Tuesday, August 27, 2013

[ASEAK Release] FYUP: Institutionalising Inequality in Delhi University

Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK) has been formed in the light of increasing restrictions on access to affordable reading material- specifically the lawsuit by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis on Rameshwari Photocopy Services in Delhi University on charges of copyright infringement. The Association has been, among other things, struggling against growing privatisation and commercialisation of higher education. With this perspective, we see the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) as a reform which has been designed to push forward the agenda of serving private commercial interests. And the implementation of such a regressive programme could only have been autocratic, which the events of last few months have demonstrated. Following are the grounds on which ASEAK rejects the FYUP, apart from condemning the absolute high-handed and authoritarian method of its implementation:

# Multiple-exit points and the question of drop-outs: The concept of multiple-exit points in the course, which has been harped upon as promoting students’ freedom to choose and decide, blatantly institutionalises already existing inequities in higher education. Multiple exits in the course accordingly ‘grade’ the course. So clearly, a 2-years course will be less valuable than a 4-year course. And the ‘freedom’ to complete it two years or four is really a question of who has the means to afford it. Higher education for many female students is a struggle, and they will be the first to be asked to take a token degree and discontinue education. Multiple-exit points is simply an exercise in making denial of education a formal system. 

Further, the multiple-exit points scheme is being projected as a solution to the high drop-out rate (30%, according to ‘studies’, as the Vice Chancellor claims: there is no systematic study of the matter). That a University doesn’t tackle the reasons why students are forced to drop-out and institutionalises ‘dropping-out’ lays bare their agenda of making education exclusive. 

[Release] Protest Held Across Cities Against Saffron Violence On FTII Students in Pune

Students’ Association 
Film and Television Institute of India, 
Law College Road, Pune: 411004

Following the dastardly assault on FTII students by ABVP activists, a rally was organized by the students association of FTII from the institute premises till Omkareshwar bridge , where activist Shri. Narendra Dhabolkar was brutally murdered. Simultaneous protests/agitations were organized in Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh by students unions, cultural group, civil society members and artists in solidarity with the students.

In Pune, the solidarity march comprised of the FTII students association and representatives of the Swatantra theatre group, Pune Municipal Kamgari Union, AISA and Yugpath along with members of the FTII administration, faculty and staff.

The Police had denied permission for the proposed rally citing Sec 37(1)(3).The permission was only granted at the last minute after more than 250 people gathered at the FTII gate . For an hour before starting the march the students and the supporters cried slogans, performed songs and plays in front of the institute gate.

Following the demonstration, the students took out a peaceful silent march covering their mouth with black ribbons. The placards and banner held by the students and supporters spoke of their demands and their disappointments apart from their anger regarding the state of affairs.

The march that began at FTII reached Omkareshwar chowk cutting through the city. At the Omkareshwar Chowk a minute’s silence was observed as a mark of respect to the late Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. Mukta Manohar, General Secretary of Pune Muncipal Kamgari Union addressing the gathering congratulated the students for taking a bold initiative and asked the students to keep the fighting spirit alive in them for a lifetime. The General Secretary of FTII Student’s Association, Vikas Urs addressed the people gathered and thanked the police for providing support.

Solidarity March in Delhi was organized by NSD and supported by students of DU, JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia, Ambedkar College. More than 150 people sang songs, performed plays and shouted slogans as part of their protest.  In Hyderabad Street plays at different plays were performed. People in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh met to condemn the incidents and distributed pamphlets.

A charter of demands will be handed over to the Police tomorrow, reiterating that the flimsy charges slapped against 6 FTII students be immediately taken back, amongst other demands.

Vikas Urs,
General Secretary,
FTII Students’ Association,

Below are few photographs from protests held in various cities:

Monday, August 26, 2013

[Public Meeting] Remembering Dabholkar: Who is Afraid of Reason?

New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Public Meeting

Remembering Dabholkar:
Who is Afraid of Reason?


