Categories
Art Chile human rights neo-liberalism poetry September 11 Social Justice

A Moment of Silence

Today I am sharing a poem by Emmanuel Ortiz. It was written back in 2002. I remember receiving it in my email so long ago. But it speaks to the importance of this date, September 11th, for millions of Americans–no, not from the United States, but from Chile. Like millions of people, the word “American” for me is not confined to the stars and stripes. As long as we take Amerigo Vespucci’s name for these vast continents, we need to remember that they include all who live in their lands. September 11th has been a day of mourning and reaffirming commitment to a better way of living since 1973. A day that puts people at the centre of human society, that rejects colonial conceptions of human worth as being linked solely to productivity and profit; that celebrates the voices of the silenced.

The September 11th U.S backed coup in Chile is memorable, because it turned Chileans into refugees and exiles. Its repercussions are being felt today throughout South America’s neo-liberal economies and the widening gap between rich and poor, white and non-white. I share below, along with Ortiz’s poem, a song of Victor Jara, mutilated and murdered for the power of his song and commitment, by the forces of General Pinochet. This song, referencing the Viet Nam War, shows us how the world is a vast cobweb of interconnections.

Chilean copper and other goods had been a part of imperial trade since the British informal empire in the 19th century. By the post-World War II period, Chile was increasingly under the sights of the United States. Although turning to import substitution had helped the Chilean economy expand a national elite, its benefits did not trickle down to the vast majority of country’s people. This led to support for Salvador Allende and his project of social services, public infrastructure and bread with dignity for the poorest of compatriots. Awareness of anti-empire struggles like the Viet Nam war, inspired and motivated Chileans to fight the loss of their country’s sovereignty.

Intolerable to the 1 percenters of the time, the U.S. backed General Augusto Pinochet to assassinate Allende, and impose Martial law on the country, a situation that lasted until the election of Patricio Aylwin. During the years of dictatorship, countless people were “disappeared”, children were kidnapped, and people were tortured for believing another world is possible.

Chileans have a vociferous and active struggle for human rights and social development, indigenous survival and anti-poverty movements. The feminist and LGBT movements are also more vocal in the twenty-first century. I have included the beautiful “Gracias a la Vida” by Chile’s Violeta Parra, arguably the most famous song of Chile. Although her sudden death before Allende’s election may lead us to believe that she was not a political artist, Parra’s work testifies to her many social and musicological concerns that were rooted in hope for a better life for her country’s people.

For many in solidarity with Chile’s vision for justice, September 11th has shown, in the words of Peter Gabriel, that “You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire”. I end with the words of Salvador Allende, himself; comrade, leader and fighter. It’s a good time to remember that elected officials and their supporters with progressive views have been in danger from fanatical right wing elements in other places and other times in history. We would do well to take a moment to think about where we go from here!

Moment of Silence, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

A Moment of Silence by Emmanuel Ortiz

A moment of silence before I start this poem

Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment of silence
For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,
disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the
hands of U.S.-backed Israeli
forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.
embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,
Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of
concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam – a people,
not a war – for those who
know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their
relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of
a secret war … ssssshhhhh….
Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have
piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.
An hour of silence for El Salvador …
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found
their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of
sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…

100 years of silence…
For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half
of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand
Creek,
Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the
refrigerator of our consciousness …

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be. Not like it always has
been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa,
1977.
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and
Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the
Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all…Don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing…For our dead.

EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002.

Hope is a Thing with Feathers, Kaushalya Bannerji 2020
Singer/Songwriter, Actor/Dramaturg, Activist: Victor Jara
One of Chile’s most recognized songs, Thanks to Life/Gracias a la Vida, Violeta Parra
One of Violeta’s most powerful songs

A great resource to understand Chile’s struggle in context, is Uruguyan journalist Eduardo Galeano’s classic text, The Open Veins of Latin America.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Veins_of_Latin_America

Categories
Art coronavirus COVID19 human rights music poetry Social Justice

COVID19 Kills Postmodernism!

