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With the recent acquittal of former Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba after a torturous 10 years of imprisonment under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), we take a look at one of the most important tools in the market of India’s barely-there-democracy: the UAPA.

In the Athenian State of 621 BCE, lived a statesman named Draco. Draco prescribed death for all criminal offences. Laws that were written in blood, not ink. Think of the word ‘draconian’ named after this infamous statesman, but in the Indian context, and perhaps what comes to mind is the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967. 

Student activist Umar Khalid spent a total of three years behind bars in Tihar, with his bail pleas rejected consistently. The case moved from bench to bench. 84-year-old Stan Swamy, booked under the Bhima Koregaon case during his imprisonment, had asked for a sipper and straw in jail, citing Parkinson’s disease. It took the authorities a month to approve his request. On July 5, 2021, he passed away in jail, still awaiting trial. Journalist Siddique Kappan, on his way to cover the Hathras rape case, was arrested and detained similarly for a period of two years without trial. 

What brings these cases together is UAPA. Stringent conditions for bails (the accused will not be given bail if the first impression of the court is that they are guilty), the ability to declare an individual ‘terrorist’, and detention without producing any incriminating evidence have ensured the overturning of the precept of innocent before proven guilty. The investigating agencies are allowed to take up to 180 days even to file a chargesheet, which, in the case of Kappan, he claims to never even have received firsthand.

The process thus becomes the punishment. The asymmetrical power balance between citizen and state is clearly exploited to the citizen’s disadvantage. Dissecting the acquittal judgement of Professor G.N. Saibaba, Karen Gabriel, and PK Vijayan write for The Quint that the law comprises both the set of legislation that the state has to enact and uphold as well as the rules of procedure that the state must adhere to while doing so. They assert, “Procedure is an invaluable protective measure, not an incidental convenience.”

A Brief History

In the year 1967, the Indira Gandhi administration sought to bring out a law against the secessionist activities that the government observed in the country. The Parliament thus passed the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. What initially emerged as legislation to counter the problem of secessionist tendencies, however, would quickly assume an altogether different colour. 

After the Prime Minister’s death and with the advent of the Punjab insurgency, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA) was introduced. Criticised widely by human rights organisations for its arbitrary tendencies to centralise the onus of justice, it was later withdrawn. TADA trickled down in 2001 to POTA (the Prevention of Terrorism Act) in 2002, which met with concerns of misuse and was scrapped by the UPA government in 2004. The provisions of POTA, however, were in essence transferred onto the UAPA, which was the first introduction of anti-terrorism into the primarily anti-secessionist legislation. The central government could now overlook rules of evidence when it came to interception of communication and vested in its hands the power to declare any organisation as a terrorist organisation without trial. 

In 2008, the Act was further amended to include longer police custody, longer jail time, and harder bail provisions. The latest and most important amendment in 2019 empowered the NIA further and gave the government powers to declare individuals terrorists. 

But It Works, Right?

The hardlined stringency should then naturally warrant efficiency in curbing the “disturbances” that it claims to protect us from. The Home Ministry’s 2020 report, on the other hand, tells us that only 212 of the 24000 convicted in UAPA cases in 2016–2020 were found guilty. As Kappan puts it, “a conviction rate of less than 3%.”

Acquitting DU professor G. N. Saibaba, who has been in prison for 3600 days, the Bombay High Court noted:

No evidence has been led by the prosecution by any witness to any incident, attack, act of violence, or even evidence collected from some earlier scene of offence where a terrorist act has taken place, in order to connect the accused to such an act…

The court further stated that there had been an evident “failure in justice” in the flouting of mandatory provisions in Saibaba’s case. The appalling conditions of his imprisonment, along with those of many others, lead one to wonder whether the crushing impact that callous state persecution has on an individual’s life can ever be undone with mere acquittal. 

The persecution of intelligentsia, which asks difficult questions of institutions, is no new phenomenon. Considering, however, that as we function under that nimble concept of what is known to some of us as a democracy, the state would do well to clothe its atrocities better and be less conspicuous about them. The UAPA, with its in-your-face authoritarian tendencies, does not seem to be helping in that front. 

Read also: The Donkey Dance of UAPA: Criminalising Dissent in a Hollowing Democracy

Deevya Deo
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To have democratic institutions and universities in a democratic country makes absolute sense, right? Having a democracy comes with its own challenges and cons, but the solution can never be to altogether dismiss this institution. Sadly, The Democracy of Student – Universities have been forced to sit on the demise of the Indian political scene for students. The prolific campuses of knowledge which gave birth to so many great leaders and drove movements like the Bihar Student Movement (1974), Assam Student Movement (1979), and All Jharkhand Students’ union (1986), are in the process of becoming barren lands of facts and knowledge that involve no political or social awakening and organization of their students. This absence has led callous behaviour of the administration towards the faculty and staff, arbitrary fees increment, and assault in the name of gender and caste on the very campuses built to fight against these perils. It’s almost as if the verdure of the intellectual movement breathing and sustaining on campuses has been sucked to maintain the love of party and ideology. 

