The convenience of labels: Who are the Maoists really?


 Sunday Guardian
Tanushree Bhasin  1st Jun 2013

Stills from the film At the Crossroads

he real terrorist in our country is the state. The Indian state needs to be put behind bars, not ordinary people,” said a visibly moved audience member at the screening of Deba Ranjan’s documentary about the oppressed tribals of South Orissa and their struggles with the state, At the Crossroads, at IHC recently. Focussing on this area specifically, Ranjan traced the journey of hapless adivasis and dalits who are caught in the crossfire between the state and the Maoists, rendering their existence completely unstable and miserable.

The Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh that killed Mahendra Karma and 27 others last week turned the media’s gaze back to the Maoist affected areas, filling news pages and screen time with uninterrupted talk about the Maoists and the threat they pose to the Indian state. And yet, one felt a certain gap in their analysis, or lack of it, of the situation in the red belt. Watching At the Crossroads seemed to bridge these gaps, offering an exceptionally critical and in-depth examination of the different realities that exist in these areas.

There is no dearth of information on how the state perceives the inhabitants of the mineral rich states of Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The mainstream media takes care of that, insisting that the adivasis protesting against the entry of private and foreign companies in the area are anti-national and anti-development and in their support for Maoist sensibilities, they also pose a grave threat to the safety and sovereignty of the Indian state. Alternative perspectives come by only rarely. Like Sanjay Kak‘s latest film Red Ant Dream, Ranjan’s film too seeks to understand the motivations of those who join the Maoist cadres but also those who don’t — ordinary tribals whose protests are not articulated through the gun.

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What emerges clearly through the film is how the state uses the labels of ‘Maoist’ or ‘Naxal’ to oppress entire populations so as to silence protests against neo-liberal policies.

What emerges clearly through the film is how the state uses the labels of ‘Maoist’ or ‘Naxal’ to oppress entire populations so as to silence protests against neo-liberal policies. “Just being inhabitants of these hills makes us Naxalites for the state,” characters often say. “By branding them Naxals, the state lets loose police and paramilitary forces who in collusion with local administrative officers and money lenders arrest anyone who raises his voice against unlawful land grab or corruption. Their only agenda is to hand over this land to corporates,” explained Ranjan after the screening.

Ranjan also traces how the idea of taking up arms on the one hand and selling off their land to ‘The Company’ on the other, started to appear attractive to different people. “When the state began inflicting such indiscriminate terror and violence on people, the youth particularly started joining the Maoists. Similarly, feeling cornered as a result of state pressure and lack of relief facilities, many ordinary adivasis began selling their lands in lue of paltry compensation,” said Ranjan.

The film also takes on the prevalent but problematic mindset that argues that tribals need to be accommodated in the mainstream which, it is believed, can only be done through industrialisation, even at the cost of destroying indigenous cultures and selling off minerals to foreign companies. “Most people believe that ‘The Company’ is absolutely essential for tribal development. As a result, guns are trained at those on the very margins in the name of this so called development. In Orissa, anyone who demands his/ her rights is a Maoist,” said Ranjan.

Such indiscriminate labelling affects those caught in the middle of this battle between the Indian state and the Maoists the most. When everyone living in a region is deemed a Maoist, it begs the important question — who are the Maoists really? The film seems to be saying, they are not as frightening as the government would have you believe; they are actually those disenfranchised and dispossessed citizens who were promised a very different future by the Constitution of our country, a text that no longer seems to hold any value to anyone.

 

Maoists in the jungle, Bhagat Singh in the fields—welcome to India Burning


Spotlight | Sting operation

 via ‘Red Ant Dream’
Nandini Ramnath, Live mint 

A still from ‘Red Ant Dream’
A few days after a Maoist attack on a Congress party convoy killed at least 27 people, including the founder of the erstwhile militia Salwa Judum, a poll on the website of the television channel CNN-IBN asked: “Bloodbath in Chhattisgarh: Have human rights groups failed to strongly condemn Naxal violence?”
The options were yes or no, the assumption being that civil liberty activists are more worried about armed insurgents than civilians. That assumption is a familiar one for film-maker Sanjay Kak, whose documentaries Words on Water, on the struggle against the Narmada dam, and Jashn-e-Azadi, on the Kashmiri pro-independence movement, dispense with objectivity and take an explicit and vocal stand against the Indian state.
He has encountered his fair share of dissenters to his brand of dissent, but he sees the debate deepening over such prickly issues as the Maoist insurgency, with which he deals in his new documentary Red Ant Dream. “I don’t get asked any more if I am a Naxalite,” he says in a phone interview from Delhi, where he lives and works. “We have gotten past that one.”
Sanjay Kak at his Delhi residence. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

After screenings in Delhi and Punjab, the film will travel to Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad in the coming weeks.

