Author Archives: kisholoy2017

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Coming to Terms with my Otherness

No, I am not here to express grudges. I am here to reclaim myself. I am here to assert. To share a eureka moment I had last night, one after having sleep deprivation for five consecutive days. And I can’t do that unless I wipe clean that shit that has smeared me, my existence. That shit named you. Yes, you the hegemon. You, the oppressor.

But who is the oppressor? Am I not one? Sure I am, in many ways, as others are – in many ways. Many are oppressed as well, as I am, in other ways. But then we are all individuals-in-flux. There is no coherent “I” in me. There are many I’s in me. Bring the mirror closer. You will find the same in you.

The “I” that speaks now is the voice of an oppressed. The oppressed “I”’s within me. Each one has a name. They must have. I will like to know them closely. Do you know yours?

The oppressed don’t just scream in pain. They shout. They revolt. They fight back.

But fight against what? To borrow from Fanon, anything that opposes the recognition of the right to coexist with dignity, opposes my existence. My very existence then becomes a negation, an antithesis. Of that oppressor. My opposition then becomes a denial of the relation of dependence. The I in me who rebels.

But what is being opposed? The I who speaks here today does not have his difference respected. His difference, in this case, means he is not “normal”. So they say. So they act.

What is this difference? I don’t do things that normal people will do. When they turn on fans or coolers, I feel cold. When they enjoy cold, I shiver, I cough. Even if I happen to be in a different room, in a different place altogether, thereby not causing any inconvenience to others, dealing with my health, my discomfort, I get laughed at. This may seem trivial to those who have not had to experience such humiliation everyday of their lives. I don’t need to explain it to them. I don’t care – neither do I want their support, much less their sympathy.

This is oppression. I don’t need the patronizing “get medical help”. I know that. Thank you.

But just to reiterate, this is not just a rant or an angry outburst. Yes, anger is there. But there is much greater happiness. Happiness in finally embracing the abnormal.

To all those who sneer at the abnormal, FUCK OFF. I AM ABNORMAL. Those who have known me and can be honest might recall I have, for a while, expressed strong disapproval of this word that expresses prejudice. A lot of us do that. That’s good. But not good enough. I, the I that is oppressed in this way, feels it’s not. So I embrace the abnormal. Abnormal is good. Not that “normal” is bad. But abnormal is no longer the bad. It is my identity, well part of it anyway. But an integral part.

By this I don’t claim to become a representative of people who have identified themselves as differently is abled, disabled and so on. I am glad to take up those terms, but I don’t know if I am allowed, if I should, if I can. That is a complex process, requiring me, in fact the I in me who’s speaking now, to interact with those people who may or may not empathize with what I say here. That can wait. I need to be myself to myself.

Now a related point. Regarding my gender. This is more problematic than the first. Here, I am not just oppressed. I am, as a carrier of certain historical privileges, a straight male, and most certainly, Brahmin. This surely puts me in an oppressor location. But I really question, what does it mean to be a male? How male am I? How similar am I to other males? To “THE” male? Isn’t there always a question of “the real” man? There is of course the discomfort of conforming to fixed standards – I believe in fluidity of gender. But gender activists living perfectly conformist lives mouth such high sounding rhetoric day in and day out. Fuck all that.

How male am I, I ask myself again. I don’t need the answer from the others. From potential to existing partners, to revolutionary leaders to family to teachers and every alternate person in the universe I found myself in – I have sought answers from all, for a very long time. I have got many answers – some have reassured that I am no less than a Bahubali, some have said I need a doctor or a shrink to get my malehood on track. I have sought recognition of my malehood. Because it was good to be man. It was a bad thing for me not to be man. Even though, all this while, I have talked the talk about gender activism, I have let this I in me, who cannot fully conform, be silent.

