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KINDLE Critical Reflective Journalism


Editor in Chief: Pritha Kejriwal Managing Editor: Maitreyi Kandoi Senior Editor: Sayantan Neogi Assistant Editor: Sayan Bhattacharya Roving Editor: Mukherjee P Web Editor: Shubham Nag Feature Writers: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Novy Kapadia, Raza Rumi, Abhishek Chatterjee, Nitasha Kaul, Urvashi Butalia, Sharanya Manivannan, Nisha Thambi, Nidhi Dugar Kundalia Columnists: Amit Sengupta, Teresa Rehman, Thomas Crowley, Abhijit Gupta, Aditya Bidikar, Aishwarya Subramanian, Mainak Bhaumik, Subir Ghosh, Rohit Roy, Shabbir Akhtar, Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, Agniva Chowdhury Art Director: Soumik Lahiri Art Executive: Suvam Dey Sarkar, Sumit Das Marketing Manager: Priyanka Khandelia Marketing Executive: Souvik Sen Finance Manager: Binoy K Jana Finance Executives: Dibyendu Chakraborty, Vishal K Thakur Co-ordinator: Priyanka Mullick Head - Logistics: Arindam Sarkar Printed at: CDC Printers Pvt Ltd, Tangra Industrial Estate - II (Bengal Pottery), 45 Radhanath Chowdhury Road, Kolkata - 700 015. National Distribution: India Book House Vol 3 Issue 1 April 2012 For subscription queries: SMS kindle (space) sub to 575756 or write to For advertising, write to us at: For marketing alliances, write to us at: Owned, printed and published by Pritha Kejriwal on behalf of Ink Publications Pvt Ltd. Printed at CDC Printers Pvt Ltd and published from Kolkata. Ink Publications Pvt Ltd is not responsible for the statements and opinions expressed by authors in their articles/writeups published in ‘Kindle’. ‘Kindle’ does not take any responsibility for returning unsolicited publishing material. Visit: RNI NO. WBENG/2010/36111 Regd. No. KOL RMS/429/2011-2013 Cover Illustration by Sumit Das


Editor’s Note

e did not go on to the stage, Neither were we called. We were shown our places,

told to sit. But they, sitting on the stage, went on telling us of our sorrows, our sorrows remained ours, they never became theirs. (Waharu Sonavane) I plead guilty. I belong to a society which has been instrumental in dehumanising fellow beings. And the mere admittance of this provides no solace, nor answers. Any theories of egalitarianism would seriously threaten our lives as we live it. So let’s not fool ourselves discussing even small revolutions which would bring about a transformation. I mean, can you imagine Hindustan being also known as Balisthan? In our homes, can we ever hang a calendar which also has December 25th as Human Liberation Day (Burning of the Manusmriti), 3rd January as Teacher’s Day (Birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule) and September 24th as Global anti-slavery day (founding of the Satyashodhak Samaj)? Can our school texts have 40% of the curriculum decided by local needs and the rest 60% determined by common national standards? Chewing trotters in the badlands My grandpa, the permanent resident of my body, The household of tradition heaped on his back, hollers at me ‘You whore-son, talk like we do. Talk, I tell you!‘ Picking through the Vedas, his top- knot well-

oiled with ghee, My Brahmin teacher tells me, ‘You idiot, use the language correctly!’ Now I ask you, which language should I speak? (Arun Kamble) Or , how likely are we to recite stories of Pochamma as fluidly as we do of Lakshmi ? Can the knowledge and skill of rearing sheep be more revered than the knowledge of the Vedas? Can a fair price be attached to blood, sweat and bones or are we too intelligent not to risk doing that? Hunger There’s not a single grain in our house today Not a single clever brain in our house today Hunger, if we cannot mate you, cannot impregnate you Our tribe will have to kill itself (Namdeo Dhasal) We’ve read Wordsworth and Keats, who did you say was Anna Bhau Sathe? Socially, culturally, spiritually we have alienated ourselves from a quarter of our population. Yet politically at this point in our nation’s history we want to be closer to them than ever. And politics is all pervasive. Will this lead to assimilation in future? In a country as big as ours, there could be several answers depending on your geography. Before that, answer this... Untouched or Untouchable. Which is worse? (The above extracts of poetry have been translated from Marathi into English. The names mentioned are of the original poets)

Maitreyi Kandoi Managing Editor, Kindle Magazine

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CONTENTS Contents Volume 2 Issue 11 February 2012

COVER STORY Jai Bhim in the times of Jai Ho and Jai Shri Ram


The Museum of Ignorance: An Interview with Ashis Nandy Fall of Queen Mayawati


By Paranjoy Guhathakurta

Book Review: A Gardener in the Wasteland By Mukherjee P


10 Camera Buff: In conversation with Vishal Bhardwaj


A New Connote of Lolita By Nisha Thambi


The Asbestos Shame By Rohit Roy


Thoughts That Kindle Sandhya Mridul


The Togadia Fiasco


By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal An Unseen Side of the Holy City By Amit Sengupta

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Space Storm 2012 By Agniva Chowdhury


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Write to us at:

Kindle, Ink Publications Pvt Ltd, DN 37, Sector V, Salt Lake City, Kolkata - 700 091 or email your response to us at or, post on our facebook group wall: Kindle Magazine (group)

Dear Editor, I really appreciated your ‘March of Women’ issue, especially the profile of the legendary Pam Crain. Artists like her are increasingly rare, if not extinct, these days and it was nice to be reminded of a time when Park Street was actually famous for its nightlife and culture instead of being a hub of fast food restaurants and sari shops. Yours sincerely, Jenny D’Souza

Dear Editor I was a big fan of M.S. Subbulakshmi, and it was unexpected and very welcome to see a profile of her in Kindle magazine, though I wish there had been more of a focus on the great lady in her own words, rather than the excessive amount of words given over to what the author’s personal thoughts on MS were. Thanking you, Anand Ramachadran

Dear Editor As a design aficionado, I had to write a note of appreciation for the wonderful cover of the March issue – clean, modern and perfectly topical. The cover of the supplement was beautifully designed, too. Regards, Nipun Shenoy

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In the times of mass graves, vanishing forests, multi million dollar MOUs and new definitions of poverty line, scholar Ashis Nandy brings in some perspective. An interview with Sayantan Neogi.

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Illustration by Suvam Dey Sarkar



I thought Narendra Modi was in some ways a fit person to preside over that slaughter. He’s very efficient and very well organised. You are constantly questioning the nature of patriotism, even calling it an ‘intimate enemy’. Do you believe that in more than any time in history, patriotism is a ‘sarkar’ construct or is it a right wing phenomenon? No, that is not the point. In fact, I distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is a form of territoriality. Even cats and dogs are territorial. If you change your home, your pet cat doesn’t change. He stays back in the old house. Birds are also territorial. That’s how the pigeon mails came into being. But nationalism is something different. It is not a sentiment. It’s a theory... an ideology and like all ideologies have a larger ambition, it occupies a larger, a different space in our personality. And I think that like all ideologies, the demands of nationalism are much more ‘total’. And I object to that because I believe that kind of nationalism is a contribution of Western imperialism. In this part of the world we have internalised it and made it our own. But it has never paid dividends in our community based society. In that context, what’s your take on Tagore’s ‘Jana Gana Mana’ which was originally written for King George’s welcome? No, that’s a rumour, and that’s an attempt to slander him. He has given a very powerful and detailed response to it; you can get it in his writing. Not only that, I would like to point out that if you read Jana Gana Mana carefully, the whole song, you will know that it could not have been written for any King, George, or otherwise because he is talking of ‘Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka’, who is for ages, presiding over the destiny of human beings all over the world, and to whom pilgrims have gone. That is something that is not, obviously, directed towards any earthly king. You’ve talked about the epic culture in India, would you elucidate a little further about the gods and the demons?

I believe that’s what scholars like Marx said in a kind of dismissive tone; it is partly true and is in many ways true of India. This is primarily a historic society. There might have been some fragments of history somewhere, but this is primarily a historical society because this society has prioritised non-historical ways of looking at the past. There will be some historical ways of looking at the past... But on the whole, this society has always believed in constructions of the past, And it is part of India’s DNA that historical consciousness had not been prioritised and given absolute sanction. And this has made our past also open-ended, like our futures. This is one of the few societies which can actually say that. Would you say it’s a beautiful thing? I think it’s a beautiful thing. Because we reach our future through the past, very often. And on the topic of epics, there are many renditions of the Ramayana. What do you make of the ban on AK Ramanujan’s version? The Ramayana is of the Dalit community too. They will be further marginalised. There are communities here which worship Ravana. To whom Ram Navami is a day of mourning. Even in north Bengal there are such communities. It is a shame, and a travesty of Hinduism to destroy the right of Hindu communities who have chosen to build temples to Duryodhan, Karna, Vibhishan and so on and so forth all over India. I think apart from being Brahmanic, it’s demonic. Let me put it this way- it’s a rakshas gesture. How would you describe Kashmir... as a stand-alone socio-political entity? It wasn’t a standalone socio-political entity entirely earlier. It was always in touch with the mainstream Indian culture.

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We have pushed them to utter penury and destitution and treated them like primitive remnants in our civilisation, who can best serve the country by dying out and silently and obediently entering our museums and history textbooks. It always was in touch with parts of central Asia. And you see both the influences in Kashmir. Even their Hinduism is different. There is a difference. It is by our actions, by our highhanded attempt to smother duality, to smother difference that has antagonised ultimately, the Kashmiri people. Or attempt to fiddle with Kashmiri democracy which has brought us to this pass. And today, Kashmiris have already seceded from India psychologically. They may be politically still within India but I don’t think they will come back into India within the next two generations, given our record there.

atleast care for them. I don’t think Maoist theory is any more sympathetic to tribal cultures than the Indian State because their concept of evolution also presumes proletarianisation of the tribals. Nonetheless, it’s a fact that they’re willing to fight for and even die for the rights of the tribals. So the tribals have opted for them. It’s a great pity, because the forces which are being deployed against the tribals, the Maoists, are also mostly tribals if you notice, read between the lines of the newspapers.

With reference to your book, ‘The Tao of Cricket’ and the new season of the IPL starting, your views on the IPL.

Obviously, Salwa Judum, that is also tribal, but even the paramilitary forces come from Nagaland and Mizoram and so on and so forth.

I don’t think IPL cricket is really cricket. It’s a form of entertainment and it should be treated as entertainment. I mean, it’s a very transient thing. If I ask you the results of some of the IPL matches you have seen, you won’t even be able to remember them. Even the cricketers who have played them, don’t remember them. I think the spirit of cricket has been taken out of them, more or less. It’s all right if you want to make some money, provide instant entertainment, OK. But if you think you want to savour something of the culture of cricket, which in some sense is deeply compatible with the culture of this part of the world, whole of South Asia, then you will not see it in the IPL matches. Your views on what is known as the Red Corridor. I think our record vis-a-vis the tribals of India, in the last 60 years, has been abysmal. We might not have killed them off like the Europeans did in the Americas, but we have pushed them to utter penury and destitution and treated them like primitive remnants in our civilisation, who can best serve the country by dying out and silently and obediently entering our museums and history textbooks. It is in desperation that they have turned to the Maoists. I don’t think most of them know who Mao was. But they have found in Maoists, an ally who

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The Salwa Judum.

You met Narendra Modi once on a one-on-one basis. How was the interaction? That I don’t want to talk about because ultimately that was a private conversation. It was in 2002 because I was extremely perturbed about the slaughter in Gujarat. Pogrom, actually. A proper, well defined pogrom. I have talked enough about it. Let us not talk about it, but I thought Narendra Modi was in some ways a fit person to preside over that slaughter. He’s very efficient and very well organised. India is touted as an emerging superpower. Do you think you can even call it that? I don’t know, it is trying hard to be that and people are saying so but I have never been in love with the superpowers. Earlier we had two, now we have one and I have always found them deeply flawed systems, so I don’t look forward to it. I think India will be much better off trying to build a humane, compassionate society than becoming an emerging superpower.



Illustration by Suvam Dey Sarkar

hinuk’s grandmother, much to her annoyance, fails to fathom what was extraordinary about what she had done. She had only come to the rescue of a woman being molested. Isn’t that what a human being supposed to do? Just because most behave in an inhuman manner, should that be the norm and human like behaviour be extolled as heroic? A pertinent question it was, raised in Rituparno Ghosh’s National Award winning ‘Dahan’. To extend the analogy, what else is the media supposed to do, if not report fairly or a politician, if not serve the people? Yet just by performing their tasks, they are made icons! A few recent instances of our hurried iconography: Dinesh Trivedi: Yes, he did present a Railway budget that won brownie points with the experts. He did bite the bullet and hike passenger fares, keeping his Supremo in the dark. But does that make him Bhagat Singh or Khudiram? Then even Raju Hirani is Gandhi for making ‘Munnabhai’! Yes, granted that Didi dictates everything- from the venue of a film festival to the Mayor’s functions to water sharing arrangements with a neighbour. But again it was Didi who brought Trivedi his 15 minutes under the spotlight. If she hadn’t demanded his resignation, would he be able to wield the amount of airspace that he did? Now Didi has installed her stooge at the Railways, Trivedi has had his share of interviews with the media czars but what was the casualty? What else but the budget which was not analysed, discussed, critiqued. Need I say more? Akhilesh Yadav: As the youngest Chief Minister of India’s largest state, he is being hailed as a youth icon… the tech savvy, twitter friendly leader who single handedly steered the Samajwadi Party from the doldrums (read Amar Singh’s glitterati) back to its socialist moorings and hence back to power. While all this is true but would all this be possible without Netaji’s blessings? Look at the composition of his cabinet and the spring

of youth vaporises. It’s all about complex caste equations… the adequate number of Yadavs, with a smattering of Dalit tokenism and you know who has composed the cabinet. And if that’s not enough, there is a certain Raja Bhaiyya in the cabinet, yes the much dreaded leader, with eight criminal cases behind him, a law unto himself. To this, Akhilesh has the hackneyed but seasoned response, that the cases were politically motivated. A number of Dalit killings have been already reported since the SP’s spectacular win. And it’s not just law and order. There are a number of power centres already. Azam Khan, SP’s most important Muslim face and Shivpal Singh Yadav (Akhilesh’s uncle) report directly to Mulayam. However that’s not a big issue considering even Akhilesh does the same. And why not? When Akhilesh had newly married and was least interested in politics, Mulayam had led him up the garden path. The same story… of pilots, MBAs suddenly discovering what they owe to the country, through the eyes of their parents. However, all this is not meant to entirely discredit Akhilesh’s achievements. Only thing is the man has just assumed power. Let’s bide our time and watch and not deify him and then take him the Didi way. Vidya Balan: When it’s “entertainment, entertainment aur entertainment”, how can the column end without any entertainment? She is being hailed as the fourth Khan! The one lady against them all…the face that can ensure the initial collections at the box office! Yes she is a great actor, a natural performer but can she demand the same fees that a Khan gets or even an Akshay Kumar? Does she get to deliver long speeches at FICCI frames? Vidya’s latest ‘Kahaani’ only gradually caught up after great word of mouth. By just dwelling on Bidya madam aka Khan, we are discrediting the directors, scriptwriters who wrote strong parts for her! On a different note, the day when like a Rajinikant-who grandly displays his grey, balding pate yet continues to romance the Deepikas- a female actor can romance an actor half her age, without being asked an age related question, we will know the Vidyas have arrived!

By Sayan Bhattacharya


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Check the cancer content of this poisoned netherworld, the paataal of this sacred river, and you will perhaps rediscover why so many women with no ‘fashionable life-style addictions of modernity’ are dying and dead of cancer in the rural Gangetic plains... A never-ending saga which is brutally, wilfully denied, ignored. By Amit Sengupta.


oon after Muni ki Reti at Rishikesh, the river disappears into the holy domesticity of the holy city. Up until this point, the water still shines, shimmering as it moves into the rocks, crosses its own hidden and fierce currents, and heals your skin and soul and eyes with its infinite restlessness and gurgling music. With the blues of its rippling kisses caressing your body, you don’t want to really die. Do you want to die, the river will ask you. Not yet. Not yet, you might say. Yes, as Kurosawa said in that epic film, of dying and living and refusing to die: ‘Madadayo’. Literally, Not Yet. Not Yet. But the great river has long died. Even the VHP saints who claim that the Bhagirathi/Ganga should flow ‘aviral’, without man-made obstacles, know perfectly well that the river has been killed at Tehri, even as thousands of acres of fertile land,

