How to Elect your Next College Parliament?

The new guidelines for the elections to students’ bodies in various campuses in Bengal has raised a new topic of debate. The Government of Bengal is set to implement some tough changes to ways the ‘political unions’ operate in the Universities and colleges. There can be two ways to discuss at this so-called ‘Xavier’s Model’ of students’ bodies – political and strictly academic. While the academic (read politically correct) points are highlighted here, nevertheless, the political ramifications cannot be swept under the carpet.

The new regulation says that the President of the union would be a faculty member and would be responsible for managing the funds of the union. The student leaders with less than sixty percent attendance and who have academic arrears will not be eligible to contest for the posts of General secretary and Assistant General secretary. A person can hold these offices only for two terms. The electoral college for the election would comprise of all the bona fide students of the colleges or Universities. And the most importantly, the practice of electing class representatives (CRs) will be done away with.

First things first, new rules set forth by the State Government are anything but a ‘Xavier’s Model’ of Students’ body. The practice of elections that is followed in the St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, is totally different from what has been prescribed in the regulations. The students’ council elections in St. Xavier’s are held indirectly, i.e. the students elect their class representatives, who in turn elect the strictly apolitical Working Committee of the council, headed by the Principal (who is the ex-officio President), a General secretary and an Assistant General secretary. Secondly, the requirements also include that the candidates of CR-elections are recommended by two classmates, and their nomination papers get endorsed by at least two Professors-in-charge for active participation in co-curricular activities. And the candidates must also have at least seventy-five percent attendance with no academic arrears.

It is therefore only an adoption of the ‘apolitical’ nature of Xavier’s Students’ council, and not the procedure of elections per se. And hence, like students of all other campuses, Xaverians will be concerned too as to how to elect their next council!

The political voices were definitely not silent on this issue. The leaders of the three major political parties, viz.  Students’ Federation of India, Trinamool Chhatra Parishad and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, were quick to respond. While the TMCP has expectedly ‘welcomed’ the move, they are not sure whether to dissolve their units in the various campuses across the state. The SFI is opposed to these new rules of elections and see politics in the decision to appoint a professor in the proposed unions. The ABVP, on the other hand has refused to accept any sort of ‘Xavier’s model’ and demanded the implementation of the recommendations of the Lyngdoh commission.

In this connection, it is justified to note the basic tenets of recommendations of the commission headed by James M. Lyngdoh, former Chief Election Commissioner. The most important recommendation for the structure of the college parliaments was — “disassociation of student elections and student representation from political parties”. They also suggested that unions should comprise of only the students and no faculty member, nor any member of the administration, would be allowed to be a member. The colleges would be at freedom to select a mode of election – either by indirect elections of the office bearers through Class representatives (which is the Xavier’s system actually) or by an electoral college which consists of all students.

In conclusion, it can be said that the recommendations given by the State Government are more of a realistic version of the Lyngdoh commission report, rather than a perceived ‘Xavier’s model’, and it will be interesting to see how the process of the democratic exercise is carried out in the various campuses of the state, in the next few months.

The author, Nilanjan Das, is a student of Biotechnology at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

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Is Religion the biggest impediment to progress in the modern world ?

And do you think that unto such as you

A maggot minded, starved , fanatic crew

God gave a secret, and denied it to me?

Well, well — what matters it? Believe that too!

-THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYAM

(RICHARD LE GALLIENNE TRANSLATION)

The young man boards the bus as it leaves the station. He wears an overcoat. Beneath an overcoat, he is wearing a bomb. His pockets are filled with nails, ball bearings, and rat poison. The man’s parents soon learn of his fate. Although saddened to have lost a son, they feel tremendous pride at his accomplishment. These are facts. These are what we know for certain about the man. Is there anything else we can infer about him on the basis of these facts? Was he popular is school? Was he rich or poor? Was he intelligent or not? Did he have a college education? His actions are simply mute on questions of this sort. Why is it , then, not so difficult  to guess this man’s religion?

One does not have to strive to look very hard to find examples of Religious violence and the misusing of Religious ideologies for political purposes. Even today, in 2017, politics is rife with religious rhetoric, sometimes feeding off the hatred that these ideologies evoke. Some critics have even said that India’s Secular tradition has slumped and that the state is tilting towards fascism with the rise of Hindu Nationalism. The Partition in 1947 which led to the formation of the Dominions of India and Pakistan resulted in a conflict that has not been resolved even after 70 years. One cannot downplay the significance and role of religion in the Partition. Ambedkar, in his speech, “One country, two nations’ made a distinction between the “Hindu Nation” and the “Mohammedan Nation.” Religious-based violence and militarism has been present as early as the 11th century during the The Crusades which  were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean aimed at recovering the Holy Land from Islamic rule. Max Weber was the first to predict that there would be a “clash of civilizations” between Islamic Fundamentalism and the West in late 20th century. This “clash” is evident with the formation of various extremist groups like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hizbullah and the Islamic State. The Islamic State is more than a terrorist group. Their numerous Human Rights abuses like Religious and minority group persecution, Treatment of civilians, Child soldier, Sexual violence and slavery, Attacks on members of the press,  Beheadings and mass execution, Destruction of cultural and religious heritage clearly represent a 7th century ideology. Couple this with a 21st century apocalyptic weapon, and you have a recipe for the destruction of civilization.