This has been about opportunism. And it still might be. As I said a while back, the gender question in my case is complicated. In the case of being heckled for my physical difference, there isn’t the slightest doubt that I have been wronged. But here, I have tried to put up the “male face”, I have performed a certain malehood in the everyday interactions. This is partly for structural oppression, but I am just too un-Marxist now to pin it on structure. I chose to do it for I felt good. I was being opportunist.

So why all this talk now? It is first of all, an extension of the previous point. I am abnormal. But not just because I wear the muffler when many others enjoy the air conditioner. But also because, as an extension, I am not really the normal boy. Yes, let me put that in FB-bold: I AM NOT A NORMAL BOY. I know, asked if they are normal boys, many in the radical camp will surely KNOW the right answer. “What does it mean to be normal” or “Define normal” Indeed, what does it mean? But it would be a lie to pretend we don’t know at all. Those of us who like to be seen as normal boys.

I still don’t know if I have been able to give up that desire of being seen as a normal boy. But that doesn’t stop me from recognizing the fact that despite these attempts to “pass” as normal, I have failed. Often. And far from serving humanity or injecting revolutionary consciousness or such stuff that our radical comrades are so good at proclaiming, I am merely doing myself a service. By embracing the fact that I am not a normal boy. I am NOT A NORMAL BOY or MAN or any variant implying the same.

Of course there is ambivalence when I say that I am not a normal boy. But it is a contingent remark or rather self-reflection, based on selective set of experiences. With regard to some specific frames of reference. I am not normal man because I am not as strong as most boys. I am talking about the perception that goes behind such dual characterization – of me and of “most boys”. I have no idea about, and indeed little interest in, what the real facts are, about real or normal boys/men. So I am not strong enough, I am not independent enough, I am too sentimental, I can break down or cry easily, I am not intelligent enough (in the sense “real” or “normal” men or boys should be). From my childhood, I remember having had many such interactions where I was bullied, in multiple ways. I don’t remember how I felt every single time. But I do have a collective memory of those experiences. And it fits well with what I am saying now.

So once again, yes, this is a political act. But tell me why isn’t pissing or farting. On the other hand, it is significant. For me at least. I don’t care much who is reading this. And how they are going to react. I would actually like to imagine some radicals whom or whose leaders I had lambasted for their undemocratic ways, reacting to this with “I knew something was wrong with this guy”. But honestly, really, I should be diss-ing such pettiness.

This matters to me because this is a step (towards what? I don’t know) beyond what is now, what I am now. Writing on FB was a form of ‘outing’ for me, a necessary precondition for what is about to come. This surely means a certain reconfiguration of social relations and interactions. Some of these changes I want, some I don’t. There are risks. But, to borrow from Fanon (and Hegel), my existence-in-itself-for-itself has no meaning unless I struggle. And herein lies my struggle. No longer by “dealing with my abnormality”. But by embracing it. And by dealing with demands of “normalcy”, both from within me and from without.

I do not claim to speak for anyone but myself. The I’s in me which are oppressed or which oppress.

I am strongly indebted to Dalit-Bahujan, feminist and Black liberation writings for some understanding of the power of inversion.

Some Perspectives on the coming West Bengal Elections

West Bengal Vidhan Sabha elections

Source: India Today

It’s election time again in West Bengal. Perhaps it is apt to refer to elections as festivals. Irrespective of the material outcomes of the elections, people seem to come out and take part in this process. It has been observed how poor people, who are clearly victims of the system that they help keep running through their hard labor, come out on election day, with great energy and enthusiasm, often in their best clothes. They will eagerly stand in long queues to cast their vote, even if the sun is scorching down upon them. From researchers to political pundits, many have tried to dissect the mindset of the Indian voter, as to what exactly is the motivation to vote despite the fact that things in general don’t seem to change much in the long run. One popular hypothesis is that people feel empowered, even if they know that this participation in democracy is a token one. Regardless of the boisterous claims of the ruling party though, how many of us can really deny that no fundamental positive change has occurred in the lives of the vast majority of working class people?

