Freedom of Speech – Maya indeed.

Akhila PR replies to Devdutt Patnaik’s Op-Ed article – In maya, the killer and the killed – which appeared in The Hindu, 14th January 2015

Mr. Devdutt Patnaik has written in The Hindu that – in essence – if you mock anything, especially a religion, you should be prepared to pay the cost for that decision on any terms suitable to the offended; e.g. being mowed down by Kalakshnikovs. This differs a bit from the usual expectation of someone being responsible for what they produce in a legal or even moral sense. Dialogue and views on the motivation of the creator is out the window and the offended person’s feelings (valid or not) reign supreme, blotting out all else.

Mr. Patnaik, begins by citing an extract from one incident in the Mahabharat which is rather out of context . This is Krishna cutting off Sishupala’s head after Sishupala insults him a 100 times, with the explanation “The limit of forgiveness was up”, implying that ‘God’ as he was, even Krishna had to retaliate after such a barrage of insults. However, the context of the Krishna-Sishupala story is:

It was fore-ordained that Sishupala would die at Krishna’s hands. Sishupala’s mother, Krishna’s aunt, then begged Krishna to spare her son. Krishna promised that he would forgive Sishupala 100 times but would then kill him.

This introduction, then, is particularly poorly chosen, unless the author wishes to imply that the Charlie Hebdo massacre is part of a larger Cosmic plan where the killers and writers had made a pact in a previous birth to kill and be killed in this life and was not only significant of the inability to not be offended.

The Amar Chitra Katha Version

He then goes on to postulate the interesting, but slightly obfuscating point, that it is Neo-Brahminical to expect everyone to employ language in the way the elite writers do, and that to term ‘barbarians’ those who resort to bullets rather than prose is a priggish, ivory-tower world-view.

To state right off the very obvious counter to this: would Mr. Patnaik be as implacable in his demand for the right to ‘equitable rather than  equal response´ if I were to barge into his place of work toting a gun –  or to be culturally sensitive – a pistol, a kukri, an aruvalu or a flaming torch, because words failed me and I saw no other means of response to his writing?

Let’s put Charlie Hebdo in a bit of cultural perspective: I was rather surprised at Charlie’s hard-line mockery of religion and the State. But I realized how much my thinking was conditioned by my growing up in India, a country where religion and state are as hard to separate as several balls of twine knotted together –not impossible, but requiring aeons of work, burnt fingers and perhaps, ultimately, resorting to snipping off bits that just wouldn’t untangle. From my perspective, Charlie really was playing with fire.

But in France, the separation of State and Church is not only a constitutional guarantee, but one that many publications ensure is kept up through the use of free speech to talk out against all institutions that wield power (religion and state prime among them).  Charlie came up in a time of political censorship and vigilance. It was initially shut down for joking about Charles de Gaulle’s death. The paper re-opened as Charlie Hebdo, determined to speak out against the forces that had muzzled it. While much of the humour is, perhaps, in bad taste (that is to say, not to mine), it is a lively instrument for gauging how committed the State remained regarding the freedom of expression.

1969 cover of Hara-Kiri Hebdo making fun of Charles De Gaulle

To reiterate, Charlie was meant for France – a country where this freedom was welcomed and response in letters was traditional. It is not really Charlie’s doing that in the decade following its rebirth, the world changed dramatically through the wider adoption of neoliberal economic policies and the creation and installation of the godhead of the Web. When Charlie went beyond the borders of France as easily accessible material, it was seen as an attack on their religion(s) by those outside France. And people who had and have no conception of the cultural context in which Charlie was created and read, made it their business to shut it down, a desire which then permeated the country of its creation.

While Charlie is a conundrum that many in religion-bound countries like India will find hard to square with their conscience, there is another example of physical coercion triumphing over the written word much, much closer home: Perumal Murugan.

Mr. Murugan is a Tamil writer with several books behind him. Then came the English translation ‘One Part Woman’, which has been burned and bullied out of existence by a group of religious enthusiasts (to be charitable).  The book, whose Tamil version came out four years ago with no protests surrounding it, is about a childless couple and their attempts to have a child. One of these attempts is a consensual sex-rite at the Ardhanareeswarar temple, a rite where a woman has sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband, in order to get impregnated.

Yes, a consensual sex-rite in a temple, in a country where temple-architecture regularly depicts orgies and, as that beaten-to-death drum gasps out, whose Kamasutra remains an important, perhaps unparalleled, contribution to the world of sexual relations.

But all this is really quite irrelevant. Mr. Murugan has access to a large and rich world of fact and fiction – the world he creates in his head. This world is answerable to no one and as long as he is not shoving his writing down the throats of everyone in this country (which would constitute several violations of Rights) there is no force, moral or legal, that should stop him penning his thoughts down whether we are known for the Kamasutra or the re-installation of Section 377 of the IPC.

Forces have, nonetheless, succeeded in doing this by burning the books and convincing Mr. Murugan that the safest path was complete retreat. He has recalled all the books from his publishers (the English version published by the much-harassed Penguin), promising to compensate them for any copies unsold and, further, has taken on a vow of silence. ‘Perumal Murugan the writer is dead’, he announced.

When writers are silenced for fear that anything they write will be offensive to someone out there and when the saying ‘the Pen is mightier than the Sword’ is taken as justification for picking up the sword, there lies the death of the author, free speech and human interaction.

Mr. Patnaik states that in today’s world the right to words is being privileged over the right to military action. The self-serving blindness of this statement, penned in a time when there are daily military engagements (state-sponsored and privately-funded) around the world and increasing demands for censorship, should be an indicator of how laughable his basic premise is. Indeed, even the examples he puts forth, citing mental violence, are ridiculous:

So, one has sanction to mock Hinduism intellectually on film (PK by Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan) and in books (The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger), but those who demand the film be banned and the books be pulped are brutes, barbarians, enemies of civic discourse, who resort to violence.”

Laughable though they are, his contentions, which will be taken up by many, are dangerous. His argument that the ‘offended’ can only respond with violence is in itself an offensive polarization of thought and action. Surely somewhere a contradictory point of view can find middle ground between writing and murder? In India itself we have a reasonably vast variety including, of course, burning things (posters, books, effigies – not actual land-property like houses and places of worship). These acts can be seen as a legitimate expression of protest. However, that is where freedom of expression STOPS.

You can protest.  But no legal force on earth should ensure that your choice to be offended trumps someone else’s thoughts’ right to exist.

And this is where his argument about PK and Wendy Doniger runs into a brick wall. Protesting isn’t barbaric. But to demand that your protests be heeded “or else..” is to become an enemy of civic discourse.

And while it is an undeniable fact that language-based hegemonies exist the world-around, stemming from several complex causes, it is fatuous to suggest that because someone cannot write like a Charlie Hebdo or a Murugan, they should promptly take physically coercive measures to silence them.

Writers and ‘artists’ in general tend to stand out because  of the something different they bring to any field of human existence. The sad little fact is that not everyone is a Voltaire or Kalki or Tagore. My inability to respond in Tamil prose is not reason enough for me to ban Kalki being read if something in his writing offends me.

And, interestingly, many of these doers who are so bereft of words that they must needs resort to violence, belong to groups that are led and inspired by immensely articulate individuals who know and milk the power of the Word: Bal and Raj Thackeray, Laden, even Hitler, Gandhi, Obama, Jayalalitha… So the ‘hegemonic power of the Word’, it would seem, is only railed against when it goes counter to one’s beliefs.