Why is it so easy so politically instrumentalize Religion and why do conflicts between and because of Religion persist even in today’s day and age ? Almost all conflict today is because of or in some way related to Religion. Dogmatic belief in any ideology is dangerous. But unlike Religion other ideologies are subjected to criticism and can be discussed and debated on. Both Religious extremists and moderates demand that faith be respected and this has put Religion outside the ambit of rational debate. It has somehow immunized itself overtime to the kind of scrutiny and criticism that we apply to every other area of human discourse. Further, unlike doctrines of other ideologies that constantly improved upon and changed, Religious texts are static. It can be argued that the contents of these texts are purely metaphysical. However, belief in these doctrines have real world consequences.

A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life. Your beliefs determine your vision of the world; they dictate your behaviour; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings. Consider how a you would behave if you came to believe one of the following propositions

  1. You have only two weeks to live.
  2. You’ve just won a lottery prize of a hundred crore rupees.
  3. Aliens have implanted a receiver in your skull and are manipulating your thoughts

These are mere words—until you believe them. Once believed, they become part of the very apparatus of your mind, determining your desires, fears, expectations, and subsequent behaviour. There seems, however, to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world. They are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another. The link between belief and behaviour raises the stakes considerably.  Subscribing to the kind of beliefs that religion prescribes can be dangerous because it is a totalitarian solution to everything, or at least claims to be. Religion’s essential fanaticism, consideration of the human being as raw material and its fantasy of purity is what makes it a problem in the contemporary world. Once you assume a creator and a plan (as monotheism does explicitly) it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and ordered to be well. And over us to supervise this is installed a celestial dictatorship, exigent for uncritical praise and swift to punish the sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place. Salvation or redemption is promised at the price of the surrender of our critical faculties. Is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our scepticism? If someone were to seriously represent their belief that the Earth was as big as the Sun,  he/she would immediately be ridiculed and branded as a lunatic.  However, Jesus Christ—who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heavens—can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. You are just a Catholic if you believe in this proposition. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad? I would maintain that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. However, religion does not provide even a shred of ordinary evidence for its supernatural claims. The danger of religious faith is that each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way that all others must.

I cannot of course propose that all conflict and violence stem from Religion. However,  as the Historian Steven Weinberg puts it “ In an ideal model of the world with or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” The mildest criticism of religion is also the most devastating one. Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or Gurus said or did. Religion was in the words of Christopher Hitchens “Our first attempt at the truth, and because it is our first, it is our worst.” The scriptures were probably beneficial to us at a time when men were ignorant about so many things. For example, micro-organism disease was explained by curses from witches or ill-wishing. We now know that diseases come from micro-organisms. Its ghastly reliance on the supernatural is what renders it immune to honest scrutiny. One encounters an ocean of liberal delusion while trying to criticize any of these faith-based ideologies. For example, any criticism of the doctrine of Islam is conflated with bigotry against Muslims as people. Islam is after all an idea and there is a big difference criticizing an idea and criticizing people. Sam Harris in his thesis of Collateral Damage imagines how our recent conflicts would look like using “perfect weapons” – which are defined as weapons that allow us either to temporarily impair or to kill a particular person, or group, at any distance without damaging anything or killing anyone else in the surroundings. How would George Bush have used perfect weapons? Would he have targeted the thousands of Iraqi civilians who were maimed and killed? There is no reason to think that he would have sanctioned the death of even one innocent person. How would Religious extremists use these weapons? Intent is the key point here. Not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development.

I would like to conclude in the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, “…we have the same job we always had, to say as thinking people and as humans that there are no final solutions, there is no absolute truth, there is no supreme leader, there is no totalitarian solution, that says that if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, a world of idiotic bliss can be yours. We have to begin by repudiating all such claims. Grand Rabbis, Chief Ayatollahs, infallible Popes, the peddlers or surrogate and mutant quasi political religion and worship, the Dear Leader, the Great Leader, we have no need for any of this.”

The author, Aditya Kumar, is an ex-student of  Political Science at St. Xavier’s college, Kolkata.

 

 

 

A Conversation With Mr. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

Mr. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay has been a writer, columnist and journalist based in Delhi. He is an expert on ‘Hindu nationalistic politics’. His works include: ‘The Demolition: India at the crossroads’ (1994), ‘Narendra Modi: The Man’, ‘The Times’ (2013) and ‘Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984’(2015).  In this interview with Politically Correct, he talks about his personal journey, the state of Indian media and the current political status quo. Excerpts:

Q: You have been in this profession for the last three decades, covering a myriad of stories as columnist for a large array of media platforms. How do you see the changes in the Indian media from the time you started as a journalist? What has been the biggest upheaval?

