“India,” “Secularism,” and Its Dissenting Authors Or “Der Āyad, Durust Āyad, but is this even an arrival”?

October 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

by Huma Dar

Nagpur July 31, 2014: Senior scientist and Former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam visited RSS headquarters near Reshimbagh Nagpur and offered tributes to (Hindu Nationalist) RSS Founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar at ‘Smruti Mandir’ Nagpur.

Nagpur July 31, 2014: Senior scientist and Former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam visited RSS headquarters near Reshimbagh Nagpur and offered tributes to (Hindu Nationalist) RSS Founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar at ‘Smruti Mandir’ Nagpur.

“Prominent writers in India are collectively protesting what they consider an increase in hostility and intolerance, which they argue has been allowed to fester under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by returning a prestigious literary award.”

Referring to attacks against Muslims, including the killing of a man who had been suspected of slaughtering a cow, he said, “This is not the country that our great leaders had envisioned.” (Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Sahitya Akademi Award, 1975)
The newsfeed on most South Asian social media has been deluged by articles like the one in The New York Times above. However, one has to wonder what kept these literary “stars” from this praiseworthy gesture of returning their State-given awards when the Gujarat pogroms were going on in 2002, or against the pogroms that followed the demolition of Babri masjid in 1992/3, or against the genocide of Sikhs around 1984, or heck, against the ongoing genocide in Indian Occupied Kashmir or that of Dalits… My apologies for this query which might seem cynical at first blush, but is actually a probing of the very problematic notions of “India” and “Indian secularism” that these authors and poets valorize, explicitly or implicitly, through this gesture or through their work. Brahminical, colonial, and Islamophobic at the core, it is precisely these twin concepts that are the fecund incubating ground not only of the acts of spectacular violence in the current context, at the contemporary moment, but also of the banal acts of quotidian violence that fertilize the roots, leave alone of the comparably spectacular violence of the allegedly “secular” contexts, that preceded and co-exist at any given time.

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A Critique of Subaltern Studies and Appropriative Solidarity: A Response to ‘Dear Prof. Chatterjee, When Will You Engage with the “Discomfort” of Indian Occupied Kashmir?’

September 11, 2015 § 2 Comments

by Pothik Ghosh

More Info on the Indian Occupation of Jammu & Kashmir at http://www.jkccs.net

More Info on the Indian Occupation of Jammu & Kashmir at http://www.jkccs.net

A sharply combative polemic that hits the nail on the head and which must, for that reason, be hailed. However, I doubt that Chatterjee’s response, if at all he deigns to come up with one, will throw any new light on the matter, much less open new horizons. His intellectual orientation and theoretical presuppositions — which stem from his political complicity only to reinforce it – are simply incapable of that. Subalternity is a constitutive crisis of the horizon or structure of valourisation, measure, distribution and/or representation. (The operative word here is constitutive.) In such circumstances, to envisage politics in terms of affirmation of subalternity – which is precisely the theoretical and historiographical project of the Subaltern Studies collective – is to reproduce that structure and its constitutive lack or crisis. For, subalternity is the crisis of the structure of representation that is nevertheless sutured on to it. In other words, to envisage politics in terms of affirming subalternity is to reproduce the constitutive duality of the élite and the subaltern, and thus enable its continued extension through intensification. This is pretty much a continuation through intensification of the politics of passive revolution. Something the Subaltern Studies, and Chatterjee in particular, claimed to have critiqued — albeit only as one of its concrete historical moments or appearances — by precisely perpetuating its general political mode.

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On Kashmir, Tripura and Other Such Places: Prof. Chatterjee’s Response

September 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

By Partha Chatterjee

Partha Chatterjee, professor of anthropology at Columbia University

Partha Chatterjee, professor of anthropology at Columbia University

I wholly endorse Huma Dar’s critique of the Indian state’s relation to Kashmir, even though, not being Kashmiri myself, I cannot share the position from which she writes. My declared position on the Kashmir issue has always been at odds with Indian nationalist views, as indeed have my views on the hill states of north-eastern India. Politically, I have taken every opportunity open to me to condemn the operations of the Indian security apparatus in Kashmir and the north-east. I have always argued against turning the Kashmir question into an exclusive matter of bilateral negotiation between Pakistan and India and insisted on recognizing the right of the Kashmiri people to determine its own political future. My views on the north-eastern states too are shaped by similar considerations. Those who are familiar with my critique of the Indian nationalist ideology recognize my position. Needless to say, for the last three decades, I have been condemned by Indian nationalists of every hue, including sections of the Indian Left, for holding those views. I have also realized that regardless of one’s standing in the academy, the voices of people like us in India’s public domain are utterly marginal.

