Archive for South Asia

National Democratic Revolution

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2010 by Umer

by Danish Khan

When we try to investigate the region of South Asia, the conflict of the Jammu and Kashmir flashes our imagination. More than 100,000 lives have been lost in the bloodiest dispute of the Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan. It will not be wrong to say that the establishments of both India and Pakistan working on the agenda of Imperial powers have exploited the conflict of Kashmir as a popular tool to keep millions of people of the sub-continent under the clouds of darkness, poverty and misery. While during all this time the people who have been most affected by this ever lasting dispute are the unfortunate people of the Jammu and Kashmir. It is essential that the legacy of Kashmir dispute should be put to an end, and a new dawn should emerge from the beautiful mountains of Kashmir which will ensure a prosperous and peaceful future for the coming generations of sub continent.

The present status of the Jammu and Kashmir is similar to a neo-colony. When I will use the term Kashmir, I am referring to the whole region of the Jammu and Kashmir. The armed forces of both India and Pakistan have occupied the territory of the Kashmir. The people of Kashmir have been denied from their basic civic liberties. To make sure the status quo in the Kashmir, the India and Pakistan are spending almost three forth of their economic budget on the military. If we analyze the means of production of the Kashmir they are pre-capitalist in nature. In these harsh realities it is inevitable that only the scientific knowledge of Marxism-Leninism has a potential to emancipate the most oppressed and exploited people of the Kashmir. In the light of Marxism-Leninism a “National Democratic Revolution” can solve this conflict by emancipating the people of Kashmir from occupation, oppression and exploitation. National Democratic Revolution in Kashmir can also trickle starts the series of “people’s democratic revolution” in the sub-continent. Because the defeat of arm forces of India and Pakistan in Kashmir can only weaken their stranglehold in their own countries respectively. Thus it will be a huge opening for the people’s movement in India and Pakistan to take control of the state affairs and close all doors for Imperialism.

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In the name of honour

Posted in Communist Movement, Law, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2009 by Umer

The Aug. 15-29, 2008 issue of the Frontline carried the theme of caste-based violence and killings in the name of honour. The urgent relevance of the topic emerged from the an instance in Dharana, near Haryana, where a local panchayat ordered the ouster of a family from a village on the grounds that a member of the family had married outside of caste in violation of the parampara (tradition).

The Red Diary has frequently raised the issue of caste system and emphasised the importance that caste plays in the socio-political make-up of the South Asian sub-continent. The Red Diary here presents the interview of Brinda Karat to Frontline regarding caste system and its impact women.

Interview with Brinda Karat, MP and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member.

ONE of the few parliamentarians with a record of raising women’s issues both in and outside Parliament, Brinda Karat feels that honour killings and honour-related harassment do not get the attention they deserve from the executive or the legislature. She says that it was time political parties came together on this issue. In an interview to Frontline, she explained the importance of recognising these crimes as a separate category and the need for special laws to deal with them as had been done in the case of sati. Excerpts:

In your view, how serious are honour killings and crimes related to honour? You raised this issue in the Rajya Sabha and it evoked a response from the Home Minister and several other members cutting across party lines

I had asked a question in Parliament on the number of killings relating to honour that had taken place so far and the reply I received from the government was that they do not recognise such a category and, therefore, there was no separate collection of such data.

According to a 2008 judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, it was stated that there were thousands of cases of young couples who had been victimised because they crossed the lakshman rekha determined by their communities, castes or families.

It is a shame that even today there is no legal definition of the term honour killing or honour crime. As a result, the perpetrators of such crimes more often than not get away with murder, torture, assault, and violation of laws regarding atrocities committed on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. And they continue to commit them with impunity.

The extent of the crime is underestimated, it is made invisible and young men and women just disappear without a trace as though they had never lived. Hence, it is essential for the government to not only define the crime but also start collecting separate data, for unless the existence of the crime itself is recognised, it is difficult to deal with it in any form.

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Book Review: Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks

Posted in Books & Authors, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by Umer

by Yoginder Sikand

Name of the Book: Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks

Author: Yvette Claire Roser

Publisher: Rupa & Co

Price Rs. 195

Pages: 109

ISBN: 81-291-0221-8

Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand

Contrary to what professional historians might claim, there is really nothing as an objective, unbiased and completely accurate writing of history. After all, not everything, even of significance, of what happened in the past can possibly be included in a text, and history book writers have to pick and choose from past events that they deem fit be recorded. The very process of picking and choosing from the past is determined, among other factors, by the subjective biases of the history writer as well as his or her own social and institutional location. Then, history writing is not simply about narrating the past but also involves a certain element of evaluating it. Here, again, this is strongly determined by the personal biases and preference of the individual historian.

The element of bias is greatly exacerbated when history textbooks are—as they are in almost every country today—commissioned by the state. The state wishes to mould its citizens in a particular way, to make them what it considers as ‘good’ and ‘law-abiding’ citizens, who have completely internalized the underlying logic and ideology of the state. The state, in its capacity of representative of a country’s ruling class, seeks to impose through state-sponsored history texts the hegemonic ideas of this class upon its citizenry. It is thus not surprising that such texts generally parrot the state-centric view of history that seeks to bestow legitimacy on the state and the country’s ruling class and ‘normalise’ their logic and world-view.

This incisive critique of state-sponsored social science textbooks in Pakistan highlights the convoluted politics of historiography and what this means for the production of a ‘social commonsense’ for a state’s citizenry. Although Roser does not say it in so many words, the current turbulent political scenario in Pakistan, in particular the rise of radical Islamist forces in the country, cannot be seen as inseparable from the narrow political agenda that the Pakistani state, ever since its formation, has consistently sought to pursue as is reflected in the social science textbooks that it has commissioned, and through which it has sought to impose its own ideology on its people.