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habitat, memories and folk narratives have been submerged under the damned water, turned into a gigantic artificial reservoir where the Bhilangana and the Bhagirathi are mixed, as if by a big dam concrete monster mixer. Here, the spontaneous, pure as purity, gurgling, restless, more beautiful than all mountain rivers, the inheritor and carrier of a million primordial tales and magical myths, as an unruly primitive female, outside caste, clan, home, family or domesticity, arriving from the galaxy and the blue muddy glacier at Gaumukh, the unshackled lover, beloved, adulterous partner of an equally unruly, mad and tribal Shiva, not a goddess yet, but the beginning of shristi, has finally been stopped. It has been tamed, tunnelled, traumatised, humiliated, chained, degraded, turned into a water storage tank, as if its waters have been choked in an empty plastic bottle, by yet


another grotesque temple of modernity, to feed water and electricity into the insatiable and greedy stomach of the bloated, impersonal, ungrateful capital of modern India. The river has been murdered at this spot as a public spectacle, and the trickle which flows now to become the holy river at Haridwar, is an artificial construct, damned, chained into cemented canals, thrust into the self righteous arms of the Brahminism of divinity. First, they killed the river at Tehri. After that, the river has been killed in the holy city of Haridwar, where the last rites of the dead will lead straight to salvation, along with assorted utensils full of ghee, miscellaneous food and puja objects, flowers and polythene, amidst the chanting of the Vedas which no one understands, surely, not even the priests and pandas. They quickly killed it by branding it as a goddess, trapped into the temples of holiness, domesticated by the daily rituals of Brahmanical Hinduism. She is no more that unruly primordial majestic young rebel without a family inheritance or caste hierarchy. She is no more that river. While the damned and ‘canalled’ river, trapped on two sides by concrete, without its natural shores or originality, is worshipped at Haridwar, the original unchained river, in this same holy city, is left to die its infinite daily death, its unmapped, empty shores dried up like an epic tragedy in its absence of flow or current, soulless, waterless, meaningless, full of piss, shit, effluents, garbage, polythene, sewage, and, of course, remains of dead bodies. Har ki Pauri becomes the sacred space of this divine epicentre, but this too is an artificial construct, Hinduism’s manufactured consent, a theory trapped in its own intellectual and physical dishonesty. By the time the river reaches Varanasi’s exquisite ghats, its filthy waters can make your skin glow with multiple rashes, the perversity in its flow perhaps more demonic and deadly than radioactive substances, its toxicity many million times more than the original zero level tolerance. Indeed, this toxic truth not only penetrates the soul of our myths and divinities, or the quest for nirvana, it also penetrates the ground water, the earth’s inner intestines, becomes the life giving substances which nourish nature, food cycles, animals and fish, plants, trees, fertile lands, vegetables. Check the cancer content of this poisoned netherworld, the paataal of this sacred river,

and you will perhaps rediscover why so many women with no ‘fashionable life-style addictions of modernity’ are dying and dead of cancer in the rural Gangetic plains. So what do you do when the original life giving river, the docunarrative of survival, civilisation’s infinite testimony, becomes a cancer, worshipped with eyes closed? On the day before Holi, Hindu women were pouring so much ghee and milk on the cowdung structure of Holika, that it flowed like ancient rhymes of this emaciated country, flush with rivers of ghee and milk. People walked barefoot in this slimy singular quagmire, in pristine synthesis with cow piss, cow shit, sewage, open naalas, puja samagri, dirty water, holy water, spit, human piss, discarded flowers, paper cups, plastic bottles, their feet and soul blessed with the filth in the backdrop of eternal incense. There are pimps all over, ready to become mediators if you want to feed the poor. The poor are waiting for the pimps, like models for a painter. There are pandas with a one way ticket to the moon (surely, not like the mafiosi at Puri). You can’t walk one step without being stopped by hordes of beggars, their pleas pathetic, seeking you to return a divine favour for one good act a day leading to those steps to heaven. Even the beggars seem tired of this one-act play turning into a daily octopus like epic, relentless, endless, eternal. And yet, they will never rest. Every man is a potential victim of poverty’s curse. Those who have, those who don’t. Across the bridge at Har ki Pauri, you sit on the dirty stairs of the ghat, trying to escape the holiness of it all. You lift your eyes. A fat woman with a tray full of ‘divine substances’ is gazing at you with abject benevolence. You can tell her, “No, I want to die.” But she insists. She will put a holy teeka on your forehead. And of course, you must pay for it. You have to live to pay for it. You can’t die. Not yet. Not yet. You escape this last outpost of salvation towards the highway. Next to the ghat is a long playing record of Munni Badnaam Hui. One step forward, there is a green expanse. You breathe; you look for fresh air. Instead, you inhale a slow storm of human shit and piss. With sadhus walking barefoot through this perverse meadow of hope. And dark, emaciated, homeless children playing, like children. Protected by the gods and goddesses of this holy city.

People walked barefoot in this slimy singular quagmire, in pristine synthesis with cow piss, cow shit, sewage, open naalas, puja samagri, dirty water, holy water, spit, human piss, discarded flowers, paper cups, plastic bottles, their feet and soul blessed with the filth in the backdrop of eternal incense.

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With the youngest ever CM at the helm of the largest state, Teresa Rehman draws a score card of the young leaders of Assam.


olitics in Assam now wears a crisp look. Several young legislators figure prominently in the 126-member House. These debutant MLAs are vocal, media-savvy, have a chic dress sense, carry smartphones and are active on Facebook and Twitter, like their contemporaries in the rest of India. In fact, five of these young Congress debutant MLAs from the state were handpicked to be part of Rahul Gandhi’s special team to aid party candidates in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh polls.

Among them was Pijush Hazarika, legislator from Raha constituency and president of the state unit of Youth Congress. Hazarika knew his role was crucial though he was not the star campaigner. “We had been asked to give that extra boost required to our party candidates in UP. We assisted the candidates there in managing the election process by organising booths and supervising polling centres. The idea was to put to use our experiences and the strategies we had adopted in

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our wins back home,” he says. There was a time when politics was never a career option for the young. Political ideologies that were once considered ‘fringe’ beliefs are becoming mainstream, and more young people are associating themselves with political parties. More and more young people than ever before are actually becoming engaged in local community campaigns and other political activities. With 38-year-old Akhilesh Yadav taking over the reigns of India’s most politically decisive state, the political fervour of the youth seems to have got a much-needed boost in the contemporary history of India. In Assam, too, there is a lot of hope from the young politicians though they are yet to prove their mettle. The strength of the Indian democracy lies in its youth. Contrary to allegations of nepotism and dynastic politics, most of these young politicians in Assam, hail from a humble background. Legislator Jayanta Malla Baruah, 39, who represents the Nalbari constituency of Assam, is the son of a school teacher.

He feels that politics needs a mix of old and new breed of people but the young minds are more equipped with innovative and modern ideas. “I am aiming to develop the potential of the human resource in my constituency. I want to convert my area into an educational hub by setting up a Sanskrit University, Engineering College and a Polytechnic. I am striving for the permanent development of the future generation,” he says. However, youth activist Suresh Ranjan Goduka is sceptical. “They are like old wine in a new bottle. Their thought and behaviour do not seem to represent the young generation. They seem to have the same theoretical approach to solving problems,” he says. He feels that they need to undergo some kind of orientation and training in administration, management, local culture as well as the latest technology. They can also be sent to different countries on exposure trips. Enthusiasm runs high among these young leaders. Another spirited MLA


representing the tea tribe community of Assam, 32-year-old Pallab Lochan Das feels, “Though everyone learns through experience in politics but there are certain technical aspects of the various departments which we need to understand. I try to study and learn new things in the library situated within the Assembly. Our senior leaders also give us ample scope to learn and participate in the debate,” he adds.

Associate Professor, Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development, says, “They need to visualise things from a wider angle. At present we feel they are engaged in petty politics rather than indulging in constructive debates. With changing times, we hope that these young breed of politicians develop some kind of perspective on the social, political, economic and cultural issues,” he says.

Das was previously the general secretary of the All-Assam Tea Tribe Students Association (AATTSA). His father was a clerk in a tea estate in Assam’s Sonitpur district. He is full of fervour and energy to do something new for his constituency. He plans to set up a football academy for the young boys of his community and he feels that his plus point is his easy accessibility to the public. Young leaders like Das bring a sense of hope with them. However, with the mandate of the people, they also need to develop a deeper understanding of society and its problems. Kalyan Das,

Contrary to allegations of nepotism and dynastic politics, most of these young politicians in Assam, hail from a humble background.

Jayanta Malla Baruah, a young turk of Assam

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Kashmiri protesters burn effigy of Pravin Togadia during protests in Srinagar


TOGADIA TORNADO IN JAMMU A visit to Jammu by Praveen Togadia almost upset the communal balance in the valley. Reports Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal.


hen Vishwa Hindu Parishad president, Praveen Togadia visited Jammu on March 5, he obviously had no benevolent intentions. His credentials as a hatemonger and the fact that his name is in the chargesheet of the Malegaon blast case are public knowledge. So it is unclear why the government of Jammu and Kashmir, highly obsessed with issues of security and law and order, to the point of disallowing normal protests over development issues, did not think it important to stop him from proceeding to one of the most sensitive areas of the state – border town of Rajouri, which has a history of six decades of militarization and lies in close proximity with the volatile Line of Control that divides India administered Jammu & Kashmir from the Pakistan one. Rajouri is also sensitive for its fragile demographic equations, with the district having 60 % Muslims but the town having more Hindus. Rajouri’s special case should have inspired greater caution. But the government’s security network literally escorted Togadia to this sensitive town. There is no other way he could have sneaked into a militarised zone like Rajouri, via the heavily barricaded winding narrow mountain roads. He freely poured his communal venom, and zoomed back an elated man, without

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anyone even questioning him. While the government did not do what was expected of it in a situation like this, nor follow it up with cautious steps and some reality checks, Togadia’s dynamite did what it was expected to – turning Rajouri into a ticking time bomb, neglected by a complacent or complicit administration, whatever the case was. Togadia’s visit coincided with the preparations for Holi which is celebrated with traditional processions. A day after his hate speech, tempers among the Muslims of Rajouri were high and they were demanding a case against Togadia, which was finally reluctantly registered. But the administration did not deem it fit to take both the communities on board as the Hindus braced up for the festive procession. When the procession entered Muslim majority areas, some youth pelted stones which led to clashes between both sides with the police also getting involved. Only after the situation had deteriorated that a slumbering administration decided to impose curfew. One only heard feeble echoes of the boiling situation in the state legislative assembly in session in the winter capital at Jammu, just four hours from Rajouri. The government slipped into deeper slumber as curfew continued in Rajouri, was lifted for a day and re-clamped after the situation deteriorated.


On March 15, saffron activists from Jammu reached town, despite the curfew and began assembling for a protest rally. When the police and CRPF failed to contain them, they used brute force, not only dispersing protestors with batons, tear gas and firing in air but also entering houses and beating several locals and damaging their property. The situation was ideal for the saffron brigade to use for spreading the fire. The BJP, VHP and other saffron groups called for a Jammu bandh on March 17, doubling it up with circulation of baseless rumours. Finally they had to call off the bandh by noon when Hindus and Muslims of Rajouri sat together with a visiting group of ministers to sort out their differences. Had it not been for the efforts of community leaders from both sides in Rajouri, the story may have turned out differently. The initiative was taken by the Muslims of Rajouri, who visited the Hindu majority areas on March 16 to express concern over brutal police action a day earlier. The team of ministers that facilitated the meeting between the two groups also helped resolve the crisis. Transfers of the Superintendent Police and District Deputy Commissioner helped cool down tempers, as did assurances of releasing the youth picked up by the police. The issue, however, cannot be deemed settled, by simply rolling some heads, with punishment amounting to simple transfers at best. There needs to be a far more extensive probe as to why Togadia was escorted with full security in and out of Rajouri, allowed to get away after making his provocative hate speech and why the local administration failed to pre-empt the consequences and get its act together before the religious procession was stoned at. It wouldn’t have been unusual for the government to deport Togadia or stop the festive procession, or even change its route. Last year, when the BJP began its ill-conceived drama of hoisting the tricolour at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, the government, sensing trouble, did turn them back from Lakhanpur at Jammu-Punjab borders. For two years, the separatist leaders have been detained in prisons or put under house arrest in the name of law and order,

even though there has been no evidence of their link with the stone pelting mobs of the Valley. Human rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Sehba Hussain were deported from Srinagar airport last summer, even though both of them are known for their secular credentials and peace making efforts across the sub-continent. At around the same time, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah threatened to ban Ram Jethmalani from heading the Kashmir Committee for equating the Valley to a Nazi camp. Then why was Togadia sent with full state escort to Rajouri? It is also be important to question why, despite the curfew, saffron activists managed to reach the troubled town to create a more lethal recipe for disaster, followed by the brutal and unjustified action of the police and CRPF in dealing with the mob. The mishandling of the situation was reminiscent of the 2008 Amarnath land row that lasted for three months, exacerbating regional and communal divides in Jammu and Kashmir like never before. That time, the government consciously fanned the Hindutva fire to counter Kashmir’s voice for ‘azadi’. There is a need to know, whether there was a deliberate design in sending Togadia and thereafter shunning all responsibility. At the same time, it is important to celebrate the role of the two communities in trying to resolve the issue amicably; demonstrating once again that it is community level efforts that can best deal with communal polarisation, provided, of course, the government is pragmatic enough to play the role of facilitator rather than being agent provocateur. Without their pro-active involvement, this crisis could not have been tided over. Such gestures of speaking out for the ‘other community’ are rare but this small border town has set an example for the people of the rest of the state to emulate. There’s also a lesson for the government here: that it needs to provide a space for such voices of harmony rather than suppressing them, as is often the case, and also ensure that troublemakers from outside are kept off the confines of the state, and those within are contained and not let loose for petty political benefits.

There needs to be a far more extensive probe as to why Togadia was escorted with full security in and out of Rajouri, allowed to get away after making his provocative hate speech and why the local administration failed to pre-empt the consequences and get its act together before the religious procession was stoned at.

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ayawati, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has come to epitomise empowerment of dalits, the lowest segment of India’s caste hierarchy. What explains her humiliating electoral defeat? Was it her vanity that distanced her from large sections of the country’s most populous state? Will she be able to stage a comeback five years down the line?

It is early days yet to write the political obituary of the president of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Just as the BSP was the biggest beneficiary of anti-incumbency sentiments against the Samajwadi Party government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2007, the roles got completely reversed this time round. The sharp rise in voter turnout from 46 percent to around 60 percent was a clear signal that anti-incumbency sentiments were pronounced against the BSP led by the only Chief Minister in the history of Uttar Pradesh who completed a full term of five years. It must be underscored that a mere 4.5 per cent shift in the vote share of the BSP to the SP translated to a loss of 126 seats in the state assembly for the former and a commensurate gain (of 127 seats) for the latter. Mayawati’s ambitions to become Prime Minister of India evaporated in 2009. Her decision to remain aloof from her constituents and administer the state through a clutch of subservient bureaucrats was, in hindsight, a big mistake. That she thought her actions in building statues of not just her mentor, Kanshi Ram and other dalit leaders but of herself as well, would be perceived by the electorate as expressions of empowerment,

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Illustration by Sumit Das

By Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

was clearly naïve. BSP sympathisers invariably refer to the large number of memorials named after the Nehru-Gandhi family. But these statues and memorials came up after the family members had died. When vaulting ego and hubris come in the way of political astuteness, the consequences can be disastrous, as these have been for a person who claims to be the country’s tallest leader of the socially downtrodden. Mayawati’s greed is common knowledge. The value of her assets more than doubled during the period she was Chief Minister, from Rs 52 crore in 2007 to nearly Rs 112 crore when she filed her nomination for the Rajya Sabha elections on March 14. In


BSP sympathisers invariably refer to the large number of memorials named after the NehruGandhi family. But these statues and memorials came up after the family members had died. her assets indicates that she received impressive returns on her investments in properties. Yet, she does not possess any life insurance policy and does not own a vehicle.

the 58 months she ruled Uttar Pradesh, the value of her assets appreciated by as much as Rs 1 crore per month! Her supporters say her wealth sends a signal to those who aspire to a more prosperous life. But the flaunting of her riches – in sharp contrast to the austere lifestyle of another important woman political leader of the country, Mamata Banerjee – was clearly a bit too much. Mayawati filed an income tax return of Rs 6.51 crore in 2010-11. Her immovable assets worth Rs 96.38 crore include residential and commercial buildings in Delhi and Lucknow. Although she faces charges of amassing wealth disproportionate to known sources of income, which is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the growth of

The rise of Mayawati in Indian politics has been truly phenomenal. Born on 15 January 1956 into a relatively poor family of jatavs (once called chamars, a community whose traditional occupation was skinning animals and working with leather), her father Prabhu Dayal was employed as supervisor with the Department of Posts & Telegraphs. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 1975 from Kalindi College; later she earned a degree in education from Meerut University and a law degree from Delhi University. As a student, she was active as a public speaker who would often participate in debating contests. She taught in various schools run by the Delhi administration between 1977 and 1984 before associating herself with Kanshi Ram.When she met Kanshi Ram for the first time, before he became her political mentor, Mayawati was hoping to join the Indian Administrative Service. Kanshi Ram reportedly told her that she should instead join him because he would make her a “queen” who could control and decide the fates of IAS officers. Her political career formally began with the establishment of the BSP in April 1984. Interestingly, Mayawati lost the first three elections, she contested. She was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1989 from Bijnor. Thereafter, in 1994, she was elected to the Rajya Sabha. The BSP supported the SP in UP in 1993 and on 3 June 1995, in the wake of the infamous ‘guest house incident’ when she was physically assaulted, she and her party parted ways

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Kanshi Ram reportedly told her that she should instead join him because he would make her a “queen” who could control and decide the fates of IAS officers. with Mulayam Singh Yadav and joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party. When she became Chief Minister the following day, she was only 39 years old, the youngest ever head of UP and the first dalit to hold the post. This was perhaps the first indication that she had acquired a political stature independent of her mentor. Her first stint as Chief Minister lasted a few months and ended in October that year with the BJP-BSP alliance abruptly coming unstuck. In the 1996 elections to the UP assembly, a new alliance between the BSP and BJP was struck under which it was decided that each party would have its own Chief Minister for six months at a stretch. Mayawati was sworn in as UP Chief Minister for the second time in March 1997, becoming the first woman to do so. After six months, she withdrew from the coalition government on the ground that her partners in the BJP were not cooperating with her party’s attempts to rigorously implement a law (the Dalit Act) aimed at prevention of atrocities against those belonging to the lower castes. The widely held perception at that time was that she feared that the BJP could engineer a split in the BSP to form a government on its own in UP and chose to pre-empt such a possible move. Mayawati won both the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections from Akbarpur constituency that was reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates. Her choice of constituency was significant in that Akbarpur is in eastern UP, whereas all the constituencies she had contested from earlier happened to be in the western part of the state. This indicated her confidence in the BSP’s ability to garner votes all across a state that was then geographically larger than the whole of Western Europe. Her third stint as Chief Minister of UP lasted just over a year, from 3 May 2002 to 25 July 2003. The BJP withdrew support to her government soon after her decision to build a commercial corridor near the Taj Mahal generated a major controversy and allegations of corruption were levelled against her, ministers in her government and bureaucrats who were supposed to be close to her. She was accused of approving a project in violation of laws that protect the historic monument. The Supreme Court ordered an investigation by the CBI into the case and also ordered a probe into allegations that she and her family members had acquired assets disproportionate to known sources of income. Mayawati won the Ambedkarnagar Lok Sabha seat in 2004 but resigned the following year to become a member of the upper house of Parliament. Soon after her third stint as UP Chief Minister, a new controversy surrounding her broke out when members of Kanshi Ram’s family instituted legal cases against her for, among other things, allegedly making him her ‘prisoner’

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and denying family members access to him. Kanshi Ram was, by then, very ill and in hospital most of the time. Even after his death in October 2006, his family members claimed she did not allow them to take his body before cremation. Mayawati has often been criticised for her imperious style of functioning. Her birthdays have been celebrated lavishly; these became public occasions attended by thousands of supporters. Sections of the media have often highlighted the size of the cakes she has cut, described the glittering sets of diamond jewellery she wore, the change in the way she styled her hair (from a ponytail to a bobbed cut) and how her supporters would gift her huge garlands of currency notes. If emphasizing such information was an attempt to paint an unflattering picture of the BSP leader, the impact on her supporters was often just the reverse. For many dalits, the fact that one of their representatives can currently boast a lifestyle that was earlier considered a prerogative of the rich upper castes remains a matter of considerable satisfaction and pride. Political observers drew an analogy between Mayawati’s public demeanour and the sartorial habits of the best known dalit leader in pre-independence India, B. R. Ambedkar, who invariably wore a suit and tie, the dress of the country’s British colonial masters. For an unmarried woman who grew up outside Uttar Pradesh and entered active politics when she was just 28, Mayawati’s rise has indeed been quite remarkable. The future of her political career is uncertain. But one thing she will clearly have to do is become less paranoid about her security. She does not really have a choice. On March 17, the newly appointed Akhilesh Yadav government ordered a drastic reduction in the size of the security cover given to her. Instead of 415 men who worked in three shifts, she will now have a contingent of 115-odd Black Cat commandos belonging to the National Security Guards looking after her. In her last financial statement before the assembly, Mayawati had allocated Rs 26 crore for her security which included 14 new cars (four of them bullet proofed) besides two mobile frequency jammers. Kancha Ilaiah, director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, believes Mayawati is “not a failed leader as Bengal’s Communists are” as “she has combined the cause of Buddhist religious reconstruction with that of Ambedkar-ite political and economic development” which disappointed her Brahmin allies (Asian Age, 16 March 2012). Yet even Ilaiah acknowledges: “She may be a maverick and may have made money thinking that riches would enhance dalit pride. Making money through wrong means sends wrong signals. In this respect, one wishes Ms. Mayawati had learnt a lesson or two from Kanshi Ram, her guru, who died penniless and yet continued to provide moral strength to the dalit cause.” A different life awaits Rajya Sabha MP Mayawati in the immediate future. (Portions of this article have been based on the book Divided We Stand: India in a Time of Coalitions written by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Shankar Raghuraman and published by Sage Publications India in 2007.)

