Monday, February 13, 2017

The Statistic of One

Reservation is a word that some administrators and intellectuals find problematic. This is in it’s own way against the tide, for socially inclusive learning, and companionship in an egalitarian class room has been the law for several decades, the battle ground being the Mandal agitations in 1992. While the Dalit and Tribal intake has normalised, because people have adapted to it, reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBC) continues to be opposed in singular ways. The reason why OBCs are always under the anvil is because it is presumed that being dominant castes (having numerical strength, land and wealth)  giving them educational privileging would be antithetical to  upper caste/upper class notions of equality. However, OBCs long to have the right to enter the professional class, and that can only happen through education. So they protest continuously. Once a law has been passed, however bitterly it was contested, the right to reservation to seats in education cannot be downplayed.
One way that blurring of categories takes place is to put students who have come through the open system, (merit) into the reserved category, if they are SC, ST or OBC. They want to be recognised as assimilated into the general system. However, this is denied to them, and this is obviously a setback to their own expectations that they will be seen as “meritorious students”.  If they they have come in through the Open/General category, why label them as “Reserved”. Since faculty appointments were not made in a timely way, the lag between student numbers and faculty strength is more than visible. It is not a good idea for JNU administration to chop the numbers to suit the  existing  seats, like the old Greek innkeeper who did the same to his guests when their limbs were too long.
 Other ways of keeping ‘quota’ students out is to block facilitation to studies, by not providing hostel rooms. Thus, only the middle class and upper middle class and wealthy can join the University, because they have family support, can rent accommodation at killing rates (ten thousand rupees in Munirka for a single room in the servant’s quarter in the DDA Flats) or live as paying guests at even more expensive establishments, or in minimally comfortable addresses in ghettos in adjacent areas. If they are from the North East, the danger of rape and being beaten up is very high. The security that University provides is completely absent. Inspite of repeated requests that the lacunae in hostel rooms should be made up by JNU renting accommodation for students  with local landlords/landladies, who would take responsibility for lodgers, falls on deaf ears.
 Pruning  of seats by  JNU Administration was done simply, by not making the University hospitable to new students. In 2016, dormitory rooms were not allocated, when JNU opened  and new students slept on lawns right upto September, when chikanguniya  raged. Then they shifted to sleeping upright in Centre Libraries, taking turns. This facility was denied to them consequently, as they were appearing dishevelled to class, taking their baths in the public toilets in the School, creating a new set of problems for teachers and students alike. Questions such as “How many of you have had breakfast before coming to the class?” was met with gales of laughter, since a diet of samosas and tea  at odd hours, had overtaken these young peoples’ lives. And let it be repeated, only those joined  JNU who had some resources to support austere student lifestyles. The wealthy students who came from other parts of Delhi often did not turn up at all, since they did not want to mix with the intelligentsia of the countryside. So new problems, quite unusual to alumni from 40 years previously, began to surface. Since the students were living in tents on the terrace and outside hostels, it is not surprising that two student parked their tents outside Administration in protest.
 Najib going missing, untraceable till now, is a crime of such terrible velocity, showing  Administration’s protracted  indifference of the most unforgiveable kind, that  Prof A.P Dimri resigned from the Enquiry Committee. It was the statistic of one  “disappearance” that appeared mammoth to seven thousand students, not counting the guilty who had instigated the brawl that shocked JNU. Najib and his sorrowing family became the symbol that each student is valued in JNU, regardless of gender, caste, class, creed and religion.
The BJP Government has always seen JNU to be a problem, because the university has been known to produce a brand of scholarship, which is radical and socialist, rather than right wing and reactionary. Now that the clerical staff is substantially right wing, for a decade and more, the workers (karamcharis), staff, faculty and students  feel they are being targeted as criminals, for upholding the secular constitution of the JNU which was passed by Parliament.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Reading Edward Said, Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt

Some of the interesting problems which were raised by  diaspora Palestinians, like Edward Said, were critically about nation and nationalism.  The Kashmiri Pandits were divested of a home,  by public announcements and threats from Muslim militants, from 1988 onwards. However, in the late 1980s,  the Kashmiri Muslims  had begun their own intifada, which was essentially geared to define their presence in their own home, against the overwhelming presence of the army and police. The separatists, or militants, saw the Indian army as a sign of Occupation, and in their web, the local populace, like people caught in the cross fire,  with  concomitantly, continuous military and police retaliation, longed for their freedom or azadi, to experience  normalcy, as other Indians did.
The militants essentially believed that they had a right to the homeland, which would be integrated with Pakistan occupied Kashmir, as many of them were trained in Pakistani camps. They did not , however, concretely want to be under the surveillance and statecraft of either India or Pakistan. The  co-optation by extremists  was part of the process of destabilisation of the Indian subcontinent that the  Pakistani state wanted, in revenge of the support given to Bangladesh by India in 1971. Support to Kashmiri militants by the Pakistani state, therefore, was seen to be a fitting response.  Their “surgical removal” by  army during the Modi regime, and the simultaneous demonetisation,  served to distract the Indian population from the crores of losses incurred by the  Indian banks by defaulters like Mallya,  but it was  also one way of resolving the problem of armed dissent by militants, allegedly funded by illegal currencies and Islamic State ideologies. The nation still waits, but meanwhile the bluster of war between our two countries, using Kashmir as a pretext, is not over. Hopefully, there will be a concerted return to shared spaces of music, pilgrimages, relationships of cordiality and friendship.

 Martin Buber wrote substantially about the I Thou relation, which was about the divinity in each of us, recognising the divinity in the other. Mutual respect was therefore central to this dispensation. We must remember however, that Buber essentially believed that it was possible for two nations to live side by side, and this was supported by  Hannah Arendt, although Said notes,  she supported the Jewish Defense League with money in 1968 and 1973, when Syria and Egypt attempted to take back the Golan Heights.  (Said 1995:89) The idea of Nation presented itself  as the presence of shared values, which were not necessarily homogeneous. It is here that Edward Said is at his most powerful, when he states in Critical Enquiry, September 1985, that,
“If we reify the ideology of difference that dominates views on either side, we either prolong what has been for nearly two decades effective stagnation, or we authorise the inevitable annihilation of one or the other antagonist. But if we strive toward a more creative sense of “difference”, one that acknowledges the historical, cultural, and material distinctions between Jews and Palestinian Arabs, while refusing to privilege the experience or the contemporary situation of either, we shall it is hoped, produce a whole new dynamic in this relationship. The choices are evident enough. The difficult task is to realise them in the world, a task that must begin with a new logic in which “difference” does not entail domination.” ( Said 1995:100)
The idea of peoples, state, territory, then becomes delinked from the nation state. The map is read as a volatile space incorporating the refugee. When we apply the  premise of mutual respect, separateness is actually a precondition of dialogue. As Said wrote for Palestinians, “What is so difficult to accept in the idea  that Palestinians should, like all other people, be free of the travail of deportations, curfews, exile, bombardment and general misery?” (Said 1995: 47)  He has also suggested,  the Palestinians were very highly educated, and considered to be elites in the Arab world, for the positions that many of them came to occupy as consultants and intellectuals. (Said 1980:6)
 The dilemma in the Kashmir case lies in that Kashmiriyat cannot be limited to a particular religion.  The enmity that divides them has taken on stereotypical connotations, and it is this that my paper tries to contend. We cannot presume that thinking alike will bring us peace. People, particularly governments do not think alike. It is peace movements, popular protests that allow two “nations” (understood as communities)  to coexist on the same territory, having subcontinental identities markedly different.  (Oommen, 1997, Uberoi 1998) Much of Martin Buber’s work focussed on how hierarchies were maintained, how people actually used ideas politically to create cleavages and differences, where dialogue was nullified by the impossibility of the situation. His essays on Palestine, which he  described as “a land of two peoples” had both a historical connotation as well as all the logic of Sociological reasoning where he marked out the dangers of artificially created majoritarianism. ( Buber 1983, Visvanathan 1993 )
Let us, however, return to Edward Said, who wrote impassioned responses to America’s state policy vis a vis the condition of the Palestinians. Buber had stood for dialogue, versus the position of the  Zionist State, that there were “no Palestinians” and the Jews returned to an unpopulated desert, to make it bloom. It was hard to stand against Golda Meir, or the Jews from Berlin or the Bronx. (Said 1980:5). Said was very clear that the victims of Nazism were the perpetuators of an immense violence, which was pushed forward by war, forced migration, and by the escalation of daily violence and death. Said asked often in journalistic essays, that if Europe and America were against apartheid, how was it that they were not against the continual slaughter of the Palestinians, where five million of them had been turned into wandering refugees constantly looking for a home? Chomsky, very early on, had communicated that the wars in the Middle East were due to the  imaginary oil crises, the covetousness of America, and that the Arab- Israel conflict was located exactly for this reason in the backyard of these very oil wells. (Said 1995:323) Said  reiterated that “Arab” was a homogenising term that took away Palestinian identity. They were without a home, and by colonial decree, they had settled in ghettos and refugee camps in many different countries. (Visvanathan 1993: 31)Said demanded a census of Palestinians, and a mapping of the countries to which they had been forced to migrate, and are part of a large exploited “guest” community.  Said ( Said 1995:  xiii)  I quote from my book, “Friendship, Interiority and Mysticism”,
“Buber feared that the Jews would do to the Other what had been done to them: he foresaw a diaspora of Arabs, their ghettoization in camps, their migrating from oppression, and finally becoming exiles or refugees. Buber was never easy about this transformation. He was, after all, a sociologist, and it was this inversion of categories, these mirror images where living alongside the Arab became a living ‘against’ them which was a betrayal of his philosophy. The Jew had become a migrant in the positive sense, a refugee who had come home. Yet, the creation of a State, the creation of an identity, made Buber ask the question:
“A normal nation needs a land, a language and independence. Thus one must only go and acquire these commodities and the rest will take care of itself. How will people live with each other in this land? What will people say to each other in that language?” Buber 1983:221)(cited in Visvanathan 2007:31)
Said drew attention to how Europe and America defined the politics of the Middle East. He commented that it was their whims, ideas, and projects that made the Middle East constantly revolve around the policies of the politicians of these countries. Iraq, with it’s anti Kurd and anti Kuwait actions brought about the continual bombing by the Americans and Europeans.  Terrorism responded as an Islamist call which then overtook the world, and made boundaries anachronistic in the new forms of  guerrilla warfare. We presume that Islamist organisations are “successful” in the politics of vituperative hate and mass killings, but ordinary people flee their homes from the IS to the perilous seas, and arrive in Europe and America in search of peace and livelihood, to be met with local intolerance. The migrants are not thinking in theological or political terms, they only wish to survive.
