I wrote my first book as a critique of charity work in Kolkata, India. I attempted a critique of western ‘charity’ workers helping those they saw as the ‘unfortunates’ in classic development colonial style – of the many ‘volunteers’ in Kolkata at the time, the majority worked for Mother Theresa but the ones I hung out with were at a clinic run by a long time medico Jack Praeger. Mostly I was attracted to this lot because they were not as pious as those who came for Missionary work, they drank and drugged their way around the banana pancake trail (backpacker tourism circuit) and ended up in Kolkata as a kind of default. Yet, it was an international charity, and about 95%, of them were from outside India, though with a few Indian doctors doing part time work. The organisation did help people, mostly street dwellers with injuries or leprosy sufferers who were not treated by hospitals because of poverty and stigma, and the limited capacity of the medical system in communist but undeveloped Bengal (undeveloped because the pro-capitalist national govt moved industry away from the then communist state). Ideally, the state would provide all social care, including organising social service programmes (that I would distinguish from charity). Westerners took pictures of themselves doing this charity work, and sent them home as postcards and so on, and increasingly the international support came and funded more westerners to come and do ‘the work’ of volunteering (it had become a stop on the tourist trail, even mentioned in travel guides). But this work was still what the state should do and increasingly it became clear that street people were in a way just a photogenic backdrop for the westerners self-promotion. Here, media imagery, including films, sold the exotic image of the poor of Kolkata to the West. Even feature films were made – for example City of Joy with Patrick Swayze – and endless documentaries about the anti-contraception, love them till it hurts, ‘wizened old saint’ Mother Theresa, who got high profile donations from famous westerners who made a show of being photographed with the poor of Kolkata. Ma T, as Christopher Hitchens put it, was interested in helping the poor die as Christians (in a majority Hindu state) while people like Ronald Reagan, and the Savings and Loans scandal millionaire who shall not be named, had their photos taken with the poor and promoted their ‘good deeds’. So, the issue of representation was huge, but even more, the reasons why these people did ‘charity’ work had to be discussed – in a larger frame, pictures of their giving was more of a gift for themselves, self-promotion of their goodness. Gift and counter-gift – cf Mauss, The Gift; Derrida, Given Time etc. They could just as easily have donated to the medical facilities of Bengal, or quietly worked for industrial contracts to promote the economy and medical facilities, hospital development and inclusive policies, but no, the communist state was not their cup of char. I would think we need a very strict distinction to be made between charity and social service work. I think the issue of representation of children and the poor is always political, that exoticism and exploitation in imagery is real, and that integrating support for the blind, the poor, children etc must be organised through structures like local govt, community and institutions etc. What is most questionable here is what happens when ‘foreigners’ take over and think they can ‘help’ but really they are promoting their own self-image and unexamined values. Only some of this will be relevant now, for sure, but I wanted to rethink my experience and confirm the need to not call everything charity – better organised forms social service work (red summer) seem radically different to what international charity often becomes. And yes, in media studies, the issue of how we represent ourselves and ‘the poor’ (photogenic poverty) is without doubt still a significant concern.
Great discussion of iron smelting for coins and guns by Amitabha Ghosh in Aniruddha Ray (ed) “Tipu Sultan and his Age” . Asiatic Society 2002, Park Street. Much else in the volume, a collection of papers from a great seminar in 2001.
Did I mention the yellow cover version out with Aakar books in India?
of course the red cover one is still also in Vilayeti: https://www.waterstones.com/author/john-hutnyk/485336
Most interesting post of the day, and by far, has been this attached article on Bhagat Singh and anarchism, shifting to socialism. A few points fist though. I find this the most urgent imperative support for the importance of using a good library. This can never be overstated. Get into the stacks, and learn learn learn (as Godard says Lenin said, though this popular Russian slogan appears as study study study*)
[*”By any means we have to set ourselves a task to refresh our government staff: first, to study, second, to study, and third, to study, — and then check it so that our science would not remain a dead character or a fashionable phrase (which, truth be told, happens often with us), so that the science really would penetrate flesh and bone, become a part of everyday life at the fullest and for real”.
Better Less, but Better; Pravda, №49 March 4, 1923; also: Compendium of Works (in Russian), vol. 45, page 391.
