nationalism, Politics, Racism, Terrorism

Charlottesville: Wake up call to the terrorism we’ve been silent about

I watched Imperium a few weeks back. I was interested in seeing the transformation of Daniel Radcliffe from the Harry Potter stereotype, as much as I was interested in the theme of the film. An FBI agent infiltrates white supremacist gangs and factions to foil a plot to use dirty bombs in a rally. It was a difficult film to watch, almost cringing at the actors portraying the faction members. And it was difficult to watch knowing the fact that it’s not just a film but a true reflection of the society. These groups exist and these ideologies exist — knowing that was revolting enough. But assuming in reality, the clans must be behaving like this as well made the feeling much worse. I knew that somewhere, this must be happening already, as we are sitting on a ticking time bomb, and it’s just a matter of time when it all blows up. The Charlottesville incidents just proved my fears; not the first instance, but certainly the most broadcasted event in the recent times. It’s time to wake up to racism, and terrorism. And more importantly, to rid off the media bias and call a spade a spade. Charlottesville attacks were terrorist attacks and the governments must gear up to quash such extremist views.

9/11 had permanently changed the world. It made the world polarised. On one side, 9/11 meant more woes to the Middle East because that would just let Uncle Sam interfere in the region in the name of national safety, something that it had been doing for a long time anyway. For the Middle East, American intervention is seen as a symbol of West’s imposition of supposedly higher moral values in the region. This resulted in spreading of Islamist extremism like a wildfire since 9/11 that didn’t stay localised in the Middle East but spread across the globe. Disgusting is the ideology — of killing people of different faiths and race, and disgusting are the people who preach this and carry out the attacks. This is straightforward geopolitics so far.

The infographic here shows how the extremist attacks happened across the world.
(Source: YouTube)

Yet the less talked about change about 9/11 is equally sinister, and it’s not easily perceived. 9/11 brought the fear into the minds of the people — especially in the west. That these extremists can run their killing spree in the west, and that it’s not an issue of mad people killing each other in a faraway land — it blew the bubble of security people were living in. Growing up in the subcontinent where India had been constantly battered by terrorist attacks, we never had that safety bubble that it wouldn’t happen to us. In a day, that absurdity suddenly seemed quite possible.

Fear brings the worst out of us humans. We lose our sense of reasoning and stop trusting people. We look at everyone with suspicion. The heightened fear of a Muslim extremist attack became so apparent that overnight anyone with a Muslim name or appearance was subjected to scrutinies, hate crimes and proving their allegiance to the state. I’d like to mention another brilliant film that captured the transition of mentalities about Muslims during this epoch — The Reluctant Fundamentalist. People felt threatened and wanted to do something to feel safe again. And that paved the path for white supremacy and neo-Nazism.


Poster from The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Source: Covering Media

White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi rhetoric is not new. They have always been around but never reached a critical mass since WWII, because most people didn’t believe in their threats, nor did the groups have issues to preach their hatred against. 9/11 gave them an enemy. And with people losing their sense of judgement, the white supremacist doomsday threats started to appear credible.

Extremism alone didn’t pave the path for these extremist right wing voices. Over last few decades, the world had become more mobile than it has ever been. With an increased level of business and exposure to education, geographical barriers seemed to be disappearing. That facilitated greater global mobility and it’s evident that the net immigration has increased in the West, especially if in G20 states. Also, apart from the skilled migrants, a number of unskilled immigrants had been on the rise as well, caused by heightened social, political and religious unrest in countries. More people in those conflict torn countries were forced to flee in fear of their life. Not only did these new immigrants raise fear of the increased risk of extremist attacks (“who can say they weren’t terrorist disguised as normal people” etc.), but businesses employed immigrants more to pay less for the same work.

And thus, migrants are linked to joblessness, social unrest, their inability to integrate into the society and imbibe ethos of the state. People started to have a feeling that the minorities have better privileges than the non-migrant population of the country. A feeling that they are losing control of the stronghold they had over the local communities. The situation has worsened with the global economic downturn, and the working class was hit by the housing bubble, unemployment, relocation, poverty. In desperate times, people look for either something to salvage themselves or blame someone for their misery. Immigrants were an easy target. And thus the majority of the large economies with a high net positive migration has witnessed a growing sense of nationalism.

I don’t see any difference between nationalism and racism. Nationalism is a concept to differentiate people who belong to the land, pledge their allegiance no matter if the state is right or wrong, and dissuade diversity. The plague of nationalism is on the surge across the world, but it’s particularly noticeable in the US and Europe. There are docile ones, such as outfits like organisers of #whitelivesmatter, and there are the Neo-Nazi clans. It is even horrific to find that the right-wing nationalist outfits are finding their feet as legitimate set-ups. Recent elections in France, Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Switzerland – nationalists have not only found their foothold in the legislative system but also were close to winning the elections in some cases. That was scary.

It was scary seeing nationalist parties gather so much support, with their politics of hate, but two biggest events last year completely upstaged the notion that common sense will prevail. The UK left the European Union, spurred by the campaign full of lies and scaremongering about immigration. And on the other side of the pond, Donald Trump has become the most powerful man on earth. Different countries, same rhetoric. The UK, despite its receding importance in the global political landscape, delivered a boost to all nationalist voices around the world. The aftermath of Brexit is, of course, the election of Donald Trump. Desperate working-class people, trying to change their living conditions, have fallen prey to the opportunist vultures, supported by expensive campaigns, sourced from the donors who benefit most from the election results.

It’s a long prelude to the Charlottesville attacks. The conflict was always due coming. The signs were all there. Brexit wasn’t that much of a threat on a global scale, although the heightened levels of hate and race crimes since the Brexit results show that a lot of people wore a mask before, of being open-minded, liberal – and suddenly, their true self is out in the open. But the biggest threat is the orange clown sitting at the White House. A complete moron with immense power is never a good combination and seeing all nationalist people across the world hailing him a hero, it spells danger. This may sound controversial, but Donald Trump, with all his shockingly horrific views on Americanism, being elected to the White House is equally cringeworthy as was the declaration of Al-Baghdadi his Caliphate. One’s vile, the other’s evil, both morons, both have thousands of moron followers who hails them and acts to their orders without thinking…you get the picture, right?

Charlottesville is scary for another reason. For the nationalists, the common demographic happened to be white working class – disenfranchised, marginalised public. However, many of the Charlottesville alt-right protesters were university students, a segment typically seen to be left wing. It is worrying that the sphere of influence has grown in size. The anti-immigrant nationalist rhetoric has reached beyond its grassroots support base. People are more prejudiced and eager to show their racial bias under the helm of the new leaders. Yet the situation observed in Charlottesville was more disturbing, seeing the alt-right drop its reformist mask and show their white supremacist face. They gave Nazi salutes, bore the Confederate cross, chanted anti-Semitic slogans, and then stooped to another low by planning to use murdered Heather Heyer’s funeral. This is the real face of America’s alt-right. If their agenda of nationalism is desperate, their white supremacist ideology is pure evil. And if you think that’s an American problem, you’re making the same mistake as done while branding Muslim extremism a Middle East problem. Just look at the anti-immigrant sentiment that swept through Britain post-Brexit. Then there are anti-Islam Britain First and EDL, who want to portray every Muslim in the UK as terrorists. But there’s a larger hidden threat, from lesser known outfits, such as National Action.

Terrorist. That’s a term I consciously avoided so far because media semantics is another area that needs immediate rethinking. Okay. Imagine a terrorist. What do you see? A Muslim man, long beard, possibly carrying a rucksack? Was it far off my guess? What about hate preacher? Middle age Muslim man with long beards and even better if he wore a cap? Well, as far as Islamist terrorist or hate preaching goes, these images probably match the profiles of the most notorious ones. How do the following people fit in the profile of a terrorist? Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik, KKK, hundreds of killers involved in school shootings, IRA, ETA. They are all white, perhaps Christians as well. And that’s just one demographic section. There are examples from all corners of the world. There are governments carrying out organised ethnic cleansing – directly or indirectly. The new addition to that list of terrorists is James Fields. Yet, we seem to be too frivolous to use the term terrorist with Muslim attacks and try our best not to use the term for any other community. What about hate preachers? What about The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Britain First, EDL, Nigel Farage and UKIP, Front National, Jobbik, Geert Wilders, Golden Dawn? What about Katie Hopkins? And above all, the Donald Trump, spending more time posting halfwit tweets slagging off half the world’s population? Do you see these people as hate preachers? I guess not, but they no doubt are. The jihadi extremists do it in the name of their religion, and the other bunch does it from a moral high ground. They think they represent liberal western civilisation. They are wrong. Their views are as primitive as is the Islamist terrorists they are directing their hatred.

