"The Insult of Ageing"

The mania for youth has reached new heights when glossy magazines allow no more than three wrinkles on the faces that grace their covers, and when selfie-editing apps — emphasizing everything from kawaii to perfect skin — are ubiquitous. Sure, there are frequent stories about how “30 is the new 20” or “50 is the new 30,” but rarely do we see women over a certain age — unretouched, unapologetic, not medically intervened upon — held up as desirable or admirable, or even held up at all. (Meanwhile, silver-haired men abound in movies and on TV in seats of power.)

I never thought about it. I couldn’t spend money on day-night-sunny-rainy creams, and I’ve never been to have a facial to a parlour. I had some other things to do(don’t know how important or not important things). And I think that helped a lot because the minute I started thinking about it then I felt everything’s wrong with my face, like these dark circles around my puffy eyes, tanned kin, chapped dark-lips and so on. Recently somebody said to me, ‘Do you ever think you’ll start doing something to your face?’ And I said, “Oh, yeah! But once I start, there’s going to be so many things I want to do! Forget it!” Every time I see my skin closely in the mirror, I see an upcoming insecurity attached with it. A insecurity that can affect my brain’s growth.

Ageing is the sum of many conflicting feelings and forces. Freedom from the erotic gaze can spark a sense of grief and loss. But it can also lead to a new-found sense of independence and radical possibility.

There is no right way to get older.

My reference and a must read: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/dec/30/women-and-ageing-ive-developed-the-courage-to-live-my-own-truth-picture-essay

Commentary: Talal Asad's "On Suicide Bombing"

Suicide terrorism has been considered as the most lethal form of terrorism. Unfortunately, it is on the increase. In 2013 itself, there were 384 suicide terrorist acts were carried out in 18 countries causing 3,743 deaths. What drives suicide terrorism and to what extent is suicidality a contributing factor to the horror of the same? Although suicide terrorist acts have become disturbingly frequent, we still know very little about the individuals who commit them. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there are two myths routinely promoted around terrorist attacks, that is, suicide terrorism is a new phenomenon and, second, it was almost always the province of religious fanatics.

Asad in the book begins with the biggest instance of suicide terrorism in history yet, the attack in the U.S., which raised worldwide outrage. He didn’t support the crime in any form, nonetheless, he wanted us to temporarily sideways our judgement, and tried to explain and make us understand the moral ground from which we pass judgments. While thinking of how we get this moral legitimacy notion, the liberal philosophers state their concern by saying that the state is the guardian of the society. When there is any threat to the community, the state is under the obligation to defend their people by any possible means including perpetrating evil of its own. In Butler’s words, Asad simply put it by the fact that our moral responses are regulated by certain interpretive frameworks that seem to pre-empt thought and precede feeling. Talal Asad finds the liberal distinction between war and terrorism suspect. He mobilize to show as to why the western world finds the acts of suicide bombing so horrifying. Here, in this paper I am going to talk about the similar argument; to figure out why do we not feel the same degree of moral outrage that terrorist killing of innocent civilians evokes in us when state-sponsored violence does the same? 

Asad cites Walzer and argues that any political community can act immorally but “only at the last minute and under absolute necessity.” He further explains that the primary interpretive structure that dictates our thinking on political violence is the distinction between war and terrorism. War is legal violence, pursued by an entity recognised by international law, the nation-state, involvement of every citizen(in the sense that there is some awareness). Whereas, terrorism is violence without legal sanction, enacted by non-state actors. Given that every kind of atrocity has been perpetrated by state armies as well as terrorists, it is the legal cover accorded to the former that differentiates it morally from the latter.

There is a new sensibility regarding physical pain. Although in today’s time, the frequency is high; the liberal discourses regarding the delivery of the pain “without good reason” as sinful and therefore the object of moral condemnation. By using this attitude the modern liberal democracies support the notion of cruelty in the name of state-led war. In liberal democracies, a new urge to moralize the violence usage as an instrument of state came up after 2001. The American idea of a ‘war against terror’ and the European notion of confronting a global terrorist threat led to the formation of the whole new discourse on humanitarian military action. This political or moral ‘responsibility to protect’ is no longer to be confined to one’s citizens. The liberal argument of “under absolute necessity” assumes a humanitarian form precisely when states seek to transgress the humanitarian codes of war. For instance ‘terrorism’ perpetrated by a liberal democracy ‘under absolute necessity’ is the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 1,29,000 people, most of them were civilians. The justification given was that it saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers by ending the war sooner.(But today we know that the real motive was to show America’s status as a military superpower.) The liberal assumption is that state armies kill civilians only under coercion. Liberals justify the torture on the similar ground- to combat the future terrorism and for that this evil way is a necessity. Liberals justify the cruelties of the state as an unavoidable ‘excesses’ of war while the similar acts by non-state actors as the ‘essence’ of the terrorism (Formation of Secular, Asad).