 

The Indian movement for independence from colonial European powers was largely supported by the youth. Students made up a sizable portion of the protests during Mahatma Gandhi’s 1919 campaign against the Rowlatt Act. Gandhi advised students to boycott schools and colleges as a form of protest against the repressive British government during the Civil Disobedience movement. They immediately left their educational institutions and joined national leaders on the streets to demonstrate their support for the cause.

 

During the 1942 Quit India movement, the youth leaders organized large-scale protests and rallies. As part of the struggle for liberation, many student leaders were put behind bars and others were killed. The All India Students Federation (AISF), India’s first student organisation, was founded in 1936 as a result of the 1920 First All India Students Conference.

 

Experts on the subject have opined that the loss of a unifying cause harmed the political awakening amongst students. The tussle between the student leaders and the Lyngdoh Committee has made its villainous presence known on almost all campuses. Even the promises of the Student Council in place of Student Unions have not been realised for years in the case of universities like Benarus Hindu University. 

 

The last few years saw the rise of student solidarity again in the face of CAA-NRC protests, but how this political consciousness manifests on campuses is a question that clarifies itself. Student union elections have been the nurturing ground for bright leaders and they are our only chance to save our democracy from the current crisis of gerontocracy. Student unions can become the opportunity the youth need to carry on the great legacy of student leadership. It would be better if the talk of democracy could come out of political science classes and shake hands with the ethics going on in the adjacent philosophy class and bring vibrancy to campuses again, to make their presence known not just as a name existing on a class roll or as a seat in university, but as a student of this Republic of India. 

 

Kashish Shivani

[email protected]

 

The Oversight Committee removed a story by Mahasweta Devi and two texts by Dalit Writers in the name of not hurting any sentiments. 15 members of the Academic Council have been dissenting still the varsity has backed its decision. Is it academic healing or casteist censorship to uphold the dogmas of some?

After a 12-hour-long meeting on Tuesday, the University’s Academic Council brought in some changes in the syllabus of the BA (Hons) English course. ‘Draupadi’, a celebrated story by Mahasweta Devi was removed without citing any academic reasons. Apart from this, two Dalit authors, Bama and Sukirtharini were arbitrarily removed and replaced with Ramabai without any academic reason being stated. 

As reported by the Indian Express, at least 15 members of the Academic Council gave a dissent note against such arbitrary removal of ‘Draupadi’ from the syllabus. “Mahasweta Devi’s story ‘Draupadi’ displays two forms of resistance–first resistance is in the form of tribal insurgencies and the second is acted out by Dopdi Mejhen, an active worker of the Naxalbari movement who is hunted down and raped in a bid to subjugate insurgent groups.”

Dr K. Madhavarajan, Assistant Professor, NMSS Vellaichamy Nadar College

DU Beat talked to various students who have studied the highly acclaimed writer, one such student said,

“The text in itself has so much richness, it’s a shocking move. It perfectly displays the intersectionality of how women’s bodies are reduced to landscapes for political agendas. It was a text that would always stay with me.”

Mithuraj Dhusiya, a member of the Academic Council registered strong dissent in his opinion as quoted by the Indian Express. He said that it’s shocking that the Oversight Committee bypassed the statutory bodies like Faculties, Committee of Courses and Standing Committee and changed the prescribed texts. 

Debraj Mukherjee, Associate Professor, Ramjas College brought forward his voice of dissent about the removal of ‘Draupadi’ and said in his opinion to DU Beat, 

“The primary problem here is the absence of stated academic reasons for excluding certain texts. The rigour we expect from even our students, wherein they are encouraged to offer analysis over opinion, and investigation over prejudice, send absent in the offices that have led to such exclusion.” 

No academic reason was stated earlier until yesterday when the varsity put out a press release where it accepted the recommendations regarding the removal of various contents from the syllabus of B.A Hons. English for the fifth semester. 

The press release states that a careful analysis of the present syllabus shows it is diverse and inclusive already. The University also clarified that the contents of any language course should not hurt the sentiments of any individual. 

There are various questions to be asked here, whose sentiments are being hurt when Dalit writers are reclaiming their space in the literary world? Whose sentiments are being hurt when a tribal woman holds the bravado and strength to rise above the societal fears put on women? 

