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November 23, 2011

RIP God! Wish You were not killed by those loudspeakers!




[From my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in VOICE,16-30 November, 2011 titled Making it Loud]

The day had started on a brilliant note. It was unfolding like those perfect Sunday mornings which effortlessly stretch themselves into the late afternoons. It was forcing itself, albeit quite beautifully, upon me by making me ponder over one of the most important questions of bachelorhood that has stretched itself into the early thirties of a not so eventful life. The question, too, did not have much to do with any metaphysical quests or the complexities of modern life. Rather, it was quite a simple and rather endearing one- if I should get off the bed to make some tea for myself or if I still had some time left to lazily stare into the white nothingness of the ceiling. Then, some people somewhere in the vicinity took the burden of snatching me out of the unproductive slumber unto themselves.



And what better way could they have found to ensure that than by unleashing the gods themselves on these lazy limbs wasting the Sunday morning? So they did by switching on what seemed and sounded like a thousand loud speakers blaring religious songs into my hapless ears. This was it for that idle gaze fixed on the roof, that pondering over making tea and all that made a Sunday morning beautiful. What I did not understand, though, was how these people got to know that on the question of god I concurred with that wreck of a person called Friedrich Nietzsche. If only he was around, he would have known how wrong he was. The god was yet not dead, just that he had come to live in my neighbourhood. This one was an intrusive one on top of that who has entered my house riding on the sound waves produced by the loud speakers.


This was not the first time though when the god has come to grace the neighbourhood I have been living in. Quite on the contrary, and despite all the problems I started having with him since my late adolescence, he has always been there. I have grown up with him for he was an integral and inalienable part of popular culture. He was there in the prayers of my parents every single morning. He would come to our mohalla every other day, whenever anyone had any reason to feel happy and declare that to the world at large. There would be Satyanarayana Kathas (tales of a true god). I always wondered about for they told all the tragedies that struck the people who were supposed to listen to the ‘katha’ but forgot. They would tell the tales of how this misfortune went away when they rectified their ‘sin’ and organized the recital of the ‘katha’. Yet, there was no tale in the katha and no one in the mofussil who could tell me what the real tale was about!


This, again, does not mean that I had anything against him during those heady days of growing up. I would definitely ponder about the actual tale that was missing from this katha but would love the prasad, especially the sugary flour we would get after the pujas. Then there would be those fairs (mela) we would wait for throughout the year. The melas would make our sleepy mofussil come alive and fill it up with a kind of frenzy pregnant with a hundred opportunities where there existed none throughout the rest of the year. The melas would serve as our only windows to the big-big world that existed outside the peripheries of the mofussil. They would bring us things testing the limits of our knowledge and bewilder us. They had a bigger role to play than that though. They would make us realize the worth of growing up for they would be the only times when we would get some pocket money completely of our own.


Mofussil towns are, and were always, very different from the big urban centers in that the concepts like pocket money don't exist in the mofussil. After all, the kids do not need to use public transport to go to the buildings referred to as schools. They were schools in the basic minimum sense of the word where the operative part was ‘minimum’. The kids from the mofussil would walk to the school and the ones coming from the villages peripherally attached to it would either walk/cycle to it or would be dropped by their brothers, parents or relatives. Well, I concede that motorbikes have replaced most of these cycles since those times of 20 years ago when I walked to one such school.

Not one of these schools would have anything even remotely akin to something called canteen. Canteen, in fact, was a word I got familiar with only when I left my mofussil for senior secondary studies, and there would be no need for carrying any money. Coming back to the point,because we would not need any money of our own to live in the mofussil, we would not get any pocket money. That was a concept that remained completely alien to us till the melas came as saviours giving us money that was our own. I did not have any particular liking for the god, or even for the concept of the god, but then I was quite happy for the fact that he brought us melas at least twice a year.

Nothing of this was comparable to the intoxicating trance that used to descend over our Kasba during the Dusehara festivals. That used to be the only time we felt proud of living where we did. The town would be full of pandals( tableaus) reconstructing the imagery of the victory of good over evil. Well, I accept that I have always had my doubts about what actually constituted good and evil but that did never stop me from living those days to the full.In the dark distant past when we did not have any cable television or computers, when facebook was almost a generation away Dusehara celebrations were our only shot at freedom to celebrate. It gave us a semblance of a night life, the only week in a year when we could afford to return home really, really late.

It also gave us our best friends. The friendships had started developing over edibles bought in the melas and shared with the buddies we found ourselves really close to and it was the time for them to cement themselves into relations that would last a lifetime. Well, let me also concede that these friendships based themselves over many a things that could qualify to be called sinful, at least on the thresholds. We would roam around almost all night and attend every single devi-jagaran or ratjaga (all night singing and worshiping the goddess). We won’t do that for any religious reasons though. The ratjagas would give us our only shot at spotting the beautiful girls of our mofussil and waiting for that elusive smile that would make us fall in love with them.

Our chants would be replete with elbowing each other and announcing our love for the girl we would most often not even know the name of. Those would prove to be one of the most precious moments of our lives. Singing some devotional song or chanting that ubiquitous ‘jai mata di’ we would be poking our ‘best friend’and telling him about the girl in blue suit, decades before That Girl in Yellow Boots was to come. There would be sacrifices, of course very silly ones, too. One would not take a moment to relinquish his love if the other professes it before him!

