Sunday, February 14, 2016

JNU Strike on Monday 15th 2016

The JNU students have been picketing for a long time, collectively with other unions. The corporatisation of education has been their greatest anguish. Now the caste oriented politics of the BJP has made things so much worse. Why is it that the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar was picked up with out a warrant? The JNUTA is completely stunned, because the young man neither shouted antinational slogans, nor did he support Kashmiri selfdeterminism. The discussion on capital punishment has been going on for very long in human right protection circles. Quite often, people come to JNU canvassing for the rights of prisoners.  Now, we are told that Kanhaiya has been placed in the Terrorist Cell in R.K. Puram. We hope that he can be returned to us at the earliest, as there is no reason for him to be put in jail.
When there are disturbances on campus, because of volatile groups of politically committed students, and the far right and the extreme left are always looking for occassions to be at each other's throats, the presence of teachers calms things down. This time, the VC was new, and the acting registrar Bhupinder Zutshi did not recommend  to him that the proctor's committees be activated. We are all shocked by Zutshi's  action, which was to give a list of  previously prepared students' names to the police, and that the VC was advised to let the police enter  the campus was most reprehensible.
Students in JNU have had a long tradition of training as grass roots intellectuals. They keep an inventory of deficits both institutional and national. They know that they are responsible for the smooth running of the institution they study in. We as teachers have always respected them, and learned from them. The mutual love we have for our students and their ideas, and the respect they have for us is now almost fifty years old. It's tragic that the press barons, who have no respect for the poor and the genius among them, should have used their agents to misrepresent JNU. The segmentalised and aggressive way in which the press manipulated their cameras and showed teachers and students of JNU to be antinational is most unseemly. We can only imagine that they are ideologically or otherwise implicated in capitalism and caste orientations.
Rohith Vemula's death was something that the students were deeply grieved by. His suicide note was a classic example of the genius of the young that I have already stated as characteristic of the Marxist Ambedkarite vision. It is this that the right wing cadres are keen to damage.
The human chain four kms long, held in friendship and love to uphold the great struggle that the JNU community sees as lying ahead of it is a good omen of the self respect and the optimism that we feel.

To kill the spirit of the rural intelligentsia is not so easy. They are learned, wise, and practical. They will show India, that learning is something which opens up the path to greater achievements. Today, they organised the crowd gathering perfectly, without a single moment of anxiety for JNUTA, who participated to support the students. On 13th February, when ABVP members, none of them recognisable as  JNU students, tried to harass 3000 students gathered together, the JNU students were completely calmed and restrained. Yesterday, 13th February 2016,  we felt we were sitting on a time bomb, which would go off, as the university became a site for visitors who came to support the JNUSU, and the lumpen elements posing as ABVP students moved around freely. On 14th February 2016, with the peace march around JNU campus, we felt our own sense of integrity and camaraderie. The FEDCUTA President, JNU President, Ambedkar University representatives all communicated their sense of belonging to an India which is democratic, dialogic and continuously open to the questions of freedom and identity. To lock up a young man on the bases of his official post, as responsible for slogan shouting by anonymous members of the crowd, seeking to create fissures in the community, is totally illogical.
 
On 15th February, 2016, some of the Professors,  including myself, Chitra Harshvardhan, Neera Kongari, Nivedita Menon, Madhu Sahni,  Ayesha Kidwai and Janki Nair, accompanied by some men faculty went to Court number 4, gate number 2, Patiala House, to be there for JNUSU president when he was produced before the judge. We were first ushered into the room, and settled in, and after twenty minutes, around ten minutes to 2 pm, when the hearing was to begin, we were crowded in by RSS lawyers, who shouted at us, and pushed us around, and said we were to leave. The police then  cordoned the women professors and took them up staircases and down different ones, saying that they were protecting us from the RSS activists. They were very concerned, and wanted to communicate that they had our best interests while ushering us along a warren of rooms and steps.
The polarisation of JNU, and its breakdown has begun. It is immensely frightening, since the secular and the religious are now confrontational. The karamchari union took out a march on 15th February  at 11 a.m  outside administration. I heard a woman clerk  at the meeting say, “First, we will identify the students who are anti-national, then all the teachers.” On 14thFebruary, when the journalists asked us “What are your opinions about being called antinational?” The hundreds of teachers who were assembled laughed.  After today, and the expressive and fearsome RSS response, it does not seem funny anymore. The young boy who stood up for the rights of the poor to study and to be liberated will have us always as his Brechtian mothers, for us he is of the earth, and will be blessed for his courage.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Research Team from Law and Governance to Sundarbans, and a Sociologist's report.


Sundarbans  

Settler communities face difficulties primarily because they are always treated as poor, in  continuous states of servitude, and called into the arena of wage labour, because of the needs of the State. The first impression we get off the islands, is that of an austerity, calm, and of an inviolable beauty. The Disaster Management team from Centre for Law and Governance, JNU, had a minimalist agenda, which was to discover whether the communities who live on  those islands have benefitted from the Relief Programmes of the Government. When cyclone Aliya, (or Ayla, as the people call it,) arrived, the people were completely unprepared. The Government officials told us in Calcutta, that they could not give 48 hours warning because the storm suddenly turned it’s path, and hit the Sundarbans. The odd thing about this conclusion is, that the local people communicated that  the weather forecasting satellites work better for Bangladesh, as they have quicker responses to the disaster, and evacuation is speedier. For themselves, they moved to higher land, and waded out with their children, when the water had reached chest deep. They had no idea that the storm would strike so murderously, as they are used to storms, and live with them. The officials say that the lack of preparedness made them create certain resources, including a disaster shelter which includes 1000 to 2000 people. There are 4700 families on the island of Bali. The shelter, as we saw it,  however, was not at all well maintained, and actually was used for storing some metal water pipes, and also doubled as a barat ghar, or community hall used for marriages. The problem with its non maintained aspect, is that in the tropical climate, it can rot, if left in the condition it is now.
Subsistence societies are essentially existentialist. The Panchayat members are very clear that the money reached them, and they used it to good effect. Their rice storage and hay stacks have been lifted by four inches for instance, clay and sludge brought in by the 2009 storm has been used for creating embankments, by the simple principle of filling the sacks with this mix, and then parking it on the earlier embankments. It dries and becomes a type of local cement. The assumption is that these simple measures will keep the water out. In truth, the people live simple lives working very hard to sustain their rural economy by farming, fishing, and keeping of cattle. The children are educated in a voluntary school run by an NGO which also has a guest house for their officials. There is an internet college run by Prasanjeeth Mandal, who is a lawyer trained in Calcutta, with a B.A in English Literature, and also has Panchayat responsibilities. He returned to Bali to look after his parents, as they are now old. His Panchayat membership allows him to play an active role in local politics, and to mediate with visitors. His father’s farm, which he manages, grows the things his family needs.  Rice, vegetables, like cauliflower and beans, fruit like guavas and bannanas, and the new cash crop, green chillies. He also grows flowers for the market. Part of the problem that they have encountered is still experiential, terrifying, and much of how they think of the past and future, both of which are still represented as coterminous, is coloured by these memories. Fear is something they live with. Several people in the islands work as manual labour in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Some of the elderly men on the island, have travelled to Kerala to see their sons at their workplace. One man stood  proudly against the electric pole, a cement pillar, and said “By this pole I can talk to my son.” His deep belief in the magic of the mobile was to assert it’s efficacy. They do not feel that they are isolated, because they are connected.
Farming is sufficient to give them a good life. It is interesting that organic farming is seen as a way by which vegetables can reach Malancha, a nearby town, which is three hours by ferry and two hours by bus, away. The hybrid tomatoes and the large sized vegetables were a testimony to the farmer, stating that he only used “waste” from his fields to cultivate. Other farmers, like Prasanjeeth Mandal, use urea as well. The basic assumption is that “if they work very hard, they can eat”, an aphorism that I have heard from  farmers elsewhere. The organic farmer thus believes that this ability  to work hard is his characteristic, to feed  the family, to be able to hold the property together. Unfortunately, the BPL card is only available to farmers with certified landholdings. The  organic farmer  whom our team spoke to, has land which belonged to a man from Midnapore, who after Ayla does not want to utilize his property, so now it is in the hands of the workers. They own it, but though it is a gift, it is worthless, because they cannot prove that they own it. Bureaucracy being what it is, the complexity of paper work is difficult for these previously landless  farmers to handle.
At night there is no electricity, there is fear of the Royal Bengal Tiger, who does not discriminate between deer and humans. The waters connecting the islands are crocodile infested. The boat only comes during fixed hours. There is no hospital or police station. Trafficking and alcohol abuse are known crimes, and in case of rape, the immediate punishment is to kill the rapist, using the common sickle to severe the neck, according to an informant.
The sense that here are people left to themselves to live or die, is mitigated by the self assurance that they communicate, which is of the essence of being human. They are connected to one another, they have all the values of being alert to one another. The sense of love for the land, and the beauty of the landscape is immediate. It is possible only because the inhabitants feels responsible for what they have. We must remember that  only 200 families left Bali for good, after Ayla. They believed that they could continue to live on the island, inspite of the terrible  environmental disturbance.
The Government response was immediate. The IAS officer in charge of relief operations was told that rice should be immediately provided to all families, and no one should go hungry. What is missing however is the training for immediate response, should another storm arise. The people have not developed their ‘best practice’ for this event. There is no leader, or community management for drill for evacuation.
The resources  for survival and sustenance remain simple and private. The rich alluvial silt the storm left behind has made the fields more fertile. Dr Sajjal Baruah, a veterinary doctor who has decided to settle in Bali came in as a wildlife photographer. He then bought land, has set up four rooms, two for himself and his wife, and his mother, and two for guests. He believes eco tourism is viable in Bali, and that people will come to this remote island for the pleasure of living in pristine and primeval conditions. Dr Sajjal tells our team that when he came as a photographer, to the specific place he now farms, he set up a tent, and slept there, and at night the tiger came and prowled around, had never seen a tent, and lay down beside him. As legends go, it would seem that those who truly respect the wild, have no enemies among the animals. As an organic farmer he has already established the vegetable gardens he will need for his commercial venture. When we think of tourism, there are many questions that we have to be attuned to. One is the problem of regulation of numbers. The second is the question of disposal of garbage. The third  refers to how natural resources may be used in a  habitation by people who bring with them their specific needs for food, toilets, and luxury goods. All three are related.
Organic farming is essentially tuned to family needs, and has been a parallel ecological practice for decades. Once it becomes commericialised a fresh set of problematics remain, which have been successfully handled by Kerala government. These include training of housewives, children and retired people, to practice farming as a vocation rather than being dependent on the market. In Bali this will be easy to do, as there are key agents, such a “labour class” (as they proudly refer to themselves,) who have returned to Bali, and  who will have already had an experience of the  successful Kerala experiment. It involves agricultural scientists providing Bali residents with seeds generated as natural, or hybrid, (but not gmt seeds), and then proliferating the gardens with local horticulturally managed produce for the family and tourists. Those farmers who are able to have greater success than others should receive state recognition. There should be outlets where the vegetables and fruits grown by organic farmers can be sold to other residents and tourists, in such a way that there is mutual benefit. The simplicity of the exercise lies in the dependence of state and people to each other. The poverty of the migrant to Kerala, who live in terrible circumstances all over Kerala, and are  socially reviled for being lower class, is actually contrasted to the very good living conditions in an unpolluted environment.

