on, unmindful of the requirements of regret or redress or both. What that also serves, frighteningly, is the purpose of history's chilling lesson to the future: mass murder can be ordered again and will bring few consequences other than arguments over it. Often profitable arguments.

Here lies another layer of the subterfuge. It involves us all, the lies we tell of ourselves to ourselves. Who kills? And maims and rapes and arsons about? We do. At the exhort of an H.K.L. Bhagat or a Sajjan Kumar or a Jagdish Tytler; a Maya Kodnani or a Babu Bajrangi, or some debased stoker of evil from the Sanatan Sanstha, or any or many of the lynch clubs that have sprung up across our geography? We hang the blame on them - and blame does lie on the vanguard that screams violence - but it is we, people among us, who enact that script.

For a talkative society, we tell very little of the essence of ourselves. We babble in the subconscious hope it will drown our truths. We've erected opaque mental monuments to Buddha and Gandhi to blind our eager resort to bloodletting. When the glare catches us red-handed, we wipe our sins on others and melt into our vast convenience of numbers.

What continues to cloy and will not go away is the memory nearly three decades old from a village called Logain near Bhagalpur in Bihar. It was the winter of 1989, the shivered evidence of crimes we collectively wreak and bear no responsibility for. It was eventually left to the vultures to rip the cover. The bodies, 116 of them, had lain there decomposing for six weeks. In that period, the village had grown wiser to the fineries of tilling - dead men made good compost. A lush winter crop of mustard had sprung on the bed of corpses they had laid. But the village was also to grow wiser to a thing or two about old idioms: dead men do tell tales, it is seldom they don't. The stench had risen high off the field and the vultures had begun to swoop low. The killing had been consummated weeks ago, an entire settlement of Muslims on the edge of Logain. Their common guilt the villagers had consigned to a common grave.

The carnage was an open secret in the village but to the world beyond it was just a secret. Until the vultures arrived, followed by that rare thing called a policeman with a conscience. He had the crop shaved and the field dug up. The skulls flew into the sky as the spades got to work...

Some among us were there and told the story. Logain became, like many of our stories, the child of memory's whore - an unwanted, forgotten consequence of collective shame. We are a nation eddying with bastard deeds.

Nellie. Moradabad. Bhiwandi. Hashimpura. Maliana. Meerut. Kanpur. Bhagalpur. Sopore. Baroda. Aligarh. Mumbai. Chittisinghpura. Ahmedabad. Delhi. We lay blood-litter on the streets and retreat into our homes. Nobody owns up. We decamp from facts and populate our horrors with clichéd characters of fiction - a violent mob, a murderous horde, a crowd screaming, slashing, burning, a mass that suddenly descended and vanished.

Who? Where from? Us. Here from. Every single time. It is we who pillage, rape and murder. Under wrongful excitement and exhortation. Under criminal instruction and protection, yes, but it is we who do it. We are the apparatchik of serial and periodic political madness, we are the midwives of the abortion of the senses. Then we wash our hands and line up for secular prabhat pheris, our opaque monuments to Buddha and Gandhi urgently recalled to veil memory and guilt.

The Babel Tower of inquiries and commissions, reports and recommendations that we have piled for ourselves is a route of escape. A talkative society talking endlessly. Or an argumentative society, as we are told on formidable authority, arguing on. About who and how. About cause and consequence. About crime and the absence of punishment. Never once do we dare look ourselves in the mirror. Never do we stop pointing fingers at others. Outraged, shrieking justice, baying retribution, if legal. Hush.

Where were you at the time? And what were you doing? You were electing Narendra Modi under whose watch sectarian violence proceeded unbridled. You were voting Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler back to respectable titles and hallowed portals. You were turning up in thousands to pirouette to the twisted bigotry of Pravin Togadia. You were letting Thackeray hone your hatreds.

We need to ask a few questions of each other. We need to ask questions of the households that were spared the mayhem of Trilokpuri. Ask the shopkeepers of Mandvi Ni Pole. Ask around in the bylanes of Hashimpura. Ask those who live across the charred remains of Gulberg. Ask the villagers of Logain, it's been 28 winters since that resplendent mustard crop that contained a gene of murdered blood.

We cannot pretend being a civil society when we claim, every now and again, rights over uncivil liberties. We cannot invoke laws that we ourselves violate. We cannot look up to a Constitution that we trample underfoot.

There are a myriad contemporary Indian stories we have forgotten. They are all true stories. They have dates and datelines. They have pegs and dead people hanging by them. And there are, among us, the many hands that hung them there that have since been washed in collective and convenient forgetting.