A: The biggest change has been in terms of size and number. The presence of the Media has been empowered by sprouting of innumerable websites, newspapers, channels etc. Proliferation of the language media has been corresponded by higher literacy level and today not only English newspapers but also newspapers in the regional languages have gained a lot of attention. Much greater noise is being made by them than what they used to do in the 80s. Today the Media makes itself heard 24/7. I think this has been the change of foremost significance.

Q: Don’t you think the ethics of journalism has gone through changes over the years?

A: I came into this profession during the Post-emergency period when the public psyche still held the acrid memories of Emergency-days. During the Emergency, there was a clamp-down on the Media. The establishment of the Janata Government gave some sort of relief to journalism. Simultaneously, there were incidents like Bhagalpur Blinding which propelled people like me to join journalism.  Investigative Journalism became a catchphrase and the youth aspired to be journalists. We were always told about the famous quote of L.K. Advani about media during emergency, when “media was asked to bend, but it crawled”.  However, a certain section of journalists have had a legacy of being spineless in this country. They were blind. Ethics is not something, which has made Indian journalism distinct over the years. The number of people having an upright spine is still pretty less.

Q: Collusion of journalists and politicians has been a cause of worry for many. Lutyen’s Delhi circuit is generally a phrase used to reflect upon this nexus. Do you have a view on that?

As we have crony capitalism, there is crony journalism. That is not something surprising. Right from the time India became independent, there have been cases where people who were journalists went on to become prominent politicians of the time. Yes, I would say, now it is much closer and there is a greater connectivity between the two than it was in the past. I don’t feel it’s fair to say Delhi journalists are to be blamed solely for this nexus, as it happens everywhere in different states and their capitals. So, this is an ailment of the journalists across the country. There are large sections of Delhi media which is favorable to PM Modi. There are many who are neutral and are critics of the government. They don’t align themselves with the government, but that’s fine.

Q: About the book, ‘Narendra Modi: the Man, the Time’, you have said that you did not write the book in terms of binary but on neutrality. But Christiane Amanpour (senior journalist at CNN) says that writing should be truthful not neutral. Do you have a view on that?

A: Being neutral also means being truthful. They are complimentary to each other. I don’t see any contradiction between these two.

Q: Do you think that television journalism is more of sensationalism and excitement rather than giving actual content to the viewers to ponder upon?

A: Globally television is more frivolous than the print media. Television has been a means of entertainment and entertainment has its own crassness. I think it has affected Indian media also. Our cinema industry has its history of being crass and Indian media has been affected by it. Let me give you an example of crassness. Yesterday a hearing was going on in the International Court of Justice, the Hague. Mr. Harish Salve was pleading India’s case. All the English news channels were covering the proceedings live. I don’t know about a single Hindi news channel, if not other channels in regional language covering it live. So you presume that viewers of non-English news channels are stupid. They don’t need the news from The Hague. That is crassness.

Q: Of late, this has been the talk of the town that in the print media, the marketing department is taking over the editorial department. In fact, Mr. Jain of the TOI went the distance of saying he does not want to do news but sell news. How do you see it?

A: I understand what you are saying. There are some editors, who do guard the editorial say against marketing and there are editors, who don’t. Fortunately, I have worked with those, who guard. There are certain basic rules in all the media companies and what you require is reasonable adjustment and it is exactly 3 decades since the media promoters started to look at the newspapers not as a tool of political crusade but as a business commodity. Then happens the advent of colors, better packaging, glossy papers etc. Basically, all the big media companies are corporate-owned and you simply can’t act contrary to them. You need adjustment.

Q: So what is the future of the media?

A: Grow according to the market. Every industry has certain responsibilities. The Media should not cover only what the public wants. The Media cannot be populist. We can decide what they will read and see. So we should not take the position what Bombay film industry has taken.

Q: Some people think about some particular news channels that they are biased and inclined towards certain views. Is it true in journalism?

A: None can deny it. Every person has the freedom to think about these channels. Each and every media company has a certain orientation and that is how they function.

Q: You have had a long career in journalism and you have written a lot of editorials and columns. People say that journalists should not have opinion about everything. Is it the way to look at it?

A: We should have opinion of everything. Now it depends on what you are writing. You change your approach based on whether it’s an opinion or a film report or an analysis.

Q: Have you ever been told to write on something on which you’ve never written?

A: No. Never in my career. But still, I have written on culture, environment, law, so I’ve written on a lot of things, virtually everything.

Q: You have written the book, ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times,’ from a very neutral perspective. You also said that he discontinued his help when issues like 2002 and setbacks of his Government came on the fore and he became quite reluctant to talk. How did you see it?

A: He didn’t want to talk on the topics on which he had spoken already.  I don’t want to get liable of why I’ve written what I’ve written. I’ve said what I had to say in the book.  I will repeat, whenever I asked Mr. Modi about 2002, he would say , go and check what I had said earlier. This is a very dangerous area to discuss and it certainly appeals him.

Q: You covered Modi after 2014. What has been the biggest change?

A: He definitely has grown. He has become much more capable of things at a much bigger perspective. Being a Chief Minister of a state is much smaller affair than being the Prime Minister.

