Snippets from here and there.

September 30, 2014 at 12:46pm
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In the decade preceding the consolidation of All India Radio (circa 1936), there was an alternative model for broadcasting in India. It rejected the premise that there was a national audience, a national culture, or a national politics, or that radio’s key function was to create them. In these negations of broadcasting’s nation-statist implications, this model for Indian radio departed from the standard of the 1930s for the mass medium in the Western democracies and authoritarian states alike. Decreeing that discrete local services were the natural correspondent to the subcontinent’s fractured social landscape, the model affronted the legitimacy of Indian nationalism. In this it mirrored the conservative face of colonial rule.

— Cambridge Journals Online - Modern Asian Studies - Abstract - The Imagined Reign of the Iron Lecturer: Village Broadcasting in Colonial India

September 22, 2014 at 12:07pm
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This wouldn’t have been so bad had the mills functioned like the meritocracy they implicitly claimed to be—that is, if they had combined equal employment opportunity with such performance-based rewards as a bigger house. But the mills were nothing like a meritocracy. They didn’t practice equal opportunity hiring. Instead, caste nepotism ruled. The whole township was an upper-caste fiefdom, mixing caste nepotism and housing segregation into a soul-corrupting brew. During this visit, as my parents and I walked by the Staff quarters, I recorded the names of ex-residents. I also noted names that came up in conversations with ex-neighbors and ex-colleagues. Below is this list of about hundred names, a highly representative sample of the Staff members of the Birlanagar textile mills. Bania (most Marwari): Mandalia, Kabra, Bajoria, Ganderiwal, Jhaver, Poddar, Singhania, Tibrewal, Chandgothia, Nahar, Budhia, Chapparia, Kathuria, Dwarka, Mittal, Poddar, Samalia, Saraf, Neekhra, Ajmera, Dalmiya, Lakhotia, Rungta, Makharia, two Shrimals, two Chauradias, two Goyals, many Guptas, many Agrawals
Brahmin: Chakravarty, Fotedar, Kaul, Deshpande, Karandikar, Gopal, Tyagi, Saraswat, Gaur, Joshi, Dindhaw, Kalia, Mishra, two Dikshits, many Shuklas, many Sharmas
Khatri: Tandon, Khanna, Kapoor, Batra, Oberoi, Sehgal, Chand, Vohra, many Aroras
Thakur/Jat/Others: Bhadoria, Rathore, Rathi, Taparia, Singh, Rastogi
Kayastha/Vaidya: Saxena, Shrivastava, Ghosh, Sinha, Sengupta, Dasgupta
Christian/Sikh/Jain/Others: D’Souza, Briganza, Alexander, George, Thomas, Singh, Mauj, Jain, Merchant The iconic building of the Birla Industries Club
This list confirmed my long held suspicion that the supposed diversity of Birlanagar was deeply deceptive. I found not a single Muslim, Shudra, Dalit, or Adivasi among the Staff. No women either. In short, not even one person from the constituencies that make up almost 90 percent of Indians! ‘Our management had an unwritten policy of not hiring Muslims,’ father remarked casually. Labor employees did include lower-caste men but almost all Staff employees at this ‘temple of modern India’ were twice-born Hindu males, with a profusion of Marwari banias—especially in senior management, starting with Aditya Birla himself—the rest being a smattering of privileged Christian, Jain, and Sikh men. Father told me that other Staff members quietly resented the domination of Marwari banias. Staff hiring and promotions pivoted mostly on caste, not merit, and diversity wasn’t valued at all. It struck me much later that no one from the Labor class ever visited the Birla Industries Club. While theoretically open to all employees, the club had become an exclusive playground for the Staff, all upper-caste. JC Mills even had separate entrances, and both mills had separate canteens, for Staff and Labor. This sort of segregation never struck me as problematic back then; it even seemed like the natural order of things. The neighborhood of my formative years was exclusively upper-caste. No wonder I grew up so blind to the unfair advantage of caste in my own life and the handicap it was for others. This blindness, still rife among my family and friends, was an attribute of my caste privilege. It allowed the boys in my neighborhood to use ‘chamaar’ and ‘bhangi’ as casual abuses for each other.

