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

by Huma Dar

“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 despite seeming cynical at first blush, is actually a probing of the very problematic and exceptionalizing notions of “India as a nation” and “Indian secularism” that these authors and poets valorize, explicitly or implicitly, through this joint gesture of returning their awards or through their separate oeuvre at large. It is precisely these twin concepts of unprobed “Indian secularism” and even more foundationally, the unproblematized, dehistoricized, and normalized idea of “India as a nation” (see The Indian Ideology (2012) by Perry Anderson for a resounding deconstruction of this) that are the fecund incubating grounds of much violence – violence which is Brahminical, colonial, and Islamophobic at the core. This is true not only with regard to the acts of spectacular violence, like the mob lynching of Muhammad Ikhlaq in the current context of Dadri, at the contemporary moment of Modi-fied India, but also for the billion and one banal acts of quotidian casteist, colonial, and communal violence that fertilize the roots of the phenomenon in modern India. This is especially true for the comparably spectacular violence of the allegedly “secular” contexts – the genocidal violence of the Indian state in Kashmir, Punjab, Hyderabad, Assam, Manipur, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, in every Dalit basti et al – that preceded the current Hindutva regime (and co-exist at any given time). In fact, it can be argued that the exceptionalization of India not only papers over much of this epistemic violence by making it invisible but actually enables it by helping it elide scrutiny. Thus no gesture of protest, however “well intentioned” it might be, will bear fruit until and unless the very problematic exceptionalism that undergirds the allegedly “secular India” is deconstructed.

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

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The Super-Rich and Us

Jacques Peretti investigates how the super-rich are transforming Britain. In part one, he looks at why the wealthy were drawn to Britain and meets the super-rich themselves.

Featuring Ha-Joon Chang, Thomas Piketty, and Richard Brooks.

Watch episode 2 here, which features David Graeber, among others.

Social Democracy and the Creation of Modern Europe

Sheri Berman, professor of political science, Barnard College; author, The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century (2006) and The Social Democratic Moment: Ideas and Politics in the Making of Interwar Europe (1998); “Social Democracy and the Creation of Modern Europe”

Let’s Talk About Genocide: The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Standard and Israel

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’ family.
Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’ family. (Taken from 972 Magazine)

On the 24th of July 2014, when Israel had already massacred 697 Palestinians in Gaza, of whom at least 170 are children, Adama Dieng and Jennifer Welsh of the UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide published a statement, which I would characterize as aiding and abating genocide.

The Responsibility to Protect

While acknowledging the incomprehensible numbers of the dead, and the staggering destruction to civilian infrastructure to the besieged Gaza strip, which the UN itself has described as “uninhabitable” even before Israel’s latest onslaught, the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide seems to see fit to equate the meagre damage inflicted by the resistance of the victims of genocide, to that of the perpetrators of this genocide, as they execute massacres alongside a campaign of mass destruction.

The word Genocide is fast becoming yet another synonym for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, alongside Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing. I’ve already began to scratch the surface of the applicability of the Crime of Genocide to Israel, by examining the definition provided in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9th 1948. My conclusion prompted me to create a call to action, calling for concerned citizens of the world to contact the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and demand an enquiry and publish its findings and recommendations as to the possibility that Israel is committing the Crime of Genocide.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Genocide: The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Standard and Israel”

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty joins two Nobel Prize winners and other scholars to discuss his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

The French economist Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics) discussed his new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century at the Graduate Center. In this landmark work, Piketty argues that the main driver of inequality—the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth—threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. He calls for political action and policy intervention. Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University), Paul Krugman (Princeton University), and Steven Durlauf (University of Wisconsin–Madison) participated in a panel moderated by LIS Senior Scholar Branko Milanovic. The event was introduced by LIS Director Janet Gornick, professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center.

Cosponsored by the Luxembourg Income Study Center and the Advanced Research Collaborative.