March 2009


We are publishing here the analysis of Lahore attacks as “state crisis” of Pakistan. Our readers know that we have been persistent on our position that Islamic terrorism is a symptom of “organic decay” of the post-colonial and Neo-fascist state of Pakistan. We have always maintained a sharp distance from the elitist perspective in vogue in certain secular/ex-left quarters of Pakistan on war on terror which is nothing but a blind drum beating for United States imperialism. We have also been critical of “pro jamat and pro Sharif Left” who is blindly following the Petty-bourgeois and bourgeois agenda in Pakistan. This analysis by International Marxist Tendency is a must read by all progressive Pakistanis. Its one of the most important pieces of work which has emerged on the present situation in Pakistan.

Pakistani section of IMT also held its annual congress in Lahore which is the largest congress of communists in Pakistan. The advance theoretical work which has emerged from this congress is very encouraging. We render our solidarity to the revolutionaries of Pakistan.

Shaheryar Ali

Lahore Terrorist mayhem shows crisis of Pakistani state

IMT correspondent in Lahore

Monday, 30 March 2009

At half past eight this morning (March 30) terrorists used machine guns and grenades to launch a savage attack on a police training academy in Manawan, on the outskirts of Lahore. The police and special forces remain locked in pitched battle with the attackers who are hidden inside various buildings at the site, as emergency services are scrambling to evacuate the wounded to nearby hospitals.

Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.
Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.

According to private television channels at least 20 policemen are dead and 150 injured. Two militants have also been killed according to Rangers personnel. “The number of killed is at least 20,” police sub inspector Amjad Ahmad told AFP outside the police training ground in Manawan. However, given the murderous crossfire as police attempted to flush out the terrorists inside the building, the death count may turn out to be much higher.

The incident took place as trainees were participating in a morning parade. Eyewitness accounts estimate some 10 militants carried out the attack, and at least 11 explosions have been heard so far. According to reports, some of the attackers entered the academy wearing police uniforms.

The location of the attack is significant, since Manawan is close to the road that leads to the Indian border. Clearly, the implication is meant to be drawn that the hand of India is behind this latest outrage. In the same way, some sections here tried to pin the blame for the recent killings of Sri Lankan cricketers (also in Lahore) on India, allegedly as retaliation for the Mumbai atrocity.

However, there is a far more likely explanation, and it points an accusing finger at a source far nearer to home. Yesterday the Pakistan authorities conveyed their “concerns” through diplomatic channels over certain aspects of the new policy for the region announced by President Barack Obama on Friday.

“We will speak to them (the United States) on issues of concern in subsequent diplomatic negotiations,” the President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the Dawn on Saturday. A similar impression was given by senior officials of the foreign office, who said the concerns would not go unnoticed and would be taken up at an “appropriate level”.

What did Obama announce that so worries Islamabad? The US President announced several incentives, including an increase in aid to Pakistan, the passage of legislation on the reconstruction opportunity zones and a commitment to democracy in the country, but at the same time he was quite ominous in his tone when he categorically said that there would be no “blank cheques” for Pakistan.

What does this mean? It means that, although Washington sees Pakistan as a vital piece in its strategy to fight the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, it is becoming increasingly frustrated at the ambiguous role of the Pakistan authorities and in particular the role of the Pakistan secret services (the ISI), a shadowy state within a state, which is well known to have close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban and is secretly protecting and encouraging terrorist organizations for its own sinister purposes.

The response of the Pakistan foreign office was guarded because this is an explosive issue and one that lies at the heart of the crisis in the Pakistan state. Sources in the foreign office stated: “There are pretty big problems in the policy about which our leadership is not speaking.” They have good reason to keep silent!

American frustration was shown by recent declarations by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who urged Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service to cut contacts with extremists in Afghanistan, which he called an “existential threat” to Pakistan itself. Gates was merely saying what everybody has always known: that Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has had links with jihadi terrorist groups “for a long time, as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever,” as he told Fox News Sunday.

“What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan,” Gates said. “They can count on us and they don’t need that hedge,” he said, citing the ISI’s links specifically to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network and to the forces of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The Pentagon chief’s comments came after President Barack Obama on Friday put Pakistan at the centre of the fight against al Qaeda with a new strategy to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

“He clearly understands this is a very tough fight and that we’re in it until we’re successful, that al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States and that we are in no danger of either Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan being a base for Al Qaeda,” Gates added.

America is losing in Afghanistan

It is now an open secret that the war in Afghanistan is going badly. Western casualties are constantly rising. Obama is trying to extricate the US forces from Iraq in order to reinforce the US military presence in Afghanistan. Asked about a New York Times report that US military commanders had pressed Obama for even more troops, the defense secretary said: “The president has approved every single soldier that I have requested of him. […] And the reality is there already are a lot of troops there. This will bring us, when all is said and done, to 68,000 troops plus another 35,000 or so Europeans and other partners.”

Obama is now exerting intense pressure to extract more troops from its unwilling European allies. Washington is also demanding more civilian experts and police trainers. But no matter how many troops are sent to Afghanistan, the likelihood of victory remains a mirage. With every bomb dropped on an Afghan village the hatred of the foreign invader grows more intense. The government of Kabul is seen as a puppet government of collaborators and corrupt gangsters. On the other hand, the Taliban have an endless supply of recruits from Pakistan, plenty of money from opium smuggling and secure havens in the tribal areas across the border with Pakistan.

This explains the public attacks on the ISI from Washington, which have provoked angry denials from the Pakistan State Security. The fact is that the ISI was actively encouraged by Washington to support al Qaeda and the Taliban in the past, when these reactionary bandits were used to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. This encouraged sections in the tops of the Pakistan army (and especially the ISI) in the belief that they would have a free hand in Afghanistan, which, in effect, would be under Pakistan’s control. They developed the notorious theory of “defence in depth”, which meant that Afghanistan would serve Pakistan as a kind of fallback position in the event of another war with India (a subject these elements are constantly obsessed with).

Ever since the US imperialists have changed the line and declared war on their former allies, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the ISI and other reactionary elements in the Pakistan General Staff have not concealed their displeasure. They have never abandoned the theory of “defence in depth”, nor their ambitions in Afghanistan. They have never broken their links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, which are not motivated by religious fanaticism, but rather the fanaticism to get rich by dirty means.

As Pakistan’s economy collapses and the masses are faced with poverty and hunger, prominent citizens of Pakistan are growing fabulously rich on the proceeds of the black economy, especially the lucrative drug trade. The so-called Islamic fundamentalists are really gangsters and lumpens, linked to the drug mafia and transport mafia that trades in human misery. This is big business on a vast scale, which involves massive corruption that leads all the way up to the top – including the tops of the army. This is the cancer that is gnawing at the entrails of the Pakistan state and destroying it slowly from within. That is why Gates talks about an “existential problem”.