«Нам надо во что бы то ни стало поставить себе задачей для обновления нашего госаппарата: во-первых — учиться, во-вторых — учиться и в-третьих — учиться и затем проверять то, чтобы наука у нас не оставалась мертвой буквой или модной фразой (а это, нечего греха таить, у нас особенно часто бывает), чтобы наука действительно входила в плоть и кровь, превращалась в составной элемент быта вполне и настоящим образом».
Лучше меньше, да лучше, газета «Правда, №49, 4 марта 1923 года. Также: ПСС, т. 45, стр. 391]
Follow the link to read or listen to this piece from the wire.
The full wraparound cover:
I do not want to attract new madness, the old madness does well enough. Here, a summary of various items of fun fact* where *I use the term in the sense of fake news facts*:
Much respect to Netaji, I do of course wish (any of) this was true.
However, some years ago, on the trail of Subhas’s house here in HCMC, which we found, which still exists, though in a dilapidated state, someone was in touch and linked to a number of photographs of an Indian looking gentleman who is pictured at a Chinese pro Vietnam ceremony (can be discounted, read the ‘mobile phone photo story abdout ‘Evidence shows’ – link below) and a picture of the delegation to Paris a few years later allegedly as a member of the talks, with *confirmation* by the famous Madame Binh – head negotiator. Well, most likely not, even if the person does seem to have the correct features, but all other accounts suggest a plane crash. Though Taiwan airport logs no such crash – during a war, go figure – thus pouring aviation fuel on the rumour mill.
Me, personally, I am sure Subhas will return in the next few weeks and reveal that it is true he has been trading Cocaine in Vietnam, then living in China before walking across Tibet with Vikram Seth. Since then he has been living all this time as a sadhu in Varanasi and other parts of U.P., perhaps. Ha!
More likely is the French story that he died in Prison – the notorious Police Bot Catinat (lock up mentioned in Grahame Green’s Quiet American book) is not far from his house, and its the more likely tale really.
Here are the links:
Then, here are a few of the even more fun factoidifications of the endless rabbit hole that is Netaji studies:
Alive in Vietnam:
Dead in Vietnam:
Netaji in China
The Taiwan aircrash never happened:
and perhaps the best yet, also well documented : https://thewire.in/history/netaji-subhas-chandra-bose-gumnami-baba
Indeed, probably worth citing the entire post as, well, surely we can only wish this were all true, what a hero (somewhat unfortunately its only in The Wire, ah well):
“He lived incognito to perform some covert activities in Asian countries. He led an Asian Liberation Army which fought in the Korean War of 1952. The Chinese army that attacked India in 1962 was led by him. He wanted to emancipate India from the western influence but Indians could not recognise him, so he ordered the army to retreat. In Vietnam, he was guiding Ho-Chi-Minh in his fight against US imperialism. He went to Paris in 1969 to mediate for the Vietnamese in the ‘Paris Peace Talks’. Before that, he visited Tashkent to help draw up the Tashkent Pact between India and Pakistan on January 10, 1966. Lastly, he turned his attention to his native state and was in north Bengal in 1970-71 guiding the ‘Mukti-joddhas’ in their liberation war for Bangladesh.https://thewire.in/history/netaji-subhas-chandra-bose-gumnami-baba
Finally – never finally of course – the tributes continue in an effort to actually recognise the achievements of the man.
Me, I most like the story of him beating the black hole monument plaque with his slipper, as mentioned in my article https://www.academia.edu/17780537/THE_BLACK_HOLE in *Strangely Beloved* by the wonderful Nilanjana Gupta.
Thanks to Sarunas for the latest diversion into this quick sand trinketry.