Amitabh Pande 
(Astronomer & Science Communicator)
 Gauhar Raza 
(Scientist, Poet, Social Activist & Film Maker)
Sanjay Kumar 
(Teacher, Dept of Physics, St. Stephens' College & NSI activist) 

5 pm to 8 pm; 30th August, 2013 

SPWD Conference Hall, 14-A, Vishnu Digambar Marg, ITO, New Delhi. (SPWD is next to Hindi Bhavan and Ajoy Bhavan)

Well known rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was murdered on Aug 20 on a busy street in Pune. From all evidence his killing was a well planned conspiracy. Dr Dabholkar was a lifelong campaigner against superstition, blind faith, and godmen who exploited the gullible. His murder shocked many in Maharashtra. Citizens of Satara, his hometown, observed a spontaneous bandh. The city of Pune observed perhaps the first non-political shut down in its history in his memory. Popular sentiment against his murder appears so strong that the state government, which had been sitting on an anti-superstition bill drafted by him for more than a decade, passed it in two days after is death. Who could be so scared of Dr Dabholkar’s campaigns to get him killed? 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Egypt Today: The Challenges for the Democratic Popular Movement

[Editor's Note: After the fall of Morsi, Samir Amin had written that the fall of Morsi was a victory for Egyptian people which was also published in this blog on 4th July. Since than there has been accusations from some quarters that Amin supports military dictatorship, in the article below Amin clarifies and reiterate his position]

- Samir Amin

Too much is written on Egypt, which is understandable, even when coming from people whose knowledge of the Arab world is limited. 

Too many are absorbing the info given by the mainstream western media, which is in that case as well as it is with respect to Venezuela for instance, almost always systematically distorted and even often completely false. Many are also simplifying the issue , the alternative being : "respect of elections’ results - we say in Egypt rightly of so called elections - or support to a military power". 

No , the real challenge does not allow that over simplification . The "movement" - a gigantic mass movement- expresses a set of demands: 1) for social justice, 2) for respect of human dignity and rights (ie; democracy understood as more than simply elections), 3) respect of national sovereignty and independence. These demands are objectively complementary, progressive, and involve moving away from neo-liberal economic and social policies which are at the origin of the disaster, and simultaneously moving away from alignment on the US and their allies (Europe, Israel, the Gulf countries) in international and regional politics. Yet wide segments of the movement understand that only in part, sometimes separating the issues and forgetting this or that one of the programme, that is the least that can be said. The Military high command makes use of that weakness by on the one hand supporting the mass people demand (removing Morsi) and on the other hand giving no power to the movement (keeping it for them). The struggle is on that ground, not on the one as defined by the Muslim Brotherhood or the Western powers. It is a struggle aiming at compelling the government to implement the 3 demands as formulated above, certainly not demanding the return of the so called elected Muslim Brotherhood !

Saturday, August 24, 2013

About Saffron Violence On FTII Students: Punyanagari (The Virtuous City)

- Anand Patwardhan

Pune, Aug 22. Last night a FTII and Yugpath student organized screening of “Jai Bhim Comrade” began with a tribute to anti-superstition campaigner Narendra Dabholkar, who had just the previous day been gunned down by fanatics in the same city. It was our 4th screening of the film at the FTII and as before, the large NFAI auditorium was overflowing. The screening and discussions went off without a hitch. Not a single audience question led me to suspect that Hindutva elements were in attendance. In fact I am always happy to get questions from opposite sides of the political spectrum as I believe that such debates and discussions benefit everyone and are precisely the function of the kind of cinema I believe in.

As the film and discussion ended, some audience members left but more poured in for the next event - the first stage appearance of members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KMM) in over two years. It was of course a depleted KKM. Accused by the State of associating with Naxalites, three of their main singers and poets are still in jail awaiting trial. Last month Sheetal Sathe, their charismatic lead singer/poet was granted bail but was unavailable having just delivered a baby. Barring Deepak Dengle, other KKM members who are out of prison, were not lead singers but part of the chorus or the support team. As Jyoti Jagtap said to the audience in her introduction: “We are not trained musicians from the Gwalior gharana, or the Jaipur or Agra gharanas. We are working class youth from the basti, factory and farm-labour gharanas. We won’t be able to deliver the perfect note or play the perfect instrument but if you listen to our words, I am confident that what we have to say will be of interest.”

KKM lived upto its promise. They began with a song they dedicated to the memory of Narendra Dabholkar. It was the Ambedkar inspired song against superstition “Amhi Devhara Bajula Saarlay” (We have set aside all our gods). Following this was a rousing anti-nuclear song on Jaitapur, then the moving “Sau” an ode to Savitribai Phule and concluding with the defiant: “Kabir wants to break his shackles to dance and sing. Let him dance and sing !”

FTII Students' Association Calls For Solidarity Against Mindless Violence by Fascist Forces

Students’ Association 
Film and Television Institute of India, 
Law College Road, Pune: 411004

On the 21st of August 2013 students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and Yugpath, Pune organized a screening of ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’, followed by a discussion with Anand Patwardhan and a performance by members of the Kabir Kala Manch. At the close of this event, five students of FTII were physically attacked by twelve members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). 