 Sundarbans is the delta which has been for four thousand years known for it’s fertility, constantly in the making. Tribal people from Chota Nagpur were settled here, for clearing of the mangroves by the colonial state, and by wealthy Bengali landlords in the 1920s and 1930s. Now, densely populated as it is, the primary need is for replanting the mangroves, so that the land is anchored, and the significant ways by which the State can better the life of these frugal horticulturists and fishers. Every house has a tank outside it. The cleanness of these tanks says a lot about how people who live here, respect the water. Alsa alsa, a  fern like moss,  grows on many of them, providing resource for fish farmers, and prawn cultivators. The spawn for fish farms is made  easily available  by local co-operatives, in fact showing inter state collaboration, and is an important source  for fish for the Calcutta restaurants. However, the encroachment into the mangroves remains a serious problem. As often as the mangroves are depleted, the higher the statistic for cyclone and storms which can kill people and dissolve the land. The water, according to Panchayat members is two feet higher than it was previously at the embankments. The rise of the sea, due to global warming, is because of climate change. In so many terrains with seismic zone warnings, such as New Delhi, for instance, people know that they live with risk, but do not leave, because their families and their livelihood is present. It is the same with horticulturists in Ladakh who grow fruit and vegetables, they do not expect to die because of natural calamity. That is the optimism of human life, people just do not expect terrible things to happen them. Disaster preparedness is thus the paramount need, and the training for survival has to start very early, with schooling itself. The Japanese case of rigour and calm is the best aspect of preparedness. As one Japanese delegate at the Napsig conference, in JNU in 2015 said to me, “We are trained very early to know that there may be earthquakes.” At the same conference, a Japanese psychiatrist and his team,  showed a film which showed how they had trained a team of  visually challenged, orthopedically challenged, and mentally challenged patients in a hospice to climb a mountain at a very fast pace, over four years, not anticipating an earthquake, but preparing for one. When the earthquake did strike, it was these challenged patients who led the entire village to safety.
In an interesting preliminary discussion with the conference team, Anurag Danda of the WWF said that he had worked as a team leader for his organization in Sundarbans for seventeen years. He said,
 “Community resilience is a challenge. Basanti has a density of 18,000 people per square kilometres. It has no forest dwellers, no one lives inside the forests. The settlements we see today, are  thought to be from 1905. The delta was still building, when in the 1700s there was an earthquake, which shifted the mass, which tilted eastwards. Settlement was being encouraged by the British, and the result was Henkelganj, where people began to grow rice. In the 1830s,  Zamindars were encroaching, and Dampier Hodges line was established. Refugees from East Bengal were  asked to settle, but then they had to clear out because of the Royal Bengal Tiger. None of the settlers are indigenous. Indigenous populations tend to have an understanding of the place they inhabit. The stable population, as it exists now, is from the 1970s. They don’t have the benefit of Forest Rights Act. The tribals are from Chotta Nagpur, Santhals and Orans who were  called in to clear forests and build embankments in Sanjakhali  and Bali, both of which are Tiger conservation sites, with their lodgings for government officials and tourists.
At the moment, electricity and communications  don’t exist in Bali. So some options are not available to them. As they are migrants, they brought with them their traditional practices.  Rainfed agriculture means that they only have one crop, rice, at the mercy of the season. If the embankment is breached then the saline water rushes in. If there is a depression, then the standing crop falls. These people are trying to do agriculture when the land is not fit for agriculture, given the variability of the seasons, and the possibility of flooding. It is highly risky. Their literacy rates are high, and there is therefore, the possibility that skill development may lead to higher employability. Can we think of bringing land in cultivation for a second crop? Cyclone Ayla is a marker. However, November, December, January are not cyclone months. Cyclone Ayla coincided with high tide. By itself, it was not a very dangerous weather event. Agriculture must be related to Energy production and utilization, and to sustainable development. Twenty percent of Sunderbans is devoted to agriculture, and consists of 2.9 lakh hectare. Loss of 25,000 hectares occurred through submersion, or erosion. Forested islands have become half of what it was. It is locking down people in places. Mohsin has 30,000 sq kms, and it has a population of 29,000 people per square km. People can’t go away, and they can’t sell it, because the land value is lower than the price fixed by the government as the buying price. Land acquisition, therefore, is possible. Sunderbans is a remittance economy. Conspicuous goods, like mobile phones, maybe seen routinely now. Little children, old people, and women are left behind. The women are expected to cope.
In Kosaba, there is  one police station, one Co-0perative, (the first in the country) one college. Tagore visited Kosaba in 1901. Saagar and Kosaba are not connected by bridges.  It has a micro-grid. It’s lines are 11 kilo watts. Its saw mills, zerox shop and ice factory are dependent on generators. From 25th December to 1st of January, the number of picnickers are higher than Corbett. There is no access to the forest. Bali has included a village as part of its tourism project. There are 46 revenue villages in the forest, out of 1,100 villages. South of Bali a new island has come out, but it cannot be occupied.
 While it could be presumed that those who have lived in forests for 75 years can benefit from Forest Act, Sundarbans is an exception. In 1865, it was declared reserved, when it was not inhabited. Human habitation in the marshes has meant that the people are drinking ground water. In Kosaba, it is pumped up from 1800 feet, or 2200 feet. It is pumped for people twice a day, and networked, and is uncontaminated water, free from arsenic.”

Prasanjeet Mandal is a Panchayat Member in Bali. He has a B.A in English, and an LLB from Calcutta University. He said,

“When the flood came, no one knew. After 10 pm, everyone left their home, and went to the school. They freed their animals. Out of 4025 houses, 3000 houses were flooded. All the animals died. Now, there is some advance warning. The whole day, when Ayla struck we went hungry. The Left Front and Buddhadev Bhattacharya were in power. Bhattacharya said, “There would be no shortage of cereal,”  but water was not available, it came from outside. There were many NGOs that came from outside. All the ponds were flooded with salt water. People returned to their homes, after the storm. But there were no houses. The Government supplied tarpaulin. Chief Minister Bhattacharya came by boat and reassured us. But while ration was made available, the extra that was required was not available. And there was no facility for cooking. Community kitchen was started by the local MLA, who was an opposition party member. It was started ten days later. They received roasted rice and biscuits, and jaggery. The children got Amul powder. “
Prasanjeet grows vegetables and flowers for the market. There are no hospitals and medical treatment, and people depend on local remedies and quacks. On 20.1.16 a ten bed hospital was promised by the MLA.  Prasenjeeth said in a meeting initiated at Bali’s panchayat office, by Prof Amita Singh,
“Water flowed backwards after the Ayla. It took a month for things to normalize, as saline water flooded the land. People migrated to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and Andhra. The women stayed, often with their parents. Diarrhea prevailed, and people suffered snakebites as well. Saline water was washed away with the monsoon. The seed crops were lost in the monsoon, but the Government helped in providing new seed beds. The composition of the families in terms of caste is 400 families in the general category, 500 are OBC, 2000 are SC, 500 are ST, and 400 are minority.”
The Panchayat office is well organized, and names of the members and their telephone numbers are visibly displayed. The files are maintained on the net, and all information can be received easily.
Panchayat member Pranoy Janak said, “When the NGOs would come to the jetty, all the people would reach the jetty. Later the Government came, and gave 10,000 per month to the family, and  16 kgs of rice at the rate of RS 2 per family, which continues even today. First the water was continually pushing the bank. When the Ayla came, it burst the banks and the tanks were overfilled. The huge field was filled, but as the tanks were empty at that time the water went there. Poisonous snakes went away at that time, so the people were saved. Two deer cubs were recovered and returned to the forest.”
Prasenjeet said that when the flood happened, his mother was not at home, and he and his father were eating at their neighbour’s house. The flood came in two or three minutes. They escaped to higher land, and he left his father there, and returned to save his neighbours.  By Indira Avaz, all houses are now built on higher land. But it is the Sundarbans, and the waters can come flooding their homes anytime. On anti pollution, there are government instructions. They cleaned the water with bleaching powder, and with  hydrogen tablets for drinking purposes. In this area, they have faced many hurricanes, but Ayla took them by surprise. They are building houses at a height, trying to be better prepared. People help each other, regardless of caste, religious affiliation and even political affiliation. The human recognition is higher than other places. There was no known  case of a person left abandoned. They were re-established in kin groups.  Two hundred families who left Bali went to Calcutta, Azamgarh and Siliguri. One man from Poona married a woman from Bali and set up a goatery.
The embankments have become weakened. After Ayla, when the embankments were low, the repairs could not keep up with the rise in water. Since 1991,  the water has risen by two feet. The people are using NREGA to raise the embankment. Fishing and cultivation were the basic occupation. There was no television, and no mobiles previously. With the low wattage, they could not hope to have TV. There are 100 self help groups.
After the Ayla in 2009, there have been some achievements. Embankments, mangroves, ponds and the primary health centre have been developed or promised. Roads have been uplifted. River Embankment has been the greatest investment at 2.5 crores. Since it can flood the population if neglected, the Embankments are of the utmost importance. The water that comes from Nepal, and floods Bihar is sweet. But the water that floods the Sundarbans is salty and the fish also get killed.  As for counseling, they are at the mercy of Nature, since the storm was headed to Orissa, but it diverted to Sundarbans in the last forty eight hours. People know that they live near the sea, and they annually expect the flood, but the Ayla has  provided them with new levels of anticipation, of preparedness. Disaster Management funding has focused mainly on Plantations, embankments and drainage. However Emergency Plan is a necessity. There should be a classification of responsibilities with a committee. Who will save women and children? Who will bring supplies? Is there training as to how to proceed, if disaster strikes?
 The Governments programmes must each have a disaster rehabilitation component.  The Deputy Magistrate is on 54 committees, and the Chief Magistrate, Deputy Magistrate and Prime Minister are on every committee and have no idea what it actually constitutes.
The Centre for Law and Governance team headed by Prof Amita Singh were very clear in their response to the representatives of the West Bengal representatives that the committees must act according to the Disaster Management Act. The Response Fund must be given to the Panchayat for immediate use, and the Mitigation Fund to be delivered accordingly. Sundarbans has ten government employees, but none are trained. In Bali there is no Air Dropping Funds that have been identified.
Forest Officer and Disaster Management expert, Senthil  Kumar, of IGNFA  said about the significance of the mangroves in Sundarbans
“Sundari is the name of the tree that predominated in Sundarbans. It was forest before the settlement came into place. Freshwater and seawater meet in in the soil. The trees are like spiders looking for food. The roots are always submerged in the water. To breathe, they grow different appendages as roots. They procreate where mature boughs fall off and take root. It it’s high tide, they float off, and that’s where the forest office come in. Desalination has to take place. So they (the trees) have to have a salt factory, which  is situated  in the roots. There is always a fight between water and land. The mangroves act as buffers. Whatever the situation, the mangroves trap the silt, and create land. They are efficient in bio mass production. They also detox river water before it reaches the sea. So clean water goes to the sea. They are also safe fish nurseries. They are also a reservoir for blue carbon. Ecotoursim is flourishing because of the tigers, and it is the mangroves that protects the flora and fauna.  The problem with tourism is that the allied occupations can be disease producing. Prawn production and shifting cultivation can foster diseases for the human population. Kiln industries such as brick making can contribute to illegal felling. Embankments can create problems for the forests, since the trees need normal sediments. The mix of sweet and salt water is essential. Degradation is caused by the loss of this water. Alternative livelihoods are fisheries, apiary and wood collection, all of which are dependent on the mangroves. The major problem is that the sea levels are on the rise. Mangroves are walking plants. They walk to the sea, or when the sea is aggressive, the mangroves walk to the land.  If there are lots of developmental activities the mangroves are unable to walk towards land.
Eighty percent of the natural honey collection in India, comes from the mangroves. Honey collection, with the loss of mangroves will be depleted. The Sundarbans mangroves are beginning to lose their abilities, and when the forest zone starts disappearing, then the animals move toward the land. There are other difficulties too, as the saline tolerant wild rice has become virtually extinct. The Green Revolution reduced these forms of bio diversity. Like animals and humans, plants also become extinct. Some plants which survive are called prototypes. Identification of these plants is essential. Scientific community has to be alert to the decimation of mangroves. There has to be attention focused on State Level Climate Change Action Plan.”
Prof Bhandari  from Jadavpur University says interdisciplinary studies are essential for understanding the Sundarbans forest, which was cultivated since the 18th century on its higher ground. According to him the damaged caused by Ayla in 2009 has shadowed the damages of the 2004 Sunami, After Ayla stuck, it was found that 40 percent of the embankments had not been repaired in 2015. NREGA has played a great role, but the problem of salinity of water continues. Mangrove and coconut plantations can help to solve the problem of land loss. Sundarbans has a total of 580 self help groups. Sundarbans Development Department has all the maps and figures dealing with Environmental changes, crop patterns and land use. During high tide sediment deposits accumulate on the island. Sweet water and salt water ratio is disturbed by the embankment. If we displace people we cannot give them the same employment.The total length of Sundarbans is 3250 kms of which 430 kms is very vulnerable. The local people do not cut the forest because it is their protection.
Suresh Kumar, a civil servant said,
“Mitigation Fund is to  be set up by following the examples of Kerala and Bihar. The Pradhan is the representative for the SDMA. Trawlers go out for five days at a tme, when they see the cyclone, they cannot return in time. Early advance warning system is required for their survival. Relief camps, maintenance, logistics cost the government 400 crores annually. The government spent 900 crores post Ayla. Most of the money was spent on agricultural subsidies. Unseasonal rains and the floods are the greatest problem. 1000 crores have been spent on farmers to mitigate their distress.”
A.K Sinha reported that the Disaster Management department works on an approved plan, so innovation and mitigation cannot be clubbed in ledgers. Training, Mainstreaming and Mitigation must  go together, where mitigation is proactive and research oriented. The team is anxious that having insights from people and administrators there should be a plan for all states put in place at the earliest, which can be oriented to socialization of children in schools, a disaster management plan for reporting and website access. And as P.K Joshi argues, the new discourse is about environmental justice. Changematters.com shows comparative data for degradation of ecosystems all over the universe. One has to be alert about how pollutants and heavymetals from factory waste enters into the Sundarbans delta.
The new practices of conservation which take deforestation and degradation into account have to be sensitive to community needs before it moves ahead with populist or tourist friendly practices. The only way to do this is to engage in continuous comparative research and to draw in grassroots intelligentsia. Nivedita P Haran suggests that there should be discussion of issues at state level in the presence of SDMA , members and West Bengal representatives. The enquiry committee needs to know the status of implementation of the DM Act in every State, and the federal relation with the Centre. Are the associations set up for disaster mitigation, are they functional, and what are the duties and responsibilities of each individual. Does the State/state  have a map for risks and vulnerabilities. How is the fund utilized? SDA Funds are divided in the ratio of 75% for the Centre and 25% for the States. The Committee from JNU  and interacting institutions were keen that the process of publicizing the work of disaster preparedness should be made available to lay people all over the country at the earliest.

