What Is Striking In India Is The Indifference Of The Privileged- #Noamchomsky


At 84, Noam Chomsky remains the sharpest, most acute, most unrelenting critic of power, particularly American power. He speaks to Priyanka Borpujari about the evolution of protest; the disconnect between the misery he sees on the streets of Delhi and our elites’ chest-thumping pride; the narrow concerns of mainstream media; and his starring role in a Gangnam Style parody.

2013-07-06 , Issue 27 Volume 10

Noam Chomsky, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

You have been protesting wars, from Vietnam to Iraq. And then, there has been the Occupy Wall Street movement. What have been the similarities and differences in protest movements over the years?

People do not know this, but it was very tough to oppose the Vietnam war. In the early ’60s, if I was giving a talk, it would be in somebody’s living room or a church with very few people. Right here in Boston, a liberal city, we could not have an outdoor demonstration in the Boston Common until about 1967. Any demonstration would be broken up by force. In March 1966, when we tried to have an indoor demonstration at a church downtown — since we could not have a public one — the church was attacked.The Boston Globe, which was supposed to be a liberal newspaper, denounced the demonstrators. The Harvard University faculty would not even hear about it; nobody would sign a petition. It was a few years of hard slogging. Finally by 1967-68, there were two or three years of intense activism, before it declined. The ’60s were very significant but it was very condensed. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was a very conservative campus until about 1968 and then it became very radical, perhaps the most radical in the country.

Since the late ’60s, activism has expanded but with less visibility, and it is a part of a general consciousness about all kinds of things. In the 1980s, there was a huge anti-nuclear movement. But the most significant phenomenon in the ’80s — although it did not leave much of an impact in history because it did not involve the elites very much — were the solidarity movements with central America. This solidarity was coming mostly from rural United States, like rural Kansas, and the Evangelicals, with tens of thousands of people going down to central America just to be with the victims, to help and defend them. This had never happened before, that people from the imperial state went there not just to protest, but to live with the people and participate with them. And a lot of these people stayed on. So it had a great effect over rural United States.

Towards the end of the last millennium, solidarity was visible on a new kind of global justice movement, on particular issues, like Israel-Palestine. There has been a massive shift in that. I used to have police protection on this (MIT) campus, right until the 1990s, when I talked about it. But now it is the most lively issue on the campus. I am asked to give talks about it all the time. So it’s not militant activism, but there’s a culture of independence and opposition, which I think is pretty bright.

So, who is listening to dissidents like you?

Well, anybody who is willing to talk has people listening. There aren’t too many people who are willing to go around and give talks all the time. The few of us who are willing, are deluged. Every night, I turn down a dozen invitations. When I do give talks, there is a real hunger for something different, but there is very little supply. You can almost count on the fingers of your hands the number of people who are willing to spend their lives going around and giving talks.

But on the other hand, you are in Cambridge, so you get to hear a little about . In the United States almost nobody knows anything about the outside world — people don’t know where France is.  would be some word that they might have heard in school in passing. It is a very insular society.

What about India baffles you the most?

I have followed India carefully, and have been there a number of times. It is an exciting country in many ways with its rich culture. But what is really striking to me about India, much more than most other countries I have been to, is the indifference of privileged sectors to the misery of others. You walk through Delhi and cannot miss it, but people just don’t seem to see it. Everyone is talking about ‘Shining India’ and yet people are starving. I had an interesting experience with this once. I was in a car in Delhi and with me was (activist) Aruna Roy, and we were driving towards a demonstration. And I noticed that she wasn’t looking outside the window of the car. I asked her why. She said, “If you live in India, you just can’t look outside the window. Because if you do, you’d rather commit suicide. It’s too horrible. So you just don’t look.” So people don’t look, they put themselves in a bubble and then don’t see it. And those words are from somebody who has devoted her life to the lives of the poor, and you can see why she said that — the misery and the oppression are so striking, much worse than in any country I have ever seen. And it is so dramatic. There is a lot of talk about how India is slated to be a major power, and I can’t believe it, with all its internal problems; China too for that matter, but less so.

