Archive 2014-15

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Ling: The G-Line of Control

Our Net Freedom: The Bottom Line of Gross Expression

Maya Krishna Rao & Jasmine Lovely George 24 April 2015 Abhay Regi & Meenakshi Ajaykumar 17 April 2015
Feminine, masculine: perhaps the first and most defining difference that we ever knew. We have had thousands of years, and thousands of cultural lineages, to reinvent our perception and our practice of gender. And yet, our societal debates, seemingly pluralistic, often snake between the poles of culture- and modernity-centric binaries. Like the blinkers of a yearling, we limit the scope of spatial and temporal alternatives in our craving for the next instant of life, of political renewal, of social change. We worry: where could we go, indeed, if we left ourselves be pulled by all the directions that a truly limit-less enquiry on gender may bring? A fallacy, as forces always combine, perhaps imposing a more nuanced pace, but also a more sustainable movement
 At which level are we pitching our discussions of gender? Caught between Nirbhaya and Vogue’s Padukone, between India’s Daughter and the daily news items, are we not running out of breath, first of all, strangled between the urgent need to respond to immediate events, and the collective necessity of addressing the deep roots of this matrix of words and gestures, so to transform it profoundly, too? The individual may lose touch with the universal, and cynicism becomes an everyday temptation, as our environment reminds of the interval still separating each of us from this culture all of us share. But it all starts with an individual – a single moment, a feeling, an idea, a body, a voice standing from the quicksand of appearances to recall: change starts here. For this 65th and last weekly edition of our medium, indeed bridging inter- and actions, Maya Krishna Rao and Jasmine Lovely George present two initiatives aiming at exploring our assumptions behind gender. Through performance, and through sex positive, constraints become empowerment, and prejudices, potentials. The smooth lines of our mental and embodied borders start quivering. Look closely
 can you still see them?Read button
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” The spirit of that 371-year old clarion call made by John Milton at the peak of the English Civil War seemed to seize India on 24 March 2015, when our Supreme Court scrapped the controversial Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act, terming it ‘vague’ and ‘unconstitutional’. The section was added as an amendment to the IT Act (2000), and its annotation reads: “Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication devices and services”. Since the notification of the section in February 2009, the country saw a number of instances where those who posted critical or divergent political views were penalised. The controversial law had been decried by internet freedom campaigners as being aimed at quashing dissent and differences of opinion on the internet. Shreya Singhal, a law student, was among the first to challenge it in the Supreme Court. She filed a petition in 2012, after two young women were arrested for posting comments critical of the total shutdown in Mumbai after the death of Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief. The Supreme Court’s move has prompted LILA Inter-actions to reflect on the questions of freedom, expression and media in the context of the internet. With Noam Chomsky, we believe that “the internet could be a very positive step towards education, organisation and participation in a meaningful society.” But how can this dream be realised in a modern democracy, as long as we perpetuate the notion that the government and the civil society are necessary opposites? That this question has transnational significance is evident from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon’s expression of his concern about “states abusing laws on internet access” and “surveillance programmes becoming too aggressive”. He points to some “exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance”, considering the needs of national security, but also “safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms”. We thought it is best to bring youth into this deliberation, especially in the context of Shreya Singhal’s instrumentality in getting Section 66 (A) scrapped. This week, two young students, Abhay Regi and Meenakshi Ajaykumar share with us their refreshingly deep views on the enigmatic question of freedom of expression.Read button