Forget the fact that more often than not we would not get a chance to talk to that ‘true love’ of ours even once in a lifetime. We were happy with the god (in fact, the goddess) that one could steal a glance at her, and got a smile in return as well at times, of course as presumed by him and vehemently supported by the buddies. Forget the fact that the true love kept changing year after year.

Forget the fact that nothing remained the same after we left the mofussil for higher studies. Forget the fact that we were shocked to find our ‘true loves’ having aged at a pace much higher than us, often married and with babies, when we got back for those holidays that shrank every year.

Forget all this, for nothing of this takes away the celebration of the life that was so intrinsic to the festivities. The festivities, in turn, trumped religiosity inherent to these festivals. Whether or not the ratjaga celebrated the victory of good over evil, it did celebrate the triumph of love (the possibility of love at least) against the repressive system hell bent against any assertion of individual choice. The ratjaga might not have been anything comparable to starry nights that defined the metropolitans but they did give us something to feel proud of, something to talk about to our blessed cousins growing up in cities.

The festivals, and the festivities attached to them, celebrated something more than that. They marked the triumph of the collective while accommodating the individual. The mofussil did never have any event managers, they do not have ones even today. Everything that got organized was organized by the community often obliterating the caste and religious divides. No Dusehara was ever possible in my mofussil without the lighting and firecracker works done by the Muslims and no procession of Moharram would ever be complete without active and enthusiastic participation of Hindus. The mela at Karbala will always have its ulta baja (the drumming that marks sadness) played by the Dalits.

Well, this is not to say that everything was beautiful in the mofussil, but it certainly was inclusive. The festivities brought cheers to us for everyone knew everyone and participated. The ratjagas gave the budding singers their first shot at public singing and the emerging percussionist his or her first at playing tabla or dhol. Loud speakers would of course be there but they would never be able to drown out our voices, neither would the lighting be able to outshine our smiles.

Yes, I had, and still have, a problem with the god for a thousand reasons. Yet, I could live with him for all the festivities that came in his name. Not anymore, for the mindless noise blazing out of the thousand loud speakers with no recognizable human voice. Nietzsche was wrong but not in his assertion that the god is dead. He was in fact murdered by his urban devotees and the alienation that permeates their lives. The weapons used, I am sure, were the loud speakers.

November 21, 2011

टुकड़ा टुकड़ा शाहकार है रॉकस्टार

दुनिया का कोई समाज खंडित मूर्तियों की पूजा नहीं करता. रॉकस्टार देख कर बाहर निकलते हुए मेरे दोस्त प्रशांत ने सिर्फ इतना भर कहा था. रॉकस्टार देखे और उसकी समीक्षाएँ पढ़ते/गुनते/झेलते हुए गुजरे इस एक हफ्ते में प्रशांत की यह बात कानों में लगातार बजती ही रही है.

अफ़सोस यह, कि खंडित होना रॉकस्टार की बनाई मूर्ति की नियति नहीं थी. अपने तई तो इस फिल्म ने बहुत कुछ नया गढ़ने की कोशिश की है और इंटरवल के पहले हिस्से में सफल भी रही है. रॉकस्टार बेशक एक खूबसूरत प्रयोग है, एक ऐसा प्रयोग जिसके टुकड़े शाहकार होने की ऊंचाई तक जा पंहुचते हैं. एक ऐसा प्रयोग जो दिल्ली जैसे शहर और इसके ‘क्रीम’ समझे जाने वाले हिन्दू कोलेज जैसी संस्था के आभिजात्य आवरण को चीरकर उसके अंदर के कस्बाई लोगों की कहानियां कहने का दुस्साहस करता है. वह कहानियाँ जो बहस और विमर्श तो छोड़िये ही, हमारी दीद से भी खारिज कर दी गयीं हैं.

सोचिये तो, कि हिन्दू कोलेज के बारे में सोचते हुए क्या किसी के दिमाग में कैंटीन मैनेजर खटाना जी का ख़याल भी आ सकता है? या फिर चिक-लिस्ट जारी करने वाला वह दृश्य जहाँ दिल्ली यूनिवर्सिटी में ‘बहनजी’ बताकर खारिज कर दी जाने वाली कस्बाई लड़कियों का दर्द छलक आया है. बहनजी, जिनके बहनजी होने का राज सिर्फ इतना होता है कि ना उन्हें अच्छी अंग्रेजी बोलनी आती है ना हाई-फैशन की गलियों से गुजरना. रॉकस्टार ने, कमसेकम, इंटरवल के पहले के पूर्वार्ध में कस्बाई मानसिकता को न केवल छुआ है बल्कि कहीं कहीं तो यथार्थ से भी आगे के यथार्थवादी ढंग से परदे पर उतार दिया है.

जनार्दन उर्फ जोर्डन उर्फ रनवीर कपूर को दर्द की दीक्षा देते हुए खटाना जी को समझना उस किसी शख्स के लिए शायद कभी संभव नहीं होगा जिसने अपने बहुत पीछे छूट गए कसबे में खुद को देख बेसाख्ता मुस्कुरा पड़ी एक लड़की की दूसरी मुस्कराहट के इन्तजार में खुद को देवदास न बना डाला हो. यह दर्द वही समझ सकता है जिसने मुकेश के दर्द भरे नगमों को ५ रुपये में एक कैसेट पर ‘डब’ करवा कर सुना हो, जिसने अताउल्लाह खान की ‘दर्द’ भरी गजलों से ज्यादा उनकी सच्ची झूठी कहानियों पर आंसू बहाये हों. यह उन्ही कस्बाई लड़कों के लिए संभव है जो एक लड़की के इकतरफा प्रेम में जिंदगी के एक लंबे दौर तक उदास रहने को काम समझते थे और फिर अपने पिता की दुकानों पर बैठ धीरे धीरे तोंदिल अधेड़ों में बदल जाते थे.