The truth about mass murder in this country we haven't learnt to tell. Even less to confront. Which is why someday, when that diabolical sloganeer appears again with a manic prescription and a surcharged bloodcry, we will again turn upon each other and consume. We live in times that implore us to beware of far too many dangers lurking about. Or above. Among them, let's face it, we should count ourselves as well. That'll be a beginning that awaits any people that wish to call themselves civilized.
16. Book Review:: Antoinette Burton. Africa in the Indian Imagination: Race and the Politics of Postcolonial Citation
Antoinette Burton. Africa in the Indian Imagination: Race and the Politics of Postcolonial Citation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. 200 pp. $22.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8223-6167-1; $84.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8223-6148-0.

Reviewed by Jyoti Mohan (Morgan State University)
Published on H-Empire (June, 2018)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed (Elizabeth City State University)

This is a slim volume of collected essays written over several years. Antoinette Burton focuses on an individual piece of literature in each essay, a novel or a nonfictional work, authored by an Indian or African Indian. Her primary goal is to ascertain to what extent the politically stated aim of “brotherhood” or “solidarity” between Indians and Africans in the Bandung Conference of 1955 is echoed in the work of four authors: Anasuyah Singh, Frank Moraes, Chanakya Sen, and Phyllis Naidoo. The short conclusion states that more often than not, racial tension rather than brotherhood is the dominant theme of the works. Burton not only highlights the simple fact of racial tension between brown and black but also explores it in a sensitive manner, placing the racial relationships against the developing political backdrops of emerging movements for independence (for instance, in Singh’s Behold the Earth Mourns [1960] and in Naidoo’s accounts of anti-apartheid), postcolonial efforts to define individual and national identity (Moraes’s The Importance of Being Black [1965]), and older, existing tropes of sexual danger from darker races (represented in the resistance to interracial relationships in Sen’s The Morning After [1973]). Burton has chosen her material wisely; these are not simplistic representations of binaries but complex works with protagonists who are rebels, politically active in the movement for South Africa’s independence from colonial rule, participants in the larger Afro-Asian struggle against imperialism. The protagonists demonstrate the complexities of the political and social environment, and a constant evolution of their own thought and opinions. 

Burton’s stated aim is to encourage “a politics of citation,” to view the writings by Indians and African Indians through the lens of a “citationary apparatus,” which, defined by her, consists of the prominence of Africa and Africans in shaping the evolving “Indian postcolonial imaginaries.” While this is a laudable goal, there are many questions that Burton leaves unanswered. The four authors she has chosen to highlight in this volume, thoughtful and complex in their works, are yet only marginal to the “Indian postcolonial imaginary.” The same sort of political rhetoric that the Bandung Conference perpetuated can be seen in Jawaharlal Nehru’s oft-cited quote, “Hindu- Cheeni, bhai-bhai,” which roughly translates to Indians and Chinese are brothers, but does not mitigate the fraught political and militant relationship between India and China over Tibet. To prove that the claims of the Bandung Conference went beyond simple political rhetoric, Burton needs to have provided substantial evidence of this claim playing a key role in policy decisions or even the public representation of Africans in India. This volume is incomplete in that sense.

Another shortcoming of the book is its very logic. Burton is a master historian, who has proven her skill and craft time and again. In this volume, she presents four individual essays with thoughtful nuance, highlighting the presence of complex relationships of race, gender, and politics between different groups of disenfranchised people. Published as essays in journals, each would have been a worthy contribution to the larger research on the Indian diaspora in Africa. Yet, as a stand-alone volume, it lacks justification. Apart from the suggestion to apply a “citationary approach,” Burton has added little to the analysis of the Indian diaspora in Africa. The most obvious example of the manner in which Indians in Africa generally looked down on Africans was seen in the fallout of Idi Amin’s coup when Indians were all exiled from Uganda. Even cinematically, Mississippi Masala presents the complex relationship between browns and blacks poetically, juxtaposing prejudices and political awareness in a new geographical environment. South Asians were/are racist. As a generality, this is fact. This racism is not built into South Asian culture or heritage but is yet another remnant of colonial detritus, one that South Asia has yet to unpack and dismantle. Burton has merely examined a new set of texts that echoes this message. Students looking for literary evidence of Indian racism will find excellent analyses in this volume. Generalists of history who may know nothing about the Indian diaspora in Africa but know of Burton’s renown as a historian of imperial history will learn something. Postcolonial scholars of the South Asian diaspora or the Indian subcontinent will find this volume disappointing.

Rahila Gupta
Refinery 29
5 September 2018

Photo: Kongra-Star
Soza Qamishlo

Ever wondered what it might be like to live through a revolution? A revolution which puts women and young people at the leading edge of change? When society as you know it and all its institutions are turned upside down, virtually overnight, in the pursuit of ideals such as women’s equality or true democracy or environmental protection? Ideals which you may be passionate about but which constantly crash into walls erected by a society which puts profit before people and planet.
There is a revolution going on right now. A feminist revolution, led by women, in Syria of all places – a country of death, destruction, dust and despair, if we are to believe what we see on our TV screens. When I visited Rojava (now the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria) in 2016, all the journalists were heading to the front line. Among the forces that drove ISIS out of Raqqa – a battle of huge significance to the West – were a number of Kurdish women but you would have had to be extremely attentive to the news to notice them fighting alongside the men.