I felt it necessary to bring up the question of Kashmir and Tripura in connection with my statement on the boycott of Israeli institutions only to point out that I was not employing a different standard in judging colonialist claims within the territorial state of India. That statement was obviously not the place to elaborate on my critique of the Indian state ideology. I was merely explaining my way of negotiating, as a private individual, the terrain of national and colonial power relations in which one is necessarily implicated. I do not mean my refusal to visit Kashmir or Tripura to serve as a demonstrative act of resistance, nor indeed do I mean it to be exemplary in any way. It is merely a personal ethical choice that I have never before felt it necessary to talk about in public. I did not mention in my essay the north-eastern hill states not because I accept their relation to the Indian state as unproblematic but because I did once visit those states – in the early 1970s. That visit, and the experience of being an “Indian” in Indian-occupied territory, left a deep impression on me. Since then, I have never visited Kashmir, Tripura and other such places not because I wanted to avoid observing a colonial occupation at work but because I was sure I knew exactly what I would see and yet would remain powerless to do anything about. All I have managed to do in the last forty years, besides adding my feeble voice to feeble public statements, is apologize to my friends in those places for not being able to visit them.

I fervently hope that where my generation has signally failed, another generation of young Kashmiris like Huma will, with their intelligence and commitment, succeed in changing things in those unhappy regions of India.

Note: Received via email from Ayça Çubukçu, Thurs, Sep 10, 2015 at 11:57 PM GMT.

Dear Prof. Chatterjee, When Will You Engage with the “Discomfort” of Indian Occupied Kashmir?

September 10, 2015 § 2 Comments

Dear Prof. Chatterjee,

I heartily applaud your decision to boycott the colonial & apartheid state of Israel. And I do this especially as a conscientious citizen of the world and as a Kashmiri born outside of Kashmir due to the catastrophic ethnic cleansing of 1947-8, engineered by the Brahminical (though not Brahmin) Dogra ruler of the erstwhile princely state and the newly “independent” Indian State, when up to 1.1 million Muslims were massacred and forcibly exiled out of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. That means about one third of the total Muslim population of the larger princely state of J&K was eliminated from the area that came to be under Indian Occupation, by state complicity. This figure is disproportionately high given that the total population of J&K was less than one percent of the population of British India and presents a contrast to most, though not all, accounts of Partition 1947 violence in Punjab and Bengal, which was largely construed as spontaneous or unplanned. Moreover, up to 25,000 Muslim women from J&K, mostly from Jammu, were abducted and raped as a part of this genocide — a distant aunt of mine amongst them, who bore three children to an abductor. (And these women, comprising almost a quarter of the total number of women abducted during that time, though coming from less than a single percent of the overall population, never became a part of the “subcontinental” feminist accounting of the Partition, as done by Urvashi Butalia.) I reveal this in part to explain why your statement of solidarity with our fellow Palestinians, struggling to dismantle a brutal Occupation, feels even more intimate to me.

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Time to Act: End Sexual Violence as War Weapon and End Impunity to Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir

June 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Women protesting in the Press Enclave, Lal Chowk, Srinagar, against the double rape and murder of Shaheed Aasiya and Shaheed Nilofar, from Shopian, by the Indian Occupation Army. 2009  Photo Credit: Bilal Bahadur

Women protesting in the Press Enclave, Lal Chowk, Srinagar, against the double rape and murder of Shaheed Aasiya and Shaheed Neelofar, from Shopian, by the Indian Occupation Army. 2009
Photo Credit: Bilal Bahadur

Rt Hon William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, UK

12 June, 2014

Time to Act: End Sexual Violence as War Weapon and End Impunity to Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir

Dear Foreign Secretary,

As the world looks to the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict as a ‘pioneering’ movement, we must speak against rape as a weapon of war in Kashmir, and foreground the survivors whose suffering you have neglected throughout the two-year high profile global campaign.