And this is what is worrying. That these opportunist people are given a platform – by the media, by the public, by the system – to spread their hatred. There was a speculation whether Charlottesville spelled the end of the alt-right in America. On the contrary, it was found that its supporters became bolder and flew Swastikas on their house in the open. It was all there in Charlottesville – Confederate flag, Swastikas, Nazi salute, chants like “Blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us”. It was a shameless display of blatant racism and equally shameful silence from a waste of a space president. He stayed silent as long as possible – which already emboldened the Neo-Nazis, and then a meek criticism that seemed completely unlike Donald Trump speech. His vocabulary does not stretch to repugnant. Then he made a U-turn by calling the protesters alt-left and tried to blame both parties of intolerance. And then he defended keeping the Confederate statues that caused the clash. The president spoke of bigotry, yet he turned out to be the biggest bigot during this crisis.

The killing of Heather Heyer and the two police officers are abhorrent. It was unfortunate that it took the death of three people to get the condemnation of the rally it deserved at the very first place. But it’s not all gloomy. The resistance and the counter-protests have gathered more supporters than the white supremacist militias did. It is a consolation that the picture is the same in most of the places, wherever the fascists held a rally, they either give up or outnumbered and overshadowed by the anti-racism supporters. There was a stream of photos that went viral where one Neo-Nazi is seen to be punched in the face after he did a Nazi salute. Now, the judgement is divided whether the use of violence was justified. Probably not. But let’s draw a parallel here. During an Islamist terrorist attack, the entire Muslim community is expected to prove their allegiance to the government, criticising the attack. If they don’t do it, it is expected that they discretely support terrorism. The white supremacists, on the other hand, adhere to the views of America’s dark racist past. If the Muslim terror suspects and sympathisers can be kept under surveillance and arrested, why couldn’t their counterparts? And lastly, it’s crazy how a Muslim terrorist is shot dead within seconds whilst Anders Breiviks and James Fields are safely led away by police, despite their crime was equally despicable. And supporting a movement that committed the most heinous crimes of the twentieth century, the neo-Nazis show that essentially there is no difference in them and the supporters of Islamist extremism. Their objective is no different. But there is not attempt to criticise them as terrorist sympathisers.

From that perspective, the best work is probably done by an anonymous twitter user @YesYoureRacist, by identifying all alt-right supporters on the rally. In a group, people do awful things, but when they realise that they are singled out, that might put an end to their little adventure with the big boys. It’s sort of vigilantism, which is a questionable trend, but it should have been the police and intelligence to identify them and monitor of their movements. They failed, so somebody had to bring it out in the daylight. The little escapades of these tin soldiers had to be made public. Some might end up losing jobs, being socially outcast in the community, rethink their mistakes and follow a normal course of life. The few others, let’s call them terrorist material, should then have to be kept under surveillance by the police as potential terror suspects.

Nazism didn’t happen in Germany overnight. It started with the election of an overzealous maniac by popular mandate. And the history repeated itself again last year. Unless uprooted at its nascent stage, it will be too late. The right-wing already are in the motion. They are given more voice in the media for some reason anyway. The popularity of the right-wing press is mind-boggling. Perhaps the media watchdog wanted to observe the freedom of speech a little more. But what is freedom of speech for rabid dogs? That’s what these fanatics are. It’s a pity that many feel marginalised in the new ethical world but joining a fanatical movement is not going to solve the problem. Brexit happened last year. Trump was elected eight months back. Where did all the promises go? Apart from the failed attempts to implement racist Muslim ban and the Mexico wall, Trump managed to do fuck all. Either people are already beginning to realise that it was all lies and empty boasts, or they are brainwashed enough not to see that nothing’s happening. They have become right-wing automatons. They can’t see that religion, culture, social cohesion — none of it is the root of the problem. It’s the wealth, and its distribution. This sentence might make you brand me as a Commie, but I don’t mind, just as I think that if you support this then you are a racist, and you are trying to sugar coat it with patriotism and culture and all other nonsense.

This is why, it is absolutely paramount that we do everything to prevent this wildfire of hatred. And for that, people will need to speak up. Disagreeing in silence will not give a clear message that you are opposed to the horrific ideas of the neo-Nazis. We need to square up to them. Protest can be as cynical as by brave Saffiyah Khan, smirking on the face of the Britain First scum, or literally punching them. You have to match them strength to strength. Violence cannot be the solution, but where the far-right form militias, hold camps on how to attack/fight the enemy (who is the enemy anyway?), or to the least, resort to intimidation and a racial slur, repeating lines of Das Kapital or Beatles is not going to make much difference, will it? There is no space for debate yet because that’s not what the Neo-Nazis are after. They have the pseudo alt-right mouthpieces like Milo Yannopoulos and Tommy Robinson but they are just red herrings, the agent provocateurs. They are dangerous as their reach spans the furthest, in terms of brainwashing the confused and misrepresented youth, but it’s the lesser known direct action groups that people need to watch out for. They are possibly hard to identify, and their whereabouts, therefore, stay unknown to the authorities and protestors. Take a parallel with the Islamist extremism. You have hate preachers like Anjem Chaudhury, who provokes the youth, and perhaps preaches them about carrying out attacks, but is never found to be linked directly to any of the terrorist attacks. Then you have/had the notorious terrorists like Bin Laden, Al-Baghdadi, the Samantha Lewthwaite…they are masterminds but are so heavily monitored that it’s unlikely that they’ll be involved in the attacks themselves. But it’s the unknown brainwashed misguided marginalised people, working in little sleeper cells, who are carrying out the majority of the terrorist attacks. London, Nice, Barcelona, Paris — it’s the less known or unknown faces that are involved in the attacks. Just like James Fields. An unknown and unsuspecting individual. It is important to gather and pass information so these terrorists are identified. Identified so police track their whereabouts and also identified amongst the anti-racism and other protest groups. Outnumbering the opposition is a great tactic and so far, it worked great in the UK where the protesters relentlessly outnumbered the right-wing demonstrators in every rally. And when the threat of white-supremacist zealots have calmed down, and people see the emptiness of their propaganda, then it’s the time to engage in talks. Talks to the vulnerable, underprivileged section of the population who have been continuously exploited and given false hope of a brighter future. It’s only by education, and by forming a truly inclusive society can we rid of the evils of racism and religious hatred.

Going back to where I started, talking about Daniel Radcliffe, I am a big fan of Harry Potter books. They drew inspiration from many modern day events and that’s why the significance of the books never fade away from the memory. You just keep on identifying incidents with the book, and you get a new meaning of the series. The reign of terror ran by Voldemort and his death eaters were reminiscent of the Nazi Germany. The persecution of the muggles and witches born in non-wizarding family reminded of the atrocities of the Third Reich. Apart from the historical accounts of the WWII, Harry Potter books showed how the reign of terror actually started. A sudden appearance of the dark mark in the sky. March of past by the death eaters. Death of an individual. The government’s attempt to play it down. Persecution of the ones who asked for tougher measures. Failures of the government to protect the vulnerable. Until it’s beyond control. This is how just things unfold in Harry Potter. And this is how the first signs have started appearing. Terrorism is evil for humankind. The governments are doing enough to curb Islamist terrorism, but not enough to eliminate the threats posed by the Neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, the alt-right. The threat should have been taken seriously for a long time, but the movement is nigh on getting its critical mass. It’s time to act fast. It’s not the time to be philosophical about the problem but quash it brutally, before it turns into a raging wildfire of communal hatred that will engulf our entire society irrespective of colour, race, religion.

I am an alarmist. And I see patterns. And the patterns like above do not bode well. At the end of Harry Potter, everybody fought together to defeat the evil forces of Voldemort. Battle of Hogwarts gave us hope. That in the end, the Good wins. Yet, the reality is far more complicated than the book. We don’t always get the happy ending. Can we fight together shoulder to shoulder forgetting our petty differences? Because that’s what is needed to achieve that goal. To give Donald Trump and his “fine people” alt-right a kick up their backside. Let’s hope that the history doesn’t repeat itself, and we keep on hoping that the threats of white-supremacist and far-right extremisms are uprooted at its nascent stage.

As I write this, 16 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Barcelona, two were killed in Finland, and there were a number of attempts including in Buckingham Palace, Paris and Brussels. So the threat of Islamist terrorism is very real, and it’s not going to be resolved in our lifetime. But creating another monster to eliminate that threat is suicidal. Killing terrorists or even surveillance are reactive measures, which is necessary, but not sustainable. The threat of homegrown terrorism can only be countered through the social inclusion of the youth. And it is essential to change the perception of the public on terrorism. All the events above are well covered in the media. What unfortunately didn’t get so much public attention is the fact that the death toll is much higher in a number of attacks carried out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Nigeria. Most of these are carried out by Islamist terrorists. The public apathy towards extremism outside Europe and North America is one of the main reasons how the dangers of religious/nationalist extremism have spread across the world. And the proliferation of the nationalism and racism. Islamist and Right-wing extremism aren’t even the two sides of the coin; they are absolutely identical in nature. They rely on hate, they are divisive and wants to destroy the fabric of the modern multicultural society. It’s reassuring that the threat of Islamist terrorism is well identified, but it’s also essential that we don’t turn a blind eye to the other. Wikipedia shows there are 199 terrorist attacks in August across the world. But Heather Heyer does not feature in that list of victims. She damn well should.
Culture, Film review, Films, Russia

I won’t come back (Я Не Вернюсь) – A fable on screen

I recently came across a Russian film called I won’t come back, or Я Не Вернюсь (Ya ne vernus) in Russian. It took a while to decide which one to watch, from a list of films by the likes of Pedro Almodóvar and Michael Haneke. And I chose to watch the film by an unknown Estonian director Ilmar Raag. But after watching it, I can say the much-cliched phrase that you’ve only failed when you stopped trying. Failing, in this context, is not knowing the world of the parallel cinema, not knowing about a different world away from glitzy Hollywood and Bollywood, not witnessing life in another part of the world so less represented in the media. I won’t come back is a powerful film about two orphans fighting their corner in the world and their desperate search for love. The harsh realities of life, laced with short tales providing a poetic, magical, getaway from the sombre undertone of the storyline, and a brilliant cinematography spanning the vast expanse of the Russian countryside to the Altai mountains in Kazakhstan — the result of the eclectic mix is unforgettable. And above all, I won’t come back portrays career defining performances by Polina Pushkaruk and young Vika Lobacheva.