Although Kak makes the case that tribal resistance goes back several decades, and that governments in states like Chhattisgarh are only new manifestations of systemic oppression, the recent killings makeRed Ant Dream a red-hot documentary. The film maps three troubled zones—apart from the Maoists in Bastar in Chhattisgarh, there are tribals battling industrialists in Niyamgiri in Orissa, and a culture of protest built around the memory of Leftist revolutionary Bhagat Singh in Punjab. Seen together with Words on Water (2002) and Jashn-e-Azadi (2007), Red Ant Dream is about India Burning, as it were. The three films are about “the idea of resistance”, Kak says, but he traces this resistance through its foot soldiers rather than its generals and ideologues.
“I am not interested in fundamental questions of power relationships,” Kak says. “The film does not try to be a Naxalism 101, just likeJashn-e-Azadi was not trying to be a Kashmir 101.” His films are about ideology, he says, but “not terribly concerned with party formations” or a “party line”. Words on Water inaugurated his attempt to move beyond being a visual stenographer of movements. “Words on Waterbegan as a campaign film and I tried to make it something else, but it eventually is neither,” Kak says. “In the Kashmir film, I was not particularly interested in what X or Y or Z was saying but in evoking another kind of space.”
Red Ant Dream is three films rolled into one. It is in the mould of documentaries like Amar Kanwar’s A Night of Prophecy (2002), which examines protest music, theatre and literature across India, and Anand Patwardhan’s Jai Bhim Comrade (2011), whose examination of caste taps a rich vein of Dalit protest music. The Punjab segment in Red Ant Dream, which follows groups inspired by Bhagat Singh’s pre-independence Marxist critique of colonialism and inequality, intermingles with on-ground footage of rallies against mining in Niyamgiri and a clandestine encounter with Maoist groups in Bastar.
Kak could have focused on the Maoists, but he chose not to. “The core material came from Bastar, but that’s not the film I wanted to make,” he says. “The most urgent thing was to say something that would start a conversation about the idea of revolution. There has been an effacement, an invisibilization of radical politics. But I don’t have an abstract nostalgia—there are real engagements and these are about real things.”
The Punjab chapter too could have been its own film. Kak first went there trailing the revolutionary poet Avtar Singh Sandhu, who wrote under the pseudonym Pash. “I asked a professor what remains of Naxalism in Punjab today, and he said culture and poetry. Of course, the connection between Pash and Bhagat Singh emerged, and I could see the mobilization around this constellation.” Some viewers have embraced the seeming digressions into Punjab, while others have been “baffled and annoyed” by it, Kak says.
The most talked about section, at least for the moment, is likely to be the one that gives the documentary its name. Kak travelled to Bastar with writer and activist Arundhati Roy for two weeks in February 2010. He shot Maoists speaking about their motivation to engage the government in battle and sharing a dietary secret—a paste of the eggs of red ants.
Although Kak spent a little over six weeks in Bastar, Orissa and Punjab, it took two years to sculpt a 120-minute film out of the footage. The documentary is packed with crisp, terse images of dissent that aim to provoke thought rather than emotion. “What you don’t want to show is long, vérité sequences of affect and consequence,” Kak says about editor Tarun Bhartiya’s approach. “You don’t want people to say, I loved that girl in the forest. But you do want people to see somebody for 20 seconds and never forget them. It’s a rhetorical or didactic assemblage of images—the idea is to engage people on a continuous basis. You are never trying to seduce them into a state of relaxation.”
The approach to editing pretty much sums up Kak’s larger perspective on the role of the documentary. He belongs to the strain of independent documentary film-making that developed in the 1970s in stark opposition to the broadly propagandist Films Division vision of an India on the up. The country spotlighted by these film-makers is an unequal and unjust place in which tribals are being kicked off their land, women abused by population control policies and slum-dwellers ignored by urban policies. The documentaries are diverse in style and ideology, but they are bound together by disagreement with the way things were.
Kak’s own practice has crystallized in recent years into tracking down ordinary practitioners of radical ideas. He didn’t formally study film-making, but learnt on the job while assisting on documentaries and on Pradip Krishen’s feature Massey Sahib. “It’s about footage and how you view footage—it’s why I am never interested in following a set of characters, or one family or one squad,” he says. “The examination of what is going on is an endless process. These three films are an exposition of a certain idea, formally too. One has tried to fashion for oneself, in the way the three films are edited, a language that is appropriate for one’s politics.”
However, even radical film-makers must make “pitches” at fund-raising conferences and festival marketplaces these days to get their films off the ground. Red Ant Dream was financed by funds given by an IDFA Fund grant and a prize from the Busan International Film Festival, South Korea. “I didn’t pitch for the film, we raised the money based on a trailer,” says Kak, who has strong views on the pitching process. “We are in the process of recouping not inconsequential sums of money from DVD sales—there is solid potential there.”
Part of the thrill, and stress, of making political-minded documentaries comes from raising money, ensuring distribution (usually free screenings at friendly venues) and the odd festival exposure. “You compensate for the fact that you don’t have a budget by doing everything yourself,” Kak observes. “Everything is done with people’s pyaar-mohabbat (love and affection). The economics are always exhausting, but this too shall pass.”
Red Ant Dream will be screened in Mumbai at the Alliance Française on 14 June, 7pm, and at the Films Division auditorium on 15 June, 4pm. Click here for details about screenings in other cities.

Red Ant Dream – #FilmReview #Sundayreading


HEAVEN ON EARTH

By MOHAMAD JUNAID,

 

FILM REVIEW — RED ANT DREAM BY SANJAY KAK

 

It is war for earth, to maintain the earth as heaven, if not to create a new heaven on earth. In an age of pervasive cynicism, it is no small act to dream such a dream and to work to achieve it, given the power of global capitalist forces against which the Adivasis are ranged. An essay based on Sanjay Kak’s latest documentary, Red Ant Dream

 

The state of war exists.

