Thursday, December 12, 2019

On ‘Strategic Sale’ of the PSUs

Surajit Das
The honourable finance minister has reportedly said that the Air-India, Bharat Petroleum, North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO), Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Limited (THDCIL) etc. will be sold within March 2020. In fact, the governments take pride now-a-days in disinvestment of the public sector units (PSUs) rather than feeling proud in increasing the public investment particularly in infrastructure and in other strategic sectors. These are being called ‘strategic sales’ in order to generate larger non-debt capital receipts (NDCRs). What is the ‘strategy’? The ‘strategy’ is nothing but to keep the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio within bounds in a situation of lower tax-revenue.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Babri Masjid exists

Malini Bhattacharya
The Nirmohi Akhara of Ayodhya was one of the plaintiffs in the court cases related to Babri Masjid. The Ram Chabutra (platform) erected in the yard of the Mosque was under their control from 1856-57. This was propagated by them as the site of Ram’s physical origin. As worshippers they claimed the chabutra had been Ram’s birthplace since eternity and no Mosque ever existed there; the Muslims simply took control of the land and changed the original structure. A few days ago, the Supreme Court has pronounced its judgment. Even after this, some people are joyously claiming it is now possible to build a Ram Temple there because the Mosque no longer exists. In this context, we must clearly state that Babri Masjid was in existence, exists in the land of our thoughts and will exist there forever. This is not the opinion of a particular religious community. After this judgment, those of us who are atheists are also being forced to say this. We can never consign it to oblivion.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Ruins of Babri Masjid

Satyaki Roy and Suchetana Chattopadhyay

Revisiting History
On 6 December 1992, the Hindu fundamentalist forces in India destroyed Babri Masjid, an Islamic monument built in 1528 at Ayodhya. The Hindu communal forces claimed a Ram temple constructed on the holy site of Ram’s birth-place (janmbhoomi) had been destroyed by Babur to build a mosque. This ‘historic hurt’ had to be corrected by destroying the medieval mosque and building a modern temple in its place. The claim was reinforced with spurious archaeological pseudo-evidence. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a body over which Hindu communal bias exercises significant dominance, along with the Hindu fundamentalist groups, have argued that the existence of the temple can be proved on the basis of certain ‘pillar bases’. B.B. Lal, the ex-director-general of the ASI, who first excavated the Ayodhya site, in his first report did not even mention them. Soon after the shilanyas for the proposed temple in November 1989 by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Lal published a paper in 1990 in an RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) mouthpiece. This was almost 15 years after his excavation. He suddenly referred to a pillared structure adjoining the mosque. The 14 black stone pillars with non-Islamic motifs which four senior secular historians and archaeologists found embedded at the arched entrances of the mosque turned out to be decorative pieces incapable of bearing loads. When the four historians wanted to examine them and other features further, the ASI withheld the site notebook from them. All credible archaeological digging pointed at older mosque-like structures under the Babri Masjid. The UP government led by the BJP presided over the destruction of the mosque and the pogroms against Muslims that immediately followed. The central government led by the Indian National Congress did nothing to stop the planned demolition of the mosque. As communal polarisation gripped the country, an orgy of violence was unleashed on Muslims. While the flames of anti-minority hatred spread from Bombay to Surat, the BJP emerged as a national party for the first time. The BJP made communalism respectable in post-Independence India at a crucial moment. This was systematically undertaken at a time when the older Nehruvian institutions were on the eve of being dismantled by the Indian National Congress. The moment was not without irony. A convergence of neoliberal and hindu majoritarian affinities could be witnessed during 1990 in BJP’s rathyatra (country-wide campaign to build a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya) when senior BJP leader and old RSS hand L. K. Advani went around riding a make-shift DCM-Toyota van masquerading as a Chariot. Among the many RSS pracharaks (campaigners) accompanying him were two unknown faces from Gujarat-Narendra Damodardas Modi and Amit Shah who have now displaced the old guard, including Advani.  The BJP’s main plank was to devise a scheme whereby religious minorities could be disenfranchised and stripped of citizenship. While Muslims had been subjected to repeated pogroms since Independence and Partition (1947) and projected as ‘outsiders’, the Ram temple issue, for the first time turned the latent communal hatred towards them into a mainstream scapegoating campaign. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

NRC and the Citizenship Conundrum in Assam

Parvin Sultana

On 31st August the much awaited final list of National Register of Citizens was published. In this final list, out of the total applicants of 3.3 crores, the names of almost 3 crores and 11 lakhs have been included while a whopping number of 19 lakh people have been left out. On 30th July, 2018, the final draft of NRC was published and it had left out 40 lakh people. While political leaders like Amit Shah jumped to call these 40 lakh people ‘ghuspethiya’, they were given time to claim their inclusion. Based on this, the final list has been prepared.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Sixty Years Ago: Food Movement of 1959

Suchetana Chattopadhyay 

In post-independence and post-partition Congress-ruled West Bengal, the echoes of famine continued to be heard. During the 1950s, the collusion between rice mill-owners, jotedars (Kulaks) and food hoarders created an artificial food crisis. These proprietor class segments controlled rice distribution; they also exercised a strangle-hold over the villages and formed the rural backbone of the Bengal Congress. The government refused to take any measure which went against their interests. As hunger assumed famine like proportions, the people organised themselves into a ‘Committee to Combat Famine’ under the leadership of the undivided Communist Party of India. Other left parties also endorsed this initiative. From the second half of the 1950s, between 1956 and 1958, food movements became an annual occurrence. The Food Movement of 1959, however, was a turning-point in the history of class struggle in West Bengal. Food insecurity by this time had reached frightening proportions in rural and urban areas and distress was acute among the marginal and landless peasantry, the workers and lower middle-classes.