For the upcoming MCD elections in Delhi this weekend I will be voting for AAP and urge all of you voters in Delhi to do the same.
There are serious reasons to be critical of AAP: from its authoritarian leadership to many serious pre-poll promises on which it faltered. Needless to say, I have many reservations about AAP too – many of which I might have pointed out elsewhere. But one needs to put these in the context. AAP’s work on health and education has been commendable, and in some ways might remind us of traditional social democratic left. In very limited ways, it has also shown the guts to take on the corporate-mafia-government nexus in electricity sector. In many other areas, even if it has faltered, it has shown flexibility that could at least open up the scope for an expansion of political space for more radical politics to emerge. A defeat for AAP at this stage, (irrespective of our reasons for not supporting them) will not only come as a punishment for allowing the opening up of political space (in whatever limited sense), but it will also put the fascists who want to control what we speak or eat or do at a commanding position. It will be an end of politics.
In short, we need AAP to win, not because they are great but because a defeat for them at this stage will be disastrous.
Air India has taken up the agenda of its political masters to impose vegetarianism.
During my recent trip to Guwahati (in a flight that goes further to Imphal), both while going and coming back, the crew served me a vegetarian meal, since the non-veg meal packs were finished due to “unexpected demand” for them. When it happened for the second time while coming back, it got me a bit pissed off – I asked them how could this happen repeatedly.
The crew: “Sorry sir, we can’t help it. Not a single person in this flight has asked for a vegetarian meal so far, and I have already distributed all the non-vegetarian meal packs.”
Me: “so what else did you expect in a Guwahati-Imphal flight? You fly this route daily, so you must have anticipated this better than me. Why didn’t you pack accordingly?”
The crew: “Sorry sir, this is not in our hands. The caterers make the packs based on average demands across the sectors.”
Me: “You mean average demand across *India*, huh? So I suppose you also pack for a Delhi-Ahmedabad flight based on average demands across *India*? and then hand over non-veg packets to everyone once the veg packets are finished?”
Some other time I would have dismissed this as a one-off incident. But in light of what I witnessed and heard in Assam over last few days:
– the amount of money the government spent on “Namami Brahmaputra” (you see a hoarding at almost every corner of Guwahati) to celebrate a festival that never existed (and which thankfully got washed off due to incessant rains),
– pushing vegetarianism and Ramdev through these festivals, – the preponderance of Balaji and Hanuman temples every nook and corner, many of them very recent construction (with organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s name proudly displayed), etc.
– attempts to re-interpret all traditional festivals in a specific religious form (which is mostly alien to this region) – I already saw some attempts of this in case of Rangali Bihu.
This surely looks like a part of a larger plan. Being a state-run enterprise, Air India has now been roped in as a part of the larger plan to impose a particular version of religion alien to this part of world. Vegetarianism is an important component of this plan. Unfortunately it looks like they might be successful. With state power and financial clout, and of course without a meaningful resistance to this onslaught, it is easy to normalize even the most alien practices so well that a few years down the line it might be difficult to identify original from the fake.
What do you mean by <illegal> meatshop? What establishes legality? How legal are the numerous fruit and vegetable vendors, chhole-bhature and rajma-chawal sellers, chaat sellers, small shops selling almost everything around us? How legal are the Haldirams and Bikanerwalas which the vegetarian evangelists are so fond of – do they satisfy all the minimum wage acts and fire and food safety norms? How about our service providers – from domestic help to car cleaners – do we all pay them minimum wage? What about all the big defaulters to our nationalized banks – did they default legally too? In a developing country, a large part of people’s lives depend on illegal activities – let them dare to stop them all. Why meatshops – and how is this not an attempt to impose the disastrous dietary practices of a small minority of population from a miniscule geographical area onto the rest of us? The same dietary practice that has pushed a large chunk of population to even worse levels of malnutrition than sub-Saharan Africa, and resulted in chronic protein and vitamin B12 deficiency?
Attack on meatshops simultaneously targets the livelihood of those who run these shops as well as food and nutritional security of majority of population. Symbolically this must have been one of the most direct and brazen attacks on vast majority of our population (mostly those who did not vote for them) in recent times. It is important that we recognize it as such.
Martin McGuinness will be remembered for having seen IRA through war and peace, never giving up, and never compromising for the ideals and the cause he stood for, and yet standing up for diversity of views and thought within the movement. Very few revolutionaries can make similar claims.
Christy Moore sings the Time Has Come one last time, as a tribute to him.
Nothing achieves communal polarization better than some action on ground: riots, at small scale – small skirmishes, conflicts which can sustain the polarization without attracting much of attention. What a lot of people commenting on UP elections are missing out (and what IMO is key to understand if we want to counter this process) is the success in such polarization *from below*.. rather than from top. Yes, hate speeches from top contributed, but the meticulously planned action on ground – communal riots, conflicts, at small scale – contributed even more.
Why did it succeed in UP and not in, say, Delhi or Bihar just a few months back? Because in Delhi or Bihar this strategy of polarization from below found resistance. In Delhi, for instance, after the Trilokpuri riots, there was some swift action which prevented a repeat of this in several places where a similar attempt was made. Similarly, in Bihar at several places attempts to create communal tensions were defused. In the end the strategy failed in both Delhi and Bihar because it found resistance from below. In UP, on the other hand, it had a free hand with little resistance. One of its main opponents actually believed it could gain from such a polarization. This is what differentiates UP from both Delhi and Bihar. Meanwhile, much of the attention was deflected away from UP to JNU/demonetization/Ramjas etc etc.
So, these attempts to suggest as if 2019 is already lost do not make sense. If anything, last couple of years’ experience shows a clear way to counter the right-wing consolidation. No, not by forming coalition of parties (from top) but by resisting the strategy *from below*. Delhi and Bihar shows that if this is done successfully and meticulously, everytime and at every place there is an attempt to flare up communal tension, then right-wing consolidation can be defeated.
He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Oh, the engineers would see him sitting in the shade
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made
People passing by they would stop and say
Oh my that little country boy could play.
R.I.P. Chuck Berry
This makes an important point. Lately we have been seeing a lot of analyses on right-wing surge in various countries based on this thesis that political right succeeds because somehow its opposition is not “left-wing” (read statist) enough. Thus Trump won because Hillary was neoliberal, BJP has been winning because Congress is neoliberal etc. This is ridiculous, because (a) there is nothing preventing the political right from offering statism if that was the issue (many of them routinely do so – from Marine Le Pen to Golden Dawn) – but obviously that is NOT the issue, (as this article points out) but more importantly, (b) surge of political right is really because of the victory of the narrative created by political right. BJP wins because they could communally charge up the electorate in the run-up to the elections (you know, a riot here, a skirmish there, some big, some small, some communal abusive pamphlets here and there), far-right in Europe wins when they can successfully sell a narrative that immigrants / Muslims are the reason for all problems. To counter this, a counter-narrative needs to be created (for instance, the way this right-wing narrative was defeated in Delhi and Bihar elections by actions at the grassroot level, notably by AAP in Delhi, but something which was completely missing in UP). I fail to see how this narrative can be defeated by offering statism. Those who offers statism as a solution have fundamentally misunderstood the problem!
Why left wing economics is not the answer to right-wing surge