Finally, from talking about taking offence and how it can be measured, the author brings up the closing conceit of this article: everything is Maya.  Maya, commonly interpreted as relating to the transient and ephemeral world, which is only a part of the larger, unfathomable universe,  is interpreted here as the world of the measurable and tangible.

Mr. Patnaik’s claim is that physical violence is condemned because it is measurable and emotional abuse (read: offence) is dismissed because it is not measurable; a farcical argument in this case: in a work of art, your engagement with it is your responsibility and your choice.  If something offends you, you do have (among several others) the option of moving away and not engaging further**. Neither of these conditions holds true for the majority of abusive one-on-one relationships in personal life.

Maya is also a leveling concept. One cannot posit that everything is Maya (‘Killer and Killed’, the title states) but go on to imply that some things are more or less worthy of being ‘Maya’ than others, as with the approving tone when talking about the ‘offended’ and the opprobrious tone when talking of the ‘offender’ laughing to the bank.

Everything is subjective, including our experience of the world of Maya, we are told. But if everything is subjective, should everyone remain ensconced in their cozy little construct without engaging outside it for fear of offending someone whose construct might be different? Mr. Patnaik’s article seems to imply that we hold back from ever expressing views which may differ from another’s, since these views fall outside the purview of the other’s person’s experience of reality. An extreme extension of this article would ban education itself as an Other being imposed on my native understanding of the world.

Yet, contradictory schools of thoughts clashed and then became entangled over centuries to create new thoughts and new beings. As seen in Mr. Patnaik’s own popular writings on myth and interpretation, religion itself is in constant recreation and reinterpretation. In the sense of a transient, illusory phenomenon, religion itself is Maya. So if you want to go down that path, what is offence? What is belief? What is sacred?

Large parts of the Mahabharata offend my perhaps Westernized sensibilities and my internalized Indian concept of Guru-sishya reverence. Drona’s warcraft ensured the Kauravas didn’t lose the battle of Kurukshetra, so the Pandava Yudhishtira  (revered as Dharmaraja) lied to his Guru about the death of his son to get him to ‘off himself’. And this was done on the advice and with the able abetting of the ever-present Krishna, whose act of silencing Sishupala is the opening piece of this article. Even in its out-of-context form, isn’t this story, like all stories in all mythologies pertaining to god, just a means of showing that Krishna, an avatar of a God, is not perfection himself? If Krishna were perfection, why the Vishwaroopam++ on the battlefield? Is his conduct (especially as seen in the Mahabharat!) really something to aspire to, especially in this instance?

As if the author himself squirms over this quandary, the closing paragraph of the article goes out of its way to explain Krishna’s act within the framework of the Jay-Vijay myth. But if words are so psychologically damaging and if only actions are allowed to speak, Sishupala’s taunting Krishna is surely more than enough justification for Krishna to lose his head (and ensure Sishupala loses his too)? Why tie yourself into knots to show that Krishna was, really, only part of a larger game? Because, somewhere, Maya or not, there is in inherent recognition of the crude brutality of Krishna’s act and the need to explain it beyond and better than just the desire to avenge offence.

++On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, when Arjuna begins to agonise over the pointless bloodshed, Krishna reveals himself in the ‘divine’ form, of which he is just a physical manifestation, to reassure Arjuna that it is all for some greater good that Arjuna’s conception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ cannot contain.

Islamophilia cannot be an effective answer to Islamophobia

re-posted from Huffington Post, Huffpost Students UK, by Karthick RM, 23 December 2014.

islamophobiaThe recent siege by an Islamist in Sydney has raised all too familiar debates about Islamophobia. The general right-wing argument, of course, is that such acts of terrorism are justified by a hard-core minority of Muslims and that downplaying the role of Islam is potentially harmful. On the other hand, the general liberal-left argument is that expecting all Muslims to condemn such acts is bigoted because a whole community cannot be held accountable for the actions of a few ‘deranged lunatics’.

Central to both arguments is an unstated belief that the Islamic identity is central to all Muslims, and while the former despises it, the latter preaches a patronising tolerance of the same. And both are wrong.

We have to look at Islamophobia as the tendency to blame Muslims as a whole, without any differentiation of nation, culture, class, gender, and political orientation for terrorist acts committed by Islamists.

Likewise, we have to look at Islamophilia as the tendency to exonerate Islam as an ideology from the crimes that are committed in its name, as the belief that the Muslim identity is good in itself and is central to an adherent of the faith.

Reality, if anything, shows the contrary. Proponents of the two sides are unlikely to remember that the first state to declare itself officially atheist in the world happened to be a predominantly ‘Muslim’ country – socialist Albania. Under Enver Hoxha, the state banned religion and religious preaching, shut down mosques, and tried to achieve gender parity in all services. In practice, the ‘Muslim’ Hoxha was the most rabid Islamophobe of the previous century. Incidentally, it was precisely those western governments – who are now accused of harbouring Islamophobia – who railed against Hoxha for curbing religious freedom for Muslims.

Several other examples could be given. The Indonesian Communist Party led insurgency, the Kurdish movement in the middle-east, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (Turkey), the Communist Party of Iran – all militantly secular movements led by ‘Muslims’ – have faced brutal repression from variants of Islamism. It would be a brutal illogic to say that the murder of thousands of individuals from these movements had nothing to do with the Islamic ideology that the states they challenged upheld.

Why is this important? Drawing parallels from other cases, can we say that the Inquisition’s slaughter of tens of thousands of heretics at the stake was just an act committed by a few ‘deranged lunatics’ and that the ideology of the Church had no role to play in it? Can we say that the discrimination against Dalits, the lowest castes in the Hindu hierarchy, owes to a few bad individuals and is not a structural problem in Hinduism? Can we say that war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state against the Tamils were just acts of bad soldiers and they can be divorced from the genocidal intent of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism?

Similarly, we cannot excuse the Islamic ideology from the terrorism and violence that is committed in its name. There is a lot in political Islam that justifies violence against non-Muslims, sexism and terroristic acts and those Muslims who have been fighting it for long have written the best testimonials. For liberals in the West to ignore this and to engage in downright immature acts, like wearing a hijab to convey solidarity with Muslim women, is tantamount to mocking those progressives in Muslim communities who resist the cultural diktats of political Islam.

A more critical approach to political Islam is needed. Commenting on the Rotherham child abuse scandal, which saw the sexual abuse of over a thousand white, mostly working class, children by men of Pakistani-Muslim origin, Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued that raising questions about inherent sexism and violence in these communities is neither racist nor Islamophobic. Rather, it is this questioning alone that can guarantee an authentic co-existence.

Liberals and leftists in the West are right to condemn the bigotry of the majority community, but the fundamentalism of the minority community cannot be spared from criticism. If those identifying as left and liberal fail to criticise the dangerous trends of Islamism, the right will step up for the task. That is a future no one wants and political correctness can do little to fight it. Maybe one can start by expressing critical solidarity with those progressive movements from within the Muslim communities that are willing to think beyond narrow religious identities and are willing to challenge the bigotries in Islamic ideology.


Karthick RM is a PhD student and Graduate teaching assistant at University of Essex. He blogs at Unceasing Waves. Some initial further readings –

+ A Glance in to the Archives of Islam by Slavoj Zizek. – “One becomes a full member of a community not simply by identifying with its explicit symbolic tradition, but only when one also assumes the spectral dimension that sustains this tradition, the undead ghosts that haunt the living, the secret history of traumatic fantasies transmitted “between the lines,” through the lacks and distortions of the explicit symbolic tradition…”

+ When does criticism of Islam become Islamophobia? Pandaemonium – “Islamophobia is a problematic term. This is not because hatred of, or discrimination against, Muslims does not exist. Clearly it does. Islamophobia is a problematic term because it can be used by both sides to blur the distinction between criticism and hatred. On the one hand, it enables many to attack criticism of Islam as illegitimate because it is judged to be ‘Islamophobic’.  On the other, it permits those who promote hatred to dismiss condemnation of that hatred as stemming from an illegitimate desire to avoid criticism of Islam. In conflating criticism and bigotry, the very concept of Islamophobia, in other words, makes it more difficult to engage in a rational discussion about where and how to draw the line between the two.”

