Sunday, February 14, 2010

Erich Fried's Was es ist?

What it is

It is nonsense
says reason
It is what it is
says love

It is misfortune
says calculation
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It is hopeless
says insight
It is what it is
says love

It is ridiculous
says pride
It is careless
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says love

(translation M. Kaldenbach) 

This is its much beautiful original, without offense to Kaldenbach's beautiful rendering: 

Was es ist

Es ist Unsinn
sagt die Vernunft
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe

Es ist Unglück
sagt die Berechnung
Es ist nichts als Schmerz
sagt die Angst
Es ist aussichtslos
sagt die Einsicht
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe

Es ist lächerlich
sagt der Stolz
Es ist leichtsinning
sagt die Vorsicht
Es ist unmöglich
sagt die Erfahrung
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe 

Guru does it again!

This is yet another ripping-apart Kancha Ilaiah is known for. With characteristic clarity and his well-known(and widely-hated) instinct for going beyond the appearances, propaganda and jubilation, he follows up his earlier analyses of Telangana movement.  This is a story of a betrayal foretold.

Published on Deccan Chronicle (

Telangana dream sours

Feb 13 2010
The movement for Telangana has now touched a peak. It has also become a movement with unique characteristics. Masses belonging to all walks of life have come out to the streets with their cultural symbols. We can see dalit-Bahujans beating drums and dholaks, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) with their ploughshares and bullock carts, shepherds with their flock, toddy tappers with their moku (rope assembly used to climb palm trees) and muttadu (the belt they wear to keep their hatchet) and stone-breakers with their own iron artefacts.
The festive game of Bathukamma (a women’s festival celebrated mainly during Dasara, pro-Telangana activists are performing the Bathukamma on the highways as a form of protest and to highlight their Telangana identity) was also enacted. It was being projected as a cultural symbol.
During the age of Nizam, Bathukamma used to be enacted by the Shudras — mostly OBCs. Dalits were not allowed to participate as they were seen as pollutants even by the OBCs of lower order. And the upper caste women — particularly Brahmins, Komatis, Reddys and Velamas — would not participate as it was seen as a Shudra festive game. They thought it was below their dignity.
Now suddenly some Dorasanlu (women of dominant castes) went to this play as a symbol of the agitation. Is it for Telangana or for power?
The most interesting thing is that while the lower castes are using their cultural symbols to achieve a separate Telangana, the members of former feudal families are playing the politics of agitation. We also see a surprising unity between some Reddy and Velama political lords.
The whole attempt by these two caste forces is to control the political joint action committee (JAC) that is driving the Telangana agitation. Some academicians have also been drawn in to mediate between those two otherwise politically warring castes.
It is as if the stereotype of future Telangana is being played out — “We will play politics and you should play Dhoom Dham, Bathukamma and drums”.
And some of these leaders are collecting huge amounts of money, mostly to build their family’s “political economy” while distributing pittance to ring leaders from the lower castes.
As the balladeer Gaddar rightly says “kanche kaada nuvvu, collection kaada neenu” (you should protect the fields and I will reap the crops). But some intellectuals keep on saying, “Let us not talk about any immorality — after all to achieve Telangana such small things need to be done”.
The most surprising aspect in the movement is the entry of the Maoist upper caste elements in this “more collection, less distribution” model of political economy.
In the name of achieving Telangana all ideological battles have been set aside. One upper caste Maoist intellectual went to the extent of saying that the JACs from village upwards were working like “Maoist communes”.
What this really means is that the sons — even some daughters — of upper caste landlords have come back to the villages to head and lead the JACs by “usurping” the legitimate village sarpanchs. Now Telangana has come under the raj of the upper caste JACs.
Some former Maoist activists have become leaders of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and are praising their leader for conducting Yajnas, Yagas and Kratus in the party office. He also walks around with a huge Bal Thackeray type bottu (tilak) on the forehead and they seem to be enjoying the neo saffron style of the leader.
But the Muslims are scared of these visuals and the Bharatiya Janata Party probably sees a new rival in the region if it becomes a state.
The emergence of the Shiv Sena or of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena kind of political entity in the region does not seem to be a problem for the Maoists and they too seem to think that there is just one point agenda — we must achieve Telangana and hand over power to “our people”.
What really worries all of them is the student movement mainly headed by the dalit-Bahujan youth. This has become an inconvenient factor. There is competition to buy them off or to make them foot soldiers.
There is a resistance from the students but one does not know for how long the youth can sustain that resistance.
We also see the political JAC compromising with Centre and welcoming the Srikrishna Committee without it making any reference to Telangana state formation. Mr K. Jana Reddy welcomes the committee and K. Chandrasekhar Rao approves it in silence. The Telugu Desam keeps playing the double game quite skillfully. The Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, is doing some arm-twisting as he has a clear understanding about “the unholy alliance between Maoists and money collectors”.
What is really painful are the deaths of about 300 youth and the cases lodged against 10,000 students.
All these parties together have done is to put forth a chekka bomma — a wooden doll — to speak for them.
For the failure of the 1969 Telangana movement we had someone to blame — Marri Chenna Reddy. Now we cannot blame anybody.
At least those who played politics with a wooden doll in their hands got sufficient money to flight the next election in the name of Telangana.
Do the Maoists think that their class enemy has now become a class friend because of Telangana’s cut-throat politics?
Let them explain this to the people — the real people who played Bathukamma, cooked their food on the roads, beat their chests and drums and lost 300 of their children as well.