Russian trailer for the film
(Source: YouTube)

Polina portrays Anya, who grew up in an orphanage, and she becomes a lecturer in an university. There, she falls in love with a professor, but he has a family with children. One day she was accused of hiding drugs she didn’t know about, and she escapes the arrest. To avoid being taken in custody, Anya goes to an orphanage claiming she’s fifteen, and there she meets Kristine, a thirteen-year-old girl, who is bullied by other inmates. Anya defends her, and Kristine began to trust Anya. When Kristine tells Anya that she knows a secret way out, Anya runs away one day, only to find Kristine following her, pleading to take her to her grandma in Kazakhstan. Thus begins the voyage to Kazakhstan, with very little money between them. They had to hitchhike. On the way, Anya receives a call from Andrey, that all charges against her were dropped and she should come back to the uni. Thus begins the clash between the two characters, both desperate to find a tie, a sense of belonging and being loved — Anya, in her lover and Kristine, in her grandma. Anya tries to send Kristine to Kazakhstan in a train but fails. Through various dramatic sequences, it emerges that these two girls needed each other, more than they agreed to admit. But when Kristine said to Anya, she refused to admit it, resulting in Kristine running away and hitchhiking alone in a car leaving Anya behind. After a day of searching for her, Anya finds her alone, walking along the snow covered road in the upcoming winter. Anya finally realises how much she loved Kristine and decided to travel to Kazakhstan. Then in a sudden twist of fate, as they waited for a car, a drunk driver skids and hits the shed where Kristine was resting, killing her instantly. Anya in her grief realised that she’d become an orphan again, and lost the only human being who loved her unconditionally. The film then shows resolute Anya telling Andrey that she’s not coming back, and finally reaches the village in the Altai mountains. Kristine’ grandmother mistakes Anya to be Kristine, and Anya carried on with the lie, to finally find a place to call home.

Ya ne vernus a magical film, despite its dark and sad undertone. A number of scenes were truly emotional, and Polina and Vika made those instances realistic as though the tension between them was palpable. Instances worth specific mention are the time when Anya leaves a howling Kristine in the cemetery petrified of the wolves, or when Kristine kept asking Anya to admit she loved her but Anya kept refusing. Perhaps the most heart-rending scene was when Kristine suddenly dies. With the two girls finally agreeing to go to Kazakhstan, and the viewers expecting a journey to Kristine’a grandmother for a happily ever after, the suddenness of her death left us speechless. Perhaps Anya’s grief in the film moved at a faster pace than the viewers realising that Kristine, the eccentric and dreamy teenager is actually dead. No miracle is happening, Anya won’t be taking her to a farm where Vika would be treated and recover.

Yet, despite the dreary backdrop throughout the film, it also highlights the strength of a relationship. The mythical interjections in the film, mostly by the dreamy Kristine, gave the film a fantastic aura. These short intervals of fantasy take the viewers’ attention away from the harsh reality of the central theme. Scenes like Kristine introducing herself to Anya telling there are an eagle and a dog inside her who talk to her all the time, or that she had wings but they were broken and she couldn’t fly anymore because God only gives you wings once. We’ll remember Kristine pouring soda on the road so the road sends them a lift, and that of the swan and the girl kept us hoping that there is something positive happening to these girls. We see the relationship between Anya and Kristine evolve with a background of the out and about places in Russia, captured by the fabulous cinematography — from a busy city to the Altai mountains, from a dark, snow-laden cemetery at night, to busy service stations. The film presented slices of Russian life and culture through various imageries, perfectly blended into the storyline, such as the tale of the swan, as they walked past a deserted lake. As much as the unforgettable character portrayals of Polina Pushkaruk and Vika Lobacheva, the cinematography by Tuomo Hutri was a treat.

“There was a girl in the orphanage. One day she ran away from everyone. She came across a lake and saw a swan. She asked the swan to take her away. So the swan picked her up in his beak and flew away. The swan put the girl in his house. But he went away to see his kids and the girl saw him less and less. One day the girl jumped in the water. But she didn’t drown and turned into a fish. The swan came back and couldn’t see the girl. He began to cry. The fish-girl could see the swan but she couldn’t speak to him. From that day, the fish would come up to the surface every day and see her swan cry”

However, it’s the the relationship between the characters of Anya and Kristine — the turmoils and their love, is the tour de force in Ya ne vernus. Anya’s character is shown as an intelligent young woman, finding her place in the world putting the life in the orphanage behind her. However, as much as she appeared confident in professional life, she seemed helplessly desperate in her personal life. She was looking for stability throughout the film, and that’s why knowing that she had no hope of getting Andrey leave his family for her, Anya clung on to him. Her only hope, still, was to stay in the city she was living and pray that Andrey leaves his wife and family one day. Until then, at least she can still be in an affair with him. Kristine, on the other side, had nothing in the city. She has no relatives, she’s bullied by all the inmates of the orphanage. All she had was a small tin box, inside which was a crumpled photo with an address of a remote village in Kazakhstan, where her grandma lived. Living in a shelter knowing that she had a living relative made her flee one shelter to another until she met Anya who, unlike others, was ready to stand up to anyone harassing Kristine. Kristine saw her like a big sister, she felt loved and cared for. And she felt secure. But her ultimate goal was to reach Chemolgan, the village in Kazakhstan where her grandma lived. It appeared as though one of these girls will have to make a sacrifice or will be separated forever. If Anya goes to Kazakhstan, she’ll never see Andrey again, and if she went back to the city, Kristine will not see her Grandma. It was as if the destiny was playing a cruel roulette with their fate, where whichever path they chose, they will lose one significant person in their life. The director Ilmar Raag depicted through some unforgettable scenes how Anya opened up her feelings towards Kristine, and that the feeling she felt towards Andrey was slowly fading away.

Polina Pushkaruk was phenomenal in portraying the role of Anya but it’s the young Vika Lobacheva who stole the heart away of the viewers. She made the character of dreamy and feisty Kristine very real to the audience. It was amazing acting by a young actor and I wonder why she wasn’t nominated for the best young actors. I was surprised to find out later that Vika Lobacheva actually spent a large part of her childhood in social care. Ya ne vernus is an exceptional film, magically woven by talented Ilmar Raag and supported by the lead actors Polina and Vika. Adding the cinematography featuring the vast expanse of the Russian countryside, it made I won’t come back one of the phenomenal films I’ve watched recently. Many would argue that this may be classed as a road movie, but I’d strongly oppose that notion. It’s true that a large part of the film is about the journey for the two women towards Kazakhstan, but it’s much more than a road movie — it’s a tale about finding home and love. To me, it was a fable, a string of magical moments joined together to a bleak storyline. I’m glad that I made the choice to watch Я Не Вернюсь (Ya ne vernus) over the other films I was tempted by, or else I would have missed this rare gem. It was a lesson, that sometimes it’s worth following a hunch, and not just for choosing which films to watch.

Equality, Politics, Socialism

Two observations on equality inequation

We were just returning from our week long break in Paris. The day was hot, at times in mid-thirties. We anticipated a cooler weather in the UK. When we reached Folkestone, the temperature didn’t plummet. I thought for a brief moment that it was perhaps the wrong week to be on holiday. It would have been better had the weather here been worse.

But that thought made me think further. Why is it that the weather had to be worse here to make a holiday abroad seem more pleasant? Is it because spending all the money and effort for a break away from the usual cold and damp weather now seemed worthless because anybody who stayed here enjoyed the sun just the same? And is it not the same problem with the wealth? No matter how well off one seems to be, they don’t feel exclusive enough if the others had what they have. That we are not happy with what we have got, no matter how much it is — isn’t that the first symptom of inequality of wealth? Sunshine is ubiquitous, just like all resources on earth that we exploit, but we all want a bigger share. So when we look in contempt at other people for being wealthy and not doing enough to help the poor, we should look at ourselves as well. WE, are part of it, and it needs reminding all the time if we even hope to make a difference one day.