In the current conjuncture, with the increasingly complete capture of university research by corporate interests, only the alternative incorporation of research teams that start outside the university seems viable, resisting heavy-handed external oversight but stressing ethics. This is behind this is my current interest in Cora Du Bois’s Bhubaneswar project and her involvement in AAA at a very interesting time, but it also shaped my pre-pandemic attempts at fieldwork teams (stalled, but to be continued):
Click the image, then the pdf tab, to see the full text… here
I could not find a single volume biography, which seems like a gap, but this special issue of Anthropologica from 1993 is a welcome find. Since it is hard to get hold of the articles, I’ve embedded the files for easy access. Read and be inspired. (more pdfs in the screenshot at the end, if you want them email me)
being ill is my excuse for catching up with novels, but I interrupt the stream of hackery to give a progress report on this as its the best book I’ve read in ages, despite that I am half way through, and despite the book persuading me that no child should ever be entrusted to the English school system (no disrespect for teachers as they have no time to teach – the ancillary roles of school librarian and caretaker the only sites of care, time, hope, as is the case so often). Despite even, maybe because of, the cantankerous voice, so resounding with alliterated simile, each page has its puns, jibes, jabs and jaw, I’m only half way through, but wanted to note the progress (and how mixing College Street and Canning Town makes strange landscapes familiar). The middle section on the mother of K is really astonishing, not just because of the angular history that has been there all through the book – I’ll perhaps later track all that, I could have a guess at most of the missing footnotes – but because of how brilliantly the mother’s inner life has been rendered, intimately understood, lovingly portrayed, so that at present, half way through, I’m thinking contemporary literature here takes a step forward at last from the all fine but almost formulaic earlier epochs of – 123 sounding off down the years: – Rusdhie, Kureishi, Kunzru… or Lessing, Coetzee, Smith… for sure beyond, Hornby, McEwan, Self … but don’t take my word for it, I’m still reading it – here is the author himself snapshotting a London bus in Lewisham on a particular day in the summer of ’77 – and this is just a taster…
Once upon a long ago, there was a time when I was more rebelliously young, and I wrote a piece on the future of anthropology. At proof stage they did not correct, and so I thought they had accepted, my rather racy sentence which read ‘For fuck’s sake, this has gone on too long, now anthropology needs to…’ and whatever it was I was arguing – something about not pretending people in ‘tribes’ did not watch telly or listen to hip-hop. It was the first sentence, so at proof stage was the time to tell me I was being childish. Instead, they just changed it without telling me and it appeared in print, in a major journal, as: ‘For God’s sake…’ anyone who knows me will agree that change is far worse than any other they might have tried out…
The second story is much grander and concerns Gayatri Spivak and her translation of Chotti Munda and his Arrow by Mahasweta Devi for Blackwell. In the preface, Gayatri takes pains to explain that in Mahasweta’s story there are a number of words that are English or derived from English, such as Gorment for Government or ‘countred for encounter (which is when a revolutionary is found dead with hands tied behind their back after an ‘encounter’ with the police, as I discuss in both Critique of Exotica and Pantomime Terror). These words in not quite English are meant to seem a bit jarringly foreign in Bengali, so to indicate their tone/idiomatic resonance, Gayatri writes that she has forgone the usual practice of italicising foreign words in a text, which anyway in English translation would not be needed, but in order to preserve their disruptive status in the story she has underlined them.
Blackwell then added a note on the next page, something like [I will be more precise when I’m next at my books]: ‘This text is printed as received from Professor Spivak except for the standard copyediting, such as italiciziing loan words and correcting typographic slips.
Though the music from the film Sholay won’t be part of this week’s lecture on music and allegory (Adorno and Jazz), it probably should be. If you watched the film around mid term (as advised), you might now be interested in this pretty comprehensive Sholay wiki
The great Pachyderms (obsolete taxonomic category of old) – I’ve written about Ganda the rhino who circumnavigates Africa, from Gujurat to Marseilles in 1515, a gift from Sultan MuzafarII, ruler of Cambay, sent to the Portuguese King, after the Sultan had declined Alfonso Albuquerque’s request to build a fort in Surat. Ganda, and his keeper Ocem, get to Marseilles in 1516 but sink off the coast of Italy (Ganda was chained to the deck. Sad). The Indian rhino these days is endangered; is the mascot of the security wing of the army (5th Assam I think); and deserves a better fate. See below for a link to a short history of World Rhino Day, and to my article on Ganda, and a great littel vid on Albrecht Durer’s print of Ganda (done without seeing him in the flesh). A pity, since who could not love a mug like these? Gotta have a thick hide, eh?
