Dwiddly

My notes and musings …

Archive for the ‘Andolan’ Category

Not the first time, won’t be the last either

leave a comment »

A satyagrah when standing in solidarity with a cause or a people appears to a third person as a voluntary act. But as one absorbs the spirit of resistance and solidarity, it becomes an urge, a pull, a drive to act. Given that we are typically not the ones in the eye of the storm, we apply reason, strategize, coordinate, organize, mobilize and try to maximize the impact of the act of resistance.

It was very appropriate that in the morning I attended a panel discussion on Gandhi’s views on dissent and sedition in the first half of the day. And in the second half a talk by Tanveer Ajsee on the historical roots of Kashmir art today. The languages of dissent and expression used by Kashmiris – in their attire and presentation, on canvas, paper or pavments, in their music, dance and celebrations of weddings or commemorating their martyrs.

My satyagrah yesterday was in protest of the govt of India’s communication blockade in Kashmir. If we are to believe the govt of India, 8 million+ people have been subjected to a lockdown so that a few hundred people are kept from communicating between themselves and the rest of the world. For 61 days. Where is the sense of proportion? Is there any concern to human life and livelihood in such actions by the state? In reality, the blockade is yet another step in the further alienization and brutalization of a community. A community that has seen, and survived through, at least 175 years of repression, deceit and exploitation by various states – British, Dogra, and Indian.

There is an attempt to re-weave the Indian social fabric to distract every one from the large scale exploitations of resources and energies. To establish a supremacy, to reiterate and stamp a chauvinistic identity among a majority. A majority that is being told over and over again and is starting to believe that it is under threat. History is replete with cases of the rich and powerful consolidating their hold over the state using this fear. And of communities singled out and oppressed to assuage the collective conscience of society.

The Govt of India, with its actions over the past 39 years or so has ensured that whatever bridges were built are chopped down and brunt to the ground. Again and again. Keeping an active military in a region has never brought peace to that land. The UK, US, Russia, and every hegemonic power center has experienced this. War and occupation brings wealth and excess to the oppressors. And the blood soaked money and power is what we are getting out of Kashmir.

As frequent as these oppressions are the acts of resistance. The living up to ideals, the giving up of livelihoods, freedoms and even lives for certain truths that one holds dear. The defiance of those who don’t just believe that love and peace should prevail, but are ready to stand up and say not in my name; not again.

We can amend laws, we can change the rules. But we cannot legislate affection for a state or fraternity and brotherhood with the rest of the country. It has to be earned.

Make an umbrella or build a boat?

leave a comment »

The monsoon rains in most parts of India arrived late and in many places has been pouring so much that it has led to large scale flooding – initially it was parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra, now in UP and in Bihar.

But more than the rains unleashed by the late monsoon this year, civil society in the country has been bearing one assault after another from none other than the ruling establishment for a few years now. The Govt. of India  has decided that its energy is best used to curtail and restrict the activities of organizations, individuals and communities however legal and/or humanitarian they might have been; that there should be those with full rights and those who shall remain at the mercy of the mob; that there is no need to heed to laws, constitutional norms, or legal precedent; that any right or freedom is subject to the person’s perceived patriotism (perceived because, a mob does not ask questions before unleashing violence).

The Govt of India laid siege on Kashmir, through a revised List of Business on the last day of the parliamentary session, de-operationalized Article 370 and 35A, converted a state with a special status in the Indian Constitution into two union territories, and all this without even a charade of consulting the people of that land. Sitting MPs, MLAs, former Chief Ministers, political leaders of all hues have been illegally detained for almost two months now. And the Supreme Court, in its supreme wisdom, has pushed aside Habeas Corpus petitions with a we don’t have the time to hear them ! An undeclared emergency has been imposed in Kashmir. People raising their voice in support of Kashmir in other parts of the country, barring a few exceptions, are threatened by ideologues while the police and the administration either look away or stand with those issuing the threats!

So as we celebrate the 150th birthday of MK Gandhi the apostle of peace mkg_drawingit is quite logical that we step forward to understand and embrace non violent protests in the form of a satyagraha. And given that it is now 2019, a cyber satyagraha is that much more appropriate.

