IN FOCUS The Power of Truth
The Morung Express volume Xii issue 9 By Dr. Asangba Tzüdir
Lessons from Morung
e have come a long way from our traditional culture and have reached a stage where our culture is almost reduced to symbolic representation of the material. The technological impact on our lives is tremendous and it has further dissociated us away from our traditional modes of lifestyle and living. More so, the tension in the modes of thinking in trying to attune with the changing times, and in the pursuit of our ‘identity’, has taken us further away. This shift has rather misplaced us in the form of a crisis - a moral crisis of identity. Within this crisis, there is a further disintegration from the ‘community’ to the ‘individual.’ A resultant effect is being witnessed today in the form of ‘violence’ and where the good of the community and society finds lost to individual ‘good’ and ‘well-being.’ This has happened largely because we have failed to think together, neither do we imagine and envisage rationally for the good of our society that we long, yet, without working on the change agents. A restart is required and we need to trace back to the roots of our traditional identity because we have ignored and left behind a very integral aspect of our culture that informs about community living and its associated values. There are so many lessons that need to be drawn from our traditional institution called Morung. Call it the ‘University of Happiness’ towards the attainment of what can be surmised as the ‘highest good’ of the community. More than an institution of learning, Morung was a very important place for the people to come together as a community. Morung brought people together and taught the values of ‘shared living,’ the goodness of sharing responsibilities and the importance of the communitarian good over the individual. It taught the community to come together as a unit and strive towards peace and prosperity of community life and living. The New year has begun with issues more pronounced, of power struggle over clashes of ‘misinterpreted values.’ …And before we lose all sense of belonging as a ‘Naganess’ and as a community, we need to go back to the heart of our traditional Morung system in coming together to recreate the communitarian values through a well-informed imagination in providing structure, sense and direction. Perhaps, these will inject a moral sense of duty and responsibility in our life and living. Our society will then see transformation. (Dr. Asangba Tzüdir is Editor of heritage publishing house. He writes a weekly guest editorial for the Morung Express. Views and comments can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)
lEfT wiNg |
George Lakey Countercurrents.org
Return of The Nonviolent Campaign
onviolent campaigns are often dramatic and catch the attention of millions—think of Standing Rock water protectors resolute in the face of a brutal police force. All the more puzzling that the concept of a “nonviolent campaign” is little known and often ignored when people talk about how to mobilize power. For many, the choices are limited to lobbying, petitions, and looking for promising progressive candidates to run a different kind of campaign—the electoral campaign. Thinking outside that box usually means a one-off march or rally, or possibly a protest. The trouble is, a nonviolent march or rally or protest is not nearly as effective as a nonviolent campaign. One or two of those actions could not have the impact of the enduring Standing Rock campaign. Swarthmore College researchers have been digging into that question, analyzing over 1,000 nonviolent campaigns waged in almost 200 countries. The researchers found protests are usually one-off events that express grief, outrage, or plain opposition to an action or policy, and if the protest gets attention, it may be repeated. Campaigners, by contrast, carry out a strategy over time. They plan a series of nonviolent actions that continues until the goal is reached. That may be a matter of weeks, or months, or years. Nonviolent campaigners know what they want: clean water in North Dakota for indigenous people; the Dream Act for students brought to this country as children by undocumented immigrants; a cleanup of chemicals at Love Canal in upstate New York; university goods and clothing made by workers who are treated fairly with safe working conditions. Campaigners also know who can make the decision they need. In her later years, when I interviewed Alice Paul, who led the National Woman’s Party campaign for suffrage, she said she was confident that Wilson could make the difference in persuading a balky Congress to pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. She was right. Her 1917 escalation of the campaign brought voting to women just three years later. Escalation is an art: The 1960s civil rights movement showed expertise in locating and sequencing direct actions to escalate pressure on their target. When President John F. Kennedy refused Martin Luther King Jr.’s request to provide leadership for a civil rights bill, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference made an unusual strategic decision. Instead of taking the obvious next step of focusing action in the nation’s capital in order to gain victory there, the SCLC decided to escalate in Birmingham, Alabama, at that time a