Q: Modi talks about development. Modi talks about inclusive growth, ‘Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas.’ He has worked to create his image of a development-man. Has this image-manufacturing process been more successful than the actual execution of Government projects?

A: Everyone works on his or her image. He has greater interest in many things those others politicians don’t have. Personality plays a role. Though one cannot fault him on his personal attire; like Sonia Gandhi is particular about her sarees, Indira Gandhi was particular about the white dye on parts of her hair, in the same way Mr. Modi has some personal flares. He is much more flamboyant. The chapter “modisutra” in my book talks about how much care he takes for his clothes, specs watches and pens, basically his whole personal look.

Q:  Your show, A Page from History, on Lok Sabha TV, was discontinued in 2015. How do you relate that to the change of regime in the central government?

A:  It was said by a large number of people that the show was discontinued because I had written a book on Mr. Modi, which did not please the political masters and bosses in the country. I was personally disappointed by that decision. In the show, I never took a line. It can possibly be the most neutral perspective on an absolutely controversial subject like history.

Q: You have done extensive coverage of RSS-VHP and Hindutvadi  ‘Kamnadal- mandal’ politics of the 90s. Do you think Hindutva has been normalized in the mainstream?

A: Yes. They have greater acceptance today than the 80s.

Q: Is it because of the marketing?

A: It is due to the adoption of several strategies: marketing, decline of the Congress, fall of the Soviet Union, relentless targeting of minorities in India. Idea of India is diversity and diversity is something seen antagonistic in India’s becoming a superpower.

Q: Should we compare Mr. Modi to Turkish president Erodgan? Is his Government Erdoganised?

A: It is too early to say whether that kind of constitutional change will happen in India or not. Let’s see. A lot of things he should not have done and there are also a lot of things he has done in his administration. Works needed to be more on ground and less on words.  I would have liked if he had become more inclusive. His greatest achievement would be further weakening of the opposition.

Q: In your article ‘Fringe is the Main-stream,’ you commented on Adityanath. Was Adityanath a strategic choice or an aadesh from Nagpur?

A: It became a convergence of interest. Nagpur agreed. Delhi agreed.  Kolkata agreed. Everybody found him suitable.

Q: RSS has created a class of ideologues to connect to the mass. People like Rakesh Sinha, Rajeev Malhotra shout their agenda. How is this tactic?

A: RSS always had people who had no intellectual potential. Now they have started to get in some people for their own good of expanding among the mass. But they need to increase the caliber of these people. They are so angry most of the times. Everybody considers them intellectual, so I also consider them ‘intellectual’. It’s a subjective assessment. Let people decide. There are people in Sangh Parivar with whom we can have some fine rational debate and discussion even while disagreeing. I do it all the time. But most of them are terrible.

Q: So is applicative Hindutva different from ideological Hindutva?

A: there is only one Hindutva. One expression of it is articulate and another is crude. RSS is the umbrella organization and the ABVP, the BJP are affiliated bodies to it.

Q: Right-wing trade unions in India have repeatedly talked of swadeshi. How is BJP’s stance with more liberalization a swadeshi step?

A: Yes. I think the basis of Make in India programme is swadeshi. He has termed Make in India as the mother of all swadeshi programmes. He has been able to convince RSS.

Q: Yogi Adityanath is not actually from the RSS. He is from the Mahasabha. What is the difference between the two?

A: It’s a strategic convergence. Still they are people within mahasabha who don’t want to come together.

Q: Coming to the book on 1984, people often accused that 1984 is not discussed with greater detail.  Do you think 1984 investigation was not handled properly?

A: One should not compare 1984 with 2002.  These are the sinful episodes if our history. We need resolution to both of these. 1984 was investigated very well. A booklet, ‘Who Are the Guilty,’ was published.

Q: What’s the main objective of writing about this in 2015? Is it an obituary?

A: No. BJP had talked a lot about the 1984. So it’s interesting to see what they do while forming the Government.  Books on tragedies connect with me at times.

Q:    can you name your favorite book among the three you had written?

A: My first book on Babri Demolition has been my favorite. It has helped me to grow more and learn more.

Q: India has a history of attracting the youth to left-wing politics.  How do you look upon the youth, attracted to right wing policies?

A: This is due to the failure of left wing politics in India. Proper strategy was required with the change of time.

Q: Do you have any message for the new aspiring journalists and how do you reflect upon your personal journey?

A: Only one message – Read as much as u can. It should be informative as it stays with you.  My personal journey has been a never ending process. It’s been a great learning experience and I have never said that I have known everything.

The interview was carried out by Aditya Poddar, a student of Commerce  and edited by Sambuddha Bhattacharjee, a student of Political Science, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

COMMUNISM IS WAY OUT OF OUR LEAGUE (OR THE OTHER WAY AROUND)

June 4th, 2017 marked the 28th anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests, a student protest in China because of the country’s degenerative economic reforms, nepotism in government, and lack in career prospects among other reasons. This protest stood out because of two reasons: it was a peeping hole into the country’s iron curtain policy; and two, the protests turned out to be gruesome when the military fired openly on civilians and ran them over with tanks, in an attempt to quell the demonstrations at the Tiananmen Square killing about a thousand people.