The interest of the state to humanize the war through law is highly seen in ‘just war’ theories: which concerns the morality of going to war, and the moral conduct within war. Liberals distinguish terrorism from the use of armed force in a just war based on the criteria that there is a deliberate killing of the civilians in the former one. In ‘just war’, they justify the action by saying that civilians may not be targeted, unless the damage is necessary and proportionate to the objective. The concept of just war has its roots in medieval Christian theory. This view derives from the doctrine of double effect that goes back to Aquinas and has been developed over the centuries in many works of moral theology. The doctrine maintains that committing evil actions are prohibited but the use of neutral means for a good end is permissible even if it has incidental evil results. It should be inclined towards the proportionate intended good. The concept, nowadays, is used to persuade those who are sceptical of this use of violence by justifying that is necessary as well as moral. The principles of necessity and proportionality should adhere to ‘just war’.

On the contrary, the liberal thinkers also have recognized that there are circumstances where a non-state actor may have ended up being engaged in the political violence; for instance, the Naxal wars to attain the rights on their ‘home’, to figure out a new home for a new political society. This can be supported as the International Criminal Court, the Court has denied to include terrorist acts as punishable offences since there is hardly a state that wasn’t founded on bloodshed.

In liberal discourse, it is already given that suicide bombing, or dying to kill, is often synonymous, with so-called Islamic jihad. Asad investigates what Judaism and Christianity have to say about jihad-like suicidal violence. Both liberal democratic discourses and the Judeo-Christian tradition from which ‘suicide terrorism’ evolved have no problem accepting either suicide or the killing of civilians, provided the act is linked to a noble purpose that serves the community. Then it is difficult to explain or justify the moral outrage evoked by the violence of suicide bombers, who have a similar purpose in their mind like those of ‘just war’ advocates. Asad demolishes the whole liberal consensus that jihad or Holy War is “integral to an Islamic civilisation that is largely rooted in religion”. Because of this conception of Islam, the whole ‘clash of civilisation’ theory is constructed, where ‘medieval Islam and its religiously-motivated terrorist is on one side and western modernism and secular armies on other. Asad mentions that “there is no such thing as a clash of civilizations because there are no self-contained societies to which fixed civilizational values correspond” (p. 12).

Liberal perspective has premised not on a clash of civilisations so much as a clash between civilised and uncivilised; and between civilisation and barbarity. There are some parallels and continuities between the colonial projects and the so-called ‘war on terror’. The liberal humanist lack these conceptual tools to engage with. Perhaps, it’s just their abrupt inversion of the traditional logic of political violence, which typically entailed the disciplining of the (brown/black) barbarians by the (white) civilised. In Asad’s words, “… it is not cruelty that matters in the distinction between terrorists and armies at war, still less the threat each poses to entire ways of life, but their civilizational status. What is really at stake is not a clash of civilizations…but the fight of civilization against the uncivilized…what is especially intriguing is the ingenuity of liberal discourse in rendering inhuman acts humane. This is certainly something that savage discourse cannot achieve”.

When the World Trade Center in New York was attacked by terrorists, a torrent of words poured out of the Western media to explain what motivated this act by interpreting its world-historic meaning. The disaster was quickly associated with the many incidents of Palestinian suicide bombings, and experts identified tendencies in Islam, in particular, its concept of ‘martyrdom’, in which dying and killing were combined and sanctified. There was an ‘Islamic culture of death’—so whole discourse was—that spawned this uniquely horrific violence. Everything was propagated about Islam and its history: Holy war or jihad is central to Islamic doctrine; Muslims reject the values of liberal democracy for religious reasons—and especially the separation of ‘religion’ from ‘politics’ and a commitment to peace. In brief, their civilization was premodern, irrational and violent. Most of these post 9/11 stories about Islamic doctrine and history were mixtures of ‘half-truths’—but then their purpose was not to enlighten but to ‘characterize’ an enemy. (Cook, Alison 2007)

Our thoughts on terrorism as a social phenomenon is paralyzed by narrow security-centric discourses smoothly canvas the words like ‘fidayeen’ and ‘jihadist’’ taking them as some explanation to the very idea of suicide terrorism. If we open this discourse of terrorism to a broader context of post-colonial history, then we would be able to pay attention to the liberal violence by its preemptive removal of history from any understanding of terrorist violence. Asad says “all histories are selective but what they leave out and how they interpret what they select is more interesting than the mere fact of selection.”(Asad, 10) The tendency to moralize war and terrorism, to stake so much on intention, obscures the fact that there is a space of violence shared by ‘war’ and ‘peace’, by ‘ruthless terrorism’ and ‘just war’, and that space is embraced by the liberal tradition(Asad,2010). Liberals argue fiercely among themselves about the ethics of the concept and practice of violence for national security and of coercive interrogation in the ‘War on Terror’, because they have been considered as legitimate violence in response to the threat of terrorist violence.