Ethnic federalism will further marginalise Dalits - Mitra Pariyar

An opinion piece from Nepal Times. Thanks to ZESTCASTE email group.
See original with the author's photo:

Ethnic federalism will further marginalise Dalits.
By Mitra Pariyar
In his Kantipur column of 20 December Hari Roka, a pro-Maoist commentator and lawmaker, argued that part of the reason why India opposed the Maoists promoting a federal state was that it feared "the establishment of a new social system based on the redistribution of property and freedom from untouchability would have consequences on its states close to Nepal".

The statement is, inter alia, representative of how the Maoists continue to use Dalits in their propaganda. They have always claimed that theirs is a movement of the oppressed masses, and indeed many Dalits have sacrificed their lives for the cause. However, Roka's claim about untouchability rings hollow because there is little evidence to show that the ex-rebels actually care about the deeply entrenched problems of low castes.

On the contrary, Dalits increasingly feel they have had the rug pulled out from under them, not least because of the Maoists' unilateral declaration of autonomous ethnic states. Firstly, Dalits are not going to have their own autonomous state; they will be a tiny minority in all states. More importantly, Dalits suffer indignities and injustices not only at the hands of Bahuns and Chhetris, but also from Rais, Limbus, Madhesis, Gurungs, Magars, Newars, and others.

A 2006 report in Nepali Times stated: "In the hotbed of Tarai ethnic politics, mainstream Madhesi rights activists, anti-hills-people vigilantes, Maoist splinter groups and Tharu groups are demanding everything from greater autonomy to secession. But Madhesi Dalits are nowhere in the equation". The parties' attitude to Dalits in the Tarai and the hills remains the same, despite the pressure of massive political changes.

Hugo Gorringe, a British anthropologist who studied Indian Dalits, observes: "untouchability, it is clear, is irreconcilable with nationhood, and undermines the democratic project". The Nepali Congress and UML, despite their democratic credentials, have always refrained from taking Dalit issues seriously; their own workers and supporters regularly practice untouchability. The former rebels' initial enthusiasm about doing away with caste-based subordination has also been ephemeral. For instance, the Maoist government didn't, despite the popular expectation, start anything concrete to help Dalits; neither did it attempt to include them in important positions. Although they have been insisting on federal states named after particular groups, they have not yet articulated their policies on how untouchability can be effectively tackled.

Whilst Dalits are still struggling to become bona fide citizens of Nepal, they will have to fight separately to become the citizens of autonomous states as well. Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar's prescription for the Dalit movement was: "educate, agitate, organise". The implementation of autonomous ethnic states is likely to hinder these strategies, not least because the Dalit movement will then be dispersed and consequently further weakened.

Some believe that untouchability cannot be tackled until caste is annihilated; others think it can be challenged by emphasising the socioeconomic relationship between castes on the basis of modern national laws over customary ones. We should attempt to integrate low castes with other castes or ethnic groups to pave the way for a more egalitarian society. Ethnic federalism will only institutionalise and solidify caste or ethnic boundaries, instead of undermining them.The Maoists are likely to lose the support of many Dalits and others by pushing for their retrograde demand for ethnic federalism, even if it helps them in the short term. Like most Nepali citizens, Dalits want to live in peace with more dignity and better economic opportunities. This simple dream cannot be fulfilled if the powers that be don't give up their stance on ethnic federalism under the facade of revolutionary change.