A few months ago, a Pakistani general, Ameer Faisal Alvi, a serving officer in the Pakistan army’s campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Tribal Areas of Waziristan, and head of the elite Special Services Group (Commandos), sent a letter to the Chief of Staff, general Pervaiz Ashraf Kayani, denouncing the fact that generals of the Pakistan army were actively collaborating with al Qaeda and the Taliban. As a result, he was dismissed from the army. After this, he sent another letter to the Chief of Staff, in which he named the generals concerned. It was an act of personal bravery for which he paid a high price. On November 26, 2008 he was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Islamabad.

Splits in the state

This explains why the rulers of Pakistan are afraid to talk about certain matters. The rottenness of Pakistan capitalism has extended to the highest levels of the state, army and government, to the extent that it threatens complete breakdown. Last week a US think tank predicted that if something were not done soon, the state could break down in six months! All these events are a striking confirmation of the Marxist analysis of the state that was put forward in the recent congress of The Struggle.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto was an indication of the sinister forces at work in Pakistani society. The western media falsely portray this as the rise of “Islamic fundamentalism”, when in reality these terrorist organizations are small minority groups composed of lumpens and bandits manipulated by the powerful drug mafia and the state. Although it was a lumpen fanatic who pulled the trigger, the real murderers of Benazir Bhutto were the ISI. There is no doubt that the same people were behind the Mumbai atrocity and the killing of the Sri Lanka cricketers. And there is no doubt that the same invisible hand is behind today’s bloody events, which are meant as an answer to the threat from Washington.

The idea that the fundamentalists enjoy massive support in Pakistan society is a blatant lie and a slander against the people of Pakistan. These reactionary gangs were originally created by US imperialism under the brutal Zia dictatorship and were nurtured, financed, armed and trained by the Pakistan state. Without the backing of the ISI they are nothing. That is why the US imperialists are now demanding that the Pakistan government take action against the ISI.

This is very easy to say from the safety of an air-conditioned office in Washington, but not so easy to put into practice on the streets of Islamabad. The ISI is entrenched after decades of a pampered and privileged existence. It is linked by a thousand links with corrupt government officials and politicians at the highest level, to organized crime on a grand scale, to the drug and transport mafia, to the religious fanatics in the madrassas that turn out brainwashed fanatics prepared to act as the murderous instruments of reaction, and to the murky underworld of jihadi terrorism.

Another section of the state has different interests. They are in the pockets of US imperialism, whose interests they serve like a dog licking the hand of its master. They bow and scrape before their bosses in Washington, who treat Pakistan as if it were America’s backyard. The conflict at the heart of these two antagonistic wings of the ruling class is explained by antagonistic material interests.

As far as the working class of Pakistan is concerned, there is nothing to choose between these two rival groups of gangsters. The Pakistan Marxists will fight US imperialism and oppose its criminal actions in Afghanistan, Waziristan and Pukhtunkhwa. But we will do so with our own methods and under our own banner, which is not the black flag of fundamentalist reaction but the red flag of socialist revolution.

Only by taking power into their own hands can the working class overthrow the rotten, diseased state of the exploiters and build a new state – a democratic workers’ state in which the lives and destinies of the people will be determined by the masses themselves. That is the only way forward to lead Pakistan out of the present nightmare and into the realm of socialism and freedom.

Lahore, March 30, 2009

If one looks at the cultural history of Muslims in India, its hard to ignore the festival of Nowruz: The spring festival of Persia and central Asia which marks the start of spring of the start of Persian New Year. For more than a thousand years Nowroz was an official festival of the imperial courts in Dehli and Agra. Later it enjoyed the support of the princely states like Awadh and Hyderabad. Most Indians may remember K.Asif’s epic Moghul e Azam , which shows Jashen e Nowruz of Moghul court.

Nowruz was not just a fashion of muslim elites of India, rather it had a multi-dimensional character. After the Arab-muslim conquest of Persia, the festival of Nowruz became the symbol of a cultural resistance against Arabization and Arab imperialism. With the alliance of the sunni clerical establishment with the Caliphate in Baghdad after the initial resistance of the great Sunni Imams like Abu-Hanifa , Imam Malik and others , the Persian metaphysics and culture came under increasing attack from the state in name of Islam.

imamalishahadat07kr8 The resistance movements in the conquered and converted lands of Arab empire took shape of an “alternative” understanding of Islam, one which was radically different from vision of Abbasids and their supporters the Sunni clerics. The converted people looked towards their traditional philosophies, mythologies and cultural symbologies to understand Islam. Result was development of mysticism and different shades of Shia Islam. It must be understood that the political movement of proto- Shia was predominantly an Arab phenomenon with no theological differences with the proto-sunnis. The theological shia emerged quite later just as the their sunni counter part as the result of looking at Islam through the rich metaphysical tradition of Persians, Coptics, Nestorians, Arians and Pagans. The constant friction between the Ismaili Fatmid and Abbasid Empire played a great role. Its easily forgotten today that what is today dismissed as “heresy” was once the official Islam of half of the Moslem world and its continuous dawa in Abbasid lands made it “people’s religion” in other. Many “sanits” or Sufis could very much be Ismaili dais. Sufism shows a great resemblance to Ismaili theology esp in its understanding of concept of “beyond”. An account of this process with the resultant dissent in Islam is explained here and here.

Haft Sen

Haft Sen

In this environment Nowruz, the ancient festival of Persia was re-invented by the Shia and Sufi theologians as a potent symbol of resistance against Arab cultural invasion as well as against the rigid and loyalist Islam. Since most of the resistance against Arab imperialism was surrounding one or another Alavite cause, Nowruz was linked with the Holy House of Muhammed, whose status was under attack by the Arab rulers, Against the de-mystifying attempts of Abbasid and their loyalist clerics against Muhammed and Alavites, the Sufis and Shia trends merged both of them with the ancient Gnostic metaphysics with which the conquered people were very familiar. Nowruz became the day when Ali was awarded the “wilayah” in time before Time began. It was the day of Muhammed’s declaration of prophet hood in the zone beyond time, it was the day universe was created, and the day when Mehdi will deliver humanity from tyranny

Through Sufi teaching and its accompanying Ismaili dawa the festival reached the Sunni lands of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakhtoonkhawa, India, Turkey, Albania and Bosnia. Kurds also adopted the day due to the esoteric mystic tradition which mostly had Ismaili relations. With formation of Pakistan and its increasing Arabaization and State sponsored Anti Shia militancy, festival of Nowruz has virtually gone into obscurity. Its not that Nowruz is not celebrated in Pakistan, it is widely celebrated but is ignored. Even Pakistan’s self pro-claimed progressives and secularists who have a mantra of tolerance and pluralism on their lips 24/7 are insensitive to an “alternative cultural expression”.