Asad, in the last chapter on the suicide bombing, talks about the reasons why do westerners express horror at suicide terrorism. The act of the war and terrorism has been taken for granted; what exactly matters is the appearance: the appearance of the act. It starts with the idea of the sight of the location-the depiction of the shattering and mingling of physical objects and human bodies at the spot of suicide bombing. A sudden disruption of the patterns of everyday life, violence where deaths are unregulated by the nation-state.

Suicide was typically offered to elites who could legitimately take their own lives. These kinds of suicides indicated “undefiant deaths.” According to critics, these suicides are assertions of the secular humanist principle that fighting against the demands of external power is a sign of nobility. Similarly, suicide terrorism takes away the satisfaction of the state to punish. There is nothing horrible in violent death but only in the motive that defines it. In such deaths, crime and punishment are united. Because it takes away the desire to punish the criminal. And, this makes the suicide terrorism horrible for the state- the cancellation of the monopoly of the state on violence and the lives. There is a disregard to the self-assertion and collective obedience of the law “…what horrifies is not just dying and killing but the violent appearance of something that is normally disregarded in secular modernity: the limitless pursuit of freedom, the illusion of an uncoerced interiority that can withstand the force of institutional disciplines. Liberalism…disapproves of the violent exercise of freedom outside the frame of law.” (p. 91). The destruction of human beings and their ways of life—the decision of how and when they are allowed to live or to die—has been essential to the formation of the modern state. And, taking this right away from the authorities make this act horrifying.

All commitments to political immortality and all calls for sacrifice for the nation demand killing and dying. That shows how modern terrorists belong to the same universe as liberal democrats waging war. Terrorists are, of course, criminals according to state law, but the logic of violence that underlies their conflict with established states are shared with the idea of the killing. It is only the ‘way’ of death-dealing they don’t agree to. For liberalism, the readiness to multiply death—ours and theirs, but especially theirs—is a condition of freedom, a readiness to shift nonviolent politics into the politics of force. Asad examines the colonial and post-colonial construction of the categories of war and terrorism, he argues that these are constructed according to different logical criteria: the war derives its primary sense from the question of legality, and terrorism from the feelings of vulnerability and fear of social disorder. Hence, the two cannot be rendered as mutually exclusive(Mahmood, 2008).

References:

  • Asad, Talal. On suicide bombing. Columbia University Press, 2007.
  • Asad, Talal. Formations of the secular: Christianity, Islam, modernity. Stanford University Press, 2003.
  • Asad, Talal. “Thinking about terrorism and just war.” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 23.1 (2010): 3-24.
  • Cook, David, and Olivia Allison. Understanding and addressing suicide attacks: The faith and politics of martyrdom operations. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.
  • Mahmood, Sadia. “On Suicide Bombing.” (2008): 123-132.
  • https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/the-one-who-dies-in-order-to-kill/article17526961.ece

"Gandhi was a ‘non-political’ thinker?"

A revisionist view will critique Gandhi as a man who kept changing his ideas and beliefs from time to time however, I argue that his conceptual framework and foundational thoughts were not altered. He never claimed himself as an original thinker as all his thought process comes from different Eastern and Western philosophical systems. After reading and following so many political backgrounds, he did not agree with any of them. His understanding of life, politics, and society came from the perspective which makes him a philosopher. He wanted to look for the “larger purpose”. Gandhi’s idea of democracy emanates from his imagination of an ideal individual and he imagines an individual having the qualities of self-rule, transparency, accountability, inclusiveness within the life and daily living practice. This paper examines the nature of Gandhian political ideas: the concept of state, rights and duties, swaraj and the non-violent state and what these meant for Gandhi and his vision for India.

Gandhi’s philosophy is difficult to understand, some think it as a political theory, some as a religious theory and some as a theory of conflict resolution and non-violence. There is, of course, a great deal of truth in what these interpretations have to say. Taken individually, each gives some in-depth but unavoidably partial understanding of the whole. The fact is they all make sense if seen together. It is not enough to just understand his doctrine of non-violence, for that one needs to understand his position on the war, or his theory of the state and the relationship of the individual with the state. So, in my paper, I am going to examine Gandhi’s political stance covering some of his life ideologies.