My chapter on Ganda was in this book, cover below, from Jadavpur Uni Press – a link to an earlier version is below since I don’t have a pdf, but you can also read Niranjan Goswami’s introduction on the google links straight after the cover below:
Here is the draft of the essay – a few changes in editing…
And then, finaly, there is this really good vid explaining much about Durer’s rendering of Ganda:
DECEMBER 20th to 22nd 1937
Observations taken more than a
century ago, these* papers describe many things which are
no longer actual, and they are become records. Records
not tha word recall long series of volumes edited for
the India Office and arrays of thick folios printed and issued
by several of the provincial Governments of India V Invalu-
able, however, as these are in regard to administration and
politics and economics and biography and the lives of British
and other European communities, they do not, except in casual
gleams, fill the void which is at the heart of Indian history,
uaiuily, our failure to conceive with what mind the peoples of
India lived through that history. For the Hindu period, though
at one epoch each district had its chronicle, its nila-pata of
‘blue-book’, as it was called, we have indeed no records, except
one or two formal histones and biographies and a number
of genealogies, rdjdvalis or va^dvalis, wh.ch are anything
but reliable. But at any rate we have enough of literature
through which transpires the genera] mentality ; and from
the epigraphical ‘records’ it has been found possible, as we
all know, to elicit much information concerning social and
It seems in Sri Lanka a holy text was burnt… a ‘heretical’ text brought from Benares, but not burnt before it inspired the king (Kumaradasa) and some devoted souls…
Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa.
circa 500 AD.
“In the days of Kumaradasa, King of Ceylon, there lived in the city of Southern Madura a
ruler Sri Harsha by name. At this time a clever but depraved monk visited the house of a
prostitute during the night, clad himself in a blue garb and returned to the Vihara after
day-break. His pupils observing this peculiar robe inquired of him whether his attire was
not improper. As numerous people had observed his extraordinary dress he stoutly
defended it and spoke highly in Its praise. His faithful subordinates who followed his
theory discarded the yellow robe and adopted the blue-coloured garb. This heretical leader
composed a philosopical work known as Nila-pata Darsaiia praising prostitutes, intoxicants
and the God of Love as the’ only three precious gems in the triple world while despising all
other “gems” as nothing but mere clay.”
“This great heresy began to spread with much rapidity and the new philosophical treatise
reached the bands of the King Sri Harsha who went through it critically. Pretending an
approbation of the new doctrine he assembled the followers of the novel philosophy
together with their whole literature into a special hall built for the purpose and set them all
on fire. The lingering vestiges of this false doctrine had a recrudescence in Ceylon during
the, reign of Sena II. In recent times, since the advent of the Portuguese, various kinds of
religious teachings began to appear in this land, At the present day the island of ceylon is
indelibly contaminated with the poisonous stains of those bygone times”
I am now declared a devotee of the Blue Books of Sri Harsha, and as such I will reconstruct the text forensically from the ash and the blue smouldering smoke of imagination.
John, the bemused.
There are some crimes that are longer-term than others… As I am finding from spending part of the morning exploring archival images, such as this one. A ‘British propaganda poster from the Second World War, printed in England by A.C. Ltd, listing Britain’s 49 colonies. A soldier from the Ceylon Garrison Artillery takes pride of place in the centre, and the regimental badge of the force is displayed at the foot of the poster’. I am taken by surprise that neither India nor Australia could as a colony in this list, but nevertheless, I think the list is a start for reparation payments. How these can be implemented now that Boris has shifted all the assets to offshore accounts is obviously an administrative issue (armed force to descend upon Bermuda banks and the like with the queen’s bank account number to start).
Reposted from three years ago because – the stats tell me – at least one copy has been downloaded every day this month. Either its a dedicated bot that won’t give up, or someone put it on a reading list again. I never get royalties for this these days as the addresses had not been updated, and anyway Zed was soled to Bloomsbury who are my current publisher, so I assume it will sort out (and I hope it won’t be a debt :) meanwhile, good to see the digital version, which is a huge file of middling quality for reasons explained below, is getting seen. More power to you. Thanks.
25 years ago my first book was typeset and laid out in the days before electronics – well, an electric typesetting machine was plugged into a wall, but no digital file was produced. Nevertheless, I had crossed out the digital rights clause in my contract with Zed so I own this. At last some kind anonymous soul has bootlegged it and set digital copy free on the nets, though its a large scanned file and the bibliography was left off (I’ve made a rough scan of the biblio but that too is a large file). Nevertheless, notwithstanding, and such like phrasings, the book is still one of which I am proud, if nothing else for trialling a way of citing tourist backpacker-informants, for its stuff on photography and maps and for the reviews it got (and indeed keeps getting discussed, for example on films – see diekmann2012) and especially for its critique of charity and what charity is for. In the context of do-gooder well-meaning hypocrisy, the effort of charity workers serves wider interests as well as their own, and only marginally any individuals they help – who would be better helped in better funded state-run facilities if the funds extracted through business-as-usual colonialism were, you know, made as reparations for the several hundred years of colonial plunder. Ah well, the critique stands up, the charity industry sadly thrives, second only perhaps to weapons in terms of so-called development, writing books does not yet always change the world as much as you’d like (and no, I did not ever think a book would single-handedly stop Mother Theresa, but…).