The other day, a friend asked me if I had been writing. The truth of the matter is, being solitary sometimes makes me unable to concentrate. I think it’s ironic, that I have not watched Netflix once, since the start of official self isolation for elders and those with pre-existing conditions. Part of this has also to do with a psychological reaction— it seems wrong to be “entertained” and actually, I couldn’t care less for more than ninety percent of their offerings. 

More importantly, I have returned to reading, where I feel my imagination and thinking comes more into play. There’s definitely a distinction between those people who relate to the screen more than the page!

This is a time of reflection and fear. Of hope and possible futures, possible only if we confront our reality— and it is a reality— head on, and at the very least, plan our societies. 

Social planning has been an anathema to neo-liberal politicians and their allies for at least 35 years. Yet social planning and the emergence of public health and post WWII social welfare schemes, are what helped industrial and colonizing nations manage their own domestic class discontent. And the ideas and implementation of state-funded socialized medicine are to be hugely applauded, especially if the logic of planning is people, and not profit, centred. 

Much of the crisis in the world during the current pandemic is due to profit being the guiding light through this disaster. Some politicians may pay lip service to helping their fellow citizens. But it is not what they say, but what they do, that counts. Canada is floating in a sea of perfect murkiness when it comes to support for quarantine and self-isolation measures. Online groups speak to heart breaking terror in real time and life. Families are suffering in all concievable ways. Refugees and prisoners are being abandoned to their fates. We did this. 

The Wait, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

A week ago I told someone that the coronavirus had killed postmodernism. There are no competing versions in the marketplace of truth as we can see so clearly today. Something invisible has made everything visible. 

And like all important “things”, truth comes at a high price. Currently, much of this crisis could be avoided- psychological, physical, financial, travel-wise, if we as a world chose early and total testing and planning for both the decrease of contagion and the support of those who are infected and affected by COVID19.  

This takes into account our real material interconnectedness, shows us that most people migrate only out of absolute necessity, whether from rural areas to urban within domestic/national borders (India, China, U.S, Mexico) or internationally. Those countries that are doing better to control the crisis include, Germany and Viet Nam. Because they are testing early and often and coming up with a plan for those test results! Testing without planning is meaningless. Late testing is responsible for critical illness and fatality spikes. Rationing tests when community transmission has already taken hold is the first step to genocide. 

Epidemiologists have criticized Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and other laissez-faire neoliberals for their scoffing approach to the virus and their erections when propping up the stock market and promoting various forms of fascism. Strangely, the WHO is all about praising India, deluded into thinking that the India of the BJP’s Modi is the same as the India of the era of Polio eradication campaigns. All those Phds— and really?

Back in the day when I was a political science undergrad, corporatism was a type of fascism that we studied, with the fascist body led by its God-given head. This fascism, bred in Europe has roots in the feudal conflation of church and state and civil society. 

We saw it in Italy and Spain, in Greece under the Generals, in Portugal and Salazar, and in Latin America, whose post Independence legacies of ruling and constitutionalism have been so clearly derived from their European colonizers. And to some extent in India, where labour, students and activists have traditionally organized on institutional— that is, party camps.  But today, corporatism has fallen by the way side, replaced by religious bigotry, ethnic cleansing, white supremacy, and upper-middle class libertarianism and consumption.

Today’s leaders are demonstrating they don’t care— about people who cannot be exploited (the elderly and the non-employed disabled).

 They don’t care about people who do not have the money to pay for everything that needs to be paid for (from necessities like utilities, water, rent, food, transportation, and even internet and its related technology,  to luxury goods). 

They don’t care for people not lured into constant complusive consumption. Looks at the vitriol and violence unleashed by countless adult men on Greta Thunberg!

Commodity fetishism in the Xanaxocene is what we’re dealing with. Trillions are being diverted away from human survival and potential, into industries run by fossil fools, commodities traders and bankers. These are the people who determine what is health, who is disposable, and what is worth saving. These are the people that dictate our moral compass. 