The “dance of democracy” meanwhile goes on in its own pace. One can see Trinamool Congress declaring through its wall graffiti that “From 8 to 80, all of us are fine”. CPM (along with its electoral ally Congress) is busy talking about the various kinds of scams that have rocked the state government, the latest two being the Narada sting operation which exposed the corruption of top leaders of TMC and the other one being the involvement of TMC backed syndicates in the Vivekananda Flyover collapse that claimed several lives and maimed many more. BJP on the other hand is busy with their own propaganda about “infiltrators” and “paribartan noi patan” (downfall, not change) against the incumbent government. But these are the “usual suspects”.

What are the other forces, known variously as “left of CPM” or “third stream left” or “radical left” doing during this time? CPIML (Liberation) is obviously an openly parliamentary party, so they are naturally contesting elections. Members of their student organization AISA and youth wing RYA are campaigning ahead of the elections – their rhetoric is directed mostly against the TMC government as well as the BJP. Through this electoral campaign which even includes extremely problematic rhetoric like “Desh Bachao, Gonotantro Bachao” (Save the country, save democracy) they are only contributing to the illusion that there is a democracy to be saved in the first place. (Of course a counter argument is often provided at this point – that compared to some authoritarian regimes, there is relatively greater democracy in India – to that one can say that while that is perhaps true, why should a revolutionary organization set their yardsticks so low?). Yet another party, CPIML (Red Star) has also fielded its candidates. From the party’s program document itself, it would appear that it is possible to bring about massive changes in the production and distribution sphere through electoral gains.

Even MKP or Mazdoor Kranti Parishad, is actually fielding organization members as independent candidates as they have done in the past as well. The student organization closely linked with them, PDSF, as well as the youth organization KNS, is also campaigning in favor of such candidates. But in other places, MKP or one of KNS’s magazines, Laali Guraas, is asking people to vote for “NOTA” (None of the Above). The general rhetoric of the organization is that the parliamentary system is flawed and it is through people’s movements alone that revolutionary change can come about. In fact, their claim is that during the election campaigns also they will be critiquing the parliamentary system. In a way that is true also – I have seen their election parcha in the past and in it they do say that no claim is being made that any real change can be brought about by a small electoral victory. But one can ask a very legitimate question at this juncture – couldn’t this campaigning of exposing the inherent limitations of the parliamentary/electoral process have been done without asking people to vote for their candidate? If they don’t think that any positive change can come about by such electoral wins, why even bother to ask people to vote for a candidate? Isn’t that only going to confuse people? The fact that they are asking people to vote “NOTA” in places where they don’t have candidates is only adding to the confusion instead of dispelling it. One cannot be blamed for interpreting that if they had candidates from other constituencies too, they would have asked people to vote for their candidates and not for “NOTA”. But this would mean that their very claim that they find parliamentary politics insufficient is questionable.

Yet another organization Radical Socialist argues that because there is a fascistic force (the BJP-RSS-Sangh parivar) at the center, there is need for a broader left unity. This organization considers CPM to be problematic and says they haven’t forgotten their past ills (or overlooked their current opportunistic pairing up with Congress) but still they consider CPM to be a “working class organization” and therefore think that it would be prudent to have as many “left” MLAs as possible as that would be helpful to the cause of people’s movements. However, apart from the fact that CPM has the word “communist” in its party name, just what about its current practice or history gives one the impression that it is not a bourgeoisie party but a party of “working class” is not clear. Neither has the party (or its affiliated orgs like SFI, DYFI, CITU etc) offered even an apology for the numerous instances of anti working class actions epitomized by the injustices at Lalgarh, Nandigram, Singur, Marichjhapi or their policy of giving a red carpet to private capital in almost all sectors possible, nor has it stopped being a party composed of goons and lumpen cadres who are absolutely ideologically bankrupt. Ironically, it was CPM in West Bengal who ushered in the era of liberalization and FDI ahead of many other states not governed by “left”. CITU posters are found in some mohallas of closed down factories where they forget to mention how their party actually aided in the process of the deplorable condition of working class in the state.