+ Islamophilia by Douglas Murray – “For the record I don’t think everybody needs to spend their time being offensive about Islam. Not only is there no need to be offensive all the time, but most Muslims just want to get on with their lives as peacefully and successfully as everybody else. But there is an unevenness in our societies that needs to be corrected.”

Experimenting with Gandhi

the thousand children gandhis

Gandhi is a popular symbol and brand like Rajnikanth. It is quite hard to look at such a brand as a human being who breathes, sweats, defecates, ponders, falls in and out love, explores his own body and so on. We almost want to deny him that. As a public collective we expect each other to limit criticism or investigation, and instead encourage ourselves to build a delusional patriotic awe for a diluted version of Gandhi’s value system and historical doings.

Luckily, some people think it is necessary to talk about him in all ways possible. Whether it is Hitler, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Rajnikanth, Modi or Jayalalitha it is counterproductive and dangerous for our own understanding to flatten such public symbols to just a bunch of iconic events and actions remembered in strange costume parties as above.

In a ‘series of dialogues on belief’ LILA Inter-actions, which is like our local Edge, invited Pritham K Chakravarthy and Amitabh Mitra to experiment with Gandhi – the icon, the man, the philosophy and anything else they pleased to understand. Pritham leaves this man in the books and goes in search of Kasturba, whose role is usually limited to wife or a facet of his story – the woman behind his greatness. How much do we know or remember of Kasturba? Amitabh Mitra, on the other hand, finds himself quite confused about Gandhi’s relevance in contemporary South Africa, especially among the Indians and blacks. His article makes us look at the political necessity for violence and trauma in par with Gandhi’s ideals of non-violence in South Africa and India.

Read this dialogue here and participate in the comments section.

samyuktha pc. 

Ride for Gender Freedom meetings with students of Madras Christian College

03:30 p.m. Bharathi Kannan had organised two meetings with students at Madras Christian College. Rakesh said he had a wonderful time interacting with the NSS and Social Work Department students. He even got to chat with some students at the canteen. The rider having finished a very eventful day in the college, has now begun cycling out to interact in two more meetings at Tambaram West and MEPZ SEZ. Thank you Bharathi Kannan and students of Madras Christian College for your enthusiasm and support. Call 08939592991 or 9940220091 to coordinate with the riders.

Voices of the People vs. POSCO

Dhinkia, Orissa. Photograph by Sanjit Das. 2011.

Dhinkia, Orissa. Photograph by Sanjit Das. 2011.

Brief excerpts from the executive summary of the fact-finding report by a team of three from Alternative Law Forum and Delhi Forum, after a visit to the Dhinkia panchayat, consisting of the three villages of Dhinkia, Govindpur and Paatna, in Odisha, between 22nd December 2012 to 24th December 2012.   

[Read, download, and share the complete fact finding report from here – Captive Democracy: Abuse of criminal system to curb dissent against the POSCO steel plant in Odisha. Feb 2013]

The Government of Orissa and Pohang Steel Company (POSCO), Republic of Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 22, 2005 for setting up an Integrated Steel Plant in Orissa, in Jagatsinghpur district, affecting 8 villages of three Gram Panchayats of Kujang Tahsil, i.e. Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Naogaon. The attempts by the district administration to acquire land have been thwarted by strong local opposition starting early 2006, primarily by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, that spearheads the movement against POSCO. In response to this resistance, the State Government has been using the tactic of the abuse of the criminal system to file numerous false criminal complaints against all persons resisting the project, including members of the PPSS leading to threats of arrest perpetually hanging over them.

The fact-finding report observed that the biased and arbitrary functioning of the police targets the villagers resisting the POSCO steel plant, instead of initiating any criminal action against the goons and other persons perpetrating violence against the villagers. The report outlined the following impacts of police actions –

  • The filing of false cases to curb this fundamental freedom of the people is nothing short of an attack on the democratic process and the values embedded in the Constitution.
  • The filing of cases and warrants against almost 2000 persons has resulted in the targeting of entire villages, who are under constant threat of arrest and have not left the villages in 6-7 years, and whenever they do leave, are constrained to do so surreptitiously. In many cases, entire families have been implicated, resulting in none of them leaving the village for years on end.
  • The inability to leave the village has resulted in a complete lack of access to medicines or any medical treatment to the villagers. A team of doctors who visited these villages found that at least 30 women needed urgent medical intervention, else their condition would deteriorate. Most arrests of persons take took place when villagers were compelled to leave the village to visit the doctor requiring medical assistance.
  • The inability to leave the village and maintain business ties has adversely impacted this trade which is the major source of livelihood for them
  • The Government has taken other forms of coercive action, and terminated government employees for having protested against the POSCO Project, including Shri Babaji Charan Samantara, who worked as postmaster in Dhinkia for 28 years and Shri Kailash Chandra Biswas was employed as a high school peon, at the Government School, Dhinkia, for over 20 years.
Over the last 8 years, the Government has made innumerable attempts to break the struggle against POSCO by employing various arm-twisting tactics. However, what is perhaps the greatest betrayal of the State against its own people, is the use of the criminal system to implicate villagers in a large number of false cases to intimidate them, instill fear in them and break them into submission.These are the days of emergency. A rapidly engulfing emergency where the State is using every underhand trick in the book to counter the legitimate and peaceful voices of dissent.
These are the days where the State does not even batter an eyelid while using water cannons on protestors against violence against women on the streets of Delhi, all under the glare of the media. Far away, where there are no cameras, no soundbites, the suppression is violent, illegal and with impunity. Our visits have revealed one character of the villagers and that is their indomitable spirit and quest for a peaceful and undisturbed life. This is what the struggle against POSCO is. And this is why we have to all join hands and mobilize all democratic means to end this continuing violence to give real meaning to our constitutional ideals.
In the light of the above, we make the following demands:
1. The Government should withdraw all the criminal cases foisted on villagers of POSCO affected villages and other members of PPSS
2. Cases must be immediately registered in regard to the violence perpetrated against the villagers of POSCO affect areas including but not restricted to the following:
a)  Against police officials in regard to the violence ob 15th May, 2010 at Balithut circle.
b)  Against hired goons in regard to the violence on 14th December, 2011during the peaceful protest against the construction of the coastal road connecting Paradip port to the proposed site of the POSCO steel plant.
3. The Government should immediately conduct an enquiry into the abuse of the criminal system to target villagers and take necessary action against all officials who are involved in the filing of false cases against villagers resisting the POSCO steel plant. The Government should respect and protect the constitutional rights of the villagers to protest and conduct itself in a democratic manner

The Unreality of Wasseypur

by Javed Iqbal

‘The ending of the film was shown properly,’ Speak unanimous voices, the well-known folklore of Wasseypur, Dhanbad, ‘Gangster Shafiq Khan was really gunned down at the Topchachi petrol pump like it was shown in the first part of the film.’

‘That’s how it’s done in Dhanbad.’