यह वह जगह है जहां आकर चुक जाना रॉकस्टार की नियति बन जाता है. यह वह जगह है जहाँ आकर रॉकस्टार को जनार्दन को पीछे छोड़ जोर्डन की कहानी कहनी पड़ती है. वह कहानी जिसमे हमारे नायक को ‘दर्द’ तलाशना है, वह दर्द जो उसे बचपन में अपना शोषण ना होने से लेकर अपने माँ-बाप के अब तक जिन्दा होने की वजह से अजनबी सा लगता है. और फिर दिल टूटने का दर्द तो नीली जींस के ऊपर घर का बुना स्वेटर पहनने वाले इस लड़के के नसीब में था भी कहाँ.

रॉकस्टार के प्रयोगों की ख़ूबसूरती उस अंतर्संघर्ष के निरूपण की ख़ूबसूरती थी जो कस्बाई जेहनियत के महानगरीय आभिजात्य संस्कृति से चाहे-अनचाहे टकरावों से पैदा होती है.यह खूबसूरती जनार्दन के जोर्डन बनने की यात्रा में भी बनी रह सकती थी बशर्ते फिल्म उस यात्रा के रास्तों को पहचानने की, उन पर चलने की कोशिश करती. पर यहाँ तो न सड़कें थीं न सफर, बस मंजिल ही मंजिल थी. वह भी ऐसी मंजिल जो हसीन हादसों के इत्तेफ़ाक से हासिल हुई है.

हाँ, रॉकस्टार का जनार्दन किसी अंतर्संघर्ष की तपिश से पैदा हुआ कलाकार नहीं, एक सफल इत्तेफाक भर है, एक इत्तेफाक जो रॉक की ऊँचाइयों तक जा पंहुचता है. किन रास्तों से यह बताना फिल्म भूल गयी है. अपनी किसी दोस्त (जो लड़की है) की शादी में काश्मीर चले जाने की वजह से घर से निकाल दिए जाने का इत्तेफाक. (वैसे इसमें इतना गलत क्या था कि बात डांटडपट से ऊपर जाकर घर से निकाल देने पर रुके यह आखिर तक समझ नहीं आया.)

फिर खटाना जी जैसे दोस्त के घर न जाकर पूरे दो महीने निजामुद्दीन दरगाह पर रहने का इत्तेफाक. इस इत्तेफाक से उपजा वहाँ के कव्वालों से टकरा उनके हारमोनियम की संगत में अपना गिटार उतार देने का इत्तेफाक. (यूँ ईमानदारी से कहूँ तो गिटार और हारमोनियम की ये संगत इस फिल्म के सबसे बड़े दृश्यों में से है, या शायद समकालीन बोलीवुड के भी). फिर गिटार बजाते हुए एक बड़े शहनाईवादक उस्ताद द्वारा देख लिए, और उस्ताद के प्रभावित होने का इत्तेफाक. फिर म्यूजिक कंपनी के ऑफिस से लगभग असफल होकर निकलते हुए उस उस्ताद के पंहुच जाने का इत्तेफाक.

हाँ, इस मामले में यह फिल्म अपने समय की नब्ज को बिलकुल ठीक ठीक पहचानती है, पकड़ती है. शेयर बाजार के इत्तेफाकों से तय होते उतार चढ़ाव की लहरों पर सवार होकर धनकुबेर बनने के सपने देखनेवाले इन समयों में, कौन बनेगा करोड़पति खेलते इन समयों में, या फिर रियालिटी स्वयंवरों के इत्तेफाकों से निकले फैसले लेकर जीवनसाथी चुनने के इन समयों में सफलता के लिए इससे ज्यादा संघर्ष दिखाने की जरूरत भी क्या थी. वह दौर कोई और था जब बम्बई नाम के उस शहर में ‘स्ट्रगलर’ नाम की एक पूरी जमात हुआ करती थी. काश उन्हें भी कोई हीर कौल मिल जाती फिर तो हमारे पास दिलीप कुमार से लेकर अमिताभ बच्चन तक सब बहुवचन में होते!

खैर, खटाना भाई के दिए ज्ञान को पल्लू में बाँध रेडीमेड दर्द की तलाश में निकले हमारे जनार्दन को फिर बस एक ही रास्ता दीखता है, कोलेज की मशहूर दिलतोड़ू हीर से प्रेम का इजहार कर खारिज कर दिया जाना और उससे पैदा हुए दर्द को अपनी रचनाशीलता के ईंधन में डाल महान कलाकार बनने की यात्रा पर निकल पड़ना! उसके बाद जो है, अंग्रेजी में कहें तो बस ‘इतिहास’ है.

पर फिर, इस इतिहास में दर्द, वह भी इतना सारा, आया कहाँ से यह इतिहास शामिल नहीं है. बस स्टॉप पर बोर हो रही जनता का मनोरंजन कर रहे ‘जनार्दन’ की दिल्ली पुलिसिया पिटाई को भी भरपूर ‘फुटेज’ देने वाली यह फिल्म उसके दर्द के स्रोतों का कहीं कोई फुटेज नहीं देती. उसके तो खैर छोड़िये ही, जनार्दन के पूछे सवाल कि ‘कहीं तुझे मुझसे प्यार तो नहीं हो गया’ का विलंबित जवाब देती हीर कौल की ‘हाँ’ छोड़ें तो फिल्म में और कहीं कुछ भी ऐसा नहीं है जो इस दर्द का बयान कर सके.

