The Secret of Modi’s Success

4 03 2012

The violence which wracked the western Indian state of Gujarat ten years ago has almost become a metaphor for a particular aspect of India’s contemporary reality. The metaphor is described differently, depending on whether one is a supporter of Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi or an opponent. Read the rest of this entry »

The Politics of Culture (Book Review)

2 10 2011


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 »

The Corruption Carnival

27 09 2011

The Anna Hazare fronted anti-corruption movement has been successful in pushing the locus of Indian politics to the right. Will it also succeed in defeating the Congress led United Progressive Alliance in the next general elections and putting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh backed Bharatiya Janata Party into power? That remains an open question. 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 »

Where Have all the Protests Gone?

16 03 2010

How do we understand the inexplicable lack of popular anger over high food inflation in India? 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 »

Caste Out, Yet Again

24 05 2009

This is the draft version I wrote for the editorial of the Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLIV No. 20, May16 2009.

[The official Indian delegation again blocked all mention of caste at the UN conference of Racism] Read the rest of this entry »

The Significance of Uttar Pradesh

25 04 2009

This is the draft of the edit I wrote for EPW published in the 18-24 April, 2009 edition.

[Uttar Pradesh as a bellwether province in the Indian general elections; then and now.] 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.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Brothers in Arms: The Tragedy of China and Tibet

1 04 2008


On 6th March this year over 4,000 workers of the Casio Electronics Company’s factory in Panyu, China marched the streets and fought battles with over 1,000 riot police. The workers had come out in spontaneous protest when they realised that while they had been given a 90 yuan raise in their wages, the company had cut between 80 to 150 yaun from their bonuses and their “official” trade union had acquiesced in this daylight robbery. They did what any self respecting worker would and refused to work, came out of their factory and were marching towards the Mayor’s office. They were met by a wall of riot police and other security officers who dispersed them with baton charges in which about two dozen workers, including women, were injured.

This was no flash in the pan incident. Over the past decade and more workers, farmers and students are increasingly coming out on the streets to protest and often turning violent. Almost always, their protests are met with severe police action and an information black-out in the Chinese media which is dutifully replicated in the West’s free media. Read the rest of this entry »

The Successful Failure of Haiti’s Revolution

23 01 2008


As this column recounted last week, Haiti was the first colony of the modern world to win freedom. What is even more astounding is that when Haiti declared independence from France on January 1, 1804, its army – composed of slaves who had been brought from Africa – had defeated the armies of France, Great Britain and Spain in the span of 13 years.

I would argue that Haiti was the completion of the process that began with the American War of Independence about three decades earlier. The American War of Independence was fought on the principle of self-rule and against colonial subjugation. It raised the slogan of “No taxation without Representation” and stated that all countries were equal and one could not subjugate the other. The French Revolution extended this principle of self-rule, which the American War of Independence had established between countries, to the domestic sphere. The French Revolution stated that not only were all countries equal to one another, but all people residing inside the country were also legally equal and free. There could be no political authority on earth that was higher than the citizen. While these revolutions have justly been hailed as the pioneers of our modern regime of rights and freedoms, what is forgotten is that these revolutions remained confined to the white man and did not extend these rights to either the non-whites or to women. Read the rest of this entry »

The First Revolution of the Third World: Haiti

15 01 2008

“Won’t you help to sing

These songs of freedom…”

Haiti, the western third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbeans, is today one of the poorest countries in the world. The State itself is weak, without any army and crumbling infrastructure, Haiti practically lives of the sharp philanthropy of Western Aid agencies. But hidden behind the poverty, destitution and fragile State which presents itself to the contemporary visitor, lies one of the greatest anti-colonial struggles of the third world. When Haiti won independence from France in 1804, it was the first colony of the modern world to win freedom. Read the rest of this entry »

Pulling down the Vendome Column

28 03 2007


On this day (28 March), in 1871 the citizens of Paris proclaimed the first socialist government of this world. The Paris Commune, as it came to be called, was an epoch making effort by the workers and middle classes of Paris to build a new form of government which would be democratic, just and transcend the narrow walls of nationalism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are men and women equal? Part II

7 03 2007


(The first part of this article can be seen here)

This column ended last week by arguing that women’s struggle for equality cannot be fought independent of the larger struggle for human equality. Does that imply that an independent women’s movement is not desirable? That it could actually be self-defeating in the longer run? Would celebrating the International Women’s Day (which falls tomorrow) split the unity required to struggle for human emancipation by disconnecting women’s issues from larger concerns? Read the rest of this entry »