Influenced by the ideas of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish freedom struggle, currently imprisoned in Turkey, who believed that "A country can’t be free unless the women are free," the women of Rojava set about building a society on the principles of democratic confederalism. With President Assad distracted by the rebel uprising in the south of Syria, the Kurds in this northern strip of land, an oppressed minority, were able to proceed with an almost bloodless revolution.

Neighbourhoods were formed into communes co-led by a man and a woman, which had committees to deal with local issues like health, conflict resolution and education, which had a guaranteed 40% quota for each sex. Representatives were elected by the local people and this structure was replicated all the way up to city level.
Alongside this structure was an unprecedented, women-only governance structure which had the right to veto any policies affecting women’s rights. Shortly after the women’s ministry was set up in 2014, a huge number of women-friendly laws were introduced; polygamy, child marriage and forced marriage were banned. Sharia courts which flourished under Assad and ISIS were disbanded.
What is life like for young women living in a revolutionary society? I particularly wanted to speak to women from different religious and ethnic backgrounds because the revolution is Kurdish-led but actively inclusive of all minorities, to the extent that the Kurds have voluntarily surrendered their majority in this area by sharing power with Arabs and Syriac Christians in parliament.

Soza Qamishlo, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, signed up with the women’s defence forces, YPJ, along with her sister in 2013, a month after the unit was formed. Coming from a family of revolutionaries, her decision to join the YPJ filled her father with pride. Although it was an easy decision, it is one that is constantly tested. She finds it hard to describe the pain she feels at the loss of her friends in the war, and the death of her sister in 2017. During the fighting there is a numbness, she says; the pain comes later. One of the most frightening moments she faced was when her fellow fighters ran away and she was left alone to confront ISIS.
Soza is a serious young woman who forswears marriage, wants to write books about her time in the YPJ and dreams of meeting Öcalan. She, like others I have spoken to in the YPJ, downplays the 'gals with guns' angle; their training focuses on their cause and history, on why women have to stand firm against the patriarchy. She says ISIS "didn’t give them a chance to protect themselves any other way".

Photo: Kongra-Star
Khawla Issa

Until Raqqa, the de facto capital of the ISIS caliphate, was liberated in 2017, life for women in the city was like "living in a room with closed doors," says Khawla Issa, a 27-year-old Arab woman. Her father used to run a cheese and bread stall in the market to sustain a family of 11 children which included 10 girls and one boy. After he lost his foot in an accident, three of Khawla's sisters took over the running of the market stall but once ISIS occupied Raqqa in 2014, women were no longer allowed to go out without a male guardian. This spelled starvation for the family, who had to rely on occasional handouts of bread from ISIS.

Afraid that their brother would be taken away to fight with ISIS, the family hid him. Khawla, who had been studying to become a lawyer, had to give it all up and stay at home, where she discovered the pleasures of dressmaking, an activity which fills her leisure time today.
Mariyana İsa, a 26-year-old Christian woman, also had to abandon university in Deir Azzor where she was studying chemistry when ISIS took over the city. She was lucky to be able to return to her family home in Qamişlo, Rojava. She was wise to leave when she did.
Khawla's sister was shot at 11 times for defying ISIS and driving the family car. The bullets lodged in four places and she had to lie and say that they were accidental in order to get treated in the ISIS-run hospitals. To this day, Khawla has issues with her ears, which she puts down to the nose bleeds she sustained when forced to wear the niqab in very hot conditions. Despite being covered from head to foot, she attracted the attentions of an ISIS soldier; she managed to deflect his marriage proposal by lying that she was already married. Like Soza, she has no intention of getting married.

Three of her sisters are already married; her parents have left it up to her even though Arab culture sees marriage as the natural destiny for women. Since Raqqa was liberated, Khawla has been working for the revolution, at the Democratic Council of Raqqa, running awareness-raising seminars on women’s rights for Arab women. When I ask her why she is wearing the hijab – the only one of the three women I interview to do so – she says that her work takes her into the heart of conservative communities who will ignore her work because her uncovered head will indicate that she is not a good Muslim. Although ISIS were brutal in the restrictions they placed on women, Khawla asserts that their ideas were not so different from those of Assad.

Soza describes how she discussed these ideas with an ISIS fighter who was taken prisoner by the YPJ. Asking her why women were taking up arms, she explained their ideology to him and says he was "touched". Unlike the YPJ, which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the ISIS prisoner couldn’t really articulate what he was fighting for beyond the creation of an Islamic caliphate. She asked him what kind of rights he would get in this society and he was stumped for an answer. When he asked her the same question, she was able to quote chapter and verse.
Unlike ISIS, the secular Rojava revolution values all ethnicities and religious groupings, a point underlined by Mariyana. She believes that Christians are better respected by the Kurds than they were by Assad.