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emember, Willie Wonka and the chocolate factory? Or any one of those fascinating childhood visits to the biscuit factory or to the hand-woven carpet workshop? So, here’s your golden ticket to visit the critical, reflective workshop . where ideas, issues, events are all spun into stories, you read every month.

This month too, like every month, it all started with us bouncing ideas off each other. Most of the times, after a little bickering, we come to a certain consensus, in terms of structuring the issue (it helps that we all share similar fundamental sensibilities, mostly). However, this month, the little bickering turned out to be an exhilarating exercise on methods of thinking, reasoning, analysing, concluding, story-telling... The idea was to analyse the socio-economic politics of Dalit issues in India, and although we agreed unanimously on our historical, ideological, cultural and political failings and the constant and crucial need to bring the ‘other’ narrative into our everyday consciousness, the debate that ensued raised many more fundamental issues of iconography, ideological trappings, macro and micro narratives and the ideal premise and perspective of reporting the past, analysing the present and predicting the future. In between the passionate, enraged exchange of emails lies a fascinating and crucial discourse on how to look at, interpret and assimilate the world around us and hence, this month, the making of the story is the story itself. I am writing this short note from the middle of the dense Sal forests of Madhya Pradesh, and the forest guide tells me, that these trees which seem to touch the skies and live for hundreds of years have roots which go twice as deep into the earth... Standing here, I realise that every idea, every story which grows upwards, and lives for a long time has to share this deep, deep organic bond with the ground they stand on, or they wither. The story that follows is also an ode to the magical, deciduous forests... hope you enjoy the safari... Pritha

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Hi Saswat, Was thinking if we could explore some of the issues of dalits in the country for the next issue... Any ideas on how we can structure it... Regards, Pritha

Hi Pritha, That’s a wonderful idea. A much needed, much relevant… And high time. Before I throw open topics, here is what I would preach: Let’s not make it a pro-dalit/anti-dalit thing at any point. So yes Mayawati is at times evil and yes reservation is not the solution and many more such, but when you take up a theme that deals with a certain “minority” (political, gender, religious etc), there is no need to browbeat them any further. They have their own problems already to deal with in the outside world. In the present context, it would mean let’s not carry a comparative picture of Gandhi and Ambedkar and then justify why Gandhi was the Mahatma. In fact, quite the contrary… Let’s not prevent someone from painting Ambedkar as a bigger hero, without necessarily disparaging Gandhi. Gandhi can - and should be humanised though when it comes to the dalit history of India… the inimitable Hiren Mukherjee had delivered a couple of speeches relating Gandhi with Ambedkar which I have and if possible, we should publish excerpts from those. The same goes for Mayawati. Whether or not we like her is immaterial. The truth is, she is the most formidable voice of the dalit/bahujans today in the world. And she deserves a special space in the issue simply for that reason alone. So either we should aim for a friendly interview - on general history of political solidarities, on Kanshiramji etc, or a favourable piece written by an expert (certainly by a social scientist rather than by a politician). There are tons of worthy criticisms of dalit communities, but we should leave them to do that self-criticism. As upper caste Hindus, our business is to look inside our own homes. So if we do an issue on them it should never sound condescending, patronising, or critical. It is a delicate issue, to say the least. We could write on dalit literature, dalit feminism, dalit environmentalism, pan-dalitism, dalit panthers, dalit mainstream politics, dalit student unions, dalit reservations. Certainly critiquing the Left vis-a-vis its Dalit stands. See, Gandhi wanted everything best for the dalits, except he was not letting go of his own religious heritage either. So if a separate piece on Gandhi were to be written, an informed criticism is a requirement if it appears in a dalit issue. And before I forget, do not profile Mahasweta Devi as having anything to do with dalit feminism or environmentalism or education. She might be living in rural hinterlands writing about the downtrodden, but that’s not remotely what it is to be a dalit. I know, you know, but just needed to say this. Try a profile of Savitribai Phule instead. Lastly, pan-dalitism is an important component we should address. Ambedkar himself had felt the need for it. Racially oppressed people worldwide are the same. W.E.B. DuBois is a great reference and John Henrik Clarke was the greatest later on. Neither of them are alive, but I could try interviewing Sister Sybil Williams-Clarke for this issue if you want. She is the strongest force behind the rise of the much loved Dr Clarke, a phenomenal pan-Africanist and she is one of the elders who can speak on the need for the global indigenous to unite. I could also interview Dr Les Edmond, another pan-Africanist who was the master of ceremonies of the first and only meeting of the pan African organization Malcolm X founded before his death. These are people who think dalits in India are the Africans...somewhat controversial, but from a political perspective, entirely accurate. And in fact many dalit movements in India have grown after they were introduced to pan-Africanism. Likewise, across borders, pan-dalit feminism reflects in organizations such as EDWON (Empower Dalit Women of Nepal). Anyway there are so many aspects... and the tough decisions are yours to make... Saswat

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Saswat, Hmm… yes… there are tough decisions to be made... Even though most of what we’ve discussed are on the lines of what you’ve suggested (Ambedkar as the greater hero, dalit representation in the polity and local governance, reservation issues etc), there are a few contradictory views, regarding Mayawati’s role as well as the role of the Left... For e.g., most people think we should call the issue, ‘The Great Dalit Sharks’ and look at how Mayawati and some others have hijacked the real dalit issues... also, regarding the role of the left, there is a view that the Left was the greater champion… who worked for dalits even before Gandhi did. Pritha.

Pritha, You thought I would not have guessed it? That’s precisely the reason why I emailed you all those points to begin with. If you notice my earlier email, my points are coherent together. Meaning, one argument supports another. not to sound too harsh but your projecting Mayawati as the “Great Dalit Shark” and what-not, is a direct insult to most dalits. Do you really think when you say “most people” view Mayawati negatively, are they actually from Dalitstan, or are they just random upper caste leftwing intellectuals from Kolkata? Can you just wear the dalit shoes and then look at the audacities of people who claim that Left was a greater champion than “even before Gandhi”? Neither the Left nor Gandhi had anything to do with dalit movements. Do you think the dalits needed some kind of upper caste help to make sense of what they wanted? They have led scores of revolutionary movements all along - against their own native rulers, against the upper caste landlords, against the British (not so much though, wonder why?). The Indian institutionalised Left came to being after Gandhi had learnt bitter lessons in South Africa. In any case, who cares if Gandhi or the Left helped the dalit cause or not? Does it even matter? The only reason why the Left can be mentioned in this issue at all is to indicate why the Left is so fucked up in its privileges so as not to be able to sway the kind of people it should have been aligning with all the time. Otherwise the Left can go to the garbage bin for all I know. Think of this...we had a Left issue recently, did we call Jyoti Basu names? For the sake of logic, do you really think all our communist leaders have followed the Communist manifesto? Quite the contrary, our Leftist leaders have been criminally opportunistic in getting rid of Maoist comrades, in aligning with Manmohan Singh on various core issues, in even aspiring to help sustain the kind of phony democracy India is today. And you are accusing Mayawati of hijacking the dalit issues? How about Arun Shourie writing a biography on Mayawati then? I am not being sarcastic at all. Why are upper caste Hindus so insecure about a dalit woman’s rise to power, glory and yes, personality cult. What is so damn wrong in personality cults? It is all fine when Gandhi and Subhas Bose have one. Or when Indira Gandhi has one. Why is Mayawati being singled out? Clearly not because she is “corrupt”, a convenient word that we know, can be selectively employed as a political tool to defame those we disagree with. And what the f is a dalit shark? Of course UP is the izzat of India and it’s screwed up by the dalits today. Why do you think UP

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has had the most number of governor’s rule there? When was the last time we called the “Great Brahmin Sharks” to describe over 90% of our prime ministers and presidents in this country? None of them was sacrosanct and we all know that. If India is such an inhumanely pathetic state today, it surely is not due to Mayawati wearing a garland of her supporters’ currency notes. In Orissa, there are over a hundred statues of Biju Patnaik. All over India there are thousands of statues of all kinds of politicians whose analysis can put us to shame. Why are we so resistant towards Mayawati’s rise? Surely she has not divided India up along caste lines... that is an utterly hilarious claim. You see, I could write a book depicting how villainous Mayawati is. But I could write another one about any other Indian chief minister as well. Except that unlike any other leader, Mayawati has singlehandedly awakened the political consciousness of the dalits to emerge as a force to reckon with. Really ask yourself, if not for Mayawati, would we be doing an issue on the “dalit movement” at all? She has forced us all to rethink our privileged roots and not on our terms. I remember how students in UP boycotted mid-day lunch when they discovered that the cook was a dalit. Their parents made a protest and immediately the next day the cook was changed, the school apologised and it all happened while Mayawati was the chief minister. As a country we have been unable to accept that we are racists to the core. We expect people from lower strata to gain power, yes, but yield to us when we demand it. We can accept Mayawati within the limit we set. She cannot transcend that. It’s not that she is corrupt that we are calling her a shark. It’s because she is a dalit woman who dared to adopt our upper caste indulgence that we call her a dalit shark. Pritha, you are privileged at several levels, true. But you are oppressed at several others as well. As a woman, would you rather have your story told by yourself and other women who have gone through the struggles you have gone through, or you would rather have them told via well-meaning progressive men who have never experienced what a period is or what childbirth feels like? Sure Indian women’s rights movement has Raja Rammohan Ray as the biggest name, but isn’t that actually a ridiculous irony? We have to get used to Mayawati and the likes of her already. Whether or not we like it, dalit student associations are going to give the left student unions some hard-hitting reality checks. Indian corporate media is full of brahmins trying to project what is good for Uttar Pradesh and Orissa and Jharkhand. It’s high time we got used to listening to dalit voices. Besides, they are not waiting to be educated by us upper caste folks about what is a true dalit movement. They are part of one already. They may not be doing everything right. They lack experience in managing the Indian democracy. It never was their historical vantage point. They will become corrupt and get exposed for every cheap interaction. They have not managed to sharpen their skills yet. Yes give them another fifty years and they will be adept at Indian politics like most of us are. Give them another fifty and they will even become the corrupt bureaucrats and start depositing in foreign accounts. But we got to give them those hundred years because they totally deserve entry into our filthy elite corrupt club. The way we have accepted our corrupt leaders, we have to accept their corrupt leaders. Yes, Mayawati deserves an attack in an issue on corruption where she will find place with other corrupt chief ministers of India. But in an issue celebrating dalit lives, let’s not preach how she, their behenji, is not dalit enough. I don’t think men should be telling women if abortion should be legalised or not... Saswat

At this point Parnab Mukherjee,Kindle’s Roving Editor comes in after reading Saswat’s defence of Mayawati. Read on. Hi Pritha, This is where we get it wrong... I am Pro-Mayawati and firmly so (passionately so)... but there are two stances to this approach (and that is not the corruption approach)... and yes only two stances - one her ideological failing about identifying the iconography of the dalits, and the other- has she bothered about the micro-narratives? When you look at the passive resistance history in India, Gandhi is an important pivot but it is his foot soldiers and their impact which we don’t discuss. How much have we discussed Thakkar Bapa, how many economics teachers at the undergraduate level or any level bother to discuss J.C. Kumarappa, or how many chroniclers of Ambedkar , Phule, Periyar, Naryana

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Guru have bothered to get into a mass-oriented approach of deconstructing the rich lives of Uda Devi, Mahaviri Bhangi, Jhalkari Bai, Bijli Paasi, Sant Ram Udaasi, Daldev, Baldeo, Shambook from the Ramayana, Lochan Mallah, Samadhan Nishad, Avanatibai Lodhi, Ahilyabai Holkar. Let us look at a list. This incomplete list of Dalit suicides in premier national institutions reveal another kind of deep-seated prejudice that lead to the train of tragic suicides: • M. Shrikant, final year, B.Tech, IIT Bombay, Jan 1, 2007 • Ajay S. Chandra, integrated PhD, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore – August 26, 2007 • Jaspreet Singh, final year MBBS, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, January 27, 2008. • Senthil Kumar, PHD, School of Physics, University of Hyderabad – Feb 23, 2008 • Prashant Kureel, first year, B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, April 19, 2008 • G. Suman, final year, M.Tech, IIT Kanpur, January 2, 2009 • Ankita Veghda, first year, BSc Nursing, Singhi Institute of Nursing, Ahmedabad, April 20, 2009 • D Syam Kumar, first year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada, August 13, 2009 • S. Amravathi, national level young woman boxer, Centre of Excellence, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, November , 2009 • Bandi Anusha, B.Com final year, Villa Mary College, Hyderabad, November 5, 2009 • Pushpanjali Poorty, first year, MBA, Visvesvaraiah Technological University, Bangalore, January 30, 2010 • Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, final year MBBS, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (formerly KGMC), Lucknow, January 31, 2010. • Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, March 3, 2010 • JK Ramesh, second year, BSc, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, July 1, 2010 • Madhuri Sale, final year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, November 17, 2010 • G. Varalakshmi, B.Tech first year, Vignan Engineering College, Hyderabad, January 30, 2011 • Manish Kumar, IIIrd Year B.Tech, IIT Roorkee, February 13, 2011 • Linesh Mohan Gawle, PhD, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, April 16, 2011 If we study each of these micro-narratives (be it the list of Dalit icons or that of students who took away their own lives), what would reveal all by itself is much more than a mere documentation or an anthropological collage, The powerful human testament that would emerge needed a much bigger manifestation. Be it a series of publications by the Uttar Pradesh government, be it a special memorial tablet (inside parks dedicated to the dalit cause) recording the names or be it a comprehensive magazine/ journal for the Dalits. A record of these testaments would free our history of the binary-which specify whether it is the readings of the official leftists or a small group of informed rightists as both these categories have unwaveringly converged to spin a yarn of ideological convenience. So whether you look at Dalit heroes or Dalit suicides... these narratives must be put into public domain. Who better to do the job than a Dalit-led government in India’s biggest state? The failure to do that, yet reaping the fruits of that ideological convenience, makes Mayawati a shark in her own way. And the writing on the wall is clear to see. Look at the way, a number of smaller Dalit parties dot the UP horizon: Bahujan Sangharsh Party (Kanshi Ram), Ambedkar Samaj Party, National Democratic Revolutionary Party, Indian Justice Party, Welfare Party and Ambedkari Mahasabha. Now, don’t look at these names from the prism of seats and percentage of votes polled in the UP elections. But, the existence of the parties has busted the myth that the Dalit votes consolidate under the Mayawati umbrella. And then there is the brewing discontent among the Jatav community, who believe that the election engineers of BSP are so busy forging a nexus that they have forgotten the roots. One must understand that both Kanshi Ram and Mayawati (his chosen successor) began their journey from the Jatav/Chamar route and the sarvajan approach of Behenji results in misreading of the political climate including decisions like amending a major provision of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (which needed a prima facie evidence of guilt before lodging an FIR) or a complete mis-reading of the ground situation and effects of welfare schemes on Muslims.. In my two-decade career in theatre and journalism, I have WORKED and that taught me much more WITH Dhasal (the man himself )....WITH groups working on PHULE... and I realise the Namashudra Movement in Bengal… the brilliant tea tribes of Assam... the dalit assertion in Manipur, Mizoram, Manipur are completely undocumented. WHY? Is the north east such a pariah that an armchair intellectual like Kancha...a dalit seller like Anand Teltumbde will not write about the north east? Why does their seminar tourism not take them to Karbi Anglong , Kokrajhar, Diphu (these places are in INDIA) and find out