The victim is one who believes that without cause he has been pushed out from his or her home. The will to live is one of the strongest blessings.  Rahul Pandita’s book, Our Moon has Blood Clots  (2013)speaks of how memory is like a whip, it lashes the Pandits in the new world they occupy, disenfranchised from their janmbhumi (or birthplace). Jaya Sadhu, a follower of Ramana Maharshi, says that they were forced to leave their homes, thirty years ago, and resettled in different parts of Northern India, and their children became used to their new surroundings. Education was their salve, and however difficult it was, they made sure that their children received a good education, never mind the conditions of penury and sorrow they found themselves in. “We will never return. Once sent away, we cannot go back.” They are not for violence, and abjure violence, but for them, migration has been one of the ways in which they learned to live in new lands. “The Government supports the Muslims, by allowing them to carry out acts of violence, and then sanctioning aid to them when it snows!” she says bitterly. “Only one family  we know of, returned, from the mass migrations that followed the violence of 1989 and the early 1990s. Why would they return? They have had to give up their homes to Muslims, and they don’t believe that they can ever be accommodated again. The Muslims have taken control of our temples and these are now in ruins” (personal communication 9th January 2017)
Barthes communicated that to listen is different from hearing, as our sensibilities are more totally involved in the former. It is not merely a physiological act, it is something more dense. It is methodologically similar to the Weberian concept of verstehen, which implies that our scholarly selves enter a dramaturgical mode, when we recount stories, or translate experiences. Palestine, then, becomes a geographical zone, where the UN declarations are not merely words and rhetoric, but  where the right to nation, citizenship and freedom are a given. The wars, the colonisations, the fabricated cities, the encroachments are always under scrutiny. While Said was writing in the 80s and 90s,  of the last century, the theatre of war was definitely the Middle East, and Israel’s encroachment on Lebanon one of the most violent spaces of it’s  forced overlordship. Today, the scenario is that Palestine is a watch word for ghettoization. CNN on February 2nd 2017, showed that Jewish encroachment on Palestinian territory continues. The Palestinians fear that Trump will use his Security veto at the UN to support the Jews, and to nullify their protest.
 All attention, meanwhile is in the rehabilitation of the migrant/refugee in the wars of displacement. First, as John Berger and  Jean Mohr’s team communicates in A Seventh Man, (1975) migrants are sent into camps, then they are redistributed, then respective Parliaments in different countries debate their future. After a period of immense personal loss, they are assimilated into working class culture of those cities that have given them an abode, provided they learn the local language, and are willing to  work as manual labour in towns and villages, whose populace sometimes never ever met or interacted with foreigners.
What is the fate of the refugee? Said has been very vocal about the condition of the majority of the Palestinians forced to flee, and being treated with hostility by world governments, since their identity became synonymous with terrorist activities in the 1990s. However, the question that he asks is, what did the world expect, that colonial policies of the 1950s would have no law of counter effect? Edward Said points out over and over again, that lands were taken, that young men were killed in numbers much larger than the years of apartheid in South Africa, and yet no one took any notice. (Said 1995:194) It was as if Anti Semitism during the period of Hitler had been replayed, with five million  Palestinian lives, and the “Philistine” was rendered insignificant as well as completely absent. Golda Meir’s policy of “no Palestinians in  previous existence in Israeli controlled land” was the  dominant metaphor of that time, changed now in official rhetoric to the “so called Palestinians”. Why should not we listen to the Palestinians as they head count in different countries, asking why the return to the homeland was not a possibility for their people? In this sense, the intifada, which began in 1986, for them, became the popular voice of resistance.
The Kashmiri Pandits however,  facing the lot of a miniscule minority in India, continually pushed out of their homes by militants, lived in the most terrible ghettos in New Delhi and the suburbs, and in Jammu, making do, if they were middle class with the sombreness of rented housing. Ankur Datta’s   Uncertain Ground: Displaced Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir  (2017)  deals in great detail about what this dislocation has meant in real terms.
Said, as a Palestinian Christian, returns to his home, where he lived as a child. Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the tourists, and the mediators, who invent newer narratives are Jews. His father was a tour guide, and the house where he lived, near the Sepulchre, now difficult to find. A  legend that comes to Said’s mind, was that his father’s house had an occupant in the  late 1940s, no other than the saint philosopher, Martin Buber. Said, too, essentially believes in the peace process, and co-existence, and cannot fathom why the term terrorist is used for those Palestinians  who are under Israeli occupation. Why should the term, “terrorist” encompass everyone equally, when they have no part in militancy? He asserts that the Palestinians speak Arabic and Hebrew, and are versatile in their skills. His stories of the cruelty of Jewish encroachment in Gaza are horrendous. People of Jewish descent, just move into these homes, destroying orchard and valuable property. He describes one family, who lives in the basement of their house, which has been taken over, and there is nowhere they can hang their clothes, so the daughter of the house laboriously dries them with a hair dryer. Edward Said discusses the policies of Government which feel that they have a legitimate right to impose world views alien to the local community, which has been divested of all their powers, and are rendered refugees in their own homes. He considers the fact that poets, artists, writers, journalists, film makers are appropriated by the State, or silenced or imprisoned. In a sliver of optimism, he mentions the work of alternative educationists, such as Miriam Marei of the Acre Pedagogical Centre,  who are providing art materials to children in ghetto towns, so that their independence can be fermented in situations far removed from atrophying conditions in government schools, where Palestinians may no longer own their past, or discuss it.(Said 1995:187)
“Her methods are improvisatory, refreshingly unbureaucratic, puppet shows, cardboard models, folk poetry, incredibly colourful displays, invigorating talk. Her center is located in a nice old Arab house, and exudes a sense of discovery and optimism, totally undeterred by the lack of funds and obstacles put in the way. The point she made to me was that by training teachers who in turn taught young kids, “we” would have a better alternative than those offered by Israel” (ibid: 187)
Mutual war between hostile communities sharing the same space is not an option. War against one community by the state, while impoverishing them is against human rights. Edward Said in an interview  in 1991, published as “The Intellectuals and the War” states that,
“One of the lessons we have learned, in the last twenty years as Palestinians, and I think many Israelis have learned, is that we have no military option against each other. That leads to emphasising persuasion as a modality of political action. We cannot credibly and politically, with any serious or desirable result, fight each other militarily. They could slaughter us, but they are not going to get rid of every Palestinian, and they won’t snuff out the flame of Palestinian nationalism. Conversely, we have no military option against the Israelis. What we do have is a vision, a way of including them in the Middle East based on respect of nationalists for each other, the right to live within secure and safe borders, and to coexist in a profitable way with other peoples, with differences.” ( Said 1995: 313)
Jose,  a former resident of “Jews Street” in  Ernakulam, Kerala, informed me  on 1st January, 2017, that the Jews who had migrated to Israel  from Kerala, were treated as blacks by the Zionists. “The consequence of continual encroachment of space, by moving border fences and coercively manipulating populations and soldiers, is that the Palestinians attack them like bees who have been disturbed.”  The “absent present” Kashmiri Pandit in the terms of Roland Barthes is in an analogous relation with the Palestinians. One cannot wish away people by deploying majoritarianism as a legitimating force. In Kashmir, this has a mirror effect. The Muslim militants kill all who stand in their path for an Azad Kashmir wedged between the Indian subcontinent and Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet and China. The indian army kills all those who support the militants or who break the curfew. The questions of hierarchy, civilizational histories and majority and minority are foregrounded by Martin Buber. I quote from my 1993 essay, published as an NMML Occasional paper.