A calm but firm voice, distilling reason to its fundamentals, declares: “Maoism teaches us that self-preservation is possible only through war.” A caption mentions ‘Azad, spokesperson, CPI (Maoist).’ We never see him. We learn about his death later, death in custody. Azad’s words about self-preservation, which reach us now after his death, acquire a decisive clarity. The devastating collusion between the State and big capital has left no other possible way to preserve a life of dignity than to fight for it. This is the resounding call from the bloodied forest in the vast hinterland of central India that has announced a ‘People’s War’ on the Indian state. It is a revolutionary war that hopes to stop the indignity of the ruling elite’s war on the people.

 

Red Ant Dream, Sanjay Kak’s new feature-length documentary, is a tour de force. The film engages you compellingly with the power of its ideas, while it catches you at the visceral level with the intensity of its images. Appearing amid the din of corporate media’s demonization of India’s insurgent Maoists and Adivasis as the enemies of the ‘nation’ on whom the country needs to be tough, Red Ant Dream shakes you to see that the state of war already exists; it is just that the news has not been allowed to reach your ears. Or you have, like the proverbial three monkeys, refused to see, hear, or speak the ‘evil’ of the bitter truth—the bitter truth of everyday deprivation of the poor upon which the Indian middle class’s self-congratulatory comfort zone has been erected.

 

It is plausible to suggest that people’s movements are influenced by ideologies. The State experts, and even the mainstream Indian Left parties, see the political thought of Mao Tse-Tung, 20th-century Chinese communist leader, as mainly responsible for the insurgency in the forests of central Indian states. For the Adivasis, the numerous forest dwelling ethnic and tribal groups in India, and perhaps even for the Maoist insurgents, however, clarity of thought comes from experience and from the critical encounters with the State. They see the State as representing only the interests of the rich and the powerful; and given the spectacular inequalities of wealth the last twenty-two years of neoliberal economic policies have produced in India, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the State’s organizing logic articulates the forcibly accumulative logic of capitalism. As Ladda, an Adivasi activist from Lakhpadar, Odisha, says in the film: “the company giant has swallowed the Indian government giant. They have now become one giant.” For Adivasis, the war of dispossession has been going on incessantly for more than a century now. And so has been the resistance. On the Maoist influence, Ladda, facing the camera, declares, almost tongue-in-cheek: “Lingaraj (Lingaraj Azad, an Adivasi activist and intellectual) is my guru, and if he is a Maoist, then I am too.” The association is more incidental than direct. The real influence comes from a deep sense of justice, which may find echo in stories of Mao’s understanding of the oppression of the countryside by the urban-industrial-capitalist powers. One of the largest bidroh—revolt—in Adivasi living memory took place against pillaging British colonizers in 1910. Mao formed his first armed peasant militias in the 1920s and wrote his texts on revolutionary warfare in the 1930s.

 

The film is a tour de force. It engages you compellingly with the power of its ideas, while it catches you at the visceral level with the intensity of its images. Appearing amid the din of corporate media’s demonization of India’s insurgent Maoists and Adivasis as the enemies of the ‘nation’ on whom the country needs to be tough, Red Ant Dream shakes you to see that the state of war already exists; it is just that the news has not been allowed to reach your ears. Or you have, like the proverbial three monkeys, refused to see, hear, or speak the ‘evil’ of the bitter truth—the bitter truth of everyday deprivation of the poor upon which the Indian middle class’s self-congratulatory comfort zone has been erected.

 

The first remarkable, and immediately noticeable, achievement of Red Ant Dream is that it takes the genealogy of revolutionary war in South Asia out of the ossified narratives of the internal, and often fractious, ideological debates within the Indian Communist parties, and places it firmly within the history of people’s struggles for justice in South Asia. As such, the people’s war in Bastar is closer to the struggles for self-determination in Kashmir or Nagaland, rather than to how it is often represented: as a fringe within the broad spectrum of Left politics in India. No doubt an entire constellation of revolutionary thinkers, from Marx to Lenin and Mao to Charu Mazumdar, form the iconic backdrop of this war, but instead of their thoughts unfolding as reality or practice, it is the present conditions of life that breathe vitality into their mode of thinking. It is the people’s war that clarifies their thought and makes them relevant for contemporary understanding. That is why, while the ‘mainstream’ Left may see the people’s war as the ‘fringe,’ and wait for the ideal proletarian subject to emerge, or for capitalism to destroy itself, in the forests the actual grueling task of the war against capitalism has already begun, and taken off without so much as a vanguard.

 

At the same time, the film takes the war out of its enemies’ scope of vision. While the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared the ‘Maoist insurgency’ as the “single biggest internalsecurity challenge” to India’s security—the enclosing metaphor being a constant refrain among the State’s political and military leaders to domesticate challenges to its sovereign image—the film shows how the revolutionary war continuously deterritorializes the State’s metaphoric and real reach. The Indian state is not fighting a war with its citizens, but with subjects who, having been denied full citizenship rights, may lie within its nominal boundaries but remain outside its apparatus of capture: both the police apparatus as well as the constitutional parliamentary one. The State may think of adivasis as bubbles on the surface of water that modernization will cruelly break, or even affect commiseration about this ‘necessary’ loss for the sake of the nation’s superpower ambitions, but Adivasis (and others who are being dispossessed) understand capitalism at its most raw and bare level, and have taken the most logical route possible under the circumstances. The real power, the film asserts, lies ultimately with the population. As the fundamental contradictions of caste, class, and nationality widen in India, contra the optimistic assessments of elite votaries of India’s neoliberal ‘democracy,’ it may make it painfully visible that the population of dispossessed subjects actually constitutes the majority of the people—and they may well take the revolutionary route.