Susan Visvanathan, CSSS/SSS JNU February 10th 2016













Sunday, January 24, 2016

Detachment and Faith


Detachment and Faith
The two, detachment and faith, seem contradictory, and yet theologians know that everyone of us live parallel existences, contributing not to the dilemma of  compulsory choice, but engaging with co-existence as a principle of rationality. This relativism is something that sociologists have accepted as compartmentalisation, and the debate goes back in Indian Sociology, atleast, to the work of M.N. Srinivas and Milton Singer, foregrounded by Robert Redfield and his classic work on Mexico . It was understood, in the 60s, of the last century, that when scientists went to the laboratory, they took off their traditional identities and put on their scientific roles,  and nothing was lost. Renny Thomas, in a recent work has argued that the scientists  in India, see no disjunction between their acceptance of religious beliefs, or the practise of them, as these are cultural idioms of the society in which they live. (Thomas 2015) Existentially, how do human beings live in disparate worlds, and come to terms with the many different codes of culture, without creating schism in themselves?
I ask this question primarily because co-existence is accompanied by adaptation, but this adaptation is dependent on a mutual dialogue, which premises the understanding of one another’s vocabulary.  The Sociology of Religion has always foregrounded Comparitive Religion as its most important apparatus. It is not possible to understand religious behaviour unless one accepts the axiom of the existence of the religious. Experience is personal, and yet the vocabulary of believing assures us that there is the component of ritual and myth that accompany it. This is the essential aspect of the religious. Monks and Nuns practising transcendence still assure the laity that the text and the rite are part of the daily apparatus of the believing community. Silence is possible only to those who have accepted the ultimate space of  the transcended, but to reach there, usually the path  taken is of erudition or revealation, both of which are dependent on visual or and verbal imagery. Auditory aspects are fundamentally significant where the participants share the domain of the heard and the experienced, and music is a part of this constantly changing scenario, using the voice or instruments to codify. Experience is the opening up of the mind, and religious people know that tourism elaborates the secular use of the music, architecture, texts, drama and performance of ritual. Thus, they open up their holiest sights to the viewer without distinction.
The Vashista Yoga is an important work that offers us insights into the nature of maya itself. Rather than seeing existence as a delusion, we are called upon to enquire. The mode of enquiry then foregrounds narratives not only as a source of spiritual sustenance, for it elaborates upon existence, and the metalanguage of reconstruction. Because we tell stories, we understand these manifold worlds. Time too, is enhanced by the co-existence of many worlds. The stories are told by Vashista to Ram, in order to communicate that boredom is unnecessary, and our call to duty is profoundly a form of ordering the world. To understand the world, then, we must allow our imagination freedom. What is truth is less objectively defined, for this truth is also part of existence as a dream. What is reality is more elaborately configured. In order to enter the realm of this discourse, we must suspend belief or disbelief, we must enter the domain of existence, because words are our only reality, and action is a by product of words. By understanding words, we may then disseminate them to others, by listening we may proceed to a higher level of understanding.
Jean Baudrillard in The Mirror of Production argues that
The logic of representation – of the duplication of it’s object – haunts all rational discursiveness. Every critical theory is haunted by this surreptitious religion, this desire bound up with the construction of it’s object, this negativity subtly haunted by the very form that it negates. (Baudrillard 1975:50,51)
Whether it is the utopia of equality, or the subservience of the body to evolution, and the mind/soul dichotomy, we are constantly facing abstraction as the way in which we approach the existence of theoretical paradigms. Social Science deals with this not as “true” or “false”, but as representation. The problem asserts itself only when we subscribe to these as articles of faith. Detachment then becomes the mystic’s zone of arrival at a goal, as much as that of the Anthropologist’s.
The art of documentation involves questions of bias as much as it does of suspension of belief. We choose to study something because we have a prior understanding of some of it’s elements. Rituals and communities of believers help us to locate ourselves within the axes of it’s reproduction through narrative or action. Demonstrably, time as memory and time as action are encoded with in it. Just as space can be identified with specific moments of history, modified by events, so also memories are encapsulated within both tradition as well as within the new orientations to post modernism. This is what makes the present so kaleidoscopic, since the time element is submerged in the immediacy of an ever present significance, and the contemporaneous is commonly felt and known.

Rama asks Vashista, “Lord, the infinite consciousness is transcendental; pray tell me how the universe exists in it.”
 Vashista replied, “This universe exists in the infinite consciousness as waves exist in a calm sea; non-different in truth, but with the potentiality of an apparent difference. The infinite consciousness is unmanifest though omnipresent- even as the space, though existing everywhere is unmanifest.”   (Swami Venkatesananda 2003:186)
Vashista tells Rama that just as clouds exist in the sky, so also reflections exist, and as light refracts, so too consciousness is manifested, and we understand existence through these. Seasons, time, space, events are all concealed and made apparent through this prism of consciousness which is eternal. The body is the citadel, and consciousness realises it’s goals through the body. The self that is enlightened then allows for the Consciousness which is all embracing to define itself.
The mind has no existence apart from the infinite consciousness: it did not exist in the beginning, it will not exist in the end, and so it does not exist now. One who thinks that it does exist holds sorrow in his hand. He who knows that world is the self in reality goes beyond that sorrow; this world give him both joy and liberation. (ibid 186)

In this discourse, the role of maya is significant, because that which is real appears as the unreal, and the unreal then, like the waves of the sea, represent the existence of Brahman, self limited by individualised consciousness. (ibid 190). It is our desires that bring about birth, for “bondage is the craving for pleasure and its abandonment is liberation.” (ibid 185)
It is boredom that brings Rama a teacher, and the teacher tells his father that he, Rama, has been born to defeat Ravana.
Visvamitra asks that Dasratha should send Rama to him, and the king replies, “O Sage, Rama is not even sixteen years old, and is therefore not qualified to wage  a war. He has not even seen a combat, except what goes on in the inner apartment of the palace. Command me and my vast army to accompany you to exterminate the demons. But I cannot part with Rama. Is it not natural for all living beings to love their young, do not even wise men engage themselves in extraordinary activities for the love of their children, and do not people abandon their happiness, their consorts and wealth rather than their children? No , I cannot part  with Rama.
If it is the mighty demon Ravan who causes disturbance to your rite, nothing can be done to help you. Even the gods are powerless against him. Time and again, such powerful beings are born on this earth; and in time, they leave the stage of this world. (ibid 7)

For Rama, time is the essential enemy,  for it destroys everything. Time creates multiple universes, it does not come or go, it uses the sun and moon as its assets, and while creating the year and seasons it remains hidden ( ibid 17) Krtanta is the end of time, and with niyati, the laws of nature it subsumes human beings.

What then is the time of the dream? This becomes the central problem. The dream involves in real time, the sense of actors and of transcending space, time and the body. The preoccupation that Ramana Maharshi had with death as a time of dreaming is the real explanation of existence. We can only imagine the wandering soul, that identifies with the cosmic Atma, but when it’s endless desiring is to find a home it chooses the body. Clement Rosset puts it elegantly.
The recognition of self, which already implies a paradox (since it involves grasping that which is precisely impossible to grasp, and since ‘taking control’ of one-self resides paradoxically in renouncing that control) also necessarily implies an exorcism: it implies exorcising that double that poses an obstacle to the existence of the unique and demands that the unique be something other than simply itself and nothing but itself. ( Rosset 2012:60)

While theologies are culture bound, the perspective of the Self and the Other becomes premised on the codes represented by each given theology. Secular theologies are in this sense interesting, because the dictum may be the sacred charter as constructed by citizenry or by the mores and rules and aphorisms ascribed to a savant. The sacred can be anything that stands apart from the everyday, mundane, routine activities of individuals and collectivities as Emile Durkheim pointed out a hundred years ago. Therefore our charters of human rights are universally important as signifiers of how war influenced the lives and minds of human beings in the 20th century.
Thiruvalluvar in the Thirukkural writes that detachment is a virtue beyond all else. While abiding in the rule of conduct, the great are those who have abandoned all desire. (Tiruvalluvar 1989:7) Human Rights is one of the key issues that we need to be concerned with, when we measure the degree of detachment with which we engage with questions of justice. Do our religious views influence our action? Can we believe that what we do is a result of our faith, and that this directs us to act in what may be termed as judicially negative? Some of the most important questions regarding politics and ethics may be placed here. Should we do things because we believe that we are religiously motivated, and others may  not ask questions about their right to believe differently? Clearly, we are placed in situations where the dilemmas we face in our everyday life, regarding justice or reason are placed in a strikingly ambiguous location. It is here, that we are called upon to act, not as representatives of institutions but in terms of collective good. Yet, what if the people want fascism? Should we presume that what the people want is a democratic right?

