Category Archives: India

The Sobraj Challenge

Well, I know, this is not such an appropriate headline and a bit cheeky to add it, but I find this article predictable and mind-boggling at the same time. Charles Sobraj escaped from this place, so now you can try too. Though the last line comparison with a similar program in, of all places, Telangana jail has a nice little earner attached.

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Illustrating the growing trend for dark tourism, Delhi’s Tihar Jail is opening cells for tourists to give them a first-hand taste of life behind bars in an Indian prison. Emily Eastman reports

For about £20, the “Feel Like Jail” initiative will invite tourists to sample life in Asia’s largest prison – living in a locked cell, eating prison food, sleeping on the floor, wearing a uniform and grinding wheat at 5am.

The prison, which sprawls across 400 acres and houses more than 16,000 inmates, has constructed special tourist cells that are separated from the main prison by high walls.

There’s also the possibility of meeting real inmates, although not the notorious criminals currently imprisoned there. Instead, only selected inmates will be allowed to live in the complex with tourists.

Speaking to India Today, a source said: “These prisoners will be shortlisted based on their behaviour while they are lodged in jail. It is important for visitors to share the same premises with these inmates so that they can interact with them, listen to their stories.”

A source within Tihar Jail said that the complex was reviewed in June. “The feedback by superintendent-rank officers emphasised that visitors could be kept with inmates of semi-open and open prisons.

“Also, the proper uniform of the jail must be provided to the visitors and she/he should be kept away from mobile phones and other special facilities,” they said.

Although cells have toilets, tourists will still have to sleep on the floor like a real inmate and phones will be removed for security reasons. Activities during the stay will include dawn exercises and daily activities such as painting and meditation.

There are rumours that the attraction could be a Delhi Tourism initiative, which is not so hard to believe when you consider that the prison already sells a wide-range of “TJ’s” branded goods – from textiles to furniture – made by prisoners.

It’s not the first time that so-called “prison tourism” has been used to attract visitors and generate more tourism receipts.

In the 1990s, English inmate Thomas Mcfadden started offering tours of San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia, where he was imprisoned after being convicted of drug smuggling.

Mcfadden’s tours were borne of a need for income – San Pedro operated as a mini city, with inmates required to pay for everything, including their cells – but modern prison tours seem to be built on demand from a niche segment of travellers.

Perhaps the first in India was the “Feel the Jail” programme at Sangareddy Prison, in India’s Telangana state. Similar to the Tihar offering, visitors were given a prison uniform, basic cutlery and toiletries while being stripped of their phones – and freedom – for 24 hours.

The prison’s superintendent Santosh Kumar Rai said in 2018: “30 per cent of the prisoners leave out of abrupt sheer fear and for those who do this, we levy an extra charge of Rs 500 [US$7]. But those who complete full 24 hours walk out with a new sense of freedom.”’

 

Really, that last bit just seems to ice the story as fully baked cake in contemporary India. A levy on fear and the feeling of freedom. Also, you can pay to get out – probably the most authentic part of the deal.

 

Safdar Hashmi

So, in 1988 I was evading fieldwork or whatever it was – frankly, I had abandoned the very idea – and was hanging around with a writer whose short stories I had long adored, so much that I wrote to her. Vishwapriya L Iyengar – Vishwa – invited me to visit, cooked food, talked all day and night and into the next day. Talked so food that had been prepared went uneaten. Talked as her partner prepared posters for a Delhi Science Forum demonstration at JNU. And then took me one day by auto to the grounds of some closed I think electric station or even water tank, sort of diagonal from the science institute where there was a concrete T-rex – not far from Triveni. It was late. Delhi was getting cool at last – in those days the air was more like air, yet still it grew misty as the night closed in and the car horns muffled on. Anyway, we were there to meet some people who turned out to be rehearsing a play – workshopping roles, and joining in as the top-hatted factory boss. This was a performance for the picket line, theatre to be taken into factories. Shy, very clumsy, and not a little self-conscious, it was made all the more fun by a woman who turned out to be one of the organisers making fun, and in banter and laughter the mosquitoes did not seem to big a deal (until we stopped). Then food in tiffin tins, late into the night talk about all the theory of the world etc. In those days I was read up on D-school sociology.