 

The film takes the genealogy of revolutionary war in South Asia out of the ossified narratives of the internal, and often fractious, ideological debates within the Indian Communist parties, and places it firmly within the history of people’s struggles for justice in South Asia. As such, the people’s war in Bastar is closer to the struggles for self-determination in Kashmir or Nagaland, rather than to how it is often represented: as a fringe within the broad spectrum of Left politics in India

 

Kak’s own voice, measured, strategic, and unobtrusive, suggests: “They fight to protect a life that the modern world has pronounced obsolete, unfeasible…it is a war of defense.” He points out that the Adivasis see the present bidroh as a continuation of the old ones—the rapacious Indian ruling elite somewhere having replaced the pillaging British colonizers. The film connects the dots between ecological destruction wrought on the forests, for instance in Niyamgiri hills by giant bauxite mining companies like Vedanta, its justification under the broad mainstream neoliberal nationalist consensus, and the assistance provided by the State’s armed forces to suppress any dissent against this national-capitalist common-sense. Early 20th-century socialist revolutionary Bhagat Singh’s statement that ‘the state of war does exist’—which is the point of departure for the film—aptly expresses how the revolutionary war is not a war of choice, but a war to stop the already existent war that imperialist and capitalist powers have launched on the people. Kak states that between the insatiable resource exploitation of market forces and the ideological and moral debates about violence on the Left, it is the existence of fragile Adivasi communities, which is most critically at stake now.

 

With immaculate clarity, however, the film also points toward what remains intrinsic to war itself—that, while scenes of war may appear in isolated theatres, from eviscerated hills of Niyamgiri to the submerged fields in the Narmada valley, the logic of war is totalizing and engulfs all. Drawing adroitly from early 19th-century German-Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz, whose ideas on war and military formation remain popular with the State politico-military elite, the film reveals how Indian counterinsurgency logic is directed at denying a stable popular base to armed insurgents. So, while the erstwhile Maoist leader Azad, using the well-known metaphor from Mao’s On Guerrilla War argues that “we rely on the support of the sea of people in which we swim like fish,” the counterinsurgency military commander in the region declares that the anti-Maoist campaign is “a politico-military-socio-economic-psychological” one, which in Kak’s analysis replicates Clausewitzian understanding that the State must launch all the forces against the enemies’ ‘center of gravity’—the population. At the psychological level, says the counterinsurgency commander, the war must “make the other side feel that their end is near.” True to this logic, wholesale burning of Adivasi villages, spectacular brutalization, punitive containment, and production of proxy counterinsurgents, like Salwa Judum, mark the anti-Maoist/anti-Adivasi counterinsurgency.

 

While it maintains a persuasive focus on the fundamental battle line between the State and its subjects, with lateral shifts from one tense point of symbolic confrontation or appropriation to another along this line, Red Ant Dream subtly draws attention to how Indian military thinking might be unable to comprehend the primary raison d’être behind the people’s war in these forests. The State experts may create a Jungle Warfare School to fight wars in forests or a High-Altitude Warfare School to fight in Kashmir, but their principle mode of thinking remains tied to stereotypes about their opponents. The counterinsurgency commander, taken in too much by military manuals (and no less by the British era sartorial and equestrian style), keeps repeating to his soldiers that Maoists believe “power flows from the barrel of gun.” This could be a perverse attempt to project one’s own deepest desire and beliefs onto one’s enemies. It is also likely that he is only lying to his soldiers, who, after all, come from the dregs of Indian poverty much like the insurgents, and very much unlike the commander.

 

It is plausible to suggest that people’s movements are influenced by ideologies. The State experts, and even the mainstream Indian Left parties, see the political thought of Mao Tse-Tung as mainly responsible for the insurgency in the forests of central Indian states. For the Adivasis, the numerous forest dwelling ethnic and tribal groups in India, and perhaps even for the Maoist insurgents, however, clarity of thought comes from experience and from the critical encounters with the State

 

Mahendra Karma, the venal pro-State Chattisgarh politician of Adivasi background, who set up Salwa Judum, perhaps understands unconventional aspects of the people’s war better, which makes him too dangerous for the Adivasis, if not the Maoists. Salwa Judum, which means “Purification Hunt” in Gondi, has been the violent proxy in the State’s war on Adivasis in the forests of Chhattisgarh. Part of the counterinsurgency war-machine, it acts as a blunt cover on the barely hidden bayonet of the State. If the State is ever called to reveal its account books of the war, Salwa Judum will serve the function of plausible deniability for the State. Salwa Judum also purports to change Adivasi consciousness. In the film grainy footage from a ‘found video’ tellingly reveals how Adivasis are forced to join the Salwa Judum, beaten into submission, and to say Ram Ram (a Hindu greeting) instead of Lal Salaam (Red Salute!), while in attacks on their homes their cultural objects, alongside their instruments of livelihood, are violently razed. Their resemblance with Ikhwanis in Kashmir is uncanny (and, why not, both are products of the same thinking). In mid-1990s Ikhwanis, with full backing of the Indian state, unleashed a reign of terror on Kashmiris in the countryside, even though their elaborate assault on Kashmiri consciousness may have only had limited consequences.

 

The hope of success

Beyond the tactics of war that might not succeed—for instance, the Maoist tactic that the revolutionary forces should only fight at moments of their choosing fails as Maoists are regularly drawn into battle to avenge wanton destruction caused by counterinsurgents—the hope for the success of people’s war may lie elsewhere. While the State sees people as fickle consumers whose politics can be cheaply bought with cash or silenced with violence, among the Adivasis there is a much deeper sense of attachment to the earth. (The film’s Hindi title, Mati ke Laal—Beloved of the Soil, expresses this connection well). This attachment, undergirded by a web of Adivasi memory and traditions, remains largely invisible to the State and the capital, which treats earth as a commodity.