Resistance always creates for us so many of the spaces by which we rethink our contexts. Faith and Reason are two sides of the same coin. When Durkheim wrote Moral Education, he was faced by the  Dreyfus Case, and the implications it had for all Jews living in France. Therefore, this work, essentially posed questions about humanism, science, rationality and rights. The obligations that an individual had, drew from his or her position in the family, neighbourhood, school and university. The forms of socialisation were culturally given. How then can religious education be the hall mark of modernity or post modernity? How can faith be an equalising force for all? The right to be secular, or agnostic or atheistic is a given in the Indian Constitution, and we see that both Nehru and Ambedkar were oriented to Buddhism, in terms of the charter of conduct. This essentially meant that the dialogue of religions was implicit by the very codes of conduct given in justice and social interaction, and the right to citizenship. For Durkheim, a “religion without God” was expressed best in Buddhism, and yet for Indians, the sages were resplendent in their experience of nature and the oneness that human beings could experience in their understanding of purusha and Shakti. The common language of experience was part of the process of refraction and naming, and Ramana Maharshi was most comforting in the ultimate theology, of “Be As You Are.” The resilience of religious dialogue was thus placed in the accident of birth, and the right to conform, or possibly to adapt to another faith, should one feel the call to do so.
Since Conversion is one of the most discussed topics in the Indian continent, it is imperative that we look at the concept of metanoia. This means transformation of the heart, and is perhaps an experiential concept that goes beyond the statistics of conversion, and the matrix of forced conversions, ghar wapsi or money motivated conversions. Faith is something that is essential to the survival of religions, but it cannot be forced, it has it’s own ambience, and respect for one’s own religion and the religion of the other is something that is fostered. Many world religions practise a particular exclusiveness, and from the Human Rights point of view, it can be very distressful if the other religion is abused. The freedom to worship is like the freedom to work. Marx devised the concept of Labor as freedom, and within that non labor appears as the term by which fishing in the morning, and attending a political meeting in the evening, is accompanied by a sense of self worth, which could be applied equally to writing, scavenging and cooking. How do we reconcile this integrated notion of the body, and the break down of the distinction between manual and mental labour as a form of non-work, or pleasure. It is the conditioning of the mind, that allows for freedom.
Play, Freedom, Transparence, for Jean Baudrillard are still captured within the bourgeoisie ethics. To be freed of work is to enter the domain of work, but in a different way. Does Feminism reiterate the right to understanding, concupiscence, tragedy, tedium, weeping and tears and laughter. The contradictions of existence are now posed in the work involved, to make the invisible visible.
Work and non-work: here is a “revolutionary theme”. It is undoubtedly the most subtle form of the type of binary, structural opposition discussed above. The end of the end of exploitation by work is this reverse fascination with non-work, this reverse mirage of free time (forced time-free time, full time-empty time; another paradigm that fixes the hegemony of a temporal order which is always merely that of production.) (Baudrillard 1975:40)
Within this, he discusses the preoccupations of institutional structures, and how individuals are placed within the frameworks of rules, labor, death and mortification. We may also view pilgrimage, and therefore tourism too, as a show of non work, which is essentially labor magnified. The hardship of non work, of all art forms as liberation is similarly, creation and energy, which is typified as non work. When the mind sees an architectural construction, such as a religious site, or a landscape that has been prefigured by myth, legend and holiness, one presumes that it will be peaceful and life generative. But, essentially, the emotions that holy places garner may be of deep discord, or of dissent, or of violence and death.
One of the most interesting works in this regard is Rodin’s illustrated manuscript on the Churches of France. It was a diary kept on his travels to obscure villages, and to well known medieval churches such as Rheims and Chartres. The manuscript was a symbol of the fear that he experienced that with bombing all this would be lost. Memorabilia of nostalgia and vivid experiences, we are led into both text and illustration as if into the double vault of cereberal spaces, and the mnemonics of space and architecture. Very often, tourism highlights this dual experience of then and now, as well as the hiding away so necessary for conservation. Where Humayun’s mortuary remains truly lie, is a secret known to the archaeologist and monument preserver: the tourist and the pilgrim only know the sarcophagus and the vault where pigeons are trapped, high above the ground.
It is not just the past which ties us down. It is the understanding that the present is necrophilia oriented, and that we are constantly evading the shadow of war. Christoph Wulf suggests that the great landscapes of destruction, both a result of geological transformations, including climate change, and man made disasters bring about a momentum to new forms. How we adapt to change is often a mystery.
Modernity is associated with optimism and the rights of citizenship. Post modernity is much more complex, because new enclaves of metropolis and hinterland relations begin to develop. It would seem that the right to be an individual, and the need to belong to communities begin to interconnect in different ways. Tradition, orthodoxy, and modern lifestyles do not necessarily clash, but may embellish one another in contradictory  and interesting ways. When these become coercive or life threatening, as in the case of dominant caste interlocutors who appear as wealthy farmers denying human rights to their clan members, and all the associated freedoms of citizenship and free choice, where then murder is the consequence (as for love marriages, daughters who rebel etc) the State and citizen’s groups do intervene. Religon and secularism are then dramatically posed against one another. The freedom to believe is not to take another’s life. Khap Panchayats (the conglomerate of male agnates and male elders) are the new demon in post-modernist India. They take over from constitutional and elected bodies, placing repressive law as the given moral good, in seemingly totalitarian perspectives. Like terrorists, who kill others, in order to fulfil a personal and hegemonic dream traditionalists here too,  as in the Khap Panchayats, express their belief  that religion and their traditional customs, are the total social good. Fundamentalism by any other name, murder as intent, ‘honour’ as an excuse, drags India back into segmentalisation and feudalism. Post modernity has to deal with the question of hierarchy and tradition in a way that modernity did not. New media, both Television and Internet have played a substantial role in  highlighting the parallel of ‘talibanisation’ of religions other than Islam. Fearing the orthodoxy of other religions, Hindu elders of Haryana have become a law unto themselves. In a mimicry of feudal practises, women and men are murdered if they go against the customary laws of the clan.
 Maosits too, have become similarly totalitarian in an area which politicians admit to being, now, one third of India. Ideology becomes a total social fact, where there is no manoeuvrability for the ordinary citizen. He or she is not powerless, and standing by the constitution, the majority go to vote.  Places like Kannur in Kerala, which have the greatest index of violent feuding in the country between RSS and Marxists have  also the highest voting indexes (upto  70 percent voter turn out in the country). (Visvanathan 2011 :169)
The dialogue of religions asserts itself in every way in the most compelling circumstances. Part of the acts of forgiveness comes from the families who have lost their kin to annihilating acts of murder. The State may take a stand which is relevant to it’s political orientation, but the political party only occupies the machinery of the State, it is not the State. The constitutional rights remain the ‘right to believe’ and the ‘right not to believe’ as equivalent. These are not contestatory. Raimundo Panikker in the “Mantramanjari” writes that,
Modern Human is a secular Human, which does not mean that he/she is not religious or that he/she has lost the sense of the sacred. The statement means only that his/her religiousness and even any sense of sacredness he/she may possess are both tinged with a secular attitude. “Secular attitude” means a particular temporal awareness that invests time with a positive and a real character: the temporal world is seen as important and the temporal play of Man’s life and human interactions is taken seriously; the saeculum, the ayus, is in the foreground. Man can survive on earth, both as a species and as a person, only if he pays careful attention to everything secular. Otherwise he will be swallowed up by the machinery of modern  society or the mechanism of cosmic processes. Secular man is the citizen of a temporal world. (Panikkar 1983:18)
It is in this context of the blurring of culture, that Raimundo Panikkar  refers to the significance of the Vedas, as shruti and smrithi, carrying forward the poetry of traditions 3000 years old, and signifying the manner in which translations globalise words in their new contexts.  For Panikkar, translations liberate meaning and make them universal, from secrecy to shared wisdom. The utterance is the moment when the author is born, by taking away the authorial space of the text to the existential moment when language allows for new meanings, new contexts, the universalization of this experience is promised. Implicit is the need “to purify our relationship with the text and to avoid any kind of idolatory.” (ibid 12) He says,
Any one of us is the author of the Vedas when we read, pray and understand them. Nobody is the author of living words except the one who utters them. The Vedas are living words, and the word is not an instrument of Man but his supreme form of expression. What has no author, according to the apaursya insight, is the relation between the word and it’s meaning or object.  The relationship is not an artificial or extrinsic relation caused by somebody. There is no author to posit the type of relationship which exists between the word and it’s meaning. To do this, we would require another relationship and so on ad infinitum. When a word ceases to be a living word, when it ceases to convey meaning, when it is not a word for me, it is not Veda, it does not convey real or saving knowledge.  (ibid 12,13)

The central focus of this paper thus has been the dialectic between faith and Human Rights. How can we pursue our right to be believers, (or as non  believers protect our spaces as atheists or agnostics) and how can we entrust our societies to the post modern contexts of withdrawal of rights? Migration histories and climate change show us that we have no choice when it comes to the extreme situations in which we may find ourselves. This then forces us to consider our existential situations in terms of age and gender contexts in which we find ourselves. While ascription has it’s moments of closure, yet technological changes, and digital resources make our understanding of the world so much more complex. This adaptability to the modern world, which simultaneously compresses and expands our world view, is essential. We see the beauty of the world through digital photographs, just as we submit to it’s entropy. What could be more heart-breaking? Many of the resolutions modern individuals make are to safeguarding earth’s resources for future generation. The dictum that Christ gave, in the Sermon on the Mount, so well known to the Gandhians was, “The meek shall inherit the Earth.”  Within post modern contexts, talking to plants, and believing that they can hear us, has become an essential scientific attribute of horticultural and farming technologies, leading to new survival strategies.
One of the more successful experiments in practical wisdom, with it’s empirical follow up, has been how Kerala has ushered in a domestic revolution with regard to growing vegetables and fruits for the table. Women were trained by the State, in classes organised by their local Krishi Bhavan. They learned about seedlings, manure, water harvesting, bee keeping and bio-diversity. Kochi, Ernakulam, Trivandrum, Pallakad, Wynadu and Kasergode for some reason took to the social movement with great enthusiasm. Part of it also revolved around the resurgence of the indigenous cow as a fount of milk and organic manure. The religious undertones of this movement are not articulated except to communicate the love for mother earth. The joy of growing things seems completely unanimous. It is not gender specific, as men and children also participate and share in the momentum of growing food for the table. Part of how we understand modernity is to engage with how tradition reinvents itself. When Logan’s Malabar famously recorded how Malayalis lived in their enclaves of gardens, lagoons and coconut groves, the attempt was to communicate the resilience of an ancient culture which represented this humility, this ownership without partisan identity, this ability to renegotiate with cultural demands made multitongued by varieties of colonialism. Organic farmers, today, do not give up their spice gardens, or rubber cultivation, they grow payr or beans as nitrogen fixers instead of chemical fertiliser, and thus protect their vegetable patches.
Similarly, in Ladakh, the farmers have adapted to climate change by using tarpaulin green houses in the winter months to grow vegetables in the dry season, watering their produce with water which does not freeze as it runs in underground pipes. The work of the scientist and technologist Sonam Wangchuk and his wife Betty Norman is a compelling account of faith and reason. They have run SECMOL, a school committed to ecological values, guided by their Buddhist faith. No story could be more enchanting than that of their committed dream to green the desert. The ice stupa, which is the formation of an artificial glacier which rises upwards, to melt slowly through the summer providing water to the fields is a case in point, of how science depends on team work, and on the detachment that allows failure to be followed by endless trials, till success is achieved. The mystical moment of Eureka is surely when the sense of surprise is compounded by reason and intuition coming together.  In Remembering Sir J.C Bose (2009) one of the Editors, V.A Shepherd quotes Romain Rolland who wrote  to J.C Bose in 1927,  “you have wrested from plants and stones, the key to their enigma….you made us hear their incessant monologue, that perpetual stream of soul, which flows through all beings from the  humblest to the highest.” (cited in Sen Gupta, Engineer and Shepherd 2009:107)
Sociologists never attend to the truth value of sentiments, as much as they do to the fact of representation. Do plants  really hear the people who foster them and eat them? The scientists of the Krishi Bhavan, insomuch, as they pushed forward populist agriculture, programmed their trainees to talk to their plants daily, to water the plants every alternate day, and provide amino acids on one day  a week( I kg sardines in  1 kg jaggery, soaked for three weeks produced an effective distillation, which was to be watered down in a 1/10 of a litre mix). The farmers say that the pleasure they get from the every day tasks are huge. A woman with a vegetable patch among her roses and jasmines ran out to her yard,  while I was talking with her, and said, “I’m going to check on my children.” (Jyan ende kunjukallue nokkan pogua.) What more can one say about the inter-relatedness of the world, or the nurturing ethic? In Allapuzha district, fisher women have now started vegetable gardening, wild spinach and beans are the most successful, they report, growing on sandy banks. They come into town, to see what the price for a kilogramme of beans is, because if they have surplus, after the household needs are completed, and  friendly exchange of produce between neighbours and friends and kin is over, they may sell it in town.  The success of the experiment depends on the time and ardour that people put into this venture. At Alathur, in  Palakkad district,  there is a complex interrelationship between state agriculture scientists and those who have been chosen to grow seeds for distribution among farmers. The best farmers are chosen, and they are monitored  by rural officers to see that they are growing these seeds without chemical interference from nearby fields. The seeds are hybrid, but not GMT, and are the outcome of the work of laboratory scientists who then link up with farmers to proliferate good quality seeds. The basic assumption is that Malayalees should not be compulsorily tied up as thoughtless consumers, with chemical produce coming in from Tamil Nadu in truckloads, through the Coimbatore pass. An award winning vegetable gardener in Palakkad, Swapna James, says in an interview with me on 6th January 2016, that for three years they have not bought any vegetables, and that they receive an income of Rs 2000 a week, from the excess which they sell to a school in Palakkad. It is these successes that allow one to believe that work as a vocation is indeed a religious experience itself. The intensity of love that people feel for their work is tied up with the sense that their labor is accounted for, and that they are wholly absorbed in it. This is the Marxist theme of “work which is not work”.
Feminists ofcourse, while being hugely influenced by Marx and Engels, will not support the idea that love by itself is enough, or that love and responsibility are values which go beyond recognition. This is one of the most difficult mazes in the right to wages debate, and whether it is housewifization or any other form of service, women do look for accountability in terms of the relation between giver and receiver. The gift is the paramount symbol of that which cannot be subsumed within reciprocal exchange, but at it’s outset, as Marcel Mauss would argue, needs to be distinguished from loot and tax. Let me now close the argument by saying that for Simone Weil, the concept of dhyana or concentration was both religious and secular, absorbing both prayer and work.
References
Capeolea, Gil Isabel and Christoph Wulf, 2015, Hazardous Future, De Gruyter, Berlin.
Durkheim, Emile, 1973, Moral Education: A Study in the Theory and Application of the Sociology of Education,  Free Press, New York
Mauss, Marcel, 1974, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Panikkar, Raimundo, (with N.Shanta, M. Rogers, B.Baumer, M. Bidoli) 1983, The Vedic Experience, Mantramanjari, An Anthology of the Vedas for Modern Man and Contemporary Celebration. Pondicherry, All India Books.
Patton, Laurie L.  2005 Bringing the Gods to Mind, Mantra and Ritual in Early  Indian Sacrifice. University of California Press, Berkeley
Redfield, Robert, 1973, Tepoztlan, a Mexican Village, University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Rodin, Auguste 1965 Cathedrals of France, Hamlyn, London
Rosset, Clement, 2012, The Real and its Double, Seagull Books, Calcutta
Singer, Milton, 1972, When a Great Tradition Modernises, Praeger, New York
Srinivas, M.N, 1996, Village, Caste, Gender and Method, Oxford University Press, Delhi
 Sen Gupta, D.P, M.H Engineer, V.A Shepherd,  2009, Remembering Sir J.C.Bose IISc Press and World Scientific Publishing, Singapore
Thiruvalluvar, 1989, Thirukkural ed Rev W.H/ Drew. Rev John Lazarus, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi
Thomas, Renny, 2015, Religious and Scientific Imagination: A Study of Religious Life of the Scientific Community in India, unpublished PhD thesis, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Venkatesananada, Swami, 2005, The Supreme Yoga; A New Translation of the Vashista Yoga. New Age Books, Delhi.
Visvanathan, Susan, 2007, Simone Weil in “Friendship, Interiority and Mysticism: Essays in Dialogue” Orient Blackswan, Delhi
                                      2011, Reading Marx, Weber and Durkheim Today, Palmleaf Publications, Delhi.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ladakh, the Roof of the World