Since the night of Aug 4th/5th communication for millions of people in the Kashmir valley has been cut off. 58 days Kashmiris have been cut off from the internet, from each other and the rest of the world. As part of the cyber-satyagraha, I shall be cutting myself off from the internet and all telephone (mobile and landline connections) from 10 AM to 10 PM on Oct 2nd 2019. I shall be joining others at different events in Bengaluru to express my dissent and to hear from those being oppressed by our govt. in our name. I shall also be writing about my experience after completing my satyagraha.

If you also feel what is happening in Kashmir is not correct, raise your voice !

बोल के लब आज़ाद है तेरे
Speak, for your lips are still free
ಮಾತಾಡು, ನಿನ್ನ ತುಟಿಗಳನ್ನಾರೂ ಸೆರೆ ಹಾಕಿಲ್ಲಾ

Written by Dwiji

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 at 04:01

Two statements that encapsulate why we should vote out the current BJP led NDA govt in New Delhi

with 2 comments

The election season is heating up in Bengaluru faster than the summer heat. So speeches aplenty !

The actions of individuals and organizations form a much stronger component of my assessment of their personality and intent; their speeches and its semantics are a minor factor. Unfortunately – or may be fortunately, I am not sure – most people do not invest that much time and effort to analyse an individual or party and are easily influenced by words. So here’s a quick post on two statements from the ruling BJP that came out yesterday, April 11th, 2019. These encapsulate why we need to vote them out, not just vote for another party, but vote to defeat the ruling dispensation.

Quote #1:

Transparency cannot be applied without appreciating the problem faced by the legislature, which believed this to be the best way of solving it. The voter has the right to know what? They already know every single aspect about the candidate! Why are they concerned about the source of money of the political party?

– Attorney General of India, K.K. Venugopal

There are many things the current dispensation has done to torpedo efforts towards accountability and transparency. Starting with  moving important bills through the legislature as money bills, to trying to amend the RTI Act, to amendments to laws governing taxes and companies. The most insidious of the lot is the amendment to the Representation of The People Act and a bunch of other ones to allow for anonymous donations to political parties by ANYONE – including any corporate entity from ANY country – through instruments called Electoral Bonds. This thread of tweets from Meghnad has an amazing collection of resources to educate oneself about what these bonds are, how they came about and why every voter should be worried about it.

The AG defends this in open court hinting that any strictures would go against the legislature good intention ! Boss, your political masters DID NOT move it through the legislative process as it was intended in the constitution. The entire bunch of amendments setting up Electoral Bonds were passed as a Money Bill to side step the legislative process !

Quote #2:

We will ensure implementation of NRC in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs: Shri

Original Preamble to the Constitution of India

Original Preamble to the Constitution of India

The BJP and its right wing affiliates (aka hindutva organizations) are bound by a common goal to shape India into a Hindu State. A deep rooted feeling they harbor and espouse – Pakistan chose to be an Islamic Republic, therefore India should be a Hindu Republic. But The leaders drafting the constitution of India chose it to be a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. Consciously. And enshrined it in the preamble of the constitution. There is no way a country can stand for Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity while putting religious restrictions on those it provides refuge to. Anyone fleeing persecution deserves a fair and transparent hearing that is in keeping with the constitution. The BJP president has implicitly called for the very foundation of the country – its constitution to be overturned.

The BJP is looking to further its agenda of building a HINDU RASHTRA. We, the People, have to stand up and defend INDIA and its ethos.

A clarification – many of the current govt.’s policies that we oppose were brought in a slightly different form by earlier Congress led governments. We opposed it then. We oppose it now. We shall oppose such measures in the future.

Written by Dwiji

Friday, April 12th, 2019 at 08:00

Its a journey and not a pursuit

leave a comment »

There are multiple words that have been used – progressive, liberal, leftist, communist, etc. to describe those who have sought to pursue a purpose greater than the enrichment of themselves and their immediate family. I am not sure which of these describe me best. I do subscribe to the notions and ideas of cooperation and  community ownership. Yet I do see how these quickly descend to nationalization and centralized decision making which invariably leads to alienation, disenfranchisement. And close at its heels, the bracketing and exclusion of people – of the other, of those people.

At a personal level, my effort to find a purpose for my existence and a use for my talents, started from (and continues to be driven by) a fairly fatalistic point of view – death is the only thing that is certain after one is born. It really does not matter in the broader scheme of things that a person was born today and died sometime after that. What does matter is what that person did when alive. Who remembers that person? who would rather forget that person?