Some of us think that Gandhi’s actions are in itself political in nature, it is simply because of the belief that all collective actions or transformations have a political purpose. Gandhi rejected this concept of the teleological perspective of progress and the accompanying valorization of politics and the state. Gandhi never saw the world just in political terms. He said “One must forget the political goal to realize the naturalness of life. To think in terms of the political goal in every matter and at every step is to raise unnecessary dust.” Unlike other political philosophers like Aristotle or Marx, Gandhi saw the world and collective actions as non-instrumental in nature. Uday Mehta in his essay on “Gandhi on Democracy, Politics and the ethics of Everyday Life” talk about four aspects of modern politics: “politics that pertains to the interaction between individual and state, not just the individual…politics that involves instrumental forms of reasoning and acting…politics include the warrant to deploy violent means and politics that has inherent idealism…” And, according to me that these four aspects undoubtedly not matching with the thought process of Gandhi. I will write this paper focusing on those aspects and will highlight how this contrast makes Gandhi a non-political thinker.

Politics in general meant by the rule of the representative by the organized dispute about power and its use. Political power means the capacity to regulate the nation. It is a means to create a more organized and peaceful society through civil discussions and rational discussions. However, it carries the potential to incite violence in certain situations. But, Gandhi said “to me, political power is not an end but one of the means of enabling people to better their condition in every department of life. Political power means the capacity to regulate national life through national representatives. If national life becomes so perfect as to become self-regulated, no representation becomes necessary. There is then a state of enlightened anarchy. In such a state everyone is his ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbor.” According to him, politics is a game to get power, to regain power and to retain power. The very idea of politics is just about power politics and there is no scope for morality and ethics in the western concept of politics that India has adopted. And, hence Gandhi’s ideologies of life would not cover the four aspects of modern politics as explained by Mehta.

Gandhi’s Ahimsa is active and not confined to religion, but he has provided a practical approach to non-violence. His life was a constant, unceasing endeavor in seeking the truth employing non-violence, both of them at individual social planes. Gandhi was an uncompromising supporter of truth and non-violence. He says, “For me, non-violence is not a mere philosophical principle. It is the rule and the breath of my life.”As per Gandhi, an act can be considered autonomous if and only it has been separated from the purpose(effect); for him “means are after all everything”. And, non-violence was a mean for him and nothing external follows from non-violence. Moreover, he believed that act subsumes its effect. He questions every form of violence. The once used by the state to regulate the priorities of the state and the kind of violence used by the democratic countries against terrorism to maintain peace and order. Since all the modern wars have been authorized in the name of peace and order, Gandhi would question such powers and such demands for peace.

Satyagraha was not a political weapon for Gandhi, it is a way of life. It was the relationship between rights and violence; Gandhi questioned the existence of such a relationship is just historical or a necessity. By introducing the elements of personal sufferings, he made the process of securing rights less violent and more peaceful and this is what Satyagraha all about. Satyagraha ought to improve the moral and psychological environment in which the arguments about the rights were approached. It made both the parties to do the self-examination. By self-examination, all the sides will reflect on what the truth of the matter was and what their respective duties are toward the truth. And, after such reflections, people would understand the need for the compromise. The closer rights were brought together to the duties, the greater the chances of resolving disputes without resort to violence. Satyagraha provided with the new theory of rights and freedoms. Furthermore, freedom of the individual, for him, would be from any internal or external alien power and this should be an indication of an independent India. This peaceful and yet revolutionary innovation is an internal value that takes the inner self to the higher plane. The development of the individual and society are intertwined. Gandhi through Satyagraha was consistent in his premise that the goal of the truth and non-violence is the way to reach the larger purpose. The end and the means have to be consistent and satyagraha was both the means and the end. He favors the relationship of one to oneself over a relationship with the state or others. He believed that changes come within not by any external force. He never supported the violence used to assert the state priority, as he said “…universal experience. We have assumed that we can get a man to do things by force and, therefore, we use force.” He expected politics to be the cooperation, And he named such political order as Sarvodyaya to implement social good, rationality and communal harmony.

For him, the nation is like an individual who is an indivisible whole.  The nation should be established on the universalization of self-government, that is, Swaraj. Swaraj is a basic concept of Gandhi’s political philosophy. Swaraj, he means, self-rule which is a self-transformative activity. He speaks self-reflection and hence never supported inherent idealism that modern politics have. He wanted people to think of the world not just in the light of politics but also in terms of self-reflection, through which social and political conscience remains active and truthful. He believed that unless the spiritual and moral qualities of people are apt, the best political system and constituencies will not work. He wanted self-rule not just for the individual but also for the nation. A form of ruling in which the nation rules itself and not other nations rule and therefore he wanted India to be free. For Gandhi, freedom, and self-rule are two different things. He wanted India to be free from the vices of greed and power and adopt swaraj by following decentralization, freedom of speech, partyless democracy, and moral politics. Gandhi followed the celibacy, spinning, and silence because it makes human self-conscious; all these are the internal domain of the self. Gandhi said that only self-consciousness can help us to withdraw from the instrumental political action. All these are practices and practices are not the act of political action. However, he also points out that these things would not give any real external output and hence there is no motivation in such investment for people. But, these practices would lead to the better of the self and ultimately the world. He had the vision to have a world where people will use their freedom in the spirit of unselfishness. He wanted to build the political order where there is no space for the politics of power-the power which punishes and scares people.