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how dalits live (just how they live)… how the north Cachcar hills from Assam brings out a brilliant magazine on dalit assertion called ‘The Hudaang’... Don’t mistake a Shambuk killed by Ram as dalit assertion to stand up to the arrows... let’s go more. I am an idiot and a far lesser intellectual than any contributor in Kindle (theatre to me... which also I do in a fairly clumsy manner is an assertion but let’s not get into verbal gymnastics) but here are some facts: 1: In the 11th plan Rs 1,00, 215 crores has been denied to Dalits OUT of an allotment of Rs 11,99, 944 crores, as was recently analysed and brought out in a pathbreaking report by theNational Campaign on Dalit Human Rights... why this differential treatment? 2: Why are micro narratives of dalits ignored? Why is the super sprawling park in Lucknow shorn of micro narratives? 3: Dalit poetry, for example Samir Tanti of Assam (Dhasal has been done to death by EVERY dalit forum… I have worked extensively on Dhasal and Dhale, the two vanguards of DALIT panther movement... how about Samir Tanti... Sananta Tanti… Goggu Shymala (Andhra), Dutta Bhagat (Marathi dalit playwright)... let’s not have a dalit superstar list...that has the usual Dhasal, Dhale, Kancha, Teltumbde, Ravikumar, Gail Omvedt, V Geetha list… let’s grow up... 4: A news report filed by India Abroad News Service from Lucknow, on March 13, 2012, stated : Outgoing Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s wealth has gone up by Rs. 23.64 crore in the past two years. The wealth also includes expensive silverware, jewellery and several carats of diamonds. As per her own admission, she has ornaments ‘gifted’ to her worth Rs.96 lakh. The incumbent Chief Minister, who lost badly to arch rivals the Samajwadi party (SP) in the recently concluded assembly polls, has never been dismissive about her love for gold and diamonds. On many occasions in the past, including her lavish birthday parties, she has flaunted her diamond jewellery, inviting criticism from opponents. I think in the light of the above facts…even the word “shark” is a term that is inadequate. Finally let’s not have a Mahasweta overkill... she is the only one in our two special women issues... but YES.... she has worked on dalits EXTENSIVELY in Chotanagpur... in Purulia … not just with the TRIBALS, also with DALITS... this is just for the record and I am not a Leftist from Kolkata I am from Imphal... In the nation state reading on insurgent and resurgent India... let’s have a convergent India...where the convergence is neither standardisation fuelled by globalisation nor buying and selling of silence but a convergence of field reports... a seminar czar is a seminar czar is a seminar czar... Regards, Parnab

Saswat, So, in between these flying fits of rage and passion, you can well imagine my state of mind... It has always been a tough call, walking the fine line between propaganda and taking a stand… Ground realities are often so contradictory to our ideological stances that one is always left wondering... Anyway, hopefully, after a few more discussions, all of us might arrive on a common ground and are able to finally give the issue a structure…

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Saswat’s response to Parnab’s mail


Pritha, I don’t see a common ground for this issue, because it’s already planned out from what I see from Parnab’s email. So let me instead address the ground realities you mention, and just as a reply to you - not with an aim to influence the magazine plans in any way. First, there is no fixed “ground realities”. Ground realities are different for different people. That is why objectivity as a principle in journalism is squarely rejected. I recall how we are often told not to philosophise or argue and if we have to change the world, just go “do” it because ground realities are different. The ground reality argument is an archaic excuse to ignore opposing arguments. It just so happens that your ground reality will be different from my ground reality which will differ from the ground realities of those living in other parts of the world. They are always subject to varying ideological interpretations depending on who views them wearing what lens or shoes. For almost half of my life I grew up in the villages of Tigiria and Athagarh in Orissa and went to public Oriya schools without access to bathrooms and benches/desks. Lest our rooms get dirty, we would leave the shoes outside the rooms and sit down on the floor to get educated. Back home without electricity we would use kerosene lit lamps to study until we acquired much later, a government quarter in Bhubaneswar. Between the village and the city, I lived a couple of years in Cuttack, where I was raised with ‘halias’ and ‘adivasis’ who used to stay in our house in return for taking my sister and me to school everyday. I had quite a substantial daily interaction with “authentic” rural poverty amidst the outcasts. When we did better and my mother was transferred to the Bhubaneswar environment, I was immediately sent to an English medium school to get “real” education in class 9 where I was not just surprised at the textbooks I failed to follow, but more at the classmates I interacted with. I am not trying to romanticise this, but just saying that I have had different doses of ground realities. I used to serve lunch to my father inside the Athagarh jail during my recess time in school, and he used to be arrested numerous times as a political prisoner fighting as a Communist (at times as official, at times unofficially, but most times as representing labour union at the industrial tribunal and taking the agitation too far) on behalf of the caste oppressed workers. Yes, my literally growing up with the dalits of Orissa in various tribal districts or my understanding of my caste privilege when my first girlfriend converted to Christianity under gruelling circumstances of a conservative society would affect my worldviews, but nothing should come in my way when I imagine the dalits of UP and Bihar or the North-East, or of the dalits in Harlem here in New York. Extension of personal locations to understand and empathise with social realities is what makes heterogeneous ground realities relevant. Currently I live in a multicultural Astoria, but that is because I cannot afford to live in Manhattan. Again, if I did live in Manhattan, it would not prevent me from understanding Bronx, the worst affected region here in the city. When I was referring to Kolkata intellectuals, I was merely being symbolic, not literal. No matter where we are from, what socio-economic backgrounds we belong to, what political realities engulf us, we should be able to extend ourselves beyond our own. I have never voted for the BSP, nor do I agree with their politics and I had made it quite clear in my earlier email. But that is not what we are discussing when we talk about Dalit politics in India. Of course there are Dalits in Imphal who would not care what Mayawati is fighting for or against. There are hardcore Hindu and Christian and Muslim Dalits who would not agree with Mayawati either. Considering she has chosen Buddhism (yes, blame Ambedkar for that short-sightedness) as a tool to emancipate Dalits, do you really think every oppressed category will agree with her? Hell, even if she were not a Chief Minister today or such a powerful politician, I would still have been projecting her humanely because she is fighting a battle not many are willing to take up. I have no issues with what Parnab is saying regarding the footsoldiers and the need to highlight them. Did I ever say no that idea? Of course not. In fact, I wrote about Rama Devi as a foot soldier of Gandhi in my last article. But going by his logic, if “we” failed to discuss the footsoldiers of Gandhi, does that make Gandhi a shark? How on earth does Mayawati become a shark, if we in the media fail to provide ample space to discuss Dalit activists? Forget about activists, we are paranoid about their leaders. All this mumbo-jumbo just to project Mayawati as a shark fails to make sense to me. I can add another hundred relatively unknown names to the list of unknown Dalits, but that still does not take away the “merits” of Mayawati. Why must we bury this argument under the garb of ground realities? Does Mayawati not face ground realities everyday of her life? And sure, we can write about the dalits of the North-East, of Nepal and even of America and Africa as I was suggesting. But where does that conflict with Dalits of UP? Among black leaders, there were many stalwarts, but why demonise Malcolm X to highlight Dr King? Or even to highlight any of the innumerable lesser known black activists?

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Romanticising the unknown dalits and introducing them to the world is a noble and virtuous work from us upper caste folks, no doubt. But demonising the well known powerful Dalits may well speak of our own sense of insecurity than their lacunae. Our assumption that somehow Mayawati is responsible for purging from the public memory the lesser known Dalits is gross, when we have not yet given even someone like her a safe space within our media yet. Anyway, here is Professor Kancha Ilaiah, when he is writing for a dalit non-neutralising publication that is not searching for the sharks. “The middle class intellectuals and the media have tried to project Mayawati as a selfish and corrupt woman erecting her own statues, accepting money in public in the shape of garlands and displaying her own wealth. But Dalits see her as a self-asserting heroine and Dalit history builder. The upper caste intellectuals who praise Hindu spiritual centres like Benaras, Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya as historical heritages, though they were built while masses were starving and dying in different phases of history, cannot convince the Dalits that what their leader is now doing is not going to be their proud history in the future. In Hindu culture of idol worship, Mayawati’s idol will become their own – perhaps a Buddhist female icon, as Ambedkar’s idols did. This nation cannot be proud of Taj Mahal, which was built while hundreds were dying of hunger, and condemn Mayawati for building Dalit-Bahujan historical places.” PS: Pritha, I have the highest of respect for Parnab. So my emails, although they may sound so, are not personal attacks or anything remotely like that. I have no issues with micro narratives at all. They have their places in any political movements but stopping at romanticisation of micro movements will yield anarchist nothingness. History is shaped through power relations and the history of class struggle has been the history of controlling of power. Marx, whom we all the time keep invoking and Parnab invokes him too with Irabot’s Marxism, was no micro narrator. In fact, Marx more than anyone else in the world, can be accused of creating the grandest of narratives. History of Communism is replete with icons, legends, myths, leaders and grand visions. Irabot might be a micro narrator elsewhere, but as a founder of the Communist party in his state, he was as iconic as were Communist leaders from other states in India and elsewhere. About the seminar czar vs field reports, there are biases in both. I worked as a field reporter for several years in Orissa and in Ranchi when Jharkhand came into being. I was not free of my biases as a field reporter while covering Maoist insurgences and as a seminar “czar” now, I am not immune to biases either, although here too I am a field reporter for various other causes affecting entirely different sets of oppressed and marginalised people. But regarding shitty grammar and bad English, they can become a magazine policy if you want. Even Gonzo journalism. But there is no need to be especially shitty when we address dalit causes. Ambedkar never wrote lousy English. I may be missing the point here altogether, but I am just saying that we should not use ignorance as an excuse at any step while informing people. As Chomsky once wrote, intellectuals have great responsibilities. Gandhi wrote eloquently and with precise care as well. Lenin theorized his works with academic excellence in volumes of his works, not to mention Marx and Engels or even Trotsky. Not all who attend seminars or follow academic style sheets are czars. Quite a lot of them have been responsible in toppling czars. Knowledge is vastly empowering, if appropriately employed. Complete dismissal of academic endeavours is a reflection of an anti-intellectual climate pervading our world today. The field reports and the grand narratives - both have space in resistance movements. A grammar-less freestyle has as much a place as the master compositions of Neruda. Paul Robeson was a Jazz artist too.

Parnab replies to Saswat Hi Pritha, No… dalits in north east of india are different from dalits in Angola, Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Bronx… Kindle is a national magazine, coming out of eastern India and as such as it definitely has and will have an international feel... it has to root itself into a certain discussion on its readership group and of course the nation... so let us not brush the north east with the Africa carpet... north east is an Indian reality (whatever be the conception of our idea of nation state) and in a magazine we CANNOT deny the north eastern reality... sorry I am a north-east reality pimp... at least that is the only private part of the

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soul I can sell without contraceptives... It is obvious that the superstar I am talking about are the usual academic mafia that monopolised dalit writings...I can name AT LEAST a 100 dalit writers BEYOND Kancha Ilaiah, who are being published in regional languages...let’s translate them from Marathi, Konkani, Manipuri, Asomiya, Nagamese, Tamil… let’s commission translations,.. vibrant ones... why are we afraid to open up to those dalit writers who will not be given space by the English subaltern mandarins who know no phone number beyond Kancha... I neither have the depths of Saswat’s knowledge, nor the range of Amit’s metaphors, nor the ability of Paranjoyda to juggle through reports and numbers and write some brilliant incisive pieces...what do such shallow self-pitying half baked, blurb reading depthless theatre makers like me do... sustain myself through collecting and translating voices of the young ones in Naharlangun, Ziro, Itanagar, the young without hand Chakma refugee kid, whose hands were chopped off in the camp....we take these monologues in our body and perform... we change nothing,.. not even ourselves but as their monologue hits the tongue, I know what shitty, fundamentally theoretical perverts we are...we coined subaltern to suit our academic needs to frame resistance that needs a far more humane framework and methodology to study... As for Mayawati, in a Rs 685 crore dalit prerna sthal budget, across 33 acres in Noida with Dholpur- Mirzapur stones... and Rs 1350 crores for Ambedkar park in Lucknow... I am not talking of corruption...I am merely saying in Rs 2000 crores....can’t we fit in micro-narratives and local heroes to be put in a total space of 200 acres across 2 parks? EVERY major dalit regional hero of SOUTH ASIA could have been fitted in... that is the point... Mayawati’s selective reading of that history... And no I would not believe that India has known all about Ambedkar... let’s not bullshit ourselves over the fact that most of the urban people who read our magazine know the wide ranging socio-political dimension of Ambedkar and his foresight in conceiving the nature of the caste cauldron that we would create for ourselves and also his failure to read the tribal ethos while defining the dalit ambit… I refuse to be drawn into this email... Imphal is reeling with power cuts... whatever be the ground realities... the frontline is different from a seat, laptop, screensaver and quality internet time to write long mails… no I do not have that privilege in north east… I have to fight my battles on the road and streets, bylanes and paddy fields of north east India and that reality needs to be presented pan India... and yes Gandhi taught me that… Mayawati did not. My list of sharks will differ from Saswat’s and Saswat… I would not dream to have… either his range or his erudition… his depth of writing in long emails each of which deserves an EPW space... mine is that hyphenated half broken piece of shit writing... So I think Saswat should have the totalitarian call to structure the issue. I maintain criticising Mayawati’s ideological moorings does not make me somebody who does not understand her strength working in Azamgarh, Ballia, Maghar...gave me enough material to also understand her inspiring presence as much as her ideological shortcomings... I do need Kancha to lecture me on that... Mayawati ISN’T Gandhi, Ambedkar, Narayan Guru, Kabir, Salbega, Bhima Bhoi, not even the brilliant foot soldier Atmaram Rathod who wrote ‘Agyankosh’... and Rathod did not have to go school to write one,.. and he too is a people’s man… in fact Mayawati isn’t Kanshi Ram... the brilliant Kanshi Ram was one of the architects of the electrical bahujan identity through a very relevant and astute reading of micro narratives… yes Mayawati to me is a shark... Kancha or no Kancha, she is a shark to me… As a Kindle office help, my submission is let’s make this a Mayawati fan club issue...that is the ground reality...we don’t need to entertain informed criticism about her (informed criticism, not upper caste criticism). take care... Parnab

Saswat’s rejoinder Pritha, This debate also reminds me of the “Are we too black for Africa” issue, where we indeed came up with a black “superstar list”. I know because I was asked to write that piece. My black friends here were laughing at the innocence of that issue because

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they have certainly grown up beyond all the black celebrity thing. But they understand why it was an important list because Indians were perhaps not even initiated to their superstars. This is why it becomes important to highlight Dalit superstars to the mainstream Indian urban audience which remains uninitiated to Dalit achievements. If we can write about Ambedkar and can again celebrate Mahasweta Devi, then why hesitate to literally “introduce” actual living dalit superstars? Just because Dalit Panther poets have been “done to death” in EVERY dalit forum, “we need to grow up”? Grow up and go where? To Ambedkar and Mahasweta Devi? Parnab also mentions “Kancha” as a usual superstar. Is Kindle a dalit forum? How many of Kindle readers are well versed with the dalit superstar list, he has mentioned here? And superstar? Like who? Gandhi, the superstar? Tagore, the superstar? How many trees has Kindle destroyed to sing glories of Tagore? I mean...should I laugh or should I cry? Let’s just exoticise the Dalits and grow up? Does it even matter who these superstars are, or not? We are talking about the issues here which they have most prominently raised. Why Gandhi made an impact was not because everything he said was original but because he was the most recognised, symbolised “legend”. So we are happy to keep projecting our Gandhis and Tagores but when it comes to their usual suspects, they are superstars and we need to grow up. You see, I unequivocally agree with Parnab on every point he makes, but that is within the conversation between ourselves. When we extend the conversation to “include” the “other”, - in order to introduce to the Other to the rest of us, we have to be more sensitive than sensationalising their icons as sharks or dismissing them as superstars. As I wrote earlier, the oppressed always need their icons or, as Arun Shourie denounces them as “the false gods”. We folks, not so much. Privileged people often say “My parents” when they are asked about their heroes and inspirations. Oppressed people keep looking for someone larger than life. Ambedkar provides a clutch. Imagine why some dalits get so irate and take it personally if someone insults Babasaheb. Hell, whereas upper caste people were thinking ‘Aarakshan’ was a pro-reservation movie, dalits were demanding to ban it. We need to be sensitive about why is it that they need their heroes, even if there are so many imperfections. Why do we assume it is the role of Mayawati to make everything right in Dalit lives? She did not create Dalit problems. We created the mess and now comfortably we declare it to be “their” problem. Lastly, do you think Black Panthers or Malcolm X were accepted by all black people? Hell, no. They were always a tiny minority, although the most visible political voices. But imagine Huey Newton or Malcolm X being demonised (even rightly so, for their utter violent and conservative Islamic misdirections) - and that too by the white press claiming to project a progressive history of black struggle...Trust me, I am not making this up. It has happened numerous times in the past. In fact allow me to say this; it is the only approach the liberal white press has always taken up. Anyway I think by now you know where I stand on this issue. I will merely sound repetitive if I go on. If you asked me, the title of the issue could be “Upper Caste Sharks” and the issue could celebrate Mayawati’s rise as the only sign of progressivism in post-1947 India. Because, trust me that is exactly what I imagined you wanted Kindle to project when you first asked me to help structure the issue. Because, that would be truly different,and truly emancipator, a stance. But there I can see you smiling... Saswat.

Parnab writes to Saswat

Hi Saswat,

Just read your second email which Pritha shared... the internet lines in north east are a little choppy... have already written a response to the same mail which she read to me over phone...the mail reached late... servers here are more pathetic than our historic apathy to non romanticised necessary inclusion of micro-narratives. My apologies for being so tastelessly unfocussed… I need to read more, learn more, imbibe more, understand the dialectic and then attempt to construct even a decent attempt at replying... Pardon the inconvenience, the problem with the so-called artistes like me is we just react and reveal our lack of knowledge rant. Warm regards and in solidarity with the force, power and range of your responses now and always.