When my wife and I went to India a couple of years ago, my friend Iqbal Ahmed had told me that I would discover that the press in Pakistan is much more open and free than the press in India. I did not believe him first but when I looked into it, he explained, “The English language press in Pakistan is for you and your friends, and the government just lets them say whatever they want, because there are so few of them to cater to, just a couple of hundred thousand people.”

You have hailed the Mexican newspaper La Jornada as “maybe the only real independent newspaper in the hemisphere”. Do you think something similar can be founded in India?

It could. The interesting thing about La Jornada is that the business world hates it. They don’t give it any ads. It is the second largest newspaper in the country with a very high level of journalistic acumen and very smart people, and they are all over the country. You see people reading this newspaper on the streets. Actually, I noticed that in Kerala, the only part of India where you can see people reading on the streets.

In the recent past, India witnessed a scam that exposed the deep nexus between journalists and businessmen, but nothing happened…

That is a bit different here (in the United States). One good thing about this country is that there is very little state repression, no censorship, so they can speak out what they can. On the other hand, the internalisation of doctrine here is just overwhelming, that is, with the intellectual community in the universities. And it is partly a reflection of the freedom, I think. You get an impression that everything is free and open because there are debates that are visible: the Democrats are debating the Republicans, and the press does its share of condemning. But what people don’t see — and the seeming openness of the debate conceals it — is that it is all within a very narrow framework. And you can’t go even a millimetre outside that framework. In fact, it is even taught in journalism schools here as the concept of ‘objectivity’ — that means describing honestly what’s going on inside that framework and if there is something outside, then no, that is subjective. You see that all the time and that is a big domestic problem.

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

For example, domestically, for the population, the big problem is jobs. They don’t care about the deficit. For the banks, the problem is deficits. So the only thing discussed (in the ) is deficits. You do have an occasional different viewpoint, but it doesn’t show up at all in the  coverage of the deficit. During the 2012 presidential elections, the two countries that were mentioned way more than anyone else in all debates were Israel and Iran. And Iran was described as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s what’s repeated in the  all the time. There is an obvious question that no journalist would ask: who thinks so? They don’t think so in India; they don’t think so in the Arab world, they don’t think so in South America. The only countries to think so are the United States and England. But that you can’t report.

And then comes the question: is there anything you can do about it? This is quite spectacular when you talk about the media because it does not say this. There is something very obvious one could do about it — move to establishing nuclear-free zones. There is an overwhelming support for that all over the world. In fact, in December 2012, there was supposed to be an international conference in Finland to carry it forward under UN auspices. But in early November 2012, Iran announced that they would participate. Within days, Obama called off the conference. Not one word about that in the newspapers. Literally, not one word. The same in England. I don’t know about India; probably not there too.

On a less serious note, how did you come to feature in mit’s Gangnam Stylevideo?

I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were just a bunch of kids who seemed to be having some fun.

Did you have fun?

I was just saying what they wanted me to say.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)

Subramanian Swamy tweets ‘being gay is a mental disorder’ #WTFnews #Homophobia


Former cabinet minister and president of Janata Party Subramanian Swamy‘s anti-gay tweet attracts criticism
29 MAY 2013 | BY ANNA LEACH
Former cabinet minister and president of Janata Party Subramanian Swamy

Indian politician Subramanian Swamy, the president of the Janata Party, wrote ‘Being gay is a mental disorder’ in a tweet on Monday (27 May).

The tweet attracted instant criticism although some thought it was a joke and others agreed with him. ‘Gay is not natural, it’s hormone problem,’ said one.

Indian LGBT rights campaigner Harish Iyer tweeted Swamy saying: ‘I think swamy you need to get educated. Let’s meeet. I offer free counselling to homophobes.’

Swamy appeared to be unfazed by the accusations of homophobia and tweeted ‘Looks like most CRTs are “queer”.’ CRT is a derogatory reference to members of the Congress political party,Gaylaxy reports.