To understand Gandhi’s politics, it is important to understand the rift between the state and the civil society. Gandhi was against western civilization because of its very core aspect of self-centrism and egocentrism. He considered the British parliament as a ‘sterile women and a prostitute’, parliament with the only display of party interest which led to modern woes. He considered politics is running through some path of delusion. He was a religious person and he wanted politics to be something that looks for the truth. He would want to look for morality that can make this world peaceful and insightful. He was not against the politics per se, but he was against the modern politics which Uday Mehta pointed out in the essay; the relationship between individual and state, and this relationship between them, Gandhi would say it transactional in nature.

Lincoln said that democracy is the best form of government because it has less threat to the autonomy of all the people. Therefore people are independent in a democracy. He said that “There is no human institution but has its dangers. The greater the institution, the greater the chances of abuse. Democracy is a great institution and, therefore, it is liable to be greatly abused. The remedy, therefore, is not the avoidance of democracy but the reduction of the possibility of abuse to a minimum.” Although for him good government is no substitute for self-government. In this system people are connected with the system directly and indirectly at every level; it offers the utmost opportunity to the people for their advancement or growth. It should be based upon non-violence. “I am fully aware that my mission cannot be fulfilled in India alone,” Gandhi once wrote to an American correspondent. “I am pining for the assistance of the whole world…But I know that we shall have to deserve it before it comes.” The quest for an alternative to war is now our common task in which Gandhi pioneered so significantly and he remarks that it will only come by self-reflection.

To conclude, Hobbes lived in the condition of civil war and wanted a sovereign state and on the other hand, Gandhi lived in a colonial country and he was preoccupied with rights and freedom of the individual. Gandhi used soul-force or truth-force (Satyagraha) in various forms like civil-disobedience, non-cooperation and fasting to achieve his political ends like self-rule (Swaraj), trusteeship to attain his economic end of self-reliance (Swadesi). Gandhi emphasized the purity of means in every walk of life. In Gandhian thought, means and ends are considered as constituting a continuous process and organic whole. According to him, man can choose the right means, but he cannot command the results. By nature, non-violent means justifies the peaceful ends. All these belief systems and expectations for a free India makes Gandhi a non-modern political thinker.


REFERENCES:

  • Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand. Hind Swaraj or Indian home rule. GA Natesan and Company, Madras, 1921.
  • Mehta, Uday Singh. “Gandhi on democracy, politics and the ethics of everyday life.” Modern Intellectual History 7.2 (2010): 355-371.
  • Mehta, Uday S. “Patience, inwardness, and self-knowledge in Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj.” Public Culture 23.2 (2011): 417-429.

"Murder is the point at which history intersects with crime."

‘Murder’, Foucault says, ‘is the point at which history intersects with crime’. Do Pehlu Khan and Tabrez Ansari’s deaths qualify to be raised to the level of history? Let’s figure out!
There are varied reasons for the killing of 10,000 people since 1950 during Hindu-Muslim communal violence. The roots of this violence doesn’t begin at the brink of the partition, it came out during the animosity towards the Islamic conquest of India during the middle ages and the policies established by the colonizers, these reasons were exacerbated when there is a claim for a new Islamic state of Pakistan and a “secular India” with a Muslim minority. It can be considered that this communal violence has a mainstream political strategy to get the votes in the name of Hindu nationalism. Right after the partition of India in 1947, this Hindu nationalism started being visible in the form of a pattern of irregular factional violence between the majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities. Therefore, the crimes against Pehlu Khan and Tabrez Ansari carry the burden of the history of communal violence of these two religions. This paper will focus on how and why lynching became a favourite regulatory means against the minorities in India.

Lynching is the verb derived in the early 20th century during the American Civil War after the liberation of slaves, from the well-known phrase “Lynch Law”, which means a punishment without trial. The United States had witnessed 4,743 lynchings between 1882 and 1968 because it was assumed that crimes like murder or rape will be only committed by the Black people. “The similarities with the American lynchings of the late 19th century with Indian lynchings are striking,” says Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil. In India, Mob-lynching has become a common phenomenon against the Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority, executing them after torturing and corporal mutilation. The self-proclaimed “cow protectors” unleashed violence in several parts of the country. In 2017, Pehlu Khan was allegedly killed by a cow vigilante’s mob near Delhi-Alwar highway while transporting the cows because cows are sacred in Hinduism. After two years, accused were acquitted on the grounds of “reasonable doubt”. In 2019, another case of Tabrez Ansari came out where the mob killed a person and police didn’t file the case and doctors didn’t treat Ansari properly. Later the police had dropped murder charges against all the 13 accused in the case. In Spite of having no connection with any right-wing political parties, Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists had protested the arrests of the accused. Though they were isolated incidents, the victims were mostly from minority and socially disadvantaged communities. The incidents have become a symbol of the Indian government’s inept handling of religious hate crimes. Human rights groups are lobbying for the creation of a specific hate crime law, but none exists in India yet. Lynching is operated by the system of rules defining the permitted and the forbidden, the licit and illicit, in a manner that had little to do with the codes and procedure of the government’s law and courts. These understandings of people come because of the local customs and caste and religion convention established since the partition or maybe before.