Shias make a sizeable population in Pakistan and they celebrate Nowruz as an “Eid”, special ceremonies and prayers are offered in the Imam Bargahs , sweets, fruits, perfumes, flowers usually mark the offerings of Nowruz. The Aga Khani Ismaili community also celebrates Nowruz in Pakistan. In certain Northern areas of Pakistan which have Shia and Ismaili majority Nowruz has a very potent cultural expression. All of this fails to find any representation in mainstream Pakistan, result is an average educated Urban Pakistani simply doesn’t know about Nowruz. The Pakistani intellectuals are usually busy lecturing India on tolerance and pluralism on issues like Varun Gandhi etc etc and usually don’t care about such small things. The Shia holocaust in Pakistan also goes un noticed by most of our secular-progressive-sufi- Elitist intellectuals. Thanks to them no one in Pakistan knows whats going on against Shias in Parachinar and other areas. A fellow blogger Abdul recently spoke about this criminal silence by those who have a claim to Alternative media in Pakistan. Here is the article by Abdul and other links about Anti Shia holocaust going on in Pakistan. Here , here and Here. Most of our protests on these issues are also met with the same response. Indifference

Pakistani Shias celebrated this Nowruz with an increasing awareness of Talibanization. Yet another Pakistani community celebrates Nowruz. It’s the Bahai community. Scattered through out Pakistan, the Bahai community leads life of invisibility due to “cultural holocaust and apartheid” which is order of the day in Pakistan. Bahai’s through out Pakistan celebrated Nowruz.

Bahai star

Bahai star

The Persian speaking people of Pakistan [this is yet another information for an average educated Pakistani, that there exist people in Pakistan whose mother tongue is Persian] also celebrates Nowruz. Darri speaking [Afghani Persian] Hazaras of Baluchistan also celebrate Nowruz. [Yet another victim of state sponsored holocaust]

Yet another Pakistani community which celebrates Nowruz is the Zoroastrian community commonly known as the “Parsi community”. The community is trying to preserve the ancient pre-Islamic heritage of Iran. Geographically Nowruz is celebrated with greater enthusiasm in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawer, Northern Areas of Pakistan especially Hunza valley, Gilget and Baldistan , Multan and Kashmir. In Pakistan the customs of Nowruz are different than those of Iran.

In Pakistan Nowruz is mostly celebrated as “Alam Afrouz” or the new day. People dress up and visit each other. There are special ceremonies and “aamal” and prayers in Imam Bargahs and Jamat Khanas. Hina, bangles and eidi are also part of Nowruz celebration. In villages the practice of burning wood logs and jumping over it was an established practice on Nowruz but now has almost died. Special sweets like “laddo”, ”rus malai”, ”gulab jaman” “cream rolls” and Suhan Halva are made on this day. These sweets plus roses and perfumes replace the tradition “Haft sen” of Nowruz,

Since in mystic and Shia theology Nowruz is the day to celebrate the wilayah of Ali and house of Muhammed , I have selected a “Ginan”, which are the mystic lyrics wrote of Saints of Indo-Pk , many of them were Ismaili dais [as the Ismaili history is slowly being de-mystified] in praise of the Imams who were in occultation in those days. Shamas the mysterious mystic was also an Ismaili dai who introduced Rumi to “Batin”, what lies beyond the words of Quran.

This particular Ginan is being offered by none other than Queen of mystic music Abida Parveen and it speaks about the “Raj”, the Millennium when charismatic Imams, the continuation of Koranic symbology of Noor-un-ala-noor will rule the humanity. The start of this was affirmation of Ali in realm of spirits an act which is symbolized in day of Nowruz. In modern times this Ginan is specially recited on coronation of the Aga Khan the “Hazir Imams”, the continuation of Ismaili Imamat and the most philosophical rich movement in Islam whose metaphysics contributed a lot in development of mysticism. The devotion of Abida Parveen is worth seeing, a truly spiritual experience. HE Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Hazir Imam can be seen enjoying the Ginan.


Nehru’s grandson Varun Gandhi , other day spoke in a language against Muslims which shamed the legacy of his grandfather and Mahatma Gandhi. Varun Gandhi has a blood relation with Nehru but his politics has nothing to do with the legacy of Mahatama Gandhi or Jawahurlal Nehru. Mr Varun Gandhi took the line which was the line of Indian communalists before partition against which Nehru and Gandhi stood. Varun Gandhi is not in Congress but the BJP. The heir of Hindu communalism ,which existed before partition who were the real authors of “Two Nation theory”.The Hindu and Muslim communalists which are now called “Hindu and Muslim Nationalists” fashionably , are the cause of religious hatred in India and Pakistan. Varun Gandhi was yet another voice of Religious Nationalism which is “segregationist” and “separatist”. It resulted in breaking of India and the never ending conflict which plagues Indian subcontinent. War, Taliban and Nuclear proliferation are a few expressions of the evil which religious nationalism produced. Varun Gandhi mocked philosophy of Mahatama Gandhi in his speech and departed from Nehru’s secular vision. The Indian Liberal’s continuous attack on Gandhi and Nehru has resulted in slow erosion of secular-socialist values which has resulted in rise of BJP and communalism in India. Just as their muslim counterpart Pakistani liberals are bringing PML-N and Jamate Islami on their shoulders to throne of Islamabad. Time has come that people revisit the history and rediscover the evil of religious nationalism which now threat 3 states. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Following is an article sent to me by a friend JZ written a veteran Pakistani Leftist and Prof Kurt Jacobsen both of them also co-authored number of books and frequently write for prestigious publications like The Harvard International Review  and Le Monde Diplomatique it speaks about legacy of Gandhi and gives a very balanced view of Gandhi , Jinnah and others. We must stop the evil of communalism and religious nationalism weather it exist in fascist form , ie Taliban and RSS or its liberal-secular form the BJP and Pakistan Muslim League and their representatives like Varun Gandhi


SA


Sayeed Hasan Khan and Kurt Jacobsen

Mahatma Gandhi died the 30th of January 1948 at the hand of a mad Hindu fanatic. The legendary leader, also known as Bapu, was deeply tormented in those final days as he watched political power passing into the hands of those political ‘pragmatists’ who humored or succumbed to Hindu communalism, as opposed to those people championing his own multi-cultural, nonsectarian vision. Given the imminence of partition, which he had resisted with all his might, Gandhi declined to participate in independence celebrations, staying conspicuously far away from the capital.


