11May/17
Paranjape

Professor Makarand Paranjape audio extract

Paranjape reveals his true colours

Professor Makarand Paranjape of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) reveals his true colours at a public talk hosted by Prakash Shah at the School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London.

The talk was co-sponsored by the Indic Academy

In this talk, Paranjape repeats the propaganda of the right-wing Hindu nationalists currently in power in India and their lies about Dalits and minorities. He openly declares himself to be a ‘Hindu activist’.  He calls his own institution, JNU,  a ‘den of parasites’, calls JNU students ‘incompetent’ and ‘nincompoops’ because of quotas (positive discrimination for oppressed groups), says their degrees are ‘worthless’ and complains about the number of women students.

He praises the Chief Minister of UP Yogi Adityanath, notorious for his hate speech and incitement to violence against minorities, repeating the Hindu supremacist line that ‘cow slaughter is a big problem’ and that Modi ‘can’t be bullied’ into condemning the extreme violence associated with Yogi Adityanath.

At a time of unprecedented violence against Dalits, OBCs, Muslims, Christians and women he focuses mainly on attacking self assertion and organisation by these groups.

He extols ‘Hindu consolidation’ and hails the BJP victory in UP and the appointment of Adityanath as a counter to ‘identity politics’. He says this ‘Hindu consolidation’ is creating unity and benefitting all groups.

Paranjape acts as an apologist for the deeply unequal and oppressive caste system and in discussing Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, says caste is an important aspect of identity and citizenship and ‘this is not good to annihilate’.

Listen to the extract of the talk here:

Please click on the articles below for further information:

 

Read in relation to audio extract from 8:00 relating to the rise of violence since the BJP came to power.

Attacks against Muslims, Dalits grew sharply in India under Modi: US report

UN human rights review: India must end its doublespeak and practise what it preaches

India: Violence Against Dalits on the Rise

Read in relation to audio extract from 13:50 relating to caste and identity:

Caste systems violate human rights and dignity of millions worldwide – New UN expert report

Read in relation to audio extract from 14:20 relating to Yogi Adityanath

What Yogi Adityanath Thinks About Muslims, Women, And Gay People

30Apr/17
Letters to Namdeo Dhasal: poems by Chandramohan S.

Review of Letters to Namdeo Dhasal: poems by Chandramohan S.

Edited by Deeptha Achar (Desirepaths Publishers, 2016, 67 pages, Rs.150/US$ 6

ISBN 978-93-81030-75-2)

‘They ask me why do you write poems?

I write poems – people have the right to bear arms.’

These lines, taken from his one-stanza masterpiece Write Poetry, encapsulate the very essence of Chandramohan’s attitude in his second collection, Letters to Namdeo Dhasal. These poems are unapologetically weapons, fighting against the pre-modern notion of caste in all its insidious 21st century glory. As Deeptha Achar points out in her introduction, Chandramohan’s choice to write in English ‘renders caste as a contemporary category’.

By addressing his poems to Namdeo Dhasal, a celebrated left-wing Dalit poet and founder of the Dalit Panther Movement in 1972, Chandramohan situates himself explicitly within this tradition.

Letters to Namdeo Dhasal: poems by Chandramohan S.

Letters to Namdeo Dhasal: poems by Chandramohan S.

A fundamental concern in this book appears to be poetry itself, and Chandramohan devotes many lines to defining his particular brand of poetry, for example in Plus Size Poem, which consists entirely of defining itself by what it is not. The choice to personify his poem as an unconventional female figure is demonstrative of the wide range of perspectives Chandramohan fearlessly employs throughout the book; indeed, the poem’s bold statements on itself, such as ‘This poem walks the ramp with a self-edited gait/Without introduction or foreword from veterans’, or ‘This poem eludes the trap/In the hourglass of time’ could easily be applied to the entire collection. Chandramohan’s poetry speaks for itself, and will never become irrelevant because it acknowledges the ever-changing nature of the society it is concerned with. It deals with age-old structures and their modern, subtle manifestations in everyday life.

It is, however, impossible to overlook the precision of this collection – precision of setting, of time, of perspective. There is no sense of the often-used maxim of poetry that ambiguity is everything, and all poems must be open to interpretation. The language is extremely powerful, and often metaphorical, but it makes no claims to ambiguity. It looks the reader straight in the eye and tells them its experiences. It adopts certain perspectives – Dalit, Muslim, particular gender identities within these – with a specific purpose of resistance which requires a direct and often factual tone.