Ladakh and Hinterland Economies in Relation to the Nation State.
In 1974,  as a second year Sociology student at Miranda House, Delhi, I accompanied my relatives,(Malayalis, who were living and working in Quwait) to Kashmir, as they needed someone who would help them in their journey in North India, as they did not have  any Hindi. We got off the train, at Jammu, were surrounded by loud haranguing coolies, and then got into the bus for Srinagar. A double rainbow, like an arc in the sky greeted us at Srinagar, known to Malayalis through  the philosopher and mystic, Adi Sankara’s travels from Kaladi in Kerala. The taxi driver taking us about,  was confronted with a speeding driver, to whom he shouted “Tu Jammu se AAya hai?” to which my relatives wanted a translation from me, for the  mutual hostility it raised in both the drivers. Invectives too have a Sociological explanation, steeped in history.  We lived for a week, in an ostentatious newly constructed houseboat,  smelling of pine, which the owner said had cost him a lakh to build. And then we went to Pahalgam, and leaving my relatives, at the base of the hill, I started to climb the glacier at Sonamarg. I climbed only a little way, but the euphoria that filled my head was the most amazing experience. I was summoned back by my cousin to join the group. I am grateful to have that experience which has always stood by me as the real mystical experience of the beauty of the world. It was on that visit, we saw trucks with jubilant foreigners, going up the mountains, and the taxi driver said “They are going to Ladakh”. The Shangri-La of Tibetan culture had just been made accessible.


Ladakh has been known as a travel entrepot for many centuries as it was on the Silk Route, on which tea and gold were also exchanged with precious jewels. Today, it is of strategic importance since it hosts an astronomy laboratory, and invites upto 50,000 tourists a year. Leh had 44 hotels in 2010, and Kargil is a battle site, which has seen many sacrifices. The stakes of  the Nation State  in Ladakh are huge, with regard to the intrusions of the Chinese and the Pakistanis, which are frequent. The Airforce on August 20th  2013, landed its Super Hercules transport aircraft C-130J-30, at the world’s highest airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh, which the Government  representatives say can carry 100 passengers, and can fuel helicopters, additionally,  during relief work during  natural or human made disasters or war.  When we look at Ladakh today, we know that its integration into the Nation State is the way in which politicians see its significance in the survival strategies of modernism. How can civilians avert war?
If state tourism is one prong, so is the work of intellectuals. By integrating with the communities they study, the Sociologist links up in interdisciplinary frameworks, where knowledge production becomes connected to familiarity with terrain.  The assimilation of others, new comers,  into the society being studied, becomes possible, because of the assumption that  the strangers who enter an arena, which is both a tactile space, as well as carefully  marked in international codes of surveillance and possession, (and counter claims based on previous acts of aggression),  will become the index of its belonging to the Nation state. Ladakh has a long and interesting history, which goes back to the Neolithic age, and though its population was once “3 people a square mile”, typical of herding and hunting and pastoral societies in the past. Today, we are talking of a knowledge explosion, for all interactions are mutually facilitating, where experiencing Ladakh is seen to be the dream of the tourist. What does this say for climate change, and the carbon trail, when there are daily flights to Ladakh from Delhi, with all the major airplane companies?
Climate Change is now an accepted fact of post modern experience. Our life style changes have meant that the earth has heated up considerably, and what are called glass house emissions is matched by the over sell of nuclear energy, whose risks to the earth have been written about considerably. Climate Change is also part of the history of the Universe, so we have to accept that the earth has its own momentum, irrespective of what we may or may not do. The hot springs that dot the Ladakh landscape only prove how close the magma may be, and why the geomorphology of the earth creates its own iridescent beauty in landscapes such as the Ladakhi one. The people are now a diaspora in many parts of India, and with tourism, the food habits and the dress of the local people will have undergone tremendous change. Ladakh cannot support a population larger than the ability of its hinterland, which remains a pastoral and agricultural one. And it is with this question that I am most concerned with.
If agriculture and water  management are not related to the terrain,  which is desert with a riverine ecology, the intrusion of large numbers of people, such as us, is both a hindrance as well as a benefit to the local people. Communities in movement, such  as bands of intellectuals or hordes of soldiers bring with them the merchandise of their needs, which the State has to support in order to provide or to generate the acceptability of such integrational policies and  drives.
In 2010, when there was a flash flood from a cloudburst, the Nation watched in horror while mudslides took over the landscape, and while no tourist was reported killed, the local community had many deaths. One of the problems of tracking climate change is the shift away from patterns of the seasons. This obviously affects the expectation of the people regarding the traditional enclaves they thought to be their own. It affects not just agricultural production, but also the ritual calendar. If it is accompanied by a sense of acceptance of fate or destiny, where individuals and communities enter the dread space of not knowing what will happen next, with a measure of equanimity, then normlessness may not arise. Ladakh with its Buddhist predominance has for long been associated with the meditational aspect of life and work as coexisting. However, with the new lifestyles which are a result of the osmosis between tourists and local population, the difficulties which the young face can only be imagined. Cuisines which have centred around barley and yak butter are replaced with the volatility of tourist demands. Interestingly, Tibetan influenced food, the simple noodle soup called Thukpa has become the star element in multinational star cuisines in the capital city of Delhi. Ornaments associated with the Ladakhis which have been the context of trade relations with the Chinese and with the Europeans for millennia are now back in the ethnic market as objects to be desired. Pashmina remains the elusive wool that is the brand mark of the luxury market. The Nation State will covet the metals of the mountains, and the Ladakhis will fear the industrialising motif of the greed for metals, which make every mountain national property, unless peoples’ movements communicate that right to life and organic farming are the post modern valuables of the 21st century.

Given the complex maze of ruralism and the tribes in  co-existence, which makes middle class tourists lust for fragmentary experience of traditionalism, it is the job of the sociologists to protect the rights of farmers and pastoralists. When change is rapid, and the assimilation of the young happens in diverse ways in the new age fraternitites of tourism and trade and modern education, we need to accept the non-judgementality of the Social Sciences as its first axiom. The morality or amorality of political parties is a case in point. When Kashmir is sought to be trifurcated according to religion, then the secular constitution is  the measuring rod by which the army’s presence or even President’s Rule is imposed. What does this say for personal freedom? How do we notate the ways in which the Chinese and Pakistani presence is omnipresent if newsreaders of Headlines Today are to be understood? As the former Air Vice Marshal said,  words to the effect, “Do we take into our cognizance our own actions on the border when reporting news?” Land which was appropriated during the merger of the  autonomous princely states with Independent India, still remain as occupied territories today, and the said governments continue to infiltrate into Indian territory, to the amazement of those who believe in the Peace process. These are representations of use value for millennia, when we presume that the emotions of feudal communities of warriors are new, we have to remember that over two centuries Tibetan rule in the medieval period was replaced by Muslim, and Muslim, by the Secular in the case of Ladakh. Given that Tibet has been colonised by the Chinese, the Tibetan influence in Ladakh for millennia is now replaced with the idea of the Indian Citizen, and that is why we as intellectuals have congregated  sporadically in Leh for more than two decades to prove that Indians have the right to free mobility in the Nation. Dards and Mon, Muslims, Buddhists, Moravian Sects of Christians, Hindus, Secular representatives of the modern state are all embodiments of the relationship between past and present. The dialogue of religions is one of the important aspects of religious co-existence. The photographic archive for Ladakh, by  Benoy Behl has been well utilised by the Nation State, and the general public, including their frequent publication by The Hindu and the Frontline, in Chennai, with its archaeological and contemporary focus, to show that India is  relitiously multi faceted.
The interest value that the Rimpoches and monastery art has, is further underlined with the upsurge of interest in Buddhism by the middle class /elite, a variety of deep interest in meditational practise and transcendence, while living in the world and financially contributing to the maintenance in Budd very different from the Ambedkarite one. Art historians, like Behl have understood that architecture and art forms represent the joy of aesthetics, as well as the political connotations of art production, not just enjoyment. Gerhard Wulf, of the Getty Foundation in Florence, gave a six month course  in School of Arts and Aesthetics JNU in  Winter Semester, 2013, on the process by which maps may be read from the 11th to  16th century as a process by which one understand the Silk and Pepper Routes  linking Europe, Asia and Americas, as not just trade routes, but a way by which we understand ambassadorial gifts from the kings and nobility and traders to one another in different geographical locations. Mapmaking, as much as gift giving, were often the unintended consequence too of war and looting, which linked China, India, Africa with Europe and what was called the New World. Through this, textiles, motifs, architecture, objects of daily use and veneration, passing through the well known traders’ routes by land and sea, would be permeated by the cultures of the people who made and used them. The most beautiful of these objects would survive war and destruction, and be protected in the museums of the wealthy. Clearly, the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban, and the destruction of the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad, by the Americans is a case in point.  Ladakh needs it Archaeologists, and hopefully a new intelligentsia will arise in this Mountainous district which will represent its own people, whether monks or laypeople in the conservation of its culture.


 SECMOL,  a voluntary organisation which safeguards the interests of herder families and farmers’ children is a case in point. The founders, Sonam Wanchuk and Becky Norman wanted to work with children who were conventionally  thought to be drop outs, as they had failed class 10 or 12 in the regular schooling system, and were integrated in an alternative discourse that prioritised vocational skills such as farming, solar energy, recycling, crafts, language learning and proficiency, accounting, tourism, cooking and so on. The twenty year successes of the institution have created a buoyant space of reintegration into intellectual and entrepreneurial spaces, which has made SECMOL(Students for environmental and cultural movements of Ladakh) a household name in Ladakh. In the 1990s they started Operation Hope, which Sonam Wangchuk saw as an essential need within Ladakhi society, to rewrite text books which would then contextualise the specific learning needs of the  children he and his team worked with. Educationists who specialised in the writing of science and social science text books were called in from Hoshangabad (Eklavya) and from the larger subcontinental networks in South India, including Kerala (KSSP).