“Buber was conscious of the differences amongst the Jews themselves in their composition and history. There were the indigenous Jews close to the Arabs and their culture; there were the emigres of the nineteenth and early twentieth century; the Jews of the Holocaust, and the Jews who came after the establishment of the state. There was opposition between Oriental and Occidental Jews and also the problem of racism. Buber’s theory of dialogue established the place and purpose of the individual by creating first a notion of community rather than of race. It was in this respect that he supported the satyagraha of the Bene-Israel. The Bene-Israel, a community of Indian Jews, were refused racial recognition by the State of Israel.” (Visvanathan (1993) 1997: 30,31)
In an essay, “Ignorant Armies Clash by Night”, Said writes that linkages is an economic connotation,  ( Said 1995:288) communicating mercenary motives, and what they previously had as Palestinians, were associations and relationships.
“People actually lived with each other, rather than denying each other across fortified frontiers. In many schools you would encounter Arabs from everywhere, Muslims, and Christians, plus Armenians, Jews, Greeks, Italians, Indians, and Iranians, all mixed up, all under one or another colonial regime, interacting as if it were natural to do so. Today, the state nationalisms have a tendency to fragment and fracture. Lebanon and Israel are perfect examples of what has happened. Apartheid of one form or another is present nearly everywhere as a group feeling if not as a practice, and it  is subsidised by the state with its bureaucracies and secret police organisation. Rulers are clans, families and closed circles of aging oligarchs, almost mythologically immune to change.” (ibid 290, 291)
Further, Edward Said asserts that we should put our ideologies behind us, the space that they have is to mortify us into a state of non doing with it’s terms and vocabularies.
“Reengagement with intellectual processes has very little to do with being politically correct, or citing fashionable names, or striking acceptable poses, but rather having to do with a return in a way to a kind of old-fashioned historical, literary, and above all, intellectual scholarship based upon the premise that human beings, men and women, make their own history. And just as things are made, they can be unmade and re-made. That sense of intellectual and political and citizenry empowerment is what I think the intellectual class needs.
There’s only one way to anchor oneself, and that is by affiliation with a cause, with a political movement. There has to be some identification, not with the powers that be, with the Secretary of State or the great leading philosopher or sage; there has to be an affiliation with matters involving justice, principle, truth, conviction. These don’t occur in a laboratory or a library.” (317)  In this interview with Professor Harlow, published in The Middle Eastern Report in  July August 1991, Edward Said asks for a move away from modern imperialisms, and towards the coexistence of  human communities “that can make and remake their histories” (ibid 317)

Kashmir too has been besieged by this sense of ‘otherness’ whereby India looks on it as an appendage that has not realised it’s full potential in the nation state. It’s gardens, it’s lakes, it’s people have all been seen to be ‘oriental’ in the way that Edward Said most despised. Their trades and crafts have been necessary to the sense of India’s heritage, Kashmir is loved, but Kashmiris think themselves as despised. The truth claim of belonging however, has recently been asserted by the  school children of Kashmir, who after two months of siege and battle on the streets between extremists and armed forces and police, unerringly and heroically sat for their exams. Their schools and books had been burnt by militants, but they turned up in massive numbers. The Himalayas have always been part of India before the Muslims arrived, mountain kingdoms however have rapidly changing histories, and either by migration or war, their composition undergoes change at frequent intervals. Tourism comes with it’s allied vocabularies, which is food and transport. The “Oriental” is besieged with the images of carpets, hookas, jewels, saffron, beautiful women. Kashmir thus becomes an opiate to the Indian imagination. In reality, the people and the police/army  bypass each other, in fatal acts of non-recognition. Just as the Israelis have never recognised the Arabs in Palestine, so also the Indian army sees terrorists in the faces of the Kashmiri people. The co-existence of Hindus and Muslims for generations is now not even remembered, because where ideologies are supreme, history is forgotten. Islamic revivalism has further radicalised the people, and the appearance of young militants who were born in the mid 1980s has generated an age set which has known only stone pelting. In Martin Buber’s words, it is the I-it relationship which predominates, which extinguishes the I-Thou relationship entirely. Those who remember the rich Hindu traditions of Abhinavagupta , or the mysticism of Lal Ded are now placed in a vocabulary which refuses to expand. It is the singular refusal that makes all inhabitants stone deaf to the will to live. Yet, where the ray of light shines most is in extolling the virtues of the past, where the possibility of brutal kingship, the reign of the Dogras, is replaced by the syncretism of the past, where Muslims and Hindus knew their land and their pastures in such a way, that the pilgrims benefitted from this common knowledge.  According to a Kashmiri Pandit informant, living in Jammu,( personal communication 11th January 2017) “The temples are still in the hands of the Dogra raja,  Karan Singh, who has not disturbed the status quo of loss incurred by the death of his father. Their neglect is something the Pandits cannot resolve, because for them, this is the only legacy they have, which they remember from the days of their youth. Martanda temple, with its free flow of icy water, with fish which are sacred is remembered with a poignancy. Jammu cannot carry for them, the weight of their longing and loss.”  On the other hand, the Kashmiri merchants  who travel all over India, believe that when there is peace, there is prosperity, trade is good. When the army is out, and curfew is on, the losses for them are huge. According to one merchant, “Normal” people are afraid to come out, while those who are ‘azad’ are freely roaming all the time. The possibility of “azadi” for a  border state which is embedded in terms of boundaries with Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan is surreal. Last year, 2016, saw police action and curfew for five months. It began during Eid and the shooting was unbearable. Things are quiet now, and some hope for normalcy is restored.
Tourism and the Universities provide a common ground for our understanding of shared cultures. These give young people a sense of belonging, of pride and of intellectual investment. The knowledge of the past also brings with it new rewards, for Kashmir is then not understood only in terms of the Muslim vs army/police position. Buddhists in Leh have provided with their view of the monasteries a new disposition towards our understanding of Kashmir, as have the Hindus in Jammu. The problematic of Chinese interference has led to the support of the military in Ladakh, where the placement of sixty percent of the army has not created any disfavour.  The Ladakh Autonomous Council has had a substantial role in playing out the significance of democracy and federal structures. Every last detail pertaining to the land under military or pastoralism has been spelt out by them. It is this ethnographic specificity that leads us to engage with knowledge production for practical use, for the benefit of people residing there. Local communities feel the need to fan out, they feel the requirements of being part of globalised economies. In the same way, they do believe that their participation in these spaces is made possible by the nature of habitation in relationship to travel, and the merchandise of ideas and artifacts.
Said believes that the ethnographer in constructing the discourse of the other then fabricates a society, a community  and a world view, which he/she then authors and copyrights as a work to be read by other anthropologists. He suggests that terrorism is also such a construct which is represented by an army of journalists, social scientists and policy makers, who suggest that terrorists should not be given any legitimating factors, or explanations about why they take to terror. Since “the disproportion between state violence and (so to speak) private violence is and always has been vast “ (347) there is a marked degree of constructedness of the detachment, objectivity and scientific perspective on the matter of the existence of terrorism. He draws from the work of Eqbal Ahmed in the May June issue of MERIP reports, where Ahmed suggests that terrorism has a source, the victim turns violent, he stops hitting his head against the wall, and shoots whoever stands between him/her and the goal. These acts of intimidation of innocent civilian populations happen because of the role of the state, religion, protest/revolution, crime, pathology(346). Ahmed says that people when they are not heard, and when there are no legal and institutional means to recourse, turn to violence. (346)
One of the things we need to understand is that people see their mode of hitting out against the State as a way of expressing their grief. The problem does not go away, but it can be resolved through dialogue. And much of dialogue theory is dependent on the art of listening.
Many of the people who have participated in movements that support Kashmiri Muslims, represent those who believe that where there is no dialogue, let rupture occur. However, Kashmiri Pandits appear like Banquo’s ghosts, and will not be lost in the sands of time. Some of the most moving memoirs have described the way their childhood friends turned against them, or  conversely, neighbours helped them when they were hunted. The large vocabulary of prose about the displaced cannot be represented as a case of a minority within a majority community in Kashmir, which has lost a battle. B.N Sadhu argues that the Kashmiri Pandits cannot return, because they have lost everything, and will be treated as refugees and be even more vulnerable. He had to lose his house when the panic sales were forced on them as a community in 1989. A house of four storeys, opposite Medical College in Srinagar, which was worth a crore was summarily sold for fifteen lakhs, so that they could buy a house in Jammu. Ten percent of the population in Kashmir was Kashmiri Pandit, and forced to migrate, as an educated class, having no land or trade.  Sadhu says that they  collectively spend 250 crore, a month, which if it had contributed to Kashmiri merchants, as it had done previously, Kashmir would have been prosperous. Ankur Dutta describes the shops that come up in the new suburbs, where middle class and upper class Kashmiri Pandits  have settled and shops sprout providing them with  the things they are used to such as handicrafts, kangris, bakery products and specialised vegetables from their cuisine. (Datta 2017:125)  Sadhu offers the well known sterotype that Kashmiri Muslims are majorly involved in militancy, that they wander all over India, and present themselves as migrants, keeping the profits of their trade, and bringing in millions of rupees into their accounts, after every winter season. The government gives them aid and benefits, while the Kashmiri Pandits as a salaried class, receive no benefits. There is no documentation of their losses, the State has never compensated them, the State has left them to suffer in the most decrepit condition in rehabilitation camps and surburbs of cities. If resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits is to occur,  he asserts, then it would have to be refugees from West Pakistan, or from Khistiwar, where too, they have been  summarily pushed out. Ethnic cleansing is a phenomenon where the victims make new lives elsewhere, and their memories are so painful, that they cannot return to their original homes. By travelling across the subcontinent, and making their homes in various parts of the country  or abroad, the Kashmiri Muslims are keeping safe houses and becoming entrenched in religious places. Sadhu sees no possibility of reconciliation, as his personal losses have been huge.