But they can’t take over our personal consciences. In the absence of human-centred health care, I’ll be staying home— out of both self-interest as a member of a hgh-risk group, and out of love, for all those I do not know, whose imperfect bodies make us all, human. 

I am ending today’s piece with two pieces of art:  a poem that speaks to our global terror, recited by the author, Dylan Thomas. It’s direct counterpoint to the idea that “grandparents should sacrifice themsleves for the DOW” .

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Credit

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp

And the final word goes to the late great American jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron, offering us a chance to reinvent ourselves, in the face of so many odds stacked against us.

“I’m New Here”

I did not become someone different

That I did not want to be

But I’m new here
Will you show me around

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone

You know we’ve turned around

Met a woman in a bar

Told her I was hard to get to know

And near impossible to forget

She said I had an ego on me

The size of Texas

Well I’m new here and I forget

Does that mean big or small

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone

You know we’ve turned around

And I’m shedding plates like a snake

And it may be crazy but I’m

The closest thing I have

To a voice of reason

Turn around, turn around, turn around

And you may come full circle

And be new here again

[x5]

Categories
Art capitalism coronavirus COVID19 Disability human rights intersectionality

Patiently Brown 2: A Journal of the Plague Year

Covid Cat Meme, March 2020

For those of us with disabilities and compromised immunity, the coronavirus contagion is loaded with particular fear. Like the elderly, our bodies are already dealing with underlying issues, some of which are already being treated for, and some for which there is no reliable big pharma treatment but sometimes symptomatic help. Over the last six weeks, being a news junkie, I have read both fact and fiction, been inundated with both hope and fear. 

But today, I realized again my place in the world. As the prime minister of the country I live in, pleaded for social distancing and self-isolation, he never mentioned people like us, with disabilities that already make accessing healthcare a massive issue. He spoke of grandparents and health care workers, but those of us who were not wanted before this pandemic must be careful, because we are not even on the social radar. 

This is why so many people are blithely going about their day as usual, not realizing that being possibly asymptomatic, can affect those next to you, whose health histories and disabilities you know nothing about. Clearly the problems we face in places like Canada are quite different than in the former “3rd world”. 

But not really. Consider that more than eighty First Nations Reservations are without running water and potable water, at a time when all public health experts agree we cannot wash our hands and bodies too much. Consider the price of fresh food— greens and fruits, eggs, meat, milk and water in our Northern Communities. Communities where money can always be found to exploit, but never to help.

Consider that in a country with land and wealth and climate extremes, we have thousands of homeless people. Just two blocks from where I am isolated, hundreds of women have come to use social services for poor and homeless women and trans-women. These women are already suffering poverty, inadequate housing, and nutrition, and are absolutely on their own when in comes to mental health, as poor people seem to be these days.

Consider that for 2 weeks I went to 14 inner city big box and other stores and was able to come home with a carton of eggs, 1 litre of milk and a box of tea. Friends have had to help me gather supplies for the lockdown, as the combination of illnesses i suffer from made it impossble for me to continue going on my Sisyphean quest for food and hygiene products for more than two weeks. Now more than ever we must echo Marx’s observation that “Man (sic) is a social animal”. Without the solidarity and kindness of other humans, I would not have coped alone.

Capitalism is coming apart at the seams. Rent, taxes, consumption, travel, transportation, medical systems, everything is in flux. We are held hostage by a few billionaires that would rather see us die, than provide basic medical equipment and supplies without profit. The buying and selling of stocks and commodities is still continuing apace, bailed out by those governments with the most to lose when it all comes crashing down. 

Anxiety is a factor in this pandemic, precisely because everything is so nebulous and uncertain. Mental health workers who actually care for their patients are arranging for phone and Skype check-ins. This too is so important for many of us. I was advised to order some medications in a bigger supply, but already hypertension medications are experiencing supply chain issues as those with insurance have been able to get 6 month supplies. 