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Saswat replies

Dear Parnab,


No need for apologies because I have not taken any of your arguments as personal attacks on me nor do I think you ever intended them that way. Hypothetically speaking, if they were, then also I do not think we need to feel remorse about some fundamental and some not so fundamental disagreements among all of us. Besides, all of us are way overprivileged compared to the ones we are trying to write about. Even as a theatre activist with a slow internet connection, you are; even leading a life of anonymity on an obscure roach infested dingy apartment, I am. Our everyday life problems are so negligible that we can hardly afford to complain except to soothe bruised egos at best. Sure I get passionate about my stands on several topics in life, but I am constantly conscious of other exceptional privileges I am bestowed with. Apologies I do not deserve to receive. Thank you once again for writing to me. I shall always treasure your kind words and thoughts. As such, for me it is a big honour to be personally interacting with you, a hero of my time, for me and for my friends. love and regards, Saswat

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Illustration by Sumit Das


“WILL GET DESTROYED...” THOUGHTS ON DALIT FEMINISM By M. Swathy Margaret (First published in ‘Insight Young Voices’ magazine in March-April 2005 issue)

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am a Dalit-middle-class, University educated, Telugu speaking Dalit-Christian-Woman. All these identities have a role in the way I perceive myself and the worlds I inhabit. I, as a Dalit woman, primarily write for Dalit women, to uphold our interests. This statement of mine is necessary because if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others – for their use and to our detriment. This voice is not representative of all Dalit women. However, I know that my voice is important because it is the voice of a socially denigrated category, suppressed and silenced. My own self-perception and understanding as a Dalit woman, as a point of intersection/an overlap between the categories “Dalit” and “woman”, took shape in the University of Hyderabad when I enrolled there for my M.A. in English. I fell in love with the sprawling campus instantly. Some familiar-looking young men came to my aid in filling the endless forms and challans, saying they were from the Ambedkar Students’ Union. Hearing Ambedkar’s name, I knew I belonged there. However, it did not take me much to realise that they refused to see an equal intellectual comrade in me. Like the majority of men, they acknowledge a dalit woman’s presence as only fit for handing over bouquets to the guest speakers they invite for their meetings. At the most, she can give the vote of thanks. They do not consider her in important decisions or while writing papers. Later, I learned that excluding women from their committees was a deliberate policy they followed because they believed women’s presence would cause “problems” and come in the way of serious politics. Women inevitably mean “problems”, their sexuality being an uncontrolled wild beast waiting to pounce upon the unassuming dalit men in the movement. It is assumed that they divert the attention from the larger concerns of the movement. I was given a nice room in the corner of the wing in the Ladies Hostel. But the only thing was that it had remained unused for a couple of years despite being the best room in that wing, I was told. I did not ask why. Later I was told that it was the room where one Dalit woman Suneetha had hung herself from the fan, after continuous sexual exploitation and eventual rejection by a Reddy man, when the question of marriage came up. Some inquired if that fact scared me. The ghost that stared at me was not the thought of a hanging female body but own body which is Dalit and woman and is as vulnerable as Suneetha’s. The stories of Dalit women being used and thrown by upper caste men, told and retold by my mother, came back to haunt me. I also saw the urban, fluent-in-English, extremely confident women, who called themselves feminist, who I could hardly talk to. When I did talk to them, I was struck by their confidence, their go-get attitude. They do not seem to have a caste to be bothered about. In such an entirely new atmosphere, there was this pressure to prove yourself, to be a good student, a meritorious student. The task did not seem too daunting in the beginning. Why should it, when there was such a huge library and thousands

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of books at my disposal? As a student of English literature, I came to see some very touching literature by African American women writers. They provided me with the tools to explain my exclusion within the Ambedkar Students Association, my sense of distance from other feminists who were from upper castes, the eerie sense of alienation I felt in the classrooms and outside. They also gave me strength to remain myself without trying too hard to fit in any of these foreign structures. My association with other Dalit feminists on the campus gave me a sense of belonging. Our struggle for representation of women in the Students’ Union Body, on rotation basis, strengthened our collective self, that we were entitled too. All these empowering experiences began translating into my paper presentations and term papers, and in my readings of texts in the classroom. There was a corresponding dwindling in my grades. Asserting my position has always been important for me. Hence I have been learning to laugh at them (both my teachers and my grades). Dalit feminists share a definite sense of identification with many basic articulations raised by both the Dalit movement and the feminist movement. We have gained a lot from them. While it is important and strategically wise to form coalitions and build solidarity with other marginalised groups, it should be considered only when a movement is armed with a clear understanding of its own historicity based on the experience of oppression and discrimination. It is productive to keep in mind, the historical dialogue between different marginalised sections of people. Otherwise, there is the danger of Dalit women, their self-definition and their peculiar positioning in society being rendered invisible. For example, Dalit ideologues like Katti Padma Rao, Gopal Guru and Gaddar seem to be less sensitive to the internal patriarchy of Dalit communities. They maintain that all women are Dalits. Since upper caste women are not allowed to enter their kitchens and are treated as impure during their menstrual periods, they are also untouchables! Here “untouchability” is the ideal framework to fight against caste oppression, claims Gopal Guru. What Guru overlooks is that untouchability is a phenomenon that evokes various notions and images of bodies--bodies that are marked by their caste, gender, class, age, sexual orientation and other identities. And different bodies are ascribed different cultural meanings. Not all bodies possess even identities. Not all Dalit bodies are one, not all female bodies are one. They interact with each other, being caught in a complex web of intersecting identities. Dalit men, even those identified with the movement, do not want to see us as intellectuals. “You are a Dalit body, a Dalit female body. Why can’t I possess it? Why can’t I just come near you?” This happens at a very physical level. To prevent this, one of the strategies that I use, is to stay with upper-caste women as Dalit men do not dare express and behave in the same manner with them. In such a situation who am I closer to? The Dalit men, or the upper-caste women? Neither. This lack of understanding of this caste-gender dynamics is reflected in the works of some important upper-caste feminists like Volga, Vasantha Kannabhiran, Kalpana Kannabhiran, and Chhaya Datar, who feel that women of all communities and Dalits are both badly discriminated against


by the diku system, and therefore all women are Dalits! These intellectuals do not, for a moment, think of Dalits who are also women. Inspite of their awareness that women are divided along caste and class lines, they comfortably draw the analogy between “women” and “Dalits”. The social status of upper caste women has never been like that of Dalit men or women. Patriarchy, as it operates within and between different castes, is determined by the caste identity of individuals. Politics, based on difference, should be sensitive not only to the difference that matters to them, which they perceive as important but also to other differences. The aim of identity politics, like that of the feminists and Dalits, is to ultimately dissolve the crippling effects of these burdensome identities. Asserting an identity is to lay claim on the universal. This universalistic vision can be realised only with the analytical tools that Dalit feminisms provide with. They aim at actively participating in eradicating all forms of violence, intolerance, hierarchy and discrimination in society. An effective way of achieving this ideal is to take “difference” seriously and engage with the politics of difference. In 1855, Muktabai, a mang woman, wrote about the subjugation that the poor mangs and mahars, especially women, suffered at the hands of the upper castes. She points to how the mahars have internalized brahminical values and saw themselves as superior to mangs. Dalit women writers are sensitive to the differential treatment meted out to different subcastes and women within Dalit communities. Muktabai challenges the Brahmins to “try to think about it from your own experience”. We find that, according to her, “experience” has to be the basis of one’s understanding and analysis of the society. Brutal patriarchy, within Dalit communities, is one issue which repeatedly appears in Dalit feminist discourse. However, the views of Dalit male intellectuals on the negotiations between caste and gender are interesting. Ilaiah

compares patriarchy in Dalit and Hindu patriarchy and declares that the former is more democratic! How can any oppressive structure be democratic at all? He substantiates his argument by stating that certain customs like paadapooja (touching the feet) are not observed in Dalit families. He, of course, notices the fact that there are oppressive practices, like wife-battering, prevalent in the Dalit families. However, “the beaten up wife has a right to make the attack public by shouting, abusing the husband, and if possible by beating the husband in return.” The Dalit woman shouts back not because of “democratic patriarchy” but because of the socio-economic situation she is trapped in. The Dalit woman, more often than not, is dependent on her own labour. She labours outside her home from morning till evening. When she comes home, her husband will be waiting to snatch her hard-earned money, which is often the only source of income for the family. If she refuses to give him the money, the husband beats her up. The woman shouts back; in the process of resistance, she might beat him back. This is not because of democratic patriarchy in her family. There are certain debilitating stereotypes of Dalit families in general and Dalit women in particular, which mar a clear understanding of their location in Indian society. Our self-perception is crucial for building our politics. I appeal to young Dalit women not to get subsumed in the relatively macro-identities of mainstream progressive movements such as the male Dalit movement or the upper-caste feminist movement. It is only by retaining our unique voice within these movements that we can contribute meaningfully to these movements and benefit from them. Giving ourselves a separate space does not mean we want a complete break with these movements. (The title for this piece has been taken from a B.R.Ambedkar quote: “If you want to destroy a society, destroy its history and the society will get destroyed automatically. The title has not been chosen by the author but by Kindle as a thematic extension of this remarkably candid piece.”)

The Dalit woman shouts back not because of “democratic patriarchy” but because of the socio-economic situation she is trapped in. The Dalit woman, more often than not, is dependent on her own labour. She labours outside her home from morning till evening.

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e cannot pinpoint a date in the history of Dalit Movement when the first dalit raised his voice against the non-dalits. It is not well documented because most of the history we have belongs to the rich, elite upper castes and the ruling class of this world. There are thousands of men and women who stood against the caste system and dalit atrocities. It’s impossible to bring every name and movement into account. Here, we are trying to recall some important halts (since the first freedom struggle movement in India) of this centuries long struggle.

1870 - 1920



1822 - 1857

1873 Satyasodhak Samaaj was founded by Jyotiba Phule in Pune. It was the first movement which was founded by a poor dalit instead of the elite and non-dalits of those days.

First marriage without a priest took place under the guidance and supervision of Jyotiba Phule.

1848 In Pune, Mahatma Jyotirao Govind Phule started classes to educate dalits and women.

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Dalits actively participated in the freedom struggle movement.

Research and compilation by Panini Anand

Small initiatives of forming organisations and forums started taking place among dalits and backwards.

and some might be missing...


A journal named ‘Satsaar’ was published by Jyotiba Phule.

‘Jaati Bhed Vivek Saar’, a book about dalits and untouchables by Tukaram Tatya (a friend of Jyotiba Phule), was published. It was a revolutionary writing for its time.


For the first time, Indian Education Commission suggested that education should not remain the exclusive right of the rich and upper castes of the society.



On 5th Feb, The Chauri-Chaura case of Gorakhpur, UP took place. In a violent movement by Chamaars against the British rule and police, 22 policemen were killed. However, MK Gandhi called off his non-cooperation movement after this incident which prevented the dalit uprising of ChauriChaura to become a national uprising.

Jatav Men’s Association was formed in Uttar Pradesh. Later, in 1924, Jatav Pracharak Mandal was also formed.

1916 ‘Justice Party’ was


The Indian Review magazine began publishing articles on dalits in India; their social condition and untouchability. This forum helped bringing up a debate among the elite and intellectuals of the time.

Narayana Guru founded the Advaita Ashram. In 1921, a Conference of Universal Brotherhood was held here. Again in 1924, a conference of all religions was held.

1909 - 1911


1920 1917

After a big summit in Nagpur, on 21st March, the national convention of Dalits in Kolhapur was convened by Shahuji Maharaj. He announced that Ambedkar had the calibre to take issues of dalits at the national level.

formed by Dr. TM Nair and others in Madras.

Consecration of the Siva Lingam at Aruvippuram by Narayana Guru. His famous quote to the Brahmins who challenged his right to consecrate “I installed my Siva; not a brahmin Siva.”

Foundation year of the ‘Madras Association for Social Reformers’.Congress party didn’t help them in their cause.


1920 1920

1924 On 31st Jan, Dr. BR Ambedkar started a journal, ‘Mooknayak’.

1923 30th May-1st June: A three day event, ‘All India Conference for the victims of Social Ostracism’ in Nagpur.

1917 - 1918

During this period, three big dalit summits were organised in Bombay.

Gopal Krishna Gokhle formed an organisation named ‘Servants of India’. Its motive was to work for the education and social reformation of dalits and women.

Bharatvarshiya Koli Sudhaar Sabha was formed in Lahore. Later it spread to more than 20 cities in India.

On 30th April, the High Court convicted many in the ChauriChaura case; death sentence to 19 dalits, many were sent to Kaalaa Paani and many got life imprisonment.


MC Raja started the ‘Aadi Dravid Mahajan Sabha Andolan’ in Madras.


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Just after Vaikom Satyagraha, EV Ramaswamy Naicker ‘Periyar’ quit the INC and started the famous and historical ‘Self-Respect Movement’.

These were important years in the history of Dalit movement in India. 20th March, 1927- A satyagraha led by Dr. BR Ambedkar approached Mahad lakelet. They were attacked. More than 20 dalits were injured. In December, 1927, Ambedkar burned ‘Manusmriti’ and registered his protest.

Formation of ‘Prantiya Kori Yuvak Sangha’ in RaeBareli, UP. Youths from Agra province and Awadh participated in it. Later, this body was dissolved in ‘Kori Mahasabha’ of 1935.

Pune Pact, which gave reservation to dalits. This was the first time when Ambedkar emerged as a parallel personality to MK Gandhi. This was an historical victory for Ambedkar’s dalit movement.

Historical 14th national convention of Justice Party in Madras. More than one lakh people participated. Periyar was unanimously elected president in this convention. He was in jail that time.

Babu Jagjeevan Ram contributed to the establishment of the ‘All-India Depressed Classes League’. He was also drawn into the Indian National Congress the same year.


Vaikom Satyagraha in Travancore against untouchability.

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1932 1926 - 1927

1935 Historical speech by Dr. BR Ambedkar at the Round Table Conference in London, on 20th Nov. MK Gandhi opposed special provisions for Dalits.

1924 - 1925

1933 1925

Illustration by Sumit Das

Publication of ‘Bahishkrita Bharat’ started by BR Ambedkar.


1933 - 1934

‘All India Harijan League’ was formed by some nationalist harijan leaders in Lahore.

Ambedkar left Congress and started a political party, ‘Independent Labour Party’.


1942 Formation of the ‘India Scheduled Caste Federation’ in Nagpur.

Publication of ‘Prabudha Bharat’ started


Birth of the BAMCEF- All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation, on 6th Dec. 1978 The founder of BAMCEF was Kanshi Ram, who then gave the slogan - “pay back to the society”. He also formed ‘Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti’.


Kanshi Ram led the foundation of BSPBahujan Samaj Party.


Dr. Ambedkar announced the acceptance of Buddhism as his religion,on 14th Oct (also known as October Revolution).

After a two-decade-long struggle, Bairava Andolan started in Uttar Pradesh. Five men led this movement. 1968 They are called ‘Panch Pyaare’ of dalit movement. They are BhuraRam Naagarwal, BaaliNath Jaatav, Narayan Prakash Buhariya, RamLal Jaipuriya and Babulal Kamal. Formation of ‘Dalit Panthers’. Later, INC successfully broke them. They are also known for their contribution to the promotion of Dalit literature.


‘Republican Party of India’ was formed on 3rd Oct.


‘Akhil Bharatiya Bairava Rajput Sabha’ was formed. Later, Rajput was removed from its name. Their slogan was “leave traditional occupations”. This was a great success. Their summit in Indore, MP was historical.

1997 Udit Raj formed ‘The All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations’ on 2nd Oct.

1944 Justice Party was renamed as ‘Dravidar Kazhagam’.

2002 On 27th Oct, Udit Raj organised a conversion ceremony in which thousands of Dalits ‘converted’ to Buddhism and other religions.

2003 Udit Raj formed the Indian Justice Party.

2006 On the day of Vijaya Dashmi in Nagpur, thousands of dalits converted to Buddhism on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Ambedkar’s October Revolution. Same year, Kanshi Ram died after prolonged illness. Ms. Mayawati is the party supremo now.

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A protest against the ruthless beating of Manglaram Meghwal (in the leg braces) in Barmer, Rajasthan.



ordhan Balai is a dalit from Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. In a state, where pagdi (turban) is identified with pride, dignity and tradition, Gordhan’s pagdi was snatched by some goons from the Gurjar community and thrown into a flaming tandoor. He was warned that if he was ever found wearing the colourful turban (a self-proclaimed Gurjar style) again, he would be thrown into the fire. At the time of my writing this article, Gordhan is wondering whether all are equal in this country. He is one among thousands who have suffered attacks by non dalits in recent years. Take the case of the atrocity in Paali district of Rajasthan, where a dalit father was killed in Bollywood Jamindaar style revenge, in broad daylight in a crowded market, for naming his daughter Baisa (Baisa is the popular name for girls in upper castes, mostly Rajputs). In a feudal and caste-driven society, it’s only a book called the Constitution of India that gives hope and strength to the most tolerant section of our society. Beyond that, there is a complete vacuum; no political and social institutions are bothered about the pain and sufferings of dalits in the state. Studies reveal

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that the number of dalit atrocities has increased in the last 10 years. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, awareness and education among dalits have given them the courage to register cases against their harassment. Secondly, the claims for their rights have provoked the non-dalits. Thirdly, the upper castes have shifted their focus and presence to the urban and suburban settlements. They are focussing on education, jobs and trade instead of fighting for small pieces of land and resources, which are no longer the major means of growth for them. Look at the villages of Rajasthan- there is less scope for OBCs to fight and snatch power and resources from the upper castes. In most cases, the clashes are between Dalits and OBCs, who have obtained socio-political power in recent years. They are in businesses and controlling resources. To gain more power and wealth, they eye dalits as easy targets. In 80% cases of dalit atrocities, culprits are OBCs. The worst affected areas are the southern and the western parts of Rajasthan. OBCs react more brutally when they find dalits raising their voices and demanding their rights. The number of dalit atrocity cases has also increased because of the use of the SC/ST Atrocity Prevention Act, 1989, which is


one of the finest acts only on paper. In the last 10 years, the rate of punishments has been almost negligible. Almost 30 % of the cases have been registered through the courts, which shows that the system is still not good enough to help dalits register their cases and get the culprits punished. The state level monitoring vigilance committee has been constituted only twice in the last 20 years. According to its rules, Chief Minister is the head of this body but they hardly have any time to attend the meetings and take this job seriously.The biggest tragedy is that there is still no strong dalit movement in the state. The existing efforts are small and ineffective. In the 90s, the Kumer dalit atrocity case in the district of Bharatpur, Rajasthan became a turning point for the presentday dalit movement in the state. In Kumer, 19 dalits were burnt alive. This made dalits of the state rethink and group against attacks and harassment by non-dalits. But it was left to evolve and grow in small patches through the state and without the support of the political class; it didn’t take over and emerge as a powerful and effective dalit rights struggle. Efforts made by political representatives have done nothing for the social justice and welfare of dalits in the state. The reason is very clear. Today, there are 56 MLAs from dalit and tribal communities in the state assembly but most of them are puppets in the hands of mainstream political parties. They are not the real leaders of their communities; moreover, they are the dummies and robots controlled by the state and national level leadership (who are mostly non dalits) of the political parties. The case of Manglaram is one of the best and most recent examples for it. Manglaram is a dalit who comes from Bamnor village in Barmer district of Rajasthan. He applied for information regarding developmental works in his panchayat under the RTI act. His efforts to make the system accountable made the local body representative angry. Manglaram was beaten up publicly by goons hired by the sarpanch during the panchayat’s social audit. Today, he is unable to walk, having suffered multiple fractures in both legs. He sat on strike for 65 days in front of the local administration; he wrote to and met the Chief Minister of the state but nothing worked. No FIR has been registered against the sarpanch so far. In this whole clash, the local MLA, who is also a dalit, helped the other section instead of standing with Manglaram in his fight for justice. Manglaram says, if he would have been a real dalit leader, who came to power through a struggle for the dalit community, he might have not done this to him. One more case is from the Paali district where a young dalit, Mohan Meghwal tried to contest village body elections against the will of influential non dalits. He was brutally murdered. They first cut his body with swords and knives and then drove four-wheelers on his dead body. Some well funded NGOs have mushroomed over the years, but they see the whole issue as projects drawing funds. Now, how can we think about a big social movement and action for change through these parasitic efforts? The leadership that emerged in some areas is growing old and there are few fresh faces to take over. However, some dalit activists indicate that dalits have started sensing the need to get organised and stand up together. They give examples of the recent panchayat elections in the state where dalit candidates won 35 general seats. Among them, 17 were dalit women candidates.