I would welcome new readers.
Download The Rumour of Calcutta here: [John_Hutnyk]_The_rumour_of_Calcutta__tourism,_ch
Biblio here. Rumour biblio
And this retrieved by Toby:
I really want to go on this today
: << this is an article from The Telegraph newspaper in Kolkata>> :
The 11-hour ride, which will have its inaugural run on February 14, will cost Rs 350 and will have one-and-a-half hour stops
A cruise on the Hooghly will take visitors to Serampore and Chandernagore every Saturday and Sunday.
The 11-hour ride, which will have its inaugural run on February 14, will cost Rs 350 and will have one-and-a-half hour stops at the former Danish (Serampore) and French (Chandernagore) settlements.
The vessel will leave Millennium Park jetty at 10am and return at 9pm. It has a well-stocked library, an open deck and an on-board tuck-shop for quick bites. Tickets can be bought from the Millennium Park jetty.
The “European Settlement Boat Ride”, as the cruise has been named, will halt at Serampore around 1pm after nearly an hour’s journey from Calcutta and offer visitors an opportunity to lunch at The Denmark Tavern.
Located on the riverfront, the tavern was opened in 1786. It provided lodging and meals for “gentlemen passing up and down the river”, as mentioned in an advertisement in the Calcutta Gazette.
One can see Serampore College, established in 1818 by English Baptist missionaries, and visit Serampore Johnnagar Baptist Church, founded in the early 19th century. The other sites to visit are St Olav’s Church, Baptist Mission Cemetery and the Danish Cemetery.
The cruise will leave Serampore around 2.30 pm and reach Chandernagore after an hour. During the hour-and-a-half halt at this erstwhile French colony, tourists will get to see the Strand.
The Strand is a 700-metre-long tree-shaded promenade along the Hooghly with old French mansions and other colonial buildings along the way. One can also visit the Dupleix Palace, which houses the Chandernagore Museum and Institute.
The cruise is being organised by the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), in collaboration with the Danish Cultural Institute and the Oxford Bookstores.
“The Europeans first came on a ferry. So this cruise will be an ideal way of seeing the European settlement in Bengal,” said Thomas Sehested, the director of the Danish Cultural Institute India.
“The cruise will give people a glimpse into the European history in India which is often undermined,” said Rajanvir Singh Kapur, the managing director of WBTC.
“It’s good to have such initiatives that make people understand history and appreciate global cultures,” said Priti Paul of the Oxford Bookstores.
It seems like that old “goodness gracious me” sketch about the funny uncle that was claiming everything in Britain was ‘Indian’ was, – yup, Indian – accurate after all:
Reading Wittfogel and on page 214 he finds the Domesday Book, tdocumenting property rights for landlords of yore, has Arab [Saracen – Ghengis – ok, almost Indian] origins…
‘When in 1066 the Normans conquered England, some of their countrymen had already set themselves up as the masters of southern Italy, an area which, with interruptions, had been under Byantine administration until this date: and some of them had established a foothold in Sicily, an area which had been ruled by Byzantium for three hundred years and after that by the Saracens, who combined Arab and Byzantine techniques of absolutist government.
We have no conclusive evidence regarding the effect of this Byzantine-Saracen experience on William and his councilors. But we know that in 1072—that is, thirteen years before William ordered the description of England—the Normans had conquered the capital of Sicily, Palermo, and the northern half of the island. And we also know that there were considerable “comings and goings” 43 between the Italian-Sicilian Normans and their cousins in Normandy and England, particularly among the nobility and clergy. The latter happened also to be actively engaged in administrative work.44 No wonder, then, that on the basis of his knowledge of the period Haskins, the leading English expert on English-Sicilian relations in the Middle Ages, suggests “the possibility of a connexion between Domesday Book. and the fiscal registers which the south had inherited from its Byzantine and Saracen rulers.” [cites himself]
Haskins’ hypothesis explains well why a typically hydraulic device of fiscal administration appeared in feudal Europe. It also explains why for hundreds of years afterward this “magnificent exploit” had no parallel in that area. Evidently, systematic and nationwide registration was as out of place in feudal society as it was customary in the realm of Oriental despotism’ (Wittfogel 1957: 214)
from Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power and yes, the Orientalism and the anti-communism are strong in this one, and comparative studies on this scale are wild speculation at the level of conclusion, but int he detail, well, the detail is amazing. It is like a randomised global free association generator.
