maiñ Burhan hūñ

maiñ Burhan hūñ
yā maiñ us kī māñ hūñ
aur woh beTā merā hai
yā maiñ us kī mās hūñ
sadiyoñ se udās hūñ
sadiyoñ se udās hūñ 
keh zulm-o-sitam ruktā nahīñ
Ghulāmī ka yeh bojh hai 
keh kuchh bhī ho ghaTtā nahīñ 
dard kī kāsini pāzeb hai 
keh bajtī rahe
Khūn kā sailāb hai 
keh āj bhī pur-zor hai, thamtā nahīñ 

thamtā nahīñ hai Gham 
woh Gham jo Ghulām qaumoñ kī mīrās hai
jo wadī-e-lolāb meñ bunī ik chādar hai
woh Gham jo Burhan ke jawān janāzeh se kayī zyādah girāñ hai
girāñ hai woh Khūñ jo uskī ragoñ meñ behtā thā
girāñ hai woh ‘ishq jo us ke dil meñ dhaRaktā thā
woh laKht-e-jigar hamārā hai 
un sab māyoñ kī āñkh kā tārā hai 
jo rāt bhar soyī nahīñ 
soyī nahīñ haiñ rāt bhar 
yeh mātamī rāt jo sadiyoñ sehr kī mutalāshī hai
magar yeh sehr hai keh dāGh dāGh ujālā hai
yeh sehr hai keh shabgazīdah, pā-bajaulāñ hai 

is sehr ko shaffāf kar, yā Rab
is sehr ko pur-nūr kar, yā Rab
is sehr ko āzād kar, yā Rab
aur hāñ, merā Khūñ mujhe wāpis kar de
mere bache mujhe loTā de yā Rab

~hd, July 31, 2016

I am Burhan
Or I am his mother.
And he, my son
Or I am his Aunt,
Disquiet since centuries.
Disquiet since centuries
That tyranny and oppression don’t stem.
The weight of slavery
Just doesn’t decrease.
Purple anklets of pain
Ring, and keep ringing.
A deluge of blood
That still today storms, without end.

Doesn’t end, that pain.
The pain, an inheritance of colonized nations,
The pain, a shawl woven in the Lolab Valley,
That pain, heavier still than Burhan’s youthful bier.
Priceless is the blood that coursed through his body.
Priceless is the ‘Ishq that pulsed through his heart.
He is our flesh and our blood,
The darling of all of us mothers,
Who haven’t slept all night.
Hasn’t slept all night
This mournful night, that seeks a dawn, since centuries.
But this dawn, with mottled, stained light.
This dawn, night-bitten, fettered-feet.

O Lord! Clear this dawn
O Lord! Make this dawn luminous
O Lord! Free this dawn
And, yes, return my blood to me
Return my children to me, O Lord!

~hd, July 31, 2016

A Protest for Ukraine free of Dogma and Cynicism

by Rashad Ali

Thousands gathered in London to express their feelings of palpable pain, anger, and frustration at the invasion and attempted take over of Ukraine by Putin and his regime. Yet the spirit of defiance, indignation, hope and camaraderie were much more poignant. It is the latter that dominated the will of some 8,000 plus protestors throughout the day. In front of Downing Street with the backdrop of a symbolic Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. This is conservative estimate as there were people coming and going throughout the day.

This was a different atmosphere than many other protests I had attended. Ukrainians were well represented, the chants were led by Ukrainians, and clear-cut demands were made. There was no feeling of political partisanship. People came out as people, not as left or right, nor were they led by professional activists. They had nothing in common with the contorted ideology of the misnamed “Stop the War Coalition”. This was genuinely grass roots.

Continue reading “A Protest for Ukraine free of Dogma and Cynicism”

Dismantling Hindutva with Islamophobia?

The so-called radicality of this Conference did nothing but further contribute to the erasure of Indian Muslims and Indian brand of anti-Muslimness. It carried out Hindutva’s goal. Genocide of Muslims is an aesthetic project for Hindutva. Genocide of Muslims is an aesthetic project for this seemingly anti-casteist but clearly and always anti-Muslim left. 

By Shaista Aziz Patel 

Dalai Lama with Indian Prime Minister Modi, Photo by Swarajya Staff, July 7, 2021

At the conference on Dismantling Global Hindutva and its violence held in September 2021, I had a difficult time scanning the conference program to see where Muslims were as organizers, speakers, and as sites of critical discussion. I could find only a few instances of Muslim presence and not always in ways that would encourage us to actively think about the core place of anti-Muslim violence –as it appears at various intersections of the dominance of Hinduism, caste, gender, and sexuality in the formation of right-wing Hindu nationalism in India and diaspora. This conference claimed to present “multidisciplinary perspectives,” and yet, the reality that most of the speakers and organizers were caste-dominant Hindus really worried me as a caste-oppressed Muslim scholar of Critical Muslim Studies. At this conference, Interdisciplinarity, which is about the critical work of connecting the streets to academia, and also centering the people who are the actual targets of violence, seemed to have been co-opted by South Asian academics in the US who are comfortably situated in terms of caste, class, and citizenship. The organizers and presenters of this conference received several threats from Hindu nationalists in India and diaspora, and I genuinely appreciate the efforts of mostly graduate students and untenured faculty who carried the burden of organizing this conference. However, it was troublesome that the actual subjects targeted by Hindutva forces in India, the Dalits, the Bahujans (lowered-caste people), Indian and Kashmiri Muslims and other religious minorities were displaced from the positionality of those constantly under the threat of death and incarceration in India. These are the people(s) who have been targeted for centuries, for millennia, and regardless of Hindutva in power. 

