It’s easier on the liberal conscience to believe that the war in the forests is a war between the Government of India and the Maoists, who call elections a sham, Parliament a pigsty and have openly declared their intention to overthrow the Indian State. It’s convenient to forget that tribal people in Central India have a history of resistance that predates Mao by centuries. (That’s a truism of course. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist.) The Ho, the Oraon, the Kols, the Santhals, the Mundas and the Gonds have all rebelled several times, against the British, against zamindars and moneylenders. The rebellions were cruelly crushed, many thousands killed, but the people were never conquered.
What is missing in such ‘common sense’ perceptions is that Mayawati along with Kanshi Ram, like all innovators and path breakers, has been an iconoclast of the highest order. Between the two of them, they have created for the first time in Indian history a successful party representing some of the poorest and socially ostracized masses of the country. Like it or not, it is an unprecedented achievement. This has been done by technique and strategies that have made no sense to many because their politics is of a very different nature.
For instance, a party that claims to represent the socially oppressed, the BSP has never indicated any kind of social reform or advanced any social and economic programme for the Dalits. It’s party organization structure unique- it is neither cadre based nor does it have a hierarchy to accommodate aspiring next rung leaders. It has consciously abstained from agitation politics to focus only on creating a political machinery intent on winning elections.1 Indeed, were it not for its operation within a democratic setup, the single mindedness of its leaders is reminiscent of Lenin’s insistence on capturing state power.
Rediff has an interview with Ajoy Bose, author of Mayawati Kumari’s biography “Behenji”, as she is popularly known. Some of his observations are quite insightful, for example, this one about how the BSP’s politics is different from most other parties in India today:
The significance of Mayawati is that she is completely different from everybody else in any ways. She doesn’t belong to any old political formations.
…In most parties there is a political leadership structure. There is a ladder which you climb in the party hierarchy. In the Bahujan Samaj Party there is Mayawati on top and then, there are some functional people. You find Satish Mishra, Nasimuddin Siddiqui and Baburam Kushwaha but they are not leaders fitted somewhere in the hierarchy. You can’t say that this particular BSP leader is moving up, this particular MLA will become MP one day. There is absolutely nothing like that.
(Link via Mayawatijee)
Tarek Fatah’s book Chasing a Mirage: The The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State , has been expectedly getting good reviews in the Western press, it remains to be seen how it will be received in Pakistan and the (so- called) Muslim world. A review in The Star from Toronto.
Writing of Saudi Arabia, he says that 95 per cent of Mecca’s heritage buildings have been destroyed in the last two decades, mostly to build lucrative highrises overlooking the Ka’aba, or Grand Mosque.
Lost structures include the house of the Prophet’s wife Khadijah, demolished to make way for public toilets, and the house of Abu-Bakr, the Prophet’s successor, for a Hilton Hotel.
Even the Prophet’s 1,400-year-old home is under threat, he says, quoting London’s Independent newspaper and other sources, for a project known as the Jabal Omar Scheme, which includes seven apartment towers and two 50-storey hotels.
(Link via HD)
A more critical review at the Amazon.
This PEN discussion at the Literary Review brings a focus on a number of new writers from Latin America, and notes how much a big elephant Garcia Marquez is in the Latin American literary room:
Reviewers and readers, he complained, expect a certain pattern from Spanish and Latin American fiction — but expectations of a particular style or kind of fiction seem to be an issue in Spain and Latin America, too. Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez noted that for decades Colombian authors found it almost impossible to get around the overwhelming figure of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. No country, he suggested, has had such a dominant literary figure, and the effect was in many respects stifling, as readers came to expect everything to follow in that same magical realism-mode.
Link via Conversational Reading
Tehelka has an excerpt from Indian Dalit leader Mayawati’s forthcoming biography, exploring her relationships with the men in her life- her grandfather, father and Kanshi Ram. A Miracle of Democracy
In his short story A Hunger Artist, Franz Kafka examined the life of a hunger artist that audiences would pay for the tickets to watch him go without food day after day, especially during the last days of the 40 day show. This 40 day duration was determined not because it was a reasonable number of days for a person to survive without food, but because the owner of the show calculated that to be the attention span of the audience- anything beyond forty days, the audience would dwindle and it was no longer lucrative to keep the show going. A magnificent story of the decline and marginalization of the artist as well as the poor. A Hunger Artist
Ghazala has the original nazm in Romanized Urdu as well as the translation of hum gunahgaar auratein hein (We are the sinful women), a poem by Pakistani poet Kishwar Naheed. We, Sinful Women
It is we sinful women
who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns
The NYT has an article on the explosion in the number of books published: “In 2007, a whopping 400,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from 300,000 in 2006.” This has happened partly because of self- publishing but paradoxically also at a time when reading is in decline. Are you an Author? Me, too! (link via John Baker)
Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian writes on why some feel that while what is written is good, what is not written is still better. Besides, it saves on paper. A reader’s guide to the unwritten