China became a staunch follower of the communist way in the times of Mao Zedong, known as the founding father of People’s Republic of China and the Chairman of the Communist Party of China. He launched the Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural revolution to slowly turn China into an industrial economy from an agrarian economy, thus facilitating communism. Over time, the enforcement of communism ideals developed such loopholes that they damaged the economy to a large extent. The administrative class, which should have been free of corruption became even more so. Famines and droughts hit the country side, causing deaths in millions. The communism that was embraced by the country in an attempt to boost its economy resulted in a number of problems and the students, who saw the dark future their country was heading into, marched down the streets, presenting the government with their demands. And the government imposed a martial law.

This was the story of China, we come to India now. Most of the reasons why communism cannot survive in India may also be applicable to other modern democracies. The number one reason that communism cannot survive in India is because of the small working class. The way that our economic reforms took place, our country is making its way from an agrarian economy to a service sector dependent economy directly, without the much necessary industrial revolution. Socialism, which was supposed to bring about an industrial revolution, failed in our country, causing a number of our industrial units to turn into sick ones. Thus the working class always remained less in number to cause the revolution of the proletariat. Our government, as part of a welfare state has also ensured that the working class remains content and expressive of its demands through peace and not violence, basically, keeping them not at loggerheads with the bourgeois, through schemes and laws.

In a democracy, a classless society cannot exist. Even Mao observed this in China; new elite class arising after the old elite had been done away with, despite China not being a democracy. In a country like ours, communism can be achieved through governmental means only, which will lead to the State taking care of possession and distribution of resources. The government will thus become the elite, a small class owning the majority of resources, that communism had sought to replace. The government will thus get richer and lead to more equalities, corruption and nepotism. Furthermore due to colonialism and poor economic reforms, the country could not accumulate sufficient wealth. To become communist, first the country has to be sufficiently capitalist. Due to the economic reforms of the Nehruvian era, the capitalist class could not thrive. This coupled with the small working class, cold not create the dire conditions that could lead to overthrow of the bourgeois and revolution of the Proletariat.

To exist in a democracy, communism can take form of a party, which is what happened in India, but the two sole communist parties failed to maintain popularity throughout India. Most of the political parties in India thrive by building upon the cultural or religious differences, the Left mostly stayed out of the mess like an ideal political party. They focused entirely on economic factors for development and ignored social factors like caste, religion, etc.  Communism goes hand in hand with an iron hand policy, which means curbing certain (read most) fundamental rights the most controversial one is the right to freedom of speech and expression which already is a bone of contention in India and was one of the causes of Tiananmen protests. This is a mechanism to maintain the communist system and prevent mutiny as well as revolution of the ex-bourgeois. Due to the development of the current media and its ever growing reach, it is impossible for India to maintain a communist regime.

The general reasons are the same, when the profit motive goes away, so does productivity and the government has to give incentive again (which leads to one gaining a benefit over the other: alert, capitalism) to rejuvenate the moribund economy. It creates a cozy club or elites (small class controlling most resources: capitalism, again) through corruption and nepotism. Communism, the ideal one at least, basically, cannot be achieved in any modern democratic or intellectual society. Thus, it is no wonders that India failed to espouse communism just as communism failed to espouse the changing needs of India.

The author, Shivani Karnik, is a student of Law at HNLU,  Raipur.

The Story of a Yogi?

As I present to you this article, it would be safe to provide a disclaimer before I end up being a controversy’s child analogous to the very subject of my discussion today. I, through this article of mine, do not intend to hurt any one person, group or religion’s sentiments.

As the timeworn saying goes, and I quote Sherlock Holmes,

“Sentiment is a chemical defect found on the losing side.”

However, it is quite ironic how sentiments are stirred within the gullible population of the nation by our ingenious polity. With respect to this statement, which many might consider to be superfluous, clarity of thoughts and expression (which is clearly absent in our political system today) is required. But my writing shall not disappoint you.  I cannot possibly pen down my intellect without being politically incorrect, because that would be HYPOCRISY, which is something I am yet to major at. So, I hope you shall pardon my callous use of language and a naïve approach towards the harsh realities we are bordering towards in the literary format that I present to you.

***

Once upon a time, INDIA- my BHARATA MATA, your HINDUSTAN, and our BHARATA DESH was a golden bird whose wings were clasped to the ground by the British Raj. They robbed us of our glory, they plundered us of our wealth and treasury, and they ransacked us of our faith from fraternity. It is easy to shrug off a matter by saying “let bygones be bygones”, but it is these past horrors that come to haunt us. Here, I mention the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy as formulated by the British which has blemished the very sense of solidarity among us. The ending of British rule in India was to be the advent of a new era, but who knew that old grievances would tailgate further coherence of independent India.

We are no longer bound by a foreign force, but are fettered by the distinct ideologies of ‘dharma’ and ‘jaati’, the seeds of which are deep rooted and watered in the many political parties  that have varied political prejudices which further determine the fate of our polity. BJP adheres to the very ideology of Hindutva and Hindu Nationalism. Thus, the very façade of loathing the CM of Uttar Pradesh should be ruled out if at all we have voted for Bhartiya Janata Party in the first place, and thus, I skip right to the man of the hour- Yogi Adityanath. However stern and focused a politician he may be, there is a huge miss in this influential CM.