These ideas had taken a deep enough root by the time I got to high school that I was sure I was not going to join the rat race. I am lucky to have been born, brought up and grow in a family that has allowed me to explore and shape my life the way I deemed fit. As neo-liberalism and communalization started competing for the body politic in India, I started identifying that the broader purpose of my life would be to work towards evening the keel and improving the access to resources that large sections of the population have been denied in almost all societies.

The fact that we know so little, we as in those outside of certain academic circles, about the lives of those who were not the kings or princes of years gone by belied the fact that those in power shall write the books of history. As this st

Coll IMJ, photo (c) IMJ

We must fix our eyes upon the catastrophes that we have behind us – and on the catastrophes of which we are the witnesses. For the atrocious has not happened, it is happening now, it is about to happen. We are entering an era of catastrophes: human, ecological and finally philosophical catastrophes. – Milo Rau, 24/11/2017.

arted sinking in, I came across a story of a small bird that tried to save its nest from a forest fire. As the other animals were trying to run and escape from the fire, they asked the bird, ‘what are you trying to do? you cannot put out the fire ! Fly away and live for another day’. The bird apparently replied, ‘I know I cannot put out the fire. But I shall try my best to save my chicks. If I fail, it will not be because I did not try.’ Thats a translated version; even though its been more than a decade since I heard this story and I have done numerous translations, I have not been able to capture the emotion of the last line, it is best said in Hindi – “जब इतिहास लिखा जाएगा, आग को भुजाने कि कोशिश करने वालों में मै गिनि जाऊँगी, आग को बढ़ने या उससे भागने वालो मे नहीं ” Yes, the importance given to historical record in this story is not something I took/take literally. The message that I took from it was that one needs to try, at least try, to fight for what one feels is worth saving before one follows the very natural response of self preservation.

These ideas have held me in good stead and helped me find more to spur me on – like the recent speech by Milo Rau.  I see these providing me the tools to navigate further along in this journey.

It has been a hectic year with a lot of things happening – many unanticipated, some expected, and quite a few expected ones that did not happen. And that is what makes the journey beautiful, and the idea of a pursuit not worth pursuing ! 🙂

Its going to be just two posts in 2017. I hope, and have a feeling that, it will be better in 2018.

Written by Dwiji

Sunday, December 24th, 2017 at 21:00

Good monsoon, bad monsoon

leave a comment »

I was in Sitapur, U.P. for a few days to see how the recently sown mixed crop were faring this year in our friends’ farms.

After two successive failed kharif, everyone was relieved and welcomed the rains. The farms are lush green after the many rains this season.

Almost all the farmers we work with are dalits and their small and marginal land holdings are invariably in low lying areas. It’s also not a surprise that many of them have uneven lands with patches of sandy or sometime loamy soil. Whenever the rains are enough for the water to flow, their farms flood and it takes a couple of days for this to drain.

After the initial rains, the farmers prepared their farms and finished sowing in time for the following rains. Now, these turned out to be heavier than expected and a few have lost all their crop as their entire farm went under water for extended periods so soon after sowing.

Even in those farms where crops have survived, frequent rains are making it near impossible to take up weeding – the soil is too wet. Any weeding activity would take too much effort and/or hurt the crop plants’ roots. So the farmers wait for a dry spell, seeing the weeds taking over their farms.

This monsoon season, we are also seeing that despite normal rainfall, both day and night time temperatures have been higher than normal. So this makes for warm (bordering on hot), humid days with overcast skies – ideal conditions for pests to flourish in. Another potential disaster that most small farmers are in too weak a position (now) to avert.

There are sustainable organic farming steps that one can take to mitigate losses from these conditions too. It will be a couple more years of sustained work before our farmer friends from Sitapur can get there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will get there before its too late.

But coming back to today, the meteorological department does say that the rains have been normal so far. And policy makers, commodity traders and economic forecasters have started calculating how good the harvest is going to be. But for the small farmers, the uncertainty of agriculture does not end with monsoon forecasts.

PS: The higher than normal winter temperatures this year (the el-nino/nina effect) effectively cut the wheat harvest to a third in many families’ farms in these parts. And I do remember reading about the higher than normal temperature in July in Delhi even after the monsoon had moved in. I searched to see if someone has written about the change in temperature patterns in other parts in the later part of monsoon, but couldn’t find one. If you have come across one, please do share. If you are interested to look this up from raw data and do it as project, please do ping me.