The future of dalit struggle in Rajasthan looks critical. The stranglehold of OBCs is increasing day by day. The caste-based divide and hatred between the backwards and dalits are widening. Even tribals and minorities are not spared by OBCs. OBCs are more confident and power-blind because of their control over state politics. The whole drama, protests and uproar by them in the recent Bhanwari Devi case is a fresh example. They are loaded with money, muscle power and control over resources; their hunger for social status and respect is increasing. The dalit thinkers and activists believe that if dalits, upper caste and minorities stand up together, it would be an equalised fight, but then this might take some time; maybe a couple of years more. Even upper castes need to keep a check on the uncontrollable OBCs. Whether this works or not, the days are not easy for dalits in the state. After all who listens to the scream of the ants?

One more case is from the Paali district where a young dalit, Mohan Meghwal tried to contest village body elections against the will of influential non dalits. He was brutally murdered. They first cut his body with swords and knives and then drove four-wheelers on his dead body.

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How long is enough and when does one let go? Post Dravid’s retirement and the clamour for Sachin’s, Gautam Bhimani goes looking for answers.

Rahul Dravid’s retirement marks the end of an era in Indian Cricket.

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We all got an education In sportsmanship and stroke control Jammie’s cricket was a classroom Teachers let them kids all learn Hey! Teachers! Let them kids all learn! All in all in times of trouble thick came the wall All in all we really are gonna MISS you-- the wall.


hat was one of the many glowing tributes to Rahul Dravid post his retirement that found its way onto various social networking platforms (this one was sung to a tune we all know and was penned by yours truly!). But the mood, post the announcement, was living proof that Indian cricket fans are willing to let go. It is the players who find it hard to say adieu. As with their batting, timing is everything and for Rahul Dravid (who, of the three potential retirees, looked to have the most cricket left in him), the timing was perfect. He left on his own terms and when he would be missed, going by his amazing showing in India’s dismal Test summers in England and Australia. Rahul’s announcement was bound to open several cans of worms and it took me back to a few weeks earlier… another day, another city… A crisis was brewing (and there is no shortage of them in the sport), coming even before the marital spat between the BCCI and Sahara --- it was India’s blunder down under, that too hot on the heels of their botch up in ol’ blighty, amounting to 8 consecutive Test match defeats, most of them by embarrassingly heavy margins. The fallout, naturally, was the presence of a few “seniors” in the team being questioned and the jury (which in India is an alarmingly large one) was out. At the Kolkata Lit Fest, the prime target for the quotarazzi was former Pakistan Captain turned politician Imran Khan, who was unequivocal in his opinion. He said that if he had been part of a side that had lost 8 Tests in a row, that too in a manner in which they did, he would have quit the sport! While there are 3 ‘legends’ in question, a lot of the focus was on Tendulkar. Imran went on to say that the little Master ought to have hung up his expensive endorsed boots at the end of the unprecedented World Cup triumph in April. On a personal note, I completely endorse Imran’s views on Sachin. I was present at the Wankhede on that historic night, and minutes after MSD had planted the ball into the deep recesses of the stands , I stood on the turf at the presentation, with young Sara and Arjun Tendulkar alongside, and as I chatted with the two wide-eyed youngsters who had apparently realized that this was the one empty slot in their father’s trophy cabinet finally being filled, I remember thinking what a perfect time for Sachin to say thank you and goodbye to a sport that has made him an icon. Anyone with his plethora of achievements MUST leave on a high of similar magnitude. It was not to be and to make matters worse, he then went from match to match for a year with a statistical monkey on his back, until one marvellous night in Mirpur, when that rather pesky ‘primate’ was lifted off his shoulders. Even after the Mirpur magic moment, I secretly continued to wish that he would gracefully say goodbye on 99 hundreds, a

Bradmanesque sign of greatness tempered with human fallibility. It’s a chance he chose to pass up and he will have to look for the next opportune moment. Former England skipper Nasser Hussain knew all about opportune moments. He was one player who realised you need to exit and leave people wanting more. A batsman who knew his limitations and knew he was not in the class of a Tendulkar, Laxman or Dravid, but he still chose his moment, calling it quits, straight after scoring a hundred at Lord’s when he still had a bit in the tank. He also knew where his next calling was, as for the VERY NEXT Test match he was part of the commentary team, where he quickly attained a far greater following than he ever did as a player. Two other greats had fairly dramatic farewells. Anil Kumble, almost without warning, decided to call time, quite poignantly, at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, the scene of his 10-wicket haul against Pakistan. Just like the man, there was no fuss, no fanfare, just a sudden and clinical announcement on the evening of the 4th day of the 3rd Test against the Aussies. For Steve “Tugga” Waugh in 2003-04, it was anything but sudden. He announced before the series that it was to be his last and when the last Test at Sydney did come around, there were many fitting tributes. Crowds came in huge numbers to watch the great man play one final time, and on the last day, many in the crowd wore specially designed T-shirts that said “Tugga’s Last Stand” and authorities even distributed commemorative red handkerchiefs (Steve always carried one in his pocket a la Mohinder Amarnath). He bowed out in style. Very much in his comfort zone! Back to the crisis. VVS Laxman is certainly on borrowed time with enough people calling for his head, and now Tendulkar has yet another dilemma. Even if he wishes to retire, and the issue will now start to crop up post Rahul’s magnanimous departure, he cannot do so immediately for fear of a backlash that he was only waiting for the elusive record. The two remaining stalwarts in India’s terrific trio don’t really have the problem of looking at where their next meal will come from after retirement nor is there a shortage of middle order resources waiting- starting with Virat Kohli, who now has a Test hundred to his name along with two career defining one day knocks, the unlucky Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, S Badrinath or Manoj Tiwari. And despite all the supposed controversy surrounding his selection and his temporary ill health, Yuvraj Singh remains a strong contender for that number six slot, with all his experience. But despite all the opinions flying around, one thing has emerged pretty clearly. You can’t get rid of all of them at one go. Rahul has taken the lead, now it is up to Tendulkar and Laxman to phase out their exits and in the meanwhile, continue to play the role of guiding the new brigade, in what will be a transition phase for Indian cricket. When will it happen? It is going to be the collective product of the board, the selectors and some strong willed egos that need to be satiated before any harsh calls are taken. For the sake of Indian cricket, they need to be taken quickly and ruthlessly.

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Illustration by Soumik Lahiri

One’s pretty, the other’s fierce. One’s patient, the other’s fast. Both generate billions. EPL or La Liga? Shubham Nag tries to decide.



or long now, the English Premier League has been the most competitive league in Europe with the Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool vying for the title… It is also viewed as the league where no match against the minnows is a walk in the park, where every goal and every point has to be earned.

But La Liga boasts of the two best clubs in the continentBarcelona and Real Madrid.

So then, which is the better league? In recent times, owing to the dismal performances of the English clubs in the ongoing UEFA Champions League and Europa League, the EPL - La Liga debate has digressed to a more important question: How good is the premier league? A question that has been plaguing football forums across the globe, and adding fuel to the original

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inconclusive debate. While the existing notion about the Spanish league is it’s a twohorse race, the same can also be suggested about the EPL; the two teams being Manchester United and whichever team is bankrolled by a billionaire. In the last 3-4 seasons, EPL at the top of the table has become as imbalanced as the La Liga. It’s a myth that 4 or more teams compete for the top honours in the English league. There are hardly three competing for the 1st spot throughout the season. It is believed that the Premier league endorses a very physical brand of football where defences close down on forwards much quicker than other leagues (read La Liga- where players get more opportunity to display individual skills). But is that a fact? The best midfielders of the season in EPL, so far, are David Silva


and Juan Mata- both Spanish and both imported from La Liga. Both Mata and Silva have torn open defences with manoeuvring runs from either flank, repeatedly. While it is true that La Liga showcases a more patient and technical style of football, it doesn’t mean that the league is defensively fragile. Recent Champions & Europa League encounters between English and Spanish clubs will stand as testaments to this fact. Over the last decade, F1 racing, as a business, has grown so much that it has become difficult for F1 followers to convince the nonfollowers that it is actually a sport, and not business. You talk about precision, they talk about money. You talk about drivers losing 5 kilos a race, they talk about money. And now, you talk about football, they still talk money. Roman Abramovich’s oilrich cash has taken Chelsea to the elite level of club football in the last 9 years. He not only bought high profile players, but also built state-of-the art facilities and has turned Chelsea into a champion side. But on today’s date, his investments seem parsimonious compared to that of Manchester City’s owners who have splurged over £400 million in the past three summers. The premier league clubs share a total of £3.2 bn over broadcasting deals. While the distribution rights are more balanced among the EPL clubs, the gap between the top two and the rest in La Liga is ever widening, and thus the huge difference in quality of players available to them. This monetary situation of La Liga finds resemblance to the scenario in Serie A and Bundesliga as well. Thus, it makes the Premier League more stable and better in terms of TV revenue distribution. English clubs have always performed superbly in Europe with 3 or more clubs claiming a serious shot at the Champions League. But in recent times, this scenario too has changed. While the Galacticos and the Catalan giants dominate the European circuit, EPL doesn’t guarantee more than a couple of teams in the top

tier. While the Gunners are hugely inconsistent, Liverpool can forget about participating in this debate. Let’s not forget, in the past four years, Valencia, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal – all of them have gone past the group stages. That is at par with the ‘Fab Four’ of EPL, if not better. It’s true that the EPL still stands as the most fiercely competitive league with six teams in genuine contention for a Champions League berth next season. There are only five clubs from both the Serie A and Bundesliga in Champions League contention. But let’s look at La Liga. Based on the current La Liga table, there are 11 teams in contention for a Champions League spot. Experts and Pundits swore by the word that EPL is the most competitive league on earth because of the quality of players in the league. From the Rooneys, Drogbas to the Vidics and Terrys, they have some of the finest players of the world plying their trade in EPL. And now, for a reality check, let’s look at the FIFA Team of the year, 2011: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) Dani Alves (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerrard Pique (Barcelona), Nemanda Vidic (Manchester United), Xavi (Barcelona), Iniesta (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Messi (Barcelona), Rooney (Manchester United)-5 from Barca, 4 from Madrid and 2 from Manchester Utd. 9 of the 11 best players in the world play in La Liga, according to FIFA. While the EPL-La Liga debate has largely been in favour of the former for most of the last two decades, the times are changing. La Liga might be top heavy with Real and Barca, but that doesn’t make it a less competitive league. And even though the EPL churns out the most inconsistent table throughout the season, that doesn’t make it the most competitive.

You talk about precision, they talk about money. You talk about drivers losing 5 kilos a race, they talk about money. And now, you talk about football, they still talk money.

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Thousands of poor people die every year, yet the Indian government turns a blind eye to the fatal roof. Why? Asks Rohit Roy



slow and painful death is creeping through the nation. Asbestos – the essential roofing of the poor – is a silent and deadly killer. It causes lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis through a slow filling of the lungs with asbestos dust, leading to a painful existence and eventual death. The WHO estimates that more than 100,000 people die each year of asbestos related diseases. Yet, walk around any village or town (or even our cities) and an elevated view will reveal a sea of corrugated asbestos sheeting. The most vulnerable are those working in factories handling asbestos, but it also affects people using asbestos in their homes as a cheap substitute for roofing materials. In most cases this is a common demographic. The poor need asbestos and the poor work with asbestos. The poor are also silent sufferers. The deadly nature of asbestos is common knowledge in the developed world. Several nations have completely banned the use of the material, most notably of the EU, Japan and Australia. In the late 90s, the European Commission and Canada even had a standoff at the WTO regarding France’s ban on asbestos products. Weirdly, Canada is another country where the use of asbestos is banned.

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The Canadian government has spent vast amounts of money to remove the material from its environment. Yet, in the international trade of asbestos, the hypocrisy of the Canadian government is absolutely criminal. Canada is one of the world’s larger exporters of this deadly material and its clientele consists mostly of developing nations like India. It would seem that, to the Canadian government, consideration for human life is limited only to its own people, and international responsibility is but a farcical concept. Yet, why blame a foreign government that is looking out for its businesses when our government is shockingly apathetic to the welfare of its own people? One of the excuses, used by Canada, to justify asbestos export is that it is legal in India. One, then, wonders why a material, which is so comprehensively vilified in international markets, is still allowed to flourish in such alarming quantities and with so little regulation, in a country where income differences and an uncontrollable population, increases the associated risks manifold. Very few people in India are aware of the dangers stemming from asbestos use. Asbestos regulation is, at best, pretence. Factories are under-regulated and health and safety norms are hardly implemented, regularly flouted or at times even non-existent. Stories have emerged

of abandoned open mines seriously affecting the population of surrounding villages. Rural doctors are so ill-informed about the effects of asbestos that villagers are very often misdiagnosed. Even in cities, factory workers and families have alarming experiences of deteriorating health conditions and death. Why is the government not doing anything? Has it now come to the point where even a full blown catastrophe cannot motivate it to take action? Is this again a case of government incompetence that we Indians are so used to, or is there a more sinister reason behind the silence and ignorance? Mining lobbies and the mining mafia come to mind. Given the recent incidents concerning the mining mafia in the country, it is not a big leap of imagination, to think there is big money being made at the expense of the expendable poor. The proliferation of asbestos use is not just an environmental hazard. It is also nothing short of a human rights violation. To knowingly allow the use of a material, that regularly kills millions, is criminal negligence. To allow our country to be used as a dumping ground for such materials, by other nations, is shameful. But most importantly, to watch our people die of a preventable cause and do nothing about it is a heinous crime worthy of comparisons to the Holocaust.

Nidhi Dugar Kundalia unravels the perils of our urban life and dwindling biodiversity






esides contributing to the world’s Satanic consciousness with nuclear fission, jet engines and atomic warfare, World War 2 had doled out an era of synthetic chemicals. More than 80,000 chemicals initially created from petroleum and coal tar for warfare, quickly made their way to food, water and cleansing products. One such nocuous concoction is the wood polish. Prepared mostly from petroleum distillates and refined from crude oil contain nitrobenzene, it is easily absorbed through the skin and extremely toxic. Coughing, vomiting, pulmonary damage, chemical pneumonia and death are the most common effects of nitrobenzene inhalation. Long-term exposure has been tied to lung cancer, immune and central nervous system disorders. Incredibly, the largest number of occurrences of poisoning in the past decade was due to cleaning products, according to reports by Indian Medical


Association. Solutions: 1. Minimise use of harsh chemicals. Clean spills and stains immediately, remove food waste promptly and keep home moisture/humidity down to 3050%. 2. Store all cleaning agents in their original containers out of the reach of children. Follow the directions on the label and use only the amount of product recommended 3. Try using a homemade or commercial organic wood polish instead- Combine two or three tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar with a few drops of olive oil, jojoba oil, or food grade linseed oil (avoid hardware store linseed oil as it contains wood-drying and toxic petroleum distillates). Dip a recycled dusting cloth into the mixture and use on wood surfaces to clean, polish, and lubricate the wood.


NILGIRI LANGUR Scientific Name: Trachypithecus Johnii Population: Approx 15000 Status: Vulnerable


n spite of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Nilgiri Langurs, popularly called the Black Leaf Monkeys, continue to be gunned down for preparation of crude medicines. Prior to the Act coming into force, these primates were callously hunted to the brim of extinction. Often spotted encroaching farms and fields for their daily supply of fruits, shoots and leaves, the Langurs become easy targets of poachers who export their fur. The flesh is transmogrified to a popular aphrodisiac, Karingkorangu Rasayanam. Habitat destruction, which includes construction of hydroelectric projects, is another threat to the primates, according to a studbook compiled by Wildlife Institute of India.

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KINDLE ENT Critical Reflective Journalism




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Arts & Culture

KISS KISS BHANG BHANG This month a missile, of a different kind, triggers Thomas Crowley to train his looking glass on the festival of colour! What colours does he find?