 Yet, we must remember Edward Said’s caution that the term terrorist is applied too loosely and too often, without proof or cause. In an essay titled “The Other  Arab Muslims” he describes how men and women adopt  prescribed dress, the  reciting of Koranic verses, and going to prayers, as ways by which they find comfort. To confuse them with Islamic militants who throw bombs and kill people would indeed be unfair. ( Said 1995: 390-391)
“These comforts have always been available, but now they are part of a more general and ambitious process of intellectual and political self questioning. What is modernity for a Muslim? What is our heritage (turath)? Who has and ought to have authority? These are major epistemological problems that occupy a lot of intellectuals and scholars, even though their equivalent among the populace are a much less finicky and more obvious sort of behaviour.” ( ibid :391)
The Himalayas have always been the marker for subcontinental identity. Varieties of races and people have lived in its hinterlands, and their regenerative dispositions have coloured the debates on rivers, forests and modes of livelihood. As the nation state becomes reified, regardless of political party, the impetus is towards industrialisation and consumer culture. Local communities find that their holy mountains are punctured by dams which then become an electricity generating resource. The people become increasingly impoverished as the resources are taken down to the plains. This estrangement from their own rivers and mountains becomes a source of anxiety. Artisanal communities are represented as proletarianised. As in Palestine, the  cannon ball State now demands recognition of its priorities. Religious fundamentalism is one response to the forms of alienation that arise. As the poem, by Aga Shahid, Country Without A Post Office, represents, the voices of intellectuals become symptomatic of the freedoms that are taken away from people. In the Universities, discourses on freedom and rights become primary. This too becomes a constellation of duties towards protecting human rights and civil liberties. As a result, the coercive arm of the state becomes ever present as the year long struggle in JNU and Hyderabad showed in 2016. Said argues that we have to look at the scale of violence by the state, and the protest movements that arise in response to that violence. To confuse the two as equivalent would be immensely strategic, and the role of the crowd in revolution has to be analysed. What constitutes a crowd, and is revolution born from the coming together of people in dramatic situations of conflict which are governed by the values that they see as being destroyed without explanation or method? A Kashmiri merchant said, (personal communication 15th January 2017)
“I was in class 2 in 1989. Though Muslim, by birth, I was immensely close to the Pandits. We were Pandits ourselves, converted to Islam by a Muslim saint who came from Hamdan in Iran, four hundred years ago. We lived with Pandit families, my school was run by a Panditji. We sang Vande Mantram in school, without difficulty. I am an Indian. When the troubles started, both Muslims and Hindus were killed in ’89. The gun does not distinguish between religions or communities.
I went to school one morning, and found it was locked. I went to my friends houses, Rakesh and Ankush, and found their doors locked too. I could not understand it. My father put me in a good school, but the year was almost done. I was allowed to sit for the exams, but told whatever the result I would have to repeat a year. So I lost a year. In every class, I would find myself older than the other children. There was so much cross fire on the way to school, that my father put me in a school across the road. Then, when   I passed class 9,  I  left my studies and joined my father’s business. 
We are Muslims, but we are Pandits too. So we cannot be separated from our past. We want to see our neighbours again, when they say that they will repatriate people, they bring in people we do not know. We want to see the families we knew so well again, the people whom we shared festivals with. Even today, there are communities of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, living side by side. Those who want to kill do so because they are illiterate, or because they have been given money. Or because they have been brainwashed by Pakistan. They are visible, we are not, because we don’t come out into the street. We live with teachers, professors, philosophers…because we are not activists for Islamists, the radicals call us police informers. It is very painful for us, because to be told that we are separate is hard, and then to be told that we are equal to them, separatists and militants is unbearable. We suffer a lot, there are many like us. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do believe that if we can live peacefully together we can progress a lot. Perhaps what has changed most since I was a child, was the working months outside Kashmir extended from two months to seven months, for the plain reason that there was no work in Kashmir. If tourism returns with peace, we would have the chance to move out of our houses after dark, which is now no longer possible in Kashmir, we would be able to go to see films, have some kind of recreation after a hard day’s work.”
In this narrative, (personal conversation,  conducted 12th  to 15 January  2017) we see that the rupture is major, and that the possibilities of healing lie in those who have experiences which are tactile and memorable of shared lives. Hybridisation, therefore is one of the key ways in which we understand social reality as providing us windows into survival. Homogenisation is arid, since it creates boundaries and walls, not allowing for symbiosis and breathing. Sometimes, the idea that people exist only in terms of their labelling is difficult for sociologists to accept. It is when we actually listen to people’s stories as individuals, that we can methodologically come to terms with the generalising principle, which abstracts from these lives. The nomad returns home, but it is for feasts, meeting relatives, for picnics and outings, for merry making and rituals. The real world confronts him in its patient unfolding, from day to day, a stranger in the midst of strangers in temple towns,  or in a street next to the synagogue in Mattancherry, and the money made is returned to the boss, sometimes a close kin, while the Kashmiri merchant returns to his home after the long winter is over.
Exile, however, is much more cataclysmic. Rahul Pandita (2013)in his autobiographical narrative, shows us how deep this distress  is, how dehumanising. Every day is spent in remembrance of loss.  Edward Said remarks in The Question of Palestine that the Palestinians never acquiesced to the loss of territory. He asserts that the right to return to the homes from which they were pushed out from was legitimate. By Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) everyone had a right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Similarly, they have the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their home country. (47) By the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) he argues, these rights have “been accepted as a document carrying the unique force of a unanimous United Nations General Assembly vote (with only five abstentions). Its Article 12 states
2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
3. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country. (Question, 48)
The first UN General Assembly resolution _Number 194 – affirming the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property was passed on December 11, 1948. It has been repassed no less than twenty-eight times since that first date.” ( Said 1980:48)
Yet, in a compelling piece of prose, Said shows us, that the good intentions of the UN not withstanding, the Palestinian-Zionist conflict is embedded in their mutual and existentialist relations. ( ibid 49) We may speak of the Kashmiri Pandits in the same breath, in their existing relationship to Kashmiri Muslims, where they too have become a “present absent” one must be able to discriminate between an invading, dispossessing, and displacing political presence and the presence it invades, displaces and dispossesses.
“The two are not equal, nor in the end is one ever going to prevail over and definitively dominate the other. For Zionism to perpetuate a political, juridical, and epistemological system whose immediate and constantly renewed and ever even long-term goal is to keep Palestine and the Palestinians out is therefore, something, I believe, to be opposed and  subject to serious analyses.” (ibid 49)
The idea that Kashmir  similarly will succumb to separatism and militancy, or tribalism and martial domination of the nation state, is equally devoid of reason, for if moderates and Pandits were subject to acts of genocide, and chilling death, then the need for documentation becomes only more necessary. In his Introductory essay, Edward Said shows us in “The Politics of Dispossession” (1995),  that in the end of a short period of subjugation, the Palestinian became colonised wage labour to Israeli production units. (1995 xxxix) After 1967, they became curiously passive, indecisive, unsure about their goal (ibid 27) The cause existed, but the vacillations came at a price, and the indistinction between foe and ally became a threat to the quest for freedom, resulting in guerrilla warfare and the brutality of the Israeli soldier. ( ibid 28) Buber’s call for a land of two peoples was well intentioned, but it was Begin who was given the Peace Prize  by the Nobel committee in 1978 for no known reason. (ibid 44) The power of the US, it’s politicians, it’s scribes, it’s armies in the fate of the Middle East was huge, deciding the futures of millions of unknown people fending for themselves in  the war torn middle east, with Noam Chomsky, according to Said,  being the single vocal non partisan voice. ( ibid 41) The UN in the mid 1970s described Zionism as a form of racism. Occupation  by war meant an engineered binationality, as the demographic proportion of Israelis grew, and displacement increased. (ibid 45)
Digital activism that spills out into the streets is one of the most interesting aspects of post modern societies. The PLO, functioning from Tunis brought into play the most terrible circumstances of its right to war, but in the end was domesticated by the peace processes, it’s recognition by the UN, and the role of Yasser Arafat in explaining the processes of it’s own constitution. Sometimes institutional measures legitimate conditions of war and the humiliations of surrender. Jerusalem, the city with it’s long chequered and violent past is a hybrid form of co-existence, and map making has always depended on these mutual forms of understanding, regardless of the coercive aspects of maintaining borders and boundaries. (Montefiori 2010)
Dialogue has no mediators, it exists in dyadic form, with all the embarrassment of mutual failures, and the will to praxis. It depends on memory, and on forgiveness, and constant interaction, without hostility. The grammar of dialogue is dependent too, on the assertion of errors and misconception which are duly acknowledged. The State has professional mediators who in times of crises do extend their know how, but it is the musicians, the artists, the novelists who are able to cross borders and define how the peace process must take place. Buber’s notion of Dialogue draws substantially from Theatre, and from the juxtaposition of historical and sacred narratives.