We are writing to ask you to support an independent international investigation into the rapes and sexual violence that continue to take place in Kashmir since 1989 as a weapon of war. Crimes of sexual violence and sexual torture against Kashmiris have been extensively documented by international human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Médecins Sans Frontière (Doctors Without Borders). According to one such report, “Rape in Kashmir: A Crime of War” (by Asia Watch of HRW and Physicians for Human Rights), Indian Armed Forces have used rape in Kashmir as a weapon of war to punish, intimidate, coerce, humiliate and degrade Kashmiri women and men. The Indian State grants its military forces occupying Kashmir legal impunity so that they cannot be prosecuted for rape and other violent crimes including murder. It is time for the international community to break its long and unconscionable silence over rapes in the internationally recognized disputed region of Kashmir.

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PRESS RELEASE from Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners Campaign

February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Indian Occupied Kashmir

Indian Occupied Kashmir

Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners, an online campaign for the release of Kashmiri political prisoners from various Indian jails, has attracted endorsement and support from academics, intellectuals and filmmakers from around the world. Eminent intellectuals and scholars like Judith Butler (Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School and Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley), Hamid Dabashi (Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University), Ayesha Jalal (Mary Richardson Professor of History, Professor at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Director of Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, Tufts University), Lisa Duggan (Professor, American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University (NYU), President-Elect American Studies Association (ASA), USA), Tariq Modood (Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy, Director of the University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, University of Bristol), Lisa Hajjar (Professor of Sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara), Chandra Talpade Mohanty (Distinguished Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, Syracuse University), Abdul R. JanMohamed (Professor, English Department, Emory University, University of California at Berkeley), Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi (Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies/Race and Resistance Studies, Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED), San Francisco State University), Suvir Kaul (A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania), Ania Loomba (Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania), Joel Beinin (Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Professor of Middle East History, Department of History, Stanford University), Sherene Razack (Professor, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education and Department of Comparative, International and Development Education,  OISE, University of Toronto), Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and American Studies, Director of Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, Graduate Center, City University of New York), Ibrahim Abdurrahmani Farajajé (Provost and Professor of Cultural Studies and Islamic Studies, Starr King School, Graduate Theological Union (GTU), Berkeley), Neferti Tadiar (Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University), Kamala Visweswaran (Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin), Piya Chatterjee (Dorothy Cruickshank Backstrand Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies, Scripps College), and Joseph Massad (Associate Professor, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University) are amongst the prominent signatories. « Read the rest of this entry »

Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners, End the Occupation of Kashmir

February 3, 2014 § 2 Comments

Indian Occupation Forces and their 'Fearsome' Targets: Young Kashmiri Boys

Indian Occupation Forces and their ‘Fearsome’ Targets: Young Kashmiri Boys


We send you this request in hopes of garnering your crucial and valuable support for the letter attached below. This letter is a response to the dire conditions of thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners, both adults and minors, under the Indian Occupation.  Your support will help bring global attention to this critical and urgent issue.

On the ground, in Kashmir and elsewhere, we have a concurrent month-long campaign, the “Fast for Freedom,” first initiated via Facebook, which involves optional fasting, sit-ins, protests, lectures, and film-screenings.  This will culminate in civil protests, fasts and sit-ins by various organizations – including the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons(APDP) – and campus events in Srinagar, Delhi, and Berkeley et al, from 9th to 11th February 2014.  It is an opportunity not just for Kashmiris but for all people of conscience to show solidarity with an oppressed people, to protest an illegal military occupation, the illegal detention and torture of thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners, and incessant human rights abuse, including mass graves, fake encounters, forced disappearances, mass and gang-rapes, and daily humiliation under the ongoing military occupation.  (Please see the linked report Alleged Perpetrators for more details.)

Your endorsement of the attached letter will help bring urgently needed political attention to this long-festering issue, as well as help to generate intellectual energy to begin necessary conversations on military occupations with regard to power and privilege, coloniality and postcolonialism, sexual assault as a weapon of war, imperial and decolonial feminisms, the colonial politics of prisons and capital punishment, post/colonial tourism, the construction of the “terrorist,” Islamophobia and other forms of racialization in the context of Kashmir.   « Read the rest of this entry »


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