And there are long lists of assassinations and murders in Dhanbad. MLA Gurdas Chaterjee of the Marxist Co-ordination Committee was gunned down on the highway. Superintendent of Police Randhir Verma was murdered by dacoits during a botched bank robbery. Santosen Gupta of the Forward Bloc was gunned down. Mukul Dev of the RJD was murdered. S K Rai, a union leader is murdered. Samin Khan, a gangster, gets bail and leaves court and is shot to death, while still in the custody of the police. Sakel Dev Singh, of the coal mafia is killed at the bypass, his brother who works with him, is killed at Shakti chowk, gunned down by an AK47. Manoj Singh alias Dabloo from Matkuria village, who allegedly terrorized the muslims of Wasseypur was gunned down. Chottna Khan, 18 years old, the son of Shafiq Khan was gunned down. Mohd Irfan a railway contractor was killed by a gang. Najeer Ahmed, a ward commissioner, is murdered. A woman home guard who once shared a love with a police officer, who would eventually take him on after their affair turned bitter, would find the dead body of her cut-up nephew in a well at the Dhanbad Polytechnic.

These are just a few high profile murder cases, say the locals, who on one level shy away from the violence that represented their city and on another level take pride in the knowledge of who was gunning down who at what point.

Wasseypur, now a part of Dhanbad district in Jharkhand, has grown, over the decades from a culture of violence and gang warfare, parts of which are depicted in the film.

The film tells the story of three generations of a family, starting with a backdrop to mining in Dhanbad, with the murder of Shahid Khan in the hands of coal mafia leader Ramadhir Singh, and the revenge promised by his son Sardar Khan (in reality Shafiq Khan), and his sons Faisal Khan (in reality Faheem Khan).

‘There was never any revenge story,’ Said Iqbal (24), the son of Faheem Khan (50), grandson of (Shafiq), sitting in the very room where a rival gang had attacked late at night, and even fired onto a police check post as shown in the opening sequence of the film, ‘My great grandfather died of natural causes, he was never murdered by any Singh. And there was another thing, a twist. I had a grand uncle Hanif, who had wanted my father Faheem dead and who had hired a man called Sagir.’

‘And it’s for the murder of Sagir that my father is in Hazaribagh jail now.’

‘None of this is in the film.’ Continued Iqbal, who adds that the sequence where Sardar Khan would call for the rescue of an abducted woman, fictitious, as well as one-time affair of Sardar Khan’s wife, or the Romeo-Juliet type inter-gang marriages, or the arbitrariness of names of characters such as ‘Perpendicular’ and ‘Definite’. There are instead, Prince Khans and Goodwin Khans.

‘There are two kinds of laws in Dhanbad. There’s the law to arrest for the Faheem Khan Family and there’s the law to investigate for the Singh Mansion.’ Says Iqbal, himself just released on bail for murder, referring to the fact that the Singh family is still at large.

The Violent Landscape of Dhanbad

Dhanbad is an unreal place. A small mining town with extreme poverty and a rich labour history. A small town with a bustling middle class bursting through the one main road. You can expect to be stuck in an hour long traffic jam in Dhanbad over Wasseypur, you can find shopping complexes, or remnants of a burnt truck where four people were killed in police firing last year on the 27th of April, or you can find the dead body of a lawaris young man in a seedy hotel near the bus stop. It’s a city of myths, half-truths, and blatant lies. A city where a man called Suraj Deo Singh is also Suryadev Singh, or A K Rai, is also A K Roy. Now an old mansion of a private mine owner who owned 85 mines lay in ruin while the police still continues to extort money from the poorest who pick off scraps of coal to sell. A district partially affected by Maoists, two blocks – Topchachi and Tundi, have been sights of arrests and ambushes. It’s a town with massive migration, massive amounts of pollution owing to the coal mines, many left abandoned and unfilled, other’s now open-cast, and massive amounts of exploitation by the mafia that literally sells labour across the district border.

Dhanbad is where the Chasnala mining accident took place in December 1975 that claimed over 380 lives. A lake vanished into the mines. No one survived. Kala Patthar was made and still remembered. And in September of 1995, the Gazlitang mining accident claimed 96 lives.

Yet what also followed the mining, were the mafias.

‘There are many gangs here.’ Says a lawyer, ‘If you want to tell the story of Dhanbad, you’d need to spend three months here.’

A lot of gangs simply fight over scraps of urbanization: ‘Agenty’ the term for extortion from private bus services was apparently a cause of conflict between the son of Sardar/Shafiq Khan and another gangster called Babla (this was all denied by the home of Sardar/Shafiq/Faheem Khan). Eventually, Faheem Khan, the son of Sardar/Shafiq Khan allegedly instigated a conflict with a businessman Shabir who refused to be extorted and Shabir found himself, on common ground with Babla. Faheem, however struck, allegedly murdering Wahid Alam, Shabir’s brother, a while after Wahid had organized an attack on his home that left one dead and another injured. And Shabir was allegedly responsible, convicted and now out on bail for the murders of Faheem Khan’s mother, or Shafiq Khan’s widow, the aged Nazama Khatoon, who at one point was a known leader at Wasseypur.

‘The rivalry of Shafiq Khan and Faheem Khan with the ‘Singh Mansion’ is not so much,’ Said the Superintendent of Police RK Dhan, ‘It’s really them fighting themselves.’

The ‘Singh Mansion’ is really a collection of different Singhs who often share public office, especially standing on BJP tickets in contemporary times. They include Suryadev Singh (apparently Ramadhir Singh in the film), Baccha Singh, Ramadhin Singh, Shashi Singh and Khunti Singh. Suryadev was alleged responsible for the murder of one of the biggest mine owners V P Sinha decades ago and he died of natural causes in 1991. The Mansion had called for the banning of the film due to the negative portrayal they had received. Yet it is commonly known that the Singh Mansion had their own conflict with Suresh Singh who was murdered in December last year. The conflict between the Singhs was over the coal mines while it is generally known in Dhanbad that Shafiq Khan and his sons were never involved in the mines.

‘Shashi Singh murdered Suresh Singh, according to many witnesses’ Continues the Superintendent of Police.

Yet at the home of Faheem Khan, in Wasseypur, antagonism against the Singh Mansion exists, as it had become no secret that they were involved in providing assistance to the enemies of the family. Sultan, who lived close to Naya Bazaar was in open conflict with Shafiq and had the support of the Singh Mansion. Shabir who lived a mere ten seconds from Faheem Khan, had the support of the Singh Mansion. And spoken in whispers, the ambition of the Khans, led them onto a direct conflict course with the Singh Mansion.

A Dissenter Among the Violence

‘When I was young, a man was hacked up in front of us.’ Says W, a family member of one of the gangs of Dhanbad.

‘In front of you?’

‘Not really in front of me, but we saw the body parts in different bags.’


‘After that all of us were called later to talk to uncle. And uncle, was talking to us about something else, we never gave eye contact, and somehow we pretended nothing had happened.  The thing is, Javed Bhai, we really like to keep ourselves different from them, we know how they might use us, for this or that.’

The Man Who Wore Recycled Tires

A frail old man with glasses, sits quietly holding his arms at the ICU in Dhanbad Central Hospital – he can barely speak yet there was a time that his name was synonymous with the name of Dhanbad. A K Rai, was a chemical engineer, turned trade unionist who helped organize a majority of the mine workers on private mines in Dhanbad, who would be elected three times to office – , and would be in open conflict with the state machinery, the coal mafia and the private mine owners who’d dismiss workers on the slightest hint of organizing, or would hire goons to deal violently with the organizers and strikes.

‘We must’ve lost around 25 to 30 comrades in the 70’s.’ Said Comrade Ramlal, once a miner, than an organizer. He sits back to recall a story that started long before liberalization, long before nationalization, long before Naxalbari and the thousands of days of violence.