In the essay On Polarity: Dialogue After The Theater Martin Buber discusses opposition as a premise of dialogue. It is not the catatonic stance of  Creon and Antigone, the premise of which is continuing death. For Buber, poetry and drama together produce abstraction, and the theatre creates a space, where delineation is marked, but osmosis occurs “There they stood, the tragic pair, like Creon and Antigone and had neither right nor wrong, neither guilt nor innocence, had nothing except their being, their polarity, their destiny.” Buber  in Friedman ed 1969:57)
Buber explains the osmosis of actor and audience, of perceiving and interpretation, as an act of continuous dialogue, which is the essence of appearance and reality. As actors we put ourselves in the place of the other, we perceive reality as it unfolds through action, we cannot remain detached.
“Being and counterbeing: but they were not set in opposition to each other as the two in the drama who now appeared to be enclosed in a unity; they did not carry out their polarity as those did. Each persevered in its calling, the one in happening,  the other in perservering. And this perservering seemed to be no less notable than that happening. For it did not behave with that well meaning neutrality that the observer commonly  brings to the observed. Rather it bore its oppositeness in itself, in some way expressed, confirmed it; and not just one part of that which had been divided in two but the whole reality over against it. Therefore it sided with no party; it as, as it were, itself a party which met those two as a unity. But what a strange party which was nothing but perception! Or perhaps still more than this? Yet, something else was there: confirmation. And also lived through the happenings on the stage, but of the contradiction, the destiny, the decision. There stood the two in the fury of their nature; there the fate worked itself out between them; and here sat the audience and confirmed strengthened, affirmed, perceiving the fate, it willed what it experienced. This awareness was a proclamation. Where had I already seen something like this? I recalled; it was a crude early Greek vase-picture that shows the souls. Coarsely as it is painted, one sees; he does not take sides but his will follows the decision of the scales; he wills what must happen, and his will is a fanfare. “ (ibid 60)
Caught in the words of Daniel, the emissary of the theatrical trope, Buber presents us identification and ananke, or the destiny which is irrational and unresisting, as two ways of understanding how history unfolds. Whose side are we on, as the battle proceeds? Objectivity  lies in perception, but also the shifting nature of action, will and reality. Within this imaginary frame, Buber also delineates what is perception, and awareness. There is detachment and yet, a sudden realisation, or a naming.
“And what sort of an appearance was that there that so severely and totally admonished me? Which was the deeper reality, the act or the intermission? And what sort of a power was that which drew the men out of the broken, mediated, blunted polarity of the tragedy? And who were they who ‘acted’ this essential reality? What did they do when they acted it? “ (ibid 62),
One only needs to remember the film Hyder, where in the terms of Hamlet, we see the protagonist caught between the family, the police, the informers, the puppet state, the players and the representative forms of love both oedipal and obsessive. For Buber, action and representation are conjoined languages, and it is love and respect that draws us into a mutual existence, both solidary as much as it is epiphany. ( ibid 62-65)
It is in theatre, which reduplicates existence, but in controlled conditions of space as abstract, and language that is dialogic, that Buber states his aphorism,
“The polarity which man experiences in himself wills unity. And unity is not now or ever something which is “there”; unity is that which eternally becomes. Not out of the world; out of our action comes unity. The poet finds it  where word and world engender in him: in his work; there he grounds all duality in unity. But out of each work polarity arises for him anew, renewed. Rejuvenated, sharpened, deepened, it summons him to new deed.” (ibid 74)
For Buber, this arises from self awareness (ibid 62) from sexuality and love, which express one another, as Indra who embraces everything. “He knows the pole of exuberant strength and that of weakness, that of freedom and that of independence, that of concentration and that of abandon, that of guilt and that of purity, that of form and that of formlessness: he recognises them all in the whorl because he knows them in himself.” It is this merging of microcosm and macrocosm then that makes the I Thou relationship so utterly meaningful for the work of Dialogue. It is the metaphor of creative light in the theatre, that makes the unity of polarity possible. The light makes abstractions visible, and can manipulate density and opacity.( ibid 82) Speech, or poetry, establishes a space unique in theatre, where the dance or the action becomes transmuted and translateable, the I and Thou is bridged as in totemism. ( ibid 84) The actors in becoming go beyond their polarities, their distinctions,
“So the actors did not yet know themselves as ‘looked at.’ They were players, but not players of a spectacle; they played to benefit the staring crowd but not to please them. They were “in a state of innocence,” just like the man who loves according to his impulse and not according to the image he produces in the eyes of others”. ( ibid 85) Buber then suggests that the spectator who knows the appearance as different from his reality but is absorbed in it, while reading from it, or into it, for his own purposes corresponds with  the actor, “who is no longer overcome by the transformation but is familiar with it and knows how to make us of it.” ( ibid 85) Yet we know that homologies are based on internal correspondences, but  yet, we recognise the distinction. As for the abstraction of love and sex, the two are mutually and historically in relation, as theatre is to drama. However,
“One must understand, indeed, that though love certainly appears later in the history of man, it cannot be derived from sex. In the truth of being love is the cosmic and eternal power to which sex is sent as a sign and a means it employs in order that out of it love may be reborn on earth. This is the way of the spirit in all things. “ (ibid 86)
For us to understand how earth and people cohabit, we need to understand both memory and loss. Within this parchment of life and extinction, so readily brought to our attention, when ethnic cleansing takes place, Hannah Arendt’s work on citizenship and autonomy is immensely significant.
Arendt believed that bureaucracy could be totalising and conscienceless. She also foregrounded autonomy and choice as basic human virtues. She writes of Eichmann in  Jerusalem (1964) that his crime was that of carrying out his orders as a law abiding citizen of the Third Reich. Rationality which confuses means and ends, which forgets the importance of ‘for the sake of’ to emphasise ‘in order to’, degrades everything so that ends themselves no longer become safe. It is this totalitarian idealism that Arendt is most afraid of:
“Whenever we hear of grandiose aims in politics such as establishing a new society in which justice will be guaranteed forever, or fighting a war to end all wars or to make the whole world safe for democracy, we are moving in the realm of this kind of thinking (Arendt 1968:79) Visvanathan  2007:15)
For Arendt, the fixity of roles becomes frightening, and masks are the volatile spaces, where flexibility becomes possible. (Kateb 1984:10) It is this which the Kashmiri Pandits, living as refugees in their own country begin to experience. In the derelict Kashmiri Pandit camp, in Delhi, a man speaks on behalf of 250 families from Uri and Baramullah,  (personal communication January 21st 2017)
“The problem of Kashmir arises out of the four types of politicians: the Separatist, the National politician representing the Centre, the Local politican arising out of the region,  and the Hurriyat. Each has opened a shop, and that shop is the trade in the currency of death and  war, from which a great deal of money can be made. Their children study abroad, they have no stakes in the every day turmoil that ordinary Kashmiris face. We are afraid to send our children out, for they may die. So neither can they work in the fields with us, nor can they go to school. For four months we were forced to stay inside our homes for fear of army shoot outs. For every ten Kashmiri, Hindu or Muslim, there is one terrorist, and yet everyone is punished equally. We have to leave our fields unploughed. We were brought to Delhi by the Army in winter, and left in this open field. We cannot survive in the dirt and degradation, our children cannot go out. At night we are afraid because any one can enter the Relief Camp. The Army has said we can return when the winter lessens in March. Here, they have supplied us with tents, electric wiring for a single bulb, and handpumps for water. We are farmers, we cannot live in such terrible conditions, and what ever happens we will return to Kashmir. The wealthy can leave Kashmir, and buy houses in Jammu or Delhi. We cannot do that. We live by our farming, of rice, potatoes, apples. Here, the young men, twenty or so, go to Subzi Mandi, Old Delhi, and pack apples in crates. They each make about 400 rupees or so, as each crate fetches them twenty rupees. It is hard, slow work, and takes a lot of time. Each apple has to be wrapped carefully in paper and then placed on a bed of leaves and grass. With this the cereals and lentils are bought, and each family  in the camp, receives its share. We are not used to living in this terrible condition, and don’t want publicity, to be photographed or named, as our sons must return to college, and our daughters must hope to marry, so if it becomes known that we have lived like beggars in Delhi, then our humiliation would be hard to handle. We are educated people, we know that we are human, that religions are sometimes divisive”

In delineating the difference between political functionaries, the speaker from a camp in Delhi is communicating that Kashmiri instability is a consequence of action, which is violating in nature to the known co-existence of communities to which people wish to return. George Kateb states.
“Arendt writes that plurality has a two fold character-equality and distinction. If political actors were not equal, they could not understand each other and work together. If they were not distinct from each other, they would not need words or deeds to make themselves understood; they would not have the inestimable opportunity for communicating themselves rather than merely messages. There could be no political world if individuals were all of the same mind and saw things from the same perspective. Reality is guaranteed by variety, whereas when there is “prolongation or multiplication” of any one identity or perspective, as in the household, reality is shadowy. “ (Kateb 1985: 14)
The public life of intellectuals thus depends on their ability to speak out of an identity which is a play of reality, uniqueness, and display of difference in opinions. Kateb again, reinforces Arendt’s essentially lonely Philosophy of autonomy and choice,
“ He is real to himself only because he is publicly real to others. Public life is a condition of both relation and separation, it can be destroyed by too much closeness (unanimity or brotherhood, for example) as well as by solitude, loneliness or isolation, or by factional hostility or “pull and pressure and the tricks of cliques.” (ibid 15)
For Arendt, action and speech are closely entwined. Political action can take many forms, once violence is excluded, of which speech is the most dramatic form. Within the Barthesian mode, images are as representative of narrative, and so Said’s work, The Question of Palestine turns us to the graphic descriptions of how people view Zionism.