The day after, we were eating Father’s Day dinner in a restaurant. It’s not a Michelin star place, but a chain restaurant mainly catered for middle-class clientele. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation at the table next to us. A middle-aged man, his Aussie partner and opposite them sat a young man of early twenties with headphone on the ear and a woman about the same age. It seemed it was the boy’s family and the girl was the girlfriend. They were talking about the Grenfell Tower and the young woman was vociferously explaining the shortcomings of the councils, the legal implications, where Labour was wrong, where Tories were wrong. She sounded compelling and had won the debate at the table.

Yet, her argument, albeit filled with facts and legal jargon, lacked a basic factor. It lacked empathy for the families that were ruined — the human factor in the equation of the accountabilities. She is a Uni student, and with her knowledge, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was doing politics. I thought of the a time if she became a politician. She could present an excellent speech but could still be totally aloof from the people she’s standing up for.

The political elite of this country, irrespective of the party, has this issue of connecting with the common public. If not all, the majority of them, especially the party frontbenchers, hails from a privileged upbringing, and learned politics as theory and analysing the history rather than following the first principles of politics — understanding people. And by not understanding the public or by making the public think that politicians are above their class, it alienated public from most mainstream politicians and paved paths for opportunistic populist parties. The image of one Nigel Farage holding a pint of beer comes to mind.

Brexit results showed the danger of populism and the permanent damage it’ll inflict on the course of UK’s future. It’s about time that the mainstream parties start diversifying their candidate portfolio. A number of barriers have been broken in recent years in terms of politics and inclusion of candidates of various background, but classism is another hurdle to overcome. Social engineering in UK public service is a fact, and unless this prejudices are removed, a politician will never be representative of the public they are meant to represent.

And this realisation brought home the two random thoughts together. We live in a society where we are taught seek more, have more than others. Our actions define our own future, and others’ as well. Until we reach a point where we learn to think differently or our inherent tendency to create inequality is neutralised by a system fair to all, we will not be living in a society we can be proud to be a part of. And to achieve an equal society, the equality should not be devolved or merely representative, but the equality which will be entitled, ubiquitous.

But then, will it ever happen? After all, sitting here, writing about all this rather than doing something about it, I’ve just followed the benevolent socialist bandwagon, who talks about reforming the world but does nothing.
Labour, Politics, UK

Tories out: A last minute guide for tactical voting

Last year when the UK delivered its shock verdict in EU membership, I was in Normandy. I had already done my bit, I voted IN through postal ballot, did some Facebook canvassing, slagged off and ridiculed the UKIP buffoons and Cameron’s brochure. I thought that was enough to stay in. It was not. The VOTE LEAVE banners stuck on bushes and little bridges seemed to have a louder voice. This year, after a year of drama and pandemonium, we are yet again heading for another election, apparently to a stronger and stable UK. A day after the results, we’ll be on our way to a France again, where the people overwhelmingly voted for a pro-EU leader, shutting down the threat of a protectionist and nationalist regime. Our visit would be quite symbolic, either going in as equals, with a progressive government in the Westminster working to damage control the Brexit outcome. Or going in as laughing stock, with a government still fooling its people with no deal is better than a bad deal, Brexit means Brexit and all other mouthful nonsense. The 8th June will definitely change the future course of the British politics; it’s just waiting to see if that’s for better or worse.

If you survived this far and not pissed off about another remoaner, and you haven’t much time, read this concise guide that gives you much insight about tactical voting. How to vote the Tories out: a newbies’ guide to tactical voting. You don’t need to know the rest unless you’re still undecided, where this might help you decide why you can’t let the Tories another reign.

The biggest dilemma about this election is whom to vote. On one side, you have Theresa May and her cronies, constantly changing their stance on every single policy, and already showing the horrors of the Thatcher era politics with cuts on every imaginable public service. And there is another party which shouldn’t even be considered a mainline party after the Brexit vote. UKIP lost its relevance, although unfortunately, the supporter base of disillusioned working class hasn’t yet moved back to mainstream parties. It’s to see if 2017 will see the obliteration of UKIP like 2015 was for BNP. On the other side of the spectrum, there is Labour. Or Jeremy Corbyn. Like it or not, he is the face of Labour, and based on where you are and how old you are, you either like Labour because of him, or you won’t vote Labour because of him. It is undeniable, however, that despite the mass walkout of mainstream Labour politicians, Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn has done very well to cut the Tory lead to a minimum. But surveys aren’t accurate. I’m still apprehensive. Then there is SNP, set to win all their seats with bigger margins after Theresa May quashed the call for a second referendum. At times where Labour was expected to rip the Tory bills and arguments apart, they were surprisingly very reserved, and it was SNP did that job. But they don’t have a manifesto for the entire UK, and while you agree with them, and may form coalitions, their interest will only circle around Scottish public, which accounts for only 8% of the population. And about Libdems, seven years after they made the collaboration with the Conservatives, and virtually wiped themselves out of the UK map, their popularity is on the rise again, mainly to urban young voters based on the Brexit renegotiation issue. You have the Green Party as well, but outside Brighton, they only appear to have a niche voter bank, not large enough to swing any seat. And the Women’s equality party. But these parties, although they have a credible agenda, this is not the Election to undercut anti-Tory supports. Who can you trust then? The choice that appears to be available to the general public, not just this time, but for most of the elections, is the best of a bad bunch.

It is hard to support a particular political party these days. This is partly because they moved away from the party hardline and gradually taking a centrist approach. It is quite possible to find that various parties are promising to fulfil your expectations on various sectors, and you end up choosing the party meetings most of them. For the generally capitalist economies, this offers a middle ground for the oppressed middle and lower classes, but from a socialistic point of view, this means that the changes are not drastic enough to ensure that the income gap is decreasing and everybody in the country is offered a minimum level of lifestyle.

The other deterrent of voting is the lack of leadership. Despite all other negatives, Margaret Thatcher was the last credible leader the UK has seen. The PMs after her lacked any kind of leadership. They were suave men, great in appearance and eloquence but that’s how far their skills went. They hardly knew the country or its people outside their boys club spheres, and failed to understand the challenges and hardships faced by the working class. Outside the PM club, Nick Clegg was one such leader who showed great promise, but ended up committing political euthanasia for the Libdems by joining with Tories in 2010. Looking at Theresa May, she often tries to emulate Thatcher but fails miserably. Most of her answers in the PMQ ended up making personal insults to Jeremy Corbyn, or other opposition MPs or members of the public. A leader who shows no respect for the opposition and no empathy for the harsh realities faced by the working class today including most of the public servants, it is unimaginable how people can trust her to be in charge of the country. All she has got is strong words and no actions to follow through. On the other side of the bench we have Jeremy Corbyn. Much has been said about his appearance and leadership qualities, but over the last two years he had shown extreme resilience when he had to withstand challenge from his own party rather than the opposition. Granted he made rushed decisions within the Labour camp, reshuffling shadow cabinet every month or so, but that wasn’t a failure of him, but the Labour MPs who chose to leave the party in tatters rather than stand behind Corbyn. People who think Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the suitable leader, let me remind you the terrible handling of the home office by the now PM, including the UKBA vans and the cuts in police that is to some extent responsible for the failure to intercept recent terrorist attacks. If her track records prove she is a better leader based on void arguments like enough is enough or Brexit means Brexit, then it begs the question of legitimacy of such claims.

So, whom to vote for then? Looking at most or all sociopolitical events happening over last decade, or longer than that, I repeat to myself one simple phrase, “Know your enemy”. The more problems I witness, the more I’m convinced that there’s so much hatred and so much tension between humans, and one root cause is that we are always fighting a shadow war with an imaginary opponent but the real perpetrators always get away unharmed. It does sound like a communist manifesto, but wealth is the main underlying factor in most of the crises faced today — austerity, terrorism, tax evasion, immigration — the list is endless. It is like watching the butterfly effect unfurl in front of your own eyes. Considering the vote is not decided by the 1% of the wealthiest people, but the working class people, the phrase “know your enemy” is actually understanding who they are actually exploited by. The enemy is not the Polish construction worker next door who you think is taking up your jobs, the enemy is not the Muslim neighbourhood that you avoid because it doesn’t feel like Britain there, the enemy is not the disabled person having to prove every week that they are unable to work, nor are the children fleeing their war torn countries waiting in Calais jungle for yet another dangerous attempt to cross the channel. The enemy is not the EU, taking away billions of pounds from you, because you don’t know how much it’s putting back in. The enemy is not the children and people in countries with natural disasters, famine, political unrest because you think all your tax ends up there doing charities. The actual enemy is who led you believe all this red herrings so you are not disgusted by things that are actually robbing you in the daylight. About protecting the interests of the rich, about making Britain a tax haven, about sending away doctors and nurses who’ve been legitimately working here for years by raising the threshold, by cutting pensions and disability benefits yet funding millions for the clowns in Buckingham palace. You must be disgusted learning how imams tell the Muslim communities whether to vote and for whom to vote? I am. But you don’t see it the same way when The Sun, Daily Mail and The Express urges on its front page who you should be voting for! The media who led you believe all the trash deliberately, by Rupert Murdoch & co is our enemy. You don’t really need religious hate preachers in this country, but the media is doing exactly that right in front of your nose. The societies are being divided thanks to media scapegoating. Yet, you choose to spend you hard earned money reading that trash and get agitated that this country is going down. And there are politicians. You’re not disgusted that a PM is saying enough is enough after repeated terrorist attacks, yet she was the person in charge of the home affairs for last six years, cutting police and surveillance numbers. You are worried about letting Syrian refugees in case they are terrorists, yet you don’t flinch when picture of May appears with the king of Saudi Arabia. You still know where most of these terrorist outfits get their funding from, don’t you? You just chose to ignore and rather shout for Burqa ban! You see smug Jeremy Hunt smile sheepishly when he’s asked about the chaotic situation in the NHS, Iain Duncan Smith burst out in cheers when a cut is mentioned, we have a buffoon of a foreign secretary that people should be ashamed of allowing representing Britain to other nation. And that the fox hunting would be brought back doesn’t bother you, nor does Theresa May’s warning about throwing out any human rights laws to prevent terrorism, uncannily idiotic and dangerous as the Muslim ban proposed by the orange faced batshit across the pond. Yet your derision is only directed towards Diane Abbott for getting her figures wrong, and your anger towards Jeremy Corbyn for his supposed IRA link.