Continue reading “Dismantling Hindutva with Islamophobia?”

Of UnStating the Stated, and the Silences in its Wake

A masked Kashmiri protester jumps on the bonnet of an armored vehicle of Indian police as he throws stones at it during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, May 31, 2019. (Dar Yasin, Pulitzer Prize winning photograph)

On January 4, 2022, the Critical Gender Studies program at UCSD published a statement, on their studied decision to disaffiliate from an academic, Prof XXXXX XXXXX. They are not the only program, group, or department at the University of California at San Diego to do so. The statement, temporarily taken down on February 5, 2022, succinctly described what ethical research in the colonized space of Kashmir should not be based upon and should not look like, with reference to the particular academic’s work, given the vast differentials of caste, class, religion, nationality, coloniality, and institutional and familial situatedness. In doing so the statement ipso facto modeled critical and decolonial feminist theory and praxis – sadly, terms glibly thrown around without doing the deep homework entailed. Sharing this statement, as-of-now unstated, for the sake of posterity.

Continue reading “Of UnStating the Stated, and the Silences in its Wake”

Tunisia and the Spectre of Authoritarianism

By Rashad Ali

Following the death of a man in police custody, demonstrations against police brutality have spread throughout working class neighbourhoods in Tunisia’s capital of Tunis. The death of Ahmed bin Ammar two weeks ago, sparked protests and reactions across the society with people questioning the gains of the Democratic transition – especially after accusations of torture have been levelled against the Police. 

Protests in Tunisia are emblematic of the post-revolutionary political reality. While this shows that following the revolution and democratic transition, people enjoy a certain level of freedom of expression. However since January their focus has been police brutality. While this problem is not unique to Tunisia, since even established democracies have failed to eliminate police brutality. But there is some hope to be gained from the fact that people in the post-revolutionary phase have low tolerance for such things, that they are able to protest such actions, and that there has been a general decrease in police violence since the revolution.

In this latter sense, it is probably a good thing that post-Arab Spring Tunisians, on this issue at least, feel comfortable expressing their outrage at the police and the way they are being governed. 

But the protests were followed by arbitrary police arrests and then, perhaps worse, brazen police defence of their actions, and encouragement to save the office of the President, by the President, who instead of holding the Minister for Justice and Home Minister to account, lambasted them for not arresting more individuals for insulting him and bringing injury to his office (more later).

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Kashmir Under Indian Settler-Colonialism in The Times of Covid: Myriad Ways to Annihilate A People

By Huma Dar

July 3, 2021

“[Indian] Government should spread Corona in Kashmir. The traitors will be taught a lesson, just like China did in Wuhan. One has to be evil to save this country. 😡🙏” @HinduRastra14 in response to Indian PM Narendra Modi, @narendramodi. April 27, 2021.

Official figures rank India as second only to the United States at 30.50 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 401,050 deaths, with a mere 3.9% rate of full vaccination as of July 3, 2021. The New York Times reports a much graver situation, including an intensive study of three different antibody tests, called serosurveys, which convincingly demonstrate the utter gravity of Covid-19 pandemic in India. The in-depth scientific analysis of the serosurveys by NYT  indicates that at the most conservative the estimated number of deaths in India is at least 600,000, with a more likely estimate of 1.6 million deaths, and a worst case scenario of 4.2 million deaths. Post-August 5, 2019, when India unilaterally derogated Articles 370 and 35A, after dismissing even the façade of the elected assembly in 2018, the Indian State has even more vigorously discriminated against the people of Jammu & Kashmir, particularly its Muslim population, especially in the form of explicitly prejudicial new land laws aimed at full-blown settler-colonialism. In a frightening feedback loop, the Indian state violence draws upon and abets Islamophobic violence against Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir at large, and includes a rising number of lynchings, the latest on June 21, 2021. The pandemic situation in Kashmir is thus exacerbated by a settler-colonialism aimed at “drowning Kashmiris once and for all.

Continue reading “Kashmir Under Indian Settler-Colonialism in The Times of Covid: Myriad Ways to Annihilate A People”

“Undignified”, “humiliating”, “belittled”—BAME experience at the BBC

A source at the BBC has leaked us this resignation letter that someone sent out to all employees. The experiences described herein stand in stark contrast to the commitments the BBC made towards its BAME staff.

Dear all,

As a woman of colour I already know what it’s like to live in a world of systemic sexism and racism. Being a freelancer at the BBC brought another layer of discrimination, culminating in the current neglect of freelancers during a global pandemic.