As violence intensified, Gandhi hurried to Delhi where he implored members of the Communist Party to help him to douse the fires of sectarian hatred, to which even some Congress leaders were not immune. Among those answering his summons was Mohan Kumaramanglam, a communist who was the son of a Congress leader from Madras . When Gandhi fretted about mass killings, Mohan retorted that whatever happened merely was the logical result of Bapu’s own political strategy. Gandhi, sitting cross-legged on the floor, stood up and vowed that he was going to stop communal violence even if it cost him his life. It did, but the killing ceased immediately too. His assassin belonged to the RSS, which was banned and did not raise its ugly head again for several more decades.

When Gandhi originally arrived on the political stage there were already plenty of formidable leaders like Jinnah, Gokhle and Tilak jostling there. Jinnah carefully established himself over years in the mould of 19th century English parliamentarians, as a strict secular leader who was fighting foremost for the independence of India . When Gokhle and Tilak died, Jinnah regarded himself as the obvious successor and appears to have felt aggrieved that the position was assumed instead by that deceptively simple, loin-clothed figure.


Gandhi most certainly was a religious man, but in a radical way that transcended Hinduism. He disliked the caste system for the way upper caste Hindus exploited it. The Hindu community nonetheless was over two thirds of India ’s populace and it had to be acknowledged as such if there was to be a meaningful independence movement at all. The privileged Congress leaders, including Jinnah, were always leery of mass politics. If anything, they were suspicious of ordinary people. But Gandhi, in order to reach the masses and to unite Hindus, invoked Hindu symbols from atop Congress platforms. Gandhi as a practicing Hindu, thereby could out-maneouvre and thwart the Hindu ultra-nationalists. He was less adroit dealing with Muslims for whom the symbols he invoked were pure anathema. His call for Ram Raj antagonized them too. Jinnah, unfortunately, was accurate in his view that mass politics would bring the worst aspects of communalism to the top.


Congress itself operated on secular principles but Muslims increasingly perceived that it was Hindu-dominated. This was not true, but the mainly Hindu leadership were unable to dispel these lurking fears. Yet Gandhi forged an agreement with the Ali brothers and a majority of Muslim religious leaders to support the khilafat movement. Jinnah was sidelined, as he was the only major Muslim leader who did not side with the khilafatist. Here was a high water mark of Hindu-Muslim amity, and Gandhi with the indispensible help of Moulana Mohammad Ali achieved it. Whatever the popular misperceptions, Gandhi reached out to his Muslim neighbors in every imaginable way. When during the khilafat agitation a mob burned the police station at Chouri Choura along with the policemen inside he withdrew from the movement, which resulted in severe differences with the Muslim leadership. Jinnah felt vindicated.


Gandhi was pro-capitalist, and his principled nonviolent stance too meant that that he rejected militant revolutionary groups. He declined to support Bhagat Singh when he was arrested and hanged for shooting an Englishman. After the great massacre in Calcutta , though, Gandhi hastened to Bengal , taking former chief minister of united Bengal H.S. Suharwardy along, and managed to restore peace there. The two Punjabs, however, were busy expelling their own respective minorities. Hindus and Sikhs fled from west to east and Muslims were being pushed into Pakistani Punjab. Gandhi maintained that all minorities should be allowed to live in their own homeland. He dispatched a delegation to Gurgaon, a city near Delhi , to stop the forced migration of the minority Muslims.


The Meos community, who were Muslim, was targeted for expulsion. A Gandhian delegation was mounted, led by Mirdula Sarabhai, hailing from a Gujurat industrial family. Other members were Mohan Lal Gautam, a niece of Pandit Nehru Tara Pandit, and Mohammad Masood secretary to Moulana Azad, who told one of us this story. They discovered Muslims were being packed off to Pakistan on special trains. So they rushed to the station where they found a train full of victims about to leave for
Lahore . When their request to halt the train was rejected, Mohan Lal Gautam, a UP Congress leader, stood in front of the train and refused to move until it was emptied of its involuntary passengers.. Gopi Chand Bhargava, chief minister of
Punjab , arrived and tried to persuade Mohan to leave. Ultimately, the passengers were allowed to go back to their homes.

Thousands of them already reached Pakistan and were languishing in refugee camps in Sahiwal. Later, Chaudhry Yasin a leader of Meos, escorted some of them back to India . Today Gurgaon is no longer a sleepy town. The Meos are fully represented in the Harayana legislature and reap the benefits of their contribution to the development of their city. This all became possible because of one man’s moral stance..

Later, Gandhi asked Chaudhry Khaliquzaman, the leader of the Muslim League in the Indian parliament, to go to Pakistan to try to halt the migration of Hindus from Sindh. Khaliq sahib told one of us that he met the leaders of the government, including the chief minister of Sindh Khuruo who informed him that he himself trying to stop the flight of Hindus from Sindh but that Acharya Kirplani was urging them to migrate. Jinnah meanwhile reverted to his nationalist days and addressed the constituent assembly, pleading with them to shun religious doctrine where the work of state is concerned. The State he envisioned deemed everyone equal and guaranteed that the minorities have rights to practice their religion.

Jinnah was close to a Sindh Hindu journalist, Sharma, whom he asked not to go to India , as he needed his aid. Jinnah’s friend R.K. Dalmia had bought two English daily papers, so Sharma was likely to enjoy a secure job. Jinnah solemnly promised Sharma that he would do the same thing in Pakistan as he did in pre-partition India , which is to fight for the minorities, who now were non-Muslims. But terrible riots erupted 6 January 1948 and a fearful Sharma insisted on leaving. Jinnah arranged special passage for him. The small section of the Sindhi Hindus who were able to stay have done well, but the cream of the Sindhi Hindu community fled and Pakistan was the loser as these clever and skilled people dispersed around the world.

Gandhi often is accused of converting the Indian National Congress into a blatant Hindu organization. Yet once the Hindu majority were mobilized in the movement their religious culture was bound to seep into the organizational ‘culture.’ Despite Gandhi’s best egalitarian intentions, how could it be otherwise? Some sort of communal facade had to be allowed in order to fend off Hindu extremists. The religious political sentiment of the main community cannot help but exert its impact on any national movement.

Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, who was called the Frontier Gandhi, was the founder of Khudai Khidmatgar movement, which was nationalist and closely worked with the Congress. It had Hindu members but its overall culture was Muslim, even the name means servants of god. Ghaffar Khan, succeeded far more than his friend Gandhi, when he turned the hardy Pathans toward the nonviolent creed, instead of the customary rough methods they were used to settle their disputes with the government and among themselves.

