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

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Proposed Ban on Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd’s Books in DU Raises Questions about the Future of Critical Thought

Scholars of social sciences write and teach from particular ideological and political frameworks, and to expect them to be “objective” or “non-partisan,” without any sensitivity to questions of power, takes away much needed perspectives of the marginalised sections of society in academia. Any critique of an academic work should stem not from unwillingness to deal with complex or discomfiting ideas, but from close reading and engagement. This article discusses these aspects in light of the recent call to ban Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd’s books from the University of Delhi’s MA Political Science reading list, as well as other instances of such interference in university curriculum in recent years.

Daring to Imagine Caste’s Antithesis

Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva by Anand Teltumbde, Delhi: Navayana, 2018; pp 432, ₹ 600.

Sandwiched Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru’s tryst with secularism and communal politics may be enumerated through a critical rereading of the religious apprehensions expressed by the Christian community over the question of their right to propagation. Was Indian secularism an effective ideological substitute to communal politics or merely a tactical tool for achieving political gains during Nehru’s times? Nehru’s vision of secularism, in having to negotiate the politics of Hindu fundamentalism as well as Congress majoritarianism, was forced to accommodate the flavours of a majoritarian cultural climate with some preferential treatment to Hindu rights.

Academic Freedom and Indian Universities

Academic freedom is increasingly under assault from authoritarian governments worldwide, supported by right-wing student groups who act as provocateurs within. In India, recent assaults on academic freedom have ranged from curbs on academic and extracurricular events to brutal assaults on students. However, the concept of academic freedom is complex and needs to be placed in a wider institutional context. While academic freedom was critical to earlier visions of the Indian university, as shown by various commissions on higher education, it is now increasingly devalued in favour of administrative centralisation and standardisation. Privatisation and the increase in precarious employment also contribute to the shrinking of academic freedom.

Last Lap of the Karnataka Elections

Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah faces no severe criticism for his tenure, but there are constituents of Karnataka that are unhappy with the incumbent government. Sections of the Lingayats firmly back the Bharatiya Janata Party in parts of central and northern Karnataka, which challenges the Congress’s prospects of a second term. The Janata Dal (Secular) is also a force to reckon with in south Karnataka. However, overall, the contest will probably be a close one, primarily between the Congress and the BJP.

How BJP Appropriated the Idea of Equality to Create a Divided India

Right-wing populism has managed to turn the traditional progressive political practices on their head. The BJP began with a critique of poor implementation of NREGA through a discourse on corruption, but gradually resignified it into a critique of welfare itself; anger against growing economic inequalities leads to the election of more pro-corporate government. This article looks at the future of right-wing populism in India, arguing that instead of a moral rejection, we need to undersand the "moral structure" on which it builds its politics.

India’s Second Dominant Party System

The conflation between nationalism and Hindutva has been the backbone of the new hegemony. That is why the Bharatiya Janata Party has been so happy with intellectuals trying to problematise the nation. That particular intellectual initiative simultaneously places the BJP in a position of immense advantage and ensures that “anti-BJP” would necessarily be equated with the anti-national! Independently, both ideas—Hindutva and development—are potent political discourses. By weaving them together with nationalism, Narendra Modi has bound them into an arsenal of his political offensive.

Messages, Mathematics and Silences in BJP’s UP Win

The Bharatiya Janata Party consolidated the support of the “leftover” castes such as the Gujjar, Tyagi, Brahmin, Saini and Kashyap who are not counted in the typical matrix fashioned for years on the basis of the “dominant” groupings like the Jats, Muslims and Dalits. Accompanying the mathematics were a slew of ideas about Muslims and Yadavs as oppressors, and a strategic silence so as to not polarise all Muslim votes to benefit the BSP.

Voices of Dissent

Words Matter: Writings against Silence edited and introduced by K Satchidanandan, Gurgaon: Penguin Books India, 2016; pp 260, ₹399.

The Persuasions of Intolerance

As violations of freedom of expression pile up, how productive is it to defend freedom on the ground of tolerance for dissent? Marking out an opinion as dissent paradoxically enables the consolidation of the mainstream consensus. There is a clear shift in the arguments deployed to curtail free expression of ideas from hurt sentiments to truth. Such a shift is taking place in a public culture which requires individuals to have opinions, but is incapable of sustaining critical dialogue.

Against the Assault on Thought

When the state cannot hide behind a façade of national performance, the government has to look for an alternative category of "us versus them" based on religion andcaste. This can be employed to divide people and rule to nip the transformative discourse in the bud. Progressive-minded people should stand together to challenge this with our own "us versus them."

Modi’s Faux Pas on Ambedkar

Narendra Modi recently described himself as an Ambedkar bhakt and also assured Dalits that he would never dilute reservations even if B R Ambedkar himself were to come back to life and demand their revocation. The faux pas reveals the desperation of the Hindutva forces to woo Dalits by misrepresenting Ambedkar and the critical role reservation plays in the political schema of the ruling classes. Reservations, which are assumed to be a boon for Dalits, have actually been the tool of their enslavement.

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