Maharashtra has for centuries produced socially progressive activists. Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was one among them. The event on the 21st was organized by the students of FTII to also pay homage to Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. It is unacceptable that an attack of this nature can be inflicted on students for organizing cultural events, in a state, which has a rich and diverse cultural tradition. 

This is not an incident in isolation. The attacks on Amdavad ni Gufa an art gallery in Ahmedabad and the cancellation of Sanjay Kak’s film at Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune are recent examples of mindless violence by right-wing fascist groups. It is critical to challenge the growing impunity with which fascist groups are intolerant of artists, thinkers, students and any individual who are either opposed or not inclined to their politics. Such attacks by any fascist force violate the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. At a time when such attacks are becoming increasingly routine we appeal to the student community and all concerned individuals to register their protest.

On the 26th, this Monday, we are organizing a Solidarity March starting from FTII Campus, Law College Road to Omkareshwar Chowk at 4 PM. This march is a protest against the assassination of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, the attack against the five FTII students, and all other acts of mindless violence by fascist forces. We demand that those guilty of attacking the FTII students be brought to justice and the charges against the FTII students be dropped immediately. Join us in solidarity as we peacefully march to celebrate the right to democratic dialogue and reclaim the right to expression. 

We appeal to students and free thinking individuals across the country to voice their protest. We urge you to use your art, your words and your ideas in defiance of such fascist forces.

Vikas Urs

General Secretary 
Students’ Association, F.T.I.I 
Contact- 09158737954, 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Where Are The Emile Zolas’ of Our Times!

-Subhash Gatade

(This is the text of an invited Lecture delivered at a seminar on ‘Literature and Human Rights’ organized by Department of English, Pondicherry University, 7-8 August 2013.)

Each one has his reasons: for one, art is a flight; for another, a means of conquering. But one can flee into a hermitage, into madness, into death. One can conquer by arms. Why does it have to be writing, why does one have to manage his escapes and conquests by writing? Because, behind the various aims of authors, there is a deeper and more immediate choice which is common to all of us.

                                                                 What is Literature? Jean Paul Sartre

It is difficult to start when you are among an august gathering of masters and students of a subject you are not much aware of and are asked to say something to them. Today I find myself in that unenviable situation.

Let me admit here that when I received the information of the seminar I was really very excited to learn that scholars of literature would be focusing themselves on human rights, an issue which demands urgent attention from every thinking and concerned human being. But when the question of joining the debate arose, I was really in two minds. In fact, I was bit reluctant to come here for two simple reasons. 

Firstly, being a left activist for larger part of my social life, I have been more accustomed to address public meetings on specific issues or share my ideas on a particular theme among activist circles. There have not been very many occasions when I had the opportunity to come to such gatherings.

Second reason was very personal. The moment my daughter came to know of this invite she advised me to be extra careful with my English pronunciation.

So with due apologies to you all in advance – who might have harrowing time listening to my English for next couple of minutes – here I begin.

Not some time ago I came across information of an unusual book ‘Writer’s police’ written by Bruno Fulgini, an employee at the French Parliament, whose job was to scan old files at the office of the Paris police. What he found interesting in the two hundred year old police files that beyond criminals and political figures, there were files on writers and artists as well. In fact, this book provides details of the way in which great writers of late 18th century who were living in Paris at that time were kept under surveillance by the then rulers of France.It was clear to these protectors of internal security of a tottering regime that the renowned literati then, might be writing fiction, but their sharp focus on the hypocrisy of the aristocrats or the livelihood issues of ordinary people was adding to the growing turmoil in the country. They knew very well that they might be writing fiction for the masses but it is turning out to be a sharp political edge that hit the right target and is becoming a catalyst for change. History bears witness to the fact that all those meticulous efforts put in by the police to curtail the free flow of ideas proved futile and how French revolution of those times emerged as a beacon of hope for thinking people across the world.

Or take the case of the novel ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ or, Life Among the Lowly, an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel “helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War”. Details of the popularity of the book can be had from the fact that it was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Socialism for the 21st Century

- Richard Wolff

[Note: Richard Wolff is one of the most distinguished Marxist economists of our times. Working along with his colleague Stephen A Resnick (1938-2013), he has brought back Marx’s notion of surplus into the definition of class. In this article, while re-evaluating 20th Century Socialism, he argues that a Socialism for the 21st Century must include and stress the importance of micro-level social transformation at the base of society in the workplace. Ending exploitation in workplaces is that transformation. Instead of workers producing surpluses for others to appropriate and distribute, they must now do that for themselves collectively. They must become their own board of directors.]