WhatsAAP with Us? Our Critical Silence

Passing Over: Beyond Fait(h) Accompli

Manju Kak & S. Gopalakrishnan 10 April 2015 Esther David & Devasia M. Antony 3 April 2015
Today, we celebrate I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue. Irony, what the BBC comedy panel game had mocked at, decades back, is staring us, here and now, in the face — the lack of vigilance and critical response to experiences. April is indeed the “cruellest month” — it thoughtlessly sprouts such remembrances of things past in our hard times. In Delhi, we are trying to come to terms with our own decision to forget, forgive and give one more chance to the Aam Aadmi Party, once a symbol of Gandhian aspirations and currently mutating into a polemical space. The recent crisis in the ruling party has left Dilliwallas quite perplexed, and asking: What’s AAP now? This dilemma has prompted LILA to revisit our own ideal of the Citizen Politician, while reviewing Delhi’s current politico-cultural experiences and circumstances. Thus, this edition of LILA Inter-actions uses the unexpected prism of response, rather than venturing to address the crisis directly. The citizen politician in us stops to ask what critical role our responses as individuals play, in defining the quality of our collective experiences and circumstances. We thus enter this inquiry through the responsive window of critical writing, which weaves political engagement into a textual mode of public presentation/performance/production that is also potentially self-reflexive and self-critical. This week, Manju Kak and S. Gopalakrishnan respond to the question: How do we shape our responses? As writers and critical thinkers, they reflect on critical response and self-reflect, and ask if it is our silence that encourages bad governance in various fields, thus degrading our own cultural and political experiences. They make us wonder where the balance of creativity tilts and begins to celebrate lawlessness and showmanship, and where the balance of governance leans to let its machines turn into monsters? They ask: What’s up with us — why are we silent at this critical juncture? They ask: Do we still want to continue celebrating “I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue”?Read button
Eloheem l’kha yeehyĂ©h lo panahy al ahkhĂ©reem – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. First were the words, the ambiguous words. The Judeo-Christian, through the Greeks, Europe and globalisation, has come to permeate much of the values and principles of our societies today, yet their foundations, this confusing preamble carved in stone, announced a rather strict exclusivism, not so welcoming of differences. The temptation was great, and still possible, for a few centuries perhaps, to see religious texts, traditions and values, only as community-bound narratives, necessarily closed to genuine pluralism. And still, here we are, and here we have been, a real prismatic humanity finding ways and means to permit the concrete co-habitation of differences, on the ground. But these days, we find ourselves permanently gnawed at by two pulling forces. On the one hand, the religious extremisms of our leaders, surprisingly surviving and updated for the cultural climate of our days. And, on the other, a discourse of secularism imagining its birth ex nihilo a century or two ago, from the seemingly sudden realisation of the human’s existential independence from the cosmos and its gods. This is risking to overestimate the Constitutions of our present, and forget that our world history, through the unique route of each religion, was one attempting to resolve in the practice of the everyday, the number one survival need of communities: living as one, yet as many. Thus opening a new chapter of our series of reflections on Belief, LILA Inter-actions takes the occasion of Passover and Easter to look at how Judaism and Christianity, from within, can enrich and support today’s dire needs for religious pluralism. Novelist Esther David opens up the microscopic minority world of Jews in India, able to adopt flexibility and receptivity to Indian values and customs, while maintaining also its religious rites and history over the millennia. Theologian and Philosopher Devasia M. Antony comments upon the words of the Crucified Jesus, instance within an unexpectedly large body of non-dualist wisdom found across all cultures and traditions of thought, to rejoin in peace Oneself and the Other.Read button

Tibet Recall: Meandering Concerns

Poetry and Science: Through the Tests of Time

Abanti Bhattacharya & Agneya Singh 27 March 2015 Gauhar Raza & George Szirtes 20 March 2015
“She disciplined her memory to give up counting her losses. She gave her suffering one name: exile.” Opening her A Home in Tibet (2013), Tsering Wangmo Dhompa unveils the inescapable torture that time, remembrance and even hope became, for her mother, and a whole people. “My mother,” she adds, “My mother did not return home during her lifetime.” In Old Norse, heimr was the residence, the home, but also, the world. Homeless, world-less. Suddenly, the stories of generations get stuck in time. Without a space, without a world, this is what a people permanently risks: meandering only in memories, with their concerns whirling helplessly, like a destination-less exodus, calling in solely on the shrinking islands of exile lands. So, why is this memory not reaching at least our minds, as 28 March was, in 1959, the date of the dissolution of the Government of Tibet by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China? Caught in-between politico-religious plays, Tibet would fall prey to an era too familiar with wide-scale displacements, not so different perhaps from those of South Asia or the Middle East, a decade before. But, as peoples stay apart, and as we prefer chatting of economic capacities than of the project of genuine multi-cultural cohabitations, histories indeed become just memories. A people remains in a hospitable land for ten, twenty, fifty years. There, in a few hilly towns; there, in one or two colonies of our big cities. Segregated, still, until memories fade, and perhaps soon, die. As LILA Inter-actions looks up north, and looks around, to recall and remember the question of Tibet in India this week, Abanti Bhattacharya addresses the passivity imposed upon Tibet in the realm of geopolitics, caught between the interests and anxieties of its two giant neighbours: China, and India. Agneya Singh keeps the flame alive, and shining, celebrating the force of resistance of the Tibetan struggle in India, even as it suffers from a lack of leadership, and accountability. He reflects on the arts as possibly the needed new space for the metamorphosis of this energy, to continue transforming memories into change.Read button
On the fast track, still, there are moments when an intimation or two arrive to remind us of how human language is closely involved in the design of our physical world. And one remembers some of the earliest narratives on nature, various creation myths from diverse communities. When did our language give rise to a gap in communication between the human world and the rest of nature’s creations? When did a radical opposition come in between our knowledge and our creativity as they figure in our universities, affecting our very mindsets? It seems it is no longer the Word that is first, but words. The words of our languages, deaf to one another. Today, the words of science should limit themselves to the knowledge born of objective observation, while those of poetry would not dare step out of the subjective beautification of emotions. It is long back, indeed, that poetry was wedded to science, and the couple has since seemingly fallen into a Platonic love-hate companionship, through the tempests and the deserts of those slow centuries. But the most familiar and once cherished symbols of our skies, sun and moon, reveal their dance, still, and align, like a few words becoming sentence and perhaps verse. Here is our chance to revive the youthful passion of the old couple. As the celestial event of a total solar eclipse meets the World Poetry Day in our calendars, scientist Gauhar Raza walks the memory lane, and tries to spot how the simultaneous growth of his two passions could only reveal their deep intimacy. Writer George Szirtes resorts to his quill, no, his keyboard, to muse over the new romance of the poet with science’s dearest offspring: technology. As techne gets smaller and smaller, inserting itself in our spaces and times, making becomes naming. New doors open for language and creation, but new challenges, too.Read button