— A Place Called Home - Shunya’s Notes

September 18, 2014 at 3:07am
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If Adorno were to look upon the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century, he might take grim satisfaction in seeing his fondest fears realized. The pop hegemony is all but complete, its superstars dominating the media and wielding the economic might of tycoons. They live full time in the unreal realm of the mega-rich, yet they hide behind a folksy façade, wolfing down pizza at the Oscars and cheering sports teams from V.I.P. boxes. Meanwhile, traditional bourgeois genres are kicked to the margins, their demographics undesirable, their life styles uncool, their formal intricacies ill suited to the transmission networks of the digital age. Opera, dance, poetry, and the literary novel are still called “élitist,” despite the fact that the world’s real power has little use for them. The old hierarchy of high and low has become a sham: pop is the ruling party.

The Internet threatens final confirmation of Adorno and Horkheimer’s dictum that the culture industry allows the “freedom to choose what is always the same.” Champions of online life promised a utopia of infinite availability: a “long tail” of perpetually in-stock products would revive interest in non-mainstream culture. One need not have read Astra Taylor and other critics to sense that this utopia has been slow in arriving. Culture appears more monolithic than ever, with a few gigantic corporations—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon—presiding over unprecedented monopolies. Internet discourse has become tighter, more coercive. Search engines guide you away from peculiar words. (“Did you mean … ?”) Headlines have an authoritarian bark (“This Map of Planes in the Air Right Now Will Blow Your Mind”). “Most Read” lists at the top of Web sites imply that you should read the same stories everyone else is reading. Technology conspires with populism to create an ideologically vacant dictatorship of likes.

— Pop Culture and Power

September 10, 2014 at 6:56am
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In 1962–63, when I (Kanshiram) got the opportunity to read Ambedkar’s book Annihilation of Caste I also felt that it was perhaps possible to eradicate casteism from society. But later, when I studied the caste system and its behaviour in depth, there was a gradual modification in my thoughts. I have not only gained knowledge about caste from the books but from my personal life as well. Those people who migrate in large numbers from their villages to big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata take no possessions with them but their caste. They leave behind their small huts, land and cattle, etc. in the village and settle in slums, near sewers and railway tracks, with nothing else but their one and only possession—their caste. If people have so much affection for their caste then how can we think of annihilating it? That is why I have stopped thinking about the annihilation of caste.

— Goodreads | Bhupinder Singh (London, ON, Canada)’s review of Kanshiram: Leader of the Dalits

September 6, 2014 at 12:11pm
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Reblogged from dhrupad


Anhey Gorhey Da Daan, Alms For a Blind Horse (2011)

August 31, 2014 at 9:48am
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Enlightened nations aren’t necessarily the ones where people are born with a deeper love of civil liberties. Enlightened nations tend to be the ones that can afford enlightenment, thanks to a certain level of affluence and security. And they got there, often enough, with a legacy of brute force and racial injustice.

— What Does It Mean to Compare Ferguson to Iraq? - The New Yorker

August 19, 2014 at 12:53pm
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Perhaps the first instance of aerial bombing in the subcontinent took place in Punjab in April 1919, when the British attempted to crush demonstrations against draconian detention laws promulgated by the Rowlatt Act. A day after imperial troops opened fire on five thousand people in Jallianwalla Bagh, Amritsar, British planes dropped bombs on protestors in the city of Gujranwala and neighbouring villages. These acts of colonial violence had profound effects on the subcontinent. In their aftermath, Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood and Mohandas Gandhi mobilised his first civil disobedience movement in India. Today, these events are part of school textbooks across South Asia. At the time, they shaped the ways in which aerial bombardment was first discussed—ways that underlie contemporary conversations about drone warfare. Reports from the Hunter Commission (which was formed by the British government in October 1919 to investigate the “Punjab disturbances”), and from an independent Congress Committee (which boycotted the Hunter Commission and carried out its own investigation) contain a rare transcript and discussion of the interrogation of a British air force officer involved in the bombing of Gujranwala. Under questioning, the officer emphatically stated that, from two hundred feet above the ground, he could see “perfectly well” what he was doing. Despite this commanding perspective, however, he said he “could not discriminate between the innocent people and other people.” What’s more, he continued firing into streets and homes long after protestors had started fleeing; the purpose of “doing more damage,” he admitted, was to produce a “moral effect”—to not just disperse protestors, but also to induce such fear that people would not dare to congregate again. In other words, the “moral effect” required the use of excessive violence. The Hunter Commission repudiated this as a “doctrine of frightfulness” that could undermine the legitimacy of British rule, and the British almost never again used aerial bombing to quell anti-colonial mobilisations in the subcontinent (although they considered it during the Moplah rebellion in Malabar in 1921).