Capitalism has stopped "delivering the goods" for quite a while now, especially in its older bases (Europe, North America and Japan). Real wage stagnation, deepening wealth and income inequalities, unsustainable debt levels and export of jobs have been prevailing trends in those areas. The global crisis since 2007 only accelerated those trends. In response, more has happened than Keynesianism returning to challenge neoliberalism and critiques returning to challenge uncritical celebrations of capitalism. Capitalism's development has raised a basic question again: What alternative economic system might be necessary and preferable for societies determined to do better than capitalism? That old mole, socialism, has thus returned for interrogation about its past to draw the lessons about its present and future.

The Historical Background of Socialism

Since the mid 19th century, socialism has mostly been differentiated from capitalism in two basic ways. Instead of capitalism's private ownership of means of production (land, factories, offices, stores, machinery, etcetera), socialism would transfer that ownership to the state as the administrator for public, social or collective ownership. Instead of capitalism's distribution of resources and products by means of market exchange, socialism would substitute state central planning to accomplish that distribution. Marxism was generally viewed as the basic theoretical criticism of capitalism that went on to define and justify a social transition from capitalism to socialism. Communism was generally viewed as a distant, rather utopian stage of social development beyond socialism wherein class differences would disappear, the state would wither away as a social institution, work activity would be transformed and distribution would be based purely on need.

Before 1917, socialism comprised both the critical analysis of capitalism and the anti-capitalist programs promoted by various social movements, labor unions, writers and political parties. They advocated transitions from private toward state ownership of means of production, and from market toward state-planned distribution. Socialism was stunningly successful at winning hearts and minds; it spread quickly across the globe. By 1917, a revolution in Russia enabled a new government to replace the capitalism it had inherited with what it understood as socialism. Bolshevik leaders thus moved to nationalize productive property in industry and institute planning as hallmarks of the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics' (USSR's) economy.

Yet Soviet socialism also changed and complicated the meaning of socialism in the world. Beyond being a general theory and program of anti-capitalism, socialism came also to be the label applied to what was said and done in and by the USSR. This change had profound consequences. Socialists around the world split into two wings or segments. [1] For one wing, the evolving Soviet revolution was the realization of what socialism had always sought. It therefore had to be defended at all costs from capitalism's assaults. That wing increasingly defined socialism as what the USSR did after 1917; Soviet socialism became the model to be replicated everywhere.

The other wing disagreed. Socialism's traditional theory and program did not need - and ought not - to be adjusted to replicate what happened in the USSR. Some in this wing criticized what the Bolsheviks did in the USSR (particularly in terms of political freedoms and civil liberties). Others believed that peaceful, nonrevolutionary and electoral strategies were surer roads to socialism than Bolshevik revolutionary politics. For them, "evolutionary" socialism was a better road to take than revolutionary socialism. Classical socialism, for this wing, was very different from what happened and evolved in the USSR.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Press Release: 'Batla House Encounter Case' Verdict - A Mockery of Justice

- Press Release issued by Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association (JTSA) on 31st July, 2013

Calling the verdict by a Delhi court holding Shahzad Ahmad guilty of murder and many other offences in controversial Batla House encounter case as “perverse and a mockery of justice” , the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA) has expressed shock over the flagrant violation of settled principles of criminal jurisprudence in the case.

Releasing analysis of the judgment entitled “Beyond Reasonable Doubt? The Conviction of Shahzad Ahmad”, here on Wednesday, Manisha Sethi, President of JTSA, said that the judgment assumes the facts that were required to have been examined by the court as to whether the prosecution had proved them or not, and projects these assumptions as “findings”.

“Beyond Reasonable Doubt? The Conviction of Shahzad Ahmad” is a point-by-point critique of the judgement of the Additional Session Judge Rajinder Kumar Shastri. The report also contains photographs and sketches to explain its objections on the findings of the judgement.

Press conference by JTSA on 31st July. Photo: Mukul Dube
Commenting on theory of escape of accused Shahzad Ahmad propounded by the judgement, Manisha Sethi said that the police had claimed that two terrorists managed to escape from the flat while opening fire on the police, the court comes up with completely new story, purely on the basis of conjectures.

“Forgetting even the basic legal principle that prosecution must prove its case in the manner alleged, the court speculates that these two persons might have taken shelter in some other flat and then escaped posing as local residents.”, Manisha Sethi said.