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o be honest, I got the idea for this column when I was hit by my first water balloon of the Holi season. Miraculously, I made it until the day before Holi before this projectile exploded across my chest. (As a foreigner riding around on a bicycle – wearing a geeky white helmet at that – I was certainly an appealing target and drew my share of balloons. The kids in my neighbourhood just have bad aim.) My shirt dripping wet, my skin stinging, I began grumbling about the punk kids these days and the secularised festivals that are being forced onto everyone. My initial view of the festivities was not so jaundiced. My first exposure to Holi was literary. Towards the beginning of Vikram Seth’s massive tome ‘A Suitable Boy’, a brilliant set-piece depicts the Holi celebrations in the fictional town of Brahmpur in the 1950s. In the book, everyone has a grand old time as normal relations and hierarchies are subverted; bhang is consumed, a pompous professor is doused in water, harmless flirting takes place, Hindus and Muslims enjoy ghazals together. This idealised picture of Holi is also reflected in the festival’s Wikipedia page – certainly not the most accurate source of information, but a good gauge of popular perceptions. According to Wikipedia, then, “One of Holi’s biggest customs is the loosening strictness of social structures, which normally include age, sex, status, and caste. Holi closes the wide gaps between social classes and brings Hindus together. Together, the rich and poor, women and men, enjoy each other’s presence on this joyous day.” In this view, Holi takes its place amongst ancient festivals like Saturnalia, as well as more modern ones like Carnival, in which – at least for a day – power dynamics are reversed and the tensions of society can be released. My first Holi in India (Pune, to be precise) confirmed this picture of the festivities. As I made my way to a friend’s Holi party, kids from the basti near my house giggled as they doused me in water and threw colours. These kids lived on the margins of society, but on Holi they had a chance to ambush the tall pale foreigner

The rich uncles or imposing sardars were never made to dodge balloons; their high status was never questioned. Instead sabzi-walas and scrawny school kids had to run the gauntlet of multi-story flats, each balcony hiding potential artillery.

revealing the crime. Indeed, the family hardly sees it as a crime, as the maid is – in their eyes – hardly worthy of defense. Not only is she a woman, but she is from a lower socio-economic background.

they always saw walking through their neighbourhood.

But these days, even Bollywood has grown disenchanted with Holi, no longer using it as a muse. As I had once idealised Indian festivals, now Bollywood has begun dreaming of the wild celebrations in NRI-friendly countries. The hugely popular ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ is perhaps most famous for its portrayal of La Tomatina festival, which – like Holi – centres around the throwing of brightly coloured objects. But for this event, the objects in question are ripe tomatoes: Holi in monochrome. And the Spanish location gives it a glow of exoticism and “First World” glamour.

This year, in Delhi, I began to realise that the event was not, perhaps, as subversive as I had first thought, at least not in this sprawling megacity. I was still being targeted, but it was precisely because I was an outsider, not part of the normal social structure. I could be splashed and sprayed without fear of retribution. The rich uncles or imposing sardars were never made to dodge balloons; their high status was never questioned. Instead sabzi-walas and scrawny school kids had to run the gauntlet of multi-story flats, each balcony hiding potential artillery. And then there’s the whole gender dimension to the festival. Far from overturning the standard patriarchy, Holi all too often gives licence to all sorts of eve-teasing, harassment and molestation. In Delhi University women’s hostels, the girls are literally locked inside to protect them from the marauding masses. (In the boys’ hostel, they get bhang, while in the girls’ hostel, they get Domino’s pizza.) Even Bollywood has recognised that the very thing that makes Holi exciting – the loosening of boundaries – also leaves room for lurking danger and aggression. Most disturbing is the Holi scene from ‘Damini’, in which the title character witnesses the rape of her maid by her brother-in-law. Afterwards, she is pressured not to hurt the family by

The Bollywood thriller ‘Darr’ also includes a prominent, and unsettling Holi scene, as stalker Shah Rukh Khan takes advantage of the free-wheeling atmosphere of celebration to enter Juhi Chawla’s house. Again, Holi’s supposed freeness gives space, not for playful boundary-breaking, but for violent trespasses. Of course, it’s not just gloom in Bollywood; the idealised Holi gets some exposure too. In ‘Mangal Pandey’, this historical hero shows us the joys of Holi, and – reaching back into Bollywood history – Saudagar features the reconciliation of two sworn enemies during Holi festivities.

For the cream of the crop still stuck in India for Holi, they must make do with their own exclusive parties- far from the societal free-for-all envisioned by Wikipedia, Delhi Holi celebrations are strictly bound by class. Towards the top of the social ladder are the parties held in south Delhi’s lavish farmhouses, with entry charges starting at Rs. 1000. Within the high gates of the farmhouse, with live music and plenty of food and drink, the revellers are encouraged to forget the larger world outside. As for me, I stayed at home for Holi this year, enjoying the shrieks outside while enjoying a leisurely coffee within. Which still didn’t stop me from getting soaked by a carefully aimed balloon when I peeked out my front door to see what all the fuss was about.

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t 128 pages, ‘A Gardener in the Wasteland’ attempts a very ambitious sweep to pull off a graphic rendition of Jyotiba Phule’s ‘Gulamgiri’ (1873) and nearly pulls it off. It is needless to say that this work must be in your bookshelves and that you should buy more than one personal copy and gift to others. Having said this, the book stops short of being the single most important signpost in the sub-genre of Indian graphic novel because Srividya Natarajan’s wordplay and her choice of scenario to distill Phule’s thought is not able to match the minimalist starkness of Aparajita Ninan’s luminous drawings. What does the book attempt to do? It aims to bring us the basic polemics of Phule’s ‘Gulamgiri’ in visual form. Our usual take on ‘Gulamgiri’ is that it rips open the mask of Brahmanical tyranny, both in terms of manufacturing of

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history and using that to justify a number of cold blooded, well-planned and structured injustices meted out to Dalits (shudras and atishudras). But it is much more than that. It is almost a theatre dialogue between Jyotiba and Dhondiba, that is richly layered with sub-texts popping up, fading out, popping up, moving forward, backwards, entering a sentence, bending a sentence and at times even assaulting a sentence. In the playful quality of that conversation, Phule does not lose sight of the Brahmanical imperialism and British colonial instincts and that is what makes this text rare. For example, in the original book, there is a portion in which Phule says: “Our noble government seems to have adopted the policy of trimming their sails to the prevailing wind. You see, because of the prohibition of untouchability, all doors of employment have been closed for atishudras. So naturally they resort to theft as a strategy for survival...”


Years later on the floor of the parliament as this nation was being declared a sovereign and democratic republic, Jaypal Singh Munda thundered: “As a jungle, as an adibasi, I am not expected to understand the legal intricacies of the resolution. But my common sense tells me that every one of us should march in that road to freedom and fight together. Sir, if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated, it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for 6000 years. The history of the Indus Valley Civilisation, a child of which I am, shows quite clearly that it is the newcomers-most of you here are intruders as far as I am concerned-it is the newcomers who have driven away my people from the Indus Valley to jungle fastness...” Even later, JP was grappling with his definition of Sarvodaya where the goal should be satvik samjvad (socialism by the path of truth) as opposed to tamasik samajvad (dark-violent socialism) and rajasik samjvad (state sponsored socialism). And much like Phule and Jaypal Singh Munda, JP also became irrelevant in our national aims and promises (of course, this trio is much feted but never followed). The tone of this graphic rendition is too simplistic (the opposite is not over-complexity but at least accessibly nuanced) and could have captured the politicality of the banter and not just its conversationality. The book, of course, has its moments, whether it is menstruating Brahma, or a reference to dalit children rescued in Tamil Nadu, or the dismantling of the myths of ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, one by one. There is a constant bridge between the past and the present (though references like Navayana’s own fellowship for publishing is highly avoidable) and that is important because the analysis couched in banter that Phule expounds concerning a host of subjects, especially the state of education, is relevant even now.

By Aishwarya Subramanian


or most of human history, we have known very little about space – for that matter, we still know very little. Dreams of space travel once focussed primarily on the moon, the heavenly body most visible to the naked eye. But then telescopes were invented and we began to learn more about the planets, our knowledge growing with improving technology. In the 1870s the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered a strange feature on the surface of Mars – the appearance of straight lines. He called these “canalli”, or “channels”. When Schiaparelli’s findings were translated into English, the relatively innocent “canalli” was translated as “canals”, the latter word carrying the connotation that these

With black paint and dry pastels as her means of execution, bold lines, a new typeface called joti and some very astute use of recurrent motifs, Aparajita Ninan is a new talent whose work we shall await in future. Her drawing retains the starkness of the situation yet accentuates an understated flourish here and there to give us an idea of the extent of Brahmanical machismo and the politics of caste devised and executed by the self-appointed arbiters of divinity. We are in interesting and exciting times, whether it is Kazuki Ebine’s ‘Gandhi: A Manga Biography’ or Navayana’s ‘Bhimayana’, or Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s ‘Delhi Calm’, the dialectic, the mechanics and the ideologues behind what is being political in India, is finding it’s way into the graphic novel segment. This is a vastly neglected area and it would be wonderful to see subjects like Gandhi in Noakhali, Mahad satyagrapha, the Dalit panther movement of Maharashtra, J. C. Kumrappa, Periyar, Thakkar Bapa, Narayana Guru, D.D Kosambi, Annabhau Sathe, Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago address, Tagore’s letter returning the knighthood after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Phule’s other classic, Sarva Janik Dharma Pustak (published in 1891) and so many other flashpoints of history. By becoming subjects of graphic works, print installations, visual treatments or even printed flicker books, the visual vocabulary associated with these incidents will enter our mindspace rather than the academic theorisation that tends to define a much skewed notion of ground reality. Navayana has produced and curated a very interesting mix of books and with this publication, one hopes that it continues to expand its graphic series repertoire. For a nation of images, sub-images, image-fragments, many of these need articulation, yet remain rooted to its vocabulary. That difficult tightrope work has begun for Navayana, and I am sure they would be at it.

Edgar Rice Burroug ghs lines were man- (or Martian-) made. This was probably the reason behind the sudden flowering of fiction about Martians at the turn of the twentieth century. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘A Princess of Mars’ is one such work of fiction, published in 1912. It tells of John Carter, a former Confederate soldier and now gold prospector who, while fleeing from savage apaches (racial sensitivity is not one of the strong points of this book), stumbles into a mysterious cave and, in an incomprehensible series of events, has an out of body experience and is transported/astrally projected to Mars.

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Carter’s early hours on Mars do at least pay lip service to the fact that it would be difficult to survive on a planet other than one’s own. He has trouble adjusting to the difference in gravity, and does not speak the language of the natives – Mars, or Barsoom, is home to various species of aliens but they share a common tongue. This state of affairs does not last for long. Soon enough, he is adopted by the four-armed green Martians (known as the Tharks), and it seems a matter of days before he has mastered their language, and begun to rise in their ranks. If all this seems something of a cliché, it’s because ‘A Princess of Mars’ is one of the founding texts of the genre. It’s also why Carter is the least interesting thing about this book.Things get a lot more fun when the titular princess, the humanoid DejahThoris of Helium, shows up. In what is a rather scattered plot, Carter and Dejah Thoris escape, bring down a rival ruler, and unite the green and “red” (humanoid) Martians. Yet the plot isn’t really that important. What makes ‘A Princess of Mars’ work is Barsoom itself – a dying planet with a failing civilisation. We’re told very little of the history of Barsoom. We learn that there were once more humanoid races; that, like Earth, Mars once had seas. We’re told almost

nothing of the strange old men who operate the machinery that keeps the Martian air breathable. It’s easy to see why in ‘John Carter’, Andrew Stanton’s 2012 adaptation of the novel, the director should have chosen to jettison most of the plot, cobbling together a new one and focusing on the visual depiction of the planet. Because ‘A Princess of Mars’ isn’t really a very good book, but Barsoom? Barsoom is glorious.

By Aditya Bidikar

Written by Joann Sfar; Illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert Published by First Second Books


oann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert are two of France’s best-regarded graphic novelists, both individually and together. They are perhaps best known for their collaboration on the children’s comic book series ‘Sardine in Outer Space’, written by Guibert and illustrated by Sfar. First Second, an excellent publisher responsible for bringing some legendary French creators to the notice of the English-speaking world, has unearthed their first book together – a short graphic novella called ‘The Professor’s Daughter’. For this early book, their roles were switched, so ‘The Professor’s Daughter’ has Sfar’s whimsical melodrama at its core and is illustrated in Guibert’s delicate watercolours. London in the 19th century. Lillian, the daughter of Egyptologist Professor Bowell, takes the mummy Imhotep IV from her father’s collection for a day out. He gets high on tea. A couple of accidental murders later, all the mummies in London are arrested. Another mummy kidnaps the Queen of England. Large sections of the plot are bizarre and unexplained, and the story in general embraces the ludicrous. But the scripting effortlessly draws us into this mirror-world of Victorian London, while the characters and the humour keep us reading. There is a strange subtlety at work here, which doesn’t let us question

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any of the premises for too long. At the same time, the writing is confident, mature, and on par with some of the most excellent Franco-Belgian comics I have read. The illustration almost surpasses the quality of the writing. Emmanuel Guibert is generally (and deservingly) regarded as a master. He experiments relentlessly in his work, but has rarely had any of his experiments fail on him. Be it pen and ink, watercolours, or his wonderful new technique of water-painting, he gives each of his books its own unique identity. His grasp of the technique is so complete that each and every panel in this book shines. I would gladly hang half the pages on my wall if I could only afford them. I have read a few of their other books, both solo and collaborative. While all of them are excellent and each is worthy of applause, none of them come close to matching the easy brilliance of ‘The Professor’s Daughter’. Together, they have crafted a work that is distinct from any other you might read. It has a melancholic mood behind the humour that will at once enthral and unsettle you. But above all, this book is very funny, and uses both words and pictures to communicate this humour. This is possible only because both creators have faith in each other and are not trying to upstage one another. It’s a harmonious project that feels like the work of a single creator. And for a comic book, there is little praise higher than that.


KINDLE ENT Critical Reflective Journalism





RIDGE & ROOF CO. (I) LTD. (B&R), a Miniratna Category-I Company, was awarded ‘Best Turnaround CPSE of the Year 2011’ by Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Govt. of India and Indian Chamber of Commerce. The Award was conferred by Secretary, DPE during a ceremony held at New Delhi. B&R is a Central Public Sector Undertaking under the Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. The Company undertakes all types of Civil and Mechanical Construction, Highways, Turnkey Contracts, etc. At present B&R is working at around 58 project sites all over India, for all major Public/ Govt. Sector and various Private Sector Clients. It has recently bagged orders in diversified activities such as Civil Work of BOTI Package at Kakrapar Atomic Power Project of Nuclear Power Co., Dahej SEZ Cross Country Pipeline for Gujarat State Petronet and Power House, Boiler at Power Plant of Haldia Energy Ltd.

Secretary, DPE handing over the trophy to Shri Mukesh Jha, CMD, B&R B&R achieved highest ever Turnover of `. 1333.49 Crores during the year 2010-11 with an unprecedented PBT of `. 87.09 Crores, earning the Company an ‘EXCELLENT’ Rating from the MoU Division of DPE again. TM

KINDLE ENT National Award Winning film-maker Onir will be present at the fest.

Critical Reflective Journalism





DGE is the annual Tech Fest of Techno India, Salt Lake conducted by its Science & Technological club , GEEKONIX . The fest Techno India is organizing its annual technical festival, EDGE ‘12 on the 6th, 7th and 8th of April 2012, the largest of its kind in Kolkata. EDGE consists of a plethora of highly challenging competitions from different facets of engineering like robotics, electronics, programming, gaming and pragmatic thinking, providing a platform. that encourages application and innovation among the competitors. The main attraction of the event is the Panel Discussion that’ll be between students and eminent personalities. The Panellists include Mr. Onir (National Prize Winner for best film, I AM) & Mr. Chris Philips (Illusionist Artist , Imperial College , London ) and other eminent personalities . With students and professionals participating in our fest from all over India, this year marks the sixth edition of the fest. KINDLE is proud to be the official Magazine partner of the event.

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One of the very few in contemporary Indian cinema, to carve out his distinct niche, Vishal Bharadwaj opens up on influences, critics, piracy and more.By Sayan Bhattacharya.

