May Fourth Movement (1919)
At the end of the First World War, in 1918, China was convinced it would be able to reclaim the territories occupied by the Germans in present-day Shandong Province. After all, it had fought along with the Allies. However, it was not to be. The warlord government of the day had secretly struck a deal with the Japanese, offering the German colonies in return for financial support. The Allies, on the other hand, acknowledged Japan’s territorial claims in China. When it became known in China in April 1919 that the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles would not honor China’s claims, it gave rise to a movement that might be considered even more revolutionary than the one that ended the Empire. Continue reading
The Doctor and the Saint
By ARUNDHATI ROY | 1 March 2014 | The Caravan
ANNIHILATION OF CASTE is the nearly eighty-year-old text of a speech that was never delivered.* When I first read it I felt as though somebody had walked into a dim room and opened the windows. Reading Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar bridges the gap between what most Indians are schooled to believe in and the reality we experience every day of our lives.
My father was a Hindu, a Brahmo. I never met him until I was an adult. I grew up with my mother, in a Syrian Christian family in Ayemenem, a small village in communist-ruled Kerala. And yet all around me were the fissures and cracks of caste. Ayemenem had its own separate “Parayan” church where “Parayan” priests preached to an “untouchable” congregation. Caste was implied in peoples’ names, in the way people referred to each other, in the work they did, in the clothes they wore, in the marriages that were arranged, in the language we spoke. Even so, I never encountered the notion of caste in a single school textbook. Reading Ambedkar alerted me to a gaping hole in our pedagogical universe. Reading him also made it clear why that hole exists and why it will continue to exist until Indian society undergoes radical, revolutionary change.
Revolutions can, and often have, begun with reading.
Ambedkar was a prolific writer. Unfortunately his work, unlike the writings of Gandhi, Nehru or Vivekananda, does not shine out at you from the shelves of libraries and bookshops.
Of his many volumes, Annihilation of Caste is his most radical text. It is not an argument directed at Hindu fundamentalists or extremists, but at those who consider themselves moderate, those whom Ambedkar called “the best of Hindus”—and some academics call “left-wing Hindus.”1 Ambedkar’s point is that to believe in the Hindu shastras and to simultaneously think of oneself as liberal or moderate is a contradiction in terms.
When the text of Annihilation of Caste was published, the man who is often called the “greatest of Hindus”—Mahatma Gandhi—responded to Ambedkar’s provocation. Their debate was not a new one. Both men were their generation’s emissaries of a profound social, political and philosophical conflict that had begun long ago and has still by no means ended. Continue reading
Interview by Saba Naqvi
Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize-winning author on her essay The Doctor and the Saint and more
In 1936, Dr B.R. Ambedkar was asked to deliver the annual lecture by the Hindu reformist group, the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal (Forum for Break-up of Caste) in Lahore. When the hosts received the text of the speech, they found the contents “unbearable” and withdrew the invitation. Ambedkar then printed 1,500 copies of his speech at his own expense and it was soon translated into several languages. Annihilation of Caste would go on to have a cult readership among the Dalit community, but remains largely unread by the privileged castes for whom it was written.
Ambedkar’s landmark speech has now been carefully annotated and reprinted. What will certainly draw contemporary public attention to it is the essay written as an introduction by the Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy, titled The Doctor and the Saint.
Almost half of the 400-page book is Roy’s essay, the other half Annihilation of Caste. Roy writes about caste in contemporary India before getting into the Gandhi-Ambedkar stand-off. Taking off from what Ambedkar described as “the infection of imitation”, the domino effect of each caste dominating the ones lower down in the hierarchy, Roy says, “The ‘infection of imitation’, like the half-life of a radioactive atom, decays exponentially as it moves down the caste ladder, but never quite disappears. It has created what Ambedkar describes as the system of ‘graded inequality’ in which even the ‘low is privileged as compared with lower. Each class being privileged, every class is interested in maintaining the system’”.
However, the thrust of Roy’s powerful but disturbing essay deals with her exploration of the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate, and the man deified as the father of the nation does not come off well in this book. She writes: “Ambedkar was Gandhi’s most formidable adversary. He challenged him not just politically or intellectually, but also morally. To have excised Ambedkar from Gandhi’s story, which is the story we all grew up on, is a travesty. Equally, to ignore Gandhi while writing about Ambedkar is to do Ambedkar a disservice, because Gandhi loomed over Ambedkar’s world in myriad and un-wonderful ways.”
The Doctor and the Saint, your introduction to this new, annotated edition of Dr Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, is also a deeply disturbing critique of Gandhi, especially to those of us for whom Gandhi is a loved and revered figure.
Yes, I know. It wasn’t easy to write it either. But in these times, when all of us are groping in the dark, despairing, and unable to understand why things are the way they are, I think revisiting this debate between Gandhi and Ambedkar, however disturbing it may be for some people, however much it disrupts old and settled patterns of thought, will actually, in the end, help illuminate our path. I think Annihilation of Caste is absolutely essential reading. Caste is at the heart of the rot in our society. Quite apart from what it has done to the subordinated castes, it has corroded the moral core of the privileged castes. We need Ambedkar—now, urgently. Continue reading
The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, recently made a throne speech, in which he spoke of the settlers who founded the country: “They dared to seize the moment that history offered. Pioneers … reached a vast continent. They forged an independent country where none would have otherwise existed.”