Kerala, in a comparitive framework, was able to safeguard its cultural landscape by the efforts of the Nairs to revive their traditional arts and skills. However, with regard to architecture, it can only be said that both Communism and the Gulf Diaspora had no interest in the past, as objects of beauty. Specially now, with rapid social change, and loss of skills, Agriculture and its allied production of textiles (the famous cottons known to the Romans) and pottery have declined, but revivalism of this traditional craft in Andhra Pradesh, by Dastkar has been interesting for sociologists to study. Today, traditional objects are very much in demand and Design Schools all over the country as Government institutions are only too anxious to reproduce the materials which the five thousand year civilisation of India represents. This civilisation, the Indus civilisation is known as the Indo Gangetic civilisation, and is of course a myth which is useful for the state to dispense with, since India is much larger than its Aryanised depiction. However, it has remained useful for purposes that M.N. Srinivas called “Sanskritic Hinduism” a Pan Hinduism, which allowed Kashmiri Pundits and Bengali Brahmins to eat meat, and for Nairs to represent themselves as Kshatriyas, or for Syrian Christians to present themselves as apostasied brahmans from the 1st century, depicting in each case as adaptive to this process. Tibetan influenced Buddhists do the same in Ladakh.
However, the Dravidian South has been extremely clear that its process of mythification of the past also goes back five thousand years, and so the essential process of bridge building of languages and culture has been left to the local communities, and to the emissaries of the nation state during the peaceful intermissions when societies wish to promote the dialogic incentive that allows them to live and reproduce. Keralites have never imagined that all of them will return at the same time, but today, when two generations of Diaspora living and working in India, and also in the many Gulf countries, America, UK, Canada, Australia  have returned, the post modern convenience-flat residences built for them in the suburbs of the formerly quiet cities of Trivandrum, Cochin and Ernakulam have not only brought about rapid urbanisation, so that 60 percent of Kerala is now traffic-jam urbanised, but the effects on agriculture have been huge. This means that  agricultural labour has become manual labour for production of these new high rise extensions, and the rural belts are now self conscious entrepots of agriculture,  dealing with pepper, rice,  spices, and other such commodities for a new market, without a working class population to really support it. Climate change as experienced by the Malayali farmer, who still believes that agriculture is an occupation, and does not classify it as a hobby, is dependent upon traditional artisan and slave castes.
Specialists in this conference will be able to guage how food grown for the family is different from food grown for the market, how family labour is different from recruited and hired labour, and the debates around the morality of farming itself, which includes questions about what is grown and for whom. This would extend from market gardening such as apples, apricots, melons and water melons, saffron and botanical herb plantations,  to illicit poppy cultivation.  In a visit to Takmachik, which has been earmarked as an Organic Village for Tourist purposes, the apricot growers have received a commercial offer from a well known Swami dealing in ayurvedic products to sell their lower grade apricots at five rupees a kilo, and the request is for twenty thousand kilogrammes. The Tata company also requests sale of first grade apricots, price not stated, which will be transported, as easily damaged goods by their scouts to Delhi and Mumbai. The farmers are perplexed by the offers, but are happy that they can avail of the opportunities which labelling their remote village as “organic farming” gives to them. Cultural shows are also part of the package, as tourists will be entertained by the residents according to season and festival. (feldwork interviews, courtesy Tashi Lundup, September 2015)
When people live in the zone of a very young mountain range (in geological terms) do they accept that they are living in a zone of imminent danger? One may ask the same question of people living in the city of Delhi where it is dangerous to cross a road. The task of the Sociologist studying consumerist societies and subsistence societies remains the same, what are the risks, and how do people come to terms with their life choices? Margaret Mead in her book New Lives for Old examines the way in which the Manus people of the Admiralties developed a sense of their own incorporation into the American world view. Imposition by the State, in terms of its various hegemonies, is the way by which it unfolds its future plans, and sometimes the intellectual plays the part of the professional harbinger of violent social transformation. Adaptation is the key to survival is the basic rule of life. The protection of  traditionally impoverished communities, technically called subsistence societies, (which might on the other hand have a wealth of knowledge, useful to the changed circumstances of a disaster prone world) is as much part of the Sociologist’s self appointed tasks, as is value neutrality.
In The Visiting Moon, the protagonist says,
“How tired the earth must be of our constant presence, how much it must yearn to go back to the days of innocence, when nothing was, but just swirling dust. A time it must have been when no emotions rent the earth, when motes of dust gathered and swelled and separated and settled again, when there were no symbols to be deciphered, and no wars to be evaded. And then there must have come the rain, for centuries, imagine, rain, just falling till there was nothing but rain. Of course the earth is burdened and wishes to shrug us off. “ ( Visvanathan 2001:120)
The passivity of people to cloud bursts, and unseasonal rain is a result of their conditioning in cultural terms. Japanese witnesses to the earthquakes and Tsunami said much the same thing, when asked about fortitude as a cultural trait of their people. “We are trained to accept the possibility of earthquakes as part of early rearing practises.”
Today, the State might well be sending in intellectuals to Ladakh, to prove that moon country is essentially a habitat, as metaphor at least. Density of floating populations and the time and seasons of its presence is probably the need of the hour for analyses, since in places like Nepal, Goa and Kerala, there have been acute problems of how to tackle garbage, or tourist accommodation.
Climate change has brought in a new occupation in the last two decades, in Ladakh, yet we know that farming is related to tourism in very specific ways, for organic foods are the key index to the discerning customer of what is most desirable in the exotica of travel. In Kerala, the state provides agriculture several kinds of support: rice lands may not be sold for construction, organic farming is supported, terrace gardening and intensive gardening will be given every possible support. Agricultural societies are the spine of the tourist industry, including dependent artisanal and fishing and sea related activities receiving the same kind of assurance of state attention. In mountain regions, the problem that Chhering Tandup has always asserted is that of movement of goods. How do we ascertain that the farm produce from Leh reaches its metropolitan outlets, such as Chandigarh and Delhi?
There is a problem here. As many as the trucks that arrive in Leh, the greater the degree of pollution. The greater the loss of the natural habitat, and the extent of damage will be difficult to assess. If geologists say that whatever glacial damage or melt is due to activities that occurred 7 million years ago, then we may rest assured that the sending in of trucks to Leh from Chandigarh and Delhi would mean the erosion of these very new and constantly developing mountains faster than 7 years.
What industrialisation can mean is that local consumption of food and beverages is replaced by alcohol and drug abuse, which is always blamed on migrant labour, or on tourists. The work of a new generation of scholars, such as Sumera Shafi and Tashi Lundup for Leh show how increased wealth from tourism has brought about substantial changes in  world view of the youth.
Why  agricultural practise in the surrounding villages of Leh is extremely interesting is because it is new, and instinctive, since with the planting of trees by the Army precipitation is conclusive. a symptom of new world policies. The soil is alluvial and very rich.  Interior colonialism, including constantly, the emphatic presence of the Army,  since 60 percent of the army is stationed here, is not seen to be a cultural colonialism. Protection from China, and assimilation into China is not desired by Ladakhis. Unlike Kashmir, where the Army is deeply resented for it’s very visible coercive arm,  Ladakhis have a tolerant and supportive relation to the presence of the Indian army of which they too are a part. Employment in the Army is a definitive occupation for Ladakhis.
Agriculture sustains the Army, whether it is apricots, potatoes, beans, asparagus, grapes, apples, tomatoes or leeks. Tourism and the Army are two of the stable institutions of the Ladakh region. Kashmiri merchants now face the inherent space of competition from Ladakhi craftspeople and merchants. That pashmina is manufactured in Leh was in doubt, until a new generation of scholars from Jammu University brought to collective attention the presence of local boutiques and pashmina wool curing factory. Surely, climate change is part of the way in which new processes are brought into focus with regard to the dangers and losses that climate change present, where equally, new avenues present themselves. The pashmina sheep died after the 2011 cloud burst because of the loss of pastoral grounds. Yet, the supply of Pashmina did not abate according to the manager of the factory, because the supply of wool continued to come from other areas in Ladakh, who was very confident that he could get his sources come what may.  (Interview courtesy Tstenzin and Tashi, September 2013)
This is the curious aspect of Agriculture and related artisan activities: whatever the nature of loss, the beneficence continues. How do we deal with redistribution of goods is what industrial systems have not dealt with. The industrial imagination is so bereft of the sense of the future, that they do not have the way of dealing with the bonus of nature. Crop destruction is part of capitalism, by letting grains to rot, the industrial system makes sure that prices are inflated. By buying up from the farmer without ensuring redistribution, it leaves the farmer with cost price, and a rupee’s profit on every kilo, while ensuring that granaries burst and the prime minister and the Reserve Bank congratulate the farmers. Surplus crops means a stable economy, since post office and SBI keep the peasant earnings in sync with subsistence agriculture which is generally against Conspicuous Consumption. However, the capitalists look to conspicuous consumption for an active market, and the circulation of money, so they do all they can to disrupt the basic socialist  (a constitutional term) practise of the Indian economy, which is in the very nature of social relations.  Since no redistribution takes place, after goods are cornered by the Government the food rots.  Establishment social scientists believe that two and a half acres is impractical and that industrialised farming to feed the billions is possible only after the farmers are dispossessed, brought to the city to build smart cities which do not include them. Here they are kept in poverty, below the minimum wage, as the contractors subtract the costs of bringing them to the city. The Leh district farmers have shown that farming is enjoyable and that they eat well and have enough for others, if the Army is not the only buyer. In Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu pilgrimage and tourism has been supported through the interlinkage of local cafes with the rural markets of the hinterland hill stations in the Nilgiris.
Sociologists do not have a solution for climate change. They cannot tell the victims of flood that this has nothing to do with good governance or bad, or with ritual purity, or Allah’s grace, or Siva’s wrath. This has to do with geological timings of catastrophes, which does not match human or historical time. While Leh survived the flash flood, it’s town and village councils have a lot to do with the rehabilitation measures. Its autonomous hill councils’ functioning helped the villagers because of the level of trust, and the close and personal regulation of water in the villages helped for further development of its agriculture techniques. Each family sends a representative in turn to sleep by the village pond to control water utilization and possible theft at night.  (interviews courtesy Harjit Singh, Tashi Lundup, September 2013)
 There is a lot that we can learn from the Ladakh experience of organisation and technique, made possible too from the lessons which the local intelligentsia brings to us through intimacy and translation. Such a grass roots intelligentsia is yet to develop in Kashmir to  reckon with its own needs. Painful though this period is, the velocity of distress has its anodyne, the creation of institutional dialogue, which is community inclusive, rather than separatist. Just as Ahmedabad burned in 2002, without any administrative attention, and Delhi too, during the Sikh genocide,  both of which were humanly created disasters, three days, after the 2014 September floods,  the people in Kashmir waited for the Administration and for Government help, including the Army. The Government said, “We can do nothing.” . (interview with Councillor Shafi, September 2015)  Why was that? Should they not be accountable for what they do or do not do? People’s governance and people’s autonomy must mean that villages and towns must have an immediately recognisable task force to generate support during disasters. It must also mean that the State and the World Bank, is implicated in the disasters, (which called Natural are usually exaggerated by human culpability,) when it supports  dam construction, against the wishes of the local people. They must work with the  resource materials garnered by the local intelligentsia, recognise local expertise for its ability to warn capitalism and capitalists of its implication in these massive disasters in seismic zones.
Fault becomes allocated when there are tribunals of enquiry. However, in the case of large scale development, the Gandhians like Rajinder Singh constantly assert that poverty alleviation is not possible with mass scale destruction of people’s livelihoods. Rather than flight from the State, the struggle against interior colonialisms has been protracted. The alternative  view to modernism, is post modernism, which has its freedom to choice, and to resistance of oppression. The so called subsistence societies of pre-modern contexts made sure that it’s people were fed, and provided for in times of stress.  Central Rule often excludes the domination of those societies which are intrinsically, self sustaining.  James C Scott writes that “I emphasise the term political order  to avoid conveying the mistaken impression that outside the realm of the state lay mere disorder. Depending on the location and date, such units might range from nuclear families to segmentary lineages, bilateral kindreds, hamlets, larger villages, towns and their immediate hinterlands, and confederations of such towns. Confederations appear to constitute the most complex level of integration that had any stability at all.” (Scott 2010:36)

