Friday, October 21, 2011

Political ideals vs. religious practices

Secularism: Its content and context - The Immanent Frame by Akeel Bilgrami on Oct 20, 2011 8:29 PM

It should be possible to think that a devout Muslim or Christian or Hindu can be committed to keeping some aspects of the reach of his religion out of the polity, without altogether giving up on being a Muslim, Christian, or Hindu. And it seems natural today to express that thought by saying that such a person, for all his devoutness, is committed to secularism. And one can say this while noticing and saying something that it is also natural to think and say: such a devout person, in being devout, is holding out against the tendencies unleashed by the long social and ideational processes of secularization. And we can appreciate the naturalness of this restriction of the term ‘secularism’ to the polity when we observe that the slogan ‘separation of church and state’ (which, whatever we think of it, is part of what is conveyed to many by the ordinary usage of the term ‘secularism’) allows one the church, even as it separates it from the state, or, more generally, from the polity. If we did not believe that the term was to be restricted in this way, we would either have to collapse secularism with secularization or—if we insisted on some more subtle difference between those two terms—we would have to invent another term altogether (a term that has no cognate relation to this family of terms—secular, secularization, secularism) to capture the aspiration of a polity to seek relative independence from a society’s religiosity. ...
Secularism as a political doctrine arose to repair what were perceived as damages that flowed from historical harms that were, in turn, perceived as owing, in some broad sense, to religion. Thus, for instance, when it is said that secularism had as its vast cradle the prolonged and internecine religious conflicts in Europe of some centuries ago, something like this normative force of serving goods and correcting harms is detectably implied. But if all this is right, then it follows that one would have to equally grant that, should there be contexts in which those goods were not seen necessarily to be goods, or to the extent that those goods were being well served by political arrangements that were not secularist, or to the extent that there were no existing harms, actual or potential, that secularism would be correcting, then one could take the opposing normative stance and fail to see the point and rationale for secularism. ...
Charles Taylor has convincingly argued that in a religiously plural society, secularism should be adopted on the basis of what Rawls called an ‘overlapping consensus.’ An overlapping consensus, in Rawls’s understanding of that term, is a consensus on some policy that is arrived at by people with very different moral and religious and political commitments, who sign on to the policy from within their differing points of view, and therefore on possibly very different grounds from each other. It contrasts with the idea that when one converges on a policy one must all do so for the same reason. ...

In a very interesting recent paper, Charles Taylor, has argued that we need to redefine ‘secularism.’ ... In modern societies, we seek various goods and the three in particular (echoing the trio of goods expressed in a familiar slogan) that remain relevant to secular aspirations are, the liberty of worship, the equality of different faiths, and finally, more than just equality, we need to give each faith a voice in determining the shape of the society, so there must be fraternal relations within which negotiations, with each voice being equally heard, is crucial. What is more, because the first aspect’s stress on separation of church and state was too focused on religion, the second aspect’s stress on religious diversity should be modified and expanded to include the fact that in late modernity, the diversity of pluralist societies contains not just a variety of religious people, but non-religious people as well. Their point of view must also be included in the mix. All this is now included in the idea and ideal of a redefined secularism. ...

I propose, then, something like the following non-arbitrary stipulation as a characterization of secularism that contains all of the three features I had mentioned at the outset.

(S): Should we be living in a religiously plural society, secularism requires that all religions should have the privilege of free exercise and be evenhandedly treated except when a religion’s practices are inconsistent with the ideals that a polity seeks to achieve (ideals, often, though not always, enshrined in stated fundamental rights and other constitutional commitments) in which case there is a lexical ordering in which the political ideals are placed first. Much commentary is needed on this minimal and basic characterization.