इसका भी कि हीर के प्राग जाने और बीमार हो जाने के पीछे की वजह क्या है/थी. इसका भी कि मनोवैज्ञानिक बीमारी के अस्थि मज्जा (बोन मेरो) कैंसर में बदल जाने के पीछे इश्क-ए-हकीकी था या गम-ए-मजाजी! फिर से, सिर्फ एक दृश्य हीर के हाल की थोड़ी सी खबर देता है, जब उसका पति जोर्डन के बारे में सवाल कर्ता है और वह सिर्फ इतना कह पाती है कि ‘पता नहीं’!

शायद इस पता नहीं में ही जोर्डन के गुस्से का राज है. पर यह गुस्सा है किसके खिलाफ? उबलता हुआ आक्रोश तो ठीक है पर सिर्फ एक गाने में लहराते तिब्बत के झंडों से या कश्मीरी जनता की उपस्थिति से कुछ साफ़ नहीं होता. यह भी कि साडा हक छीना किसने है, इसे वापस लेना किससे है.

यही वह जगह है जहाँ आकार यह फिल्म बोझिल सी हो जाती है. काश्मीर की खूबसूरत वादियों में बारहा दौड़ती मोटरसाइकिल का बिम्ब कहीं अंदर यह भी महसूस कराने लगता है कि पहली ही बार के देखे में हम यह फिल्म बार बार देख रहे हैं. या शायद, यह गुस्सा हमारे समयों की छाती पर धंसा हुआ वह झंडा है जिसको सेंसर बोर्ड बार बार धुंधला कर देता है. जोर्डन का आक्रोश वह आक्रोश है जो गरीब जनता के छीने जाते हकों के बरअक्स छीजते जीवन मूल्यों वाले मध्यवर्गीय सपनों का भारत है, ३२ रुपये से नीचे जीने वाली ७० प्रतिशत आबादी के सामने चलो अमेरिका के सपने वाला इण्डिया. इस इण्डिया का गुस्सा बस इतना ही हो सकता है. इसके अस्तित्व की तलाश भी बस जिंदगी में पहली बार चाय बनाने के संकट से उपजी अपने आपे की खोज भर हो सकती है. फिल्म इस दिशा में इशारा भी करती है जब म्यूजिक कंपनी का मालिक कहता है कि सब कुछ 'इमेज' है.

टुकड़ों टुकड़ों में शाहकार यह फिल्म एक इमेज एक मूर्ति तो गढ़ती है, पर एक खंडित मूर्ति, और प्रशांत की बात बिलकुल सच है कि दुनिया का कोई समाज खंडित मूर्तियों की पूजा नहीं करता.

November 11, 2011

Of Despicable Duplicates: Can the copycat outshine the real Mahatma?




[From my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in VOICE,01-15 November, 2011]

Imitations, they say, are the best form of flattery. It could not be otherwise, for being an imitation, even if a bad one comes far too easily than being an original in today’s copycat world. They come with an advantage too. Once caught, imitations could always take advantage of being the indisputable proof of the worthiness of what was getting imitated and thus subvert the whole process of imitation into celebration of the original.

The logic worked more often than not. A Salman Khan looked at ‘fake’ ‘Being Human’tee shirts as the strongest proof of his stardom. Cheap replicas of an ‘Anarkali’ worn by some actress in some movie flooding the markets spoke volumes about the success of the movie, and the starlet, even if the trade pundits opined in the opposite. There was Ghajini too, leaving its mark on the minds and the heads, literally, of the youth of the country.

All of a sudden we had all the streets taken over by the young people, all male, walking with that strange hair style adorning, I wonder if that’s the right description but then that is beside the point, their heads. How much I shiver at the thought of that would have happened if Occupy Wall Street Movement started by then? That would definitely have looked like quite a surreal scene straight out of some scifi flick.

For now, we can take relief in the fact that it did not, and the Wall Street, and every other thing that is occupied and is getting occupied, is being occupied by normal human beings like us. Those who are the 99 per cent, own less than the ten per cent of earth’s resources and therefore cannot afford the lobbyists.

We can also take relief in the fact that they did not bear those white caps known as Gandhi-topis! Like all reliefs in today’s melancholic world, however, this one was to be short lived as well. Someone was going to force this ‘topi’ on the heads of the youth with a sort of moral authority that never was.

He was an imitation but not the one that would make the original any prouder, any more desirable. He was a terrible photocopy of the original, blurring the text to such an extent that they first became incoherent and then, read with the glasses of the killers of the original,gave a meaning completely antithetical to what the original one has preached and practiced all his life.

As I have said even earlier in my articles for this column only, that old frail chap clad in a loincloth, the one who walked with a stick, was not flawless, neither do I agree to all his ideas. Quite contrary to that, I am vehemently opposed to some of them, and thank heavens, unlike the new copycat Gandhi, his philosophy allows me to think like that and still be certain of my safety and security. He was as fallible as a human being can get. He had his strengths and his weaknesses. He fought with the enemies but never despised them. He abhorred what he called ‘sin’ but told not to hate the sinner. He believed in engaging and not assaulting even those opposed to him. There was another thing in life he never compromised upon, the right of democratic dissent.