 

At the same time, the guerrillas and the State connect with people differently. The film follows a group of Maoist guerrillas through the forest paths, which they negotiate gently and leave but just a light touch behind—a military tactic as well as an ecological ethic. Their movements in the forest resemble that of ants, close to the ground and collaborative, despite the heavy burdens on their shoulders. They recognize each other, and pass on the revolutionary conviviality to the villagers they meet on their way, through handshakes. The State is incapable of replicating these forms of relationship with people whose substantial rights it does not acknowledge.

 

In the film red ants are a wartime delicacy for the Adivasi guerrillas, but they can also be seen as a metaphor of a certain kind, a metaphor that might find resonance in certain Kashmiri idioms. Red ants are tiny but pack a powerful bite. They swarm the earth, and truly never go away. When red ants bite, it is hard to find a locus. In Kashmiri, rei names both the red ant and the eruption of unlocalizable itch their bites cause. Counterinsurgency draws its own blood as it furiously scratches the skin. The success of the people’s war is not in its bites, but in the eruption of itch all over the surface.

 

Thus, the non-commoditized attachments, the spread of revolutionary cordiality, and the proliferation of revolutionary praxis across different regions, may lead to success. But new bhumkaals (Bhumkalmemorializes the legendary bidroh of 1910, ‘when the earth shook’) will have to contend with new ground, for the mining companies are disemboweling the earth of its substance at a gigantic scale.

 

The People’s War is a war for existence. It is war for earth, to maintain the earth as heaven, if not to create a new heaven on earth. In an age of pervasive cynicism, it is no small act to dream such a dream and to work to achieve it, given the power of global capitalist forces against which the Adivasis are ranged.

 

With a conceptual depth that eloquently unfolds and weaves together some of the fundamental forces shaping India today, Red Ant Dream is surely going to become an important milestone in South Asian political documentaries. Noted for picking up the most vexed and potent knots of defiance against the forced enclosure euphemistically called the Indian ‘Union’, the film adds yet another superb accomplishment to Kak’s oeuvre.

 

Its strength lies in its intensification of engagement between the aesthetic and the political. But instead of simply evoking an abstract meta-theoretical relationship between the two, the film’s visual scheme is thoroughly inhabited by the political. Each image is an assemblage of power and affect. A frail sari-clad girl in chappals, with an AK 47 slung across her shoulders, flits past in one frame. Her diminutive dimensions make the rifle look too large for her, yet more crucially it shows the magnitude of determination her tiny body carries. The most impressive and metaphor-laden scene from the film is the concluding one. While Indian paramilitary forces practice their guns on sanitized hills and on effigies of the Maoists, raising clouds of dust, the guerrillas—perhaps to save ammunition, perhaps to not hurt the living forest with their shooting practice—train with imagined weapons. As their fingers pull imaginary triggers, their eyeballs move swiftly from one direction to the next in a deadly dance. The practice of revolutionary war is embodied. This is something even a Mahendra Karma won’t be able to find an answer for.

 

Mohamad Junaid is a doctoral student in Anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has translated parts of Sanjay Kak’s previous documentary film ‘Jashn e Azadi: How We Celebrate Freedom.’

 

 

Protests against Afzal Guru’s hanging at Jantar Mantar, 21 detained


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GAUTAM NAVLAKHAS FACE SMEARED BLACK BY BAJRANG DAL GOONS

 

Muhammad Zulqarnain Zulfi : New Delhi, Sat Feb 09 2013, 1

Delhi police lathicharge protestors at Jantar Mantar, demonstrating against the hanging of Afzal Guru and detained at least 21 Kashmiri students. Female students were also assaulted.

The Kashmiri students were protesting against the ‘hanging’ of Afzal Guru when RSS-BJP activists attacked them, witnesses say.

All the detained kashmiri students including girls were taken to Mandir Marg police station. Girls were threatened by the RSS activists.

Social activist Gautam Navlakha was also beaten up during the protest.

Senior journalist Iftikhar Geelani has also been put under house arrest since early morning today.

Media persons also faced the wrath of the RSS who also threatened dire consequences and barred them from doing their professional duties, witness say.

Mudasir, Jamia, Athar Rather Jamia, Umair Gul, Jamia, Umar Bashir, DU, Najeeb Hussain JNU, Fayaz Dar, Jamia, Aymon Majid, Jamia, Bhat Iqbal JNU, Shahid JNU, Insha Malik, Souzina Mushtaq, Samia Latief, Mustafa, Bhawneet, Shivani, Sabika, Umar, Aniben, Zamrooda Habib, Sanjay Kak and other detained Kashmiri students are perusing higher education in various universities in Delhi.

 

Citizens’ Statement on the arrest of Journalist Kazmi


March 10th, 2012, New Delhi

The undersigned condemn the arrest of senior journalist Syed Mohammad Kazmi by the Delhi Police Special Cell in connection with the attack on Israeli diplomat last month. Mr. Kazmi’s arrest is reminiscent of the arrest and false allegations against another veteran journalist, Iftikhar Gilani, several years ago. We fear that Mr. Kazmi may be made a scapegoat in order to please an international lobby. It is no secret that Israel held Iran culpable within minutes of the attack, and there has been immense pressure on India to sever its ties with Iran—both from Israel and US (to the extent that US displayed its obvious unhappiness to foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai over the fact that India was not heeding the unilateral sanctions imposed by the US on Iran.)