Redefining the Secular in Indian Society from SAHMAT NEWS 

Sukumar Muralidharan

IT is a word that has been tossed around in political contests and minutely dissected in scholarly circles. But “secularism” still remains an elusive concept. And in practice, “secular” politics is besieged at a number of levels, unable at any time to rise above particular, sectional interests.
An event on December 7, organised by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) and Social Scientist, was the occasion for a scholarly inquiry into the deeper meanings and definitions of the “secular” in Indian society. There are numerous --- and mostly irreconcilable --- definitions already in circulation. December 7 became, for this reason, an exercise in redefinition and rediscovery, in retrieving a principle from depths of conceptual confusion.
The event had to be organised on December 7 as it was the Muharram on December 6, the anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition. [...]

Secularism accorded priority to the political values of liberty and equality, over the codes of duty and obedience ordained by religion. Concluding the discussion, Prabhat Patnaik argued that what is often taken to be the purely ethical impulse towards freedom has a basis in reason. Every individual has a rational cause to struggle for freedom as part of a human collective, since nobody can call himself free while there are many who are unfree.
This collective endeavour for freedom fosters the domain of the “secular.” It creates the community that strives for a transcendence of narrower values imposed by religion. But it is threatened by the forces of reaction which seek to impose an order based on religious values. More subtly, the bourgeois order which retains a formal commitment to secularism, may seek to engineer schisms in the collective struggle for freedom, reducing each individual to an atomised existence, impelling him in turn to seek an anchorage in an older, familiar network of religious community.
The denial of human freedom then is the logical course of a bourgeois political order which exalts an individual’s seeming gain at the expense of society, as the ultimate benchmark of achievement. With the untold riches foretold on that pathway now proving illusory and the world order built on the unfettered and unaccountable rampage of finance capital in palpable crisis, the forces of reaction seem poised to resume their push towards absolute political power. A redefinition of the secular in Indian society is clearly a political programme of surpassing urgency. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

To follow Sri Aurobindo in this great adventure one has to be a warrior and a heroic soul