It was about two weeks before Christmas, then Safdar was killed on 1 January. I left the next day thinking that there was too much I could not understand in India.

Books like this one planned by Sudhanva Deshpande for LeftWord show just how true that was. I am looking forward to reading more. No matter how much sociology you read, going to have a look for yourself is better, but harder.

https://mayday.leftword.com/blog/post/the-writing-of-halla-bol-the-death-and-life-of-safdar-hashmi-part-1/

There is more – click the link:

The Journey of ‘Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi’, Part 1

Author: LeftWord

The Journey of ‘Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi’, Part 1
It was towards the end of July that the author, serial hashtagger and indulgent ‘Boss’, Sudhanva Deshpande, began sharing updates on the book’s progress on Facebook. Occupied with all kinds of tasks at LeftWord, Vaam Prakashan, and Studio Safdar – over and above the writing of the book – he could hardly be expected to sit down and talk to us about it. These updates were all we had as we grew more and more impatient.

Read on. There’s a lot here that didn’t make it into the final text. (Click on the sub-heads to see the individual Facebook posts.)

Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi will be out on January 1, 2020. Do join us for the book launch at Jhandapur that day.

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26 July
I’m writing a book on Safdar Hashmi, Jana Natya Manch, street theatre, political activism, and the attack that resulted in Safdar’s and Ram Bahadur’s death. I’m going through Safdar’s papers. And every time it gets a little heavy, Safdar amuses me with his little doodles.

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… and later that day
More doodles by Safdar Hashmi. Sometimes I want to say: Stop it Safdar, stop distracting me, can’t you see I’m working?

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There is more:

https://mayday.leftword.com/blog/post/the-writing-of-halla-bol-the-death-and-life-of-safdar-hashmi-part-1/

Sundarbans, Climate, Tigers, Law.

Liquidity of the Sundarbans:

If the Tigers and Cyclones Don’t Get You, the Law Will

This forms the first part of a new research concentration for me, and owes much to colleagues at Jadavpur Uni now battling the BJP monstrosity. This sort of work relies upon the University remaining an open, critical, creative and thinking place. And such works as discussed here – more than three, a whole series of works are considered, reaching back to when I first met the history and philosophy folks at Jadavpur – are indicative of what remains that is good in the university, despite all that is happening.

50 e-prints for those quick off the mark, here: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/AVPTDBBTQNKUBBVHPHSV/full?target=10.1080/00856401.2019.1663884

 

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Global South Asia On Screen: India only edition.

via Global South Asia On Screen: India only edition.

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Available from Aakar Books Here.

Rest of the world here (bloomsbury paperback in November)

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4826-8949

 

Just because its only out cheaply in India does not mean you canot still buy stauff – the Hardback is 20 quid on some sites.

ANd there are a few older things still kicking about:

 

John Hutnyk is the author of Bad Marxism (Pluto Press, 2004) and Critique of Exotica …
The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and the Poverty of Representation [John Hutnyk] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

Global Digital Cultures

Very keen to read this:

Global Digital Cultures: Perspectives from South Asia  – 2019

By Aswin Punathambekar and  Sriram Mohan 

 

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Digital media histories are part of a global network, and South Asia is a key nexus in shaping the trajectory of digital media in the twenty-first century. Digital platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and others are deeply embedded in the daily lives of millions of people around the world, shaping how people engage with others as kin, as citizens, and as consumers. Moving away from Anglo-American and strictly national frameworks, the essays in this book explore the intersections of local, national, regional, and global forces that shape contemporary digital culture(s) in regions like South Asia: the rise of digital and mobile media technologies, the ongoing transformation of established media industries, and emergent forms of digital media practice and use that are reconfiguring sociocultural, political, and economic terrains across the Indian subcontinent. From massive state-driven digital identity projects and YouTube censorship to Tinder and dating culture, from Twitter and primetime television to Facebook and political rumorsGlobal Digital Cultures focuses on enduring concerns of representation, identity, and power while grappling with algorithmic curation and data-driven processes of production, circulation, and consumption.