Written by Dwiji

Thursday, August 11th, 2016 at 05:28

Big enough to fight

leave a comment »

Involving all affected members of a community in a fight for their rights is a challenge in any struggle. If the threat is as non apparent as an SEZ that has received in principle approval, this challenge is made even more difficult to overcome. The track record of state governments scrapping an in principal approved SEZ is non existent. The one proposed to be set up in Nandigram comes close to being counted as one, but then, it has not really been scrapped. And Nandigram has happened at the cost of the lives lost, the injuries & the sexual, physical and mental abuse suffered by its residents at the hands of govt. sponsored hooligans over many weeks and months.

Fighting for one’s rights is not an easy thing. For a small farmer, often it might be much easier to accept the measly compensation, however inadequate it might be. With a land holding of an acre or less, they would have worked on other’s farms or experienced seasonal migration to make ends meet. The cash compensation might seem to be something substantial enough to allow them to ‘settle down’, though there are very few examples of such sucesses.

Usually one can see that the struggle against an unjust acquisition and an even more unjust compensation is spear headed by those with more than an acre or so and less than 10 to 15 acres of land holding. Having built their farm and family these farmers typically are the most vested in their land and know what they would be loosing in case of an acquisition.

Farmers with relatively larger land holdings are either absentee farmers, or feel that they are too big to be bothered by such minor land acquisitions. More often though, the powers that be do not touch the lands of those farmers strong enough to rock the decision of the acquisition. Even if a significant portion of a large land holding is acquired, the land owner can sit back and see the land value soar as the struggle against the acquisition is fought by others. Rarely can one see a large land owner stand shoulder to shoulder with the few small and many medium land holding farmers and fight against the acquisition.

A typical scenrio seemed to prevail in the area proposed to be acquired for an SEZ in Nandagudi, near Bangalore. It was a short four hour visit and most probably we were not able to capture the details of the community coming together to fight for their rights. But from what we could see, Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (NBHS) (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi) has an uphill battle in front of them to convince both the small and the large land holding farmers of the threat to their land, their lives and their livelihood.

Written by Dwiji

Friday, July 18th, 2008 at 14:15

Indigenous varieties and breeds

leave a comment »

There are competing theories on how the domesticated plants and animals of today came to be. Genetic and archeological evidence have resolved some of the common questions but pioneering claims are made by different communities and many of these challenges are far from settled. But it is beyond debate that even if a particular plant or animal species was domensticated in one place, there are many different varities of the same plant or animal in different parts of the world. Over many generations, various factors from climate and soil conditions, parent variety, other ecological conditions, and human intentions, have created different varities of a particular species. For example, our ancestors selectively bred cattle for better milk yield, or adaptability to local conditions, or to serve as better beasts of burden.

As one variety of a species becomes more famous, more and more people convert to that variety, invariably leading to a decrease in the genetic diversity. In a few cases new varieties are bred using the famous non local variety with local variety to come up with newer ones, increasing the genetic diversity. Loosing the older varieties, especially when they were adapted to local conditions, is genetic wealth that we rob our future generations of.

The advent of genetically modified seeds and the barely tested or challenged theories of the manufacturers have highlighted the need to protect local seed varities. Governments, academic instiutions, NGOs, various societies and cooperatives across the world have set up seed banks to protect local genetic diversity. A less recognized loss is that of indigenous varieties of cattle. Paintings from different times representing the cow, a revered animal among Hindus, shows that almost all local varities were treated with comparable reverence and respect.

Operation Flood brought about a great revival in milk production, and cattle rearing in India. But the stress on higher milk yield also meant a swing away from indigenous varieties. As the adaptability to local climate, health and other concerns started surfacing, development of hybrids picked steam.

One of the objectives of the Central Cattle Breeding Farms of the Dept. of Animal Husbandry & Dairy development is to protect indigenous breeds. Looking at the details of the program, it does not encourage much confidence regarding sustaining traditional varieties beyond the lab. Given the religious values associated with cattle, there might be some traditional gaushalas working in this direction (I am not aware of any).

How far are we ready to go to protect genetic diversity? If we are ready to take steps to protect genetic diversity of grains like rice, wheat, bajra, jowar, raagi, etc. shouldn’t we think of cattle also along the same line?

Written by Dwiji

Friday, July 11th, 2008 at 15:47

Posted in Andolan, Asides

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: