The Indian radical grapples with globalisation

3 09 2012

There has been a major transformation in India over the last two decades – economic, political, social and cultural. Some of this has been a result of the liberalisation of the economy, a significant part of which has been the opening up to global capital. The Left in India, across organisations and ideologies, has viewed globalisation as a disaster for India. However, even a cursory glance at the actual history of globalisation in India will show that it has been as much about India reaching out to the world as the world coming to India.

This paper argues that the  Indian radical has been unable to come to terms with this phenomenon. He does not know how to define it, he does not know how to engage with it and he invariably falls back on understandings and explanations from another age which have little salience today. It is this last feature which brings out a streak of conservativeness in him.

This paper tries to identify the main features of the Indian radical’s fear of globalisation, the function of nationalism in this, the role which foreign goods and capital play in building this and the consequences for radical politics.

(This is not a fully developed position but rather an attempt to think through some ideas. Further, the text here is a rough draft which was used to make a presentation at the workshop on Spectacle of Globality organised by Ravinder Kaur and Thomas Blom Hansen at the University of Copenhagen on 29-30 August 2012. Please do not quote from this article without asking me.)

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The Politics of Culture (Book Review)

2 10 2011

Books:

G P Deshpande, The World of Ideas in Modern Marathi: Phule, Vinoba, Savarkar, Tulika, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 120. Rs. 240.

G P Deshpande, Talking the Political Culturally and Other Essays, Thema, Kolkata, 2009, pp. 127, Rs. 150. Read the rest of this entry »





Commemorating Congo at 50

30 06 2010

On 30 June, 1960 Congo achieved independence from Belgian rule. It was an exceptionally harsh 80 years of colonialism which saw tens of millions of its people killed in the pursuit of European wealth and civilisation.  Read the rest of this entry »





How Not to Understand Muslim fundamentalism

2 06 2010

Mahmood Mamdani recently gave a talk at the University of Johannesburg, touching on the topics of free speech and bigotry in our contemporary world. He took the example of Mohammed cartoons to make this point. It is a well argued and seemingly persuasive thesis which you can read here at Kafila.

I found that I had some fundamental differences with it and decided to write them out here. Please do read him before you read my response. Read the rest of this entry »





Democracy and the Communist Party

14 03 2010

This paper, rather preliminary note towards a full paper, attempts to look at the troubled history of democracy (both as a concept as well as a practice) and parties claiming affiliation to Marxism-Leninism. It tries to understand the historical paradox of parties and movements influenced by Marxism being among the more important contributors to democratising our world, but States ruled by parties owing allegiance to Marxism denying democratic rights to their own citizens. It then tries to identify some of the reasons for this large democratic deficit.

But before I begin, two short points about the structure of the paper may be in order. First, I have been fairly hesitant to write on this topic. I can hardly lay any claim to expertise on theoretical debates among Marxists as well as on the details of the history of countries ruled by communist parties. That apart, I am also conscious of my weakness in political theory, specially that relating to democracy and related ideas of liberty and representation. Therefore, the stress will remain more on the historical experience rather than the theoretical arguments. Second, and following from my hesitation laid out above, this paper is basically structured around three writings by two Marxists: Karl Marx himself[1], and Rosa Luxemburg. You may say I am merely paraphrasing them, or you may say that they are the burqa I wear during this excursion into unfamiliar territory. Read the rest of this entry »





A Very Brief History of Trade Unions in the erstwhile Hyderabad State

4 02 2010

In December 2000 when I first shifted to Hyderabad, the Confederation of Indian Trade Unions held its conference here. I met many trade unionists from all over the country and a few from other countries too. At one of these meetings I was asked about the history of the trade union movement in Hyderabad and realised that I knew next to nothing, despite my grandfather, Alam Khundmiri, having being one of those who initiated such work here in the 1930s and 1940s when the Nizam ruled over these lands. Read the rest of this entry »





Father, Son and the Emergency Ghost

26 03 2009

It is hugely ironical that the BJP (and their candidate from Pilibhit parliamentary constituency, Varun Gandhi) should accuse the Election Commission of bias against the young lad due to the presence of Chief Election Commissioner designate, Naveen Chawla. But before we get to explaining that irony, here are a few facts. Read the rest of this entry »





Stalemate in Bengal?

23 03 2009

For the first time in close to three decades, the Left Front finds itself on the defensive in West Bengal in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.