A YOGI or A DHONGI

This saffron-clad sadhu turned politician appears and claims to be the flag bearer of Hindutva. With his razor sharp tongue, Yogi Adityanath has a strong foothold over Uttar Pradesh, which has already led to a hue and cry among the Muslims with the bizarre comments that have been made by him attacking the Muslims.  A strong mascot of the Ram Mandir issue, his influential and robust leadership will lead to a deepening of the crack between the Hindus and the Muslims into an abyss, after which, there will be no turning back. His vigorous speeches are fanning the fire of communalism, keeping it alive among the myriad of other problems our country is facing. We call ourselves a SECULAR state, however, the government, or to be precise, this particular leader is swaying the whole crux of his substance on a theocratic basis, instinctively libeling Islam or Pakistan.

In one of his recent speeches in Lucknow, he made a hostile remark which raises a very prominent question on how such a type of leader will lead India’s most populous state with such venomous intolerance and biased prejudices that the state of Uttar Pradesh has ever seen-

“Akbar, Aurangzeb and Babar were invaders. The sooner we accept the truth; all the problems of our country will vanish.”

Such judgements have been passed by this man who is entrusted with the precarious future of the many citizens the state contains. To further analyse his statement, it ridiculously means that by demeaning one caste, we all can fight poverty, violence against women, religious conflicts, and the varied troubles our country is foisted with.

Having mentioned ‘violence against women’, this saint of a person once commented –

“If they take one Hindu girl, we will take 100 Muslim girls”,

Justifying even further how violence against women is inevitable where the leaders harbour such opinions.

Another arguable sin which a high priest like him committed was to incapacitate our belief in the phrase – ‘sab moh maya hai’, because when he went to give his condolences to the family of the Border Security Force soldier who was mutilated by the Pakistan army, he brought with himself an air-conditioner, a sofa and carpet which were conveniently and immediately removed from the house after his departure. This shows a sheer lack of humanity, but a serious penchant for materialism which takes precedence over the jawan’s precious life. Here, on one hand, where yogis are supposed to shun power and worldly pleasures for a life of meditation and spiritual quest, this man has preached and invoked violence.

Thus, to dream of a utopian country where our leaders avoid the power politics and begin to sincerely preach Hindu-Muslim harmony is to live in a bubble, but I guess, it is in this bubble where we are safe, where we have the sensible notion of Right and Wrong, where we are united towards our outlook for a peaceful nation.

For the dearth of words, I would like to add to my article a minute variation of the classic combination of words that has, of late, caused a phenomenon on social media (Thanks to Dr. Shashi Tharoor).

Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies being broadcast by a votary priest masquerading as an abhorrent meteoric hypnotic.

There cannot possibly be a happy ending to this, because the situation is only to worsen. The irrational need to indoctrinate their particular ideologies among others does not stand a strong ground and is not acceptable in a country where we are promised the freedom of thought and the freedom to practice, preach and perform different religions.

“A dhoti clad priest
In the garb of an inexorable beast;
The vast shaved head
Many evils which it’d embed;
Wisdom which the saffron tilak exudes
Crimson which his brainchild may produce;
Enthralling mantras his tongue rolled
Caste-based differences which he evoked;
‘Dharma’ and ‘Jaat’ as we all smear,
The inevitable end is near.”

 

***

The author, Mahima Maniar, is a student of Political Science at Loreto College, Kolkata.

How Feminine is Feminism?