Israel also pressured India to support a resolution condemning “Iranian terrorism” in the UN Security Council. While the Indian government has so far held out against the pressure, even refusing to implicate Iran in the attack, a recent report in Jerusalem Post stated that, “Israel provided the Indian authorities with information on two suspects in the attack connected with Iran” (Article.aspx?id=257830). Has Mr. Kazmi been picked up upon tips provided by Israeli agencies? How credible can these inputs be, given Israel’s clear intent to condemn and implicate Iran as the source of the attack? We are anxious that the Persian-knowing Mr. Kazmi, a journalist with the Iranian News agency, IRNA, who would obviously be in regular touch with his sources and employers in Iran and the Iranian embassy, is being targeted precisely because of these reasons.

Mr. Kazmi is well respected and known to the journalist fraternity for his professional integrity.

We demand that he be immediately released on bail and the due process of law followed.Aamir Idrisi, President, Association of Muslim Professionals
Abdul Daiyan, social activist, Bihar
Abu Zafar Adil Azmi, Special Correspondent, Afkar-e-Milli
Afroz Alam Sahil, Editor, Beyondheadlines
Ajit Sahi, Senior Journalist, Delhi
Anuradha Bhasin, Editor, Kashmir Times
Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist
Asad Zaidi
Azam Khan, social activist, Hyderabad
Bhavna Sharma, social activists, Anhad
Bobby Kunhu
Dilip Khan, Journalist
Dr Anand Pradhan
Dr. Hilal Ahmed, Associate Fellow, CSDS
Dr. Saroj Giri, University of Delhi
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor, the Milli Gazette
Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Delhi
Fr Cedric Prakash, Human Rights Activist
Gauhar Iqbal, Palestine Foundation
Hanif Lakdawala, social activist, Gujarat
Harsh Kapoor, SACW.net
Hilal Ahmed
Imran Khan, social activist, Anhad
Jawed Naqvi, Senior Journalist
John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human rights Activist, Mumbai
Khadeeja Arif, BBC News
Khurshid Anwar
KN Panikkar, Historian
Kundan Pandey, Journalist
Madhuresh Kumar
Mahesh Bhatt, Filmmaker
Mahtab Alam, Civil Rights Activist and Freelance Journalist
Manisha Sethi, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association
Mansi Sharma, Social Activist
Md. Ali, Twocircles.Net
Mukul Dube
Mukul Kesavan, writer and historian
Mumtaz Alam Falahi, Editor, Twocircles.Net
Nandita Das, film actress
Navaid Hamid, Member, National Integration Council
Neshat Quaiser, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
Panini Anand, Editor, Pratirodh
Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, JNU
Prof. Anwar Alam, Center for West Asian Studies, Jamia
Prof. Apoorvanand, Delhi University
Prof. Jairus Banaji, Historian
Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU
Prof. Nirmalangshu Mukherjee, University of Delhi
Prof. Shohini Ghosh, MCRC, Jamia
Ram Puniyani, social activist, writer
Sadiq Naqvi, Journalist
Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker
Sanjay Sharma, social activist, Anhad
Satya Sivaraman, journalist
Seema Mustafa, Senior Journalist
Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist, ANHAD
Shafi Mahajir ,advocate Hyderabad
Sharmila Tagore, Actor
Shivam Vij
Sohail Hashmi, filmmaker, writer
Soheb Niazi
Sucheta Dey, President, JNU Student Union
Sukumar Muralidharan, journalist
Tanveer Hussain, activist, Kashmir
Vijayan MJ
Vivan Sundaram, artist
Waliullah Laskar, Activist
Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, editor, SiasatZoobi Amir, Film Maker Delhi

Documentary on Kashmir secretly screened at Presidency


 

kashmirfilm.wordpress.com

Ananya Dutta, 9th FEb 2012, The  Hindu

In a dark anteroom of the Presidency University canteen here, a handful of students huddled around a screen on Wednesday watching Jashn-e-Azadi, Sanjay Kak‘s 2007 documentary on Kashmir that was not allowed to be screened at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune earlier this week.

While the walls of the canteen are littered with graffiti — political and otherwise — not a single poster was put up to promote this event, which had not been sanctioned by the authorities of the University.

While college authorities at Pune had bowed down to pressure from the right-wing student organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and cancelled the screening of the film, University authorities here had no idea that it had been screened.

“I know nothing about this. We will have to inquire into this and only then can I comment about it,” said Malabika Sarkar, Vice-chancellor of Presidency University, adding that a few students had approached her requesting permission, but had been told to keep the screening on hold for a week.

“Holding the screening back only seems to be delay tactics. With our examinations scheduled later this month the crowds on campus are already thinning. A week later fewer students would have attended,” said one of the organisers.

“Other than the cancellation in Pune, only one screening in Mumbai was interrupted [in July 2007]. The police were approached by protestors and the screening was interrupted,” Mr. Kak told The Hindu over telephone from Delhi.

Surreptitiously screened and discreetly promoted, the crowd had come to know about the screening through word-of-mouth or from an events page on Facebook. Seated on rickety benches and the floor once the audience began to swell they heard the stories of old men, bereaved women, children, poets and politicians from the Valley.