The Social Distance, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Finally, friends have come through with phone calls, and FB chats, singalongs and virtual socializing. Love is also in the air. 

But let us not lose sight of those of us, who have added susceptibility and dismiss them/ourselves as paranoics or hypochondriacs. The very absence of statements about our value to our country— to all countries , shows me that people should take this seriously, because we persons with disabilities too,  would love to live and thrive in a post- COVID 19 world, rather than be victims of social ethos in which eugenicist culls by virus are going to be “the final solution”.

Smogfie! Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Categories
Disability human rights india Indigenous people intersectionality lesbian, art, poetry racism Social Justice violence against women

World Social Justice Day

The United Nations has declared February 20th as World Social Justice day. In this era, social justice is like a carrot dangling before humanity while the vast majority of us are being beaten with sticks. So, social justice is an aspirational desire, a desire to remediate the wrongs of past times and current ways of ruling. I hope every single day, to see signs of positive and crucial social change.

 In the area of women’s rights, even as we expand our notions of “femininity” and “masculinity” to include non-biologically sexed people, there is so much to do. Women and trans-women who are the victims of violence all over the world, are really at the bottom of the barrel. Our lives are de facto worthless, if we are Indigenous, South Asian, of African descent, East Asian, even more so. 

This is so evident when we examine murder statistics (flawed and manipulated, though statistical data may be) from Mexico ( 2,795 in 2017), India (between 8000-5000 dowry deaths per year), South Africa (2930 in 2017-18 ), Spain ( over one thousand women killed in 8 years), Australia ( approximately 52 women per year) and the United States (approximately 1600 in 2018 ) and Canada (118 in 11 months in 2018, or 1 murder every 2.5 days ).  In Cuba, pressure from local women’s organizations and activists is pushing for statistics on violence against women and a new integrated law of  gender violence that will allow the state and the social services sector to keep track of violence aginst women. 2016 saw about 50 women murdered by male partners and intimates.

Rape statistics and/ or lack of, are also horrifying. In India, over 300, 000 are reported to police, leaving another 3 million unreported annually, as experts have pointed out, due to social and familial stigma, rape and sexual assault are the most under-reported crimes. In Mexico, thousands of women are violated daily with a reported rape rate of 12.6 per 100, 000 and about 3 million reported rapes in the 2010-2015 period. 

As we are well aware, rape and sexually motivated violence is the least reported, with official figures representing approximately 10% of actual cases globally. Biased and misogynist legal systems and law enforcement in every country in the world, makes sure that it will remain that way. In Canada, one in three women experiences some kind of partner assault in her lifetime. The violence against women of Indigenous descent has reached horrific proportions, a genocidal violence that is rooted in the making invisible of native cultures and nations. 

Discussing women’s wages, social and economic opportunities and acquisitive power, we see that the gender gap prevails here as well throughout the world. I have seen how the gap in wages translates in housing vulnerability for women at even higher rates than for men, in one example. Disproportionately, women also shoulder child rearing and housing costs as well as actual child-care. 

In terms of other social justice issues, and there are so many— racism and imperialism rank among the highest impactful issues on the planet. In North America and Europe, racism saves employers, corporations and states trillions of dollars in historical and current under/unemployment, substandard housing and education. Racism makes huge profits for war industries, law enforcement related industries and municipal developers, furnishing companies that supply concentration camps and public and private prisons, and has fostered generations of white supremacist involvement in armed foreces and armed law enforcement. 

https://inthesetimes.com/features/ice-abolish-immigration-child-detention-private-prison-profiting.html

It is almost incomprehensible the ways in which “othering” and inferiorizing the lives of billions of people for the profit of a few white men and their families— global oligarchs— shapes our world view through the media and social networks. As many have argued the intersection of oppressions by race and gender as well as social class, account for the ways our very lives are shaped and the type of opportunities that may be afforded to us. 