I don’t want to continue at the BBC in this undignified capacity; undignified because management has undermined mine and PAYE freelancer’s dignity. We feel our concerns over furlough, our livelihoods, our health and financial security, have not mattered. Hiding behind feigned sympathy for our plight and tossing us a few shifts – that could only be acquired through a humiliating process given the machiavellian antics of our scheduler – and knowing full well we were struggling to make ends meet is not how a caring employer behaves.

Having experienced the language services who did not offer their producers much better than a glorified translator’s role while also subjecting them to different social rules than the country they’re working and living in, I was hoping my time in the world newsroom would be more fulfilling.

Continue reading ““Undignified”, “humiliating”, “belittled”—BAME experience at the BBC”

How Disinformation Works

An edited version of this article first appeared in the Centre of Global Policy’s The Navigator

Friendly Sirens and Deadly Shores

By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

As the US prepares for another high stakes election, the outcome is likely once again to be influenced by a third party: Russia. But only if the electorate cooperates.

Ahead of the 2016 election there were frequent mentions of Russian interference, but its possible impact was generally dismissed. Democrats were convinced their candidate would win; and Republicans, resigned to the same, treated Russia as a side issue. The outcome jolted everyone. Because of this, no one is discounting the threat this time. But the underlying causes that helped foreign actors succeed have grown deeper. There is now greater awareness about Russian tactics, but a stronger resolve will be needed to resist them.

In the myriad investigations, few stones have been left unturned about the methods and scope of Russia’s intervention. But while Russia has shown ingenuity in using digital propaganda, its success derives less from methodological sophistication than from structural vulnerabilities. To have any hope of countering Russian “active measures”, it is important therefore to understand not just the dissemination of propaganda, but also its reception. Propaganda, ultimately, is a cooperative enterprise. It feeds on existing biases. It requires both an active audience, which already shares the propagandist’s assumptions, and a larger, passive audience, which imbibes it based on the legitimacy accorded it by the active audience. People are susceptible to propaganda because it offers affective rewards and reduces cognitive labor. That is why any discussion on how it functions needs to begin with why it works.
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Satis House: On a Women’s Revolution

(Photo: Fadwa Suleiman at a protest in 2012 photographed b Thibault Camus for AP)

By Farrah Akbik

It was as if I were stepping onto the page and walking into Satis House¹.  A decrepit old house perched upon a ridge in Al Kiwan, overlooking the Ottoman Railway that snaked down towards the Barada.  A house that echoed former glory and youth that was now a mausoleum to my two great aunts and their stale virginity.  Siba and Amina were as dilapidated as their abode.  Two spinsters forgotten by time, mixed in with their trinkets and clutter, dressed impeccably to mirror each other.  Pressed pleated skirts, bespoke handmade shoes from the Armenian cobbler, silk scarves perched upon their heads.  I sat there in awe of them as they followed my aunt to the kitchen making sure she didn’t whisper any evil omens into the coffee pot.  The threadbare nets billowing like Miss Havisham’s² decaying wedding dress in the heat of the Damascus breeze. The walls hunched over struggling to carry their weight, as if waiting for Siba and Amina to leave.  ‘This is what awaits young girls that are too highly strung!’ my aunt Rabia whispered in my ear.  Siba placed two gold bangles on my eight-year-old wrist, her sinewy witch-like fingers travelling up to my face as she examined me intently.  ‘She is dark like her Moroccan mother, but tolerably pretty.’  It was common enough for remarks to be made about my appearance as if I were not present, and with time it became apparent what was expected of me.

Patriarchy was a bitter poison that I couldn’t swallow.  Born and raised in England, I arrived in Damascus at the age of sixteen.  Everything was a shock to my system, and nothing more than having to run the gauntlet of the restrictions of my sex. It was summer and my aunty Zahra was ecstatic at the prospect of having a new charge to marry off.  I remember the heavy oak lounge door sliding open – my cue to totter in in a pair of hideous heels hastily bought the day before, trying to balance the mandatory tray of tar-like coffee as the potential groom and his mother stared at me intrusively.  He was a pompous doctor of 32.  ‘What are your ambitions in life?’ he asked. My face burned with humiliation as I felt him lay judgement.  What I should have said is, ‘It’s my ambition to one day write an article so I can highlight what an imbecile you are!’

Continue reading “Satis House: On a Women’s Revolution”

Bosnia, Kosovo, Syria: Western Inaction and Radicalisation

By Rashad Ali

Since the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London, it has been commonplace to hear it argued that the “root cause” of terrorism is Western foreign policy: and specifically, the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Radicalisation is not monocausal. Ideological, personal and psychological factors all have a role to play in the process. But if we are to note the occasions where grievances related to Western military action have been used by Islamist demagogues, we should also acknowledge Western refusal to intervene as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism.

Think of the Bosnian and Kosovo tragedies. Think also about the current situation in Syria.

My political development began during the horrors that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia. We watched the genocide in Bosnia unfold, on TV, before our eyes. It was this experience that led so many of my peers from radicalisation to political violence and Islamist extremism.

Continue reading “Bosnia, Kosovo, Syria: Western Inaction and Radicalisation”

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