major industrial city. It was where the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a member of SCLC, had for years led an ongoing antisegregation campaign. In spring 1963, SCLC brought additional organizers and trainers to Birmingham to join the local struggle. Campaigners escalated their tactics, confronting the segregationists’ police dogs and fire hoses with nonviolent discipline. When mass jail-ins left a scarcity of adults available for civil disobedience, children stepped in to fill the streets. The sheer volume of disruption dislocating Birmingham and the national charisma of Dr. King effectively pressured the White House. Kennedy reportedly got on the phone with U.S. Steel President Roger Blough and others of the power elite, gaining agreement that the time had come for a national civil rights bill that would guarantee equal accommodations. The civil rights struggle also illustrates the way campaigns build mass social movements. On Feb. 1, 1960, just four college students initiated a sit-in campaign at a segregated lunch counter near their campus in North Carolina. Inspired, students at other campuses followed suit. Within a month there were student sit-ins throughout the South and a solidarity campaign at Woolworth stores in northern cities as well. Multiple, replicated local campaigns turned a few students’ efforts into the widespread and iconic “freedom movement.” However, no one hears how nonviolent campaigns won or what their strategic choices were. Context is absent: What mainstream media source gives us that kind of context about Standing Rock, comparing it with other campaigns waged by indigenous groups for their tribal and environmental rights? When do we hear academic experts on nonviolent struggle explain the dynamics behind breaking news in a nonviolent campaign? The result is a public ill-informed about its options when facing an authoritarian president or a wave of policy changes that diminish human rights and planetary sustainability. The good news is the reemerging art of the nonviolent campaign.
THE MORUNG EXPRESS
C O M M E N T A R Y
IN A DIVERSE UNION OF PEOPLES: Federalism & democracy are not negotiable
he Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a landmark tax structure change in the Indian Union that would amalgamate goods tax (levied by the state government) and services tax (levied by the Union government) into one combined tax who rate would be uniform all across the Indian Union. This is the single biggest tax structure reform in the Indian Union ever. The GST council is the apex body created to negotiate the final form of the GST bill. It has representation of state finance ministers and the Union government. These negotiations have hit a huge roadblock. GST negotiations between the state finance ministers and the Union government has hit a roadblock after it was exposed that the Union government had been concealing true data from the state finance ministers during a large part of the negotiations. The present stalemate is around the issue of jurisdiction on the service taxpayers in the under 1.5 crore revenue category. That the Union government has presented misleading data to state finance ministers that hugely under-represents the actual taxpayer base size is a pretty serious affair. It’s not surprising that it didn’t make big letter headlines given how the Delhibased think-tanks and a segment of the business media is cheering for the Union government’s side in the GST negotiations. This sort of thing should have ended the GST negotiations altogether, but the state governments have greater faith in cooperative federalism than the Union government had. Now that this is out in the open, Arun Jaitley is finding it difficult to defend the Union’s claims on a tax base that he earlier took for granted, given the allegedly misleading information that was fed by the Union government officials to the state finance ministers. Now, those “gains” by the Union government, based on allegedly previously concealed information, is suddenly up for negotiation and grabs. The future of this negotiation will decide a very crucial issue of federalism in the Indian Union – would the states retain any serious amount of revenue autonomy at all or will they become total beggars seeking alms in the court of the New Delhi Empire. Let us understand the implications of this alleged concealment of data. The crucial issue is, who will control the service tax base for entities under the 1.5 crore Rupees annual revenue threshold. This is not a theoretical argument but one that is premised on numbers – the most crucial among which is the actual size of this under 1.5 crore revenue service tax payer base. In the initial meeting of the GST council, service taxpayer data supplied by the Union government to the state finance ministers showed a service taxpayer base of 11 lakhs. Negotiations thus happened on the basis of this number, which the state finance ministers in good faith believed to be true. One does not expect that in a cru-