All the cases are meant to be seen from “two sites, one as a discursive site-on the behalf of the state in one case and on behalf of the community on the other. However, law reaches before historiographers and make the event as a case and death as a crime.” The relationship between the murder and the crime is hidden in the context of the ‘case’. A case is something which law creates that is limited to a person or two but, a case that can be taken to the level of the history will become a movement, to identify the murder’s hand as the hatred towards the minority of the religion by religion fanatic people or authoritarian community. One side of the death can be seen when Khan was charged posthumously with cow smuggling. Police say he didn’t have a permit to transport cows across state lines, here, the law has taken the charge to decide the case without the history. And another side would be the one where there is immense hatred towards the Muslims community and their practices. Be it demolition of Babri Masjid, Gujarat riots or everyday lynching they all are the events providing us with the history of the hatred. The interplay of the solidarity with the fear makes such lynching cases as murders.

There is a miscarriage of justice as State is soft with the lynching. Not just this, State safeguards the cases with the impunity effect. These cases deserve the official justice but they aren’t even flagged red, it is largely unacknowledged, it is the failure of the state to incorporate some of the most vital issues of the social conflict within its hegemonic judicature. Death of Pehlu Khan and Ansari can only make sense if it connects with what goes before and comes after it. Seeing it through the lens of Muslim sufferings rather than the death of a man and the lens to see the reaction of VHP on the arrest of accusers will show the history attached to it. Only history will show the existence of the ghost of partition in the form of revenge and hatred.

Hinduism as a religion has been associated with tolerance and compassion. However, in the prickly social climate that our current governments have fostered using history as a tool, it’s unfortunate than an issue as seemingly harmless as dietary preference has become so dangerously polarizing. Modi Government’s imposed the ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter sparked a new wave of cow vigilante in the country and increased the attacks on Muslims for beef-eating and make them anti-Hindu. This constant battle between the majority and choices of minorities is a historical situation, not just in India but in America, Germany, and other countries. The ostracization of people because of their eating habits, race, gender, caste, and religion has become a common process in majoritarian culture; a culture where people are still seeing minorities as a threat to them, a culture which is not liberated enough to accommodate the difference of the choices. This whole structure to prove something wrong is based on religion by considering an animal much more important than human life. And, it is because of the lack of outcry from the Indian Hindu who majorly might not support the murder but accepts the discrimination against Muslims. And, as mentioned this discrimination hasn’t come after the Modi government, this hatred is there throughout. Modi government has just triggered hatred by spreading the message of Muslims as a threat to “Hindu country” by quoting incidents from the past. And, all of this qualifies the deaths of Khan, Ansari and many others to be raised to the level of history-“a history without masters, a history crowded with frantic and autonomous events, a history below the level of power and one that fell foul of the law.”(Guha,44)

REFERENCES:

  1. Guha, Ranajit. “Chandra’s death.” Subaltern Studies V: Writings on South Asian History and Society (1987): 135-65.
  2. Krishna, Gopal. “Communal Violence in India” Economic and Political Weekly Vol. 20, No. 2 (Jan. 12, 1985): 61-74 
  3. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pehlu-khan-lynching-case-all-six-accused-acquitted-by-rajasthan-court/article29092863.ece
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/27/u-s-owes-black-people-reparations-for-a-history-of-racial-terrorism-says-u-n-panel/
  5. https://www.firstpost.com/india/tabrez-ansari-lynching-case-jharkhand-police-restores-murder-charge-against-11-accused-after-obtaining-fresh-medical-report-7366241.html

Book Review- "The Trial of Dedan Kimathi"

I am delighted Waveland decided to republish The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. It is one of Africa’s most important plays that should always be in print. Bringing it back has done East Africanists a big favor. —Myles Osborne, University of Colorado

The Trial of Dedan Kimathi is a play written by Ngugi wa Thiong’o with his collaborator, Micere Githae Mugo in the year 1976. It is a response to the colonialist writings about the Mau-Mau movement. The colonialist writings depicted the whole movement and the protagonist Kimathi as a mentally unbalanced and vicious character, to counter that, Ngugi and other contemporary writers created his counter-image by showing Kimathi as a courageous and committed nationalist. And, this is how Kenyan peasants and labourers have conceived him in the first place. The play follows the three-part structure of drama in the form of three movements which capture the ideological differences leading to slavery, exploitation evidenced in the plantations and subsequently the liberation struggle of Dedan Kimathi.