Contents Sraddha, August 2011
Our Ideal Sri Aurobindo 7
Aurobindo Ghosh Paul Richard 12
Prophet Of Nationalism And His Call Dasharathi Sengupta 15
Identity And Difference:Some Reflections On Sri Aurobindo’s Socio-Political Views Aparna Banerjee 27
The Dynamics Of India’s Culture Radharaman Chakrabarti 34
“Is India Civilised?” By Sri Aurobindo Makarand Paranjape 42
Indian Democracy – Part 1 Kittu Reddy 50
Humanity At The Crossroads : Does Sri Aurobindo Offer An Alternative?  Shakuntala A and Ajai R Singh 62
The Foundations Of Social Sustainability M. S. Srinivasan 77
Emerging Concerns And Procedures Related To Education Of Values: The Vision Of Sri Aurobindo Neeltje Huppes 92
Realising Sri Aurobindo’s Ideal Law Of Social Development : Possibilities And Challenges For Psychology As a Discipline Of Study Monica Gupta 104
Spirituality And Prison Life: Sri Aurobindo And Barindra Kumar Ghose Sachidananda Mohanty 110
Veda Vyasa’s  Mahabharata In Sri Aurobindo’s   Savitri Prema NandaKumar 122
The Development Of Sri Aurobindo’s Thought Georges van Vrekhem 131
Notes On Authors 141 Index To Authors And Articles
In Sraddha, August 2010 – April 2011 142
Cover : Krishnalal’s painting  Towards Inner Light
Editorial August 2011
Mother once said ‘Sri Aurobindo does not belong to the past nor to history. Sri Aurobindo is the Future advancing towards its realisation’. What is this Future that beckons us? Sri Aurobindo’s message is very simple and clear. He says that man is a transitional being, a growing organism, that he is not the last term or the end product in the evolutionary process. He has to grow further and expand in consciousness till he reaches the perfect and complete consciousness. And what is that state of perfect consciousness? Sri Aurobindo says that just as life has evolved out of matter and mind out of life, so there rise beyond mind other statuses of consciousness, tier upon tier, where man can go, live and even bring down their powers into his normal life and transform it into their pattern. And the highest of these planes is what Sri Aurobindo calls Supermind or Truth-Consciousness. Its original stuff is made not of ignorance, but of truth. Unlike in the mental ranges, where there is always an element of doubt, uncertainty, groping and partial perception and realisation, where one moves from greater darkness to a shade of lesser hue, here in the Truth-Consciousness one lives always in full daylight and in the plenitude of consciousness and delight and ‘fulfilled harmony’ and the only progress is from light to a greater light, from knowledge to a superior knowledge. Such was the life mission of Sri Aurobindo, ‘the builder of the Life Divine’ – to build a new foundation for a new world. To follow Sri Aurobindo in this great adventure one has to be a warrior and a heroic soul. On this hallowed day of his 139th  birth anniversary, let us once again rededicate ourselves unreservedly with a total submission and complete surrender of all the parts and planes of our being to his ideal and lay ourselves open to the dynamic or the supramental Divine which he calls the incarnate Divine Mother.
We have chosen to name this anniversary number a special issue on the Social and Political Writings of Sri Aurobindo as the bulk of the papers, with a few exceptions, concentrates on this theme. Readers will find special interest in the article by Paul Richard on Sri Aurobindo, taken from his book The Dawn of Asia published by Ganesh & Co. of Madras in 1919. The article has been translated by Sri Aurobindo himself.
Editorial Sraddha, April 2011
These are times of great moment, of unforeseen happenings and huge upheavals. Mighty unseen powers appear to be at play to take possession of this earthly life. The forces of darkness loom large over the horizon and seem to gain from strength to strength and there are signs of things growing from bad to worse and even worse than the worst if that is possible. Amid the spiralling gloom and uncertainty, amid ‘the wrestle of force’ and the cries of anguish and despair we seem to flounder and lose our way. The battle is now being waged on matter’s turf, and it is the physical mind with the vital as its ally with its brute and stubborn obduracy, its arrogance and ignorant pride that is refusing to budge from its small, safe territory for fear of ceding its fiefdom and losing itself in a larger continent of light and power and bliss and freedom and infinitude. The churning, the murk and the slime that are being thrown up, this mindless fighting, the rise of the demoniac forces lurking in man’s depths are a direct result of this resistance of the ‘cold material intellect’ to change and transform itself. It is at such times that we have to shed all self-deceit, insincerity and hypocrisy and make the irrevocable choice of standing firmly by the side of the Truth, the Higher Power that is pressing down to make earth its home. It is at times like these that we have to remain calm and vigilant and look straight into the spirit within and open ourselves to the light, the freedom, the bliss, the all-transforming power of love that is awaiting to descend. It is to such ‘calm continents of potency’, ‘homelands of beauty shut to human eyes’, ‘sunbelts of knowledge, moonbelts of delight’, ‘immortal spaces of cerulean hue’ that Savitri beckons us. As already stated in our previous issue, the remaining papers on  Savitri, left over from the previous issue, appear in this number.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can I act? Need I? What is action?

The Betrayal of the Intellectuals Posted by: Murali Sivaramakrishnan | August 8, 2011
I am perfectly aware that I can recourse to the tremendous energy of Sri Aurobindo’s action! Remembering the life and times of an extraordinary intellectual, mystic and rishi, who gazed unflinchingly at the face of truth, history, reason and life. But however, how am I to act in troubled times like the present? Aren’t I also an accomplice in betraying the people? Knowing fully well the consequence of my silence I continue to exist in poignant silence and watch all the misdeeds and atrocities of the cut-throats who parade the present day world’s active stage. Perhaps, my role is simply to bear witness to tragedy and misdeeds? Like Ceslaw Milosz, who wrote A witness to Poetry? I, a poet and painter, simply bearing witness to all the acts and misdeeds of the present, silently, compliantly? Can I act? Need I? What is action?
Troubled times, these, no doubt. People are floundering without radical guidance and leadership. They dance to the tune of idiots and scoundrels who somehow manage to stray into the lime light through lobbying, cold shouldering and hobnobbing. They meekly follow the strange gods of science and technology without bothering to stop to think for themselves and seek the truth.  Without bothering to ask the right questions. Without critical inquiry.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Modern narratives of progress hide their normative and moral judgments