There was another thing very close to the original’s heart. The idea of secularism entwined with the idea of justice. His idea of secularism was, of course, very different from how we understand it today, or in the modern/western (I don’t want to use these words inter alia but is there a way out?) sense we see it today.

Secularism, for him, was not the separation of religion of public sphere but offering equal protection to all religions by the state. This was something he did never compromise upon, right from the days of Khilafat movement to his death by the bullet of a Hindu fanatic belonging to the same Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) that forms the backbone of the so called movement of the new copycat Gandhi.

The original one, the Gandhi, had the courage to speak his mind and own responsibility for what he said and did. There were times when he found himself flowing against the current. There were times when he found all his friends, all his supporters in disagreement with him. There were times his candidate lost for the post of presidency of Indian National Congress against Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, another stalwart of our freedom struggle. Yet, he never lost a friend. He never made an enemy. His moral authority was so huge that the same Netaji was to call him Mahatma in his first ever broadcast after the formation of the Indian National Army.

His moral authority was earned and was not imposed on him by the media as was going to be the case with his murky copycat some six decades later. His fallibilities made him more human, more humane, and so much more likeable. They also made it so much easier to relate to him. He was not merely a trope to bring out the best and worst of human interactions. He was not, and could not be used as a literary device, for he was neither going to become a devil nor a prophet. He was not going to even claim that. This is what makes him Gandhi, the hero of the people, the one who left indelible marks on the history and future of his people.

It was not without reasons that public sphere and popular discourse of his times often become synonymous with his life. I could have called him best person who ever lived on this earth like Einstein but will not. For me, Ernesto Guevara aka Che was the most complete human being as was for Sartre. And then, I would thank the original one again for being able to say that. As it is, for this blasphemous comment the new one might have let his menacing supporters loose for my blood, or even more possibly, would have brought out his Shivaji’s sword out of sheath.

More I think of this more I get ascertained that no imitation would have done this huge disservice to the original, in the ‘hitherto’known history of the world.

Remember the original one who was the last man standing in the face of all the mayhem brought in by the torturous partition of the subcontinent and look at this army deserter who takes recourse to abusing Pakistan at the drop of a hat. Look at the original one who fought for Pakistan’s dues singlehandedly and this one who stops just short of celebrating violent attacks on a member of his own core committee!

I wonder what part of the committee is left now, for all the desertions reported by the media hint at not even the core remaining in that core committee. This self-designated Gandhi, plan B-Z (it has yet not completely abandoned the BJP despite all the’ rat/h’ races!) of the RSS and its hundred arms, would not have read the history of Kashmir conflict, I am sure. Neither is there any remote possibility of this small tyrant of a village who derives sadistic pleasure by flogging the ‘alcoholics’, what if they bought it from the government owned ‘thekas’ and paid all taxes, having heard the name of Jawaharlal Nehru. After all claiming to be a second Gandhi,or a third JP or a fourth Hitler is far easier than serving the punishment of staunchly secular Nehru, isn’t it? Had he read him, he might have seen the case in a different light.

Let’s forget the merits of the case Prashant Bhushan espoused for a moment though. Let’s just remember the Honourable Supreme Court’s recent pronouncement that one cannot be convicted even for the ‘membership’ of a ‘proscribed’ organization if s/he is not inciting or engaged in acts of violence. So even if, I repeat, even if Bhushan’s comments were ‘anti-national’, was the attack on him justified? Who listens to the Supreme Court though? Definitely not the ones who are the court, the law, the constitution and even the people unto themselves? Nay, they are above than them all, as his lieutenant who is yet to come clean on his NGO’s accounts claimed.

They are the ones who will never, for once,think of Babasaheb Ambedkar and realizing their folly one fine day, they would invite two girls a Dalit and a Muslim to offer juice to that copycat, forgetting the fact they are marking the girls for their lives. They would do it on the same stage where another of their core committee members would crack highly casteist jokes and sing objectionable songs like ‘the streets of Patna are crying , those destined to graze the cattle are running the country’. Pat comes another salvo, this time from the horses (the twice born one?) deriding the Chandal- Chaukadi, denigrating a caste protected under the provisions of Scheduled castes and tribes act! Invoking Babasaheb, again, is far easier than concealing the casteism that has become part of their DNA, isn’t it?

Oh yes, I almost forgot about their goddess of honesty who was charging fares for the same flight from two different organisers and was actually pocketing it! Though, this was just another feather in her very honest cap, err Anna topi, that included gems as getting her daughter admitted to a medical school under North-East quota!

That Gandhi was in favour of disbanding the Congress, but was not interested in annihilating it, leaving the ground open for Jansangh, the illegitimate father of the BJP. For argument sake even if we accept that the Congress is the most corrupt one, would the BJP be a distant second? And the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) of Kuldeep Bishnoi? History can’t forget the ‘legacy’ of Bhajan Lal so easily.

Ask any such questions and the Gang Anna starts singing in unison this is all a ploy! this is all a ploy! Uff, so reminiscent of those sheeps from that brilliant masterpiece of Orwell, The Animal Farm! Ask them why they should not be subjected to same levels of scrutiny as others and they go in hiding, sending the ‘masterfake’ into maunvrat (vow of silence)!

I remember the original one going for fasts many a times, but never a maunvrat. A maunvrat for him would have been something similar to escaping, like conceding defeat, and he was not known for that. He went for fasts to purify himself, ‘atmsuddhi’ as he used to call it. He kept on dealing with issues and engaging with people during those fasts. The reason was simple. His answers could have been inadequate but he was never bereft of them. His actions could h ave been misperceived, but no one doubted his integrity ever.