When we create parallels to explain incidents or worldviews which are sharply different from one another, are reasons are very simple: to make the unheard, the untold visible. Sometimes acts of political violence are presented by individuals as fait accompli, but the documentation of these lives is essential to our understanding of secularism and democracy which are entailed in human rights charters. Faith and longing inform the lives of ordinary people, and justice must serve them the rights to life and livelihood regardless of their religion. Charity is not what they seek, it is either compensation, rehabilitation or the return to order. Whether border societies  can be absorbed in the platitudes of well wishers, hoping for co-existence, toleration, rights and obligations,  that is a problem that each sociologist has to handle appropriately.
Inge Radford, in a handbook for the clergy of oppositional denominations in Belfast, before the peace process argued that community relations could be generated through interaction, and collective responsibility. The first requirement is time, those who wish to enter into dialogicity must have the time to interact and create spaces of mutual understanding. The role of reservation is sometimes disputed, but antisectarianism is thought to be one of the ways in which religious people can actually confront one another with the premise that they will hear each other out. A minority amongst a minority is possibly the most difficult of circumstances, but the right to be an individual is fundamental. The right to be human, is something worth fighting for. Inge communicates that anti intimidation is a clause of great significance, particularly in the case of mixed marriages. Similarly, those who work for the peace process, or actively champion the rights of the ‘other’ often are threatened. Music, dancing and the arts can provide a bridge building device, but contextually, where puritanical fundamentalism prevails this may be hard to do. The question of justice and rights is both a communitarian issue as well as an individual one. Where moralities differ, justice and rights become interpreted through their respective prism…. “implementation of justice and rights through their own traditions’ point of view.” (Radford 1993: 39-42)
The hawks continually urge to war, pacifists hope that citizens’ groups will reorganise their resources and draw attention to the common human condition, where corporeality and spirit are  simultaneously assuaged, by the common platforms on which people converge. Sasanka Perera, in his “Violence and the Burden of Memory”  looks at architecture and monuments in post civil war Sri Lanka  to  remind us of the continual losses that inform communities that once co-existed  in the same environment. Is  recognition of hierarchy, minoritarianism, majoritarianism and conflict the only means to co-exist? The displaced farmers from Uri and Barahmullah don’t think so. The first person to come out to greet me was the Nihang, in his blue robes with beads and bracelets and the sheathed kirpan. That long and detailed history of many religions, many sects is like a hot breath on the present turbulence in a  beautiful valley, where traditions and crafts and agriculture are now rendered nought by dams, punctured mountains and warring members who have been socialised for seven decades in a particular way of thinking about Kashmiriyat.

Ali, Agha Shahid, The  Country Without A Post Office, Penguin, Delhi 1997
Berger, John and Jean Mohr: A Seventh Man, (1975) Verso London, 2010
Datta, Ankur: On Uncertain Ground, Displaced Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir, Oxford University Press, 2017
Friedman, Maurice ed: Martin Buber and the Theater, Funk and Qagnalls, New York 1969
Encounter on the Narrow Ridge: A Life of Martin Buber, Paragon House New Yourk 1991
Gilroy, Paul: Between Camps, Nations, Cultures and the Allure of Race.  Taylor and Frances, London, 2004
Jagmohan: My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, Allied, New Delhi 1993
Kateb, George: Hannah Arendt, Politics, Conscience, Evil Rowman and Allenheld, Oxford 1983
Malik, S.C and Pat Boni: Intercultural Dialogue and the Human Image, Maurice Friedman at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, IGNCA and D.K Printworld, Delhi 1995
Mernissi, Fatima: The Harem Within, Doubleday, London 1994
Montefiore, Simon Sebag: Jerusalem, The Biography. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 2010
Oommen, T.K :Citizenship, Nationality, Identity Polity Press London 1997
Pandita, Rahul: Our Moon Has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits,  Random House, Noida.
Perera, Sasanka: Violence and the Burden of Memory: Remembrance and Erasure in Sinhala Consciousness, Orient Blackswan, Delhi, 2016
Radford, Inge , A Research Report Commissioned by the Community Relations Council. Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1993
Said Edward: The Question of Palestine Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1980
                            The Politics of Dispossession. Vintage, London 1995
Visvanathan, Susan: Pluralism, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Occasional
Papers, 1985
 Martin Buber and the Question of Dialogue NMML Occasional Papers, 1993
Hannah Arendt and the Problem of Our Age Economic and Political Weekly, xxxvi  16. 21st April 2001
Friendship, Interiority and Mysticism, Essays in Dialogue, Orient Longman, Delhi 2007
 Uberoi, J.P.S: Science and Culture 1998, OUP

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

closure of boundaries to the rural poor for purposes of migration for work

Industrialisation brings with it it’s own squalor, and yet, the desires of the modern world are such, that we increasingly want faster cars, faster aeroplanes, newer computers, smarter cities. The result is the death of the country side, and the imminent wars that are waged, when a rural proletariat rises. Those who govern, accept the potential  turmoil as something that needs to be controlled, and they do this with cannon ball and gunfire. An impoverished peasantry, consisting of landless labour, and restricted to it’s own radius of small town and village represents the poorest of the poor. Their sense of worth comes from the skills they have achieved as mason and labourers, and their freedom to travel across the country. They voted in a government on the bases of their hope that Ramrajya would be realised, that they would enter a space where nobility, truth and statecraft would give them the promises made through jagrans and mobilisation, depleting the ranks of the communist parties.
Religion is one way in which the quietude of the masses is ascertained. Malthusian economics represents the poor as  being without will, and without a future. But this is not the 19th century, and the symbols of the 21st century are present very clearly through varieties of mobilisation. Both Magsaysay award winners, Aruna Roy and T.M. Krishna have shown us how deeply embedded they are in the culture of the poor, embellishing their activism through the participation of young people from all walks of life. Aruna Roy, through her participation in Spic Macay was able to socialise generations of young college students to the necessity of being involved in the rural life of the poor, where they would be encouraged to go with them to their festivals, mobilisation camps, and learn to keep files in the office of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, as well as share their life. What they discovered however,  was the tremendous energy of these communities.  Without valorising poverty, they learnt the good lessons of eating healthy food, and the benefits of manual labour. The vocation of being with the people and speaking on behalf of them remained constant with these volunteers, though many of them returned to Industry or globalised occupations as university teachers, designers or lawyers. The real debate in India has always been around the co-existence of industry and agriculture, with organic farming now the new catalyst to how we think about survival in an increasingly war torn and polluted world.
T.M Krishna with his Poromboke Paadal on you tube tells us in the traditional way of those who can converse to the community through music and other aesthetic forms, (in this case a video) that the coexistence of industry with nature becomes problematic when traditional communities are forced out. The sullying of Ennore creek and the industrial ash that falls on everything is something that can be withstood by popular protest. We only have to think about why we want industrialisation, if it is proving to our accumulated destruction as a civilisation. While not being able to put back the clock, the idea of the commons so essential to nature and humans is the text of the song. Do we have any idea of the way in which clogging waterways will affect the future generations that are to benefit from the presence of what we have till now taken for granted, such as seasons, rainfall and agricultural cycles. Industrial farming and the consequence  increase in cancer rates is so endemic in Punjab (www.cancer train 339 from Bhatinda to Bikaner) that the noticeable increase in death rate has asked individuals whether there is a link between pesticides and cancer. In Kerala where the products of pesticide infused commercial agriculture  bought from Tamil Nadu,  resulted in high cancer statistics. This got the Scientists to propagate successfully, organic farming on terraces and grow bags and horticultural gardens,  to which housewives, retired people and new age farmers responded successfully.  T.M. Krishna asks us when industrialisation proceeds in a way that the rights to livelihood are taken away, what is the accounting process that goes on? Do you and I also become Poromboke which has been transgressed? Will our children and their children have no rights to Nature?
 Do farmers have rights? Yes, they do, by custom and habit, which is a legitimate space for public interest litigation. In America,the response to Trumpism is huge. It is because American intellectuals still live by it’s feeling for it’s original mandate, which is the refuge for the ostracised. That it wiped out its indigenous populations by its frontier policies made it ever sensitive to it’s politics of assimilation and to collective implication in wars. Today, people are educated, so that makes them respond to political manoeuvres of the capitalist right wing state.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Metro: "I Arrive Without Departing"

The crowds spilling out of the metro are successful people with jobs, the men wearing ironed clothes, the women in synthetics. The young people are rushing to some exam or the other, they feel that if they pass this exam, then the world will open out in it’s myriad hues. They don’t look up because they don’t imagine that the scenery will change,  for outside the sky is always red, and the winds hot. The moon turned black many decades ago, and the sunlight dimmed just yesterday. Today, they are in the underworld, and the sky seems far away, the neon lights are also dim. There is no tomorrow, the sirens wail. There has been another incident, another life lost. The stations are dense, the tunnels will take them out into radial roads, and all life is lived underground.