The Islamic State: Hiding in Plain Sight?

The Union Budget: The Rules and the Divides

Come Carpentier de Gourdon & Omar Sheira 13 March 2015 K. Shanthi & Ritu Dewan 6 March 2015
Ashes to Ashes. Richard the Lionheart meets George Orwell. Thoughts of a remote past must have crossed the mind of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh last month, when, locked in his final cage, he saw the trail of fire coming his way. A subconscious, collective picture of the many so-called heretics and political resistants burnt at the stake in the distant Middle Ages. A taboo for humanists today, we would think, after all the progress our globalised political morality has gone through. Poking right where it hurts: the Islamic State and its warriors know us intimately. Frozen stare before our screens, us the post 9-11 worldwide-connected, subliminally fed with the snippets of Terror and its War, we are still hooked to the sensorial, like a drug addict with a permanent IV. IS is neutralising us in our dead angle, in our fantasy of a total show business that would leave nothing unseen. A spectacle standing for nothing else than itself, the twisted projection of an ideal, absolute destructive force, spot-on for our oldest fallacy: that one can be an outsider, a pure, passive observer. Under the derm of the Islamic State and its sensible, thus we must go this week on LILA Inter-actions. Come Carpentier de Gourdon reflects on the possible causes of the mutant-like DNA of the Islamic State, and questions the genuineness of the helpless, Manichean discourses of the ‘Western coalition’. Omar Sheira inspects the phenomenon and its growth through its internal dynamics, and points towards the lack of an indigenous state-building initiative in the Arab countries, as the fertile ground for such extremes.Read button
Everyone for themself. Nearly one and a half century have clearly not been enough to prove Herbert Spencer wrong on his dark twisted fantasy. The latest Union Budget, for 2015-2016, shows how even the financial possibilities of a Union can facilitate the openly pro-business tastes of a government: sharply cut the funds planned for the social sector, claim a ‘democratic’ sharing of responsibilities, and demand of the States to now use their own Governments’ resources to try satisfying those programmes. New methods for old ideas: Holi inaugurates another refreshing spring of acche din… Survival of the fittest is thus still the melody for the underprivileged majority, but now the contagion has also reached State administrations, intra in their increased tensions with the communities, and inter, as a new level of competition will now rule over the mutual relations of the States. Visibly, more inequity is the only commonality evenly shared across the society and its structures, starting with our most fundamental social and cultural architecture. While most countries of the world will celebrate the International Women’s Day shortly, we are attempting a connection between the coincidences of this context, and look specifically at the effect of the new Union Budget on women. This week on LILA Inter-actions, K. Shanthi deciphers the technical details of the new Budget and shows how just letting the numbers speak already gives many hints. Ritu Dewan draws the multiple conclusions of the economic dependency expected of women, and she demonstrates how the Budget betrays the very ineffectiveness of the prevalent mantras of development.Read button

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the writers are their own. LILA Inter-actions will not be responsible for the views presented.

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