Although critical of discourses and practices which inculcate desires and beliefs antithetical to key aspects of Christian faith and praxis—humility, truth-speaking, relational dependence, an acknowledgement of our finitude, and so forth—Augustine understood the need to develop institutions beneficial to society as a whole and which would promote as much harmony as possible among its various members.[3] Concomitant with this constructive social project, Augustine also engaged in a deconstructive project. That is, he was acutely aware of the need to critically examine the accepted political and religious narratives of the day, narratives whose incandescent surfaces dazzled, concealing the often violent, greedy, self-serving agenda of the political elites. Like Foucault, Augustine employs his own variant of reverse discourse and counter-hegemonic narratives in order both to unmask the ideologies at play in Roman political discourse and to put forth alternative ways of being in the world with others.
The first five books of the City of God, as Robert Dodaro observes, “constitute the core of Augustine’s critique of Roman imperium”;[4] in these opening books, Augustine analyzes “the ideology of Roman literary and ceremonial forms,” whose theoretical foundations “were found primarily in Sallust, Cicero, and Varro.”[5] In light of his own training as a rhetor and his service at the imperial court in Milan prior to his baptism and later ordination to the priesthood and bishopric, Augustine was thoroughly versed in the art of persuasion and the various ways it was used to further political objectives.  As Dodaro explains, Augustine understood that “Roman society was founded upon an extreme patriotism, a love for the patria above all else, which was promoted by means of Roman education, folklore, literature, civil religion, and theatre.”[6]
Like Augustine, Foucault also manifests concern for the marginalized of society, devoting himself to the study of prisons and mental institutions and to the ways in which these structures and their associated discourses, disciplines, and practices produce new, characteristically modern subjectivities. As Schuld explains, rather than uncovering how “rhetoric of imperial glory” masks the reality of violence and self-interest, Foucault analyzes how modern institutions and practices “garner and preserve power most effectively by relying upon a scientific sounding rhetoric of progress.”[7] With the transition from a sovereign-based political model wherein power is centralized and associated with the person of the king to a modern context wherein power is dispersed and diffused in a netlike fashion, a more “neutral,” “objective” discourse comes into play.  That is, in contrast with, for example, Roman glory narratives and their overt conspicuous appeals to the political realm, modern scientific narratives present themselves as apolitical and unbiased.[8] By “posing as a coldly antiseptic science,” modern narratives of progress hide their normative and moral judgments;[9] the more successfully the new rhetoric hides its “political leverage,” the more politically efficacious its possibilities and widespread its socially produced realities.[10]
Notes [1] This post is indebted Robert Dodaro and Joyce Schuld’s work.  See, for example, Dodaro, “Eloquent Lies, Just Wars and the Politics of Persuasion,” and Schuld, “Augustine, Foucault, and the Politics of Imperfection.” Part I: Un-Masking Marauders à la Augustine and Foucault from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Open propagandism and debate