In the text, the playwright is not focusing on re-creating the trial realistically at all, rather it’s an attempt to create the image of kimathi. The author showed how colonialism still exists in the form of writings as the colonizers create the image of the oppressed as “barbaric”. The author said, “We agreed that the most important thing was for us to construct our history imaginatively, envisioning the world of the Mau-Mau and Kimathi in terms of the peasants and workers struggle before and after independence.” The plot is full of disparate but thematically connected episodes depicted the circumstances surrounding the trial of Dedan Kimathi; scenes where Kenyan people are trying to save kimathi, kimathi’s interaction with guerrillas and Kimathi in prison and his torture. The author has also shown different cultural sides by showing Kikuyu songs, dances and mime. Ngugi portrayal of the culture and Mau-Mau Movement is his attempt to help his country to cast off its legacy of oppression.

The text could be seen as the consolidation of time and space in a symbolic drama of growth and development. Past and present events are recreated on the stage to provide a historical perspective and to show the continuity of the anti-colonial movement in Kenya. The text has shown this spatial shift from distant guerilla encampments in the Nyandarua forest to local prisons and courtroom installations in Nairobi, emphasize the breadth and depth of the Mau-Mau rebellion. “The rapid montage design of the play overrides the accustomed cause-effect rational processes of the audience and consequently prohibits simplistic and limiting interpretations of staged events”(Magel,1). In this structure, the characters are similarly transformed from their spatial and temporal individuality to symbolic, collective proportions. The text is composed of two narratives: the first focused on the imprisonment, capture and trials of Kimathi and second focused on the transformations of the two young Kenyans from childhood to adulthood in a symbolic “rite of passage”. The character of kimathi is a symbol of the Mau-Mau movement- a symbol of anti-colonial resistance. The unnamed character of Boy and Girl are metaphors for all the lost youth of Kenya. Such usage of symbolism made the text much richer in terms of character and plot development. Even before the Kimathi enters in the play, there is a symbolic dimension which is captured in the thoughts and feelings of the other characters. Kimathi’s character has been revealed first when a white police officer questions a suspected ‘Mau-Mau Terrorist’ by asking if he’s “Mtu Wa Kimathi”(Ngugi 1977:7). The first soldier counters all these negative remarks by saying “That’s what Bwana Shaw Henderson says. But he doesn’t know the people. They love him like anything, say what you will” (Ngugi, 1977:13). The dialogues in the text show the author’s fundamental inclination towards Kimathi.

To continue the allegorical plot, the Woman finally smuggles a gun into the courtroom by unifying the unnamed Boy and Girl to free Kimathi. The lesson that Ngugi is giving is clear enough that the ‘tribalism’ and other divisions, really induced by competition for scraps of colonial power, are only overcome by an armed struggle against a common enemy, forging a new national consciousness. However, the death of Kimathi makes the climax ambiguous. The Boy and Girl, holding the gun and crying “not dead” and with a gunshot, darkness falls, obscuring the meaning of the shot. But then “the stage gives way to a crowd of workers and peasants at the centre, singing freedom songs.”, but this is not clear from the scene that what exactly are they celebrating here? For what revolution was Kimathi’ death decisive in any other but a negative way? Is the poem of freedom at the end is in commemoration of the martyrdom and getting the independence or is it referring to the future victory against a “new enemy?” the temporality of the lines of the poem is deliberately ambiguous. There are words which represent past(using ka as an infix makes the sentence in the past tense and somewhere ki which makes the sentence in future tense).

The play used the method of socialist realism to justify the artist’s commitment to positive action. Ngugi belief system came out in his writing. He used theatre as a platform to fight the ideological battle. By using the concept of folklorism, he gave the affirmation of ritual evocation and possession. In such text, where folklorist is used in theatre, the ritual is theatricalized and the act is simulated in a conscious design that impinges on the subconscious effect of the spectators. The re-enactment of a story or an event that brings back the actualities of the experience through the use of imagination and the resources of a tagged performance heightens the effect of the play on the audience or readers for reason of the identification, similarity and communion(Adedeji,442). Ngugi illustrated the episodes to evoke the spirit of the actual Dedan Kimathi by recalling his memory, his fate and destiny, through an actual visitation to his birthplace, talking to the old men who had known him since his childhood, by drawing motivation from the women who said “Kimathi will never die”, visiting the place where kimathi perfected his tactics and followed by the trial. He made the text and the stage as realistic as possible by using bitter and realistic truths.