Precisely for these reasons, the fake one has started moving towards his nemesis. Greatness, after all, is earned and when one has it imposed on him he gets destined to the fate of this fake one.

Meanwhile, I am really very happy for the original one, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I am sure he, too, would be immensely relieved for the fact, wherever he is, for not bearing the cap named after him even once.

November 03, 2011

Mahishasur: Return of the Grand Narrative of Liberation

[Published in The Forward Press of November 2011. Translated in English from my original submission in Hindi by the magazine]

In the dawn, armed with a burning patience, we shall enter the splendid cities
—Arthur Rimbaud

To be in the headlines, it often seems, is the destiny as well as the intention of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). This time it made headlines because of the cover story of the FORWARD Press magazine by renowned thinker and political activist Prem Kumar Mani, in which he challenged the brahmanical reading of the myths and presented an alternative and “resistant” re-reading of the story of “goddess Durga” and “Mahishasur” (“Who Are the Bahujans Really Worshipping?”, FP, October 2011).

The last part of this article that strongly challenged the brahmanical traditions was publicized as a release and pasted on the walls of JNU by All-India Backward Student Forum (AIBSF), an organization committed to fight for the rights of the Dalit-bahujan students. It must be noted that pasting of pamphlets and posters is a part of the JNU tradition. The heat these posters generate have played a huge role in giving birth to and strengthening the JNU traditions. For example, it was on the same JNU campus that in 2003, the Progressive Students’ Union, under the leadership of Mudrarakshasa and Ramnika Gupta, took out a procession and burnt the Manu Smriti. And the regressive camp brought out despicable pamphlets like “When Infidels Died, Allah Smiled”.

One thing has generally been very clear; these debates in JNU were carried out in the form of debates and violence was shunned to all possible extent. In any case, if debates are not carried out in the universities then where else?

But the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarathi Parishad (ABVP) – continually rejected and pushed back by JNU students – used the AIBSF pamphlet based on the FP article to look for possibilities to polarize the students for their own nefarious ends. Alleging that it offended Hindu sensibilities they began tearing the AIBSF posters off. And with that they began spewing forth communal poison they are so well known for. It needs no saying that these guardians of regressive values do not have any answer to reason and logic except resorting to violence.

And resort to violence they did. A few days after that event AIBSF and UDSF had organized a talk on the topic “Reservations in Private Sector”. Later that night, after the talk was over, they carried out a well-planned attack on the organizers in which many leading members including Jitendra Yadav, Vinay Bhushan and Munni Bharati were injured. Police had to be called to the scene and both the parties lodged separate complaints.

The general student community was enraged at this violent brand of politics, and, the following Monday, it showed in the massive demonstration demanding the university administration take action against the guilty. The administration scared by the huge gathering of students was forced to promise strong action against those found guilty.

But then, the socio-political significance of this event goes much beyond any action. This significance lies in strengthening of efforts to reread myths, claims and traditions. And then these efforts determine the pace of history – history, which according to Hegel, is the history of “growing consciousness of freedom”. Whatever else the battle between Mahishasur and Durga may have done, it has definitely compelled everyone in JNU, who stands on the side of justice, to be ready for a direct confrontation with injustice inherent in one’s own history and traditions.

This confrontation culminated with the seminar “Mahishasur and Macaulay: A Rereading” organized by AIBSF and UDSF on the eve of the birth anniversary of Lord Macaulay. There was a much larger audience this time and the speakers included social activist and writer Ramnika Gupta, Dalit thinker and poet Kanwal Bharati and Editor in Chief, FORWARD Press, Ivan Kostka and VC Bose, IAS. Many things were said but the underlying note was the same – it may be a history of defeats but defeated parties have a history, nonetheless; and to retrieve one’s history is an act of great importance. But one must go beyond merely propping up a new myth to counter an existing myth because the limits of post-modernity weaken the possibility of a grand narrative of liberation.

This seminar is also a message that the attacks by the status-quoists will only strengthen the resolve of those working towards change. They only recharge them with indomitable spirit to search into their own history.

And then not only Mahishasur but all the rejected great heroes of history make a comeback and this return act as one more log in the funeral pyre of Brahmanism.

The message is that you will no longer be able to hold Mahishasur back, because almost a century and a half earlier you were not able to stop Jotiba Phule from bringing back Baliraja. Now all Mahishasurs will return to your cities, and with limitless patience they will snatch away from your hands their rights. This much is certain that they will not do unto their enemies what was done unto them, because they take their stand with justice.

November 02, 2011

महिषासुर: मुक्ति के महाआख्यान की वापसी

[फॉरवर्डप्रेस, नवंबर 2011 के अंक में प्रकाशित]

जलते हुए धैर्य के हथियार से लैस, प्रवेश करेंगे हम, शानदार शहरों में, सूर्योदय के वक्त!
-आर्थर रिम्बौ

कई बार लगता है कि सुर्ख़ियों में रहना जवाहरलाल नेहरु विश्वविद्यालय (जेनयू) की नियति भी है और नीयत भी. उससे भी बेहतर यह कि यह नियति भाग्यवादी नियति नहीं बल्कि आतताई और आखेटक व्यवस्था के हथियारों को चुनौती देने का साहस और उससे उपजे हमलों को झेल सकने की जिजीविषा की नियति है. यह नीयत ‘कहीं कोई विकल्प नहीं है’ के उद्घोषों के दौर में प्रतिरोध के साथ साथ संभावनाओं के नए प्रतिदर्श खड़े करने की नीयत है.