‘Before 1962, there were two central government collieries that had some wage structure, but there were some 60-65 private collieries where there was no minimum wages system.’

‘Back then, the bosses never even gave money in some of the collieries, they just had booze shops and their own ration shops. The message to the workers was to just work, and take what you get. And the workers were kept in camps, so they won’t run away. And there was no safety, nothing. There were a lot of movements then also, but the workers were often beaten into submission and there were many murders.’

‘It was during this time that A K Rai had come as a chemical engineer in some company. By day he used to work, by night he would teach in a school in one of the nearby villages.’

Strike after strike, beatings after beatings, the workers would even find themselves in a war of attrition with the coal mafia, especially against Suryadev Singh, who had workers killed and would find that the workers could also defend themselves. At one point A K Rai was convinced by the mine workers to stand for election. He would win for the first time in 1967 on an Assembly seat, then in 1969 to the Vidhan Sabha, again in 1972, then in 1977 after being arrested during the Emergency and only started to lose after 1991. The status of the three-time MP and the MLA stayed intact as a minister would be seen around Dhanbad standing in line to pay his electricity bill, or travel by train, standing in general compartment. Even today miners speak of a time in the 1970’s during the apex of the power of the unions and there is a legacy of the work that was done. Just this year, a one-day strike had helped increase the wages for the miners from Rs.17,000 to Rs.21,000 – this from virtual slave labour before unionization. However there are still no signs of health benefits or for pensions.

‘A K Rai, was probably the only minister who said that ministers should not take pensions.’ Said Divan, a colleague, and it was well known that the battle for pensions amongst the miners was never won. Today, an older generation of unionists speak of failures and the inability to combat the cultural hegemony that came with liberalization. Their children work as managers or in the private sector, a growing middle class has controlled elections, and they’ve slowly seen the diminishing of the power of the unions due to mechanization and less prominence of the Bharat Coking Coal Limited, who were the voting bank of A K Rai, who finally lost the elections in a landslide to the widow of a murdered Superintendent of Police in 1991.

There is even a well known story in Dhanbad of the assassins who had gone to kill A K Rai over a decade ago. They found a frail old man, who was elected to office three times, sweeping a party office early in the morning. They saw his shoes, made of recycled tire rubber, his meager demeanor and walked across a shop to confirm who is A K Rai. When they were sure they knew who it was, they entered the office, drank water, turned around and walked away.

‘Something about that man affected them,’ Said Divan, who also says that the board ‘Bihar Colliery Kamgar Union’ on their office, was the only thing about AK Rai and the labour movement visible in the film Gangs of Wasseypur. ‘I think the mind of this filmmaker was also globalized.’ He laughs.

The coal mafia was born the minute the coal started to leave earth with colliery after colliery owned by private individuals with their own private armies who’d all find themselves in conflict with the miners who began to organize themselves, and there seems to be a reason why every man above the age of forty who has lived in Dhanbad all his life seems to know the name of A K Rai, yet his name is even known amongst the youth.

‘There was probably no man who had done so much for the poor in Dhanbad.’ Said 24 year old Iqbal Khan, gangster or student, who would even say: ‘Krantikari.’

Yet the gang war seems to never end, as Shabir who was released from prison on bail still vows for revenge against the family of Faheem Khan, and local newspapers report that Iqbal, who had a ‘supari’ on his name when he was in the 12th, and is now merely 24, promising to continue the fight.

Meanwhile, a quiet old man who shook the earth is living the last of his days at Dhanbad Central Hospital, while the names of the miners who died in Chasnala fade from the memorial built for them.


Earlier this year, assigned to do a piece on ‘Gangs of Wasseypur: Reality vs. Movie’ for a magazine who agreed to fund a trip to Jharkand, the author took the chance to ask what the gangsters and mafia were really doing in Dhanbad over the last fifty years. However, the piece was re-written and published late by the magazine and WordPress has been blocked by certain internet connections. So, the author released an unedited version as a note on Facebook. 

Javed Iqbal is a freelance journalist and photographer who blogs at moon

Other articles by him on chai kadai-

A Short History of Death and Madness in Bastar. 09 July 2012

“Even if they don’t let us settle here…” 04 May 2012

The Last of The Asbestos Miners of Roro 23 January 2012

The War Dogma 19 October 2011.

When Individuality means Waging War Against the State. 11 October 2011


Koodankulam (cartoons)

(set four: cartoons by Aarti Sunder)

(click to view set three: i am foreign ngo) (click to view set two: Sedition) (click to view set one: Koodankulam)

கூடங்குளம்: வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் வன்முறை

by Rajan Kurai Krishnan

மக்களின் போர்க்குணம் என்பது அரசியலின் அடிப்படை ஆற்றல். எல்லா காலங்களிலும் வரலாறு என்று எதையாவது யோசிக்க விரும்புபவர்களுக்கு அடிப்படை ஆதாரமாக இருப்பது மக்கள் திரண்டெழுந்து தங்கள் ஆற்றலை வெளிப்படுத்தும் தருணங்கள்தான். அந்த வகையில் கூடங்குளம் போராட்டம் நம் காலத்தின் முக்கியமான தருணம் என்பதில் எந்த ஐயமும் இருக்க முடியாது. தங்கள் வாழ்வை, வாழ்வாதாரங்களை ஒரு சிறு விபத்து அல்லது அக்கறையற்ற நிர்வாகத்தின் மூலம் நிரந்தரமாக நாசம் செய்யக்கூடியது அணு உலை என்பதை உணர்ந்த மக்கள், அரசின் மிருக பலத்திற்கும் அடக்குமுறைக்கும் அஞ்சாது போராடுவது மனதை தொடுகிறது.

ஆனால் அவர்கள் மீது வன்முறையை செலுத்துவது போலீஸ் என்றோ, அரசு என்றோ மட்டும் புரிந்துகொள்வதில் எனக்கு உடன்பாடில்லை. அந்த வன்முறையின் ஊற்றுக்கண், அந்த வன்முறையை நியாயப்படுத்தும் கருத்தொப்புமை. அந்த கருத்தொப்புமையின் பெயர் வளர்ச்சி அரசியல். வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை விமர்சித்து நிராகரிக்கும், அரசியலை மாற்றி வடிவமைக்கும் கருத்தியல் என்பது இன்று தெளிவற்றும், உருவாகாமலும், பலவீனமாகவும் உள்ளதால் கருத்தியல் ரீதியாக வலுவற்ற ஒரு அடித்தட்டு மக்கள் போராட்டமாகத்தான் கூடங்குளம் போராட்டத்தை கணிக்க முடியும்.