So really, you need to think whether you should be more worried about Labour raising tax for people earning more than £80k and the Bolshevik rhetoric suggested by the right wing media, or issues that have been plaguing the country for much longer? Britain needs a new government, a government that puts its people first and treat all as equals. And a government that draws away from US led foreign policy framework about the Middle East and think how the country can constructively contribute to the peace process. Guns didn’t work there, it’s evident now. All it did is bring the enemy home. We need a government that ensures that our public service is protected and public servants are recognised for their amazing service working unreasonable hours for pittance. You need a government that will ensure Brexit happens with a close tie to the Europe, by agreeing free labour movement so the access is not lost to our biggest market rather than grovelling to counties that are undemocratic. You need a fairer society where the minimum wage lets someone have a decent lifestyle unreliable of the food banks, people who earn more are made to pay more tax, closing loopholes that the Tories have been enjoying sharing with their crony pals. Can Theresa May promise all these? Heck no! Can Labour deliver all this? Heck no, but they made the first move by thinking about it. And they say “You’ve actually failed when you stopped trying”. But more importantly, you need to keep the Tories out. So, look at many tactical voting sites and see if your constituency is marginal. If you’re Libdem and Labour is marginal, your best bet is to vote Labour, rather than allow another closely won conservative seat. And above all, VOTE! Make sure you had your voice heard. I still wait to see the day when it will be liable to fines if you didn’t vote. So turn up and don’t moan later.

Here’s one last word of caution though. If you’re thinking voting Libdem where they are close to win and Labour is not in contention. Remember 2010, when you were betrayed by them. So, don’t make an assumption that Tim Farron will side with Labour if there’s a hung parliament. But I’d still think if there was alternative voting available, Labour would be the second choice of Libdem supporters than the Tories. And if you voted Libdems, you have a fair chance of a coalition; voting Labour and losing the seat to Tories will mean another seat will have to be won somewhere to compensate. In either case, make your vote count towards making a difference. It’s your choice, for a better tomorrow…or worse. Just remember, “Know your enemy”. All the best to your future.

Politics, short story, UK

A Remoaner’s Parable for Brexit

A good friend once told me this story:

There was a devout man. He prayed to God every day and thanked him for his existence on earth. He always believed that if he was in any kind of trouble, God will help him out. And so God did. One time when his child had fever, and he prayed and prayed. The next morning his child was cured completely; he even went to school. Or the other time when he ran into debt and after praying to God, he had the dream and found an untouched scratch card lying inside a book, and he won enough money to clear his debts.

One day our devout man was working in his office. It started to rain heavily around the lunch hour. The people thought the rain would stop soon. But it carried on, and the water started to rise. The banks of the river nearby had burst, and a flash flood followed. There was a TV at the pantry area in the corner. In the middle of share price displays, there was a woman on screen with an angelic face, making an announcement that everybody should leave the area straight away. Everyone in the office packed their bags and rushed to leave the building. Everyone but our friend. He started praying, so the disaster would stop. Colleagues tried to dissuade him, but he was firm in his belief. His colleagues thought he was mad, but he knew God will help him.

Half and hour went by. The water is gushing inside the building. The devout man is still asking God to put an end to this awful weather. There was a loud honk outside. A rescue truck is rescuing stranded people to take them up to high ground. Our friend looked out of the window.

“Hey there! Come downstairs, there’s nothing to worry. The water isn’t deep. We got you”
“Thanks, but I’m fine here. God will save us. You should pray as well“
“What nonsense! Come right now, we got other people to rescue and the water is getting higher”
“God will make it all stop. You’ll see. You carry on, help the others“
“You moron!“

And the truck drove away. The man went back to his prayer. Half an hour went by. The ground floor is under a waist deep water. A big siren and flashing lights outside. A fire engine is passing by. It comes to a halt as the fireman noticed the man looking out of the office window.

“Hang in there fella, we’ll get the ladder to you!“
“I don’t need your ladder. The God almighty will soon put an end to this.“
“What a load of rubbish! Get on the ladder now. We can’t stay here long, water will get in the engine“
“You save yourself my friend. God will save me. He always had in the past“
“Good luck to you on that.“

And the fire engine went away. The man was feeling a bit anxious now. Is God not happy with him? Has he done something wrong? “I promise I will pray more, dear God! It’s just the thoughts about work and family distracted me lately. But I will, once again, be your true servant“. He started praying more feverishly. Half an hour…then an hour went by. It’s getting dark, and there is no sign of the rain to stop. The water has come up to the first floor. Our man went to the roof, so god can save him. “Ah I see. He probably wasn’t planning to stop the rain. It must be a boat, like Noah’s, that will save me. I know now why God waited for so long. He wanted the water to rise so he can send the ark“. The man suddenly felt that God hadn’t forsaken him, and he was too blind to see it. He watched out for the boat, but was disturbed by a very loud whirring noise again—

A helicopter is circling over the buildings. Our man is suddenly flooded with shining light from the helicopter. They lowered the rope ladder, to rescue the last few stranded people. A booming voice came from the copter

“ Hello there! Grab the ladder carefully and climb up inside”.

The man thought that wasn’t the way he expected the help to come. And he refused. The pilot explained that he won’t be able to come back and he must escape. But our man refused. There will be a boat soon. The helicopter flew away.

The man started praying again. Minutes went by, then an hour. The water has risen to the roof. He is standing facing the sea of water that engulfed all buildings around. He is suddenly panic-stricken. That God wouldn’t help him this time. He started wondering what sins he had committed that God is annoyed with him. The water is rising fast. It’s up to his ankles, then waist and in a few more minutes he was standing with his chest under water. He held on to the handrails, knowing it’ll all be over in a few minutes. Faces of his wife and son flashed in front of his eyes. And that all his prayers didn’t manage to move God, that was more hurtful. He felt betrayed. With water almost up to his neck, he lets out a desperate howl, “Why dear God did you abandon me? I have always been faithful to you. What have I done wrong? Please help me!“

Suddenly there was a bolt of lightning. And a few more. The dark sky was lit up with electric blue flashes. Then, as our man looked up, silhouette of a man appeared, and the God spoke,

“Fucking idiot, who do you think alerted you of the flood, and sent you the truck, fire engine and the helicopter? I thinks it’s better to have no followers than the blind ones like you!”

He disappeared in the clashing and colliding clouds. The water isn’t rising anymore. The devout man gazed at the sky, awestruck.

“I was right! My lord has saved me again. I saw his face! I’m glad I waited until the very last moment” – he thought.

And then, there was a loud sigh, then out came a big wave, and the man was washed away into nothingness. Even the God had had enough of this delusional moron.