This genocidal logic finds its companion image in the photos released last week, of 700 heavily armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in a stand-off in New Brunswick with the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation and their allies, who are currently defending their lands from the predatory activities of a Houston-based company conducting shale gas explorations. Over the past days, peaceful protesters have been pepper-sprayed, shot at with rubber bullets, and more than 40 people have been arrested.
Earlier this month, a group of First Nations elders travelled to London to mark the 250th anniversary of the royal proclamation of 1763. They did so, in part, as a reminder of the existence of promises made by the British crown to the First Nations of Canada. Issued by King George III at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War, the proclamation recognised that all unceded lands of Indians would be left as such until they were ceded by way of treaty with the British crown. The document thus recognised indigenous rights to their land and, at the same time, asserted the underlying crown title to all of Britain’s colonial possessions in what was to become Canada. The proclamation emerged at a time when the British crown and First Nations were negotiating treaties on a nation-to-nation basis. And in this paradox lies the heart of settler colonialism today: the recognition of indigenous rights on the basis of their prior occupation of the land, now enshrined in section 35 of the Canadian constitution, along with the ongoing assertion of colonial sovereignty. Continue reading
05 Oct 2013 — Dmitry Zaks, Sapa
Rock stars and celebrities joined a worldwide vigil on Saturday in support of 30 Greenpeace activists whose jailing by Russia after a protest against Arctic oil drilling sparked a new row between Moscow and the west.
Pressure has been mounting on Russia from both activists and governments shocked by Moscow’s decision to level full-blown piracy charges against Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise crew. But Moscow displayed few signs of leniency on Saturday as it hit out at both Greenpeace and the Dutch government under whose flag the environmental lobby group’s ship sailed. Continue reading
On the Occasion of the 25thAnniversary
of the Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran
Islamic republic commenced on a secret campaign of elimination of political prisoners, in Iran. From
June till September 1988, in less than two months, the brutal henchmen of the reactionary regime
murdered an estimated, 18,000 political prisoners across the country. They included men and women,
young and old, communists, progressive and patriotic activists and intellectuals that were held in prison
across the country. Amongst those killed were activists who had already completed their prison
sentences but were recaptured and eliminated.
This heinous crime had remained uncovered until Khomeini’s designated successor, ayatollah
Montazeri, having lost his position to Khamenei (the current leader of Islamic republic), following
intense factional rivalries and power struggles, exposed some details of this genocide in his factional
rhetoric. Continue reading
Statement by Julian Assange on behalf of WikiLeaks:
Today Bradley Manning reportedly made a statement of remorse in a sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning’s statement comes towards the end of a court martial trial pursued with unprecedented prosecutorial zeal.
Since his arrest, Mr. Manning has been an emblem of courage and endurance in the face of adversity. He has resisted extraordinary pressure. He has been held in solitary confinement, stripped naked and subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the United States government. His constitutional right to a speedy trial has been ignored. He has sat for three years in pretrial detention, while the government assembled 141 witnesses and withheld thousands of documents from his lawyers.
The government has denied him the right to conduct a basic whistleblower defense. It overcharged him until he faced over a century in prison and barred all but a handful of his witnesses. He was denied the right at trial to argue that no harm was caused by his alleged actions. His defence team was pre-emptively banned from describing his intent or showing that his actions harmed no one.
Despite these obstacles, Mr. Manning and his defense team have fought at every step. Last month, he was eventually convicted of charges carrying up to 90 years of prison time. The US government admitted that his actions did not physically harm a single person, and he was acquitted of “aiding the enemy.” His convictions solely relate to his alleged decision to inform the public of war crimes and systematic injustice. Continue reading
For more than a week, the California prison system has been gripped by the largest hunger strike in its history. Today, campaigners say that some 12,000 inmates continue to refuse food in roughly two-thirds of the state’s 32 facilities. That’s down from the 30,000 who kicked off the strike, but still more than twice the number who participated in a similar action two years earlier.
The strike – which began with a group of men held in isolation in Pelican Bay State Prison before spreading across the state – was principally motivated by California’s aggressive use of solitary confinement. In many cases, the strikers’ demands are simple: one photo a year, one phone call per week, permission to use wall calendars.
“The prisoners are not on a suicide mission,” says Roger White, campaign director of a Bay Area coalition called Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. “If they didn’t have hope that things could change and that CDCR [the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] could actually implement the demands, they wouldn’t be striking.”
In 2011, a United Nations torture rapporteur called for an absolute and international ban on indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement, arguing that just a few a days locked up alone in a cell has been shown to produce lifelong mental health problems. In California, hundreds of Pelican Bay prisoners have spent a decade or more in solitary confinement – some for as many as 20 or 30 years. Continue reading
[Entire societies have been brutalized, poisoned and traumatized by inhuman colonial and neo-colonial/comprador-ish exploitation. The most recent mass trauma has hit Bangladesh, where the largest part of the world's clothing is produced by workers in desperate conditions. -- Frontlines ed.]