Many times mentioned on this blog, it is now more relevant than ever to write and support comrade Sai Baba whose conditions, like so many prisoners, are inhumane.
GN Saibana is one of the most prominent political prisoners in India and
one of the main leaders of the unification efforts of the Indian
revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements.
Press release by /The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr. GN
Release Dr. G. N. Saibaba from Nagpur Central Jail
In the face of an imminent threat to his life exacerbated by the
Over the last six years, the health of Dr. G. N. Saibaba, incarcerated
in Nagpur Central Jail, has deteriorated alarmingly. Prof. Saibaba is a
teacher of English at the University of Delhi and is a human rights
Due to post-polio residual paralysis of his lower limbs, he is over
ninety percent physically disabled and wheelchair bound. Since
incarceration, he has developed severe additional ailments that have
resulted in irreparable loss to his health. On May 9^th 2014, he was
abducted from Delhi by the Maharashtra Police and charged under several
sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). None of
the electronic documents supposedly seized from G.N. Saibaba’s house
were displayed in the court or tested through any witness or made part
of the course of evidence. These electronic documents were directly
brought only as part of 313 statement, and not the main course of
evidence. The judge rejected all Supreme Court judgments regarding
bringing these documents which were not part of the course of evidence
as part of 313. These documents used were not a part of the trial.
Gadchiroli Sessions court gave life imprisonment on March 7^th 2017 to
Dr. GN Saibaba along with five others. Excluding a brief reprieve in
2016, he has been kept in the solitary /anda/ cell of Nagpur Central
Jail since arrest. With Indian jails filled beyond capacity and lacking
in basic medical facilities, and with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping
across the country particularly affecting the aged and those with
serious pre-existing medical conditions, Dr. G. N. Saibaba’s future
looks exceedingly bleak.
Throughout his political life, Dr. G. N. Saibaba has been a vocal
advocate for the rights of Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and other oppressed
communities. He has spoken against the state sponsored attack on people
in Central India under Operation Green Hunt. He stood by his students
and advocated for democratic principles and social justice within the
university. He has never shied away from speaking his mind and has
worked tirelessly to uphold the spirit of democracy. While hospitals in
Nagpur and jail authorities have stated that they lack of facilities
needed to care for a person with such severe disabilities and ailments,
he remains incarcerated, untreated and denied bail. Nonetheless, he
retains the spirit of struggle, even when dehumanised by the lack of
medical facilities and denied the basic fundamental right of a life with
Dr. G. N. Saibaba suffers severe physical pain caused by the
degeneration of muscles in his hands. He is plagued by pancreatitis,
high blood pressure, Cardiomyopathy, chronic back pain, immobility and
sleeplessness. The weather conditions of Nagpur, magnified by the
windowless solitary /anda/ cell have even strained the functioning of
his heart. Consequently, his physical ailments intensified while the
lack of pain relief and neglect due to inadequate medical facilities
further debilitate his already fragile health. Despite interventions
made by the National Human Rights Commission and authorities of
international human rights organisations, the Courts have repeatedly
denied him bail.
The Supreme Court of India has upheld the right to life and reflected on
prisoners observing that “the treatment of a human being which offends
human dignity, imposes avoidable torture and reduces the man to the
level of a beast would certainly be arbitrary and can be questioned
under Article 14”. India is also a signatory to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which recognises the
inherent dignity of human beings and the ideal of free human beings
enjoying civil and political freedom. Furthermore, India has ratified
the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on
October 1^st 2007. India has even adopted the United Nations Resolution
70/175 on Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also
known as the Nelson Mandela Rules). These covenants, conventions and
resolutions ensure life and dignity to all persons, prisoners and
persons with disabilities and layout the essential parameters necessary
for its implementation. When the National Crime Records Bureau states
that prisons across the country prison are filled at 117% with
Maharashtra exceeding the average at 149%, the impact of the spread of
the COVID-19 virus in such a space is likely to be a death sentence for
/The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr. GN Saibaba/fears for
his life and appeals to the Government of India and the Government of
Maharashtra for the immediate release of Dr. G. N. Saibaba, in light of
the impending threat to his life from the COVID-19 virus. The committee
urges all democratic organisations and individuals to appeal for the
release of all political prisoners.