Over 17 million people voted for Brexit out of 46 million electorate. Within the first hour of the shocking morning of the 24th June, it was clear that all the promises and dreams of claiming back the glory land was a farce. The first lifeline was the desperate call for a second referendum. The second, the utter chaos that followed in the Tory and UKIP camp, as their bunch of lies came to light one after another. Then there was the High court and the Supreme Court ruling for giving MPs a vote to trigger Article 50. There were options for a soft Brexit with access to single market and free movement. And then the vote. The final say before it was all over. And it was. Thanks to the deluded 17 million, thanks to the jokers Farage and Boris, thanks to the scheming Daily Mail and Daily Express, and finally thanks to the bloody three-line whip from Corbyn, the fucking show is finally over. There’s no more lifeline; only the grim future with a racist molester as the main ally for UK. Or possibly the only ally left. The road to perdition starts here…
Bengal, Politics

যাত্রাপালা : রঙমেলান্তি, ২০১৬ বিধানসভা নির্বাচন ও জনমত

ভোট নিয়ে আগে অনেক পরীক্ষানিরীক্ষা করেছি, সে জোড়া কুঠার (এ ম্যাওবাদী আসার অনেক আগের ব্যাপার বাপু, তখন তিনোমুল মানে মাঠেঘাটে ঘাসের মধ্যে ফুটে থাকা ফুলই জানতাম, কাজেই আমারে আবার ম্যাওবাদী বলে দেগে দেয়ার চ্যাষ্টা কইরেননা) হোক বা বেচারী বারে বারে জমানত বাজেয়াপ্ত হওয়া নেপালী বুড়ো (উঁহু, স্বাধীন গোর্খাল্যান্ডেও নেই)। ভোট মানে তখন লায়েক হয়েছি, আঙুলে কালি লেগে থাকল কদিন সেটাই বেশী আলোচনার বিষয়। তাপ্পর কলেজে তো সব অ্যাপল, রঙ আছে বললেই ক্যাল। তা সে ঠিকঠাকই ছিল, কলেজে রঙবাজি চালাতে গিয়ে নিজেদের মধ্যে লাথালাথি খেয়োখেয়ি না হওয়াই ভালো। গোল বাঁধল তিন সাড়ে তিন বছর পর, দুজন ছাত্র ইয়ার ল্যাগ খাবার পর। কলেজ তো গাজোয়ারি করে সংশোধনের জায়গায় বর্জন পলিসি চালিয়ে বসে রইল, এদিকে খাল কেটে কুমীর ঢুকে পড়ল, অ্যাপল হয়ে গেল লাল। ম্যাজিক নাকি! আরে অ্যাপল তো লালই হয়, লাল না হলেও রঙ চড়িয়ে হলুদ সবুজ পাশগুলোও লাল করলে তবেই না বাজারে খাবে! ব্যাস, ইয়ার ল্যাগ যে কে সেই বহাল রইল, মধ্যে থেকে আশেপাশের কলেজে নির্বাচনের সময় চলে এল বাস ম্যাটাডোর, লোহার রড উইকেট ইঁটপাটকেল সহযোগে সুষ্ঠু ছাত্র নির্বাচন ঘটাতে। সব কলেজ তখন সাহায্য পেয়ে লাল। আমরাও। অ্যাপল-ট্যাপল আবার কী!

এদিকে আমার তখন নিজেরও রঙ বাছার পালা। নেপালী বুড়ো হয়তো অতদিনে পটল তুলেছে। এ যেন ঘর রঙ করার টেনশন, সামনে ডুলাক্সের কালার চার্ট, কোনটা নি? তত্ত্ব-ফত্ত্ব জানিনা, ওই ইন-কিলাব-জিন্দা-বাদ শব্দকটাই রক্তে আগুন ধরিয়ে দিত। তারপর আবার কিনা শিক্ষিত বাঙালির পার্টি, অন্য কিছু করলে হয় অশিক্ষিত না হয় সিদ্ধার্থ রায়ের গুন্ডা, তাছাড়া কমরেড কথাটা শুনতে মন্দ না, সৌমিত্রও করে…আম্মো লাল হয়ে গেলাম। মানে ঝান্ডা ঘাড়ে ব্রিগেডে যাবার দলে নয়, এই বেশ নন্দন-কফি হাউস-পার্টি ম্যানিফেস্টো-অস্ত্রোভস্কি এইসব আর কী, পেটে লবডঙ্কা, কিন্তু পাক্কা আঁতেলের ভাঁজ মারার ইচ্ছাটা ষোলআনা। দাড়ি মুখ আর ঝোলা কাঁধে প্রেসিডেন্সি না যাবার আফসোস এখনো মনে দাগা মারে। সেই তখন থেকে যত্তদিন ভোট দিয়েছি সব গেছে লালে। এদিকে আবার কী কান্ড! পিসি এর তার সাথে বাওয়াল দিয়ে নিজেই পাটি গড়ে বসল। প্রচুর উৎসাহ ভক্তদের মধ্যে। কিন্তু ততদিনে মাথায় হার্ডওয়্যার হয়ে গেছে এ পিসি সে পিসি যে কোথায় কোথায় ডক্টরেটের কাগজ কিনে, না হয় গায়ে কেরোসিন ঢেলে বিনোদনে খামতি রাখেনা কিন্তু ভোট জিততে পারবে কিনা তা নিয়ে প্রচুর সন্দেহ। সেই আটানব্বই থেকে শুরু। আর পারছিনা গুরু। পরের তেরো বছর এ বলে আমায় দ্যাখ তো ও বলে আমায় দ্যাখ। তফাত হল গিয়ে ওই তিরিশ বছর ধরে যা চলেছে সেটা এখন হলমার্ক, সেই রেকর্ড ভাঙতেই হবে, এটাই টার্গেট। ভজহরি ফিল্ম কোম্পানির আমারো কি চান্সো মিলিবে না-র মত সব নিজের নিজের তামাশা দেখিয়ে আমাদের বেশ আনন্দ দিয়েছে অনেকদিন (কি! আনন্দ! পেয়াদা!)। তার ওপর আবার নতুন প্রজাতীর মহাবির্ভাব, বুদ্ধিজীবি। উরেববাস, তেনাদের মাথা এত বড়, তার ছায়ায় গোটা পচ্চিমবঙ্গো ঢেকে যায় যায়। এনাদের বচন শিরোধার্য, যা বললেন কইলেন জনগন হাপসে খেলো, পেট খালি তো কী বে! এর মধ্যে আবার আই ফোনের যুগে অচল নোকিয়ার মত সৌমিত্রদাদু চক্ষুলজ্জার বালাই না রেখে বলেই ফেল্লেন ভোটখানা বামফ্রন্টরেই দিয়েন। ফেলু মিত্তির বইয়ের পাতায় কতবার আছাড়িপিছাড়ি খেলেন সেই আহ্বান শুনে কে জানে। যাক এগারোর ভোটে গদি ওল্টালো, ভাবলাম এই শুরু হল পাগলের রাজপাট, ভাগ্যিস আমি আগে থেকে কাট মেরেছি। কলকাতা আর কলকাতা রইল না, মেছোবাজার হয়ে গেল্। নাহ, নিন্দুকে যাই বলুক, পিসি নিরাশ করেন নাই, কৌতুক নকশার ডবল ডাইজেস্ট সাপ্লাই দিয়ে গেছেন হরদম। উরেব্বাস রিম্পা-রুঙ্কা-ঝঙ্কা!!! আরে ওরা যে কল্লো চৌতিশ বছর সে বেলা? এ তো তৎকাল সার্ভিস, চৌত্রিশ কী চৌদ্দ বছরে ওদের রেকর্ড ভেঙে দেব। আর এদিকে জনগনের হাতে হ্যারিকেন। তবে জ্বালাতে হয়না, এতো শ্রীর ছড়াছড়ি, তাঁদের দ্যুতিতেই দশদিক আলোকময়। কিন্তু জনগন পড়েছে মহা ফ্যাসাদে। ননস্টপ খিল্লি দিতে দিতে গাল ব্যথা হয়ে গেছে কিন্তু থামার চিহ্ন নেই। কি করা? আবার মানুষের জোট হয়েছে এবারে, এতদিন মানুষ গান্ডু ছিল, এবারে তারা মানুষ হয়েছে। এইব্বার যাবি কোথায়? কমলা সবুজ লাল মিলেমিশে একাকার। আরে ছাগলরা, লালের সাথে লাল ছাড়া আর যাই জুড়িসনা কেন, জানিসনা লাল টা খালি ফ্যাকাশেই হবে? তবে কিনা বেশিরেড বলে তো কিছু নেই, লালে অন্য রঙ মিশলে তবেই না রেড কমরেড! বিজেপি নিয়ে বেশী কিছু বলা মানে সময় নষ্ট, বালের পার্টি বললেই যথেষ্ট। তা বেশ হয়েছে লাল আর বাল একদিকে। আরে পালটা বাকী রইল যে! ও সে তো ব্যস্ত কেষ্টোনগরে ছেলে ঢোকাতে। ফুল হাউস। আর নীল সাদা? পিসির দলকে নিয়ে কিছু বলার ধ্যাস্টামো নাই বা কল্লাম। নেতাদের নিয়ে তো কিছু নাই বা বললাম, তো কারা এই নীল সাদার বেয়াদপি দেখেও ওয়াহ ওয়াহ করছে?  কেউ আজন্ম পিসিভক্ত, পিসিকে একাধিক নোবেল দেয়া হচ্ছেনা কেন বলে সওয়াল করতে ব্যস্ত। আর একদল পাল্টিপারপাস, যে বিরিয়ানির প্যাকেট দেবে তার দিকে পালটি খাবে। কেউ কেউ আবার চারিদিকে তাড়কার ছড়াছড়িতে আপ্লুত হয়ে আহা আহা করছে। কী! বলতিস কিনা শিক্ষিত বাঙালির পার্টি, এবার দ্যাখ সালারা তোদের তিরেই (এই কেলো করেছি, আনন্দর মত তির লিখে ফেল্লামজে) তোদের ঘায়েল কল্লাম। কত বুদ্ধি দেখাতে হবে বল আরো বুদ্ধিজীবি ভাড়া করে আনব, কোথায় গ্যালো তোদের দেরিদা আওড়ানো বুদ্ধুবাবু? কী! অ সেও অবসর থেকে ফিরে পোচার করতে লেগেছে? আর কত খেল দেখাবি বাপু। ছিল খালি আমাদের সুমন নিজের ফেলা থুতু চাটার জন্যে, সেখানেও তোদের প্রার্থী দিতে হবে? কি কম্পিটিটিভ রে বাবা। অতঃ কিম?