The first necessary element of democratic politics is difference of opinion, robust, frank, avowed, firmly and passionately held, and the first test of political capacity in a democratic nation is to bear these differences of opinion, however strong and even vehement, without disruption. In a monarchy differences of opinion are either stifled by an all-powerful absolute will or subordinated and kept in check by the supreme kingly arbiter; in an aristocracy the jealousy of a close body discourages free opinion and its free expression; in a bureaucracy stereotyped habits of action and method lead to a fixed and inelastic way of thinking and difference of opinion, when tolerated, is kept by the exigencies of administration private and largely ineffective. 
It is democracy alone that demands free divergence of opinion in politics and open propagandism and debate as the very breath of its nostrils. The tendency to democracy creates freedom of speech and thought and these in their turn hasten the advent of democracy. All attempts to silence by force or evasion important differences of opinion are anti-democratic and though they do not necessarily show an incapacity for government, do show an incapacity for democratic politics. The democratic tendency in humanity is and has long been pressing forward victoriously to self-fulfilment and the modern attempt of the banded forces of autocracy, bureaucracy, plutocracy and theocracy to turn its march can only result in its growing stronger by the check and urging forward with greater impetuosity to its goal. It is therefore the democratic tendency and the democratic capacity which must be accepted and shown by any nation which aspires to go forward and be among the leaders of the world.  Home > E-Library > Works Of Sri Aurobindo > English > Cwsa > Karmayogin > Bengal And The Congress

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Appeal to people's self-interests, never to their mercy or gratitude.

The 48 laws of power Robert GreeneJoost Elffers - 2000 - 452 pages - Preview
Cunning, instructive, and amoral, this controversial bestseller distills 3,000 years of the history of power into 48 well-explicated laws.
  • Law 1 Never outshine the master.
  • Law 2 Never put too much trust in friends; learn how to use enemies.
  • Law 3 Conceal your intentions.
  • Law 4 Always say less than necessary.
  • Law 5 So much depends on reputation. Guard it with your life.
  • Law 6 Court attention at all costs.
  • Law 7 Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit.
  • Law 8 Make other people come to you; use bait if necessary.
  • Law 9 Win through your actions, never through argument.
  • Law 10 Infection: avoid the unhappy and unlucky.
  • Law 11 Learn to keep people dependent on you.
  • Law 12 Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim.
  • Law 13 When asking for help, appeal to people's self-interests, never to their mercy or gratitude.
  • Law 14 Pose as a friend, work as a spy.
  • Law 15 Crush your enemy totally.
  • Law 16 Use absence to increase respect and honor.
  • Law 17 Keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability.
  • Law 18 Do not build fortresses to protect yourself. Isolation is dangerous.
  • Law 19 Know who you're dealing with; do not offend the wrong person.
  • Law 20 Do not commit to anyone.
  • Law 21 Play a sucker to catch a sucker: play dumber than your mark.
  • Law 22 Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power.
  • Law 23 Concentrate your forces.
  • Law 24 Play the perfect courtier.
  • Law 25 Re-create yourself.
  • Law 26 Keep your hands clean.
  • Law 27 Play on people's need to believe to create a cultlike following.
  • Law 28 Enter action with boldness.
  • Law 29 Plan all the way to the end.
  • Law 30 Make your accomplishments seem effortless.
  • Law 31 Control the options: get others to play with the cards you deal.
  • Law 32 Play to people's fantasies.
  • Law 33 Discover each man's thumbscrew.
  • Law 34 Be royal in your fashion: act like a king to be treated like one.
  • Law 35 Master the art of timing.
  • Law 36 Disdain things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best revenge.
  • Law 37 Create compelling spectacles.
  • Law 38 Think as you like but behave like others.
  • Law 39 Stir up waters to catch fish.
  • Law 40 Despise the free lunch.
  • Law 41 Avoid stepping into a great man's shoes.
  • Law 42 Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.
  • Law 43 Work on the hearts and minds of others.
  • Law 44 Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect.
  • Law 45 Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once.
  • Law 46 Never appear perfect.
  • Law 47 Do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop.
  • Law 48 Assume formlessness.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The nation should remember Rao as the man who changed India