Rumours! (my emphasis).

and page 208 discussed Afzal Guru:

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JNU & University Strikes in Delhi

“On Friday, the Congress had voted — unsuccessfully —for amendments proposed by the CPM and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to the government’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill. But when the time came to vote on the bill itself, the Congress voted in favour”

Oh dear. Yet…

From the Telegraph 4th August 2019

Don’t rely on Parliament, MP Manoj Jha tells teachers

Jha called for street protests

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi

 

Manoj Jha, a professor of social work with Delhi University, was addressing teachers gathered in solidarity with 48 of their JNU colleagues who face disciplinary charges for going on strike last year against alleged rule violations in appointments and the withholding of salaries.(Screengrab: RSTV)

Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha on Saturday asked protesting teachers not to depend any more on Parliament, a day after the Congress voted in favour of a law that empowers the government to declare individuals as terrorists even without trial.

Jha, a professor of social work with Delhi University, was addressing teachers gathered in solidarity with 48 of their JNU colleagues who face disciplinary charges for going on strike last year against alleged rule violations in appointments and the withholding of salaries.

The teachers say the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, which have been invoked against them, do not apply to university faculty, who are governed by the ordinances of their universities.

“I’m not talking about adversaries. They are known. You don’t know about those who stand with you as friends,” Jha said.

“Don’t ever any more rely on Parliament. Ultimately, when it comes to voting, friends disappear. There is a very good instrument called ‘walking out’. You say lots of things on a bill: ‘I disagree, I disagree, I disagree, I disagree’. And subsequently you walk out. What is that? You are helping the government muzzle your own voice.”

He went on: “Probably, you will have to create a ’75-like situation (that triggered the Emergency). Let’s work on it. Let’s take away responsibilities from the political parties and politicians not because of anything else but simply because they are suffering from drudgery. They have started believing that there is no alternative…. You don’t always cross the floor from here to there. You disappear from the floor.”

Jha called for street protests. “They have won the majority; they are winning in Parliament. The only space they are not winning is the universities, JNU being one. But there are hundreds of universities in this country where there are voices of dissent. You can’t defeat them in elections.”

He added: “Let’s gherao Parliament itself; let’s talk about coming in big numbers. I only see hope in that. Otherwise, I can’t tell you the way I have seen legislative business (conducted) in Parliament. I’m worried whether Parliament will have any meaning in the coming days.”

On Friday, the Congress had voted — unsuccessfully —for amendments proposed by the CPM and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to the government’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill. But when the time came to vote on the bill itself, the Congress voted in favour.

Earlier this week, the Janata Dal United and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had opposed the bill that criminalises the instant talaq but walked out after that. Several Opposition MPs too were absent during the voting.

Speaking to The Telegraph after Saturday’s event, Jha said: “I spoke out because whatever has happened in Parliament worries me as a citizen and an MP. The best fight is when you link anguish in the street with anger in Parliament. The anguish is there on the street, but the anger in Parliament has disappeared.”

The JNU 48 have received support from teachers’ unions across India and several renowned academics outside India, including Akeel Bilgrami, Arjun Appadurai, Gayatri Spivak, Judith Butler, Partha Chatterjee and Sheldon Pollock.

After protests following the University Grants Commission’s attempt to bring all universities under the CCS rules, which govern bureaucrats, then human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar had last October tweeted: “We have neither put any restrictions nor intend to put any restrictions on ‘Freedom of Speech’ in JNU, Delhi University or any other university.”

Rajib Ray, president of the Federation of Central University Teachers Associations, said: “It (his tweet) was a blatant lie…. The attack is not on the 48 or 200 teachers, it is on higher education itself.”