এখন যদি প্রশ্ন করা যায় এই তুঘলকী ক্যাওড়ামোর জন্য কে দায়ী তা সে হলাম গিয়ে আমি আর আপনি। আমরাই চৌত্রিশ বছর জুলুমবাজি দেখেও কোনো যোগ্য বিকল্প নেই এই অজুহাতে একটা সরকারকে ক্ষমতায় রেখে এসেছি। আমরা মুখে বলি কম্যুনিস্ট, জনগনই সবচেয়ে বড় অস্ত্র, সর্বহারার মুখপত্র। অন্যদিকে সংগঠন চালানোর সময় চুড়ান্ত শ্রেনীবৈষম্য, শহরে আওড়ালাম নেরুদা-দেরিদা আর গ্রামে পুষলাম হার্মাদ, এতে সংগঠন রইল কিন্তু শহরের বাইরে প্রান্তিক মানুষের ঠিক তেমন কোন সার্বিক উন্নয়ন আর হলনা। বরং আজ যা অবস্থা তাতে বলা যেতেই পারে যে যদি কম্যুনিস্ট সরকার চান তো সিপিএমকে দয়া করে ভোট দেবেননা। ২০১১য় কিন্তু পিসির গদীতে বসার কারণ গ্রামাঞ্চলের মানুষের লালের ওপর থেকে ভরসা একদম চলে যাওয়ায়। সেদিক থেকে দেখলে, ১১তে সর্বহারার পার্টি কিন্তু তৃনমূলই। সিঙ্গুর নন্দীগ্রাম আনতে গিয়ে ছিপেম তখন জোতদারের প্রতিভূ। কিন্তু শহুরে মানুষের ভোটে তো সরকার পাল্টায়না, পাল্টায় গ্রামে। তাঁরা এখন কোথায় যাবেন? আগে যারা লালের হয়ে ঝান্ডা আর ডান্ডা বইত, হাওয়া বদলাতে তারা এখন নীলে। যে পুষবে তারা তাদের। কাল বিজেপি পরশু হয়তো আইসিস। তারা আগে ধমকাত লালে ছাপ না মারলে, এখন নীলে না মারলে। কোথায় দেবেন? যদি মনে করেন সব প্রার্থী ভুষিমাল তবে সবার নিচে চুপচাপ অপেক্ষা করা নোটা তো রয়েছে আপনার পুষে রাখা বঞ্চনা হেনস্থা সবকিছুর বিরুদ্ধে কথা বলার জন্য। সবাই জানুক যে পশ্চিমবঙ্গে নির্বাচনযোগ্য দল নেই কোন। যাত্রাপালা দেখিয়ে ভোট টানা আর যাচ্ছেনা তেমন। ক্ষমতা চলে যাবার ভয়ে সবাই গলবস্ত্র। তাই এ বলে নারদ সত্যি হলে টিকিট দিতামনা তো ও বলে হাত কেটে নেয়াটা একটু অন্যায় হয়েছিল বটে। তবে নোটা যে তেমন জনপ্রিয় হবেনা বলাই বাহুল্য। শহরে প্রচুর অ্যাক্টিভিস্ট তারা দুনিয়া পাল্টানোর স্বপ্নটপ্ন দেখে, নোটায় তারা ছাপ মারতেই পারে, কিন্তু দুশ পরিবারের গ্রামে নোটায় বোতাম টিপে পার্টির চক্ষুশুল হলে তখন এমার্জেন্সিতে হাসপাতালে বেড জোগাড় করে দেবে কে? সাধের বানানো বাড়িতে আগুন লাগানো রুখবে কে? ছেলেমেয়ে স্কুলে যাবার সময় তাদের নিরাপত্তা দেবে কে? সেখানে তো আলিমুদ্দিনেরও জোর খাটেনা, হরিশ মুখার্জিরও না। জোর হল লোকাল লিডারের আর তার বাইক বাহিনীর। তাহলে বিকল্প কী বা কে? চোখে পড়ার মত একমাত্র বিকল্প বলতে গেলে তো দিল্লিতে আপ সরকার। তারা নিতান্তই শহরকেন্দ্রিক, কলকাতা আলাদা রাজ্য হলে বলতাম আপ-এর মডেলে সরকার গড়তে। অঞ্চল, রাজ্য, ভাষা সংস্কৃতির গণ্ডি পেরোনোর মত রাজনৈতিক মডেল আপ-এর নেই। গ্রামের গা জোয়ারি রাজনীতিতে সে মডেল চলেনা। অগত্যা? নোটা ছাড়া তো কোনো গতি দেখা যাচ্ছেনা। এদিকে শহরে সিট অনেক, সেগুলো নোটায় খুইয়ে বসলেও গ্রামে যে জিতবে সরকার তো গড়বে তারাই। গোটা রাজ্য নোটায় ভোট না দিলে শঠে শাঠ্যং হবার কোনো উপায় নেই। তবে হ্যাঁ কালসাপ বিজেপি থেকে দুরেই থাকবেন, তাদের পয়সা দেয়ার লোকের অভাব নেই, খানিক পা রাখতে দিলে তখন দু দলই লোপাট হয়ে যেতে বেশি দিন লাগবেনা।  তখন দেখবেন কেমন মজা। আদ্ধেক রিফিউজিদের ডান্ডা মেরে পাড়া থুড়ি দেশছাড়া করার মতলব তো নরেন মুদি রাখঢাক না করেই বলে দিয়েছে। তবে তাদেরকে আর আলাদা করে সাম্প্রদায়িক বলা যাবেনা, ভোটের লোভে সবাই সাম্প্রদায়িক।

উপায় কি নেই? নাকি আসলে জনগনই বেশি চালু, লিডারদের বাঁদরনাচ নাচিয়ে তারাই রক্ষা করছে গণতন্ত্র? সারদার মত বড় মাপের কেলেঙ্কারী (তবে সারদা একা নয়, চিটফান্ড কোন সময় থেকে শুরু হয়েছে তা খুঁজতে গেলে কিন্তু আবার সেই গত চৌত্রিশ বছরের দিকেও আঙ্গুল উঠবে) না ঘটলে সরকার কে গড়ল তাতে সাধারণ মানুষের কি তেমন কিছু ছেঁড়া যায়? দশ-বিশ হাজার টাকা ঘুষ দেয়াটা তো জলভাত কোনো কাজ করিয়ে নেয়ার জন্যে। সে যে পার্টিই ক্ষমতায় থাকুক সেই ট্র্যাডিশন সমানে চলে আসছে, আসবেও। তাই হয় নোটায় ভোট মারুন, নাহলে নিজেদের মধ্যে যোগসাজস করে এমন ভাবে ভোট দিন যাতে যেই জিতুক পাল্লা যেন প্রায় মাঝামাঝি থাকে। তাহলে তিন দলই কাজ করে দেবে, কম পয়সায়। এদের হাতে যত ক্ষমতা দেবেন, ছিনেজোঁকের দল শুষে নেবে আরো বেশি বেশি। নেতাদের তটস্থ রাখুন যাতে তারা মানুষকে সমঝে চলে, উল্টোটা নয়। কাজেই বলি কী, বাইরে যে পার্টি যা রঙই হোক না কেন ভেতরে সব্বাই কালো– নিটোল মাকাল ফল। কাজেই ধড়াম করে দুই কী পাঁচ কী সাত না খুঁজে সবার শেষে পড়ে থাকা নোটা-টা নিয়েও একবার ভাববেন, আপনার পরিবত্তোন আপনিই আনতে পারেন, অন্যের ঘাড়ে বন্দুক রেখে “যত্ত গাড়োলের দল, এ পার্টিকে কে ক্ষমতায় আনলো” জাতীয় তত্ত্ব চায়ের দোকানের বাইরে কেউ খাবেনা। অ্যাপল হয়ে যান সব, বলুন লাল নীল সবুজ গেরুয়া কারুক্কে চাইনা। আমি ভোট দিলে এবার আর লালে নীলে না, সিধে নোটায় মারতাম। আপনি কোথায় দেবেন?/span>

Education, India, Politics

The JNU protests with the context of nationalism

JNU students protests the arrest of the JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar

JNU students protests the arrest of the JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar

Thank goodness that this was JNU, not Jamia Millia Islamia, so the students were arrested by plain dress policemen inside the campus and were charged for sedition and their social network profiles are pasted all over Internet as the traitors of India. On the contrary, if they were from Jamia, perhaps the students would have been branded as members of SIMI or potential terrorists. Whilst there were reasonable doubts over Guru’s role in the attacks, the curtain of secrecy around his execution is definitely not a shining example of Indian judicial system. This is not the first time someone voiced concerns over his conviction and execution, but perhaps twenty-something students are much softer targets of the state than the seasoned politicians and stalwarts in the legislative procedures. Needless to say his execution took far too long, but the sudden and secret operation, tantamount to assassinations of Soviet era political dissidents, was not without political motives. If Afzal Guru was proven a terrorist beyond doubt, he should have been executed when he was convicted. It didn’t have to be done hidden behind an iron curtain. How the government wrapped the news around secrecy, didn’t inform his family, or denied a funeral, the integrity of the government was definitely questionable, especially approaching 2014 as all political parties were keen to prove their good intentions to the electorate.