Photo: Kongra-Star
Mariyana İsa

They are free to follow their religion but the new laws, which give better rights to women, allow them to divorce, which was not formerly granted by the Church. Even in cases of domestic violence, the best you could achieve was a three-year separation to give the man a chance to change himself. Mariyana says she would like to get married one day, and hopes "to choose a good person so that the marriage lasts because all girls in this society want to get married". For now, though, her priority is qualifying and working as a chemistry teacher.
Mariyana volunteers with Christian youth and the Assembly of Christian Women, undertaking small projects in the community. They have recently built a park for children. When I ask how she survives without an income, she says she asks for money when she needs it. This is something I come across often in Rojava; it is totally incredible to someone like me, raised with capitalist values. My translator says that because they are at war, there is not enough to go around, so those who need money are prioritised.
Before the revolution the communities were segregated, going to their own schools, learning their own languages. Mariyana loves the fact that "the revolution has brought us together" but if she has one frustration, it is that they don’t speak each other’s languages. However, the main languages are now being taught to everybody in school, so it is just a matter of time before this changes.
The future of Rojava is fragile but it will not stop these revolutionary young women from continuing to fight for their freedoms.

A Feminist Revolution Is Happening In Syria Today
written by Rahila Gupta

Japan offers lessons in how to handle the challenge quickly and cost-effectively
Geoffrey Jones 
Nikkei Asian Review
September 05, 2018

Asia's cities have driven the region's extraordinary growth, but they have become polluted and polluting nightmares sinking under mountains of waste. While almost the entire populations of the developed West have their waste collected and disposed of hygienically, this is far from true in many Asian economies. The percentage falls as low as 20% in poorer countries such as Pakistan and Cambodia. Collection services are best in big cities, far worse in rural areas, and rarely reach the many millions in informal settlements.

Worse still is how many Asian cities dispose of most their waste in open dumps. The result is severe pollution, disease, and urban flooding. Dumps are major generators of greenhouse gases. Mumbai's huge Deonar dump is a vast concentration of methane gas which regularly catches fire.

Waste is also a major social issue. In many Asian countries, people who collect and process waste face stigmatization, as well as health risks. In India, Dalits, the lowest castes in the Hindu system, perform the most unpleasant jobs.

Better systems of collection and disposal cost money, but it is not evident that this is the entire, or even the major, problem in Asia. Policymakers have not prioritized collection and, especially, productive and ecologically sound disposal of waste. Most prefer to spend on other pressing issues, such as health and transport. The fact that the immediate victims of vast dumps are low in social hierarchies helps explain such preferences.

Unhygienic dumps are not inevitable in poorer countries. Japan offers important lessons how to transition from a nightmare of waste to a system which uses waste productively and hygienically. These lessons are especially relevant in Asia as Japan has many similarities to other Asian nations in terms of big crowded cities and import-dependence for energy and natural resources. Japan was also a country which after decades of economic growth had mountains of waste -- until it decided to do something about it.

It would be tempting, but misleading to explain this by path dependency or even culture. The Japanese word "mottai-nai" which means not letting things that have value go to waste, is said to have originated in the thirteenth century. It is still talked about in schools today.

Yet there was no straight line between the past and the present. Japan grew rich with no regard to the environment in the decades after 1950. A Ministry of the Environment was created in 1971 to counter air and water pollution which made Tokyo resemble Manila and Jakarta now. But soil contamination and many other environmental issues remained remarkably unregulated even as incomes rose. Japan began disposing of urban garbage by incineration in 1960, but the process -- which produced huge volumes of exhaust gas -- only made things worse. Dioxin levels reached a record high in the 1990s. Meanwhile, illegal dumping of the products of a now-affluent consumer society went unchecked.

Then it began to change. Beginning with the Basic Environmental Law of 1993, national laws were passed providing an overall framework for a new kind of waste management system, but leaving execution to local governments. Here are two immediate lessons from the Japanese experience. First policymakers must take the issue seriously by establishing mandates. Secondly, execution needs to be local. Waste is a local problem, and solutions need to be matched to local circumstances.

The story of the successful system which Japan put in place begins with collection of household garbage by municipalities. The streets of big cities now contain detailed roadside signs with weekly schedules and colorful icons which set the rules. Municipalities publish waste disposal guides that can be up to 30 pages. Households and companies are mandated to separate garbage into items which can be burned, such as kitchen scraps and paper, those that cannot be burned, like batteries and electronics, and things that can be recycled such as newspapers. These are collected on different schedules, and taken to different places. The rules vary across the country. In some cities regulations require polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, bottle caps to be separated from bottles classified as plastic, while in others they are recycled together as PET bottles.