Sixty years after the martyrdom of Gandhi sectarian-inspired killings occur in parts of India and Pakistan and there is no one with the moral authority to appeal to humanity to stop destroying itself in this stupid way. When Gandhi was killed Muslims throughout the subcontinent grieved for the man whom they loved to hate not so long before. Playwright Bernard Shaw said upon Gandhi’s death that one day people will be unable to believe that a remarkable man like him ever walked on the face of this earth. Jinnah said that a great Hindu leader died. He was correct, but Gandhi hadn’t left the Muslims, the Muslims left him. He died while doing his best on their behalf not as minority members but as brothers and sisters



Context of the Article: Portrayal of Women in Pakistani Media: Another Jab at Pakistani Liberal Thought by Freethinker

Shaheryar Ali

“The sex Industry sells clothes and the fashion Industry sells prostitution and pornography”

Beauty and Misogyny, Sheila Jeffreys

After reading a wonderful post by a friend and fellow blogger I am forced to write on the issues of Objectification of women, the developed of a hegemonizing and selectively politicized discourse on “emancipation of women” and its highly inaccurate linkage with commercial fashion Industry which has nothing to do with “women lib”. The only relationship it had with political and social movements of women liberation had been extremely hostile one. One often encounter’s mediocrity in disguise of advance intellect but the way “intellectually challenged” have been hegemonizing Pakistani intellectual scene is a real tragedy. This painful awareness disturbed me a lot after reading a lot of responses to Freethinker’s excellent post which objected to objectification of women by Fashion Industry and Corporate media in Pakistan and their ideological mimickers masquerading as anti-commercial “alternative media”. While freethinker was objecting to the “representational discourse and imagery”, trying to demonstrate the fakeness of hypereality [Jean Baudrillard] , one which has nothing to do with “reality” but rather is nothing but an image created, circulated , authenticated, idolized and incorporated into perceptual consciousness of humans by capitalist mass media , fashion industry and other such hegemonizing entities , the intellectually challenged media monkeys perceived it as an attack on personal choices , on liberalism and cultural pluralism etc etc. ”]Thesis[war of Pakistani Identity]The general ignorance which plagues English speaking Pakistani elite and its allied intellectual class is ironic in this sense, that their dogmatism is similar to those who it usually attack ie primitive Taliban. They are ignorant about the advance theoretical positions and philosophies which have emerged as “emancipatory critiques” of established knowledge ie Western Rationalism, Marxism/Stalinism, Logic and Analysis. Freethinker’s critique was not on the dress choice of a famous Pakistani model but rather on it being the “representative” of women. This was an attack on “Simulation”. The ground breaking critique on Mass Media and Visual Arts by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard revolves around three key concepts

1) Simulation

2) Simulacrum

3) Hyperreality.

In his philosophical cosmos a simulation is a process in which representation of things replace the “things being represented”. This is a very problematic notion because it causes “de-humanization”; the main concern of intellectuals like freethinkers. With the tremendous power that Visual media holds in late capitalism, this process of the representation becomes more important than the “real-thing”. Signs are thought of as representing reality, Signs than mask the reality, Signs than mask the “absence of reality”. With this we enter a simulacrum, a state where Signs have no relation with Reality what so ever. With Global mass media invasion, copies of copies are created and bombarded on Human Retina. No longer has the simulation reflected an original but simulation is reflecting a simulation. With the mass media and fashion Industry’s portrayals of women as beauty and sex objects, freethinker was calling for appearance of “real woman”. One which works in a cotton field goes to college, dances on a shrine, a typical lahori house wife wandering in bazaar, slightly over weight not much self conscious. The real woman which we never see on mass media or Fashion Empire which portrays a certain image of women based on male chauvinism.

”]Anti-thesis [War on women bodies]The second aspect of Freethinker’s critique was “problematization” of practice of “politicizing women’s bodies”. The ignorance about more advanced techniques of critical pedagogical dialogues led to further “misrepresentation” of Freethinker’s critique as favoring one side of the war being played on women bodies. To contextulize it let me give you an example. When General Musharaff sided with United States in War on Terror, state adopted a policy of “Enlightened Moderation”. Women’s bodies became the arena of war on terror. General Musharraff’s state sponsored the fashion industry of Pakistan and also the mass media which mushroomed in Pakistan. The commercial interests of media empires, fashion and cosmetic industries led to “objectification of women” on mass and visual media. The Ramp-show models were being represented in London and Paris as “other face” of Pakistan. [Just as the offending post against which Freethinker protested]. These simulations were being politicized as representative of a “secular progressive Jinnah’s Pakistan”. The result of this politicization of women bodies resulted in a barbaric attack on Women’s bodies from the Right Wing. “Burqa” emerged as a “resisting symbol” of Musharraff’s enlightened moderation. Whilst Mush’s were simulations existing only on media, Taliban threaded the “real women” on streets, with Acid. The ultimate anti-thesis of this politicization of simulations was Burqa clad suicidal militants of Red Mosque.

The war which was hyperreal [where reality is replaced by simulacrum] resulted in worse crimes against real women who never were being represented. Why hyperreality is dangerous, the whole violent debate in Musharraff era revolved around “obscenity of fashion shows”, “western cultural invasion” in name of “emancipation of women”. All NGO’s and modernists kept debating this useless notion , war against “co-marathon” in Lahore . All this was in name of “women rights”. Despite the marathons, and establishment of a vibrant fashion industry the “plight of real woman” is same. No serious debate took place on domestic and sexual slavery of women in Pakistan, All anti women laws remain, no debate on reproductive and abortion right, this despite the war in name of “women rights”. This is hyperreality. 8 years nation was polarized on women emancipation, liberalism, secularism and nothing has changed on ground. Because every thing was fictitious a simulacrum of mass media. The real women is paying the price now her safety is under threat.

Iqbal Hussein's paiting

Iqbal Hussein's paiting

The politicization of women bodies is one of the most important causes of mass crimes against women. Dr Robina Saigol has done an excellent study on how Pakistani Nation State politicizes women’s bodies and its consequences. Its is called Militarization, Nation and Gender : Women’s bodies as Arenas of Violent conflicts. Just as a critique on media portrayals of women was considered an attack on Pakistan Patriotism, a patriotism which revolves around either converting women into a “Barbie doll” of a “burqa clad sub human”. The inherent insecurity of Pakistani nationalists lead them to slogan mongering like Long Live Barbie Doll without realizing the amount of exploitation which goes on in such Industries.

Why we are so concerned about how women are portrayed on media for commercial interests, because overwhelming evidence exists on the harmful effects it causes on “real women”.