What began as a social theory or rather, a political movement arguing that legal and social restrictions on females must be removed in order to bring about equality of both sexes in all aspects of public and private life, is now quite a celebrated topic for numerous debates and discussions which marks the rise of a different form of nouveau, enlightenment in the development of human understanding and widening of human thoughts and actions.
There have been numerous claims and counter-claims of what is “true feminism” and what should be the scope of its matter. I will, however, present my own interpretation of feminism and try to distinguish between the different parts of this topic.
In order to attain a “true” understanding of feminism, we have to delve deep into its matter and observe its beginning, in the 18th and the 19th century, marked as the “First wave” of Feminism.
The growth of logical thinking, scientific ideas and the enlightenment period, fall of the Church, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution and the rise of the Nation State and democracy in the Western European countries signalled a new development in the socio-political aspect of human history and modern civilization. Men were given the right to vote their leaders, who will lead their country. Leaders, who were elected by the people, of the people and for the people and hence, represented the ‘public’ opinion.
The irony lies in the fact that, the word “public” which was coined in the 14th and the 15th century, necessarily referred to the views of the ‘general masses’ and that of ‘everyone’ and stood opposite to the word “private” and at the same time, women, who formed half of the population, were deprived  of the membership of this “public” sphere. Women were denied the right to vote, voice their opinions, or the opportunity to understand the working of this nouveau enlightened, democratic era, which ironically stood for “everyone”, “public” and the “people”. It was the MEN who formed the rights, laws and rules which would not only guide their welfare, but also that of the “lesser humans”, the “other sex”, the women, whose welfare was thought to be “naturally” placed at a position lower to that of men. It was as if women were different creatures or sub-humans. This struck many enigmatic women like Mary Wollstonecraft.
This led to the successful first wave of Feminism or the Suffragette movement, which took up the issue of Democracy, for ALL, and protested against the male domination, leading to the granting of voting rights to women.
The second wave of Feminism was simultaneously carried out along with the Civil Rights Movement. Betty Friedan, in her book, ‘The Feminine Mystique’ has elucidated how educated women were growing sick of their daily chores. It was as if their destiny to give birth to children, take them to school, take care of her husband, and stay in the kitchen for the rest of the day, even after a sufficient education, which made them elligible for jobs. Friedan also mentions how the working ladies were made fun of being “unable to produce babies” in the workplace and were hardly given any promotion. The movement led to the passage of ‘The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act’ and many such other Laws, throughout the globe, which called for women’s empowerment. Mention must also be made of the women in music, who were encouraged by the movement, such as Laura Nyro.
The third wave had a wider scope and aimed to recognise the various identities that is inherent among humans and accommodate all these in the society. Third-wave feminists had a more broad goal, focusing on ideas like queer theory, and abolishing gender role expectations and stereotypes, that is supported by the patriarchal society and hetero-normativity.
The thing is, ‘modernity’ is thought to be a harbinger of equality among the sexes. It is thought that modernity has brought about women’s empowerment and it is sufficient to bring about an upliftment of women’s position in the society. However, the present situation is not as heavenly or romantic as socialism or capitalism thought modernity would be.
There is inherent a sense of oppression, which deprives women of several opportunities and the whole sex is socially tagged as something very weak, dependent and lacking confidence. It is a fact that the modern society is a patriarchal society where families still prefer a male child and though property seems to be equally divided among the male and the female child, it is the former who gets the most of it.
There is a reason why even after the three waves of feminism, there is necessary a fourth wave, which aims to charge at the present oppression that hinders not only the opportunities of the female sex, but also that of the minorities, the LGBTQIA+ groups and several oppressed classes and castes.
It is a fact that till date, doing something “like a woman” is considered to be negative. It is as if someone is making fun of the individual if he/she is doing something “like a woman”. This is quite a sad occuring and I believe, that the presence of this fact itself is a proof that oppression of women is inherently present and women’s empowerment needs to be emphasized upon.
The complexity of inter-sectionalism lies in the fact that, where some feminists argue that the ‘Burkha’ and the ‘Hijaab’ is disgraceful for women and imposes male dominance on them, some Muslim Feminists argue that it is quite empowering as they can look at a man’s skin, or gaze at their faces but the man cannot do so. However, not going into such complexities, it can be said that Feminism is a necessity in bringing about a humanitarian development of the society as a whole. It is a necessity to recognise and give place to the various identities and diverse human beings that are present in the society who need to be given equal rights irrespective of any of their identities.
Moreover, many men just assume that the maintenance of a household is a woman’s job. This is an extremely selfish claim which arises due to them, being born in a society which programs them to think in that way. There are men who say things like, “I am busy babysitting my kid tonight”, when actually he is caring for his own child, because it is his offspring too! It’s not his wife’s job and he isn’t babysitting when he is doing it… it’s both their jobs!
Then, is feminism a completely feminine theory? Is it different for different people? What is the role of men in Feminism?
In order to answer these questions we need to delve deep into the liberal understanding of Feminism and observe how intersectional feminism talks about equality of all the sexes and genders and looks at them as an inevitable part of humanity and societal reality.
Feminism transgresses its feminine boundaries and steadily creeps into the realm of gender, sexuality and asserts their multiplicity. It points out to the quiet mass of people who do not identify them either as male or female, or pose a behaviour, different to the normative behaviour assigned to the sex they are born into.
Feminism also stands strong while questioning the official notions of masculinity which vehemently rejects and denies the identity of a ‘Man’ to any male individual who does not adhear to the official notions of hetero-normativity.
Feminism also questions, with the help of social evidences, ‘logic’ and ‘scientific claims’ which have historically brought about women’s oppression and has given women a weak and dependent position.
There is a preconceived notion that feminism is essentially a feminine ideology, that women use to empower themselves in various walks of their lives. However, it should be stressed, how feminism has transgressed it’s feminine boundaries, into that of masculinity and a transition area between the two conditions. A movement that had begun for the granting of certain civil rights and legal rights for women for their opportunitues, has now evolved to question the official notions of what is masculinity and has given a strong voice to many men, who have been discriminated, socially disregared and rejected by the larger group of not only, the “masculine” men but also women, who have been socialised into believing the patriarchal norms and it’s dominance.
Feminism gives a voice to those men who do not fall into the celebrated category of “masculine” men who project a certain behaviour, not similar to that of a woman, who possesses neither emotions or sensitivity. Feminism claims that there is present not one, but various forms of masculinity. Only one form of typical male behaviour is thought to be masculine, male-like, in the patriarchal society  Coincidentally, the word ‘masculine’ was itself coined around the 15th-16th Century, and it related to only a typical form of behaviour professed by the heterosexual, white, English educated, European men, who set the limits and standards for men to be identified as behaviourally masculine. Hence, the word masculine is actually quite restricting and does not have a space for all those men who do not toe the lines of the “normal, masculine, men” and are tagged as “queers”, or even “homosexuals”. Mention should be made of the oppression that this form of masculinity caused all around the world. The Britishers tagged the Bengali, young men or the ‘Babu’ as effeminate and undeserving of the ‘masculine’ tag since they were earned their income through the Zamindari system and were generally, pot-bellied. Even among various African and North American tribes, the men were tagged as effeminate since they lived in a matriarchal society, or had a queen as their tribal leader. Even in the modern era, men who don’t behave in certain ways, or don’t watch sports or are not into sports, who don’t educate themselves in the scientific subjects are treated as effeminate and are socially disregarded during socialization. This had led many men to grow to be un-social individuals and some have grown to hate their own sex.
As a concluding note, it can be stressed that the various parameters that are set in the society should not affect an individual’s life if she/he fails to meet them. Differences and uniqueness should be accepted and regarded in the society and I believe, feminism strives to achieve such a society where humans will be accepted for who they are, what they believe and their liberty should be regarded as a norm. It should also be said that one’s liberty should not hinder another’s opportunity or the right to yield her/his liberty. True feminism believes in inter-sectionality, humanism, liberalism, egalitarianism and has been a product of a several decades of struggle and I believe, it is necessary to facilitate the process of reaching that stage where human nature will be more accepting, open minded and will not disregard uniqueness or difference of the human race.
The author, Meghjit Sengupta, is a student of Sociology at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