If we add disability to the mix, poverty is an almost constant factor in the lives of people with serious and or chronic health conditions, as employment seems the last place in our lives where we might expect accomodation, though we live in capitalist societies that measure  all our worth in terms of what we “do” (read, earn) occupationally. 

Even the left plays into this bourgeois meritocracy. That is why, we so rarely see images of disabled people speaking about the complexity of their lives or political belliefs. They ( by which I mean, we), are relegated to speaking only about “disability”. Having an affiliation to paid, and well-paid employment at that, certainly gives “privilege” to those who are able-bodied but within our own social class.

These horrific underlying social inequalities shape every aspect of our lives. Women, not safe in their homes, or on the streets, live in a state of permanent alert that starts when we are little children. People of colour, indigenous people, colonized communities and nations, are constantly prevented from lifting the yoke of subjugation that presses down on our human capacity and potential. 

Social Justice Day is a day to take stock of all the work we have done in our countries and globally, while confronting the fact that we have barely begun to tackle the enormous overarching issues that literally, shape, and delimit our lives. 

I’ll leave you with a poem from a writer whose words echoed in my head and got me through the cult-like environment of law school so many years ago. Chrystos is a Menominee lesbian poet whose work addresses our real lives. Instead of growing up on the reservation, she was reared in the city around Black, Latino, Asian, and White people, and identifies herself as an Urban Indian.

MAYBE WE SHOULDN’T MEET

IF THERE ARE NO THIRD WORLD WOMEN HERE

How can you miss our brown & golden

a thin red scream

in this sea of pink

But we’re here

meeting & didn’t contact the Black Lesbians or G.A.L.A. or Gay American Indians or the Disabled Women’s Coalition or Gay Asians or anyone I know

You’re the ones who don’t print your signs in Spanish or Chinese or any way but how you talk 

You’re the ones standing three feet away from a Black woman saying

There are no Third World women here

Do you think we are Martians

All those workshops on racism won’t help you open your eyes & see how you don’t even see us

How can we come to your meetings ifwe are invisible

Don’t look at me with guilt Don’t apologize Don’t struggle with the problem of racism like algebra

Don’t write a paper on it for me to read or hold a meeting in

which you discuss what to do to get us to come to your

time & your place

We’re not your problems to understand & trivialize

We don’t line up in your filing cabinets under “R” for rights

Don t make the racist assumption that the issue of racism

between us

is yours at me

Bitter boiling I can’t see you

Stop the Crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Sarah Whalen Lund
Categories
CAA Constitution human rights india Islamophobia protests secularism Social Justice

I am the truth… as well as you…

Anti CAA protests, December 2019, India

While I was visiting India recently, I had the chance to see the BJP in action as the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed and made into an Act, the CAA. Many have argued that the Hindu Rashtra or State characterizing the government of Narendra Modi/Amit Shah is  neo-liberal in its economic ideologies, alliances, and practices while increasingly baring its Hindu nationalist and Islamophobic agenda through measures of nation building that rival those of Hitler himself. 

https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/caa-npr-nrc-confusion-connection-explained-india-1631534-2019-12-26

https://thewire.in/rights/caa-india-refugees

Privileging a hierarchical religion such as Hinduism with its attendant spiritual division of labour and classed practices, the Modi regime has already been associated with an upper-class/caste alliance spoken of as “savarna” by a new activist generation of those who claim to follow Babasaheb Ambedkar, author of the Indian Constitution and a spokesperson on behalf of the Dalit (or “out caste” /untouchable ) communities. 

This group has raised critiques about the ways in which the Hindu caste system is oppressive towards those from lower and untouchable castes, as well as the ways that current political parties and the Indian goverment itself is trying to manipulate and foster Islamophobic sentiment through its  constitutional actions on the CAA and in the occupation of Kashmir.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/un-voices-concern-over-violence-in-india-against-caa-urges-respect-for-freedom-of-expression-119121800684_1.html

 Their critque of Hinduism as oppressive structurally and spiritually has most clearly been displayed in the new demographic juggling of this neo-fascist regime through the imposition of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) on one hand, making it mandatory to be inscribed for citizenship, in contexts where documents are non-existent or next to impossible to obtain, and “proof” of citizenship must be submitted — and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which will consider the migration and refugee rights of non-Muslims coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan as valid while singling out Muslims for rejection. 

