ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Militancy and Identity Politics in Assam

With the state getting tougher and the public turning against them, the militants in Assam are clearly on the defensive today. Militancy in Assam is not a mere law and order problem but a reflection of a deeper malaise affecting the whole society. Neither can it be dubbed as radical politics of the marginalised communities against hegemonising forces. Politics of identity in Assam is basically trapped in the world of appearances, fighting imaginary enemies, and drawing strength from prejudices and misconceptions of groups about themselves and others. Without an understanding of the material and ideological roots that gives birth to militancy, restoring peace in Assam would be an uphill task.

No Shortcuts to Dalit Liberation

Ambrose Pinto’s article, ‘Saffronisation of Affirmative Action’ ( EPW , December 25, 1999) reminds me of similar and better articulated commentaries on reservations published in Economic and Political Weekly during the days of anti-Mandal agitation. These commentaries effectively exposed the upper...

Marxism, Radical Feminism and Homosexuality

Marxism, Radical Feminism and Homosexuality H Srikanth WHEN I reacted to Vimal Balasubramanian's position on 'Gay Rights in India' (EPW, February 3,1996), I knew that I was opening a pandora's box. As expected my article. 'Natural Is Not Always Rational' (EPW, April 13, 1996) met with critical responses from different quarters, each one widening the sphere of discussion to many other related (EPW) itself two articles appeared confuting my arguments. While Sharmila Rege (EPW, June 1, 1996) tried to portray my interpretation as "one more piece in a mainstream homophobic tradition", Suneetha (EPW, November 23, 1996) concluded it was "an ill-informed and authoritarian exposition from a self-styled Marxist". Although my criticism of Vimal Balasubramanian was never based on medical or moralistic grounds, both Sharmila Rege and Suneetha quoted the opinions of American psychiatrists and cited different anthropological works to prove that there was nothing abnormal about homosexuals and that homosexuality was in practice in all cultures. Both of them raised objections to what they considered as orthodox-deterministic Marxian logic of subordinating sex to the needs of the society and argued in favour of "freedom of choice" in sexual matters. On her part, by reducing Marxist understanding of social necessity to reproduction of species and by interpreting reproduction as mere procreation, Suneetha defended technological changes that have "loosened the link between sexuality and reproduction" and argued that this "progressive step" would enable women and men "to break out of the boundaries that partiarchy imposes on the expression of their sexuality". Following similar logic, taking support from different western scholarly works, Sharmila Rege justified that gay and lesbian movements have potentiality to "reorganise heterosexuality" and that they could even pose "a challenge to capitalist system". Even though I am not in agreement with many of these and other conclusions which my critics have come to, I recognise that the issues they raised regarding sexuality, social control, sexual choice, women's emancipation and gender equality are relevant to the theory and practice of Marxism. I admit that classical Marxist literature does not have ready-made answers to all questions raised by postmodernists and feminists today, but I firmly believe that Marxism, as an analytical tool, has the capacity to comprehend and analyse the complex interplay of sex, gender and class in capitalist and socialist societies. Exposing some of the factual errors and theoretical inadequacies of feminist and postmodernist interpretations of sexuality in this paper I will try to justify my earlier position that forms of expression of sexuality were and are always subordinate to social necessity.

Natural Is Not Always Rational

Vimal Balasubramanyan's article, 'Gay Rights in India' (EPW, February 3), deals with the topic in complete ignorance of the social dimension of the sexual relations. Far from solving the problems of the homosexuals, her prescriptions only help in rationalising and justifying the archaic and decadent sexual practices in society Unlike in animals, where sexual instinct is basically a biological response, in the case of human brings the desire for sex is governed both by the body and the mind.


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