Graham Steins and his children
The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.
–Marcus Tullius Cicero
Politics is nothing but
theology in action
Right-wing politics suffers from a common syndrome everywhere.

It never feels confident to project its own icons for the rest of the humanity, whatever might be their claims about their worldview, it knows that its own icons are detested by a wide spectrum of people.

The easiest way it finds to overcome this lacunae is to appropriate already established icons–who were even opposed to their world view as well and claim them their own. In fact, it does not have any qualms in utilising dates–bearing special significance for exploited and oppressed and marginalised of the world–to put their stamp on it.

The project of Hindutva Supremacism–which yearns / strives to transform a Secular, Socialist, Democratic and Sovereign Republic into a Hindu Rashtra has perhaps achieved near perfection in this kind of politics.
Subhash Gatade,
New Socialist Initiative

Karpoori Thakur
The forthcoming parliamentary poll is the issue. And OBC factor matters, particularly in northern India. So all parties are busy to woo OBC voters by way of honouring some OBC leaders and raising hue and cry every now and then about reservation. The Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] has started taking the name of Karpoori Thakur to claim the votes of the OBC people. Union Home Minister Amit Shah on January 23 made a grand statement regarding Bharat Ratna award to former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur by the central government. Karpoori Thakur is considered to be the pioneer of OBC politics in Bihar. Amit Shah said that the decision to honour Karpoori Thakur with Bharat Ratna is an honour to millions of poor people from backward and Dalit communities by the central government. He highlighted the strong efforts of the Modi government for the development of OBCs.

While celebrating the birth centenary of former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur, known as a public leader, the Home Minister said that the Central Government has revised the list of OBCs. States have been given the right to prepare their own list of OBCs. Reservation was provided to OBCs in IIMs and IITs. This was also the decision they made when allocating gas stations.

He said that the Prime Minister himself hails from a backward community. By conferring Bharat Ratna on Karpoori Thakur, ‘he has given respect and justice to many poor, youth who work honestly and selflessly for the society and those who lead the politics of honesty’.
Muhammad, Bihar

Swami Ananda Theerthan
Swami Ananda Theerthan, a crusader against all forms of discrimination, especially caste, waged his wars in his birth land of Kerala and nearby regions in south India. He was assaulted time and again for his forays with Dalits into spaces forbidden for the lowered castes, like schools and temples. Hardly any of it is recorded, except in the memories of those he fought for. The documentary on this little known reformer, Swami Ananda Theerthan: Nishedhiyude  Aatmashakti, made by Bindu Sajan and Abhijith Narayanan, was a revelation to its viewers, during its premiere at Bharat Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, January 21.

There is a campus named after him in the Kannur University, and there are a few scattered academic papers on him. Yet, an internet search would throw up only a few pages. Bindu and Abhijith, with the help of their creative consultant Sajan Gopalan, were able to unearth a lot more.

The documentary also records his stint in Tamil Nadu, where he followed similar methods to fight caste. He led Dalits to use the water of a pond in Madurai, forbidden for the lowered castes in the 50s, and got beaten up for it, on the orders of the village officer.

A joke about the saffron robes of AnandaTheerthan is that Sree Narayana Guru made him wear it so that he would get fewer beatings since someone in an ascetic’s clothes tends to be attacked less. Yet, his reform works in Kerala put him at the receiving end of several brutal attacks. Swami AnandaTheerthan passed away in November 1987.
Cris & Maria Teresa Raju, Kerala

Politicisation of Ram
Ayodhya is now not just home to yet another temple in the name of Ram, it epitomises the ongoing reshaping of India on the basis of a growing fusion of state power, Hinduism and corporate interests. India's most prominent corporate faces were present in the event along with the entire BJP-RSS leadership and individuals in top constitutional positions. The Prime Minister who earlier used to describe himself as 'prime servant' of the people now routinely calls himself God's chosen representative even as his bhakts have started projecting him as an incarnation or avatar of God. The idea of modern India as a secular democratic republic is fast being obliterated with the republic virtually metamorphosing into a corporate-backed monarchy packaged as a divinely ordained order.

 The construction of Ram Path has reportedly entailed the destruction of a whopping 2,200 shops, 800 houses, 30 temples, 9 mosques and 6 tombs. The drive for developing Ayodhya as a world-class tourist destination has also meant the arrival of the Adani group, the rise of a lucrative land market at the cost of local farmers and farming, and environmentally hazardous construction in the eco-sensitive zone on the bank of river Saryu.