The society which thinks harming the modesty of a woman is the utmost terrible it can do, it is Draupadi who stands in the face of it and laughs at its nakedness with a voice that is ‘terrifying and sky splitting’. The action of standing up against Senanayak naked with her bruises is Draupadi asking what else can you do making both her abusers and the society powerless and that is when 

“ for the first time, Senanayak is afraid to stand before an unarmed target, terribly afraid.” 

According to some sources, there were objections against ‘Maniben alias Bibijan’ as it is based on the Gujarat riots and it allegedly showed Bajrang Dal and RSS in a “bad light” and as “murderers”. Even members of the Academic Council have stated prejudice and diktat of dominant Hindutva ideology behind the unacademic deletion of content as a move to suppress marginalised voices.

“Such teachers have been consistent in their opposition to the Dalit and tribal voices owing to their allegiance to the Hindutva ideology which is patently against the socially underprivileged segments.” 

-Rudrashish Chakraborty in his statement to DU Beat

Another set of questions to be asked is about the Oversight Committee. It’s not been much time since the formation of the Oversight Committee in 2019. Talking about the issue, Abha Dev Habib, the Treasurer of DUTA said that the Committee was formed, ‘when ABVP tried to vandalise the Academic Council meeting and threatened Heads of Departments of English and History and many elected Academic Council members.

The dissent note submitted by the members of the Academic Council clearly states that it has been formed in contravention of the University Calendar. 

“The only competent to frame any syllabus for any course are the Committee of courses comprising teachers of the concerned Department.”

The next step in the procedure of syllabus revision is to get approval from statutory bodies like Faculties, The Standing Committee and the Academic Council. Such a committee is not a part of the process.   

The press release on the other hand mandates the Oversight Committee and backs its actions in the name of recommendation from the Head, Department of English. 

Whereas Rudrashish Chakraborty from the Department of English, KMC has said the press release to be ‘a blatant defence of the overreach of the Oversight Committee’. In his statement, he added,

“The claim of the press release that the Oversight Committee has followed all democratic processes is a blatant distortion of facts. Rather the Oversight Committee has undermined the democratic processes involved in the syllabus revision by issuing fiats to the English department to add/delete texts without giving any academic rationale.”

The dissent note on the other hand sheds light that no member of the concerned department was a part of the Oversight Committee. Even the heads of departments were not a part of the deliberations. How could a committee decide the required and not of a course without any expertise and competence in it? Was it merely out of choice or deliberate prejudice? 

However, apart from the official release, ‘gruesome sexual content’ has been cited as the prime reason for the removal of the story as reported by The Print. The ‘problematic content’ as pointed out is the horrendous condition and description of Draupadi after being raped. 

“I don’t know if the name and context regarding the perpetrators got lost in translation but this (Draupadi) shows the Indian military in a very poor light. We don’t want our students to hate them based on fictional stories,”

-DU Registrar Vikas Gupta said in his opinion to the Print. 

What’s ironic here is a country where there are innumerous records of rape cases met with blatant injustice, there the condition of a woman after being raped is called ‘problematic’. Moreover, will the committee expunge all such ‘problematic’ details present in every course throughout the University? 

It’s not the first time that women writers have been withheld for crossing the set boundaries of ‘modesty’. Ismat Chughtai faced a trial in 1944 for her story ‘Lihaaf’ on the grounds of portraying obscenity, where thighs and women’s ‘bad’ character were told to be the point of objection. Ismat must be smiling with pity today at us for we surely have come a long way, backwards or forward, only Ismat can tell. 

Even no other short story by Mahasweta Devi was accepted and a list of six short stories was forced upon the Department to accept. It shall be noted that these six stories again were not selected as per the process laid down. 

The matter doesn’t end here, the Oversight Committee instructed the Department to replace ‘Chandrabati Ramayana (a feminist reading)’, with Tulsidas for the DSE paper, ‘Pre-colonial Indian Literature.’ A similar curtailing of content has been recommended for another DSE paper as mentioned in the dissent note. 

“The Oversight Committee, instead of examining the rationale of the texts included in the syllabus, merely pandered to the political pressures and vested interests.”

-A collective statement from the Academic Council members

The statement further read that without any concrete evidence of any sentiments being hurt, the ignorance and prejudice against the marginal voices of the society are visible. It further added, 

“To use hurt sentiments as an excuse to delete texts is a blatant attempt to impose thought control of the dominant and privileged social groups. By suggesting that the syllabus should merely uphold the status quo and not critique or question the same, the DU press release has actually undermined the very ethos of a University.”

Such removal of valuable pieces of literature without any academic reason puts the sanctity of academic rigour in question. Acceptance of the changes when 15 members of the Academic Council have expressed dissent against it is an aggravation of various problems which raises a question on the essence of education again. 