In fact, as another small group called Mazdoor Mukti has brought out in its parcha, even TMC has taken some “anti imperialist” stance – by its opposition to nuclear plants, FDI in retail and SEZ. However, IT companies and other capitalists have been given the green license to exploit the working class. The thousands of factories that remain closed show no sign of being reopened. The workers in tea gardens have to starve as tea gardens remain closed. It is really pointless to list the many kinds of exploitation based on class, caste, gender etc. that are going on under  the current government, if only for the simple reason that the problems remain more or less the same with whichever party comes in power. This will indeed be the case because of the structural compulsions of the parliamentary system and its institutions. Thus all those parties which are asking people to vote for their candidates are only adding to the false impression that things can improve within the present structure or that only small incremental improvements here and there is the only way (forward?). On the other hand, even those groups/little magazines like Mazdoor Mukti or Chetana Lahar which have asked people to reject all (the former though, perplexingly, have not made a single mention of the “radical left” forces, thereby not making their stance clear about Liberation, MKP, Red Star etc.) the present parliamentary parties (and not quite the system itself) and instead vote for NOTA, are not really getting it right. First of all, if they do believe in the parliamentary system, clearly without the right to recall or other additional electoral reforms, NOTA is absolutely toothless. One can only know how many people have voted for NOTA. There is no way to know who have voted for NOTA, so it is not an organized effort at all.

Not just NOTA, it also doesn’t mean much to ask people to “boycott” elections. Neither voting (whether for any party or for NOTA) or boycotting per se serves any purpose. There would be no way to know just why people have rejected the existing parties (whether by giving NOTA or by boycotting). It is quite possible, as I have seen from personal experience, that people are rejecting all existing parties because they don’t fit their hard right wing ideological position. So there is no reason to be elated about a certain number of people voting for NOTA or boycotting elections – it does not at all automatically mean that they are not Hinduists or staunchly pro-capitalists, let alone be ideologically socialistic. Ultimately, if people’s movements and struggles are the way forward, if building a socialistic camp is the only way towards an alternative, then it is better to instead work towards ensuring disillusionment about the parliamentary system.

Why Resorting to Legalistic Arguments to Defend JNU Students May be Self Defeating

To students of social science disciplines like Political Science, the concepts of procedural and substantive justice must already be quite familiar. To those who are not familiar with the ideas, let me just give a brief introductory idea. Procedural justice basically refers to the universalized, standard protocols; the sets of obligatory formal rules and regulations that a citizen needs to abide by under the institutions of democracy like court of law, police, and judiciary, executive and so on. It would be implied that procedural justice has been delivered if all the formal rules have been properly followed. It does not care about the outcome. Substantive justice on the other hand, looks precisely at the outcome and proceeds to arrange institutions of justice delivery in such a way so that the most desirable (equitable) outcome is achieved. In other words, substantive justice would mean justice for those oppressed on the basis of caste, class, gender, nationality and so on.

With this brief introduction, now let us come to the case of the JNU students who are being charged with sedition. If we look at the dominant discourse, which constitutes arguments from both sides – i.e. either of those who support the slapping of sedition charges against the students who are associated with allegedly “anti national” slogans and those who oppose these charges, we will find that either side is arguing along “constitutional rights or obligations”. While the former are referring to those sections which say that any activity that aims to endanger the “integrity” of the nation should be deemed criminal, the latter are arguing that the targeted students never raised “anti national” slogans in the first place.