Reconfiguring the historical understanding, for Ngugi wa Thiong’o, was the primary purpose while outlining the nature of the drama. His idea was not to recreate the official history. He said,” The play is not a reproduction of the “farcical” trial at Nyeri. It is rather an imaginative recreation and interpretation of the collective will of the Kenyan peasants and workers.” not just Ngugi, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Charles Mungoshi and others also wrote on the similar lines to capture the ills affecting their societies. The authors of the play The Trial of Dedan Kimathi do not only show the problems of the society but also offers an elixir to African aesthetics and drama which have been distorted by European critics and authors. Music and song have been used to show different emotions-aggression, determination and so on. The only thing, Ngugi could have improved is taking care of the time frame as it disturbed the concentration of the reader or audience.

The Trial of Dedan Kimathi is a social drama that evokes the emotions in people to liberate yourselves from mental, physical, political and economic slavey. It has “austere and profound message”, as said by Victor Hugo. The play doesn’t directly tell the issues with the society, it creates the social structure to create the agitation in the audience/reader. By using the Kikuyu language, he wanted to prove that language is just a medium, “I want to see languages relating to each other, not in a hierarchy but as a network. No language is more of a language than another.”, and hence he wanted to work outside the framework. Through this play, Thiong’o aimed to engage with Kenyan history and draw linkages between the Kenyan experience and the outside world and after reading the play, I think he succeeded in doing so. According to British Book News “What Ngugi offers is nothing less than a new direction for African writing.”


References:

  • Brown, Nicholas. “Revolution and recidivism: the problem of Kenyan history in the plays of Ngugi wa Thiong’o.” Research in African Literatures 30.4 (1999): 56-73.
  • Magel, E. A. “Symbolism and Regeneration in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi.” Canadian Journal of African Studies/La Revue canadienne des études africaines 17.2 (1983): 239-245.
  • Gikandi, Simon. “On culture and the state: The writings of Ngugi wa Thiong’o.” Third World Quarterly 11.1 (1989): 148-156.
  • wa Thiong’o, Ngugi, and Micere Githae Mugo. The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. Waveland Press, 2013.
  • https://www.herald.co.zw/ideological-import-in-the-trial-of-dedan-kimathi/
  • https://www.academia.edu/7699918/DRAMA_AND_SOCIO

Embedded Patriarchy

On a road in an unknown city, I was walking with a friend of mine late at night. The roads were not dark but empty and silent. The only sound I could hear was of our footsteps. A car passed by, people peeped out from the window, smiled and went. It was not-so-difficult to understand that it was a scary moment for both of us.

However, my fear got over, the moment my friend said,” It wouldn’t have been this scary if I was alone, I feel responsible for your safety too.” Now, the feeling I had was more of a burden. I was feeling bad but I knew he was right in some way or other. Thanks for the training which tells me that I am supposed to shrink myself to cater the fragile ego of males; how I am always going to get the protection for my body from a male. Well, I asked him sarcastically if he would want to go, his answer was a no, obviously!

But, that day, something pierced my heart to know how vulnerable a woman is without a man! How my parents and relatives asking me every time about my ‘future’ is always about marriage not about the aspirations that I have, not about where I want to be in the next ten years. Why am I expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important thing and that too with a male? Marriage can be a good thing, a source of joy, love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, yet we don’t teach boys to do the same? Is it just because of biological vulnerability? Why the messiah for woman’s lives is always need to be a man? Why do we teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability?  We teach them to mask their true selves because they have to be a hard man! Then I realize that we simply internalize ideas from our socialization.

Embedded Patriarchy

One of my close friends was getting married. She went to the parlour to get ready like a bride. She was so excited for all that clothing, make-up and high-heels, and so was I. Seeing our this enthusiasm, our male friends started poking us by calling us pseudo-feminists. After a point, I became so irritated, yes irritated! that we got into some serious arguments. I was just sad to see that why am I supposed to be apologetic for my femininity. Why is it so difficult for them to respect my femaleness? I like politics and history and am happiest to have discussion on philosophy. But,I like to be girly. I like high-heels and putting lipstick. I wear them because I like them. I enjoy getting compliments from all the genders but honestly, it’s much more special when a woman compliments. “The male gaze,as a shaper of my life’s choices,is largely incidental.”

Well, one of them decided to stay outside the parlour to take us all back. I saw him wasting his time in that exercise because he was just sitting in the car and doing nothing. I told him to go back and leave the car behind, one of us knew the driving very well. He called some people back at home and they all rejected the proposal by questioning him,”…what is your purpose of being a man?” Ultimately, he stayed there for 2-3 hours and took all of us back.

I mean, I couldn’t understand why people are so scared of women taking charge. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth diminished if they are not “naturally” in charge as men.