Caste in a Local Train, for example, is a poem encompassing a particular subject which we know we will be learning about from the title itself. This poem is hugely context-specific; it is an open rejection of any false claims to universality which are often demanded by mainstream poetry critique. Chandramohan has placed us in a local train, with caste as our focus, from the outset, and that is where we must remain in our reading.

Throughout the poem the reader is confronted with the sheer physical discomfort of the speaker, expressed through the metaphor of cricket: ‘Will I be trapped leg before wicket/If I attempt a bloodline crossover?’ This imagery is painful, it is designed to make the reader wince. It is the physical, visceral quality of this image that seems to convey the crux of the Dalit experience to a wider audience. The lines are framed as a question because the comfort of certainty, of knowing one is safe to embrace one’s identity, is denied to the speaker. The ‘Pakistani fast bowler’ seated opposite him is the perpetrator of this trap, this particular instance of a much wider oppression. But despite the gulf between them, the speaker holds a sardonic understanding of his opponent in this game of cricket: he is ‘camouflaged/in a three-piece suit/And an Anglicized accent’. Something has been taken from the man opposite, something has been done to him, the verbs tell us; he has been camouflaged and Anglicized. The speaker is prevented from embracing his heritage, but so is the bowler; he is a victim of colonialism. The speaker wishes to be camouflaged, while simultaneously recognising that this is not to achieve true emancipation, to be able to express one’s authentic self, but simply the best option for survival in a society layered with complex systems of oppression. This is just one example of how Chandramohan’s poems are never only concerned with one identity, with one perspective, but with the multi-layered experiences lived in South Asia every day.

In fact, Chandramohan extends the realm of his poems beyond South Asia to the rest of the globe. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Beard positions us in a harsh present-day setting in which an era ‘Before the twin towers fell’ is the object of nostalgia, before Islamophobia reached its current heights in which a man’s beard can render him a target at immigration control. Chandramohan opens his poem with ‘the razor, shaving/hundreds of beards’, a symbol of forced, universal self-repression on the part of the world’s Muslims in the face of such stigma. The metaphor takes an even more sinister turn in the third stanza with ‘specs of blood’, and this clear signposting of violence is then articulated even more transparently by ‘Cuts on the map of the world’. This poem is not one person’s experience, it is that of many. It does not take place only in the privacy of a man’s home but in his day-to-day life in the wider world. Chandramohan does not stop here. He extends the subject matter and timespan of the poem to when ‘Some islands changed hands/Between imperial masters’. Here is an urgent reminder to the reader not to forget where this all started, the culpability of Western powers both in promoting terrorism and in the persecution of Muslims on the grounds of this terrorism. The poem has no qualms about declaring its anti-imperialist politics openly and boldly.

But all these references to the wider implications of modern-day Islamophobia do not detract in the slightest from the poem’s highly personal quality. The final stanza returns to the second person pronoun ‘you’, the poem’s protagonist, living the experiences born out of centuries of oppression in various forms. ‘History will catch up with you/In your rear-view mirror.’ These ominous final words contain more than the abrupt, jarring sense of a car-crash. There is a conviction here, that history ‘will’ affect your life, if you are Muslim. Nothing else is required; no room is left for doubt. Chandramohan’s poems do not gloss over these harsh consequences of particular identities. Instead, they take these identities and own them, presenting these consequences in no uncertain terms. As Chandramohan himself asserts, poems are weapons, weapons for revolution – if that is what you make them. Isn’t that, after all, what literature is all about?

Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

14Mar/17
Modi

Statement on the 15th Anniversary of the Gujarat Genocide

South Asia Solidarity Group  stands in solidarity with the survivors of the Gujarat genocide 2002 in their search for justice.  On the fifteenth anniversary of the state-sponsored,  anti-Muslim  pogrom we are holding, on 17 March, a remembrance event for those who lost their lives. It is titled Modi, Hindu nationalism and the criminalisation of Muslims .

In 2002, the state government of Gujarat with openly genocidal intent, unleashed  a most brutal onslaught  upon the Muslim community. The proportions and stratagem of this assault outstripped  all previous communally- charged  pogroms against minorities in India.  The Gujarat  pogroms became a blue print of all the many horrific but carefully engineered attacks on minority communities in India which followed – with Gujarat described by the killers as the laboratory of the Hindu State.

The 2002  massacres have been repeated in smaller and more localised settings such as Kandhamal in Odisha, in 2008, (when Christians were targeted) and  Muzzarfarnagar in UP, in 2013, which led, as in Gujarat, to killings, rapes and mass displacement of Muslims.  All  attacks since then have been in the context of a renewed and heightened stage of majoritarian Hindu nationalist politics that has come to dominate the political landscape of the country, where religious  minorities  and historically oppressed social groups such as Dalits and women,  are facing brutal violence,  criminalisation and  exclusion.