Dear Justices Nijjar and Reddy, Many of us welcome your decision in the Supreme Court case on black money, castigating the government for its inaction and setting up an independent special investigative team. This approach needs to be institutionalized: i have long argued for an independent Police Commission, analogous to the Election Commission. However, in MORE >
Twenty years ago, Narasimha Rao became Prime Minister and initiated economic reforms that transformed India. The Congress party doesn’t want to remember him: it is based entirely on loyalty to the Gandhi family, and Rao was not a family member. But the nation should remember Rao as the man who changed India, and the world MORE >
Twenty years ago, on June 21, 1991, Narasimha Rao became head of a weak minority government grappling with a terrible financial crisis. Yet he initiated economic reforms that eventually transformed India, and even the world. India in 1991 was a poor, misgoverned country, derided as a bottomless pit for foreign aid. Today it is called MORE >
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union and its red empire, one minor principality of that empire, West Bengal, has also fallen. A post-election analysis by Brinda Karat shows how blind the CPM is to why first the Soviet Union and now West Bengal have fallen. British imperialists claimed MORE >
If people are totally free, the most talented (and lucky) will get far richer than the dullest and unluckiest. So, freedom will create inequality. Communist countries aimed for equality of outcome through totalitarian controls, but this was hypocrisy: there was no equality of power between those laying down the rules and those forced to obey. MORE >
How do we measure economic freedom, and how relevant is it for economic growth? Some answers come from Economic Freedom of the States of India 2011, a report just brought out by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Cato Institute and Indicus Analytics. The report shows that measuring economic freedom at the state level is a difficult MORE >
(This is an edited version of the author’s acceptance speech on receiving the Manavata Vikas Award of the IIPM on April 15) I view myself as a freedom-fighter, who for 45 years has sought to promote every kind of freedom—economic, political and social. “Escape from the Benevolent Zookeepers”, a 2008 collection of Swaminomics columns, emphasized MORE >
We are approaching the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism. This comprehensively refuted the communist claim to represent the people. Yet the claim continues, sometimes dazzling a new generation of youngsters with no inkling of why the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. In democratic capitalism, said Karl Marx, the rich became richer MORE >
WITH the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become commonplace to say that capitalism has triumphed over communism. I think this is misleading and inaccurate notion. What has triumphed is the market-driven welfare state, the mixture of private enterprise and government paternalism that has become standard in western democracies. This is as different from MORE >

Friday, June 3, 2011

True change will come from each profession discharging its responsibilities

Playing fast and loose – Pratap Bhanu Mehta Indian Express, Fri, Jun 03 2011 
But civil society is, unconsciously, abetting its own brand of authoritarianism.

First, the sensibility at work in this self-appointed civil society is to enhance state power. Most of them hate the one thing that has made a brighter future possible for India: liberalisation. It took us decades to struggle against the stranglehold of the state and concentrations of power. Under the guise of combating terrorism, the state encroached on our freedoms. Under the guise of promoting accountability, civil society now wants new concentrations of power. How else do you explain that a Baba who advocates the extension of the death penalty to economic offenders, whose views on sexual minorities border on the fascist, is now the saviour of our moral fibre? How else do you explain the fact that every bill the NAC touches is closing doors to experiments in the social sector? It played fast and loose with important constitutional values in the prevention of communal violence bill. How else do you explain the sensibility that says the solution to the problems of the state is more state, the solution to weaknesses of existing institutions is more institutions, and the key to dealing with the fact that most laws remain unimplemented is more laws?

The second element of creeping authoritarianism is the punitive mood. The presumptions that should remain dear to a liberal society, even though there may be costs attached to them, are all being tossed out of the window: like the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In this climate, can you even think of a judge being able to give someone bail fairly? Merely that act will expose her to the censure that she is corrupt. This is the tenor of much of the allegations our civil society representatives are bandying about as gospel truth. No one denies that “due process” has been a fig leaf to let many holders of power off the hook. But that is no justification for creating a climate of opinion about whole classes of people that is punitive rather than discriminating.