खैर, इस बार सुर्ख़ियों का सबब बना प्रख्यात चिन्तक और राजनीतिक कार्यकर्ता प्रेमकुमार मणि का लिखा और इसी ‘फॉरवर्डप्रेस’ पत्रिका में छपा आमुख लेख, जिसमे उन्होंने मिथकों के ब्राह्मणवादी पाठ को चुनौती देते हुए ‘देवी दुर्गा’ और ‘महिषासुर’ की कथा का एक वैकल्पिक, और ‘प्रातिरोधिक’ पुनर्पाठ किया था.(देखें, 'किसकी पूजा कर रहे हैं बहुजन', फारवर्ड प्रेस, अक्टूबर 2011)

दशहरे के पर्व की सांस्कृतिक-ऐतिहासिक विवेचना करते हुए मणि का मूल निष्कर्ष था कि यह आर्य संस्कृति के अनार्यों के साथ छल के सफल होने का विजयपर्व है. उनके मुताबिक़ यह पर्व अपने मूल चरित्र में आर्यों के द्वारा अनार्य (और बहुजन) राजा महिषासुर को कपट से मारकर आर्य सत्ता स्थापित करने के उत्सव पर्व से ज्यादा कुछ भी नहीं है. इस लेख में बंगाल और कुछ अन्य स्थानों पर वेश्यायों द्वारा देवी दुर्गा को अपने ‘कुल’ का बताये जाने, और दुर्गा प्रतिमा के निर्माण में उनके घर की मिट्टी की प्रतीकात्मक ‘अनिवार्यता’ का जिक्र भी था.

ब्राह्मणवादी परम्पराओं को गहरी चुनौती देते हुए इस लेख के अंतिम हिस्से को जेनयू में दलित-बहुजन हकों की लड़ाई के लिए प्रतिबद्ध संगठन ऑल इंडिया बैकवर्ड स्‍टूडेंट्स फोरम (एआइबीएसएफ) ने बतौर रिलीज जारी करते हुए जेनयू की दीवारों पर चस्पा कर दिया. गौरतलब है कि जेनयू के इतिहास में तथाकथित विवादित मुद्दों पर आने वाला यह कोई पहला पैम्फलेट या परचा नहीं था बल्कि जेएनयू की तारीख में इस किस्म के पर्चे प्रगतिशील और प्रतिगामी दोनों किस्म की राजनीतिक धाराओं से आते ही रहे हैं और इन पर्चों से पैदा हुई बहसों की तपिश ने जेनयू की रवायतों को पैदा और मजबूत करने में अपनी बड़ी भूमिका निभाई है. यह और बात है कि दोनों तरफ के पर्चों में दृष्टि और स्वप्न का फर्क होना लाजमी है. मसलन जिक्र ही करें तो इसी जेनयू में प्रोग्रसिव स्टुडेंट्स युनियन ने बाकायदा जुलूस निकाल कर विचारक मुद्राराक्षस और रमणिका गुप्ता की सदारत में २००३ में मनुस्मृति जलाई है तो प्रतिगामी खेमे की तरफ से ‘काफिरों की मौत पर अल्लाह मुस्कुराया’ जैसे घटिया पर्चे भी आये हैं.

पर एक बात सामान्य तौर पर साफ़ रही है कि जेनयू ने इन बहसों को बहसों की शक्ल में लिया है, नयी राजनीतिक दृष्टि के, समानता और बराबरी के सपनों के प्रस्थान बिंदु के बतौर देखा है और जहाँ तक संभव हुआ है हिंसा को रोका है. यूँ भी, बहसें विश्वविद्यालयों में नहीं तो फिर कहाँ होंगी.

पर जेनयू के छात्रों द्वारा लगातार खारिज की जाती और पीछे हटती हुई अखिल भारतीय विद्यार्थी परिषद(एबीवीपी) ने इस पर्चे में उसके अपने स्वार्थों के काम आने वाली ध्रुवीकरण की सम्भावनाओं को तलाश लिया. पूरे पर्चे की सांस्कृतिक-राजनैतिक दृष्टि को छोड़ते हुए उन्होंने दुर्गा को वेश्याओं द्वारा अपने कुल का बताये जाने वाले हिस्से को चुना और इसे हिन्दू भावनाओं को आहत करने वाला बताते हुए एआइबीएसएफ के पर्चे फाड़ने शुरू किये. साथ ही उन्होंने शुरू किया वह साम्प्रदायिक विषवमन जिसके लिए वह जाने जाते हैं, बस अंतर सिर्फ इतना था कि इस बार दुश्मन ‘अन्य’ मतलब ‘अल्पसंख्यक’ नहीं बल्कि उनके दावों के मुताबिक़ उनके ‘अपने’ लोग थे, वह लोग थे जिन्हें उन्होंने और उनकी राजनैतिक धारा ने हमेशा अपने शहीदी दस्तों की तरह इस्तेमाल करने की कोशिश की है. इसीलिये उन्हें यह भी समझ आ रहा था कि धार्मिक आधारों पर न होने वाला यह ध्रुवीकरण उनके काम तब तक नहीं आयेगा जब तक वह इसको कोई और रंग न दे दें. हाँ, ब्राहमणवादी वर्चस्व की विचारधारा के इन समर्थकों के लिए यह परचा, और इसे जारी करने का ‘एआइबीएसएफ’ का ‘दुस्साहस’ उनकी ५००० साल की सत्ता को चुनौती देने वाला और इसी लिए नाकाबिलेबर्दाश्त भी लगा. यह कहना शायद गैरजरूरी ही होगा कि प्रतिगामी मूल्यों के इन पहरुओं के पास तर्कों का जवाब हिंसा के सिवा कभी कुछ रहा नहीं.