Ayushi, a student of Literature, expressed her dissatisfaction over the arbitrary removal.

“Being a part of the DBA community, it feels like a setback in parallel to all other things we face. Literature can’t exist in a vacuum, it’s necessary to show the inequality and the domination existing on the ground. ”

Moreover changing the syllabus when it’s been five weeks since the course has been started shows severe carelessness on the part of the administration. Is academic planning just a play of whims to be altered and changed as per the moods of members of the Committee who in the first place are not even qualified members of the department?

The removal of such great portrayals of marginalised voices, deletion of texts by Dalit writers and vandalism of Women’s writing courses puts up a lot of questions on the Oversight Committee and the University that is backing it. In an attempt to censor these great texts, the Oversight Committee has brought them into the spotlight again which will contribute to their contrary goals. 

Such academic censorship and forced revision of the syllabus which upholds the existing status quo might be deliberate silencing to align it with the dominant ideology. The voice of dissent being ignored by the University shows how much we value the quality of academics. The University has a lot to answer and a Press release with ambiguous reasons isn’t enough. 

 

Read Also: Decoding the “Gender” In Censorship On Art

Photo Credits: Indian Express

Kashish Shivani

[email protected]

Art has poured its fervour into the struggle for independence and continues to shape the struggle for the reclamation of Azaadi in post-independent India in continuation with its tussle with censorship

Throughout the years the call for Revolution and Azaadi has been infused with various art forms. Be it lines of poetry or the dead silence on the faces of actors, Art has always been the medium to convey the turmoil that boils within. Indian People’s Theatre Association, IPTA and Progressive writers adopted the bravado to speak for the unheard in times of independence struggle. 

The power that these bare words encompass is beyond any hegemony, which is the reason why Art is the first to be censored whenever any establishment fears downfall. Dinkar’s direct attack on the then Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru shocked the entire nation. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s act of reading those four lines in the Parliament to criticise Nehru remains one of the most revolutionary acts. 

Safdar Hashmi’s murder, Sultan Majroohpuri’s arrest, the defacement of paintings from the CAA protest sites and many such incidents tell the tale of how revolutionary Art drives the course of change and thus trembles the pillars of hegemony.  

Saadat Hasan Manto was censored in his age of writing and what’s peculiar is that censorship in the age of the 21st century isn’t leaving his side. After the genocidal sloganeering on Sunday at Jantar Mantar, a post was doing rounds on Instagram. The post had lines from the movie Manto (2018) where Saadat Hasan says, “He is Muslim enough to be killed”, depicting the Islamophobic scenario. Instagram found this to be against its community guidelines and removed this post uploaded by @con.scientizacao. Meanwhile, the slogans asking for genocide remain on various pages. 

“If you cannot bear these stories then the society is unbearable. Who am I to remove the clothes of this society, which itself is naked.”

-Manto

 These are not just bland phrases that promise good days ahead while hollowness shrieks from inside them. These are the cries of the turbulence stated barely, set in the beauty of expressions.

The words of Pash, Faiz, Dushyant Kumar, Kaifi Saheb and many others still resonate with the masses. Is it because of the immortality of those words or our struggles have not really evolved?

As the words of Habib Jalib and Majrooh Sultanpuri continue to tell thousands of stories of their age encompassed in them, we can hope that ours too will live on to tell about the people who stood in the face of the odds. People who questioned the essence of Azaadi and rightfully demanded it. We hope the words and art of Amir Aziz, Satish Acharya, Varun Grover and various other artists keep speaking for the deliberately silenced.  

These words from Dushyant Kumar, truly depict the role of Art in organising, agitating and leading people towards the path of change and not merely giving up in the face of the oppressor.

Meri Zubaan se nikali to sirf Nazm bani, tumhare haath mei aai to ek mashaal hui.

Featured Image Credits – Mir Suhail 

Kashish Shivani

[email protected]

What happened to the voices of the campus? Where are we with the freedom to express dissent?

 

How do you manage to live in a highly polarised world? Being an apolitical person you can ignore, or if you hold the responsibility of calling yourself political, you can “allege” or “accuse.” But how do you manage to make sense of things when the world being ravaged by hate is your future workplace? For student journalists or the students of media, it’s the most worrying question. There is no doubt that we are facing a massive downfall of the media in the last few years, from the very orthodox and conservative relative to the very vocal and performative activist group. Everyone alleges that it is the media that is creating the ruckus, just the different ones for them.

 

From constantly and directly promoting hatred in the name of religion, targeting minorities, lobbying and creating propaganda around deliberately selective issues, and heckling, there’s almost no ditch that our mainstream media has not stepped into. This is nothing less than a moment of crisis for future workers in this arena. But as I look around, the worry of the future leaves me and the present stress grips me harder. 