Swamy, a right-wing Hindu, is a former cabinet minister and was an assistant economics professor at Harvard. He has caused controversy for anti-Islamic views, for example in an ‘incendiary’ article in response to the Mumbai bombings in 2011 which prompted the National Commission for Minorities to press criminal charges.

The politician’s daughter Suhasini Haider is a news anchor for Indian TV channel CNN-IBN.

Gay sex was decriminalized in Indian in 2009 when the Delhi High Court repealed Section 377 of the British colonial era penal code.

 

#India – Why Salwa Judum was held Unconstitutional by Supreme Court


 

Excerpts from

NANDINI SUNDAR & ORS.
VERSUS
STATE OF CHATTISGARH

 

What is ominous, and forebodes grave danger to the security
and unity of this nation, the welfare of all of our people,
and the sanctity of our constitutional vision and goals, is
that the State is drawing the wrong conclusions, as pointed
out by the Expert Group of the Planning Commission cited
earlier. Instead of locating the problem in the socioeconomic matrix,

and the sense of disempowerment wrought by

the false developmental paradigm without a human face, the
powers that be in India are instead propagating the view
that this obsession with economic growth is our only path,
and that the costs borne by the poor and the deprived,
disproportionately, are necessary costs. Amit Bhaduri, a
noted economist, has observed:
“If we are to look a little beyond our middle class noses,
beyond the world painted by mainstream media, the picture is
less comforting, less assuring…. Once you step outside the
charmed circle of a privileged minority expounding on the
virtues of globalization, liberalization and privatization,
things appear less certain…. According to the estimate of the
Ministry of Home Affairs, some 120 to 160 out of a total of 607
1 Ajay K. Mehra, supra note 114
districts are “Naxal infested”. Supported by a disgruntled and
dispossessed peasantry, the movement has spread to nearly onefourth of Indian territory. And yet, all that this government
does is not to face the causes of the rage and despair that
nurture such movements; instead it considers it a menace, a lawand-order problem…. that is to be rooted out by the violence of
the state, and congratulates itself when it uses violence
effectively to crush the resistance of the angry poor…. For the
sake of higher growth, the poor in growing numbers will be left
out in the cold, undernourished, unskilled and illiterate,
totally defenceless against the ruthless logic of a global
market…. [T]his is not merely an iniquitous process. High growth
brought about in this manner does not simply ignore the question
of income distribution, its reality is far worse. It threatens
the poor with a kind of brutal violence in the name of
development, a sort of ‘developmental terrorism’, violence
perpetrated on the poor in the name of development by the state
primarily in the interest of corporate aristocracy, approved by
the IMF and the World Bank, and a self-serving political class….
Academics and media persons have joined the political chorus of
presenting the developmental terrorism as a sign of progress, an
inevitable cost of development. The conventional wisdom of our
time is that, There Is No Alternative…. And yet this so widely
agreed upon model of development is fatally flawed. It has
already been rejected and will be rejected again by the growing
strength of our democratic polity, and by direct resistance of
the poor threatened with ‘developmental terrorism”.
15.As if the above were not bad enough, another dangerous
strand of governmental action seems to have been evolved
out of the darkness that has begun to envelope our policy
makers, with increasing blindness to constitutional wisdom
and values. On the one hand the State subsidises the
private sector, giving it tax break after tax break, while
simultaneously citing lack of revenues as the primary
reason for not fulfilling its obligations to provide
adequate cover to the poor through social welfare measures.
On the other hand, the State seeks to arm the youngsters
amongst the poor with guns to combat the anger, and unrest,
amongst the poor.
16.Tax breaks for the rich, and guns for the youngsters
amongst poor, so that they keep fighting amongst15
themselves, seems to be the new mantra from the mandarins
of security and high economic policy of the State. This,
apparently, is to be the grand vision for the development
of a nation that has constituted itself as a sovereign,
secular, socialist and democratic republic. Consequently,
questions necessarily arise as to whether the policy
makers, and the powers that be, are in any measure being
guided by constitutional vision, values, and limitations
that charge the State with the positive obligation of
ensuring the dignity of all citizens.
17.What the mandarins of high policies forget is that a
society is not a forest where one could combat an
accidental forest fire by starting a counter forest fire
that is allegedly controlled. Human beings are not
individual blades of dry grass. As conscious beings, they
exercise a free will. Armed, the very same groups can turn,
and often have turned, against other citizens, and the
State itself. Recent history is littered with examples of
the dangers of armed vigilante groups that operate under
the veneer of State patronage or support.
18.Such misguided policies, albeit vehemently and muscularly
asserted by some policy makers, are necessarily contrary to
the vision and imperatives of our constitution which
demands that the power vested in the State, by the people,
be only used for the welfare of the people – all the
people, both rich and the poor -, thereby assuring