The third element of creeping authoritarianism is the erosion of a proper sense of balance. Each group is pursuing a single-point agenda as if that is the only thing that mattered. Each value like transparency is being taken to an extreme point where it could become dangerous. Sunlight may be a disinfectant. It can also blur your eyes. Disclosure of the assets of public servants may serve some functions, properly handled. But there is something invasive and unseemly about the way in which the whole persona of public servants is being defined in public discourse through an obsession with assets. The RTI Act is a wonderful instrument. But its use has to be measured. Recently, the CIC ruled that all confidential reports be made public. We can debate that ruling from an organisational point of view. But the large philosophical premise behind it is disturbing: information is a right. Privacy is not a right. Therefore the former trumps the latter. Remember the core of all authoritarianism is the claim that the individual is always subordinate to the collective interest. Transparency always trumps privacy. The core of totalitarianism was the claim that individuals be subject to a field of total visibility, so that slowly the whole notion of public and private disappears. A whole range of institutions is taking us down that path.

The fourth element of creeping authoritarianism is the invocation of the people as an abstract concept. All authoritarianisms mistrust the representative process. The concept of the people then becomes an abstraction; each group can claim to represent it simply by their self-proclaimed virtue. Each disagreement becomes a sign of treason. The people must be a unity. If anyone disagrees, they must, by definition be against the people. If you have different views on the Lokpal it must be because you are against the people: classic authoritarian rhetoric.

The fifth element of authoritarianism is endless confusion of roles. Baba Ramdev has solid achievements to his credit in raising consciousness about yoga. It is heartening that citizens take more interest in public affairs. But there is a presumption that accomplished individuals, by virtue of their achievements in one sphere, can leverage that authority everywhere. This confusion of roles is almost everywhere. Parts of the media cannot decide whether they want to be trustworthy institutions of record or tools of partisan, rabble-rousing demagoguery, with editors donning the mantle of revolutionaries. But the short-term gains of this activism will come at the price of long-term credibility. True change will not come from this confusion of roles; it will come from each profession discharging its responsibilities to the best.

A morally insidious vacuum in government. A self-proclaimed civil society displaying its own will to power. A media age where being off-balance gets you visibility. A public whose mood is punitive. An intellectual climate that peddles the politics of illusion. And all this in a context where government paralysis is enhancing the two biggest risks to the well-being of the poor — entrenched inflation and slowdown in growth. Instead of clamouring for visibility, we should follow old Baba Ramdev’s advice: take a deep breath. The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi 
What’s in a solution? Thursday 14 April '11, The search for one-shot cures to our problem is in itself a problem. Of the few, by the few Thursday 7 April '11, Lokpal Bill agitation has a contempt for politics and democracy. A battle for Parliament Friday 25 February '11, The sidelining of individual MPs carries costs for our democracy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Antagonistic becomes complementary

Self-appraisal at the end of 2011 term of office
The term of office of the members of the Working Committee and Auroville Council ends on June 22nd. Both groups have published an appraisal of their functioning over the past two years. Here we share excerpts from these self-appraisals.