Explained: What is the UN body that has criticised India for new citizenship Act?

These two elements of the Modi government’s internal policy dovetail nicely with its hegemonic plans for Kashmir, which is a pawn and hostage of a cold-war like enmity between nuclear powers, India and Pakistan.

Reading these politcal and ideological moves  with  an eye to the BJP’s closeness to Donald Trump of the United States and with Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the spectre of Hindu Fascism as government seems to be upon India. 

Opponents of the Act and the NRC, come from a vast range of occupations, social classes,  regions, language groups, and religions— while they may not see eye to eye on all issues, the coherency of a secular response to religious totalitarianism is hearteningly diverse. 

Anti-CAA protests, India, 2019

Luckily, Indians still feel some connection with their Constitution and see themselves as heirs of a secular polity in which equality is an aspirational, if not presently practiced, value. 

https://scroll.in/video/948253/we-the-people-naseeruddin-shah-reads-the-preamble-tm-krishna-sings-the-national-anthem

That is why you won’t see “only” Muslims protesting the CAA, but Indians of all faiths, whether nominal or followed. 

Here, Jadavpur University Students adapt the Italian anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao” to the current circumstances.

Here, the poem, “Hum Dekhenge” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, which bears witness to the military government of Pakistan is sung to bear witness to the Modi regime. The song was sung at IIT Kanpur to show solidarity with the students attacked at Delhi’s Jamia Miliia Islamia University in December of 2019. 

We shall Witness

It is certain that we too, shall witness

the day that has been promised

of which has been written on the slate of eternity

When the enormous mountains of tyranny

blow away like cotton.

Under our feet- the feet of the oppressed-

when the earth will pulsate deafeningly

and on the heads of our rulers

when lightning will strike.

From the abode of God

When icons of falsehood will be taken out,

When we- the faithful- who have been barred out of sacred places

will be seated on high cushions

When the crowns will be tossed,

When the thrones will be brought down.

Only The name will survive

Who cannot be seen but is also present

Who is the spectacle and the beholder, both

I am the Truth- the cry will rise,

Which is I, as well as you

And then God’s creation will rule

Which is I, as well as you

We shall Witness

It is certain that we too, shall witness

Translation courtesy – http://ghazala.wordpress.com/2008/01/08/hum-dekhenge/

https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/is-faiz-ahmad-faiz-s-poem-hum-dekhenge-lazim-anti-hindu-iit-kanpur-panel-to-decide/534362

Shaheen Bagh, January 2020, Kaushalya Bannerji

And that is why, in spite of police violence and attempts to stir up riots by the Hindu right, in spite of the sulpherous whiff that reminds one of Germany in the 1930s, residents of India both there and abroad are raising their voices, taking to the streets, and stopping work on January 8th’s General Strike, called by the Indian trade union movements and an alliance of left-wing parties.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/left-parties-seven-day-nationwide-protest-caa-january-1-1631838-2019-12-27

https://www.businessinsider.in/business/news/trade-unions-to-go-ahead-with-jan-8-general-strike/articleshow/73087570.cms

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/04/india-hyderabad-protest-against-citizenship-law

https://scroll.in/video/948869/watch-horrifying-violence-in-delhis-jawaharlal-nehru-university-as-masked-mob-attacks-campus?fbclid=IwAR0Box2-KtJ0FgAFhkfhZIfaDLoNsJ5JsWyMbiPrJJmG9IZ1w91TXEhrgCg

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/06/students-injured-in-india-after-masked-attackers-raid-top-university

If you’ve been moved by this activism for a more inclusive, secular and democratic India, please add your name to the petition below!

http://chng.it/6ygzzRwkZW