 

A few months back, a notice was released to all the DU students that they would need permission from the Proctor to protest. Moreover, there has been an erasure of resistance art from campuses, section 144 was imposed in Jamia for two long months, deployment of police forces inside the campuses has been frequent, violence in Jamia’s library by the police came to light,cancellation of Sarfoora Zargar’s degree, and hundreds of other actions that signify the movement at large to  distance students and campuses from the larger political movement. The administrations, which were supposed to be benefactors of students, have turned into watchdogs bent upon making the vocal universities into apolitical centres of study.

 

 After the pandemic, such tendencies have increased with the batch that did not get to live their campus life. It feels like a gap altogether, as if something was lost that could not be recovered. The admin has taken advantage of this opportunity in the worst way possible. There is an urgent need to revive political deliberation on campuses again.

 

 The trampling down of dissent in any form across all the university campuses is worrisome that should be a public topic for distress. The concept of universities as free spaces for deliberation and discussion has eroded, as has the opportunity for Indian students to have a space to themselves free of hatred and censorship.

 

 So, how do you manage to make sense of things when the world being ravaged by hate is the one you are currently living in? With the help of students who still hold the bravado of sitting on protests, well aware that there can be consequences, and those who are determined to maintain the same atmosphere on campus. With the help of Meenakshi, who did not deter from filling a petition in the court against the arbitary removal of her candidature from the LSR SU elections, with students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and St. Stephens not letting enablers of hegemony and patriarchy into their campuses, and with the students of National School of Drama (NSD) singing Dheere Dheere yahan ka mausam badalne laga hai while their Chairperson arrives to meet them after a long protest and hunger strike.

Kashish Shivani

[email protected]

“Our democracy will not sustain if we can’t guarantee freedom of speech and expression,” PM Narendra Modi said in June 2014. But the recent police action against protestors showcases that in India what you preach is not what you practice. 

Our country is currently being rocked by protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in various places. Although there exist divided views on the issue, the major concern that has arisen is the importance of expressing dissent in a democracy and the biased stance of the police in the matter. 

Dissent can be defined as non-agreement with an idea, policy or entity. Democracy sustains and strengthens because of its ideals as well as voicing the collective will and diversity in views. It is only through acts of dissent that we can truly assess the efficacy of a democratic system. But in recent times, any kind of objection to the current government or its policies are blatantly termed as ‘Anti-national and seditious’ by the government, members of the ruling party and some other organisations. A large number of people who have criticised the government policies or even Modi, have either been arrested or brutally trolled on various social media platforms. Student protests against CAA – NRC have been ridiculed as immaturity and propaganda of the opposition. In places like Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Assam, etc. non-violent protests have been aggressively curbed using police force. 

The matter in question is not whether these policies and decisions are worthwhile, but the growing intolerance towards any form of opposition or disagreement to the popular decision and the police using its powers in a prejudiced manner. Scores of images, videos and other evidence have come up that have questioned the integrity of ‘kanoon ke rakhwale (Law Keepers)’. Victims of police brutality have shared horrific accounts of how they were detained on falsified charges, abused and even labelled as ‘Pakistanis’. This clampdown on civil society activists and critical minds is not a recent phenomenon. For instance, in the Bhima-Koregaon case of 2018, activists speculated to have Maoist links were arrested. Later, a fact-finding committee found that Hindu extremist groups planned Bhima-Koregaon riots, but the police targeted the activists due to pressure from the state government to protect the perpetrators. The recent transfer of the case to NIA by the Home Ministry raises further questions. Same accusations have been levied during CAA protests as the police raised their lathis and guns against some groups of protestors only. Hostility of the police is often justified on the grounds of maintaining peace and unity and colonial era laws of sedition and criminal defamation are used as crutches to support the lies. This rampant silencing by police is worrying and aggravates dubiety – whether the scales of justice always favour the privileged and the majority. 

Nurturing dogma, which restraints criticism and disapproval, will surely befall great doom upon our country. With increasing education and awareness, the police cannot act as bigoted individuals, launch a ‘witch – hunt’ on a sectarian basis and then expect the people to stay mum. 

 A democracy is prosperous when it comprises active citizens who dissent against the unjust and express their devotion and respect towards its ideals through nonviolent means and in turn, the government and its agencies too welcome their revolutionary views. That is when we become truly free and enjoy the true essence of our existence as a human. 

‘The Constitution gives us a voice

to raise against any unjust.

But they try to steal our choice

and tell us, to their whims we must adjust.

No longer will we be played as toys

cos it’s time to rise and voice our dissent.’