— Altitudes Of Imperialism | The Caravan - A Journal of Politics and Culture

August 5, 2014 at 8:07am
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The likelihood that the events of the Komagata Maru helped sow the seeds of discontent among Indian sepoys in Singapore was greatly enhanced by the actions of individuals associated with a radical Indian nationalist movement known as Ghadar.
Ghadar activists did not just send literature from North America: they also sent people. The specific purpose of Ghadar agents was no less than to foment revolution in India and to overthrow colonial rule, using whatever means possible. Beginning in September and October 1914—just months before the Singapore Mutiny—Ghadarites left San Francisco for India and the Far East. Specific target areas included Hong Kong, the Malay States, Rangoon, and Singapore—each of which had Indian Army garrisons that Ghadarites were eager to penetrate….
In addition to appealing to Indian sepoys’ potential sense of exploitation as colonized Indians more generally, both the Germans and the Ghadarites made special efforts to appeal to Indian Muslims—especially after the Ottoman Empire’s entrance into the war on the side of Germany in November 1914. Indeed, Germans, Turks, and Ghadarites worked together in a self-conscious program of encouraging disloyalty among the Allies’ Muslim subjects—of which the largest population in the world was Indian
News spread through these propaganda channels that Kaiser Wilhelm had converted to Islam and that large segments of the German population had converted as well. That these or similar efforts had an impact on at least some men of the 5th Light Infantry can be gauged by several letters intercepted by the censor in the days surrounding the mutiny. As Lance Naik Fateh Mohammed wrote to his father in the Punjab: “The Germans have become Mohammedans. Haji Mahmood William Kaiser and his daughter has married the heir to the Turkish throne, who is to succeed after the Sultan. Many of the German subjects and army have embraced Mohammedism. Please God that the religion of the Germans (Mohammedism) may be promoted or raised on high.”

— Heather Streets-Salter in “The Local Was Global: The Singapore Mutiny of 1915” http://singaporemutiny.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/global-causes-of-the-singapore-mutiny-of-1915/

August 1, 2014 at 8:10am
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Reblogged from dhrupad

Remember Kammo, man is forgiven every sin. But no trespass by a woman is ever tolerated.

Chann Pardesee (1980)

(Source: dhrupad, via bhagyawati)

July 16, 2014 at 1:39am
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Uski Roti, a film made in 1969, and which still requires a language adequate to it. Possessing neither the column inches nor the language, I’ll put a few jottings down. The film (about a truck driver whose only reason for contact with his young wife is to collect his food or roti, and who also has a mistress) is indeed slow — or subjected to deliberate retardation. So slow, in fact, that there are times you feel you’re looking at a photo album. As with the album, both the images and the juxtapositions draw you in. An album’s narrative is implicit; its impact derives from the way clusters of similar-seeming pictures are arranged from page to page. In Uski Roti, disconcertingly, the near-still pictures move intermittently, with fast and slow movements. Stillness invokes the private rapture of confronting a photograph, as a memory is recognized or even engendered; movement, in the film, suggests contemporariness and, sometimes, Godard, as when the bus driver smokes, looks at a magazine, or the camera notices the cut-out of the cherub pasted to his windscreen, which hovers, is motionless, and travels simultaneously. Kaul takes from the short-story writer Mohan Rakesh (who’s his screenplay writer) some of the strange sophistication of the nayi kahani, bringing together, implausibly but beautifully, North Indian rural life with a luminous European-style symbolism. Kaul’s vision of this landscape, and especially of women’s faces, shows us that beauty, for him, is hardly ever timeless and organic: it is urbane, sophisticated and constructed. Both the landscape and the women, in Uski Roti, emanate intelligence.

—  Amit Chaudhary http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140713/jsp/opinion/story_18604491.jsp#.U8YOdvmSxda