அணு உலையின் பாதுகாப்பு குறித்து எத்தனை சுற்று பேச்சுவார்த்தைகள் நடந்தால் என்ன? கூடங்குளம் மக்களையெல்லாம் ஜனாதிபதி மாளிகைக்கு கூட்டிச்சென்று மூன்று நாள் கருத்தரங்கம் நடத்தினால்தான் என்ன? அடிப்படையில் அணு உலை மிக ஆபத்தானது என்பதும், ஆனால் வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் அதை நிர்மாணித்தே தீரும் என்பதிலும் என்ற மாற்றமும் இல்லை. நாட்டின் முக்கிய அரசியல் கட்சிகள் அனைத்தும் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை முழுமையாக ஏற்றுக்கொண்டு விட்டன. இந்த நிலையில் தேசமெங்கும் கோடிக்கணக்கான மக்கள், அதாவது தொழிற்சங்க கட்டமைப்புகள், நகர்புற மத்தியதர மக்கள், மாணவர்கள் அனைவரும் திரண்டு போராடினால்தான் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலின் மேலாண்மையை கட்டுப்படுத்தி அணு உலையை தடுக்க முடியும். ஆனால் முகப்புத்தகத்தில் வெளிப்படும் கருத்துக்களை பார்த்தாலே தெரியும், வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் எல்லோர் மனதையும் ஆக்கிரமித்திருப்பது. உதயகுமாருக்கு பின்னால் அந்நிய நிதியும், பன்னாட்டு கிறித்துவ அமைப்புகளும் இருப்பதாக கூசாமல் சொல்கிறார்கள். அந்நிய நிதி மற்றும் இன்றைய காந்தி வல்லுனர் ஜெயமோகன் கூடங்குளம் விஷயத்தில் அணு உலையை எதிர்த்தாலும், அப்துல் கலாம் என்ற கண்மூடித்தனமான அணு உலை ஆதரவாளர் உன்னதமான மனிதர், அவரை திட்டுபவர்கள் தேசத்துரோகிகள் என்பதில் தீர்மானமாக இருக்கிறார். கலாம் அணு உலையை ஆதரிப்பது தவறானாலும் அவருடைய கருத்துக்களுக்கு உண்மையாக இருப்பதால் உன்னத மனிதர். அணு உலை எதிர்ப்பாளர்கள் அவர்கள் கருத்தின் அடிப்படையில் அவரை தாக்கினால் அவர்கள் தேசத்துரோகிகள். இதுதான் தமிழில் வெளிப்படும் சிந்தனையின், தர்க்கத்தின் இலட்சணம்.

உண்மையில் நான் அறிந்தவரை வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் என்றால் என்ன என்பதிலேயே சிந்தனைத் தெளிவு பரவலாக இல்லை. எனக்கும் இல்லை. நான் அரை குறையாக சில பலதை படித்ததன் விளைவாக உருவான சில கேள்விகளை மீண்டும் மீண்டும் பகிர்ந்துகொள்வது மட்டுமே என்னுடைய சாத்தியமாக இருக்கிறது. ஃபுகுஷிமா அணு உலை வெடிப்பிற்கு பின் தீராநதியில் ஒரு கட்டுரை எழுதினேன். அதைப்படித்தவர்கள் என்ன நினைத்தார்கள் என்று எனக்குத் தெரியவில்லை. பலருக்கு இந்த கேள்விகளில் ஆர்வமே இல்லை.

என்னுடைய கேள்விகள் சுலபமானவை. ஒரு நாடு ஏன் பொருளாதார ரீதியாக வளர வேண்டும்? மக்களுக்கெல்லாம் உணவு, உடை, உறைவிடம் வேண்டும் என்றால் புரிகிறது. கலை, இலக்கியம் முதலிய பண்பாட்டு நடவடிக்கைகள் சிறக்க வேண்டுமென்றால் புரிகிறது. மக்களிடையே முரண்பாடுகளும் வன்முறையும் குறைந்து அன்பான சகவாழ்விற்கான ஆற்றல் அதிகரிக்க வேண்டும் என்றால் புரிகிறது. சுருக்கமாகச் சொன்னால் பொருளாதார தன்னிறைவு என்றால் புரிகிறது. பொருளாதார வளர்ச்சி என்றால் புரியவில்லை. தேசத்தின் மொத்த உற்பத்தி ஒவ்வொரு ஆண்டும் 9% அதிகரிக்க வேண்டும் என்றால் என்ன என்றே எனக்கு புரியவில்லை. எதை உற்பத்தி செய்யவேண்டும்? எதற்காக உற்பத்தியை அதிகரித்துக்கொண்டே இருக்க வேண்டும்? இப்படி உற்பத்தி தொடர்ந்து அதிகரித்தால் எல்லா மக்களும் சுபிட்சமாக சந்தோஷமாக இருப்பார்களா? அப்படி ஒன்றும் நடக்கக் காணோமே? உற்பத்தி அதிகரிப்பது என்றால் ஆதிவாசிகளும், பழங்குடியினரும் வாழ்வாதாரங்களை இழப்பது என்பதுதான் பொருளா? தேசத்தின் உற்பத்தி அதிகரிப்பதால் அவர்களுக்கு என்ன நன்மை? பெருமளவு கிராமங்களில் விவசாயக் கூலிகளாக உள்ள அடித்தட்டு மக்களான தலித் மக்களுக்கு என்ன நன்மை? தேசத்தின் உற்பத்தி இப்படி எத்தனை ஆண்டுகள் அதிகரிக்க வேண்டும்? இன்னம் பத்தாண்டுகள் தேசம் வளர்ந்தால் போதுமா? நூறாண்டுகள் வளர்ந்தால் போதுமா? இல்லை எப்போதும் ஓயாமல் வளர்ந்து கொண்டே இருக்க வேண்டும்? வளர்ச்சியடைந்த நாடுகள் வளர்ந்து முடித்துவிட்டனவா? அப்படியென்றால் அமெரிக்கா ஏன் கடுமையாக கடன்வாங்குகிறது? அங்கே இலவச உணவு கூப்பன்களை உபயோகிப்பவர்கள் எண்ணிக்கை ஏன் அதிகரிக்கிறது? அமெரிக்கா திவாலாகிவிடும் என்பது உண்மையா?  ஃபிரான்சு ஏன் பற்றாக்குறை பட்ஜெட் போடுகிறது? ஸ்பெயின், இத்தாலி போன்ற நாடுகளின் பொருளாதாரம் ஏன் தள்ளாடுகிறது? ஜப்பானில் ஏன் தற்கொலைகளின் எண்ணிக்கை அதிகரிக்கிறது? இவையெல்லாம் “வளர்ந்த” நாடுகள்தானே? அப்போது இந்தியாவும் வளர்ந்துபிறகு அப்படித்தான் இருக்குமா? அதற்கு வளராமலேயே இருக்கலாமே?

அடிப்படையில் எனக்கு பொருளாதாரமே புரியவில்லை என்பதுதான் பிரச்சினை. படிக்காததால் புரியவில்லை என்பதல்ல. படிக்க, படிக்க புரியாமை அதிகரித்துக்கொண்டே போவதுதான் பிரச்சினை. ஆனால் நாம் வாழ்வதோ அரசியல் என்பதே பொருளாதாரம்தான் என்று முடிவாகிவிட்ட காலம். பங்குச்சந்தை நிலவரங்கள் புனிதமான அந்தஸ்தை பெற்றுவிட்டன. தேசத்தின் ஆரோக்கியமே பங்குச்சந்தை குறியீட்டு எண்ணில்தான் இருக்கிறது. தமிழ் தொலைக்காட்சிகளிலும் இப்போது பங்குச்சந்தை நிலவரங்களை விரிவாகச் சொல்கிறார்கள். எனக்கு மாட்டு சந்தை, காய்கறி சந்தை எல்லாம் புரிகிறது. பங்கு சந்தை என்றால் என்னவென்றே புரியவில்லை. அதை விளக்கி ஏன் பங்குச்சந்தை தேசத்தின் ஆரோக்கியத்தின் அறிகுறி என்று யாராவது சொல்லித் தந்தால் பரவாயில்லை.