The storm begins to rise, the dust particles falling into the eyes, the clean ironed lines of trousers, the shine of nylon disappearing as the fine dust flies about. I live in a small house in one of the outer streets, where a single cactus still survives. Birds have died, and the caterpillars have become so outsize, that all remaining foliage becomes shredded even before they sprout. It was the year that we had acid rain. It fell on all of us, creating a specific pattern on our skins as it fell. We knew that if we opened our eyes, we would be blinded, and we knew that our tongues would be serrated, as if we had consumed hot pepper corns fried in oil. The world seemed no longer home, so we covered our faces and limped home, applying balm on our skins where ever they had been burnt. In the mines the old lords still extracted every ounce of metal, and the slaves lived on saliva and the wandering microbes that still inhabited the earth. We knew that our days were numbered, but no one counted them anywhere. Children were born scarred in the womb, and mothers died as they gave birth to disfigured beings. Dragon seeds of war had been planted everywhere, and the perfect ones, born with out blemish, ran in and out of the ghoulish metro trains, which dispelled the crowds with a clang of its doors.
In my own house, ofcourse, the moon still visited, quite dreary, an image of someone who had once lived, and was now extinct. I knew it’s coming was a sign of my own madness, my nostalgia, my foreknowledge of things which had once existed and now had died. Why did I look out for the moon? Why, for no reason. All humans remembered the moon, because their mother’s bodies had catapulted to it’s call, along with the cries of the gulls as the sea waves receded. None of us had seen the silver sea for decades, it had gone under a billion volts of dead rivers, it’s own saltiness now defined only with the brackishness of radioactive river water.
I got  out, off the metro at just the right moment, where the tunnels had become like a capillary of veins. I jumped into the crowd, and was wafted by them leaving my fears, I allowed myself to be sifted by the armed guards into the right avenues. I didn’t anymore need to show my card, because the wiring on my wrist activated the routes I had to take, and the scanners immediately swung into action, creating the right kind of leverage. I no longer felt that I was a prisoner of the system. I had even begun to enjoy the rush of electricity that charged into my veins. It was the right amount. A little more, and I could be electrocuted. I knew that, the interrogators knew it. Should I be marked by some casual officer, who did not share my physiognomy, racism it was called in the old days, there was every chance that I would be catapulted into the beyond.
I thought of the beyond almost every day, the still heart, the flat line of brain on machines, where picture book nurses would then call the family doctor, who would sign on the dotted line, saying that I could be sent into auto mode. That meant flying off without a body, and hoping that the bright light would encompass one into the petals of new flowers. Those bright lights were indeed hard to face, one went off into the first gloom and then the next.
Goodbye, world, family, humans, machines, red dust, black and empty moon. Where could one go without a body? It was too hard a question to ask. I would leave it for another day. The small yellow flowers in the red sky were actually stars. I looked at them everyday. When my twisted mind looked at the red sky, I actually saw blue. I lived in the past, it was not permitted. I had to be moving forward like everyone else.
Sometimes in the crevices of the tracks small plants grew, not dependent on the light of the sun, but able to grow, synthesise, sprout leaves without buds in the harsh electric lights which sprung up every few metres. They attracted no insects, not even the large caterpillars which were the most commonly known relic of the past. We were shattered by every jolt of the passing trains in our tiny flats, which like the plants that grew anonymously were in the trusteeship of the electric lights, which took on a strobe like quality whenever there were electricity fluctuations. Quite often, I found myself living in swathes of time, which were unknown to my neighbours for most of them were decades younger than me. Old age is that ephemeral thing, allowed to persist like a common disease if the state permitted it. The real truth was that none of us were able to live in the tempo of the present. We rocked back into the colourful days of our own youth, and that was seen to be an immensely destructive emotion. The vigilantes knew by the glazed look of the old, that they were not keeping time with the galaxies of the present, and that we were again captives of clear blue skies and opaque water in rushing streams. They would jostle us whenever we reached that state, because surely, surely, with our head in the air, we would miss our stations and reach avenues of time and space beyond our comprehension. Everything faltered in us, every time we made a mistake, our watches become disoriented, our tags failed us. If we went into a time zone too distant from our own, we could become electrocuted by our own emotions. It is not that we had nannies, it is just that people followed us all the time, wishing us to return to our rightful places.
Move on, Move on!
I am not sure, am I at the right station? Please can you look at my identity card?
Move on!
Sir, is there an enquiry booth?

Somewhere in the babble of similar disjointed speech and aching limbs, a hand would suddenly reach over the milling heads, and someone I knew, would point me to the returning train, and yes, I had got off at the wrong stop and would be lost for ever if I did not move fast.
The lights always blinded, the dark was always corrosive, the air was hot, since the air conditioners were pitched not to cool and calm us down but to actually relive the heat outside, so that we could acclimatise to the environment. Everything was done to make us accept our world. We were not expected to control nature, we were not expected to make our lives comfortable or even liveable. We were here to prove that we could inhabit that dusty planet with the veneer of water, a thin fragile coating on which one day we would be inhabitants returned to our original home.
My house was always dark, with the vague roseate glow which came from the streetlight as it strew the cobbled streets with pretty scraps of yellow light. I looked out, and dreamed of the slice of moon that was our due, but no longer shone on us. As night came on, the dusty air would part, and the motes would circle like planets in ether in the streaming electric light. Strangers passed by my window, wearing their gas masks or their visors. Curiosity had died a tired death many decades previously, and we no longer cared what the other thought. My companion was a young woman who had been deputised by the state. She had her own thoughts, and did not intervene unless there was a crisis. She called me Mom, and lived as if she was an independent tenant. Her silence pleased me, for nothing was expected of me. I was grateful for her kindness, a technician of time, who tied my tags just so, wired me up for travel, took off my boots when I came in from the cold. Her name was unpronounceable, so I called her Angel. She did not mind, her smile was effervescent. She was just thrilled with life, with the cold comfort of our cerebral days on planet earth. I found her yearningly looking toward the sky just as I did, but all we got was cement hanging over our heads. She did not feel lost, stranded, hopeless as I did. She had no longings other than to leave the metro station - housing that we were all forced into, by the eye-ball signatures we entered as we left the transport stand. But where could she go, the officials had placed her with me, saying that our charts showed that she would be a compatible care giver. She smiled brightly at me and asked if she knew the man who had shown some interest in marrying her, and would I have place for both of them?
“Show me his picture, and I will tell you immediately. My memory is good, I can tell with one glance, if I know your suitor or not. “
He was a small man, rather sweet looking, with a saturnine gaze. “Of course, I knew him,” I said, smiling. We had been colleagues at  an art gallery. He looked after the guests, and I kept accounts for the owners of the place. We also ran a café together, which we managed with our other duties. He is a nice man, I said. 
“So can he live with us?
“If you have no objection to sharing a room, certainly, he can live here.”
“We would have no objections, at all, Ma’am!”
 I looked at her with amusement. The delight was so huge, it wrapped itself around her like a warm glow. “And what will you live on?” was my unspoken thought. The girl was like ebony, her skin so dark, it gleamed in the shadowed light of the ever luminescent tubelights that lit the narrow circular pathways of our hooded city. She was tall, thin, and completely at ease. I enjoyed her company, though  I often felt that she was looking at me carefully, a little too carefully. When I asked her the reason for her protracted stare, she would laugh and deny it completely. I knew that she lied easily, because there were times, that her eyes became catatonic, glazed, empty of expression. That was the way, she blocked off her thoughts and became impenetrable. I was keen to meet her boy friend, but she said, she would bring him home closer to the day of their union. Was she thinking of my place as her home? I was startled by that. But ofcourse home is where we live, where we keep our things, where our footsteps lead us.
When she was around, this companion, social worker, nurse, official…. I could no longer remember her true status, the atmosphere was always bright,  even chatty, one might call it. It was never forced, except ofcourse when she disappeared into her lonely tunnel of thoughts. I would sometimes shake her gently when it happened, and she would reappear from her trance, looking as if her view was fragmented. There was nothing cruel about her, ever, she was absent for a moment or two, that was all.
I will put up bright curtains, and buy some flowers. Let me tidy your book case today!
Not a bad idea at all. What would you like to eat? We have some roots, sweet potatoes I think they called them in the old days. And ofcourse mushrooms.
I like potatoes. Is there any fruit?
Yes, we have some dates and figs, which I bought when the sun still shone on the planet. They have kept well. It’s hard to imagine that once they are over, we will have forgotten what fruit was.
I am sure they will be able to have orchards on electric light in another couple of decades, then we will be able to eat again. These are only the transition years.
We stared at each other for a moment, then I went back to putting photographs in chronological order. There were thousands of them, all collected in  shoe boxes.   The state had given me the extraordinary privilege of working with these when I was most in need of money, and had written many letters  to the powers that be, asking for work.
Each of them was of post card size, and had been taken by different people.
The idea was to provide a certain classification by country, where the colour coding would provide an idea of the time of day when it was taken. It was of archival interest only, since the general public would not have access to them, but after filling many forms, and waiting in many queues it would be possible for an occasional researcher to find an answer for something he or she was looking for. Suppose for instance, they wanted to know how many times the colour red was found in the old world, and in what objects, or why the colour yellow was associated with cheerfulness, and summer sunshine, whether in flowers, clothes, or shoes, the photographs would provide the answer. The question had to be specific, the answer general.