 

Image Credits: Manav Ahuja and Jassman for DU Beat

Ipshika Ghosh 

[email protected]

 

Does your bemused self stand at crossroads, indecisive of whether to join in on vocalising dissent amidst the palpable protest culture or not? Read on to find about the battle that ensues.

You might have been a busy bee drenched with assignments, deadlines, society commitments, parties, tinder dates, self quarantines (if you are introvert) and other youth culture activities, but simultaneously there has been a turbulence which led to class suspensions, teachers’ strike, mass harassment, violent riots and police crackdowns which in turn made ‘Inquilab’ strike a crescendo.

What one may find sudden and superious is aftermath of staying passive and not challenging the existent discourse.

“Without deviation from the norm progress is not possible.” The underlying construct of this quote by Frank Zappa is evident in every little rebellious thing we do. To say someone has never protested about anything in life seems far from veracity. There are no shortages of elements which challenge the social, political, economical and cultural cloak which blankets our existence of being. We don’t dwell in Utopia. This leaves us with the current state of affairs which are results of unchallenged perpetuated norms of behavior.

But is it right to put the onus on small fragile shoulders of people who are unfazed with oppressions, are cocooned in comfort, enmeshed in apolitical stances and have sorted priorities?

These are some of the many reasons also labelled as excuses by active participants of protests. Arunima Tripathi, a B.A. (H) Political Science, first year student from Kirori Mal College expressed her dismay over privilege shaming and said,”Keeping my privileges and political leanings aside, I join in on protests because it comes from my conscience and common sense.” 

There are some who wish to be vociferous but silence themselves from the fear of their parents and society. Some fear safety amidst police crackdowns. Priyanshi Sarraf, a first year B.Com. (H) student from Hansraj College said,”I feel guilty about not being able to mobilise for protests because of restrictions from my parents who fear for my safety, but I try to be active on social media and voice my opinions where I feel relatively safer. I do receive flak sometimes but it’s my space after all.”

Online activism emboldens the cause without any doubts. Protesting is not just mere taking to streets but also cultivating a sphere which encourages more voices to follow. Those active ones continuously try to get the attention of maximum people possible to join in on the mission. This helps in keeping the discourse on the table for discussions and engagement rather than losing it in the winds of oblivion.

Political correctness is ideal when going in protests. There are instances where people are not aware of the anatomy of the protests. Brut India’s short video surfaced which showed a woman alleging her husband and kids who forced her to sit in Shah Jamal demonstrations in Aligarh in the wake of protest tide against Citizenship Amendment Act. Such accounts of incidents weakens the stride of the movement. Pro or Anti, if you feel like you have something to say remember it’s your right to do so and if you sit in silence nothing is going to change the frosted dynamic.

To protest or not to protest is a matter for your indecisive conscience but it also is an obligation to the ones to who have the potential to act in times when crisis befalls. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” you have to be wary of which side you pick because that winter of the times sure has come!

Feature image credits: DU Beat 

Umaima Khanam

[email protected]

 

The English department of Lady Shri Ram College for Women called for a series of General Body Meetings in light of the increasing state of communal violence faced by the city and its people. 

On 2nd March 2020, the English department called for a General Body Meeting at the Peace Centre. The GBM was centered around the issue of increasing state of communal violence faced by the city and its people, and was called in order to decide the extension of help to those affected by the violent environment. Following message was circulated by the English Department Union: “Minutes of Today’s Meeting and Call for GBM. In today’s meeting, we discussed the current political climate and what the department can do to play its part. 2A’s decision to boycott classes indefinitely was discussed, along with similar boycott by the department collectively, as well as collection drives, fundraising efforts, and volunteering at protest sites.

Students suggested the following ideas:

-Freeze attendance in case of classes undertaking boycotts or students unable to attend classes.

-Have one event a week wherein professors can discuss the larger situation creating space for discussion

-Publish a collective narrative of real experiences, use blogs and social media to raise awareness

-Restructure class lectures making classrooms flexible spaces for open ended discussions, if people really want to attend them

-A schedule of extra classes by teachers, or study sessions with seniors, once the boycott is over.

Some students also expressed their reluctance to boycott as they felt it could be a tokenistic gesture. The union has expressed these views to their staff advisors and administration and will be addressing the department about possible ways forward tomorrow at 10:45 in the peace centre before the protest gathering. If you are able to come to college, please attend this GBM. 