ஆனால் எனக்கு ஒன்று புரிகிறது. பங்குச்சந்தை வளர்ச்சி என்பது முதலீட்டின் பெருக்கம். முதலீடு பெருகினால் அது சும்மாயிருக்க முடியாது. எதையாவது உற்பத்தி செய்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். உற்பத்தியாகும் பொருட்களை யாராவது நுகர்ந்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். ஒட்டுமொத்தமாக உற்பத்தியும், நுகர்வும் அதிகரித்துக்கொண்டே இருப்பதுதான் பொருளாதார வளர்ச்சி. எனக்கு இதில் எந்த ஐயமும் இல்லை. பிரச்சினைதான் இருக்கிறது. நுகர்வு தேவையா? உற்பத்தி தேவையா என்ற கேள்வியை யார் கேட்பது? முதலீட்டியத்தின் ஆரம்பகட்ட வளர்ச்சியில் சக்கரை என்ற, அதுவரை மானுடம் பொருட்படுத்தியிராத வஸ்துவின் புதிய வடிவத்தை எல்லோர் வாழ்க்கையிலும் தேநீர், காப்பியின் மூலம் இன்றியமையாததாக மாற்றியிதற்கு முக்கிய பங்கு இருக்கிறது. அந்த காலத்தில் காப்பி இல்லை; தேநீர் இல்லை என்பது மட்டுமல்ல – சக்கரையும் இந்த வடிவில் இருக்கவில்லை. அடுத்தது புகையிலை. அது பற்றி நான் கூறவேண்டியதில்லை. உங்களுக்கே தெரியும். அல்லது சர்ச்சில் உறையூர் சுருட்டுத்தான் குடிப்பார் என்று பெருமைப்படுவதை கடந்து, புகையிலை என்றால் என்ன என்று யோசிக்கத்தொடங்கினால் புரியும். சோழர் காலத்தில் என்ன உறையூரில் புகையிலையா பயிரிட்டார்கள்?தேவையற்ற பொருள்களை இன்றியமையாததாக மாற்றி அவற்றின் உற்பத்தியையும், நுகர்வையும் பெருக்குவதுதான் முதலீட்டியம் என்று நான் புரிந்துகொள்கிறேன். அதன் முற்றிய வடிவம்தான் அணு உலை.

அணு உலைக்கு மாற்றாக காற்றாடிகள், சூரிய ஒளி போன்ற சுய பெருக்கம் செய்துகொள்ளும் (renewable) ஆற்றல்களின் மூலம் மின்சாரம் தயாரிக்கலாமே என்று சொல்பவர்கள் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை புரிந்துகொள்வதில்லை. மின்சாரத்தேவை என்பது ஏதோ ஒரு நிலையான அளவினை கொண்டது  என்பதுபோலவும், அந்த நிலையான அளவினை எந்த வகையில் பெறலாம் என்பது போலவும் பேசமுடியாது. ஆண்டுக்கு ஒன்பது சதவீத வளர்ச்சி என்பது இப்போதைய இலட்சியம்தான். அஹுலிவாலியாவுக்கு பதில் பஹூலிவாலியா வரும்போது பன்னிரண்டு சதவீத அல்லது இருபது சதவீத வளர்ச்சி அவசியம் என்று முடிவு செய்யலாம். ஆகவே எப்படியெல்லாம் மின்சாரம் தயாரிக்க முடியுமோ அப்படியெல்லாம் தயாரித்துத்தான் தீரவேண்டும். உலக அளவில் உற்பத்தி செய்யச் சாத்தியமான அனைத்தையும் உற்பத்தி செய்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். உற்பத்தி பொருட்களில் ஒன்றுதான் அணு உலை. அவற்றை உபயோகித்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். அணு ஆயுதங்களையும் ஆத்திர அவசரத்திற்கு தயாரித்து வைத்துக்கொள்ள வேண்டும். ஆயுதங்கள் போணியாகவில்லையென்றால் இரண்டு நாடுகளிடையே பிரச்சினைகளை கிளப்பி அவற்றை விற்றாகவேண்டும். போதைப்பொருட்கள், கள்ள மார்கெட் ஆயுதங்கள், மாஃபியா, கிரிமினல் கும்பல்கள் என்ற நிழல் பொருளாதாரத்தை கட்டமைக்க வேண்டும். வளர்ச்சி என்றால் சும்மாவா? பிரமாதமாக நம் நகங்களை பாலிஷ் போட்டு வளர்த்து நம் கண்ணையே குத்திக்கொள்ளும் கலை அல்லவா அது?

நாளைய காந்தி  

காந்தியை மறுவாசிப்பு செய்வதென்பது இந்திய சிந்தனையாளர்களின் வாழ்வில் தவிர்க்க முடியாத ஒரு காலகட்டம் (அதாவது அவர்கள் தொடர்ந்து சிந்தித்தால்). தமிழ் சிந்தனையாளர்களும் அதற்கு விதிவிலக்கல்ல. மறுவாசிப்பு இப்படித்தான் இருக்க வேண்டும் என்பதல்ல. ஏதோவொரு விதத்தில் அதை தவிர்க்க முடியாது என்பதுதான். காந்தியை வாசிப்பதில் பல சிக்கல்கள் இருக்கின்றன. சமகால வாசிப்பில் பல ஒவ்வாமைகளை நாம் சந்திக்கத்தான் வேண்டியிருக்கும். ஆனால் காந்தியின் சிந்தனைகளில் புறக்கணிக்க முடியாத சில அம்சங்கள் இருக்கின்றன. அவரது “இந்து சுயராஜ்யம்” என்ற நூல் இந்த வகையில் முக்கியமானது. இதை நான் குறிப்பிடுவது பலருக்கு பிடிக்காது என்று எனக்குத் தெரியும். இந்துத்துவ சிந்தனை மரபு அவரைக் கொன்றே போட்டது. மார்க்ஸீய, நேரூவிய, பெரியாரிய, அம்பேத்கரிய விமர்சன மரபுகள் காந்தியின் சிந்தனைகளுக்கு எதிராக பல முக்கிய கருத்துக்களை வைத்துள்ளன. ஆனால் இவற்றையெல்லாம் அங்கீகரித்த பின்னும், பல விமர்சனங்களை ஏற்றுக்கொண்ட பின்னும் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை புரிந்துகொள்ள நமக்கு காந்தி முக்கியமான ஆதாரமாகிறார்.

இந்து சுயராஜ்யம் நூலின் மூலம் காந்தி மிக முக்கியமான திருப்புமுனையை இந்திய அரசியலில் ஏற்படுத்தினார். அதுவரை வெள்ளைக்காரர்களிடம் அதிகாரப் பகர்வு, சுயாட்சி என்ற அடிப்படையில் இயங்கி வந்த அரசியல் சொல்லாடலை முற்றிலும் புதிய திசையில் திருப்பினார். வெள்ளைக்காரர்கள் இந்தியாவில் இருப்பதோ, ஆட்சி செய்வதோ பிரச்சினையில்லை, ஆனால் அவர்கள் நாட்டின் நவீன உற்பத்தி முறை மற்றும் அரசியல் நிர்வாக அம்சங்களை இங்கே இறக்குமதி செய்யக்கூடாது என்றார். வேறு வார்த்தைகளில் சொன்னால் இந்திய மக்கள் அவர்கள் வாழ்வை மேற்குலகிலிருந்து வேறுபட்ட விதத்தில் வடிவமைத்துக்கொள்ளும் உரிமையைப் பெறுவதே சுயாரஜ்யம் என்றார். எல்லா தீர்க்கதரிசிகளுக்கும் நடப்பது போலவே அவர் மஹாத்மாவாக்கப்பட்டார், ஆனால் அவர் கருத்திற்கு நேர்மாறாக ஆட்சியதிகாரம் மட்டுமே இந்தியர்கள் கைக்கு வந்தது. இந்தியா மேற்கத்திய உற்பத்தி மற்றும் நிர்வாக வழிமுறைகளை பின்பற்றத் தொடங்கியது. இந்தியா வல்லரசாக மாறவேண்டும் என்பது அனைவரும் சூல்கொள்ள வேண்டிய மனக்கிடக்கையாக மாறியது. எதற்காக இந்தியா வல்லரசாக வேண்டும்; உகாண்டாவோ, சிலியோ, நேபாளமோ, மாலத்தீவோ உலக வல்லரசாக மாற முடியுமா? அப்படி மாறாததால் அவர்களுக்கு ஏதாவது பிரச்சினையா என்று யாரும் யோசிப்பது சாத்தியமற்றுப் போனது. முதலீட்டிய நவீன தேசிய அரசு என்ற நோய் எங்கும் பரவியது.