“You have gathered here today because you want to flag a protest, because you want to send out a signal that students at Presidency College [University] will not surrender their right to be informed about the world, to hear and speak about issues that are central to our times. That’s a fundamental right, and we cannot — and will not — surrender that. For making that gesture, and putting your foot down: Zindabad!” Mr. Kak said in a message emailed to the organi

Censorship at Symbiosis: See no Kashmir, hear no Kashmir, speak no Kashmir


kashmirfilm.wordpress.com

By Shivam Vij

For the past four years, a handful of Kashmiri Pandits and right-wing activists have shut down numerous screenings of Sanjay Kak’s Jashn-e-Azadi: How We Celebrate Freedom (2007). The most recent cancellation by Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune, was a result of pressure from the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The activists made sure the seminar was cancelled — at least for the moment — by not just leaning on the founder-director of Symbiosis but also by going to the police. The college principal Hrishikesh Soman says he got a letter from the police saying the screening should be avoided as the film was “controversial.”

The screening was to be a part of a UGC-funded seminar on Kashmir in the college, to which several others had also been invited. Thanks to the ABVP, the entire seminar has been cancelled.

There are many reasons offered for this dismal outcome – and all of them are spurious.

One such reason is the absence of a censor certificate. However, Section 10 of the Cinematograph Act allows for exemptions to be given for screening without a censor certificate, and a 1956-57 report ‘on the progress of audio-visual education’ (available on the HRD Ministry website) mentions that several states including Bombay (now called Maharashtra, where Pune is located) have used the clause to exempt educational institutions.

In short, Symbiosis would break no law by screening Jashn-e-Azadi.

This isn’t about whether or not the film has a censor certificate, whether or not it needs one or should have one. This is about Kashmir and the attempt by the rightwing to silence all discussion on Kashmir. The ABVP claims both the film and the seminar encourages “separatism.” In other words, they decide what is anti-national and what is not, and their opinions have now become – by default – the law of the land. Anything that is “controversial” to the Hindu or Muslim right inevitably creates a “law and order” problem and hence has to be shut down.

Read more here

Memorial to a Genocide (Gujarat 2002 – 2012) Feb 27


Saira Salim Sandhi Lost her entire family in the riots of 2002. Here she is seen at the charred remains of what was once her home in Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad

Saira Salim Sandhi Lost her entire family in the riots of 2002. Here she is seen at the charred remains of what was once her home in Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad

Change of Date Due to All Trade Union Bandh on February 28, 2012

Society, Ahmedabad 

February 27, 2012

2 p.m. onwards

How do we commemorate such a cataclysmic series of violences, lives torn asunder, narratives of depth and despair, callousness and courage, struggle and hope?

Together we hope. As we near the Ten year mark of the genocidal carnage in Gujarat we appeal and call to all of you to join us on February 28, 2012 in the Live Memorial at Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad, physically or through countrywide protests and memorials all over India. From 2 p.m. onwards that day we shall be observing the Memorial. Through Reminiscences and recordings, Panels and Exhibits, Music and Words, Acknowledgements and Tears.

Nationwide Resonance A Call and Appeal

When we do so in Ahmedabad we hope that each and all of you in different parts of India will share the experience and in turn interact with us through a technologically linked endeavour. We shall be linking the Memorial through live web cam links and internet connections so that it can be viewed and shared at a few minutes gap in faraway Kerala, Kashmir, Manipur, Lucknow, Delhi, Mhow, Faizabad, Ayodhya, Malegaon, Mumbai.

Requirements:

All we ask is that you arrange Protest and Commemorations to mark this date. To enable an interactive sharing of the Live Memorial on February 28, 2012 at Gulberg Society, Communalism Combat and Citizens for Justice and Peace are in collective action, with individuals and groups, organizing a live relay of the Memorial by live Internet link. We request that each and all of you groups organize a Live Screening of this Memorial in different cities/locations all over the country on large projector screens. Participating in this memorial you organise your own special protest commemorations in every location. We shall also make arrangements that over three thousand survivors and activists at Gulberg will also view over the evening the protests and commemorations that you are observing in different locales.. Such an Interactive Live Memorial will be unique. It will ensure that there is a nationwide resonance to the Ten Year Commemoration of the Genocide.

The Ten Year Live Memorial will be up linked for permanent viewing on the Internet after February 28, 2012. The Memorial is part of week long observances Insaf ke Dagar Pe, also detailed below. The Citizens for Justice and Peace will also be organizing a Seminar Workshop on Lessons from Gujarat (Criminal Justice System and Accountability) at the Gujarat Vidyapeeth on February 27, 2012.

Memorial to a Genocide Gujarat 2002 – 2012, Manifesto of the Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad

Over the past ten years, as protests, testimonials and meet have observed the traumatic events in Gujarat in 2002, a traveling memorial to all the carnage sites was also attempted by us in 2008. Instead of peacefully allowing victim survivors to pay respects at the Coach S-6 in Godhra we were, one hundred of us, arrested and forced to bide time at the police station. The site of the burnt remains of the S-6 Sabarmti Express Coach has sadly become the sole mourning preserve of the government and organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Reconciliation and Reparation appear a faraway dream when collective memorials are thus forbidden. It took time and energy to get ourselves released from the police station before we could reach the sites of brute violence at Pandharwada village, Panchmahals and then Ode, Anand before traversing Sardarpura. At each site, locales of the violence and sites where dear and near ones were unceremoniously dumped, were remembered. The next day when we walked in silence towards Teesra Kuan in the Maidan at Naroda Patiya, where Missing Persons Bodies had been dumped in 2002 and have not been recovered to date. A hostile neighbourhood and an edgy police barely allowed us to light candles there.