cial forum like the GST council, the Union government would be concealing real information and feed allegedly misleading information. Based on that 11 lakh number and its estimated revenue corpus, the states were magnanimous to the Union and decided to let the Union government retain control of the under 1.5 crore annual revenue service tax base. Everything changed turned out that this 11 lakh number that was supplied by the Union government to the state finance ministers was deemed to be misleading by them. New data available with the state finance ministers suggest that the actual service taxpayer base with under 1.5 crore annual revenue is almost 31 lakhs! That is almost 3 times the number that the Union government fed the state finance ministers earlier. Chairman of the empowered group of state finance ministers, West Bengal’s Finance Minister Amit Mitra has directly accused the Union government of concealing service taxpayer information from the states. A three-times increase in tax payer base has very different revenue implications. On the basis of that, a majority of the states have now proposed that for the under 1.5 crore revenue class, state governments will have full control of both goods and service taxes, while over the 1.5 crore slab, there will be dual control and revenue sharing between the States and the Union. Any entity whose bluff has been called out so directly would be embarrassed and would respond directly to the serious allegations that have been raised. Not so the Union government. It has refused to agree to the formula proposed by a majority of the states, including Kerala, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Delhi, Odisha and others. Thus the stalemate continues. It is unfortunate when a 31% vote share government has the power to hold at ransom the united political decision of a majority of state governments. That is a fundamental flaw in the federal structure of the In-
dian Union. In the 4th November meeting of the GST council, the state finance ministers wanted updated data on assesses of service tax, excise and VAT. Without giving updated data to state finance ministers on such crucial matters, what is the point of a GST council meeting? Was the Union government thinking that the GST council will be a tea-drinking rubber-stamp club for New Delhi’s decisions? After the state finance ministers raised a cry based on the new data on service taxpayer base, the Union government tried to counter that by calling for a “re-opening” of the settled decision that states have exclusive control over the goods tax payer base under 1.5 crore. The goods and services issues are not equivalent. The service taxpayer base issue was “settled” earlier based on false date. Updated data that shows the actual base to the nearly 3 times larger than what the Union government’s earlier allegedly misleading numbers showed has resulted in this justified calls for negotiations from a majority of the states. There has been no such corresponding allegation of concealment from the states about the goods taxpayer base. The Union government has retained the right to impose cess at will. Thus, it has a rate elastic source of revenue. The state governments, on the other hand, after GST proposals, have not been left with any elastic source of revenue. Thus, Union will generates its own revenue in response to what it deems as an emergency. The states will have to go with a begging bowl to Delhi in a similar situation. This is unjust and a blow to the powers and dignity of the states. Also, the upper slab of luxury goods, which represents a whopping 25% of the total indirect tax base, has been forcibly kept low of Union government’s insistence since it wants to add cess over it, which it does not have to share with the states. Thus, Union already wants to deprive states from their
legitimate revenue claims in the topmost tier. Either states should also have the power to impose cess or the highest slab has to be revised upwards significantly to the squeeze the space for Union cess. Otherwise this becomes another way in which states will be deprived of their rightful revenue. One hopes that the BJP will not be so shameless as to introduce the GST bill as a money bill and silence the Opposition majority in Rajya Sabha after the immense cooperation that had been extended by most of the opposition on the issue of constitutional amendment for GST, in spite of many the many reservations and concerns about GST that the opposition had voiced during the parliamentary GST debate. The states, by agreeing to GST, have given up exclusive revenue powers. By dangling deadlines and roll-out dates and its pressure tactics via big corporate controlled industry bodies, the Union will try to force the state into a dishonourable and damaging settlement. It is up to the states to stand up to this black-mailing coming from same Union government that can allegedly mislead state governments by giving wrong information during crucial GST council meeting. This is about the future federalism in the Indian Union and preservation of the basic structure of the Constitution of India. If the state governments do not have exclusive control over any part of the tax-payer base, it will mean that the federal structure of the Indian Union will be damaged permanently. That may result in cheers in Delhi for it will result in the economic servitude of the peoples of the states to the New Delhi administration. In a diverse union of peoples, federalism and democracy are not negotiable. Any union government that misleads state government by concealing revenue data does not have any moral or ethical right to claim jurisdiction over the revenue sources situated in states.