“Extensive research has demonstrated the negative results of female beautifulobjectification in the media. Depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders are only a few among the growing list of repercussions (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). In addition to the objectification of women, the media commits another assault on the dignity of women. This assault is the dismemberment of women, and it has not received the attention it deserves (Kilbourne, 2002). Kilbourne (2002) pointed out that advertising is a 100 billion dollar a year industry. Each day we are exposed to more than 2000 ads. Advertising can be one of the most powerful sources of education in our society. Many women feel pressured to conform to the beauty standards of our culture and are willing to go to great lengths to manipulate and change their faces and bodies. Kilbourne suggests that women are conditioned to view their faces as masks and their bodies as objects. Through the mass media, women discover that their bodies and faces are in need of alteration, augmentation, and disguise. In addition, women are taught to internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies. This phenomenon is called objectification (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). Advertisements are loaded with objectified women, and only recently have the effects of objectification been explored. However, the effects of the dismemberment of women in advertising have been neglected. Dismemberment advertisements highlight one part of a woman’s body while ignoring all the other parts of her body. Dismemberment ads portray women with missing appendages or substitute appendages. Of course the ads are only symbolic of dismemberment, but the symbolic imagery creates nearly the same effect.” The Objectification and Dismemberment of Women in Media , Kacey D Greening.

47503ca290403_1130b1use1What was truly condemnable that the images which were posted in retaliation of Freethinker’s criticism included what have been called “dismemberment of women”. The images highlight one part of women’s body neglect others, like in this case face and breasts. One should note that one never comes across image of male model showing just his crotch! With these images bombarding the mass media, it alters the reality and consciousness. This results in viewing women just as pleasure objects and toys; this is the first step in converting women into prostitute. Pleasure and sex which can be bought apart from woman’s soul: conditioning men into thinking of women as objects and pressurizing women to “conform” to sex-beauty protocols this de-humanizing continues. It is not about what dress some one is wearing, its hyperreality and politicization of women’s bodies which we are objecting. I am concluding this article by giving position of a radical feminist to add another perspective to the issue

“Yet fashion is still misogynist. It commodifies women, encourages them to believe that they must endure pain in order to be sexually appealing. Designers advertise clothes by picturing them on clear-skinned, breastless cadavers, in so-called “women’s magazines”; these magazines run articles that discuss how fashion can help you — an averagely fat, slightly be-zitted woman — come close to this standard of beauty. Fashion invites every woman to make the old trade of sex for money and happiness.”

Anti-Fashion: Patriarchy necessitates prostitution necessitates fashion, Chase Olivarius McAllister

“The Wine of Croatian orchids doesn’t alleviate my pain, it burns me more, the pains of love, the pains of alienation, the pains of separation are strange pains: as the wounds heal, the pains sharpen—the soul burns on denial of love and on denial of emancipation——–”

220px-khawaja_ghulam_farid_tomb_at_kot_mithan1 Deep in south of Punjab in the colonized Saraiki deserts spoke one poet who is known as “Keats of the East”, for just like him , love is his subject , every shade of Love , every color of love , love in all its glory , love in all its pain. This Sufi of love ballads when saw his desert being occupied, being colonized changed the shades of his Love Songs, such was the intensity of emotions on the feeling of dispossession of Rohi [Romantic name of desert thar , used for Saraiki lands] that Farid cried

Apni dherti aap wasa tu , putt Angreze Thanne.

[O brave son of land] Take the ownership of your land back in your hands and demolish these British police stations.

Too strong for a Sufi , it may appear to English speaking sufi admiring class of Islamic Republic whose ideas of Sufism are result of interposition of modern quietism to theological mysticism. I drink from my glass , the dark fruity wine from lands beyond , pain sharpens in my heart , the pain of separation , I feel like burning every thing down including myself , the serene voice of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan echoes in my ears.

Ishiq Anokhri peer ae—- Love is a Strange Pain— tears flow from eyes—wounds of heart are strange— I long for my lover— I have become a fatally wounded l patient I have been separated from my love. Life without lover is a lie. I am just like a Crane which has been separated from its flock— and my eyes continuously shed tears —-a thousand pains plague my soul—for love is a Pain Strange

This is separation, which Farid felt, a separation from his land, a separation from his love. They don’t understand, those who have turned their guns and cannons towards the gallant Balochs , they call them brothers and kill them but they don’t understand Love. What love is for a lover?

O Friend Farid [speaks Sassi] Love is a pain strange. O my lover, you are my friend, you are my honour, you are love for me, you are beauty for me, you are my faith, you are my creed and you are my Quran—-You are my total asset –you are my state and my king—– Pains have settled in my heart because you have been separated— and my flesh burns with a hissing sound— for Love is pain strange

amj A soul in love burns each second, those who have fell in love don’t fear fire, the solders of this great Islamic republic don’t know about love or they wouldn’t have put 4 young Baloch men in molten Coal Tar — they don’t know lovers prefer to melt in fire than to betray their love—-Lovers melted in Tar but no sky fell—God thy kingdom has gone for ever—-they put thy son on cross no sky fell— No sky fell when thy soldiers burned alive these Baloch youth—-Lovers are insane they keep loving , they face torture, their family becomes their enemy—but these mad people they keep traveling on the road to love—O people of Islamic Republic this tyranny and torture will not break the Balochs—It didn’t broke Sassi listen to your Sufis and learn the lesson

[Sassi speaks] The day I expressed my love [for the handsome Baloch] I have declared a war against my tribe, my kin—my father, mother and brothers beat me [are dead for me]. O Lover the people of city are enemies—– the prison of loneliness, of alienation is a strange misery—my soul has a hundred wounds——-

Sassi when wandered in the desert in search of his Baloch lover Punnu—weakened by thirst and grief—she encountered a wicked man who wanted to take advantage of Sassi’s misery. These were the olden times and God had yet not gone into retirement. Sassi called him and mother earth took her into its safety. She was saved from humiliation of molestation. Yet in postmodern times neither did God listened nor did mother Earth came to rescue Zarrina, the poor Baloch girl abducted by soldiers of Islamic Republic and being molested as a sex slave with other Baluch women—No sky fell—

Those who deceived Punnu were his own brothers, those who took him away in the dead of the night away from Sassi—-When he knew he died wandering in desert looking for Sassi—There is a lesson for Baluchs , those who have kidnapped Solecki , acted just like brothers of Punnu

For Love is pain strange, and I drink with no solace, I see the writing on the wall but they don’t—yes love is a strange affliction

This is the Kaafi of Farid which became the inspiration of this post


“There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women, and there can no emancipation of women while the economic slavery of capitalism persists.”


For more Pakistani context of Women day and the struggle please read my old article on Fehmida Riaz and discourse of exclusion

With thanks: International Marxist Website

[SA]

On International Working Women’s Day – Fight Back Against Women’s Oppression.

