eba0b-free

Release Delhi University Professor, Dr GN Saibaba from Prison: Picket, London 28.6.2015

Please join the picket at the office of the High Commission of India, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA 

From 1pm on 28th June 2015.(Nearest Tube Station:  Halborn and Temple)

 Dr GN Saibaba, a Professor of Delhi University and a versatile democratic rights champion was clandestinely abducted on 9th May 2014 by plainclothes Indian policemen. Since then, charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), he has been kept under solitary confinement in a dark cell of Nagpur Central Jail in the Indian State of Maharashtra.

Dr Saibaba, who is wheelchair-bound with 90% disability, has been in the forefront of the democratic rights movements across the Indian subcontinent. He campaigned tirelessly against ‘Operation Green Hunt’ – the Indian State’s war on the poorest of the poor of India, such as Dalits, Adivasis and peasants of Central and Eastern India, who are struggling to safeguard their lands, forests and rivers from being grabbed by the mighty and powerful  multi-national corporations – both foreign and Indian – in the name of ‘development’. For questioning the model of this so-called ‘development’, Dr Saibaba is incarcerated. Expression of one’s own views on political and socio-economic issues is not a crime but a very basic democratic right granted by the Indian Constitution to all its citizens. Perhaps Dr Saibaba’s only “crime” is that he stood in solidarity with the sons and daughters of the soil, who are resisting the corporate loot of their natural resources.

Dr Saibaba suffers from a heart ailment and degeneration of the vertebrae for which he needs constant expert medical attention. After his incarceration, his health has seriously deteriorated in the prison. The Indian State has ensured that Dr Saibaba’s bail application was rejected thrice. The trial has not started even after a year, and the authorities are denying him the necessary medical attention, which suggests that the Indian State is slowly letting Dr GN Saibaba’s health deteriorate to point of no return. Imprisoning a 90% disabled person violates the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Persons with Disabilities Act, and the UN Conventions. His case is just a glaring example of a complete travesty of justice which happens far too often in the Indian subcontinent. There are 300,000 prisoners waiting for trial in the Indian prisons languishing for years without legal access, most of them from the most deprived social sectors.   

We appeal to all intellectuals, lawyers, students, workers and trade union activists of Britain and Europe to condemn the incarceration of Dr Saibaba and thousands of many others by joining the Campaign for the Defence and Release of Political Prisoners.  Please join the picket at the office of the High Commission of India, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA from 1pm on 28th June 2015.(Nearest Tube Station:  Temple)

Indian Workers Association, GB (Central Organising Committee); 

          Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), UK;

  Tohum Cultural Centre – London; 
International Campaign Against the War on People in India

Shaheed Minar

shaheed minar

Already in 1990 you had to get permission from the Chief of Police at Lal Bazaar to climb this monument. A friend, Kate, and I went to see him and he greeted us with an expansive ‘So you want to see a panoramic view of my city’ – his arms opened wide in an all encompassing gesture that only accentuated his ample girth and the standard issue metro police belt that held all in place. We climbed the stairs – pretty high, it does seem more than 48 meters – and, as we were smokers then, we lingered quite some time up top discussing politics, war, freedom movements, rallying colours and of course panoramas, before we came down. Its very good news the place will be opened for visits soon once more. Site also of some of the largest rallies I’ve ever attended.

Here is the Calcutta City tours rave about it:

http://kolkatacitytours.com/shaheed-minar-kolkata/

The 48 meter high Shaheed Minar, popularly called the “Monument” is a prominent landmark of Kolkata. Established in the year 1848, it was named Ochtorloney Monument to honour, Sir David Ochterlony who served in the Nepal War (1814 – 1816).  In 1969, this Ochterlony Monument received its new name ‘Shahid Minar’, which means “Martyr’s Tower” to honour the sacrifice of Indian freedom fighters. You have to climb 218 steps to reach the top of the monument from where you can savor a bird’s eye view of Kolkata.The architecture of Shaheed Minar shows a brilliant blend of Egyptian, Syrian and Turkish style of designing.

History of Shaheed Minar, Kolkata

It was founded in 1848, as Ochterlony Monument, to honour Major General Sir David Ochterlony’s (Commander of the British East India Company) triumph against the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1825. The architect J.P. Parker conceived the structure of this 48 meter high monument based on a blend of Egyptian and Syrian style with a dome having a striking resemblance with Turkish design. In 1969, the Ochterlony monument was rededicated to the freedom fighters of India – the martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the freedom movement of India and was renamed as “Shaheed Minar”, which in Bengali means “Martyr’s Tower.”

A winding flight of 218 steps takes visitors to the top of the tower from where one can have a panoramic view of the city. However, in 1997, a mishap occurred when a tourist jumped from the lower balcony of Shaheed Minar. From then, prior permission is needed from police to climb the monument. The last person to climb up the monument was the former Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi along with his family.

Lately, the state government of West Bengal has taken initiative to open up the monument for both local public and tourists. The work of refurbishment has started in late 2011 and will be accomplished in two phases. After the completion of the work, both tourists and local people can climb up to the top of the monument. There are also plans to set up stalls in front of the monument. Initiative is also taken to clean the pathways and beautify them with flowering plants.

The vast field lying towards the south of Shahid Minar is popularly called the Shahid Minar Maidan or the Brigade Ground. The place hosts political rallies for several decades. The first political meeting on Shaheed Minar Maidan was headed by Rabindranath Tagore, where he condemned the assassination of a young man in Hilji by the British in 1931.

