February15

Land Acquisition: Tectonic Shifts

Delhi: Capital Sprawl

Divya Trivedi, Dunu Roy & C.R. Yadu 27 February 2015 Lucy Peck & Jaideep Chatterjee 20 February 2015
“… the experience of being at home can only be produced by rendering some others homeless.” The postcolonial observation of Aamir R. Mufti appears as a tragic template for our questions of land, always there¬†behind the current discussions on land acquisition and its legality. Are the polar confrontations of increasingly radical policies with confounded resistances pointing towards the last decades of our deepest, oldest and most fundamental assumptions about land? Recent turns in the shared lexicon of¬†educated and ruling¬†classes seem to indicate this transition: Politics, limited by the walls of our polis, of our cities, our fields and our nations, is reaching its limits and metamorphoses to become Governance, the refinement of the Greek idea of the kubernan, of the principle of guidance, of projection onto a collective future. Yes, ancient societies¬†knew of the possibilities of¬†total alternatives, but many of these potentials remained on the far margins, while our politics took superficial adjustments for revolutions. In our Inter-actions dialogue on the roots and branches of the new Bill on land acquisition, Divya Trivedi¬†measures the extent of detachment from the people’s concerns that ruling powers have developed.¬†She recognises politics as usual in their tragic conformism to existing paradigms of political economy. Dunu Roy draws the backdrop of the birth of the¬†Land Acquisition Act in India, and follows its¬†growth over a century, finding an unfortunate coherence¬†between a divinely ordained Crown and the surrender of party politics to neo-liberal programmes. He calls for the reclamation of the State and its instrumentality, an ambitious work of imagination and pragmatics, as shows C.R. Yadu in his spatially-specific reflection. In spite of socialist efforts with land, the latter¬†remarks, Kerala demonstrates the difficulties, but also the urgent need, of translating the words of our principles and our laws, into transformative realities on the ground. Read button
Snapshot of a city. Collective playground of our busy lives, the city and its subtle curls often resist the pause and evade our appreciative gaze. A city is always more than a snapshot, caught in the continuous bargains of its legacies and of its promises. This month and its political innovations would certainly highlight the loud aspirations of the latter, but that would be forgetting that February, in Delhi, is also the anniversary of the city as Capital of the Union, back in 1931. It was not written, before then, that this hybrid, horizontally-spread urbanity would set the tone for the image of a new India. Indeed, a capital is always more than a spoilt city, arbitrarily chosen amongst its tens of sisters. It sets the ethereal spirit and dreams of a nation on the ground, in the dust of the earth and the gust of the asphalt. Daring the snapshot of Delhi, thinking it today, is thus looking beyond the city and its dwellers proper; it is making urbanism, space-politics and architecture meet nation, culture and ideology at the table of the narrators of our times. This week on LILA Inter-actions, 84 years later, Lucy Peck ponders over the roots and implications of Lutyens’ Delhi, haven of another time in a megamodern city. But Jaideep Chatterjee finds cracks in the lifelines planned for the city, as the radical plurality of its present indicates above all how remarkably open Delhi is to its future mutations.Read button

Paanch Saal: Out of the Chrysalis of Dissent

The Lankan Observer: Indefinite Vigil

Vijay Pratap & Mukul Kesavan 13 February 2015 Sasanka Perera & Thiranjala Weerasinghe 6 February 2015
In the middle of things, one¬†often forgets how fast certain turning points of history happen. One month ago, the Election Commission of Delhi had just announced the single phase for Saturday,¬†7 February. Kiran Bedi was not yet known as the BJP candidate. And the AAP was still facing a wide distrust after the general disappointments of last year.¬†In media res, thus, everything took shape, showing how instantly and intensely the¬†homo politicus ignites, readily becoming confident of taking charge of the direction of a city. Strong shoulders were mandatory for the leaders in the spotlight, as the waves of scandals, attacks, accusations, threats and mockery between competitors were not the only resistance: an always larger civil society was more informed, more expressive and critical. And the battlefield would not claim its truce without casualties. The idiosyncrasy of Kiran Bedi would portray her as the face of the BJP’s flop. While the other loser, the Congress, would only remain in its by-now too familiar climate of derision, since no one saw them as a serious contender from the start. Stupefaction, a few days back, as the still young Aam Admi Party not only defeated the hegemonic BJP, but won the near totality of the seats for a historical sweep – the sweep of the broom. As we regain our senses, and as the AAP is emerging out of the chrysalis of dissent, questions keep bursting:¬†Where was this popular wave coming from? What can it achieve? How widely will our governance¬†culture evolve? What dynamics will be instated with the other remaining political forces? This week on LILA Inter-actions, Vijay Pratap reviews several kindred initiatives of the last four decades and rejoices¬†as local dialogue still seems the cornerstone for socialist ambitions. Mukul Kesavan¬†takes notes of the unique and unhoped for turn that these elections have engaged, but he remains concerned about¬†the adaptability of the still predominant force of cultural homogenisation.Read button
What a funny creature, democracy: dreamt of millennia back, fought for over centuries by the millions, never achieved, never complete, never granted. In place one day, gone the next. Conspicuously absent for a whole era, and suddenly back from the dead. Democracy plays with us, it provokes the degree of our determination. Democracy throws us in a transe, in a danse, a waltz – the waltz of democracy, at times soothing, often tragic. While democracy displays¬†almost¬†the exhaustive picture of its abuses in a State elections these days, a few miles down the¬†map it brought relief to a nation. Sri Lanka just celebrated¬†its 67th Independence Anniversary, and it did so, led by a new President, Maithripala Sirisena.¬†A surprise, as Mahinda Rajapaksa himself, controversial President for a decade, called for these elections two years before the end¬†of his term – the surviving trust of all the people was expected.¬†The waltz of democracy is leading everyone, politicians, citizens, citizen-politicians. It acquires more momentum, sprouting Springs and alter-globalisations here, but also media propaganda and mono-identity fantasies there. How many successes of the democratic have been forgotten, losing their flavour of celebration behind¬†all the ideological approximations and practical impatiences that democracy still seems to encourage?¬†To continue a series of dialogues initiated last year, and to extend the always vital reflection, this week’s LILA Inter-actions welcomes Sasanka Perera and Thiranjala Weerasinghe. Sasanka Perera sides with the igniting energy of the felt¬†political enthusiasm, but he also measures the real challenges facing Sirisena and each citizen to bring back balance and harmony.¬†Thiranjala Weerasinghe¬†analyses the¬†party dynamics that led to the fall of Rajapaksa, and he looks forward to the shared efforts of a polity aware and energised to prolong the effort and the attention… since the dance is clearly not over.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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