Once I had come across a couple, the man was gentle looking, and the woman equally so, both lived in the tropics, and they kept reappearing in photograph after photograph. Who was their vigilante? It was very clear that they were being followed. It seemed as if the one who wished to impress their image on carbon was someone who was near and dear. It was not clear whom he desired more, the photos had a clarity and  an intimacy about them. I was interrupted in my thoughts by my young companion who asked me if I would like to go out for a while.
I had no desire to see the artificial moon that the authorities hung out with its painted smile. It shocked me that people actually thought that it made up for destruction by bombing which took away everything that made us human. Why would they want us to go out at all? The girl however looked happy. She went by the simple name of Anjali, which was easy to pronounce, though sometimes I forgot and called her Angel, and suited her good looks and charming manner.
You go, I am busy today.
But it is compulsory for us to be seen enjoying the evening.
Oh, that’s for young people like you. We don’t have those pressures.
Come, Auntie! It’s something which we need to do together. I only get paid every month if I tow you out, willingly or unwillingly. I can get the wheel chair if you like, we only need to pay a small amount by token.
The wheel chair!
Yes, it is comfortable. If only you would try it out. I think we should today.
There was something menacing about her. I thought it’s so hard for young people to keep their jobs, and something which looks like charity, or state endorsed social work, is actually a “job”. I smiled at her, and she was suddenly comforted, and it was as if she was the dependent. The care giver had become the dependent. Elation coursed through me. I was the reason she got food to eat, had a home to live in, had the possibility to marry. My immense powerfulness was as if it was the reason that the earth still careened around a non-existent sun. She began to escort me outside, and I knew that her sense of assurance came from being registered once more in the official log book of duties daily carried out by young adults pursuing a career in Life Insurance.
Everytime Stella (I often thought of myself in the third person,allowing for a certain detachment in telling my story) went out with Anjali, she was startled by the beauty of their world. Though they lived in fear, yet, in the underground caverns of the earth, there was still a memory of galactic time, the sonorous nature of the dark, punctuated by the eerie whistle of the metro trains, as they shunted hour after hour, without break. They were with out drivers, decades ago the administrators had taken away the soulless concentration of driving the underground trains, and replaced humans with automation, which worked well. No one thought much about it, even when Stella was young, she remembered that a woman had pointed it out to her, and she had shrugged, merely shrugged. Man or Machine, it was emotions that made us human, she had thought, and those without machines, they belong to the world of the damned and the becalmed. They, the humans, would be pounded out, left to die, no one would have anything in common with them.  It was in essence, the oligarchy of the meek and the composite, those who spoke one language, and lived one dream which was bleakly posed. “How to make the Habitable  Inhabitable, and the Inhabitable Habitable”. The Greeks had a word for it, Midas, but here we just lived as we did, by the monosyllable of time, where nothing existed but our need for thought.
We walked silently back, or rather Anjali did, her heels clicking with a simple staccato beat rather like a heart. I was contented imagining the stars, the planets, the whirr of moths by the old street lights. We never allowed the State to interfere with our thoughts, and though they had digital archives of our feelings, emotions, dreams, they never quite admitted that they could manipulate us with those. We were wired up to the hilt, internally and externally, but other than the name tags, which allowed us to move in and out of determined zones, we were not really visible as automations. Ofcourse, it’s clear, we had emotions, we were not automats, robots as they called them in the old days.  Tactility was one of the last instincts to go, and we watched each other for the flutter of eyelashes, the tensing of muscles or the clinching of fists. When we reached back to the square where I lived, the metro lines curving to accommodate the street lights and the odd bench, I found I was out of breath. It was fear. I thought of the young man who would be making his home with us, an artist by temperament, and very good looking too. I remembered from our companionate working days that he was rather loud in his laugh, a forced laugh. It made  everyone understand that he felt it would be a wall against his introverted self to project what he was not. Laughter is like a veil, it hides our torment, our sense of worthlessness, it can come bellowing out of us, or snicker quietly behind the hand. I dreaded that part of his personality. For the rest, I had no problem that he would be sleeping with my aid, and together, the house would burst with a certain sunny quality that both had. We had no sun, but we remembered sunshine, and still warmed to the digital reconstructions which so often came our way.
Somewhere, there was a silvery light which echoed the moon, returned to us when we least expected it. It was there, when we woke up at night, thirsty, hot, baffled, a bit like a lizard’s tail that slaps the ground as it lies severed. The moonlight was eerie, full of stops and starts, and then one realised, it was the light from the metro windows. The trains were silent, no long drawn out whistling, no sense of going anywhere, for after all, they only went round and round the desolate tracks. There were no buildings, no monuments, no histories. Information was carried in us, when we died, and were electrocuted to ashes, our memories enbloc were fed into another human. There was nothing frightening about it, because we ourselves knew that childbirth had become another fiction, another way of thinking about something that would never regenerate biologically. Decades had passed since in vitrio had become the only way to give birth. It was not test tubes, it was cloning that won the day. I had insisted that I be buried, so trees would grow on me, and everyone looked away shiftily, knowing that the warp lay in my recurring memory codes that placed me in an old weft of time.
I often referred to myself in the third person, Stella, as if that would cover up for my lapses, as if I need not be responsible for them. “That Stella!” I would croon to myself, as I  went to sleep, remembering every event that happened. It was so important to do that, with words, and with images. The memory was replenished by the retelling. My laugh often rang out into the night, and sometimes, I talked. Anjali, with her youth and the huge work load that she carried every day, did not puzzle about this, because she normally had her ear phones on. Even when she tended to me, as she did now, edging the chair carefully over the kerb, she was singing softly to herself. Sometimes the ear plugs fell out, and in the static I could hear the music of the 70s, the 1970s, as they called it so long ago! How pleasurable, the Jimi Hendrix, the Bob Marley, the Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, the Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens, Englebert Humperdink, Tom Jones, Bruce Springstein, I could go on and on……She would plug them back, and the moment was gone, we were back in 2022.
 Look at it this way, they had told us, when they shifted us down into the metros, that  we were the survivors, and we would live in the stations and basements and yes, even inside  the underground trains. They told us that while the new subterranean city was being built, the plan was to lift the earth what remained of it, on to a giant cable and we would be flung further away from the black hole of the sun, and the diminished, no, the eclipse of the moon. It didn’t happen that way. We all lived underground, and that became our home. Occasionally, we would hear, that Gaiaa had appeared, and flung some stable station half way across the world into the sea. Sizzling and steaming the earth ran into the sea, the people with it.
I was never very worried, since for more than a decade, the question of the world to come had been settled through our continuity by cloning and the mesmerising space of our memories congealed in wiring that matched our nerves, pulsated with them, mimicked them. What was there to fear? Fear was for those who had an imagination, who could think about the future, who had hopes, aspirations, lived in a bubble of time. I presumed that our generation, old, yet full of the memories of a century or more, were bedecked with our sense of laughter, pride, vulnerability. We were indeed human, not yet cloned, still present with our being as God given, rather than Science given. We were the first generation survivors of the world which was reaped, harvested, devastated, reborn, reinvested. We knew the past, not as refurbished by techne, but by our bodies’ experience of it. 
We were inside the cavern of the buildings that housed my two room flat. There was no kitchen, all food appeared through the machine, that was placed in each room, with an incinerator by it’s side. It would be appropriate for the age and status of each person who thumbed their identity into the technology. It would be translated to chefs who believed that it was their destiny to turn the  home fires of their clients into  edible matter, a computer programme, which could be reinstated into the  working routines of the next day.

The fire would burn an electric orange, the dishes would be placed, the food would be piped into the plates, hot, bubbling, nutritious, even colourful. Industrial piping was successful, rust free, and if clients were not pleased with the dreadful regularity of the menu, they had no one to complain to. Anjali pushed my  wheel chair with a little venom over the ridge and it was her ribs which were jolted, mine had been replaced with a viscuous plastic, many decades ago. Unlike the artificial or cadaver replacements, the plastic which was generated from flat broad computers to be found in every house were ever so convenient. Along with limbs, one could print them out according to need. I never even had to strain, I knew the zones by their colour, not by their number, and so had become efficient at replacing those of my body parts which had taken too much strain. The blood swirling was still my own. The plastic anatomical recreations were as eternal as the soul.
Anjali was now weeping with the effort of pushing my wheel chair. I felt sorry for her, after all it was not my idea to go out into the smog, the poisoned air, which was so heady that it made one feel one had smoked forty cigarettes and would soon die. Any normal person would faint with exertion. However, it was one of her duties, and she had to tick a certain portion of the form everyday to receive her due payment. I got up, pulled my turquoise shawl over my head, because the night guard always looked to see who I was, and I thought covering my head, helped disguising my identity. Hair colour was such a great way of believing that one was younger, and I never bothered with it. I walked without a sense of exhaustion, trilling with the excitement of being home. The guard peered at me, for quite a while, following with his gaze right upto the escalator, which was not working. It was a strain for him, but then I coughed, and he recognised my cough, and pushed a button, and we were heading upstairs. The girl was still heaving, sputtering, her face contorted with the effort to breathe. I opened the door, the lights were all on, as the guard had switched those on seeing us falter up the landing. Life was short for the caregivers, they had to remain stationed against their monitors. They really had no way of calling the world their own. The privilege of age was really a form of ancestor worship.