conditions of human dignity within the ambit of fraternity
amongst groups of them. Neither Article 14, nor Article 21,
can even remotely be conceived as being so bereft of
substance as to be immune from such policies. They are
necessarily tarnished, and violated in a primordial sense
by such policies. The creation of such a miasmic16
environment of dehumanization of youngsters of the deprived
segments of our population, in which guns are given to them
rather than books, to stand as guards for the rapine,
plunder and loot in our forests, would be to lay the road
to national destruction. It is necessary to note here that
this Court had to intercede and order the Government of
Chattisgarh to get the security forces to vacate the
schools and hostels that they had occupied; and even after
such orders, many schools and hostels still remain in the
possession and occupancy of the security forces. Such is
the degree of degeneration of life, and society. Facts
speak for themselves.
19.Analyzing the causes for failure of many nation-states, in
recent decades, Robert I. Rotberg, a professor of the
Kennedy School, Harvard University, posits the view that
“[N]ation- states exist to provide a decentralized method
of delivering political (public) goods to persons living
within designated parameters (borders)…. They organize and
channel the interests of their people, often but not
exclusively in furtherance of national goals and values.”
Amongst the purposes that nation-states serve, that are
normatively expected by citizenries, are included the task
of buffering or manipulation of “external forces and
influences,” and mediation between “constraints and
challenges” of the external and international forces and
the dynamics of “internal economic, political, and social
realities.” In particular he notes:
“States succeed or fail across all or some of these dimensions.
But it is according to their performance – according to the
levels of their effective delivery of the most crucial political
goods – that strong states may be distinguished from weak ones,
and weak states from failed or collapsed states…. There is a
hierarchy of political goods. None is as crucial as the supply
of security, especially human security. Individuals alone,
almost exclusively in special or particular circumstances, can
attempt to secure themselves. Or groups of individuals can band17
together to organize and purchase goods or services that
maximize their sense of security. Traditionally, and usually,
however, individuals and groups cannot easily or effectively
substitute private security for the full spectrum of public
security. The state’s prime function is to provide that
political good of security – to prevent cross-border invasions
and infiltrations, to eliminate domestic threats to or attacks
upon the national order and social structure… and to stabilize
citizens to resolve their disputes with the state and with their
fellow human inhabitants without recourse to arms or other forms
of physical coercion.”1
20.The primary task of the State is the provision of security
to all its citizens, without violating human dignity. This
would necessarily imply the undertaking of tasks that would
prevent the emergence of great dissatisfaction, and
disaffection, on account of the manner and mode of
extraction, and distribution, of natural resources and
organization of social action, its benefits and costs. Our
Directive Principles of State Policy explicitly recognize
this. Our Constitution posits that unless we secure for our
citizens conditions of social, economic and political
justice for all who live in India, we would not have
achieved human dignity for our citizens, nor would we be in
a position to promote fraternity amongst groups of them.
Policies that run counter to that essential truth are
necessarily destructive of national unity and integrity. To
pursue socio-economic policies that cause vast disaffection
amongst the poor, creating conditions of violent politics
is a proscribed feature of our Constitution. To arrive at
such a situation, in actuality on account of such policies,
and then claim that there are not enough resources to
tackle the resulting socio-political unrest, and violence,
within the framework of constitutional values amounts to an
abdication of constitutional responsibilities. To claim
that resource crunch prevents the State from developing
1 “The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States – BREAKDOWN, PREVENTION AND FAILURE” in
“WHEN STATES FAIL: CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES” Robert I. Rotberg, Ed., Princeton
University Press (2004).18
appropriate capacity in ensuring security for its citizens
through well trained formal police and security forces that
are capable of working within the constitutional framework
would be an abandonment of a primordial function of the
State. To pursue policies whereby guns are distributed
amongst barely literate youth amongst the poor to control
the disaffection in such segments of the population would
be tantamount to sowing of suicide pills that could divide
and destroy society. Our youngsters are our most precious
resource, to be nurtured for a better tomorrow. Given the
endemic inequalities in our country, and the fact that we
are increasingly, in a demographic sense, a young
population, such a policy can necessarily be expected to
lead to national disaster.
21. Our constitution is most certainly not a “pact for national
suicide.”1 In the least, its vision does enable us, as
constitutional adjudicators to recognize, and prevent, the
emergence, and the institutionalization, of a policing
paradigm, the end point of which can only mean that the
entire nation, in short order, might have to gasp: “The
horror! The horror!”