Doctors say ‘mass psychogenic illness’ – not contaminated water – is to blame for recent outbreaks of sickness. Garment workers are fearful of workplace safety after a year of deadly accidents.
Hundreds of garment workers fell ill on Sunday after drinking water of questionable quality at their workplace in Gazipur at the outskirts of Bangladesh‘s capital, Dhaka.
The incident occurred less than two weeks after about 800 workers fell ill and were hospitalized after drinking water at Starlight Sweaters Ltd., which produced clothes for European buyers Carrefour and Otto.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research in Bangladesh, which tested samples of the water after the incident at Starlight Sweaters on June 5, said they did not find anything unusual from the regular contaminants in water. The Institute’s director, Dr. Mahmudur Rahman, found the case to be a result of “mass psychogenic illness.”
The director believed the illness was a result of a panic attack that may have been triggered by factory authorities announcing that something was wrong with the water and closing work for the day. Continue reading
Honouring the legacy of the late Dr. Henry Morgentaler
June 17, 2013
Toronto, ON–We, at the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Henry Morgantaler, whose dedication and commitment in fighting for abortion rights have been a fundamental contribution in women’s historical struggle for basic rights and entitlements here in Canada and throughout the world. His strong will and determination, over the past few decades in pushing to make abortion accessible for women had been and continues to be an inspiration for all of us to continue to be vigilant in upholding reproductive justice as an integral component in achieving genuine women’s equality and liberation. Continue reading
Caribbean nations which ignore the human and civil rights of the citizenry will never be able to access reparations. Visiting Barbados economic historian Hilary Beckles, campus principal of Cave Hill and Pro Vice Chancellor of UWI, made this comment at a public lecture and launch of his book Britain’s Black Debt at Daaga Auditorium, St Augustine Campus, on May 23. Among those present were St Augustine campus principal Prof Clement Sankat, Prof Funso Aiyejina, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education, literary icon Earl Lovelace and head of the department of history Dr Heather Cateau.
Beckles dedicated his book to the late eminent historian and T&T’s first prime minister Dr Eric Williams, author of the seminal work Capitalism and Slavery. Beckles said his book should be seen as a sequel to Williams’ work and dedicated it to him. His narrative revolved around a cover photograph of a young queen Elizabeth of England taking a stroll with her cousin, the 7th Earl of Harewood on his sugar plantation (the Belle) in Barbados in 1966. It was bought by the earl’s ancestor in 1780 and there were 232 slaves. Before delving into the post pan-African conversation, Beckles said he had to “purge himself” by writing this book which he deemed to be a case study of the need for reparations for the descendants of enslaved peoples. He felt Britain had a case to answer, which the Caribbean should litigate. Beckles said he believed there would be no social justice until the matter of reparations was addressed. Continue reading
Statement issued by the Committee for The Release of Political Prisoners
Published Online: May 22, 2013
The case of Dr. Muhammad Qasim epitomises how political convictions, of being a Kashmiri Muslim sharing the political aspirations of the Kashmiri people is enough to earn the ire of the political establishment.
Dr. Muhammad Qasim was arrested on 5 February 1993 for his political views. In order to prolong his incarceration, he was booked under Sec.3 TADA, and Sec 302 read with 120-B CrPC. On 14 July, 2001 the TADA Court in Jammu had acquitted him saying that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the case against Dr. Muhammad Qasim and the other accused. As the State of J&K challenged the acquittal before the Supreme Court, Dr. Muhammad Qasim was sentenced to life based solely on a confession statement made under section 15 of TADA. Even when the SC sentenced him to life it was mentioned that the “accused shall be given benefit of the period already undergone (undertrial period) by then”.
After the completion of 14 years, the J&K High Court directed the Jail authorities to place Dr. Qasim’s case before the Review Board for consideration keeping in spirit with the observations of the SC. The Review Board recommended his premature release on 3 June 2008. Contrary to the recommendations of the Review Board, the J&K government brought in the interpretation that the J&K Jail Manual Rule 54.1 debars TADA life convicts from release on completion of two thirds (14 years) of 20 years. (Govt. order No. Home-773(P) of 2009 dated 14.09.2009)
Amidst conflicting opinions in the High Court between a single-bench judge, which initially quashed the government order, while a double-bench upheld it. Taking refuge in the Rule 54.1 of the Jail Manual, the long arm of political vendetta stood between a forthright consideration of the outstanding situation and the release of Dr. Muhammad Qasim. On 31 May 2012, Dr. Muhammad Qasim completed 20 years of incarceration. It has been held unequivocally that despite the correspondence of Sec. 401 and 402 of the State Code of Criminal Procedure to Sections 432 and 433 of the Central Code, the power of the executive is absolute and unfettered to remit a sentence but this was elusive in the case of Dr. Qasim.
As Dr. Muhammad Qasim has been sentenced to life under the J&K Manual, which made him ineligible to avail the provision of release after 14 years of imprisonment, it logically followed that the same manual provides for putting an end to his incarceration after the completion of 20 years.
What makes matters worse in J&K is the overwhelming sense of vendetta vis-à-vis political prisoners. Continue reading