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

Irfan AhmadSubscribe to Irfan Ahmad

Democracy in Jail

Based on data from the Prison Statistics India, this article demonstrates an over-representation of minorities such as Muslims, Adivasis, and Dalits in Indian jails. It offers an anthropological and sociological analysis of this over-representation. The authors connect it to structural–political factors, a connection the scant Indian literature rarely makes. They relate the data to literature on over-representation of minorities in jails in Western democracies, about which scholars use terms such as “penal democracy” and “punishing democracy.” The authors then draw on recent memoirs of imprisoned Indian “terrorists,” and argue that their imprisonment generates a notion of democracy that is conceivably an alternative. At its heart is the identification imprisonment generates amongst fellow humans through a shared vocabulary of injustice, pain, human finitude, and vulnerability.

The Categorical Revolution: Democratic Uprising in the Middle East

The protests over the past year across the "Middle East" are perhaps saying that the region first and foremost belongs to its people and that the categories of "oil-rich", "oil-less" and "main route" are at best exciting materials for a historian's archive. While unfolding this "categorical revolution", this article explodes two key myths: (1) that of the terminology of the Middle East, and (2) Islam's incompatibility with democracy.

The Secular State and the Geography of Radicalism

The burgeoning scholarship on Islamist radicalisation or terrorism - both popular as well as academic - is mostly alarmist. Too often Islamist radicalisation is understood as an offshoot of some deeply entrenched values or that the culture of Islam is incompatible with modernity. This article argues that Islamist radicalisation should be seen as a political phenomenon and that it cannot be divorced from the practices and the role of the State. It focuses on the Students Islamic Movement of India and argues that its radicalisation, manifest in its call for jihad, is largely a consequence of the failure of the Indian secular State to stop the recurring violence against Muslim minority. This article also examines the premises that underpin the media's portrayal of Islam and Muslims and concludes by raising the issue of vulnerability in writing about Islam and radicalisation.

A Different Jihad

This article discusses the issue of caste, in the context of the backward Muslim communities of Bihar elucidated in Ali Anwar's book, and the complete marginalisation of the groups at the bottom of the pecking order. The book, by focusing on the plight of backward and dalit Muslims, has the potential to redefine the very grammar of Muslim politics in favour of a progressive agenda, thus moving away from the now-prevalent reactive politics.

India-Pakistan: Friendship as Enmity

While one can barely deny the importance of the episode of Noor Fatima from Pakistan receiving medical treatment in Bangalore, an excavation into our mass psyche would perhaps reveal something extremely disturbing. Treating Fatima was not a usual apolitical medical practice. It is rather an unusual political gesture of benevolence arising out of a profound sense of otherness based on a clash of national identities, Indian versus Pakistani. In the otherwise spontaneous gesture to negate the otherness of her there is simultaneously an unconscious affirmation of her otherness premised on national identity.

Timothy McVeighs of the 'Orient'

Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden share cammon ground. The difference, if any, is that the terrorism of the former arises out of moral guilt whereas that of the latter stems from entrenched anger and a profound sense of being a helpless victim, real or otherwise.
Back to Top