January 14 marks the birth anniversary of celebrated lyricist Kaifi Azmi. Credit: Twitter
He was always different, a fact that didn’t sit too easily on my young shoulders. He didn’t go to ‘office’ or wear the normal trousers and shirt like other ‘respectable’ fathers but chose to wear a white cotton kurta-pyjama twenty-four hours of the day. He did not speak English and, worse still, I didn’t call him ‘Daddy’ like other children, but some strange-sounding ‘Abba’! I learned very quickly to avoid referring to him in front of my classmates and lied that he did some vague ‘business’! Imagine letting my school friends know that he was a poet. What on earth did that mean—a euphemism for someone who did no work?
A student once asked the American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, what she considered to be the first evidence of civilisation. Mead answered that for her the first sign of civilisation is a healed femur (thigh bone). The healing of the thigh bone, which can take months when immobilised, means that someone must have hunted, provided shelter and gathered food for that person before the bone healed. All in all, according to her, the evidence of compassion was the first sign of civilisation.
In recent years, our understanding of what the British did (or did not do) in this country has been shaped by ideologues rather than scholars. Born-again patriots produce the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Bengal famine as final and conclusive proof that colonialism damaged and deeply degraded India. Latter-day nostalgists answer by holding up the railways as Exhibit A, and the universities as Exhibit B, of how the ruler from afar elevated and educated India. Both sides assemble their arguments mostly from scraps of evidence available online; neither seeks to nuance or complicate their black or white picture with any sort of original research.Read More »
The book ‘India after Naxalbari, unfinished History’ written by Bernard D’Mellow and published by Aakar Books [28E Pocket IV, Maryu Vihar Phase I, Delhi-110091, Price : Rs 995] is a classic.
The book is divided into 10 chapters like an epic novel with each chapter a logical sequel to the previous one. Chapter—1 on ‘Naxalite Spring Thunder phase’ where he recounts the history of the naxalbari uprising. In Chapter—2 ‘1968 India as history’ he recounts the brutal state repression unleashed. Chapter 3—’Unequal Development and evolution of the ruling bloc’ describes the principal undeveloped capitalism highlighting the state-corporate nexus. Chapter 4—’Naxalite Spring thunder phase narrating the events from 1978-2003 and describing the mass movements of the Maoists in light of worker-peasant alliance and women liberation. Chapter—5 ‘India 1989’ which sums up the financial autocracy and phenomenal disparity prevailing in total contrast to progressive capitalism. Chapter—6 ‘The far and near’—India’s rotten liberal democracy narrates how fundamental rights are violated and how it is an integral part of the bourgeois Indian state and how parliamentary democracy only protected the vested interests. Chapter—7 ‘Maoist Spring Thunder phase 3’ studies the movement after the formation of the CPI (Maoist) throwing light on the guerrilla army. Chapter—8 ‘Rotten at the heart-Secular state’ vividly describes how essentially the state violates the rights of minorities being responsible for some of the bloodiest communal riots ever perpetrating violence on Sikhs and Muslims. Chapter 9—’Little man, What now’ sums up the semi-fascist nature of the Modi regime and the aspect of sub-imperialism. Here he draws an analogy of the Nazi regime of 1930’s with the Hindu fascist agenda. Chapter—10 In ‘History memory and dreams’ he elaborates the concept of New Democracy in term of it’s workability.Read More »
Image for representative purpose only. Credit: Unsplash/Topich
In contemporary times, there is nothing revolutionary about a woman vacationing alone in the Maldives, living on her own in London, backpacking in Thailand or walking out of a loveless marriage. But things were different in India of the past century, when the country was reeling under poverty, colonial subjugation and chaos. Women were tethered to the small world of domesticity, expected to desire nothing more than a home, a husband and children. What else would a woman need and why? Gayatri, the protagonist in Anuradha Roy’s fourth novel, All the Lives We Never Lived, asks herself this question, albeit differently: “Why am I not happy with my home, husband and child”? Gayatri’s question, in the wake of World War II and the Indian freedom movement is revolutionary and subversive at many levels.
Since the 1970s, Marxist discussion of how and when capitalism was born has been dominated by two competing academic currents. World-System Theory, first enunciated by Immanuel Wallerstein, locates the origin of capitalism in the expansion of world trade and the plunder of the new world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Political Marxism, developed by Robert Brenner, says the transition took place somewhat earlier, and only in rural England, where feudal lords converted themselves into capitalist landlords.Read More »
The *Book under review provides a fairly detailed discussion of the process of land reforms in West Bengal during the period of Left Front rule. The merit of the book is that it has dealt not only with the subject of seizure of ceiling surplus lands and their redistribution, but with related issues like operation barga, sharecropping arrangements, minimum wages, the functioning of panchayets etc. Certainly there is no point in saying that there was no land reform work worth the name in West Bengal during the period of Left Front rule. But the question is how far the official claim in this respect was correct and what could be done to follow up the initial work so as to raise it to a higher level. The author has not subscribed to the official claim, which he considers exaggerated. He has also dealt with the various problems that grew up during the implementation of the operation barga and other agrarian programmes.Read More »