Prof G. Haragopal
Prof Jagmohan Singh
Prof Manoranjan Mohanty
Prof Amit Bhaduri
Srikrishna Deva Rao
Subrat Kumar Sahu
There are few better descriptions of colonial extraction than this one where Marx eviscerates the Brits in India. He was on the case right till the end, in this case just before he heads off to Africa. Here is part of the letter to Danielson, in case you have not looked at it in a while:
In India serious complications, if not a general outbreak, is in store for the British government. What the English take from them annually in the form of rent, dividends for railways useless to the Hindus; pensions for military and civil service men, for Afghanistan and other wars, etc., etc. – what they take from them without any equivalent and quite apart from what they appropriate to themselves annually within India, speaking only of the value of the commodities the Indians have gratuitously and annually to send over to England – it amounts to more than the total sum of income of the sixty millions of agricultural and industrial labourers of India! This is a bleeding process, with a vengeance!
Marx, Letter to Nikolai Danielson
London, February 19, 1881
See here for Marx in Calcutta
Somewhere I have a photograph of a piece of graffiti from Kolkata in the early 1990s. It shows three palms behind a brick wall on which is painted “Like the two Germany’s Bengal should be reunited”. (Cannot find it right now but will post it when I do).Of course, there is other news from India today, tragic violence in Delhi, a buffoon invited a buffoon to address 100,000 and other atrocities, but the good news was buried on page 6 as usual, and yes I know that is not what this railways initiative means, but 150 metres of track to go sounds like a useful development (for the record, the first partition of Bengal was proposed in 1905 and resisted, the second in 1947 we call partition and it was brutal, with ongoing effects, not least on the Jute Industry which lurched from collapse to collapse). Now this minor item of return.
From the telegraph today 22 Feb 2020
Is it the wrong time to say Make Bengal Great Again, and get some hats?
Of course, there already is a hat – but it is from Cincinnati…
We should ask V&A head honcho Tristram Hunt if he plans to hand any of the booty back.
The famous sepoy being eaten by a tiger should surely be repatriated to Seringapatnam. It was stolen after Tipu was defeated. I guess responsibility lies with Wellesley, but that the V&A did not itself first ‘acquire’ the object, that is no reason not to return it to the place it was stolen from. Elgin marbles are broken, but this piece is still operative and would be a great draw at the Summer Palace in Daria Daulat Bagh
Who is up for a campaign for this. See pic – they make the most of it here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/tipus-tiger
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.
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.
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.
There is more – click the link:
The Journey of ‘Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi’, Part 1
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.
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.
… 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?
There is more:
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
Available from Aakar Books Here.
Rest of the world here (bloomsbury paperback in November)
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:
Very keen to read this:
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 rumors, Global 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:
Some books reviewed by Pablo Bose (and for me, good company in which to be):
From The Journal of Asian Studies, 78(03), 691–696. doi:10.1017/s0021911819000937
“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
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.”
This amazing detailed description is from a book I had been battling to get hold of for a year or more – Amer Farooqui’s “Smuggling as Subversion” 1998:
‘Once the ground was ready, poppy was sown at the rate of 2 to 2. 5 ser of seed per bigha. The seed was sown broadcast. Apart from the several waterings already referred to, much weeding and loosening of soil had to be attended to in the following months. Besides, when the plants were five or six inches above the ground they had to be thinned to distance of three inches.
As much if not more demanding for the peasant was the extraction of opium. Opium is the ‘inspissated juice obtained by scratching the unripe capsules’ of the poppy plant and ‘allowing the milky sap, which exudes therefirom to dry spontaneously’ This job requires considerable expertise. Lack of skill incoUectmg the jiuice (chik) from poppy capsules could ruin the crop. The peasants ofMalwa were reputed to have sufficient expertise in collecting juice from the poppy by the of the 19th century.
So much so that when it was found in Gujarat that ‘unskilful management’ by novices ‘in extracting the juice from the pods and preparing the opium’ was leading to a considerable Ioss the ‘assistance of a few Experienced Cultivators from Malwa’ was sought.
When the capsules were half ripe between January and early March, they were punctured with a small trident formed in an instrument of three short prongs on blades at a distance of about the fourth of an inch asunder. Using this instrument three vertical incisions would be made upwards in capsules.