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The Caste-System and Class Analysis of Ancient India

Posted in Marxism with tags , , , , , , on February 21, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

One hears time and time again that the class structure of pre-capitalist India is extremely complex. In fact, the analysis of the class structure of the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) in India is made theoretically simple in relation to other pre-captialist societies.

The caste system gives us the entire division of labour in the minutest detail. It even tells us the division of labour within classes. Whereas class is the social division of labour of any given society, caste is the social division of labour of ancient India that has become hereditary. This simple fact is recognized even by the Oxford Dictionary that defines caste as “each of the hereditary classes of Hindu society, distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status. 2 any exclusive social class” (The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2005).

In the caste system, every single type of work undertaken by any section of society is given an identifiable name and a very specific explicit social status in relation to all other forms of work. To convert caste in class, all one has to do is to grasp the specific relationship of a caste to the means of production. For instance, what is the relationship of Rajputs, Jats, Lohars, Dhobis, Chuhras to the means of production? That specific relationship tells us the class of Rajputs, Jats, Lohars, Dhobis, Chuhras respectively. Furthermore, caste divisions reveal not merely the class structure of a village but also the division of labour within classes.

Thus, if one wished to know about the class structure (that is, division of labour) of a particular village, an accurate picture can be drawn by the knowledge of the number, relative status, and proportion of caste households that exist in a village. The same method applied to a larger framework can give us a precise picture of the division of labour at that level.

Hence, the difficulty is not in the theoretical realm. The difficulty is in mastering the enormous amount of information regarding castes. There are thousands of castes that are divided into sub-castes across India. Take for instance the massive study based on Sir Denzil Ibbetson’s Census Report of 1883 and compiled by H.A. Rose called “A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier Provinces” (Rose, 1919). This massive three volume study is nothing other than a study of the Asiatic social division of labour of Punjab and NWFP (two provinces of Pakistan). Thus, theoretically the entire social division of labour of ancient India is laid out neatly for any analyst in the shape of the caste system.

It follows that caste struggles (that often assumed the form of religious struggles) were nothing other than class struggle of pre-capitalist classes (with the exception that castes of the same status broadly form one economic class in the objective economic sense).

In conclusion, both the class structure and class struggles of ancient India can be grasped from an analysis of the evolution and changes of the caste system. Such an analysis is beyond the scope of this particular study. But this study does demonstrate that the Asiatic Mode of Production allows us to make this particular insight into the class structure and class struggle of ancient India.

The author of the note is a member of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) and pursuing his doctral degree at SOAS.

Patriarchy and Caste System

Posted in Marxism, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

As I have elaborated before, the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) in India is based on the caste system. The caste system in turn is based on the confinement of a particular people to a particular occupation. This requires the intense control of women’s sexuality because if castes are allowed to intermarry, it will destroy the entire caste division of labour of that society. Thus, the fundamental basis for the maintenance of the caste system is through ensuring endogamy, that is, marrying within your own caste/biraderi.

Hence, the very logic of the entire caste system is opposed to love. And those who dare to love are automatically and inevitably propelled against the very grain of the system.

However, the fact that the caste system prevailed for 3000 years can only indicate that love did not conquer. It was the caste system that conquered the lovers. The Asiatic system saw a series of revolts none of which were successful. It was/is the most terrible vise in which the people of Asia were gripped in an unending cycle of subjugation and slavery to the village community. The fact that life outside the community (owing to climatic conditions) was simply not possible meant that the greatest punishment was ostracism from the caste and community. Wasn’t that also the punishment to Muhammed and his followers as well as to the lovers of every period?

No greater violence can be done to the psychology of a people than to disallow the most natural desire of love. Is it not inevitable then that the caste system will be met with a continuous revolt in the name of the freedom to love. Is not inevitable that love poetry would touch the deepest and most sensitive core of the people in a society that violently opposed love?

The caste system relegated love to the lowest and most contemptible position. Was it then not inevitable that rebellions against the case system would raise it to the level of divinity. This explains why Sufi poetry (and later progressive poetry) unites rebellion/love with divinity.

In the opening line of Heer, Waris Shah says:

Awal hamad khuda da vird karye

Ishq kita su jag da mool mian
Pehlan aap hi rabb ne ishq kita
Te mashooq he nabi rasool mian

Translation: “First of all let us acknowledge God (who is self-evident), who has made love the worth of the world Sir, It was God Himself that first loved, and the prophet (Muhammad (SW)) is His beloved Sir”

To put it crudely, if God is the first lover, if God is nothing but love, mortal man commits a sin the greatest sin against God by denying love.

This is the essence of Sufi poetry. And progressive poetry borrows from this tradition.

There is always a material basis for the power of certain cultural ideas. The fact that our culture is dominated by themes of the love story, especially in the rebellious sufi tradition, is indicative of the fact that the caste system so violently denied this very natural and inextinguishable human impulse.

And in contemporary society? What is the basis for arranged marriages? Nothing other than the caste system. It is to ensure that marriages occur within the biraderi or at the worst close to one’s biraderi. It is not for private property (as was the case in the West) but for the patriarchal patronage provided by the beradari. That patronage and fear of ostracism from that patronage is the central binding force for the patriarchal practice of arranged marriages. Thus, arranged marriages directly link back to the caste system (no matter how much of a gloss modern society has put on this practice). At the most, bourgeois families have allowed the liberty to the boy (and in rare cases the girl) the right of choosing a partner from within a related biraderi (it does not even extend to the whole of the bourgeois class).

Thus, the caste system is the most disgusting pile of putrid shit. Rebellion against this system is truly the beginning of a humane existence for the people of South Asia.

The author of the note is a member of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) and pursuing his doctral degree at SOAS.