DOWNLOAD FULL JUDGEMENT HERE

Dear Sisters (and brothers ?) at Harvard #mustread #Vaw #justiceverma


FEBRUARY 20, 2013

Letter from some Indian feminists to their siblings at Harvard

We’re a group of Indian feminists and we are delighted to learn that the Harvard community – without doubt one of the most learned in the world – has seen fit to set up a Policy Task Force entitled ‘Beyond Gender Equality’ and that you are preparing to offer recommendations to India (and other South Asian countries) in the wake of the New Delhi gang rape and murder. Not since the days of Katherine Mayo have American women – and American feminists – felt such a concern for their less privileged Third World sisters. Mayo’s concern, at that time, was to ensure that the Indian State (then the colonial State) did not leave Indian women in the lurch, at the mercy of their men, and that it retained power and the rule of the just. Yours, we see, is to work towards ensuring that steps are put in place that can help the Indian State in its implementation of the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, a responsibility the Indian State must take up. This is clearly something that we, Indian feminists and activists who have been involved in the women’s movement here for several decades, are incapable of doing, and it was with a sense of overwhelming relief that we read of your intention to step into this breach.

You might be pleased to know that one of us, a lawyer who led the initiative to put pressure on the Justice Verma Committee to have a public hearing with women’s groups, even said in relief, when she heard of your plans, that she would now go on holiday and take a plane ride to see the Everest. Indeed, we are all relieved, for now we know that our efforts will not have been in vain: the oral evidence provided by 82 activists and organizations to the Justice Verma Committee – and which we believe substantially contributed to the framing of their report – will now be in safe American hands!

Perhaps you are aware that the Indian State has put in place an Ordinance on Sexual Assault that ignores many recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee? If not, we would be pleased to furnish you a copy of the Ordinance, as well as a chart prepared by us, which details which recommendations have been accepted and which not. This may be useful in your efforts to advise our government. One of the greatest things about sisterhood is that it is so global, feminism has built such strong international connections – such that whenever our first world sisters see that we are incapable of dealing with problems in our countries, they immediately step in to help us out and provide us with much needed guidance and support. We are truly grateful for this.

Perhaps you will allow us to repay the favour, and next time President Obama wants to put in place legislation to do with abortion, or the Equal Rights Amendment, we can step in and help and, from our small bit of experience in these fields, recommend what the United States can do.

Vrinda Grover (mere lawyer)

Mary E. John, Senior Fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi

Kavita Panjabi, Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

Shilpa Phadke, Assistant Professor, School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mubmai

Shweta Vachani, Senior Editor, Zubaan

Urvashi Butalia, Director, Zubaan

And many others.