Subversive Women in Colonial North Africa Kaylee Steck
olonial encroachment in North Africa created new opportunities for women to travel and challenge social norms. During my travels in Morocco, I discovered Emily Keene’s memoir, My Life Story. In the 1870s, Keene traveled to Tangier as a governess for an English family. Soon after, she married the leader of a prominent religious order. As part of the public duties affiliated with this role, she received followers who came to do homage and seek alleviation of various maladies. Keene contributed to her husband’s healing persona in remarkable ways. She used her own pharmacy and medical knowledge to support new mothers, treat infants and inoculate Moroccans against smallpox. The expansion of colonial power in North Africa shaped her medical activities in Morocco. Colonial Medicine In late 19th century Europe, medicine was transitioning from the study of humors to the study of pathogens. This eventually led to the development of vaccines. However, this scientific advancement developed alongside insidious sociological theories that justified European “superiority” over indigenous populations. There was a view that local medicine should be reformed under European tutelage. French doctors criti-
cized certain practices, such as visiting shrines and consulting popular healers. Ironically, European and Arab regimens for bacterial infections still bore striking resemblances since they were both based on the idea that diseases resulted from humoral imbalances. Keene encountered and treated disease in this context of medical progress and stagnation. She relied first and foremost on her own knowledge, maintaining a skeptical attitude toward local medical men. When her child fell ill, she rebuffed the remedies of an apothecary. She also showed disdain for a medical attendant, whom she accused of accelerating her husband’s deteriorating health. Still, her skepticism about local doctors did not necessitate the view that they were primitive minds, no different from “sorcerers” or “fetishmen”—terms that circulated in the vocabularies of French sociologists. While Keene understood herself as a civilizing agent, she was content to operate as a clinical extension of her husband’s role as a religious leader and healer.
her vaccines and medical advice into Moroccan communities. Born almost 30 years after Keene, Isabelle Eberhardt also traveled to North Africa in her early 20s. In 1900, she left Geneva for Algeria, where she disguised herself as a young man and joined a Sufi brotherhood. Despite Eberhardt’s sloughing off of her European identity, she became a close friend of Hubert Lyautey, a French army general and administrator. Moreover, she used her faith (she converted to Islam) in order to curry favor with religious leaders and encourage their compliance with colonial rule. While Eberhardt was transgressive, she was also complicit in the consolidation of colonial rule in North Africa. Likewise, Keene seemed to accept, if not welcome, the inevitably of European rule herself. Nevertheless, these women jettisoned certain attitudes and behaviors that would have prevented them from becoming steeped in local culture. They are subversive because they “lost caste,” as Larry Rue noted in an article about Keene in the Chicago Tribune near the end of her life.
selective and does not offer the reader a broad historical understanding. Additionally, memoir tends to focus on the impressions and experiences of one person. As a result, it conveys a single reality, highly mediated by gender, power and class. These limitations characterize My Life Story. For example, the memoir depicts Morocco as a space lacking resistance by leaving out voices that rejected European rule. Likewise, it does not show how Moroccans, and Moroccan women in particular, challenged cultural assumptions of their own society. Given Keene’s frequent movements between religious orders, she could have addressed the phenomenon of itinerant female saints and mystics in North Africa. These omissions leave the reader with misconceptions about local agency. Despite these shortcomings, My Life Story can help us reimagine colonial encounters and women’s position in the late 19th century. Keene engaged in a wide range of activities that did not conform to gender normative behavior for Victorian women. She traveled alone and developed a public persona through political and medical campaigns. Additionally, the memoir unsettles notions of colonial power. It challenged dominant discourses by Women and Colonial Encounter depicting the meeting and negotiation Both Keene and Eberhardt left be- of cultures, rather than the imposition hind records of their travels. There are of one culture upon another. several pitfalls to consider while readThis article is republished with the permission of Fair Observer ing their works. In general, memoir is
Women Travelers Traveling women strained conventions of femininity in 19th century England. Keene went against the grain of her time by publicizing her personal life in Morocco. Moreover, she redefined notions of femininity by injecting
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