Given this painful past, we gave decided to collectively commemorate the 300 traumatic bouts of violence over 19 districts in a Live Memorial at Gulberg Society Ahmedabad. We earnestly appeal to each and all of you to participate in this endeavour.

Digital Installations and Exhibits in English, Gujarati and Hindustani

TIMELINE in content and chronology tracking the rehabilitation and justice process with a

PHOTO RETRO of the lives of internally displaced persons in various transit camps

STATISTICS of a human tragedy, an installation

MISSING PERSONS remembered through a ritualistic Wailing Wall

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS to Saviours of Lives, Activists, Jurists, Photographers and Media People in wall panels

SURVIVOR’S LEAD US THROUGH THE MEMORIAL AND SPEAK

HIDDEN NARRATIVES brute targeting of women and children

DIGITALISED MEMORIALS News Coverage and Parzaania on large side screens

MUSIC IN MEMORIUM

Shubha Mudgal (vocal), Aneesh Pradhan (tabla), Sudhir Nayak (harmonium)

We shall be digitalizing the exhibit installations with text and photos and sending it out on CD to all of you to enable you to reproduce these in different cities. Do revert back to us on the nature of the protests and commemorations that you plan.

Already, on youtube you may view

Rupa Modi Tanvir Jafri Salim and Saira Sandhi Javed Anand Shiv Vishwanathan Ram Rahman Rajendra Prasad Teesta Setalvad

Insaf Ki Dagar Pe

2002 Carnage is completing its 10 years in this Feb.2012. Issue of Justice to the victims is not tackled fully. Livelihood, education, housing rights is some of the pending tasks. Security and dignity are still a far cry. In the name of development, state govt. is playing with the lives of the poor. Globalization and market forces are looting these sections of the society everywhere. Especially marginalized minority is suffering in many ways.

To commemorate 10nth anniversary of the carnage and to rekindle the light of hope we -civil society organizations of Gujarat are joining our hands. Two meetings of these organizations have already held and thought about such efforts.

Again we held a meeting at PRASHANT on 10-1-2012, Tuesday at 4.30 to plan the programme and decided some of the events tentatively, yet with certain approach to make the society to remind and re-organize to fulfill the uncompleted tasks of Justice and Peace. Insaf Ki Dagar Pe is a title unanimously chosen for the events.

List of the events:

1. 27-2-2012: (Half day event) A Seminar on ‘Status of Justice of the carnage victims’. Organized by -CJP [Center for Justice and Peace].

2. 28-2-2012: Exhibition and Sufi Sangeet at Gulberg Society. [Organized by CJP].

3. 29-2-2012: A Seminar on Internally Displaced people in which not only 2002 victims but victims of violence, development-projects of Gujarat and other regions of the country[Like Kashmir, Kandhmahal, and N.E etc.] will share their experiences and a panel discussion to analyze the situation is planned tentatively.

4. 1-3-2012: Sharing by the representatives of Peoples Movements [like Mahuva, Mundra, Mithi Virdi, and Tribals of South Gujarat etc.] Against Unjust Development in Gujarat; and panel discussion on the issue.

5. 2-3-2012: A National Multilingual ‘Kavi Sammelan’ on the issues of commemoration carnage and against unjust development.

6. 3-3-2012: ‘Bich Shaher’ -a play by Delhi-based theatre-group ‘Allaripu’ -based on carnage-2002, written and directed by Ms. Tripurari Sharma.

7. 4-3-2012: One-act plays on the issue of unjust development, organized by local theatre groups of youth.

8. 5,6,7-3-2012: A Documentary film festival on the issues of Human Rights. [Like -Jashn- E-Azadi by Sanjay Kak, Saffron Encounters by Subhradeep Chakravarthi. etc.]

A Call to all…..

These are some of the ‘decided events’. But we are always open to add in this list. If you suggest something relevant and effective to achieve our goal to make the society aware and active on the path of justice; you are always welcome. Add your input to make more effective events like “Seminar on Internally Displace People” or “Peoples Movements Against Unjust Development”… by suggesting the unsung struggle and people or any other ways. You can also organize similar event at you own place under this title during same period by just informing us.

We will have to join our hands and hearts to give larger perspective to the issues of Human Rights, Development, Justice and Peace. In the civil society of Gujarat we will have to keep the fire on and on until the flame of this fire does not the lit the lamp of Compassion, Understanding, Sympathy and Remorse in the hearts of the people of Gujarat and the world.

So please, give your approval/suggestions for this big event. We are waiting for that till 25-1-2012. Immediately after 25th Jan-2012, we will have to rush to arrange all the events. Your co-operation is requested to mobilize the audience, resources and venues. You can fund partly/fully any of these events.

We have to create the publicity material like Posters, Banners, Pamphlets, and Invitations etc. You can contribute or take responsibility for any of these.

Citizens for Justice and Peace, along with victim-survivors, and social activists from Gujarat are planning a week-long Memorial to the 2202 genocide in Gujarat, 10 years later. Those of you who could join in Gujarat are most welcome to do so. For those who cannot, the suggestion is that on February 28, you organise your own programmes in your own towns and cities and get connected with the Live Memorial in Ahmedabad. Please spread the word around.
* Organizations participated in the meeting of 10th January-2012:

‘DARSHAN’, PRASHANT, SAFAR, DARPANA, ST.XSSS. JAN VIKAS, PARVAZ, CJP, LOKNAD, AISF, IRC, INSAF.
for more information contact- teestateesta@gmail.com