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Hiren Gohain

A Note on Recent Ethnic Violence in Assam

The complexity of the recent ethnic violence in Assam has its roots going as far back as the early 20th century. With the various ethnic militant outfits having no clear-cut policy regarding the other groups, while some demonstrate a knee-jerk reaction leading to horrendous acts of ethnic cleansing, there seems to be no other thought than domination of the Other. A democratic perspective is singularly missing. What is the centre's outlook on these contentious issues?

Confusion about 'Violence'

For the last two to three decades I have seen “violence” become an abstruse subject for umpteen numbers of learned articles and treatises. This, I believe, is the product of a positivist mindset, which becomes immersed in an uncritical contemplation of violence per se. There are no probing questions on who perpetrated the violence and why? It thus becomes something like a meteorological phenomenon, apparently arbitrary and unexpected, but devastating in effect.

Did Lenin Distort Marx?

Chattopadhyay's (EPW, 15 December 2012) impatient utopianism needs to be called into question. Lenin had a deep understanding of the ground reality of Russia in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, and in this context, there was no question of moving towards statelessness during the period of transition to socialism.

Revolution or Rebellion?

Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion by Gautam Navlakha (New Delhi: Penguin), 2012; pp 272,Rs 299.

Crime or Tragedy?

I am somewhat disturbed by Felix Padel’s detached and academic review of Madhusree Mukerjee’s book on the ­horror that was the Bengal famine of 1943 (EPW, 3 November 2012). While the book is on the whole an indictment of British ­colonial policy, the reviewer strays to various other aspects of the scene and turns it into a terrible muddle caused by pressures of war and real shortage.

Subaltern Studies

Turning around the Perspective

While in Gramsci the term "subaltern" was never detached from the perspective of a struggle for social transformation, the Subaltern school of India gained a reputation for its determined endeavour to rescue history from the Marxist framework. Marxist orthodoxy in India had many limitations and it could straitjacket complex historical phenomena, but the Subaltern school abandoned Marxist premises instead of trying to enrich and expand its scope.

Revolution and Violence

While I share Dilip Simeon’s revulsion (“A Hard Rain Falling”, EPW, 14 July 2012) against the practice of cruelty as a calculated instrument of political violence, and would further argue that whatever the consequences there ought to remain a kind of piety towards immemorial human values like truth, justice and compassion, I am equally perturbed by his conflation of all kinds of p­olitical violence into a general perversion to be avoided at all costs.

Political Hamlet: Player Scenes

Years ago, the author's examination of the Player scenes in Hamlet seems to have aroused the collective anxiety of the bourgeois scholar-phalanx. Apart from the Players' part in a political intrigue, of which they were innocent, they embodied a form of popular culture that was held in suspicion but recognised as discharging an important function as communicator of vital social norms.

Towards a Revival of Revolutionary Ideas

Scripting the Change: Selected Writings of Anuradha Ghandy edited by Anand Teltumbde and Shoma Sen, foreword by Arundhati Roy (Delhi: Daanish Books), 2011; xxiv + 456, Rs 350.

Decline of the Left: A Critical Comment

Prabhat Patnaik's article "The Left in Decline" (16 July 2011) is disappointing as it soft-pedals the worrisome significance of certain developments in the Left. As Patnaik does not believe that there has been a change in the class-character of the party to explain the empiricisation, how then does one explain its "alienation from the basic classes"?