What happens to the waste which is collected? In most of Asia, solid waste budgets are primarily spent on collection, but Japan devoted considerable resources to disposal also. Thirty years ago the overwhelming majority of Japanese waste went to landfills or illegal dumps. Only 5% of municipal waste was recycled. Today only 1.2% of Japanese waste goes to landfill. This is similar to the much-lauded green economy of Denmark, and much better than the U.S., which still puts over half its garbage in landfills. Most Asian countries are far higher: Indonesia and Philippines dump all their waste, not even in environmentally managed landfills.

Japan uses landfills imaginatively. Tokyo Bay now has a new forest known as the Sea Forest built on 12.3 million tons of garbage, designed by the renowned architect Tadao Ando. It was funded by public donations and planted by thousands of volunteers. Here is another Japanese lesson -- the need to engage civil society in waste management

Japan now recycles 20% of its waste, which is not high by developed country standards -- Germany and Austria recycle over half of their municipal waste -- but much higher than many other Asian countries. Organization rather than spending is fundamental to the system. Numerous startups have been created to recycle particular products, such as styrene foam used to pack fish.

The majority of Japanese waste -- some 70% -- is turned into energy. This is an extraordinary high level, which dwarfs the U.S. (13%) and beats the best-performing European nation, Sweden (50%). Japan had begun incinerating waste in the 1960s, but the process produced huge amounts of exhaust gas, which provoked public opposition to new plants. Municipalities responding by promoting clean technologies, including burning the waste over 850 C. By 2015 dioxins emitted into the atmosphere were one-50th of the 1998 level.

However there was more to this success than technology. As incinerators were located in heavily populated urban areas. An elaborate process was developed to engage stakeholders. The process of building a furnace begins with dialogue with local residents, and an assessment of environmental impacts. Furnaces are regularly designed to look good rather than be an eyesore. They often include sports and other facilities and are heated by the electricity generated by the plant. Waste serves a cultural asset.

Japanese waste management is not rocket science, and it is not even cripplingly expensive. The environment ministry calculates that the total cost of waste management is now 15,300 yen ($139) per head annually. This is a lot more than Asian countries -- the Thai government may only spend $2 per head annually on municipal waste -- but the costs of missed opportunities in waste re-use and pollution are currently very high. In any case, Japan's success was not driven by huge spending, but rather a determination to prioritize the issue, and a willingness to consider waste as a resource, rather than a costly problem. The other lessons from Japan are the importance of effective local execution, high levels of civic engagement, and imaginative public-private interaction. Talking about waste in schools, as in Japan, can bring behavioral changes. Japan provides a model of how within two decades a chaotic and polluting system of waste management can be transformed. Others in Asia should take note.

Geoffrey Jones is a professor at Harvard Business School and author of "Profits and Sustainability: A History of Green Entrepreneurship" (Oxford University Press, 2017).

by Grace Blakeley 

Financialization isn’t a perversion of an otherwise well-functioning system. It’s just capitalism’s latest survival mechanism.

Philosophers and economists have decried the parasitical effect of finance on productive economic activity. Plato opens his Republic with an exchange challenging the idea that one should always repay one’s debts. Adam Smith argued for attacks on landlords’ entrenched privileges, while Keynes called for the “euthanasia of the rentier.” This narrative is still prominent today. Indeed, many modern economists argue that we are entering an era of “rentier capitalism,” in which financial capitalists thrive at the expense of good, productive industrialists.

And they have a point. There is mounting evidence that an ever-increasing portion of economic output is accruing to those who gain their money from unproductive economic rents — that is, from monopolizing inputs to production and charging above-market rates for their use. The “rentier share” increased from 4 percent to 14 percent of total income between 1970 and 2000. Financial profits increased by a similar magnitude over the same period. These trends are linked: much of finance’s modern activity is little more than rentierism.

But any analysis that sees financialization as a “perversion” of a purer, more productive form of capitalism fails to grasp the real context. What has emerged in the global economy in recent decades is a new model of capitalism, one that is far more integrated than simple dichotomies suggest. As we pass the tenth anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis, developing conceptual tools to understand financialized capitalism is vital to building strategies to overcome it.
The Rise and Fall of Global Finance

Financialization — “the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operation of the economy” — is a process that began in the 1980s with the removal of barriers to capital mobility. Global capital flows rose from about 5 percent of world GDP in the mid-1990s to about 20 percent in 2007. This is about three times faster than world trade flows.

Increases in capital mobility helped facilitate the emergence of large imbalances between creditor countries with large current account surpluses and debtors with large current account deficits. According to textbook economic theory, these imbalances should be self-correcting. When a country runs a deficit, currency is flowing out of the country. If this currency does not return in the form of capital inflows, the resulting increase in supply will exert downward pressure on the currency. A less valuable currency makes your exports cheaper to international consumers and should therefore increase demand for those exports. Played out over the scale of the global economy, this should lead to equilibrium.

In the lead-up to the crisis, the fact that this equilibrium was not forthcoming puzzled some economists. Deficit countries should have been experiencing large currency depreciations, given the size of their current account deficits. These depreciations should, in turn, then have increased the competitiveness of their goods. Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the Fed, accused a number of emerging economies of “hoarding” savings to protect themselves from future crises, preventing the global economy from reaching equilibrium.

In fact, deficit countries were able to maintain strong currencies because, even though there was relatively little demand for their goods, there was strong demand for their assets — particularly financial assets. The main reason for the high demand for UK and US assets was the financial deregulation undertaken by neoliberal governments in these states in the 1980s, which facilitated a dramatic expansion in the provision of private credit to individuals, businesses, and financial institutions.

In the UK, consumer debt — primarily composed of mortgage lending — reached 148 percent of household disposable incomes in 2008, the highest it has ever been. While UK banks’ lending to the non-financial economy rose 50 percent between 2005-8, their lending to other financial institutions rose by 260 percet. Capital from the rest of the world flowed into banks in the UK and the US, which were generating significant returns from this lending.

High levels of bank lending dramatically increased the broad money supply. All this new money led to sharp increases in asset prices. In the fourth quarter of 2017, UK house prices were almost ten times what they had been in fourth quarter of 1979, while consumer prices increased just five times over the same period. The FTSE index increased from under 100 points pre-1980 to almost 3,500 in 2007. New financial securities were also created during this era: the mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that will be familiar to those who have seen The Big Short. Rising asset prices attracted yet more international capital, creating a self-reinforcing cycle that led many to believe the party would continue forever.

But ultimately this model, like any model premised on the continuous expansion of private credit, proved unsustainable. The combination of capital mobility and financial deregulation led to the emergence of a huge speculative bubble that eventually popped, resulting in the crisis of 2007-8.
After the Crash

Mainstream economists failed to see the crash coming. Rather than looking back through history and observing that in finance a period of calm always precedes a storm, they saw booming asset prices as a vindication of their management of the economy. Some even went so far as to declare the “end of boom and bust.” Financial crises like that which occurred in 2008 simply didn’t fit their theoretical models.

Some economists, however, did see it coming. Nouriel Roubini was referred to as Dr. Doom before the 2008 crisis finally hit. Ann Pettifor’s book The Coming First World Debt Crisis was largely ignored by the economics profession. Steve Keen was ridiculed for teaching his students about the “global debt bubble.” These economists had one thing in common: they had read Hyman Minsky.

According to Minsky’s “two price theory,” the rules governing asset prices are different than those governing goods and services. In essence, during good times investors become overly optimistic based on their recent experience of high and increasing returns, so they borrow to invest more in assets that are increasing in price. Higher levels of investment increase the prices of those assets even more, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of optimism-driven asset price inflation.

As their optimism grows after several periods of strong returns, investors will borrow more and more to invest in riskier projects because they anticipate that their returns will continue to grow. Eventually, the financial cycle enters a phase of “Ponzi finance,” with investors piling into assets one after another based purely on the speculation-driven price rises of the recent past. This creates further asset price inflation, driving a positive feedback loop that leads to bubbles which eventually burst, creating a “Minsky moment.”

The reason the financial cycle matters is that, when the Minsky moment occurs, it can lead to an extended period of debt deflation, in which asset prices start falling and panic selling begins, catalyzing a chain reaction throughout the financial system. This causes deflation in the real economy, leading to falls in profitability, and therefore the need to liquidate even more assets to pay down debts.

As business and consumer confidence is shattered, this feeds through into employment, output, and financial stability in a debt-deflation spiral that mirrors the upswing of the financial cycle in both size and severity. Unrestricted lending exacerbates these dynamics by prolonging the upswing and exacerbating the downturn. In this sense, the prolonged period of financial stability before 2008 should have been a warning sign to economists, not a source of comfort.

The deficit countries experienced their Minsky moment in 2008 when lending slowed, house prices fell, and financial assets such as mortgage-backed securities and credit-default swaps effectively became worthless. Mass panic ensued when the banks suddenly found that many of the assets on their balance sheets were not really assets at all. This drove some of the world’s largest banks into insolvency — a situation from which they were quickly rescued by frightened governments.

But saving the banks couldn’t save the economy. In the UK today, we are in the longest period of wage stagnation since the 1860s. Households’ outgoings exceeded their incomings in 2017 for the first time since 1988. Productivity has stalled since 2008, and the UK now produces 13 percent less output per hour worked than the G7 average. All in all, the recovery from 2008 has been the weakest since World War II.

Rather than dealing with the underlying issues that led to the crisis, policymakers have attempted to engineer a return to the pre-crisis world. The Bank of England, the Fed, and the ECB pumped huge sums into the financial system by printing money to buy government debt, creating a new round of asset-price inflation that allowed bank profits to recover fairly quickly. But as much as central banks might want to, there is no going back to before 2008.
"Rather than dealing with the underlying issues that led to the crisis, policymakers have attempted to engineer a return to the pre-crisis world."

Since then, global cross-border capital flows have declined by 65 percent. Globalization, many believe, is now “in retreat” owing to the collapse of its financial wing. UK corporations have become net savers rather than borrowers. Investment flows between banks have contracted as they have become much more risk averse. While household debt is rising again, it is doing so more slowly than once anticipated. We’re still securitizing much of this debt – though today CDOs and ABSs are much more likely to be based on car loans and student debt, which are much smaller than mortgages.

It is clear that the debt-boom of the pre-2008 period is over, at least in the UK and the US. But the debt overhang remains. We are entering a period of zombie capitalism, in which little new debt can be created to drive growth, but there is not enough productive economic activity to pay the old debt off. In this situation, only an extended period of extremely low interest rates can keep the economy ticking over.
The Financialization of (Nearly) Everything

One of the most common narratives about the rise of financialization sees this development as a product of the victory of financial over industrial capital. According to this perspective, industrial capital in the Global North experienced a profit squeeze in the 1970s amid rising input costs and increasing competition from the Global South. Weakened industrial capital found many traditional avenues of accumulation closed off, and financial speculation emerged as the most profitable alternative.

However, as Costas Lapavitsas has argued, that narrative overstates the division between financial and industrial capital. Finance should not be “treated as surface phenomena sitting atop the ‘real’ economic activities of production and exchange,” but as an essential system to support capitalist accumulation. Financialization does not represent a perversion of an otherwise well-functioning capitalism; instead it is the adaption of the capitalist class to the escalating contradictions evident in capitalist political economy.

We aren’t witnessing the “rise of the rentiers” in this era; rather, all capitalists — industrial and not — have turned into rentiers.

The modern manifestation of this phenomenon is the ideology of shareholder value maximization. Since the 1980s, share ownership has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of of financial intermediaries like hedge funds and pension funds. As this process has intensified, incentives have been created for corporate executives to distribute money to shareholders today, rather than investing in ways to boost the profitability of the enterprise tomorrow.
"We aren’t witnessing the ‘rise of the rentiers’ in this era; rather, all capitalists have turned into rentiers."

In fact, nonfinancial corporations are increasingly engaging in financial activities themselves in order to secure the highest possible returns. The fact that this model is unsustainable — resting as it does on rising leverage and increasing profit distribution over investment in future production — is beside the point. Production was never the point of the capitalist enterprise — profit was. And the financialization of nonfinancial corporation has been an excellent way to maximize profit.

Certain households have also been able to extract peculiar benefits from the financialization of the economy. Globalization was a convenient excuse for wage repression in many parts of the Global North. The problem of overaccumulation this created — that is, when workers aren’t paid enough to buy what capitalists produce — was solved by the proliferation of debt. The dramatic increases in consumer lending between 1979 and 2007 improved people’s subjective sense of prosperity and allowed them to purchase luxuries like cars, iPhones, and laptops produced by hyper-exploited labor in the Global South.

Some of this debt was used to purchase assets like housing, which increased in value as more people were able to purchase them. Large sections of society, and a majority of the electorate, were therefore able to materially benefit from the new economic model through capital gains.

This class of “mini-capitalists” had a material interest in the continuation of the model of debt-driven asset price inflation. The privatization of pensions was another critical extension of this model. Together, “property owning democracy” and “pension fund capitalism” sustained a bargain between financial capital and the middle classes that lasted all the way up to 2008.

Government itself was also financialized. Under the UK’s private financing initiatives (PFIs) of the 1990s, for instance, when the government wanted to build something it would outsource the job to a private firm, which also came up with the capital to fund the project, with the government paying them back over several decades.

PFI was just one way of replacing public money with private: the privatization of pensions schemes, the marketization of higher education, and the privatization of our health services have all taken liabilities off the public books and placed them with individuals and investors. Austerity can also be seen as an extension of this model.

States have used private financing to demonstrate their fiscal rectitude. Part of the reason governments consider such a demonstration necessary is that they need private investors to believe that they will honor their debts. Demand for government debt is inversely correlated with yield: the higher the demand, the lower the interest payments. This gives the markets a huge amount of power to discipline states that fail to demonstrate a commitment to creditworthiness.

States that fail to implement neoliberal policies can be punished through bond sell-offs (and through runs on their currencies), giving international investors the power to determine the policies of democratic states. It doesn’t matter that forcing states to implement neoliberal economic policy actually reduces their creditworthiness over the long term; the time horizons of financial capitalism are shorter than at any other period in history.
Financialized Capitalism

All these processes of financialization in the Global North rest on hyper-exploitation in the Global South. Facing rising input costs and increasingly militant workers in the Global North, capitalists took advantage of falling transport costs in the 1970s and ’80s to offshore production to places less integrated in the global economy.

In some places, such as China, this offshoring has led to the development of a domestic capitalist class and a fundamental transformation in economic relations. In others, the process merely entailed greater levels of extraction by capitalists in the Global North. Newly independent states in the Global South didn’t have the power to boost domestic industry as the Chinese state did, so foreign direct investment was focused on multinationals extracting commodities from these countries, and surplus value from their workers, while reshoring the profits to the Global North, paying off domestic capitalists and functionaries for the privilege.
"The glory days of financial globalization are now over."

The processes of capital extraction visible at an international level are also visible at the sub-national level within financialized economies. Capital inflows have allowed deficit countries to maintain strong currencies, eviscerating exporting industries and leading to ever greater concentrations of power and wealth within the finance sector, concentrated geographically in one space.

An economy that is overheating in one area and stagnating in another is an inevitable outcome of this process of asymmetric integration. Huge financial entrepôts sit atop domestic economies with little interest in what goes on in the nation-states below. Financialized governments are quite happy to allow this to continue: London’s imperial role in the global economy is not only a source of tax revenues, but of national pride.

As Marx argued, each adaptation of capitalism merely kicks the can down the road. The crash of 2008 was a structural crisis of the financial capitalist model. And the malaise into which the global economy, and particularly the economies of the Global North, has sunk since then is a result of the failure to paper over the contradictions of the old model or move onto something new. The glory days of financial globalization are now over.

But moments of crisis are also moments of opportunity. Sustaining late-capitalist political economy in the Global North requires the continuous expansion of middle class home ownership and constant house price inflation. In the post-crash world, it is no longer possible to rely on continuous expansions of debt, partly because of changes to banking regulation. This has created serious political problems, due to the role once played by asset price inflation in sustaining neoliberalism politically. You can’t create mini-capitalists without providing them with increasingly valuable capital.

And it isn’t just housing; contradictions abound. Households have become so indebted that permanently low interest rates are required to avoid another crisis, yet permanently low interest rates only lead to higher levels of indebtedness. When the next crisis comes, central banks won’t be able to loosen monetary policy much more and the resulting shock to the economy will be much worse.

Aware that the current model is unsustainable, businesses aren’t investing or increasing wages. Instead they are using the profits they gain from the debt-driven spending of consumers to increase payouts to shareholders and engaging in financial activities, whether hedging, real estate investment, or even, in the case of Google and Amazon, buying up the debt of other corporations — in essence, acting like banks. This failure to invest in production, in turn, acts as a further brake on current and future economic growth.

The rising indebtedness of the state adds to these problems. Traditional Keynesian economists would argue that getting out of this mess simply requires using fiscal policy to manage demand, solving the problem of overaccumulation. But government debt doubled practically overnight during the financial crisis, primarily due to the bailout of the banks. This isn’t an economic problem, but a political one.

Selling ever greater amounts of public debt to private investors involves giving more and more power to creditors, who are able to discipline governments into adopting their favored economic policies. Greece is only the most extreme example of this trend. A mass sell-off of UK government debt would create a huge crisis for the British economy, which is the logic that underlies austerity. But austerity only increases the debt burden by shrinking economic growth and impoverishing large swathes of the population, exacerbating the crisis of overaccumulation.
Way Out

The question that remains is, can the Left provide us with a way out? For the first time in many decades, we have the opportunity to build a coalition for socialism based on the material interests of non-capitalist classes in the Global North. Low levels of investment mean declining productivity and stagnating wages — both of which feed into the consumer debt problem outlined above.

Anyone who does not own capital — i.e. most of the population — will, under our current economic model, become worse off for the foreseeable future. And most of them know it. Even those who do own capital are increasingly squeezed. The inability of the system to sustain increases in wealth based on debt-backed capital gains was made painfully obvious in 2008. Late capitalism after the debt bubble has burst means falling living standards, rising inequality, and increasing political turmoil as a result.

These are the changes that underlie the rise of left-wing alternatives like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. But the Left needs to do more to highlight them. Most people know capitalism is broken, but few people can tell you how. Our economic narrative has yet to move beyond “austerity is bad” to a wider diagnosis of the structural conditions that led the economy to collapse in 2008, and which have kept it on life support ever since.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto was excellent given the constraints under which it was drafted, but it merely represents an extension of a social democratic settlement that is already creaking under the strains of financialization all over the Global North. Recently, John McDonnell addressed a group of bankers saying, “When we go into government, you come into government with us.”

In the coming years the Left must refocus on the central economic questions of our time, showing that the suffering most people have endured since 2007 can be traced back to the financialization of our economy. We must show that previous governments have been too busy protecting the interests of finance to support the needs of ordinary people. And we must adopt a policy agenda that challenges the hegemony of financial capital, revoking its privileges and placing the powers of investment back under democratic control. In doing so, we might just be able to move beyond capitalism altogether.


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