Honoring "B"

A friend of mine- I will be very happy to mention his name but for some reason refrain from doing so - sent me photocopies of a huge four volume collection on Nationalism, published by I.B. Tauris, London, New York. This is a publishing house which has the distinction of publishing the debut novels of  Derrida, Foucault, Aristotle, Tom Hanks and even Kurt Goedel.
It was very nice of him in many ways. Photocopying was not on unbookly A4 size spreads. In a4 size, even Terry Eagleton reads like Raymond Williams. In other words, any author in A4 size becomes unreadable. If you are an academician, therefore do not know about these matters, imagine your partner in double her present size.
They were bound in the size and shape of a book, exactly like the originals except in color and font size. It must have cost him a fortune and he said he was unhappy only with the huge postal charges. It is again, as justified as finding your partner's cloths more offensive than he himself.
However, it was not the collection I asked him to send. I had in mind John Hutchinson and Anthony Smith's(Editors) Nationalism in five volumes published by Routledge.
This generous gentleman, who sacrificed his weekly-off to go to somewhere 35 km away from his place and went through the pain of issuing a book from the university he was no longer a student of, and then took the trouble of finding the best xerox and binding service in Hyderabad and then underwent the not so entertaining experience of standing in the queue at the post office to parcel them, surely deserves a public acknowledgement of my sympathetic concern about his masochism..
As many of you know very well, though I am a bloody bastard but not an ungrateful kind. I forwarded the announcement of the book- the one I wanted, not the one he divinely sent- to this generous gentleman as a token of my indebtedness.
I shall refer to my philanthropic friend as 'B,' for no particular reason than to derive from its diminutive quality and the lovely immunity from libel. I may mention that he is a journalist. It is only those who are jealous of our friendship (or a 'nexus' in Sundar kaka's immortal words) might suspect that I am scandalizing B. Their jealousy is based on the mistaken belief that journalists are more known for things they don't write than the academicians for the things they write. I take such feeling no more seriously than I would of those fans of Madhuri Dixit who consider her a great singer for her song 'ek do teen'.
I also know that Cultural Studies morons will see only a potential rift between me and B in the reference to Raymond Williams which they find designed to humiliate the possessor of the greatest number of Williams' books among the journalists I know of.
For those Cultural Studies critics my answer is just noting that 'perceptions differ.' B is surely mature enough to see that, when it comes to readability, the gangs known for an inability to read are the least reliable guides.
Moreover, I consider Raymond Williams's 'Key Words' is eminently readable. In fact, you can even say that it is the best book among its kind. I don't know of any any other etymological dictionary whose entries are so easy to complete. Size matters in such matters.
Here, I refuse to offer my comments on the vexed debate among the Marxists as to which of William's work, his fiction or theory, is more boring. I attribute this unfair debate partly to Terry Eagleton's malicious influence. Eagleton on his own read Williams, his teacher and later a colleague, and still entertains grudge against him as if his still remembered pain of having read William's work was not self-inflicted. These Marxists are like the Hindus, for whom everything has to be higher or lower to every other thing.
Or, these groups have read only either his fiction or theory and assumed that the master's other genres can't beat the one they read. I am mentioning these things not to dishonor the first great Marxist theorist from the working class, but to highlight the B' scholarship. When B was a research student, he refused to read either fiction or theory of Raymond Williams. As a journalist, he tasted both of them without partiality and found both were equally boring.  Not many journalists are so exhaustive and impartial.

One more thing

I forgot to add that a great amount of frivolous posting is not only allowed but even actively encouraged. Takchuk! Are you listening to this? Of course, I can't help allowing- however grudgingly- the serious types from posting things prim. But, all those nasty, ignorant and outright offensive commentators are welcome. If you ask a dumb question, you will be assured of the greatest honor of being taken seriously.
I hope to blog this time regularly. Telling the truth is even more difficult than seeking it. What I am going to offer is simply biased pieces of opinion, attacks and abuses.
Those of you familiar with the disaster my first attempt at blogging ended up as, this time I beg to postpone your taunts for a while because I am thinking of posting some excellent stuff from other sources without vainly thinking of posting only my own commentary. I believe this eases the pain of writing regularly and solves the problem of not posting anything for too long.