Muslims have been specifically targeted and in the last 15 years there has been an unprecedented deployment of state terror aimed at keeping the community in perpetual fear, eliding them from the public spaces of democratic politics with the specific design of destroying the Muslim community’s  confidence in participating in the democratic process fully,  keeping them away from voting in elections,  or electing their favoured candidates.

In the recent assembly election in UP, for example, the BJP claimed to have created an ‘inclusive’ social coalition but this coalition which glaringly left out the sizable Muslim community was cemented through a shrill communal campaign led from the front by the Prime Minister Modi himself playing caste and community cards camouflaged as ‘nationalism’ and now increasingly as empowerment of the poor.

Day to day life is becoming increasingly difficult for Muslims with the police, and increasingly the judiciary, hounding and pursuing individuals and the Hindutva forces (among them the RSS, the parent body of the BJP) flourishing as never before, sanctioned and nurtured by the BJP.  The impunity with which these foot soldiers of Hindu fascism act,  the sheer belligerence that they exhibit publicly with all disregard for democratic norms, is evidence of how they are openly tolerated and  even wilfully encouraged  by the BJP.  It has led not only to  serious miscarriages of justice but disappearances, in the heart of the capital, as in the case of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, lynchings as in the case of Mohammad Akhlaq, or the digging out of her grave and rape of a Muslim woman’s corpse.

Muslim men, particularly young men are under the constant heavy gaze of the anti-terror legal system, while the Muslim people’s cultural and religious lives are being constantly denied, disputed and infringed upon with threats to their lives.  Attacks on those who wear the hijab and terror attacks on mosques have risen on an unprecedented scale in the past fifteen years. At the same time Hindutva activists are attempting to foment communal violence by themselves desecrating Hindu temples and then blaming Muslims for it, as in Budhana in UP, in 2014,  or as in one recent case in Azamgarh, UP where an RSS member donned a hijab and threw beef at a temple

Hindutva forces are increasingly not only aided by the state but have penetrated it, entrenching themselves in all areas, from the police and judiciary to the structures of cultural production and school and university education. While history is being rewritten, and textbooks altered to incorporate Hindu, and specifically Brahmin supremacy, and misogyny, students who are demanding the rights and free speech enshrined in the Indian Constitution are being violently attacked by goons of the RSS’s student organisation the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) with the police standing by.

At the same time aligning itself to its neoliberal masters in the US and Europe, India has become an important proponent of the global war on terror and Islamophobia.

We register with deep foreboding  that significant sections of the educated middle classes, the so-called intelligentsia of India have  abdicated responsibility to defend democratic freedoms and the democratic culture of Indian politics.   There is no disquiet expressed even at the mention of India’s secular democratic constitution being undermined.  Instead, dazzled by the shiny new claims of neo-liberal economic ‘development’ many of these ‘intellectuals’ have become champions  of corporate plunder of India’s natural and labour resources.  The neoliberal march of the corporate and finance industries carries on unabated, benefiting from the authoritarianism which comes side by side with Islamophobia and the global war on terror.

Among the chief concerns that have occupied our minds at South Asia Solidarity Group in the past few years with regard to India has been the rise of Hindu fascism and inseparable from it a vicious authoritarian neoliberalism. We have campaigned and are continuing to do so about the plight of the beleaguered Muslim community, the continuing brutalities visited upon the Dalits, the stoking of sexual and other forms of patriarchal violence against women and the dispossession of Dalits and Adivasis of their land and assets by neoliberal corporate plunder.   In our event on 17th March we wish to focus on the threats that face the minority Muslim community in India in order to discuss how progressive South Asians can support a way forward.

Our hope relies on the very important and militant struggles that are being waged by people’s movements of Muslims, Dalits, women, students and workers against the Indian state and Hindutva forces.

South Asia solidarity also campaigns against Islamophobia and racism in the UK, against the efforts of the Hindu right in Britain to undermine the equality legislation that recognises caste discrimination amongst South Asians and against violence against women in UK. These involvements also inform our politics of solidarity with those resisting Hindutva and Neoliberalism in South Asia.