By Julian Benson

We are living in a period that can be defined as one of the most turbulent in history. The economic crisis, through its sheer scale and reach, is bringing about a wholesale change in the consciousness of working people the world over. The contradictions and weaknesses of this system are becoming plainly evident as capitalism buckles under its own weight. As always, it is the poor, the oppressed, and the workers who must shoulder this weight in order to hold up the privileges of the rich. There is no portion of the working class that has so greatly and extensively borne this affliction than working women.

The International Working Womenäs Day is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. Here women demonstrating against immigration laws in France. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.
The International Working Women’s Day is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. Here women demonstrating against immigration laws in France. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.

March 8, International Working Women’s Day, is arguably one of the most important dates of the calendar for the global labour movement. It is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. It is the day we reaffirm women’s place of honour at the head of our movement. More than anything else, it is the day that all workers, whatever their sex, colour, or creed, remind those who seek to divide us that we know that our struggle, our enemy, and our goal, is one and the same.

The conditions faced by working-class women today clearly illustrate the systemic nature of their exploitation. Despite the mouthpieces of the bosses taking up the cry of women’s rights in the last several decades, the facts show that their words are not reflected by their actions. According to the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), the layoff rate for female workers has increased by 2.3% since the start of 2008, almost double that of male workers. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 90% of workers in sweatshops are women and young girls.

The corporate media, when it is forced to acknowledge these facts, continually tries to confuse workers by presenting them as a gender versus gender issue. Reuters, in an article on the effects of the slump on women, spends one paragraph talking about the plight of women workers and commits the remainder of its three-page article discussing how many women are CEOs or board members of the largest corporations. The argument made by liberal Feminists is that the progress of women can be measured by how many women hold positions of power in the large corporations and in governments. When Stephen Harper announced a cabinet reshuffle after the last federal election in Canada, bourgeois feminists were delighted when he appointed a record 11 women, or 29% of cabinet, to his Tory government. The Feminist NGO, Catalyst, boasts that the percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies went from 8.7% in 1995 to 16.4% in 2005. However, do facts like this really mean that the welfare of all women is improving? According to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), in the same ten-year period, women workers went from making 72% of a male worker’s pay for work of equal value, to just 70.5%. Having more women cabinet ministers and CEOs has not only failed to improve the lot of working women, pay equity has actually decreased in the last decade and the exploitation of women is as evident as ever.

Stephen Harper (right) is heading a government with record number of female ministers but this has not improved the situation for women. The same can be said for Germany's first female Prime Minister, who has presided over huge cuts in the welfare state. Photo by franz88 on Flickr.
Stephen Harper (right) is heading a government with record number of female ministers but this has not improved the situation for women. The same can be said for Germany’s first female Prime Minister (left), who has presided over huge cuts in the welfare state. Photo by franz88 on Flickr.

Capitalism depends on the subjugation of women for its very survival. Sexism, along with racism and every other divisive tool the bourgeois possess, are vital wedges needed to drive apart male workers from their female comrades in order to prevent the rise of the one thing that can undo this system: worker’s unity. Bourgeois women, the CEOs and cabinet ministers, have nothing to gain by ending the disproportionate exploitation of women workers. In fact, they have a vested interest in ensuring that this oppression continues. Keeping female workers at a lower wage than their male counterparts has the effect of putting pressure on male workers to accept lower wages in order to compete for the same jobs, thus repugnantly fostering sexism and pitting worker against worker. Additionally, women are made to form a reserve army of cheap, mobile labour, which is very profitable for the capitalists. There is a reason why women overwhelmingly fill low paid service sector jobs and sweatshops. Capitalism also doesn’t count the creation and nurturing of life as real productive work in society and expects it to be done for free, largely by working class women. A woman’s biological role as the child bearer creates a situation where, under capitalism, it is women who are also the ones who have to take up the burden of child rearing. This leaves women with the double burden of being responsible for the care of her children and home, while additionally working to help support them. Shouldering this extra weight leaves the woman worker with little free time to become politically active, organize unions, or, in many cases, even work a full-time job. This leads to women being forced into the most exploitative working conditions, often on poverty wages, thus making their situation ever worse, helping to re-enforce their economic dependence on men.

Capitalism forces upon women the double burden of child rearing and wage labour. Photo by UNICEF Iran, Mojgan Parssa-Magham.
Capitalism forces upon women the double burden of child rearing and wage labour. Photo by UNICEF Iran, Mojgan Parssa-Magham.

It is this economic dependence that has forced women to endure the most humiliating abuse across the centuries. Even in so-called enlightened Western countries, every day working class women face the choice between poverty, homelessness and losing their children on the one side, or putting up with a violent and abusive partner on the other. Programmes to protect women from these situations, meagre though they are, are also being cut back by governments looking to save money in the financial crisis. However, despite (or perhaps because of) the social and economic hardships that working class women face on a daily basis, when these women rise up to defend their rights, they do so with an unequalled militancy.

Ironically, it is bourgeois women who act as some of the worst exploitative employers of working class women. All one has to do is to take a bus in the early morning through any wealthy neighbourhood to see the army of nannies, cooks, and cleaning staff, largely pulled from immigrant women, who perform the domestic chores of these upper class households. The bourgeois women, of course, are indeed “liberated”. They are free from both the daily grind of wage labour and from the tiresome burden of domestic slavery and can readily pursue the same ends that bourgeois men do, such as politics, business, and academia. This “liberation,” in which the liberal Feminists wish to paint a victory for women, is realistically just the dumping of all these burdens directly on the already overworked mass of working class women.

It is the duty of all socialists to fight against sexism within the labour movement, not only because of its disgusting chauvinism, but more crucially because it is a tool used by the bosses to divide and conquer. The common theme shared by both liberal Feminists and reactionary chauvinists is that men and women have competing interests. Socialists believe this to be untrue. The bourgeois have an interest in maintaining gender divisions, while workers simultaneously have an interest in breaking them down. We fight along class lines for socialism not because, as some academics have stated, “Marxism doesn’t understand the women’s struggle,” but for precisely the opposite reason. Marxism is infused with over 150 years of hard won experience in the struggle against the exploitation and oppression of women. It is through continually studying this living history of our movement that we have understood that there is no solution to the women’s struggle under capitalism.

Only in socialism can a solution be found. Through universal child care, education, housing and healthcare, through the socialization of domestic chores by creating public laundries, kitchens, etc. and through the guarantee of equal pay in a system of full and fair employment, can the burdens placed on working-women’s social development finally be lifted.

On February 20, two Iranian female workers were sentenced to 100 lashes in public. Their offence wasn’t the flaunting of the Iranian regime’s reactionary “virtue laws”. What they did was far more dangerous to the Iranian state   they were arrested and whipped for attending a May Day rally.