The coalescence of religion, state power and big business is also taking religion away from the private domain of individuals into the vortex of big business and big spectacle. The corridors being built in Varanasi, Mathura and now Ayodhya have led to extensive demolition of old buildings, shops and even small temples. Like corporate takeover of small farming and small trade, a similar phenomenon of centralisation and concentration is being witnessed in the arena of religion too. And the politicisation of Ram, especially in the context of the impending Lok Sabha elections, has even blurred the distinction between a Ram Mandir and a Modi monument. Huge cutouts of Modi in Ayodhya have overshadowed even Ram. Promotion of the personality cult of the supreme leader is exploiting many common people's devotion to Ram to the hilt.
Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary,
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberatio

In the Name of Ram
Ram temple exists at Ayodhya because the house of worship of another religious community was razed by a mob of militant Hindus.

Those who condone this savagery as belated reversal of the destruction in the 16th century of a Hindu liturgical structure by Mir Baqi—who raised the Babri mosque on its site as a tribute to Babur—are perhaps too benighted to appreciate that they are applauding the very barbarism they decry in the Mughals.

The inauguration of the temple to Ram in Ayodhya is not a religious event to which politicians have been invited out of courtesy; it is the culmination of the most consequential political agitation to remake India into a Hindu state to which politicians of all persuasions are being summoned to perform a legitimating.
Komireddi Kapil

Chemical Weapon Attack
Last Friday [January 19], students and community members at Columbia University gathered in protest of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. They were met with a chemical weapon attack.

Two individuals sprayed the students with what is believed to be “skunk,” an illegal military-grade weapon developed by the Israeli army for use against Palestinians.

Eight students were hospitalised, and dozens more needed medical attention.

These attacks were made possible by Columbia University administration that has consistently fostered a climate of anti-Palestinian racism on campus.

These attacks were at the same school whose administration censored and suspended its Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and JVP chapters last semester, citing an imaginary possibility of violence.

But in response to this actual chemical attack and resulting hospitalizations, Columbia first remained silent.

When the school did respond, its initial reaction was not to investigate this illegal attack on its students, but to “scold” student protestors for holding an “unsanctioned” rally. After community and national outcry, the school has finally agreed to investigate the attack — still without naming the anti-Palestinian context.

We must act now to tell the Columbia administration that this is unacceptable.

In solidarity,
Jason Farbman, Digital Director
Jewish Voice for Peace, USA

 Industrial Accidents are on the Rise
In India, industrial accidents kill and disable thousands of people every year. Government data shows that on average, three workers die each day in Indian factories due to a lack of basic safety measures. In 2021, the Labour Ministry informed Parliament that at least 6,500 employees had died while working at factories, ports, mines and construction sites in the preceding five years. Labour activists and trade unions say that the figure could be higher as many incidents are not reported.

In addition to fire safety violations, inadequate training is also a primary cause of accidents at workplaces across the country.

The Safe In India Foundation, an organisation focusing on automotive industry worker safety, stated in its annual report "Crushed 2022," that every year thousands of workers lose their hands and fingers to accidents in this sector.

Many workers in automotive manufacturing are migrants who are overworked, underpaid, and not adequately trained. Large number of workers recycling India's e-waste are underpaid and totally unprotected.

India is aiming to become a global industrial hub, encouraging investment and innovation with initiatives such as Startup India. However, with incidents like the Mundka fire in which 27 people died in New Delhi in 2022 still commonplace, it remains to be seen whether the country's health and safety standards can keep up. The Mundka was reportedly operating without the permission of the Fire Department due to a number of safety rules violations.

The Indian government has made moves to reform its health and safety codes, but some activists think this has left workers at greater risk. India introduced the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code 2020. Included in the code was a change in the requirement for a "safety committee" in hazardous factories.

Previously, it was mandatory for all companies to form a safety committee, irrespective of the number of workers. However, under the new code, the safety committee is to be formed only after a government order or notification. The government also changed the protocols for workplace inspections, in a bid to simplify the process for companies. In truth Modi’s new labour codes are out and out anti-labour. In the name of development and growth companies can do whatever they like.

 "Random and unplanned inspections have stopped almost completely. Now people see no inspections taking place”. The new laws put the compliance bar even lower. Currently, labour officers are responsible for inspecting and ensuring the implementation of safety rules, but this will be discontinued under the new codes.
Adil Bhat, DW

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Vol 56, No. 33, Feb 11 - 17, 2024