In Federal societies, the States are each  given autonomy regarding the choices they make about those decisions pertaining to local communities. Kerala for instance has a Fisheries Ministry, and also supports organic farming as a specific instance of this motivation. When certain States are oil rich or mineral rich, then they become the colonized space of political intentions.  “State power, in this conception, is the state’s monopoly of coercive force that must, in principle, be fully projected to the very edge of it’s territory, where it meets, again in principle, another sovereign power, projecting it’s command to it’s own adjacent frontier. ….As a practical matter, most nation-states have tried, insofar as they had the means, to give substance to this vision, establishing armed border posts, moving loyal populations to the frontier and relocating or driving away ‘disloyal’ populations, clearing frontier lands for sedentary agriculture, building roads to the borders, and registering hitherto fugitive peoples. ( ibid 11) Quite often, Scott argues, the populations at the borders are culturally syncretistic, and they are then forced to conform with the homogeneity of the political order in the plains. “Where they could, however, all states in the region have tried to bring such peoples under their routine administration, to encourage and more rarely, to insist upon linguistic, cultural, and religious alignment with the majority population at the state core.” (ibid 12)
When there is a dramatic contrast between subsistence societies, located in proximity to market towns, with the industrializing motif of traditional development politics, which aggrandizes and hierarchises, we find that local communities survive through varieties of camaflouge. Tradition persists in customs of food, dress and ritual, but there is a segmental aspect, so the coding in of plural forms of identity are implicit. People become home in many different cultures simultaneously. They take on the colours of their environment, merging effortlessly into the work world, and into the recreational structures of multiple societies. This multi causality is represented through coincidental forms of association and unionization both at work, and in leisure, so whether it is the club or the association, individuals know how to fit in the rural milieu as well as the urban one. This is not oscillation but a dialectic. In transition societies this is made possible by the dual languages which are learnt, but when industrialization is complete, then these skills of language and  technique are lost. It is this which makes people truly homeless.
 In this last part of the paper, I will discuss the plea from Prof Bharat Jhunjhoonwala, on behalf of the villagers of Chamoli, where the World Bank is making its loan available, against the wishes of the people, for damming the Ganga, for purposes of electricity generation for the cities.
The game,  for the manipulations between agriculturists and the colonial state in the formative years of sedentarisation of agriculture in British ruled India continues. The rules are not laid down by the colonists, but by the way in which the people demarcate their own borders and territories.
Naturally, therefore, most of the actions of the players in the “game” were largely predictable since the players had trained each other over a long period of time. Not only were the actions of the players anticipated, but each contestant had prepared himself (most of these players were men) psychically for the outcome as well. (Irschick  1994:46)
To be represented in Kashmir, by the village councils of Ladakh is a task in itself, requiring the notation of religion, race, locality, occupation, community and its common subjectivities. In other parts of the Himalayas, the people orient themselves to petitions, law court cases and their hope in citizenship. With the recent floods in Kashmir, the equation between the people and the Centre will change, primarily because the devastation is so huge that the orientations will be to everyday survival. The balance of power rests with the ability to withstand neglect and philanthrophy, both of which are deemed to be ways of hierarchizing the free. Why India is substantially free inspite of it’s poverty and it’s corruption is because land held in agriculture is on an average two and a half acres,  and the industrialising state would love to club it together to facilitate the growing of gmt products under the guise that the farmer with small landholdings is an anomaly.

Traditional small acreage and production of bumper crops annually  is substantially different from Pakistan, where twenty two families controlled the country through their agricultural landlordship.  The damming of the Indus was for industrial purposes and the travails of Pakistan have come from protracted militarisation, tribal revolt and non-democratic practise regarding the fate of peasants and local communities. The gap between the rich and the poor has led to substantial distress, which includes the mobilisation of religious fundamentalists to repress freedom of citizens.
TK Oommen’s work “From Mobilisation to Institutionalisation” showed the success of the land distribution Act in the 1950s to be partially successful since the land given away was usually rocky.  In contrast, what the farmers in the environment of Leh have shown however, is that the resilience that they have as farmers with small landholdings, has depended on their hard work in tilling and watering in tightly regulated circumstances. The village councils have a say in how the water is allocated around the clock. In Palakkad, which became known as the rice belt of Kerala, the water from the local small dam, Mallapuram Dam becomes readily available to farmers in the winter months, not so in the summer, when the primary objective is to provide drinking water to a fast expanding city. The fluctuations of production are obvious to farmers, whose one, two or three crops of paddy are dependent on irrigation, since the ponds become neglected, and with climate change can run dry.(Interview with Agricultural Officers,Palakkad, April 2015)
Emile Durkheim writes, in his comparison of Communism and Socialism, that the former has a moral principle, which abstracts private property to be a lapse of conduct arising from selfishness and immorality, but Socialism is a functional principle of the division of labour and practical economic interests.

The two problems are entirely different. On one side, you set out to judge the moral value of wealth in the abstract, and deny it; on the other, one asks whether a kind of commerce and industry harmonizes with the conditions of existence of the peoples practising it, and if it is normal or unhealthy. Thus while communism concerns itself only accessorily with so-called economic arrangements and modifies them only to the degree necessary to place them in  keeping with its principle (the abolition of individual ownership), socialism, inversely, touches private property the degree required to change it so that it may harmonize with the  economic arrangement – the essential objects of its demands. (Durkheim 1962:73)
Socialism is inherent in what Marcel Mauss showed to be forms of tribalism, or more generally the  collective life of communities. However, in the case of the “Seasonal Variations Among the Eskimo” or the pastoral practises of the Nuer in the 1930s, as studied by Evans Pritchard, we do have interesting views of how social exchange takes place during nomadism, and when people congregate during winter, in the first case, and heavy rains in the second. Hunting and fishing are typical activities during nomadism, and with seasonal shifts, there is a dependence on local activities which are centred around storage and rituals. In the Ladakh region, the storage of fruit and tubers and the dried meats allow people to engage in a very sustained ceremonial and ritual life when the borders and roads shut down. The effervescence of collective life is more than evident. Climate change has to take into account increased melting of glaciers as the way in which the Spring may come earlier, but the long term effects on local habitation are yet to be understood. People do not live in fear of the future, they adapt to the present, and in a democratic system, agriculturists should be protected not left to the vagaries of industrial imaginations, which nullify them by the habit of four hundred years. Coexistence of the agricultural and industrial worlds is provided by the Constitution, which has its Gandhian undertones in citizen rights.
 I provide a  summary of the plea to the World Bank, from Prof Jhunjhuwala who with other signatories, has claimed that the continual damming of the Ganga will influence the fate of the Himalayas in general. They write to the Executive Secretary of the Inspection Panel of the World Bank, that the Pipalkoti project will change their lives because the “joys of a free flowing river” cannot be estimated. Further, the river does not flow past boulders in the case of damming, and will lose its medicinal and therapeutic qualities. According to the petitioners, the people living in Chamoli district, on the banks of the Alaknanda Ganga will not have access to fish and sand, as resources for their livelihood. The Cheer Pheasant, an endangered bird will go extinct. The release of water at odd times during the day for generation of electricity will affect the lives of people who belong to a riverine civilisation and are dependent on nature for their livelihood.  Houses which are near the dam develop cracks because of the force of construction and water flow in the tunnels and pipes. Accumulation of silt affects the lives of communities who are dependent on the river such as fishers and pastoralists. The collection of silt can affect the social and religious life of people who can no longer bathe or pray, or collect water. The aquatic life, both plants and animals becomes disturbed. Very often, the rivers run dry. The dust from construction pollutes every thing. Workers live in terrible conditions. Disease becomes rampant.  Women and children lose their freedoms. The earthquakes further damage the hollowed out mountains, causing landslides and death. The 2013 floods in Uttarakhand were a consequence of ravaged hillsides for short term gains, in a seismic zone. Water sources are drying up, rivers are degraded to the point of becoming extinct. Heat from construction sends up the indexes of global warming. The increase in populations due to construction and deforestation leads to the mass loss of habitat for animal populations which begin to wander causing threat, in turn, to local communities and habitats. Worst of all, there is silence on the part of bureaucrats, and the people are kept out of information and discussion. (Jhunjhunwala 2013, petititon to World Bank)

As the contents of the letter show, the real questions we need to ask are about the management of our rivers as commons. The Indus is dammed substantially in Pakistan, where it flows in India, it has become both a ritual site for Hindus asserting identity politics, as well as for the urbane leisured class who looks forward to playing golf in the highest reaches of the Himalayas. (fieldwork interviews, courtesy Suresh Kumar, September 2013) How do we understand these cultural uses? Do we have a say in the right to life, and the right to traditional grazing grounds. As Scientists and Social Scientists, may we presume that people’s liberties are of the most importance, and by writing about them we delay their extinction or forced assimilation.

In a fieldwork based study organised by Renoj Theyyam, in September 2013, Gergen, Susan, Nasreen, Konchak, Vishwa, Sandeep, Tashi, Revant, Ramesh, Amit and Morup visited Sabu Village on the outskirts of Leh, which had been damaged by the cloud burst in 2011. One of the farmers, George, had worked for the Army and also for All India Radio and his memory was of severe winters upto 1974, where the temperature went to minus 30 and 34. Since 1990 there were no more cold winters, and if the mercury went below 20 or 22 degrees minus, it was only for two or three days. The temperature averaged minus 10 degrees or 20 degrees  Centigrade. Earlier there was lots of snowfall. There would be one or one and a half degrees of snow. It would remain in the fields until end March after which it would melt. Today, the snowfall is five inches, and the next day it would melt. Rainfall patterns too had changed. Rain does fall, though it is a high altitude desert. The normal rainfall in summer time was one or two hours during July and August, and occasionally heavy rainfall, which today is proving to be a national calamity as in 2011 and 2013. While the Army and National Government responded in 2011, yet in 2015 it did not act, leaving it to the Autonomous Hill Council. As the tourism Minister, Shafi Lasu told me in an interview on 5th September 2015,
The problem with climate change and unseasonal rain is that there is vast destruction and loss. In the 2011 floods many people came to see and we got a lot of attention. Rehabilitation was so quick. The Council has no money, the Relief has to come from the State and the Centre. It can only co-ordinate. However, the people too, are not ready to adapt, to make the changes required to survive climate change. I was in charge of Sharah village in Nei. In Phulktse, there was a small quantum of flood. One of the houses was partially damaged. The question to the victim was “How many times has your house been damaged?” I told him to shift or allow us to dig a channel. The man said, “I have only this field.” After a few days, it was totally flooded out, and the house swept away. I told him “We will allot you land on the other side, with the permission of the Sarpanch and the Councillor. Under the Indra Awaz yojana, you will receive 75,000 rupees, and while you are waiting for it, we will allot you 50,000 rupees from the Council.”
The Border people need to be secure, only then can the country be prosperous. With the 2015 floods which  were much worse than the 2011 floods, there was no attention from the medical fraternity or from the Government, though it was widespread, covering all of Ladakh. Deaths were few, but the losses to farmers were huge. There has to be some accounting, particularly since the people make so many sacrifices. The UPA opened a route to the Pangong area. A policy was initiated PWDS 12, where the Border people get tents, shoes, repairs of houses, feed banks for cattle donkeys, goats in ice locked areas.
The border is osmotic for the Chinese, because they treat it like that. They allow people to cross from either side, which the Indian army does not. The Indian army regulates border crossing. In winter, the Chinese cross the Pangong Lake on ice with their herds, and they take over lands and settle there.