07Mar/17
ModiPhoto1

In commemoration of the 2002 Gujarat genocide

In commemoration of the Gujarat genocide, which took place during the week following 28 February 2002, we repost the details of a meeting on Gender and the Hindu Right which we organised in collaboration with the LSE Gender Institute and the Freedom Without Fear Platform on 3rd March, 2014. Watch these powerful and moving contributions from speakers on the Gender and Hindu Right panel.

Outlining the context of the meeting, Kalpana Wilson of South Asia Solidarity Group and the LSE Gender Institute emphasised that the targeting of minority women for appalling violence is not a side effect but absolutely central to the project of the Hindu right and how it operates. Linked to this, she said was the intensification of surveillance and control over women, the rise of ‘moral policing’ targeting students and other young people, and the invocation of the “protection” of Hindu women as a justification for violence against religious minorities and Dalits, including rape of women.

She also noted that Hindu right supporters here in Britain have been promoting the completely unfounded myth of ‘love jihad’ in British universities by students and this fits in with the agenda of the British state and its Islamophobia. While these groups are promoting the image of a so-called ‘Gujarat model’ of development the position of women in Gujarat where Modi has been Chief Minister since 2001 is abysmal – demonstrated by the sex ratio (2011 census) of 918 women per 1,000 men (below the already scandalous national average of 940), that hints at the magnitude of female infanticide, and the very high gender imbalance in school enrolments compared to all-India levels. Very high rates of domestic violence against women are accompanied by very low conviction rates in the state.

Kalpana Wilson


Nishrin Jafri Hussain, in a powerful and moving contribution spoke of the unimaginable brutality perpetrated on the bodies of Muslim women in the villages around Ahmedabad. Speaking in London for the first time Nishrin, whose father, the MP Ahsan Jafri, was brutally murdered in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat state, and whose family is waging an ongoing legal battle to bring Narendra Modi, who presided over the violence as Chief Minister of Gujarat, to justice showed a series of photographs of those who had been murdered, with many gaps for those of whom no photos exist. She told the meeting that the numbers of rapes were far more than those reported because these experiences were not only deeply traumatising and humiliating but that it was a taboo speaking about them.

She said that in the Gulbarg society where she grew up and the area around it every Muslim house had been burnt down and every family had lost loved ones – deep scars of these losses remain. She told the meeting that her father had been against the ghettoisation of Muslims and committed to living in a mixed Hindu and Muslim area even after the riots of 1969.

When his house where nearly 200 people were sheltering was attacked, and was surrounded by armed Hindu mobs, he had called for help to the central government to no avail. When he phoned Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister replied ‘ You are on your own Jafri, save yourself’.

Many in the audience had tears in their eyes as Nishrin reaffirmed her family’s commitment to bringing Narendra Modi to justice.

Nishrin Jafri Hussain


Angana Chatterji an anthropologist and leading human rights specialist, who convened a people’s tribunal in Odisha in 2005 spoke about her work documenting the experiences of sexual violence in Odisha, noting that ideologies of conservative patriarchy had been taken over and intensified by the Hindu Right across India in a series of attacks on women in minority communities Christian, Muslim, Adivasi and Dalit over the years.

Angana Chatterji


Meena Kandasamy an oppressed-caste feminist and writer spoke about the way the language and discourse of Hindutva is conveniently utilised by fanatical Hindu upper caste groups like the Pattali Makkal Katchi, in Tamil Nadu or other caste organisations to construct Dalit men as the “Other” and create a myth similar to that of ‘love Jihad’ that they deceive Hindu upper caste girls by “making” them fall in love. The idea that once such a formula of love-jihad is deployed it can serve to function to contain, and threaten, women’s independence.

Meena Kandasamy

The meeting was as one student who attended it described it, ‘both deeply disturbing and a call to action’ and the organisers announced that the campaign internationally to bring Modi to justice would continue.

17Oct/16
Woman attacked by Marathas in Nashik

[STATEMENT] Dalit, Ambedkarite and South Asian organisations in the UK condemn police and Maratha attacks on Dalits in Nashik

To Shri Devendra Fadnavis
Chief Minister
Government of Maharashtra

and

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

17th October 2017

We are extremely concerned about the emerging reports from the ground of police collusion in atrocities against Dalits in Nashik by Maratha mobs, which have been taking place since 8th October. Not only has not a single arrest been made by the Maratha dominated Police force till date, but we have strong evidence that the Nashik Police is actively beating up Dalit families in their own homes instead of protecting them from the Maratha mob. The BJP-Shiv Sena Government of Maharashtra has been sitting on the fence and allowing this dangerous situation to escalate, while a number of other parties and politicians are covertly providing support to the Maratha agitation. More details of recent events are set out below. Continue reading