How is ‘Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola’ shaping up? You know, the title is not yet finalised... I have never announced it. The working title has been leaked, and it might change. So, is this an original script or based on some text? I don’t want to talk about it because it is too early. Ok, then Iet’s talk about your last release, ‘Saat Khoon Maaf ’. Now that it’s a year since its release, what do you think went wrong? Both the box office and critics were cold... That I actually don’t know. Because for me, the film still works. I can’t analyse critics. I think the one basic thing which didn’t work with them was, they didn’t buy the character. They took it too seriously, and maybe I made it too seriously. Because it was supposed to be a black comedy. And they were looking for a justification... why is she killing the husbands? There is an explanation towards the interval where the butler explains – ki woh, jab bachpan mein school jaati thi, to ek kutta raaste mein padta tha. Woh chahti to raasta badal leti, par woh raasta nahin badli, usne kutte go goli se uda diya - she doesn’t change her ways. So I thought it was subtle, but it was there. The critics didn’t get emotionally invested into the character. Maybe, as director, I could not achieve that comic tone. I think, all your films, apart from ‘Blue Umbrella’, have this

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dark undertone. You explore the underbelly of society, there is this noir-ish feel. And then you also punctuate these dark moments with a lot of beautiful romantic moments. Take us through this recurring motif. Maybe that has got something to do with my own character, with my own texture because I must be having that darkness within me, and that romance within me. Actually onscreen, the filmmaker becomes naked emotionally. So, other people can hide their emotions but a filmmaker cannot... So, then, when you are making a children’s film – I won’t talk about ‘Makdee’, because even within the parameters of a children’s film, it was dark - but if you talk of ‘Blue Umbrella’, , how does Vishal Bharadwaj curb his dark side and make an innocent fable? But even ‘Blue Umbrella’ had dark elements (laughs). Pankaj Kapur’s character, when he becomes completely lonely and, he is not able to light the fire, the kids are calling him names, you know, that he is a thief and all – I think there was a little darkness in that. And the way that girl leaves – I made that film for the climax, because the girl said, “This doesn’t belong to me anymore”. That really hit me in the heart. What have been your cinematic influences from world cinema, from Indian cinema? I think the works of Kieslowski, he is my favourite. I want to


achieve that kind of...I haven’t been able to reach that. What aspect of Kieslowski draws you? Two things. Finding conflict and drama in very normal lives - extraordinary conflict in ordinary lives. That was his mastery because if you want to create extraordinary drama and conflict between characters, we turn to the underworld; we turn to politics, or the underbelly, like the Westerns. But there, he would have an extraordinary conflict in a doctor’s life or a normal middle-class husband and wife, and that is so engrossing, it hits you in the gut. So the treatment; the violence of his emotions is conveyed so subtly. The approach. The attitude. It’s so subtle, it’s so spaced out, I mean, you know the character is going to jump off the bridge, but she is so slow, she is walking there, and you are hooked to that. You don’t need to have a background score. That is the mastery of Kieslowski. And apart from Kieslowski? Quentin Tarantino. The pop-cultural pastiche that he creates... The characters that he creates, the maddening characters – I love that. And the way he writes his dialogues – he will start with a burger and they are talking about sauce, they’re talking about the cheese. And, oh God, I mean he is a master, he gets Hitler killed! He changed history! And his violence is so romantic. I love that. The last year saw a number of small films, independent cinema, that is, not doing well- say a film like ‘Mirch’, or ‘I Am’, as opposed to a big film like ‘Bodyguard’. So what’s your take on the direction that our Hindi film industry is taking? I think we are in the best of times right now, as far as the history of the Indian film industry is concerned, because there is a space for ‘Bodyguard’ and ‘Dabangg’ and there is space for films like ‘Udaan’, or ‘I Am’ can be released, or ‘Mirch’ can be released. And you have an audience for any kind of film. You can express yourself. It was not possible when I started out. It took me so long to make and then release ‘ Maqbool’ . Now, anybody can make anything – ‘Sahib Biwi aur Gangster’ would not be possible in 2003-04, there were hardly any multiplexes, people didn’t believe in that kind of cinema. We keep hearing about a lot of projects that you are supposed to start like ‘Two States’, and then t of course the ‘Hamlet’ adaptation, so what’s happening on those fronts? I have to do ‘Hamlet’, that I am sure of. ‘Two States’ though... you know, you come across so many works – so many stories and novels that for some time you consider and they don’t work out, you move on. I was wondering – Chetan Bhagat and Vishal Bharadwaj is sort of a paradox... Yes, I was also told, but I didn’t see it from that point of view that I am taken so seriously by my fans and my critics. They

think of me as a high-class intellectual, which I am not. I love ‘Amar, Akbar, Anthony’ and those kinds of films, which I have grown up watching. And there is some really nice detailing about the South Indian community, which actually attracted me. And then my take on the love story would have been different. Are you aware that Suman Mukherjee, the Bengali filmmaker, is working on ‘Hamlet’? His working title of the film is ‘Prince of Metiabruz’ and he’s casting Arunoday Singh. No, I don’t know. But there was a ‘Hamlet’ made in Kerala also, recently. Every take will be different. Is the sequel of Ishqiya on the cards? Yes. It’s called ‘Dedh Ishqiya’. And the casting, we keep hearing about Madhuri and Kangna being cast... Naseer and Arshad are there. We have approached Madhuri, she has agreed in principle but we have to give her the final script, and based on that, she will decide. And will you be doing the music for the sequel as well? Yes. That is why I began as a director, so I can employ myself as a music composer (laughs)! As a producer, what kind of films do you really feel kicked about – the films that you want to back? I don’t want to back anything now. I want to back the films I want to make. For Abhishek Chaubey (of ‘Ishqiya’), I will keep producing, because he is like my younger brother, but I am producing one more film called ‘Dayan’ by an old friend, Kanan Iyer. That is my last film as producer- after that I will be just producing films for myself and Abhishek Chaubey. What’s your take on piracy? There is this idea that piracy supports small cinema, the ones that do not get distributors... That is absolute rubbish. Without piracy, you could make small films with a better budget. Piracy of your own films in your own country- it’s criminal. I mean, we are suffering because of that. If piracy is stopped, the revenues will go to some other level!

Actually onscreen, the filmmaker becomes naked emotionally. So, other people can hide their emotions but a filmmaker cannot...

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50 directors


Sayan Bhattacharya recommends

must-watch movies

to watch before you die

from around the world Film: Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine (2000) Dir: Bahman Farmanara Country: Iran


xploration of the profound through the quotidian, a docufiction style of narrative or examining child psyche… these are some of the recurrent motifs that come to mind when one talks of Iranian cinema. To that end, our film of the month breaks convention. Some extraordinary incidents at the very outset and the viewer is sucked into the life of protagonist, filmmaker Bahman Farjami (played by the director himself ). On his way to the cemetery- to be with his wife on her fifth death anniversary- he meets a young woman with a still born baby. On his way back, he realizes that the young woman had left her dead foetus behind. The smell of death, decay and ruin is almost a tangible presence, an imposing, overpowering presence, right from the opening Act of the film, divided into three acts. The young woman is almost a throwback to the Grim Reaper of ‘The Seventh Seal’.

And then it’s not just about a day but about livess that become l barren. After the Revolution off 1979, Bahman hasn’t received a go ahead to make a film for 24 years. He says more than death, what he is afraid of is a futile life. For if a filmmaker cannot make films or a writer cannot write, what else is death? With nothing to look forward to, Bahman takes up the offer of making a documentary on funeral arrangements in Iran and in a way it is also his passage towards the inevitable. He meets actors who have been banned, technicians who look after tea houses and another despondent and nostalgic journey begins… But just when the smell of camphor (that is rubbed on the dead and hence a smell that Bahman dreads) becomes all too pervasive, there is a sharp yet seamless turn. In an astute nod to Fellini, Bahman dreams his own death, the death he had been scripting. But the flowers he detested adorn his room, the mourners are in black, the same people who hadn’t protested when he wasn’t allowed to make a film. He can’t call the shots anymore. So faced with a dead end, where do you go, what do you re-visit? The fragrance of jasmine, the sweet perfume of your mother…the beauty and the joy of living. To keep striving, engaging even against all odds. ‘Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine’ is not only an autobiographical film (Bahman Farmanara too faced censorship) but what stands out is its honesty, the simplicity of its message. On one level, as we read the obits of MF Hussain, it is not just enough to mourn his loss but to constantly celebrate what is brushed out of the frame and on the other, it is an ode to life in all its shades.

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lexandre w a l k s silently as the yellow jackete d technicians climb up the poles installing telephone lines… a long shot of the line, of the men… the age of communication, interconnectivity in a global village… yet a paradox in a waiting zone where nameless, faceless immigrants stare at a future of nothingness, of silence, of obliteration of their histories. Or take the scene of the amputated hand being airlifted from the sea reflecting the rootlessness of the brother and sister, on the journey to find their father. In film after film, Theo Angelopoulos created visual poetry. Long shots, tracking shots, takes that often last for more than minutes, languid pan movements… Angelopoulos wove sprawling epics on screen that settle under your skin. Not one to follow neatly etched out narratives or well fleshed out characters, he was more concerned with capturing the aftermath, the spaces where characters walk in and walk out. He said in an interview, “If I were asked to define my cinema, I would call it a cinema of dead spaces sandwiched between times when things take place.”

More than events what concerned him were the ideological moorings, the politics and the philosophical and mythical implications of an event. Most importantly, he explored the image like very few could. This year while he was filming the third film in his trilogy on contemporary Greek history, he was fatally injured in an accident. An untimely and tragic loss but his creations remain to haunt, to provoke, to disturb… Recommended viewing: The Dust of Time (2009), Eternity and a Day (1998), Landscape in the Mist (1988), The Beekeeper (1986)

Illustration by Suvam Dey Sarkar and Sumit Das



n a 1962 interview, Vladimir Nabokov said, “I am probably responsible for the odd fact that people don’t seem to name their daughters Lolita any more. I have heard of young female poodles being given that name since 1956, but of no human beings.” It is hardly difficult to see why, considering the connotations the name had acquired by then and the way the name ‘Lolita’ became instant shorthand for a sexually precocious, almost adultlooking teenage girl. This is a far cry from the Lolita of the novel, who was twelve years old but looked eight, and who was at the not-so-tender mercies of a paedophile (a lyrical, articulate paedophile, but a paedophile nonetheless).

Lolita fashion, on the other hand, has nothing at all to do with Nabokov’s creation apart from the derivation and eventual appropriation of its name, a result of its early adopters liking the way the name sounded and being largely ignorant of the contents of the novel. A youth subculture that got its start on the streets of Japan’s cities, Lolita is the name for a style of dress based on clothing from several different historical eras, as well as the young women who wear it. It first became popular in the late 1970s (around the time of Nabokov’s death, in fact) as a modernised version of Victorian-era children’s clothes. Its initial followers were musicians, but girls on the street soon followed suit, and Lolita style has remained in favour


LOLITA On the occasion of Vladimir Nabokov’s 113th birth anniversary, 23rd April, 2012, Nisha Thambi examines an unfamiliar meaning of the word ‘Lolita’.

with them ever since, spreading well beyond Japan in the last decade. The most common elements of the Lolita aesthetic are a knee-length bell-shaped or A-line skirt, a fitted bodice and a neckline high enough to conceal one’s cleavage - the general idea is to embrace an old-fashioned little-girlish aesthetic and put a grown-up spin to it while looking a bit doll-like. Within that theme, several variations exist, including Elegant Gothic Lolita, which follows a black-and-white colour scheme; Sweet Lolita, where the outfits feature pastel colours, pretty prints and lots of bows and ruffles; and even punk Lolita (the name is self-explanatory), to name just three. The style emphasises demureness and innocence, as well as meticulous co-ordination of outfits and extreme care taken with one’s appearance - the dresses may form the building blocks of a Lolita outfit, but the devil is in the detail and most Lolitas– also known as Lolis – pay as much attention to their accessories and hairstyles as they do to their clothing, often customising or sewing elaborate outfits themselves. It would be easy to dismiss Lolitas as silly for choosing to dress in clothes as anachronistic and unabashedly feminine as theirs, and one of the charges most frequently levelled against them as a group is that their clothes are unattractive and immature, whether sexually or otherwise (other accusations

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include dressing to attract paedophiles and being anti-feminist because they pay attention to the way they look). On one level, the derision aimed at them is unsurprising – any subculture that largely consists of young girls and women tends to draw flak for its taste, and we live in a world where people who like ‘girly’ things are treated as intellectually inferior. Yet it still begs the question as to why this is so in the first place. One cannot understand the appeal of Lolita fashion without addressing the male gaze and the way it influences the way girls and women dress - they are conditioned, from the moment they reach puberty, to present themselves in a way that is considered attractive to men, and the male gaze, in its pervasiveness, is not unlike the panopticon, the institutional surveillance building designed by 19th-century scholar Jeremy Bentham. The panopticon allowed perpetual and complete surveillance of a prison so that the inmates never knew whether they were being watched or not, and eventually began behaving as if they were in fact being watched. In much the same way, girls are trained from puberty to present themselves as if they are perpetually being judged by male tastes, even in the absence of actual men, and to form their “adult” tastes accordingly, with this hypothetical male taste as the standard by which to judge their own looks. Femininity is acceptable within certain parameters, but only to an extent and if it fits a mainstream, socially acceptable mould - women who refuse to toe the line are invariably judged, not only by men but by women who have internalised male-centric standards.

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The brilliance and subversiveness behind Lolita lies in the fact that its wearers – mostly young girls and women, who are under the most pressure to conform – adopt a vision of femininity and a dress code so magnificently unconcerned with the modern male gaze that the act of wearing full Lolita regalia becomes, in its own way, as much of a rebellion as punk clothing used to be in the 1970s (though Lolitas are betterbehaved, as a rule). One Lolita, who identifies herself only as ‘Gingercream’, says as much: “Society informed me that I must look beautiful for the express purpose of pleasing men. Now I choose to walk down the street looking beautiful on my own terms. I dress in a way that most of you think makes me look like a freak, and I’m okay with that, because I’m not dressing to please you. I’m dressing to please myself.” In the last decade, Lolita fashion has spread well beyond Japan and taken up a niche in the pop culture lexicon independent of Nabokov. Several Lolita communities exist online, where girls come together to discuss everything, from sewing advice to dealing with unwanted attention while in their Lolita gear. Despite the scepticism inherent in anything to do with the Internet and young people, it is hard to see this as anything other than positive – after all, the meaning of the word Lolita in mainstream culture may not shift anytime soon, but it is still heartening to know that to some girls, it now means a way to assert their individual personalities and taste, instead of the sexualisation and abuse of a child.

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STORM 2012 By Agniva Chowdhury


he Earth is subject to 11-year cycles of periods of increased solar activity, as astronomers have known for centuries. These cycles are associated with visible sunspots on the surface of the sun. They begin with thermonuclear explosions on the sun that swell up and burst open on the sun’s surface, releasing radiation and charged particles trapped in the solar wind. The charged particles have a speed of 4 million mph when they reach the Earth. Precisely, that’s what solar storms are. In most cases, solar storms consist of three major components: solar flares, solar proton events (SPEs) and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs can interact with the Earth’s magnetic field to produce a geomagnetic storm. Not all solar storms can produce all three elements but the largest solar storms follow a particular arrival time sequence for all these three components. In terms of consequences, most solar storms produce only minor disquieting effects on Earth. Typically one might expect shortterm electrical power blackouts due to damaged power plants and electrical grid components, rerouting of aircraft, the loss of a few satellites and a beautiful aurora borealis in the night’s sky from a large solar storm. But as the intensity of a solar storm increases like a forest fire, the storm can begin to develop the capacity to create a major disaster on Earth. The difference in solar storm intensity is like the difference between being hit by a tropical rainstorm and being devastated by a Category 5 hurricane.

The solar storm that took place this March shut down three of America’s nuclear power plants. India should keep a pumping system ready around its 20 nuclear plants as the decay heat sink when reactors shut off, require large quantities of water for cooling and must be pumped in endlessly for many years or till the unit is able to start again. The water has to be fresh non-saline water, or the reactors will be completely damaged and unusable if salt water is used. Salt water and heat from the reactor corrodes the metal containment quickly. The major solar storms are due in mid 2013. Let’s see what kind of arrangements India can make in order to avoid the largescale usage of fresh water base. Perhaps this is the ideal time to think afresh as new technologies like nano-electricity or highly efficient solar system can indeed save water.

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Illustration by Soumik Lahiri and Suvam Dey Sarkar

Geomagnetic induced currents, as a result of a strong solar storm, can affect oil and gas pipelines. In pipelines, GIC and the associated pipe-to-soil voltages can increase the rate of corrosion in pipelines, especially in high latitude regions. Damage resulting from such corrosion is cumulative in nature and can eventually lead to pipeline integrity failures and major fuel leaks.



GAME? By Shabbir Akhtar


he video game industry is as powerful an entertainment sector as movies and music, generating billions of dollars per year. From a nerd hobby, in its relatively short existence, video games have become a near-ubiquitous form of entertainment and a significant part of our digital lifestyle. These days, you can play video games on just about any device that can run an app. But, nothing beats a home console or portable when you want a great gaming experience. The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS are now at a point in their life-cycle where they are no longer “nextgen” systems but, are instead mature pieces of hardware, with games being launched at regular intervals. 2011 was indeed a great year to be a gamer with games like ‘Portal 2’, ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’, ‘Uncharted 3’ and ‘Witcher 2’ giving them an unforgettable experience. The most anticipated games of 2012 are - you guessed it another batch of sequels and remakes. Since the beginning of the year, we have seen some awesome games being released – ‘Final Fantasy XIII-2’, ‘Twisted Metal’, ‘Mass Effect 3’ and ‘StarCraft II’. And, given the pedigrees of those yet to be released, 2012 promises to be a huge year. Here’s looking at some of 2012’s most talked-about games. Halo 4 The interstellar war between humanity and the Covenant - a theocratic alliance of aliens - is going to a whole new level. ‘Halo 4’ will be the first game in the new Reclaimer trilogy and marks the return of the indefatigable Master Chief since his hiatus in ‘Halo: Reach’. The Bungie developed video game series is now being given a makeover by 343 Studios, not in terms of characters or story, but the gameplay that will lay the foundation for an entire new trilogy. Fans of the multi-billion dollar franchise will have an entirely new planet to explore and see the return of the battle rifle, which, like the rest of the game, will get a significant redesign.

Illustration by Soumik Lahiri

Max Payne 3 It’s been almost a decade since ‘Max Payne 2’ arrived to critical acclaim – ‘Max Payne 3’ continues the tale of a former New York City detective in Sao Paulo, Brazil. No longer a cop, Max is washed-up, drunk and addicted to painkillers. Still haunted by the memories of his traumatic past, the story of Max’s descent from a vengeful, leather-jacket wearing detective roaming the alleys of the big city to the broken, shaven-headed man out for justice on unfamiliar streets far from home - working as a private security protecting a wealthy industrialist and his family - is at the centre of Max Payne 3. BioShock Infinite The guys at Irrational Games, after bringing forth one of the best games of this generation with ‘BioShock’, have decided to go step further and take the franchise in a completely new direction. Set in the city of Columbia -- floating among the clouds, cruising far above sea level - the third game in the popular ‘Bioshock’ series breaks away from the underwater setting of the first two games.

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Television today? Should be kept switched off. On the spate of remakes in Bollywood? Should not be allowed and perhaps a ban be imposed on them by the censor board. What do you miss about television? All the directors who directed me. Thoughts on Chinese television (was on the jury of the 14th Shanghai Television Festival). Is a lot like Indian television. Extremely melodramatic. And they love our daily soaps. In fact the Anurag Basu directed ‘Koshish’ is being remade in Chinese. Your views on your television and theatre directorsAnurag Basu - I call him by Kukur which in Bengali means dog. Just for the record, I love dogs. Sudhir Mishra - Old wise man. Imitiaz Ali- I have had the hots for him for a long time now. Lilette Dubey- Slave driver. Talented one at that. One thing we do not know about reality showsI’m sure everybody sees through all the bullshit. It’s all up there to be seen. Multistarrrers- (laughs)Waste of money. Hobbies that you can’t do without Yoga and reading. A book on your wish listRafael Nadal’s biography Must watch films on your DVD list: ‘A Fish called Wanda’, ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Godfather’, ‘Anand’, ‘Angoor’ and most of Hrishikesh da’s films. Music that calms you down All music except trance. One actor you’d want to swap places withNobody in the Indian industry. Penelope Cruz perhaps, in Hollywood. The reason of course is more than just her films. (smiles) Next project A new reality show ‘My Big Decision’ with an international format being produced by BBC Worldwide in association with Channel V.

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RNI NO. WBENG/2010/36111 Regd. No. KOL RMS/429/2011-2013

Kindle Magazine April '12  
Kindle Magazine April '12  

Jai Bhim in the times of Jai Ho and Jai Shri Ram