उन्होंने हिंसा की भी. इस घटना के कुछ दिन बाद एआइबीएसएफ और यूडीएसएफ द्वारा निजी क्षेत्र में आरक्षण विषय पर आयोजित एक गोष्ठी के तुरंत बाद उन्होंने आयोजनकर्ताओं पर सुनियोजित हमला किया जिसमे एआइबीएसएफ के नेतृत्वकारी साथियों जीतेंद्र यादव, विनय भूषन और मुन्नी भारती समेत कई अन्य कार्यकर्ता घायल हुए. घटनास्थल पर पुलिस को आना पड़ा तथा दोनों पक्षों की और से शिकायत दर्ज कराई गयी.

इस पूरे घटनाक्रम का बुरा पहलू बस इस हमले तक ही सीमित था. इस हमले के माध्यम से परिसर के साम्प्रदायिक ध्रुवीकरण की एबीवीपी की ख्वाहिशें जेनयू के आम छात्रों और प्रगतिशील राजनैतिक संगठनों के सशक्त प्रतिरोध के सामने जमींदोज होकर रह गयीं. असफलता से उपजी बौखलाहट में फिर उन्होंने अगले दिन उनके द्वारा किये गए हमले के विरोध में आयोजित सामूहिक मेस कैम्पेन के साथियों को उत्तेजित कर एक और हिंसक झगडे की सम्भावना तलाशी जो उन साथियों के असीम धैर्य और शांतिपूर्वक प्रतिरोध के सामने असफल हुई.

हाँ, इन दोनों हमलों ने आम छात्रों के अंदर इस हिंसक राजनीति के खिलाफ एक गुस्सा भर दिया जो विश्वविद्यालय प्रशासन पर दोषियों के खिलाफ कार्यवाही करने की मांग को लेकर हुए विशाल प्रदर्शन में नजर आया. इस प्रदर्शन में उमड़ी संख्या से भयभीत प्रशासन को दोषियों के खिलाफ कड़ी कार्यवाही करने का वादा करने पर मजबूर भी किया.

पर फिर, इस घटना के सामाजिक-राजनैतिक निहितार्थ ऐसी किसी भी कार्यवाही से कहीं बड़े हैं. यह निहितार्थ हैं मिथकों के, दावों के, परम्पराओं के पुनर्पाठ की कोशिशों के मजबूत होने के. इन कोशिशों से, फिर, इतिहास की गति निर्धारित होती है, उस इतिहास की जो हीगेल के मुताबिक़ ‘स्वतंत्रता की चेतना के बढते जाने का इतिहास’ है. महिषासुर बनाम दुर्गा की इस लड़ाई ने और कुछ किया हो या न किया हो, कम से कम जेनयू में न्याय के पक्ष में खड़े हर व्यक्ति को अपने इतिहास और अपनी परम्पराओं के अंदर के अन्याय से सीधी मुठभेड़ करने, पर विवश किया है.

इस मुठभेड़ की परिणिति हुई लोर्ड मैकाले की जयन्ती की पूर्वसंध्या पर एआइबीएसएफ और यूडीएसएफ द्वारा आयोजित ‘महिषासुर और मैकाले: एक पुनर्पाठ’ गोष्ठी से. अबकी बार सुनने वाले भी काफी ज्यादा थे और वक्तावों में शामिल थे इवान कोस्टा, कंवल भारती, रमणिका गुप्‍ता, कंवल भारती, विकास चंद और कौशलेन्द्र. बातें तमाम हुईं पर मूल स्वर एक ही था, कि पराजित जातियों का पराजय का ही सही, एक इतिहास होता है और उसे वापस हासिल करना एक जरूरी कार्यवाही है. यह भी, कि बात मिथकों के मुकाबले मिथकों को खड़ा कर देने से आगे जानी चाहिए क्योंकि उत्तरआधुनिकता की सीमायें मुक्ति के महाआख्यान की संभावनाओं क्षीण कर देती हैं.

यह गोष्ठी सन्देश भी है कि यथास्तिथिवादियों के हमले परिवर्तनकामियों को और मजबूत ही बनाते हैं, उनके अंदर उनके अपने नायकों, उनके अपने इतिहास की खोज की अदम्य जिजीविषा भर देते हैं. फिर सिर्फ महिषासुर नहीं बल्कि इतिहास से अब तक खारिज तमाम महानायकों की वापसी होती है और यह हर वापसी ब्राह्मणवाद की चिता में एक और लकड़ी का काम करती है.

यह सन्देश है कि अब आप महिषासुर को रोक नहीं पायेंगे, क्योंकि लगभग दो सदी पहले आप ज्योतिबा फुले को बलि राजा को वापस लाने से कहाँ रोक पाए थे. अब तमाम महिषासुर लौटेंगे आपके शहरों में,और असीम धैर्य के साथ छीन लेंगें आपसे अपना हक. यह जरूर है कि वह आपके साथ वैसा सलूक नहीं करेंगे जैसा आपने उनके साथ किया था क्योंकि वह न्याय के हक में खड़े हैं.