Why We Don’t Want To Sound Too ‘Political’

‘I don’t want to sound too political.

Having grown up hearing this sentence thrown around, I’ve used it many times myself, even as a (rather ignorant) student of political science in the twelfth grade. I’ve heard teachers, friends, and people around me use it, as though issuing this disclaimer would really separate them from the innately political subjects they follow that sentence up with. But, instead of pointing this out, I would be better advised to uncover the roots of why ‘politics’ or ‘being political’ is so repulsive- repulsive enough to warrant such disclaimers.

This inability to acknowledge politics and its effects manifests itself every single time someone’s beaten up in a university for voicing their opinions, every silent glare or click of the dislike button at the outspoken ‘activist type’ at the table or in the online forum, and the very tense hush that sweeps across the room when a ‘sensitive’ subject is brought up. Political differences are characterised as ‘mood-killers’ and of course, every person who takes an active interest in politics is subject to a variety of (rather unflattering) labels. The perceived discomfort with politics permeates every level of society, even among people who confess not knowing very much about politics. To know why exactly this happens, is not very difficult. Two very pertinent reasons come to mind- the fact that we don’t know how much politics involves itself in our daily lives (and refuse to learn), and the fact that we, collectively, really can’t discuss anything.

Addressing reason number one is easy, because this can be blamed on the system. We’re made to believe that politics isn’t something basic, ordinary and everyday, but something that only stays with politicians and governments, something that is out-of-reach and difficult. In reality, the very premise of living in a democracy makes the ‘political’ accessible to every citizen. With the right to vote, the easier access to information and the improved infrastructure in the twenty-first century, politics should be easier to digest. Granted, democracy is not implemented very well- but it is the closest we have ever come to playing an active role in the future of society. Moreover, politics has so many other forms- the hierarchy at workplaces, the power structure at colleges and schools, and even families. This crucial point is overlooked by how our society, through education, defines politics.

Reason number two is a lot more difficult to grapple with, because we have nobody else to blame for the fact that we cannot discuss anything. We view discussion as something that can only take place between equals- the rather Confucian notion of obeying seniors and respecting ‘values’ passed down to us is the largest impediment to discussion. This is something inherent in us, due to social conditioning, and isn’t something easy to remedy. However, the more confounding reason is our inability to accept new concepts because of how different they are. This is a problem with both the right and the left- the inability to accept alien concepts, or even any form of nuanced debate. It is very convenient to create a narrative- a rather divisive narrative, vilifying the other side. But what is easy isn’t always necessarily what’s right.

Politics isn’t simply the study of power relations or resource allocation, but an evolving entity that evolves only with genuine, well-placed debate. Debates about feminism, environmental causes, the issue of caste and poverty are the reason they’re acknowledged today. What we simply refuse to understand is that discussing something need not devolve into a battle of superiority or acceptance. FOX News, NDTV and Aaj Tak don’t really represent nuanced political debate- and simply contribute more to the collective apathy and borderline dislike that surrounds the word ‘politics’.

The very fact that people talk about their jobs, their bosses, their schools, families, countries- all indicate their involvement in some form of politics or the other. Keeping this basic assumption aside, even if we belong to opposite ends of the political spectrum, politics shouldn’t be the sensitive subject that it is, simply because politics implies the ability to debate rationally (emphasis on ‘rationally’).