English Department Union” 

The action of boycott was first initiated by a section of second year students pursuing English honours. The section decided to go on indefinite boycott of classes in order to join protests and shake the illusion of normalcy on campus. However, differing views did arise. “I feel that it’s a very elitist stance. To go on an indefinite boycott could just hamper the education of the marginalized sections. Some can afford to pay to repeat the semester but can everybody do it? Also, what are we even doing while carrying out a boycott? Do we have a charter of demands? Are we taking any substantial step to improve the situation and actually utilize the time we have because of the boycott? If it’s only about being able to join protests then even a partial boycott on days of protests can fulfill that need. And if it’s only about showing that normalcy does not exist then it can be done while also attending classes. For instance, people could organise protests on campus after classes or wear symbols of dissent like t-shirts or any other such thing that says stuff like no NRC, CAA, NPR.”, said a student from 2A who wished to remain anonymous. On 3rd March 2020 the Union discussed their conversation with staff advisors and possible ways forward with the department. One of the resolutions was conducting online anonymous polls. Two possible outcomes came into perspective. Firstly, total indefinite boycott wherein the “entire department will call for a total boycott irrespective of internals and attendance, in solidarity with students from affected areas”. Secondly, partial boycott in which “the department will call for a boycott of classes post 11am (or suitable time), irrespective of attendance and internals, in days in which protest marches and gatherings are scheduled”. On the same day, the department announced the following: “After repeated GBMs and a vote, the department has reached a tally of 115 votes for a total boycott and 68 votes for a partial boycott. However, after the count was over, 23 students have approached us asking for a revote with a “No boycott” category. Since the option was not expressed by these people or their representatives at the GBMs, and since there is an overwhelming majority for a total boycott, this is the stance that we will be following. Since mid-sem break is right around the corner and questions arise about the situation concerning the same, we will be re-evaluating once college reopens post break.” 

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Many students complained about the inability to express their views freely. “I also don’t feel absolutely free to be able to share an opinion that the majority does not support because if someone is speaking of wanting to attend classes, all of them are trying to educate her on how the boycott is important and how they are being insensitive by thinking of classes so they’re trying to just reinforce their opinion all the time when they should try to accommodate everyone’s voices.”, said a second year student from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Another GBM was called on 5th March 2020 at 11am, to discuss the matter with the department. The following message was circulated by the Union: “Based on the GBM today, the department will be following a partial boycott stance as a collective, wherein the entire department will only boycott all classes on days of protest marches and youth gatherings. However, individual sections are free to follow a total boycott stance provided the entire class agrees to this motion. This decision comes as a result of groups of students feeling bullied and targeted for picking a stance or for attending classes, as well as the confusion in communication between students and their CRs. Note: 

  1. Classes will take place for those who wish to attend.
  2. For students unable to attend college due to safety concerns, the union will be making attempts to ensure that attendance is granted to you all and extra classes can be arranged as well.
  3. For students or classes who wish to boycott indefinitely, some teachers are willing to take extra classes in order to ensure that you do not miss out on syllabus.
  4. If a section comes to a consensus about total boycott, their CRs must communicate that to their teachers and ensure that no student is attending classes on the days of total boycott. 

Further discussions are awaited after the mid-semester break. The department also has its annual conference- Litmus 2020 scheduled on 20th and 21st March 2020. 

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives 

Image Credits: Department of English, LSR

 

Priyanshi Banerjee

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Political allegories is that art, of which George Orwell is a deemed artist. Here is a vignette of his work in association with the modern day political discourse. 

It’s on rather sad accounts that Orwellian literature has withstood the notion of ‘change is constant’ and still continues to appropriate the political scenarios of today. With his notable works of fiction, and non fiction, Eric Arthur Blair under the pen name of George Orwell, authored classics like Animal Farm, 1984, etc.which still reverberates his relevance in contemporary times.

The narrative of using relatively passive, uneducated, gullible, and vulnerable ‘Comrades’ being furthered as pawns to unify under the garb of love for the nation, is one the basics of Animal Farm used only to supposedly overthrow the common enemy; human kind sans the kind.

This pattern has a complex resemblance with what we see in modern day India. People are duped into buying the agenda of what in true sense the love for nation is, and end up hurting their own kind because the line of demarcation of what constitutes as an enemy or not, either fades or obliterates.

A teenager from Uttar Pradesh fires a shot in Jamia Millia Islamia whilst saying, “Yeh lo azadi! (Here is your freedom!)” clearly under the influence of the so called ‘political leaders’ who spit venom of hate speeches to communalise every issue in the name of some glorified dream of India which they deem to be truer from what a secular India is.

The decisions of the supreme leader are taken as Gospel. Boxer: the horse, who lived by the maxim of ‘I will work harder’ and ‘Napoleon is always right,’ was sold, in exchange of alcohol by the leaders upon being old and injured. This just reinforces the fact that tyrant leaders will make use of people to accord to their own whims and interests, with the defence that their interests somehow coincide with that of the nation.