We Marxists know, just as well as the ruling class, that the revolutionary potential of female workers is the sword of Damocles hanging over them and their system. In 1917, it was the women of Petrograd that marched from factory to factory, rousing their sons, brothers, and fathers out into the streets in what was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Just like then, it will be the women who will embody our revolution. It will be the working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. We say, “There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women, and there can no emancipation of women while the economic slavery of capitalism persists.”

It will be the working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. Photo by Carlo Nicora on Flickr.
There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women and it will be working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. Photo by Carlo Nicora on Flickr.

Shaheryar Ali

Danny Boyle’s movie “Slumdog Millionaire” has taken the world by storm. Based on a novel by the Indian diplomat and author Vikas Swarup the movie tells the story of a poor slum dweller of Mumbai who is contestant on the Indian version of “Who wants to be Millionaire”. The movie was a huge success and was able to bag 8 Academy Awards.

Poster

Poster

The mood in India is nothing less than ecstasy, merging with the new obsession of Indian ruling and middle classes about “Shining India”.

For more than a decade now India is in the grip of free market economy and its lustrous attempt of building an “Indian dream”, India the great democracy, the greatest country in the world, where poorest of the poor are also happy singing and dancing on the streets. Most of it is a cruel illusion, the recent capitalization of India is very patchy and un even. Only parts of India have seen this free market boom. Most of the India has remained un touched. The Indian peasants are worse affected and the suicide rate has hit new heights Emergence of fascism has become a real threat in India, the slow degeneration of Congress party has resulted in popularization of Hindu nationalists who are out right communalist. Worse are the “New Liberals” who pro claim to be secular but subscribe to a virulent Hindutva ideology. They are rabidly anti-left consider them “pseudo secularist” but fail to see themselves who are just “Jeans clad” version of RSS.

The attitude in general Indian intelligentsia has been to hide these contradictions under carpet and glorify them. Without addressing the material base of these contradictions , a metaphysical blanket is put on the un desirable side, thus the slum become some thing of an “ideal” living place, the poor happy in their life and communalism just work of an evil anti social gunda.

Roy's poster

Roy's poster

While every one is busy partying on success of Slumdog Millionaire, we are providing an alternative view. This blog has always made sure that it gives voice to the suppressed opinion. .Arundhati Roy , the famous writer, anti globalization and anti-imperialist political activist has emerged as a conscience of India. A fierce critic of Indian ruling classes and established opinion, she spoke about the objectionable side of the movie

“People are selling India’s poverty big time both in literature and films. As they say, there is lots of money in poverty today. I am not against showing slums, but depicting them in a depoliticised manner, as has been done in the film, is quite unfortunate. Films do not show the real poor. Even if they are depicted, it’s not the true picture. The real poor are not shown in films because they are not attractive. Poverty sells but the poor do not. The film gives false hope to the poor that they too could become millionaires one day” The whole reaction can be seen here

Miss Roy wrote a wonderful critique of the movie for Dawn, the largest English newspaper of Pakistan. It was called India not shining”. She writes:

“The debate around the film has been framed – and this helps the film in its multi-million-dollar promotion drive – in absurd terms. On the one hand we have the old ‘patriots’ parroting the line that “it doesn’t show India in a Proper Light’ (by now, even they’ve been won over thanks to the Viagra of success). On the other hand, there are those who say that Slumdog is a brave film that is not scared to plum the depths of India ‘not-shining’.

Slumdog Millionaire does not puncture the myth of ‘India shining’— far from it. It just turns India ‘not-shining’ into another glitzy item in the supermarket. As a film, it has none of the panache, the politics, the texture, the humour, and the confidence that both the director and the writer bring to their other work. It really doesn’t deserve the passion and attention we are lavishing on it. It’s a silly screenplay and the dialogue was embarrassing, which surprised me because I loved The Full Monty (written by the same script writer). The stockpiling of standard, clichéd, horrors in Slumdog are, I think, meant to be a sort of version of Alice in Wonderland – ‘Jamal in Horrorland’. It doesn’t work except to trivialize what really goes on here. The villains who kidnap and maim children and sell them into brothels reminded me of Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians”

On the political side of the movie she comments:

arundhati_roy“Politically, the film de-contextualises poverty – by making poverty an epic prop, it disassociates poverty from the poor. It makes India’s poverty a landscape, like a desert or a mountain range, an exotic beach, god-given, not man-made. So while the camera swoops around in it lovingly, the filmmakers are more picky about the creatures that
inhabit this landscape.

To have cast a poor man and a poor girl, who looked remotely as though they had grown up in the slums, battered, malnutritioned, marked by what they’d been through, wouldn’t have been attractive enough. So they cast an Indian model and a British boy. The torture scene in the cop station was insulting. The cultural confidence emanating from the obviously British ’slumdog’ completely cowed the obviously Indian cop, even though the cop was supposedly torturing the slumdog. The brown skin that two share is too thin to hide a lot of other things that push through it. It wasn’t a case of bad acting – it was a case of the PH balance being wrong. It was like watching black kids in a Chicago slum speaking in Yale accents”

The whole article can be reached here

A fellow blogger from Pakistan, Freethinker has subjected Slumdog Millionaire to very good “gender critique”. He deconstructs the “Hero Narrativity” and examines Slumdog Millionaire against these dominant discourses of Hero and Masculinity. He writes:

It’s important to identify the mythical structure in the plots of both the movies which serves to build the hero narrative. Once the hero and the struggle have been identified, both movies establish the hero as the winner through leaps of logic that are more characteristic of myth than fiction.—————- But watching Sd M critically, asking how the protagonist has efficient reading skills without tutoring, or how all the questions asked on the game are linked to the most dramatic experiences of the protagonist’s life, brings home the mythical structure that serves to complete the hero narrative”

And:

The narratives are also concerned with the hero’s masculinity. The happy endings themselves establish a definition of the masculine as the winner who ‘takes it all’. This is why in Sd M, it is not enough that the protagonist just resolves the central conflict of the plot, that is, his separation from his beloved. In the end, through strokes of luck that sacrifice the story’s plausibility, he not only has love but also wins fame and money.—- The hero’s masculinity is established in other ways as well.———- A different but more traditional approach to this same end is seen in Sl M, in which the hero of the narrative saves the archetypal ‘damsel in distress’. The hero here represents more the anguished warrior who, as he comes of age, gets to reclaim his manhood by getting back his childhood sweetheart and becoming the winner”

This is a very advance critique rooted in firm theoretical foundation, especially his formulation of concept of “emasculation of the collective”. The whole article can be reached here.

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