வளர்ச்சி என்பது என்ன, எதற்காக எந்த அளவு அது தேவை, மின்சாரம் என்பது இன்றியமையாததா, நம்முடைய மின்சாரப் பயன்பாடுகளில் எவையெல்லாம், எந்தக்காரணங்களால் இன்றியமையாதவை என்பதையெல்லாம் கேட்காமல் அணு உலையை எதிர்ப்பதற்கான தத்துவ தளத்தை உருவாக்க முடியாது. இல்லையென்றால் “சாலையில் போனால் விபத்து நடக்கலாம் என்பதற்காக சாலையில் போகாமல் இருக்க முடியுமா?” என்பது போன்ற அபத்தமான, சோப்ளாங்கி தர்க்கங்கள்கூட அணு உலை எதிர்ப்பை பரவாமல் தடுத்துவிடும். அணு உலை எவ்வளவு அபாயமானது என்பதை மட்டும் பிரசாரம் செய்வது ஒரு பக்கச் சார்பானது. அந்த ஆபத்தை எதற்காக நாம் எதிர்கொள்ளவேண்டும் என்ற கேள்வியை முன்னெடுக்க வேண்டும். பொருளாதார வளர்ச்சி என்றால் என்ன, எதற்காக என்ற கேள்வியை கையிலெடுக்காமல் அணு உலை எதிர்ப்பிற்கான தத்துவ அடிப்படைகளை வலுப்படுத்த முடியாது. இருபத்திரண்டு வயதில் இந்து சுயராஜ்யம் படித்தபோது “மனிதனுக்கு கால்கள் போதுமென்றுதான் கடவுள் அவற்றைக் கொடுத்திருக்கிறார்; சக்கரங்கள் தேவையென்றால் கால்களுக்குப் பதில் சக்கரங்களை வைத்திருப்பார்” என்ற காந்தியின் வரிகளைப் படித்துவிட்டு வாய்விட்டுச் சிரித்தேன். ஆனால் அந்த வரிகளில் தேவை எது, இன்றியமையாதது எது என்பதை வேறுபடுத்திப் பார்க்கச்சொல்லும் தத்துவம் ஒளிந்திருப்பது இப்போதுதான் புரிகிறது.

நம்மால் செய்வதற்குச் சாத்தியமானதையெல்லாம் நாம் செய்தாகவேண்டயது அவசியமில்லை. தலைமுடியுடன் ஆட்டுக்கல்லை இணைத்துக்கட்டி இழுக்கலாம் என்பதால் தினசரி அதை செய்யவேண்டியதில்லை. அதே போல உற்பத்தி செய்ய முடிவதையெல்லாம் உற்பத்தி செய்தாக வேண்டும், நுகர முடிவதையெல்லாம் நுகர்ந்தாக வேண்டும் என்பது அவசியமில்லை. முதலீட்டியத்தின் பத்மாசுர வடிவம் அதைத்தான் செய்கிறது. யார் தலையில் கைவைத்தாலும் அவர்களை அழிக்கும் ஆற்றலை பெற்ற பத்மாசுரன் தன் தலையில் தானே கையை வைத்துக்கொண்டு அழிந்தான். ஆனால் முதலீட்டியம் தன் தலையில் தானே கைவைத்துக்கொள்ளும்போது அழியப்போவது அதை செயல்படுத்தும் மானுடம்தான்.


Views represented in this piece belong to the author and not everyone part of Chai Kadai. It is presented here as it is a necessary analysis to add to the dialogue on energy, violence and development. Please share. 

(will be translated in English soon)

Mass RTI Campaign Seeking Urgent Information Under Life and Liberty for Koodankulam


WHAT: Mass Right to Information Campaign seeking information within 2 days, invoking the “Life and Liberty” clause under Section 7 or RTI Act.

WHEN: 3 p.m. 10 September, 2012

WHERE: NPCIL Office. 51 Montieth Road

Egmore, Chennai 600 008

NPCIL proposes to commence initial fuel loading even as more than 20000 children, women and men are camped in the scrub jungle barely 500 metres from the nuclear power plant. International Atomic Energy Agency and India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board regulations require an exclusion zone of 1.5 km around the plant, within which no human population can be present.

In its hurry to commission the power plant and prove a point to its detractors, the Central and State Governments have thrown caution to the winds. In the event of a disaster during initial fuel loading, the NPCIL, the district administration and the people living in the vicinity are not equipped to cope. There are no medical facilities capable of handling radiological emergencies in the vicinity. Emergency drills have not been conducted in any sincere manner. The AERB’s stipulation on the minimum quantity of stand-by fresh water storage onsite has not been complied with.

The nuclear establishment’s “commission-first, safety later” is putting the lives of 1000s of people at risk. We request all concerned citizens to gather at NPCIL’s office at 3 p.m. with a Right to Information Application as follows:


To: Public Information Officer

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd

c/o Liaison Office, 51 Montieth Road

Egmore, Chennai 600 008

10 September, 2012


Subject: Right to Information Application — Concerning Life and Liberty of more than 8000 people gathered near Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant — request for information within 2 days 

More than 8000 people, including women and children, are currently camped outside the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli. International Atomic Energy Agency and India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board regulations require an exclusion zone of 1.5 km around the plant, within which no human population can be present.

In its hurry to commission the power plant and prove a point to its detractors, the Central and State Governments have thrown caution to the winds. In the event of a disaster during initial fuel loading, the NPCIL, the district administration and the people living in the vicinity are not equipped to cope. There are no medical facilities capable of handling radiological emergencies in the vicinity. Emergency drills have not been conducted in any sincere manner. The AERB’s stipulation on the minimum quantity of stand-by fresh water storage onsite has not been complied with.

Given the above situation, the loading of fuel puts the lives of thousands at risk, and I request the below information to be given to me within 2 days as this information concerns the “life and liberty” of many thousand people.

1. Kindly list out the various recommendations of the AERB committee in its post-Fukushima review on safety and emergency preparedness, and the status of compliance to each recommendation related to the Koodankulam Power Plant.

2. Kindly state the AERB guidelines stipulating any restrictions for the total number of people present within the exclusion zone at the time of fuel loading or commissioning.

3. What is the minimum quantity of onsite water storage that has been mandated by AERB for KKNPP?

4. What is the total capacity of onsite water storage for KKNPP?

5. Kindly provide a list of medical facilities in Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi districts capable of handling a radiological emergency.

6. Kindly provide a list of places (in the following format) identified as temporary shelters for people in the event of a radiological emergency:

a) Name of Place, Address

b) Distance from Koodankulam

c) Capacity

d) Number of bathrooms

e) Number of latrines

f) Details of water facilities for bathing and toilets

g) Details of drinking water facilities, including capacity

Application fee of Rs. 10 is being presented as cash/postal order.