Harvard to the rescue of Indian Feminists ! # womenrights #Vaw #mustshare


FEBRUARY 16, 2013

Some good news for embattled and weary Indian feminists. All those endless submissions to the Verma Committee prepared and submitted, all those critiques of the Ordinance written and disseminated, all those street protests, all those meetings with students and the public, all those delegations to government officials, ministers…not to mention decades of efforts to amend the rape laws.

It’s been a long hard haul, so it’s a great relief that the Harvard Law School has stepped in to take this burden off our shoulders.

A post on the Delhi gang rape on the Harvard College Women’s Centre website has announced that a Policy Task Force titled “Beyond Gender Equality” has been convened to offer recommendations to India and other South Asian countries in the wake of the New Delhi gang rape and murder.  Diane Rosenfeld, Director of the Gender Violence Clinic at Harvard Law School and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, will head this group.

Their principal task this semester is to produce a working paper that advises on the implementation of the recommendations from the Verma Committee. The committee in a bold move, points out the need to reassess the military powers that are allowed to operate with impunity in conflict zones. Part of our discussion will focus on real reparations and support for survivors of sexual violence, in a manner that allows them to function as integrated members of their communities.

It’s so good to know that there are Harvard Professors to make all the “bold moves” that Indian feminists have never made.

 Attack the impunity of security forces? Now that’s a bold move indeed – would any of us shy  Indian women be so bold as all that?  I wonder where the Verma Committee got that crazy idea from?

Posts on Kafila on the Justice Verma Committee and the Ordinance

The Verma Committee: Alchemizing anger to hope

WateCannons, Tear Gas, Ordinance – How the State Responds to Protests Against Rape and the Justice Verma Committee

Why the Govt’s Ordnance is Fraud & Mockery of the Justice Verma Committe Recommendations

The Official Emergency Continues – The Ordinance on Sexual Assault 

“The impunity of every citadel is intact” – the taming of the Verma Committee Report, and some troubling doubts

Why the law on sexual offences must be changed

The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 on Sexual Assault – Cut, Paste and Shock! 

Also check out the reports on Feminists India

Free Online Harvard School of Public Health Course on Clinical Research


This year  Swati Piramal was elected to the Harvard Board
of Overseers, a 350 year old governing board of Harvard University
for a term of 6 years. She has been frequently asked how that would
benefit her own country. She wanted to bring the best of Harvard to
India and as a first step has ensured the initiation of a Free Online
Course on Clinical Research.

 

One of the big shortages we have in Indian science is the lack of
research curriculum in our medical training. India has over 900,000
doctors but few are trained to be physician scientists. This is a
glaring gap in our country. Medical doctors trained in the science of
quantitative methods can become top professionals in clinical research
and become investigators for trials. Some months ago, Swati mooted the
idea of training for doctors in research methods to the Harvard School
of Public Health and was pleased that they responded with the first
ever Edx course in Clinical research  which is online training in
Quantitative Methods in Clinical and Public Health Research.
This course has got a huge worldwide response, with over 10,000 people
already registered.  Swati’s personal goal is to enroll at least 2000
doctors /health professionals/ students interested in research, from
India for this introductory course, which is free. The faculty is
world class and have made a great contribution to global health.

Please get as many people to enroll as possible. Share this  with
others who may be interested in clinical research. Please help to
circulate to faculty/ students and others interested in research.

Free Online Harvard School of Public Health Course on Clinical
Research Premieres in October for a Global Audience

To learn more about the free, three-month online course and to sign
up, go to the following web address:
https://www.edx.org/courses/HarvardX/PH207x/2012_Fall/about

How to register.

Anyone can register for this course at the following address.

https://www.edx.org/courses/HarvardX/PH207x/2012_Fall/about

The Course Number is  PH207x

Classes Start Oct 15, 2012

Classes End Jan 18, 2013

People interested in taking the course should estimate that it will
require about 10 hours per week of effort.

About the Faculty

The course is taught by two well respected Harvard School of Public
Health professors, Earl Francis Cook and Marcello Pagano.

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