As George and his wife Odzin experienced, in the cloud burst of 2011, the winters are changing rapidly. Mild winter is followed by a severe Spring. Since the last ten years, February and March gets very cold till May. Spring has become cold and year dry. In the Flood Year of 2011, the snow did not melt till 23rd of June. Then suddenly, it was very hot. The water melted rapidly. On 23rd of June, their septic tank was empty. Septic tank lies 9 feet below ground. Normally, in March, it gets warm, and the ice slowly melts, and there is good water for irrigation. After 23rd of June , it becomes hot, and the water comes for irrigation. After 23rd June, that year, two septic tanks below 10 feet were full, and there was excess water. Too much water inundated, but crops were not destroyed. The underground tanks absorbed the water. With the help of the motor, the water was pumped out. On 5th of August 2011, a thunderbolt never seen before was heard, lightening was so bright, a needle could be found. The flood came from the Manali road side. At two minutes to midnight, the was KHddddd, strong wind, loud noise, water falling through the chimney. Peter came into the garden to collect a container and was knee deep in water. Behind the house, the tourist resort he runs was swallowed up in a river of water, and the two Nepali guards were drowned. In 1969, there was a cloud burst in Nimu, and in 1974 in Piang village. In this cloud burst, the Government felt no responsibility for commercial aspect of people’s losses. They aided in removing the silt, and gave a lakh of rupees as compensation.
Peter believes that the cloud burst is an aspect of climate change because of the green house effect. He strongly feels that the traditional nalla  allowed the water to flow away, but now the nallas are all blocked and filthy. Encroachment, and the use of nalla by tourist and migrants for bathing, spitting and defaecating, as well as throwing garbage has hugely damaged the environment. The nallas are no longer used for drinking, and people use underground water or spring water for domestic purposes. With the flood of 2011, the nallas  were destroyed, but Government gave money to repair them, and installed hand pumps for local use. Inspite of Sabu having been adopted by former President Abdul Kalam, no help was received. There is a huge amount of water that naturally flows into the Indus without causing harm. During years of the flood, the excess water does not drain off, causing immense loss.
Informants in Ladakh often talk about the chorspon, which is a unique source of water management. March, April and May are the growing season, and it is also the time of scarce water. In the traditional system each family would send a representative to guard the water at night and to operate the channels, so stealing water was not common, because of the tightly regulated system of water use. Four people were chosen from the village, and each is sent out to each house and their duty is to tell the members on which day the water will come to the field. In the 1970s, according to Peter, there was a problem in the peak season from May to the 21st of June. Those growing vegetables had a difficult time. The vegetables grown in Leh are cabbage, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, radish and carrot. Peter used to supply the army with potatoes, wheat, barley and peas. He no longer grows vegetables for sale, as it is consumed in the house and the rest house he runs. Leh market is to slow for him, kilo by kilo is not possible, so he works with an agent who give him half the cost, and keeps the rest. Climate change has not affected his income, as the resort is functional, and guests keep coming in. Cows have enough fodder, but because of the floods, grazing has become difficult, so the cows stay in and are fed dry grass.  He pursues the same occupation as his parents. In this village, Sabu, the crop pattern has not changed. Zho are used for ploughing. For threshing, the cattle are tied with rocks, and go in circles, taking 15 to 20 days. If a threshing machine were used, then it would take a few hours. He does use a tractor for ploughing. He has stopped planting trees every year, for the poplars have become diseased. He does not want to introduce new plants, and he does not encourage NGOs. He wants fencing by trees to be provided by the forest department, and as for six feet of debris brought by the floods, he does not know how to dispose of it.
Stenzin Doma, aged 80 describes climate change as fluctuation in weather, where autumn has now become very cold, and harvesting takes place. She says that earlier, in winter, the leaves would shed from the boughs, but now they stay on, and the snow is only ½ feet on the ground. In the earlier times, everyone would go for grazing their sheep, cows, yaks and goats, but now, because children go to school, they do not. She has one cow, and one ox. In the summer they take them where there is water. Thirty or forty years ago, they would graze their cattle in summer in another part of the Nubra and in Shok. For her climate change is perceptible, as it is currently very hot weather, and winters too are warm. Earlier water was more than sufficient, but now, due to divergence of water, it is less, in Spring and Autumn, but there is more water in winter. Because there are these changes, there is a lot more fighting for water. Earlier, there was no fighting. With the Sorpon, there is equal distribution. People sleep near the water to protect it from theft. While there is an increase in material comfort, with technological innovations, there is a lack of mental comfort. After the (2011) floods, the government is rebuilding the channels and ponds. There has never been a problem with fodder in Sabu village, as there is a lot of alfa alfa and grasses. Since there is a lot of house construction, the materials come from outside, so education and jobs are important, and salaries are essential.
Tsering Chonzum (age 60) says that in the old days they only grew palak, but now there is ‘everything”. Hot weather now, so more things grow, seedlings are sometimes brought from Lahaul Spiti and other places. Rainfall is very scanty, but now the rain falls regularly and very heavily in the summer months. In hot weather, water is more, because “ice” melts. Glacier is there in winter, it is snow that melts slowly. Climate change has increased village production of vegetables. In dry weather, they are dependent on government subsidies. She has property in Leh, and runs a guest house. She says, till five years ago, they had goats and sheep, for wool and manure, but now she has only buffalos. The floods left behind a lot of debris, making cultivation difficult, and the sorpon in Leh is in deficit. In Sabu, they are buying barley and wheat husk from Eastern Ladakh villages. Very few houses are keeping cows, since most have government jobs. Trees are being planted substantially. Earlier, only one home had an apple tree, but now everyone has apple trees. Saplings were brought from the western part of Ladakh, but now they buy saplings from Ley. Previously, they ate barley, with palak soup, but now everything is available. Wheat, rice and noodles are plentiful in the shops. There is a rice subsidy from the Government. Army introduced them to sweet tea. There has been an army camp in the vicinity for thirty years. There used to be heavy snow fall in Khardulanga, so the army used to settle in the Leh region. In Leh, they have a guest house. Their children are guides, cooks, helpers. In Leh they  have vegetables for their use, and also to sell in the Leh market. In Sabu, they sell through their agent for fifty percent of the whole value. After, the floods, Indians started arriving, though earlier, their guests were mainly foreigners.
Tsering Angchuk (age 50) says that in the hot weather, glaciers are melting. In Sabu, there was a glacier, but what we see now, is snow. Earlier 3 ½ feet of snow fell every winter. Because of climate change, cement and bricks are being used. Traditionally, people wore woollen clothes through the seasons, and old people continue to do so even now. The roof was low, houses small, and heat retained as the buildings were made of clay and wood. Greening of the Himalayas and global warming together are affecting Himalayas. In the last two or three years, rainfall is more, snow is less. The downside of the streams are drying, because they were glacier dependent. In the Spring, water is low, wheat barley, peas, potatos, all vegetables are grown. His father had goats and sheep. Now he has only cows. He sells potatoes to the army at Rs 22 a kg. His family was not affected but his grazing land, fields and all his trees were washed away. Government has been repairing, no money was received, but repairs were done.
Yangchin Dolma (age 42) asserts that with climate change, temperatures are rising, and sometimes go up to 37 degrees or 38 degree C. In the same season, June or July, there can be substantial temperature variations, sometimes, very hot, and sometimes very cold.
When she was six or seven years old, there was a sudden change in crops, and the family started growing potatoes, wheat, barley, mustard and rajma, beans, lauki, brinjal, chilli, tomato. In the early days, they grew turnip, palak ( spinach) and carrot. Their income has increased. They sell vegetables and fruit to the Leh Bazaar, and potatoes and onions to the army. They hire a jeep in June and July every day because of the tourist season. She sets out in the afternoon after lunch and returns at 9 pm. Her son and daughter milk the cow and cook the food. When the floods happened, they did not know, as they were far from the street. Main river had been diverted in to channels, and now the main river has dried. They only knew in the morning that there had been a flash flood, for in the night they thought it had been heavy rain.
Sonam (age 41)  describes his youth as a time when the snow was plentiful, and ice would form when they put their foot in the river. He would ski twenty or thirty years from Sabu to Cholamdir. The roads were covered with ice. Temperatures have increased in the last twenty to thirty years.  There is increasing rainfall in last five or six years. There is no continuity. It just suddenly falls. After the cloud burst, there is trauma and fear. When the flood came, they ran away in the jeep. The neighbours could not run, and half their family members and the house were washed away. For water, they are dependent on the snow. This winter, the snow was good, more than expected. Due to the sorpon, he gets water, even if, he is far away form water. In the Spring there is scarcity of water. For the drinking water, Government is making a pond, from which pipes will take water to the houses. The Council advises the PWD. In the flood, he loses Zho and Buffalos. He borrows his neighbours Zho for ploughing. There are 120 Zho in Sabuk village. His wife sends his children to the school and helps him four days during the harvesting season. When he was young they had goats and sheep, and they took them for grazing to the mountains. They got milk, wool for Ladakhi garments, but now they buy from the markets. His mother weaves, and so does his wife. Men also weave the chali or goat’s wool blankets. He sells potatoes to the army for Rs 15 a kg, it was difficult to earn much. Earlier, it was 30 or 35 rupees per kilo, but now everyone sells cheaply. Fertile land makes for excellent Sabu potatos. Other villagers are coming to Sabu for seeds. Since his forefathers’ time, potatoes have been grown in Sabu, but with climate change, apples, other fruit and vegetables have come in.


Zahoor (24)  says that his mother’s sister was washed away, his cousin sister died, her mother died. After the flood, there was heavy rainfall in mid July. In May there is scarcity of water, because the glaciers melt slowly. Ladakh council came immediately to help them, when there was a cloud burst. They had all fled to the hills, and none of them had footwear. Tents were put up. Food was cooked with the help of volunteers. Life returned to normal after twenty five days, wetlands returned to normalcy, those who lost houses are only recovering their properties now. The family grows potatos, capsicums, cucumbers, gourds and melons, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, onion. When there is too much rain, they stay home, the plants are not affected. There are four sapons in Sabu, so there is no shortage of water. They had sheep and goats then years ago, thirty two, or forty two. They kept them for manure and wool for winter clothing and chali, for making rope. They bought meat when needed from market. Earlier they bought sampa, but now they buy bread and maggi. In the village there is self sufficienty upto summer and autumn. Soaps and cloth are purchased from Leh. They go thrice a week by bus. Parents sell potatoes, onions, carrots at Leh market.
Dolka (30) says that there are less bukharis in use now, and more electrical light with solar panel. She had come from Phiang village six years ago, because there was a scarcity of water there. In Sabu, because of sorpon, there is enough water. In Sabu, they pay upto 30,000 or 40,000 rupees for monitoring the water. The pond is filled twice a year. Every fourteen days, water comes to her field. In the winter, government supplies taps, but only handpumps and spring water is actually available. Water does not freeze now. Because of increased use of handpump the spring is drying up. Tomato, potato, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, brinjlas, wheat are easily cultivated. Those who have green houses grow vegetables in winter. They have social forestry in the village, but they are drying so no one is looking after them. Not much impact. She was in the house during the flood, went out in the morning.

From all the accounts above, it is clear that Spring and Summer bring a paucity of water. To counter this, Dr Gergen had innovated with a traditional method of creating a bund high up in the mountains, and blocking off the water, so that it would freeze in winter, and gradually melt to allow the water to channel into the fields in Spring. Sonam Wangchuk, with the help of the local monastery in Phiang village, well known for its drought and desert conditions has put in place the ice stupa, an artificial glacier, which saw success on March 5th 2015, though it had many obstacles in its path. The students of SECMOL, were supportive, and helped Sonam Wangchuk to put the paraphernalia in process. In February, having found that the underground pipes had cracked because of the cold, they began the digging of trenches once more, in severe weather, but the water did flow through the pipes, and emerged as a fountain, which froze on contact with the air. When March came the ice stupa melted gradually, providing water to the fields. The plan is now to introduce six ice stupas in 2016. From the melted ice, in Spring 2015, the SECMOL students planted 5300 saplings of which 5000 survived. The
future plans for Phiang, known for desert conditions, and occasional violent flooding of rivulets, is a  solar township, the nucleus of which is a University. The optism of the Ladakh people lie in their ability to safeguard their legacy, through community and political processes, while turning to India for administrative responses.
Acknowledgements: Cherring Tandup, Tashi Lundup,  Morup, Sumera Shafi, Suresh Babu, Renoj Theyyan, Harjit Singh,  Devinder Singh, Becky Norman, Sonam Wangchuk, Rinchen  Dolkar, Nikki Stanzin Yangsit,  SECMOL students and the entire student team from Jammu University, for their hospitality and kindness and friendship, many thanks! Also my family and friends, for the support at all times.

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