It may be worth noting that using a constitutional or legalistic argument for defending the students being slapped with sedition charges is self defeating for those fighting on behalf of the powerless or oppressed. The constitution or the institutions of procedural justice are largely in the hands of the powers that be. The powerful will either amend or distort the provisions of these legalities to sway the case in their favor. And who are the ones in power? A pro-capitalist, Brahmanical, patriarchal force with a brazenly Hindu nationalist slant. Given the nature of the status quo, it is quite understandable that the formalities of procedural justice can and will be distorted to suit the specific agendas of the powerful. Are we not seeing this happening almost on an everyday basis, from the formal rights of adivasis being denied to workers not getting their dues? It is precisely because of this reason that well meaning, democratic and progressive minded persons of this country need to stop resorting to constitutional arguments; rather, they should appeal to the moral senses of fellow countrymen and indeed fellow humanity – to actually apply the higher principles of substantive justice when opining on the matter.

Many are defending the students who have been targeted under “sedition law” with the argument that they have not uttered anti-India slogans but some “fringe elements” or outsiders have done so. Is this the right way to defend the students? By classifying slogans like “Kashmir maange Azaadi” as “anti India”, and by distancing themselves from those who raised such slogans, are they not contributing to the marginalization of those holding the view that even though demanding Kashmir’s independence may not be permissible within the ambit of procedural justice, it may be perfectly justified from the point of view of substantive justice? Substantive justice should be the guiding principles based on which the formalities of institutions should be set. The notion that the constitution or the laws of the land must always be upheld as sacred and beyond questioning needs to be challenged.

The freedom of speech argument is a strong one, I believe. Even if you personally don’t agree with a slogan, as long as it is not calling for directly causing physical harm or carrying out terrorist attacks, you should uphold the right of others to express that opinion. A great many people in the valley of Kashmir consider the place to be “India occupied territory”. There is mounting evidence of the excesses of the physical forces of the Indian state in the valley. Why should we not allow a healthy debate to foster as to whether they should be allowed to secede? I already argued that upholding right to self determination would be consistent with the principles of substantive justice, but even if one disagrees with that position, at least from the point of view of freedom of expression, people should not have a problem with those taking such a stance. But here again, I would request the defenders of free speech to exercise caution, because many of them are using the logic of constitutional provision here also. Let us not forget that within the constitution itself, there is ample scope of restricting freedom of speech citing exceptions. In this case, if one argues that raising pro-Kashmir-azaadi slogans is threatening the integrity and sovereignty of the country, there is every possibility the institutions of procedural justice will rule against anyone raising such slogans.

The cheerleaders for Malala – Hypocrisy much

There are many hypocritical self proclaimed liberals/intellectuals in India who are shedding tears and acknowledging the bravery of ‪#‎Malala‬ Yusufzai, who just won the Nobel peace prize. These will be the same people who will be supporting drone strikes by the imperialists in Pakistan in the name of fighting “terror”. You will not find them shedding tears for the many innocents, including children, who are killed or their lives are destroyed by the imperialist aggressors.

Apart from these hypocrites too, there is of course a large section of nationalist [Hindu] citizens who are seen expressing their solidarity with Malala . It can be asserted with a fair degree of certainty that a vast majority of them are doing so because they see in Malala an enemy of what they consider the enemy – the ‘other’ – the Muslims and particularly Pakistanis [often, in their Hindutva-ized conceptual space, overlapping categories] and hence an ally.

The same is definitely true for the mainstream media – which spares no opportunity to paint a monstrous image of Pakistan [of course that nation state and its authority figures are hardly worth praising any more than India’s ] and to increase the inter-nation animosity through staunchy Hinduized nationalistic rhetoric [why, haven’t you become habituated to Arnab Goswami’s nostrils flaring all the time , just barely falling short of shouting anti Pakistan slogans inside the newsroom?!], is making such a generous portrayal of Malala. Would they have done the same if a human rights activist condemning the respective rogue-occupier states from Kashmir/Palestine would have received such an “award’ [I denounce the politics of such “awarding” especially in a capitalist regime but that’s a topic beyond the scope of this present discussion], which of course seems rather absurd given the balance of powers in the world scenario…

So one needs to take this artificial euphoria over Malala’s award winning very skeptically. Malala has openly said that she wants to take part in active politics and wants to become the country’s supremo as well [I hope the latter position she will later change but it is of course a positive thing that she wishes to take the politics of liberalizing the extremist society seriously.] However, one may of course argue that she is being usurped or appropriated by the imperialist clique and the international capitalist brigade is trying to accommodate her radical agenda against Islamist extremism for furthering its own interests…This is not to deny her contributions towards democratizing society for women in Pakistan, at least in a limited way but to gauge how individual or even collective efforts can be jeopardized and even hijacked for serving the interests of the ruling elites.