This notion brings us to take notes from Orwell’s notes on Nationalism. He attempts to create distinction between patriotism and nationalism where the former is a ‘devotion’ to a particular way of life which one considers to be supreme, but doesn’t force on others whilst the latter is what he categorises as ‘defensive’ and inseparable from desire of power. Alike ‘Animalism,’ ‘Nationalism’ too is used as a tool, to synchronise the mass and take them for a fool.

Squealer’s role of a propagandist is headed by media not only in India, but around the globe. Concealing the economic troubles until they became quite prevalent that the Government had to acknowledge it, resembles when food shortage was denied by Napoleon but later accepted. The bells ring quite loud when every fault is associated with Snowball just like it’s done to Pakistan.

In the dystopian world of totalitarianism of 1984 the discouragement escalates from ‘thoughtcrime’ where as much as if you think of going against Big Brother, you’ll be relinquished. A world where rebellious thoughts are illegal, not just inOceania but modern day China where Internet is censored, Islamic monarch Saudi Arabia where journalists like Jamal Kashogi are murdered and North Korea where one party republic rules, to name a few.

Altering of historical records and manipulation of facts and data is as rampant in today’s political scenario as it was done in Orwell’s novella. The discourse is set in such a way that it’s natural propensity and not deliberate strategy to add clauses to alter the seven commencements.
‘Orwellian’ is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. Political doublespeak is criticised throughout his works. Perhaps, the fact that we still have modified and novel versions of Stalin, Josip Tito, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Augusto Pinochet, and Slobodan breathing, leading and deceiving on similar lines, of “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” its of great misfortune that Orwellian literature still stands relevant!

Feature Image Credits: Historyme

Umaima Khanam

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In times like today, when the nation burns and dissent curbs, where does the agitation divert to? In times like today, when the nation burns and dissent curbs, we seek solace in art. 

Protests. Music. Posters. Slogans. Paintings. Doodles. Protests. Years back these must have been random words stringed together, today, they are all part of a revolution to seek the truth and preserve the tarnishing ideals of our democracy. As more streets echo Hum Dekhenge, self-composed songs, witty slogans, posters, graffiti, social media too simultaneously creates content on all platforms. 

Throughout history, art has remained a crucial part in evoking the idea of nationalism. The Swadeshi Movement was laid down on the ground rock foundation of art- from Raja Ravi Varma to Abanindranath Tagore, their legacy still thrives in the very image of ‘Bharat Mata’ which has been appropriated by the other side of the wing, time and again. Historically, the world has not been much of a pleasant place politically, to begin with, ravaged with wars, suppression, overturned democracy and conflict for power. 

Image Credits: The Hindu
Image Credits: The Hindu

The Emergency 1975-77 amidst all the press restrictions paved way to one of the most iconic political cartoons which still finds a place in politics and journalism books. The Common Man by R.K. Laxman till date stands relevant in the sphere of political art. Keeping the art- ‘art’ aspect out of it, any content created by anyone is art- poetry, literature, paintings, everything is art.

Globally, too, graffiti, poetry and photography have rather been more dominant on social media. From Trump to Brexit, Syria to Hong Kong, protests have been largely dominated and propagated with art as a backbone.

Image Credits: The Guardian
Image Credits: The Guardian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharanya Vajjha, an amateur Artist and Political Science student says, “I really feel it’s a creative and articulate way to show someone that you disagree. Visuals are a far more effective medium in making a point, then why not make it instrumental in showing our resistance?”

Instagram today is a platform for everyone with a voice, with the rise in citizen journalism, all forms of art have emerged to be an influential way of criticising. After 15 December (Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) Violence) and 5 January (Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Violence), Instagram stories and Twitter, was flooded with creative posters, slogans, poetry, and songs.

Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hai Tere!, Azaadi, Hum Dekhenge!, Inquilab Zindabad!, dominated both the streets and sheets (literally). Idle backseat doodlers are leading protests and slogans with their art, brave images of JMI and JNU students fighting back, have become a digital symbol to show solidarity.

Who said art is for the weak-hearted?  Walking the streets of Delhi today, every wall shouts “Jai Bhim” and “No CAA, No NRC”. Bangalore’s walls are painted in shades of the OG Shah-Modi’s colour. Kolkata is well, painted in red. Political art is silent, yet screams the most.

Disha Arya, an amateur photographer covering the protests all over Delhi says, “Photography as an art form lends you an eye on different perspectives which are not observable otherwise. I hope to inspire nationalism with what I click and wish for an urgent realisation against the ongoing fascism and curbing of dissent expressed.” 

Modern urban politics have largely been incited and popularised to reach its maximum extent, solely due to creativity. People often perceive art to be apolitical, however as history has it, apolitocal art is just an oxymoron.

Feature Image Source: @afsaanehoor on Instagram 

Anandi Sen

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