Weather conditions prevailing between January and mid March were a critical factor in determining the nature of the harvest . Even minor variations in weather at this stage could tell on the poppy.
For collecting the juice, the practice in Malwa was to divide a field into four parts and take up ripe plants of two portions in a single day. Since the collection of juice had to be preceded by scratching of the unripe capsules the previous evening, on any given day juice would be scraped off plants of the first part (which had been operated on the day before), while towards evening incisions would be made on plants of the second part to permit collection of their juice, the coagulated latex, the next day and so on. The poppy capsule should properly be wounded late in the evening after sunset. It has to be left overnight after scarnfication and its opaque narcotic juice is collected next morning. The poppies could be bled three to four times for collecting their juice, and thus the entire operation had to be repeated as many times‘.
In one part of the recently translated Spooky Encounters, Sumanta Banerjee chats with the picnicking ghostly Marx and Engels about Indian food in London:
“‘Fish-and-chips has almost disappeared from the scene. Its exclusive position has been now taken over by chicken-tikka-kebab!’
They glanced at each other in sheer astonishment and said, ‘Really?’
Moor spoke with his usual fervour: ‘We must get to taste your food. But can we find the genuine stuff here? Most likely we will have to go to youir Calcutta to sample them.‘”
I am so very pleased to see this and would have happily used it as a preface to my essay ‘Marx in Calcutta’ in City. Seems like we have always been tempting Marx with Mishti Doi:
Atrocities and alibi’s for dirty colonial deeds of the ‘robber baron’ Clive and his mates. Here is a plaque for John Zephania Holwell, who wrote his dramatically claustrophobic survivor tale several months afterwards as a kind of post-factum justification for the subsequent slaughter at Palashi. He goes on to be Governor and erects a monument to his own heroism, which survives 40 years and is forgotten until Mark Twain asks about it – thanks Mark. Pah, the monument is rebuilt – and still stands today, though moved to the grounds of the nearby church, partly because Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and crew slapped it with a slipper, and chisels.
Thanks to Claire who found this at King’s Guy’s Hospital. A plaque to the apologist of Palashi. I suppose it is too minor an atrocity – one among many – for the Rhodes must fall group to be deployed, but some annotation is surely necessary.
This chapter may explain why this is such an outrage. The man built a monument to his lies.
I am gathering material for a review of this area and found a dissertation that discusses The Rumour of Calcutta:
“Hutnyk (1996: 10) also states that the massive tourism and infrastructure development in India and above all in the major cities might require brutal readjustment and restructuring for adapting to the West. Tourism experience in India is hybrid and mixed-up. He also suggests that without Mother Theresa and the Lonely Planet guidebook, Kolkata would have maybe been portrayed as less impoverished and run-down. Its reputation revolves around the main themes of poverty, urban decay and overcrowding (Hutnyk, 1996: 55) stemming from tourism literature, media and government and other official and institutional reports.
Slum tourism as a rather recent phenomenon in India might portray this day-to-day routine in an urban environment and might help to abolish stereotypes about the working poor, urban decay and extreme poverty. Hannam and Diekmann (2010) argue that slum tourism can nevertheless be potentially damaging for both visitors and residents if they happen on a superficial, commodified and non-mutual basis. Rolfes (2009) claims that there is only one professional and regular slum tourism operator in Mumbai which is Reality Tours. Thus, Rolfes’ (2009) analysis of tour operations in Mumbai is based on one tour operating business and might be too one-sided.
However, Hutnyk (1996) described and analysed his personal experience in Kolkata with backpacker tourists and volunteer tourists coming, watching and leaving the poor people of the city and calling their medical help and volunteering ‘sick tours’. He is one of the first to have mentioned the questionable morality that is involved once tourists come to see poor people in Third World countries already assuming the participative “voyeuristic consumption of poverty” (Hutnyk, 1996: 11) because the poor are always and unavoidably the subject of tours in India, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Almost ironically he mocks these very tourists coming to Kolkata to see ‘the extreme’ which is expected to be unusual and different to what he calls “the rumour of poverty” (Hutnyk, 1996: 20). In line with Hutnyk (1996), Hannam and Diekmann (2010) …
[Dunno if mocking is how I would describe the critique, but…]
Nevertheless, very much enjoying the thesis and hope it was turned into an article: Well done Linda Klepsch, 2010. A critical analysis of slum tours: Comparing the existing offer in South Africa, Brazil, India and Kenya,
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