Big Fight, punchy new book to come… #India #Media #Film #SouthAsia (if I can get the final edits done this weekend).


Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 22.47.58“TV is now increasingly entertainment. News is entertainment. You have to create some element of entertainment … people shouting at each other … or some kind of conflict. It is not always about information. I am not saying in the Big Fight you don’t try to inform but if the entertainment element was not there the programme would probably not have survived. You have to package it … First Punch, Second Punch … Otherwise who will see? There has to be some heat” (Sardesai interviewed in Mehta 2008:255)

(these pictures are not directly linked to the quote, which is about NDTV 24X7 news coverage as part of the new book < but there is indeed discussion of the film also>)

<Mary Kom was the winner of the 2008 World Boxing Championship>

the mortality of paraphrase – book scraps left on the cutting room floor.

It has often been noted that war is hell, or ‘heck’ in the old 1970s ‘M*A*S*H’ anti-war comedy version, but the cold war too has its unwelcome replays as austerity today, this time as grotesque rerun of terror and economic malaise.

For many in the West, a first look at ‘Asia’ came with Altman’s 1970 film M*A*S*H following the adventures of a front line medical unit in the Korean war, but the Vietnam War was the allegorical context. The long-running television series featured Alan Alda as Hawkeye and his bumbling foil Major Frank Burns, an incompetent officer and surgeon played by Larry Lindville, who offered the mortal paraphrase – ‘war is heck’. An occasional character, the paranoid Colonel Flag, played by Edward Winter, should also be remembered for his surrealist reinforcement of the absolute winning incoherence of the phrase ‘military intelligence’.

Mutate nomine de te fabula narratur!

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 15.28.10I may have made the wrong book choice today, depressing read. But strangely ‘Precarious Japan’ reads true of elsewhere more than, or as much as, here. That these tales give ‘an eye-opening view into the darker aspects of modern Japanese society’, is something, but I don’t get so much that its about Japan in general as maybe also about the condition of all societies in prolonged and advanced stagnation, such as the economy of most of Europe after 8 years of austerity.

Anne Allison’s (Precarious Japan) stories of people going slowly crazy through the squeeze of expectation, order, hierarchy and poverty. Not exactly street or park sleepers, but the next rung up who sleep in net cafes or capsule hotels, scrape by day to day, cannot rely on family, have to care for infirm others (or who try to suicide with them and it backfires, killing themselves but only further injuring the crippled mother, for example in a case of a former singer cared for by her daughter), single mums walking out of the house leaving their two kids to starve, more suicides, teenage son kills his mother who has sold everything to keep him in computer games – the classic hikikimori stay-at-home type, [that I am in danger of becoming], the salary man who had to drop his teenage son off at a shelter because he had to work 19 hours a day because of a mad boss and the company structure. I expect these sort of stories exist in only slightly different form in the UK too, but I’ve not read someone who has gathered them together, even if here the author has lightly coated them with a veneer of theory derived from Butler, affect, platitudes about the 99% etc. The theoretical may be a prophylactic against horrors, but its not quite effective. Reading this is harrowing because it is so close to normal and everyday – the not quite invisible but easily overlooked slow motion apocalypse of stagnation. Mutate nomine de te fabula narratur.

OK, maybe more notes when I can stomach it. Credit due to the writing that it has such affect. Even if she thinks the term precarious comes from the 1970s and not from Marx in Capital, and of course all work for an employer is precarious, but this is nevertheless a very welcome, harsh, read.

Got to rush now to put out my recycling. Its plastic wrapper day.

[update] on recycling – I missed the pick up = great stress. But then looking about to see what else is about I found this, which seems like it will have much to teach me: “Visions of Precarity in Japanese Popular Culture and Literature”… [update extra} – ahhhhggg, it costs Y15000, for the kindle edition. How can people do research in this sort of privatised world of pay-walls and blockages].

[updated update] – have got to chapter four. am nearly wiped out. but then a bit of Bachelard and Bloch comes to save the day before we are back to daughters stabbing their fathers, a guy driving a truck onto the crossing at Akihabara, sarin attacks and maid cafes – ok, not in the same sentence – thankfully, but you never know what is coming with anthropology. But generally, thinking about this, it seems like a colourful stagnation has to be better than the bland grey stagnation we have in the UK – fanboy and fangirl culture here may be the equivalent pulp culture of say Simon Cowell’s twisted world, but he really does not really make it anywhere near close to being a viable contestant in this comparative game.

[and finally…] so, having finished it. I am struck that this presents as an anthropology of a whole country. Strange, till I remembered that doing that has been a default practice of anthro since Ruth Benedict’s Chrysanthemum and Sword. So we have fieldwork in the summer months, with the great east earthquake playing havoc with the drafts, cracks in the temporal narrative, and a few disjunctive repetitions (we are told over and over of the school lunch story, the lorry guy in Akihabara, and that Akihabara is the place for otaku and electrics, as if it was ever in doubt). At the end the author becomes a volunteer, which threw me back to my own ethnographic work in Calcutta 25 years ago. In some ways I am envious, in others disappointed because this could have easily been an even better book. Not that I want to edit, but well, good writing, and a flummoxing structure – perhaps a bit precarious then. If that was on purpose, its not quite come off. At least – spoiler alert – the ending did not leave me wanting to kill someone.