DSU, the hosts of the cultural programme are a leftist student body, and they used the occasion to debate and discuss the systemic killing of Afzal Guru. A bold decision indeed, where the presence of socialist voice in most part of India is in decline. Perhaps the decision to commemorate the occasion was spurred by the reference of Afzal Guru during the Hyderabad university protest and the death of Rohith Vemula, another victim of state sponsored oppression that created an uproar but soon fizzled out and forgotten, with no action against the Uni authority who rusticated Rohith.

Smriti Irani said the anti-India chants were insults to mother India. So did Rajnath Singh, the home minister. Not sure who that fabled mother India is, she must be a polyamorous person, sleeping around with everyone’s fathers. When thousands of years before, the poet wrote Janani janmabhoomischa swargadapi gariyasi, he didn’t confuse the identities of mother with the land one is born. The personification or to be specific, maternalisation of India is yet another subtle way of splitting the society at least in two fragments — ones who are okay to accept it, and most of a billion population belongs to this side, and those who don’t. Mother India, Mother Nature, Mother Earth…the examples are boundless across the world, in every region, every culture. To carry on with the practice in the name of heritage and culture is basically an easy way of indoctrinating nationalist feelings from an early age. Country is your mother, so criticising your country is tantamount insulting your mother — the logic is simple and effective. And we like cheap drama, or nautanki, as proven by the success of soaps. So, the slogans were defaming the motherland etc are all bogus arguments altogether, in order to gain political mileage and appease the crowd that is already biased through a systematic brainwash from childhood.

If a nation is greatly offended by someone challenging the national unity and integrity, that definitely raises a question on the integrity of the nation itself. To truly become a country that is a champion of unity and integrity, the country will have to progress including everyone, not differentially. Incidents like JNU protests question and point at the shortcomings, where the systems and psyche of the nation still have a long way to go before we can truly proclaim ourselves as a diverse yet united country. Perhaps, this was also an occasion to remind ourselves that the nation can be the biggest terrorist – and there are numerous examples across the world – as the country and its government and institutions are the ultimate voice, and it can control the voices that speak against it. Sedition is a blunt concept in this day and age. It only tells if the legal system is at par with the reforms needed for the twenty first century. There were no threat to the country or any violence that ensued the claims, people were debating views and ideas, not dealing ammunitions. The charges against Kanhaiya Kumar will not hold ground during the court hearing, and he will probably be discharged without any conviction. Looking beyond the anti-India chants and claiming to immortalise Afzal Guru, there was an attempt to defy the government, defy the legal system. Defy the fact that no matter who is in power, a nation is still merely a puppet of the whims and avarice of the politicians who run it. It was a protest against the preferential treatment by the government and at large, the public. We act based on the bias in-built within us.

If there were any group of population who are and has always been vocal against such atrocities are students. They are the harbingers of change, the visionaries of tomorrow. The outcry to tarnish all protesters in the same colour is both foolish and dangerous. Even though the charges against the arrested students won’t hold water in court, social vigilantism spread their profiles and images all across the country. And needless to say, in a prejudiced country like India where people still ask age, religion, father’s name, mother’s name, husband’s name for a job application, where equal opportunity is perhaps merely a word in the HR strategy document gathering dust in a locked cabinet, these students will be discriminated against for a long time.

And then there are the right wing student unions like ABVP, they are getting the mileage they wanted on a national platform, whilst the student movements have historically been mostly left wing. Without a direction and vision, their agenda of inciting hatred against the protesters have struck the chord with millions of students, who would now subscribe to their ideology. The ABVP treats themselves as the sole spokesperson of nationalism at university campuses, and in fact their role during the debate was undemocratic, by trying to overrule a meeting that was approved for, by directly threatening the university governing body.

We Indians have a great tendency and ability to paint everything in the same colour. We do not treat issues singularly, but collectively. So, the outcry to shut down JNU is widely endorsed, people voicing concerns over the injustice in India are anti-nationalist and the protestors are traitors to the motherland. And the treatment they received from the country collectively — be it the media, politicians, police or public, just proves their point. They exposed the system and its divisive position. People voiced their opinion against anything undemocratic, before India was independent, and after. However, in the new Swachh Bharat surge, it appears that such thoughts and protests have suddenly become undemocratic, and therefore need to be swept under the carpet. So, rather than condemning the DSU student union for their villainy, we should pat their backs for standing strong against all adversities, and being bold enough to choose an occasion that aptly demonstrate the shortcomings of the legal system and human rights in India.

A caricature on the legal system in India

A caricature on the legal system in India

Also, glorifying another country, even if they were deemed your enemy, does not count as sedition. If Pakistan has done something praiseworthy, people can say good things about them, just as it was found that the government finally passed the Hindu marriage act, allowing Hindu marriages as official. However, the JNU protesters went beyond this, and voiced anti-India chants that mainly caught the media attention. What the BJP government and their ABVP sidekicks are turning a blind eye on, is they cannot make someone love their country, nor can anybody else. Forcing someone to say Bharat mata ki jay does not prove they are proud of their country, but it is tantamount an abusive husband raping his wife night after night and boasting during the day how much she loves him!

It is not necessary to love the country one is born in. It is most likely, as there is a bond developed since the childhood that is mainly nostalgic rather than informed, but that does not mean that people cannot change their opinion later on. Think of North Korea or Saudi Arabia, can the citizens there love their country with the rogue people running it? More oppressive the state becomes, more vocal the voices of the public need to be, before the country truly becomes a place one can be proud of.

The same can be said about the Kashmir debate, which was another reason why the sedition charge was brought in. It is almost comical how the rest of the nation has unanimously decided that Kashmir is part of their country and even debating the subject is sacrilege, although they tactfully exclude the views of the Kashmiri people, whose fate were being decided by the rest of India whether they should stay a part of India. The government doesn’t even recognise what the Kashmiri residents think, let alone arrange a referendum. With the unfortunate disaster at Siachen glacier recently, I wonder how many centuries it will take the fools across India and Pakistan to stop wasting exorbitant amount of money in protecting a border whilst that money could be utilised in progressing the country forward, improving hundreds of millions of lives who still lacks basic necessities of life – food, clothes and shelter.

A University is the ideal platform for such poignant debates, as what we learn in the courses are hardly ever used afterwards, but we we learn from classmates of various location, background and views shape the person we become in the future. Whatever and whoever the DSU supporters have discussed, disputed, criticised or defamed, that could have been countered with an equally critical discussion of their actions and agenda. Also, this has become a platform for all political mudslinging, where depending on their political clout, the parties are extending support or criticising, rather than leaving it as a debate between two politically opposite orientated student unions. There are a multitude of conspiracy theories going around for both sides — about the protesters shouting anti-India slogans coming to campus days before, or the ABVP activists in the DSU rally saying anti-India chants — digressing from the fact that this is not an issue to start a witch hunt, but to reflect the truth behind the claims and debate how the society can progress. Sending police in plain dress and arresting student body president just exemplifies the point these students have been trying to prove — that India is fast becoming an oppressive state and anyone who dares to speak against the government or the country will be publicly persecuted. Let’s hope that the protests such as this keep continuing all across the country, to challenge the government of its actions and the public at large, to change their age-old ideas about nationalism and love for motherland. It’s time we share the social profiles the Bhakt media spread over internet to show they were anti-nationals, to spread the excellent work they have done for human rights in India, and for its better future.

1. Speech from Harsh Mander, a social worker and a writer while attending the protest rally against Police arrest in campus
2. The translation of Kanhaiya Kumar’s original speech
3. A write-up in Bengali regarding the JNU protests, criticising the Government stance, with the header“Musclemen cannot invoke love for nation”
4. An account of the protest, as witnessed by a JNU student present actually present during the protest

The only moot point is that with the advent of technology, we are fast becoming net-activists. We are exasperated at something, we act on it, we criticise, and then within two weeks, that lesson is forgotten. We go back to our daily lives, or find another issue to fight about. We don’t fight hard enough to bring a closure. It’s like thousands of matchsticks are lighting up and put out, and failing to light the candle with a raging fire that the country needs to cleanse the injustice gathered over centuries. To make it really happen, people are needed to come down in the streets, be visible, be heard — revolutions cannot start from the confines of the room.