[This is the draft of the editorial I wrote on the political situation in West Bengal ahead of the 2009 Parliamentary elections in India. This was published in the march 21, 2009 vol xliv no 12 edition of the EPW.] Read the rest of this entry »





So what is the solution in Swat?

28 02 2009

The rise of extremism in Pakistan’s Swat valley needs a nuanced and democratic response.

 

[This is the draft for the editorial I wrote on the Taliban takeover of the Swat and the Pakistan Government's deal with them. The final revised version will be published in the EPW 28 Feb - 6 Mar 2009 (Vol XLIV NO 9) edition.]

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Israel versus Humanity

12 01 2009

On the night of 9-10 November 1938, the Nazis killed dozens of Jews in Germany, sent thousands to concentration camps and destroyed Jewish properties and synagogues in an orgy of violence which removed all doubts about the nature of persecution Jews faced under the Nazi regime and was a precursor of what was to come. Writing 10 days after this Nazi pogrom, which is known today as the Kristallnacht, Mohandas Gandhi said, “…the German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history.” But, he went on to add, “…my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me”, Read the rest of this entry »





A Liberal Interpretation of India’s Future

2 01 2009

Review of

INDIA EXPRESS: the future of a new superpower

Daniel Lak, Penguin/Viking, New Delhi, 2008, pp. xx + 314, hardcover, Rs. 499, (Indian edition)

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The Zanjeer on Devdas

9 09 2008

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The idea for the present column first came to me after I watched (again) the 1975 Bollywood cult movie, Zanjeer.  As most would know, Zanjeer is the story of the angry-young-man-Amitabh Bachchan who is witness to the traumatic twin murders of his parents which orphans him as a child and how he takes revenge for that in his youth. Zanjeer established the hegemonic genre of “angry young man” films and put Amitabh Bachchan firmly on the road to superstardom. So domninating was this genre that it rapidly led to the eclipse of the romantic hero and forced everyone with “heroic” aspirations in Bollywood to enact “dhishoom – dhishoom” roles. In the post-Zanjeer era of Bollywood, only the angry-young-man character could deliver blockbuster hits. Exceptions like Love Story or Ram Teri Ganga Maili were precisely that – exceptions. Almost all other genres and characters were confined to niche audiences or forced to become supporting characters to the angry young man. Other hero-aspirants quickly learnt the new rules of the game and moulded themselves into similar screen personas. Read the rest of this entry »





A brief history of nagging

26 08 2008

The nagging wife is the universal villain of married life. From the earliest pages of human history there is perhaps no literature and folk tradition where the character of the nagging wife is not found widely. Along with the sacrificing mother, forsaken lover, tragic hero and evil lord, the nagging wife will be found in all societies and cultures at all times in history. Even in today’s world, irrespective of the differences of race, wealth, religion, culture, language and social reform, the character of the nagging wife is universal. She keeps popping up in jokes, films, songs, novels and other cultural cultural creations.

Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, is supposed to have had a nagging wife who drove him to spend his time in the city squares and gymnasia, much to the benefit of philosophy. The figure of the nagging wife finds mention in the Bible, (indirectly) in the Quran and is a crucial moment in the story of the Ramayana. She is to be found in renassaince Italy, in medieval England, on the expanding border of America’s “wild west”, in the bedrooms of colonial India and in the sit-coms of post-modern Europe. Read the rest of this entry »





Lenin’s Epitaph: Lessons from the Russia – Georgia War

19 08 2008

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Now that the war between Russia and Georgia is over, it is a good time to learn a few lessons. This war holds out important lessons for all concerned – for the Georgians, for the Russians, for the Americans and NATO, for the world at large. Moreover the lessons are political, military and economic. Let us see what some of these lessons are. Read the rest of this entry »





The Greatest Genocide in History (part II): India, China and Femicide

29 04 2008

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Last week this column had spoken about the fact that there are about 100 million women less on this earth than there should be. Women who are “missing” since they are aborted, burnt, starved and neglected to death by families who prefer sons to daughters. This column had also identified the countries of South Asia, East Asia, West Asia and Saharan Africa as the main regions which were missing most of these women. The estimated number of women who are missing are 44 million in China, 39 million in India, 6 million in Pakistan and 3 billion in Bangladesh. This is the single largest genocide in human history. Ever. Some researchers have coined a word for this phenomenon: Femicide, or the killing of the human female because she is female.

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