Inspiring Victory of Grassroots Activism: Chile to Have Free Higher Education

Economic Sociology and Political Economy

Due to enduring civil, student-led protests, Chile to have free higher education. This is a huge victory to grassroots activism and social movements.

Chile Protest

The ‘Chilean Winter’ started in August 2011. A series of ongoing student-led protests across Chile have been sweeping throughout the country, demanding a new framework for education, more equality in access to education, more direct state participation in secondary education and an end to private profit-making in higher education. Chile‬, the cradle of Neoliberalism, has the most privatised and segregated education among the OECD countries. Beyond the specific demands regarding education, the protests have reflected a deep discontent with Chile’s high level of ‪‎inequality‬.
The Socialist Party’s Michelle Bachelet won presidential elections last year, defeating the center-right government, in part by promising to implement many of the students movement’s demands. But the popularity of Bachelet’s government had dropped amid heavy criticism of the

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On Madrassas – Ditching Both the Reactionary and Opportunist Stances

One need not defend the Islamist schools or Islamist organizations, as some opportunists may find it useful to do at the present juncture, to say that the witch hunting by the state and majoritarian right wing forces should stop or rather should be resisted militantly by offering human shield to the repressed community.

There is essentially nothing wrong with this reporting per se – it just reports the findings by a study, which is done by a Students Islamic Org of India, Karnataka Chapter. One need not defend the existence of a theological education to point out that there are social forces at work which are greater than just the Islamist [not Muslim] community itself, behind the necessities of existence of such schools .

If “self esteem” is low, is it only because they go to Madrassas? Conversely, is it that the Madrassas are not helping them gain the kinds of material benefits that can be expected of people who have been to other schools? One might be tempted to say that the so-called “model” madrassas should be emulated..

.of course, the reality is that the ENTIRE education system has to be rejected; only through its negation can the alternative be even conceptualized. This rejection is hardly just limited to the rejection of Madrassas or the Vedic Schools/Gurukuls [and I am not mentioning the Hinduist institutes in passing, I have been a vocal advocate of smashing such institutions of Hinduisation for long].

“Science, maths, social studies” – insofar as they are remain confined within the contours defined by the status quo, are taught in schools just to produce cogs in the wheel. So even though the report is not offering any bias, it could very easily lead to a biased [a problematic one at that] reading of it.

Madrassas that offer religious teaching Are problematic. Also, if madrassas remain the only centers of “education” [and by this if we limit ourselves to the process of securing some basic livelihood and social status, since I have already trashed the notion that there is anything like a “secular” or scientific education alternative now] available to many Muslims, the conditions that lead to such a compulsion need to be explored and understood. The communist project can sympathize with religious sentiments only to the extent that it tries to grapple with reality rather than looking at things from a reactionary angle [say for instance, certainly the communists will not criticize the Islamist madrassas [i attach the qualifier “Islamist” to make room for the possibility that not all madrassas are necessarily Islamist] in the way the common Hinduist will do. It can never LEGITIMIZE religiosity, let alone communal expressions of the same or religious indoctrination of young minds through religious institutions. The opportunists who are in the business of doing this right now are doing a great disservice to the communist project.

So while opposition to saffronization of education takes a political frontseat because of the graveness of the reality confronting us, because the threat of a Hindutva fascism is far greater than the threat of an Islamist fascism in “India”, in principle, both , and indeed all forms of religious indoctrination have to be summarily rejected as part of the communist ideological project.