Since the beginning of our tenure, the team has worked reasonably well. It was possible to find mutual agreement between us and work through consensus, however long it may have taken at times to arrive at it. None of us had any particular agenda in mind and that is probably an important condition for a consensus.
Most of the members of the present Council were quite new to this type of task and it took us a long time to understand the complexity of the job and the full nature of the problems and how to address them effectively.
We felt as if we were thrown inat the deep end, with no continuity with theprevious group except for the saving graceof our secretary Sathya's presence as Council secretary.
Therefore, keeping in mind that it takes members quite some time before they can be pro-active within the group and contribute significantly, we think it would be advisable to renew some of the members every year, in order to allow new members time to get acquainted with the work, or to allow some members of the previous group to stay on with the new group for a period of a few months to ensure continuity in the work.
Having a totally new group, new to its job every two years, is not a good working formula. The members spend half their time reinventing the wheel.
The mandate of the Council is very wide and diverse, but more than 90% of our time was taken up by conflict resolution. The most essential part of our mandate, which concernsfinding living ways to manifest the ideal of Auroville, is thus continually put on hold as our time is consumed by conflict resolutions.
To avoid this overburdening of the Council, we propose that a Conflict Resolution cell be created under the Council with permanent members having the required profile to assist the Council in this aspect of the work.
Most of these conflicts are irrelevant to Auroville's aims and ideals. Most of the people involved just want recognition that they are right and that the other party is wrong. We have therefore come up with a set of requirements for bringing issues to us that puts the emphasis on the individuals involved working towards a true solution.
We are convinced of the impossibility of arriving at a true solution if the parties in a conflict do not want to make the necessary efforts to arrive at a mutual understanding. It is a progress that we cannot do for them and any decision taken then is a decision by default, not the truest one. It is far below what The Mother expected of us, when she mentioned several times the need to arrive at a point where what is antagonistic becomes complementary. As long as this effort is not made, we are not in the context of a society of unending education and constant progress.
Most of the Council members already have a full-time job and therefore cannot offer the needed time to follow-up on all of the issues which are generally brought to us when all else has failed and the situation has reached crisis point. This is hardly a way to function serenely. Help is needed to assist the Council members in their task by preparing and following up on the issues, as well in keeping a channel of communication open with the community and with the other working groups.
One of the areas where attention is needed is the communication/information aspect. The Residents Assembly Service needs to emerge as the group responsible for seeing to it that a living communication between the community at large and the working groups is maintained, perhaps through a certain minimum number of general meetings a year. A culture of consultation on key topics through forums with concerned community members who are determined to seek a comprehensive way forward and to stay with the process, also needs to be nurtured.
The Council mandate is obsolete in its wording. It is too vast and vague. It deserves to be more accurately formulated. There is a confusion of functions because the Council is asked to act as an executive body implementing decisions, as a judiciary in conflict resolution and as a supreme court of appeal in deciding conflicts between individuals or between individuals and working groups. We need to separate these functions because they have to be independent of each other and because they require people with different profiles and abilities.
To summarise, what is needed is to take organisational steps to allow more availability of the Council, more facilitated transition between two Councils, more coordination with other groups and more communication with the Community.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Village is a more representative unit of Indian civilization and culture

A unique project of Sri Aurobindo Society in Rural Development.
Senthil, Chitra and Chiranjeevi

An integral approach to village development which includes the inner growth of people as well as the outer development of the community; with a people-centric inclusive and participatory process of growth; where development programmes and activities are identified, planned, organized and managed by the village community with SARVAM acting only as a catalyst of the development process.
Key Perspectives
Background; the strategic vision; manaveli, a model hamlet: vision in action; village journal & TV; village coordinators & social workers; practices for inner growth.
There are two factors, which make the Indian Village important for the future of India. First is that, the village in India, even now in our modern age, is a more representative unit of Indian civilization and culture than the urban towns and metros, which have become more or less westernized. However we need a more integral approach to Rural Development. The integral view looks at a community not merely as an economic and social unit but as a living human organism with a collective soul, mind and life. In this view the main emphasis is on inner growth of the community, which means mental, moral and spiritual development of the group, through education and yoga but without ignoring or neglecting the outer growth in the economic and social dimension. For, our approach cannot be integral if we ignore the development of the outer life. But the integral ideal is that outer growth has to be a spontaneous expression of the inner growth.
The Strategic Vision
Sri Aurobindo Rural Village Action and Movement (SARVAM), is the Rural Development wing of Sri Aurobindo Society. The SARVAM can be considered as an experimental “action-research” in integral community development. The programme of action is four-fold, covering the following areas:
bullet Physical and economic development using available local materials and technology.
 Development of the family and community, particularly empowerment of women, skills enhancement and entrepreneurship.
 Psychological and cultural development through education and training.
 Spiritual development through the right understanding of religion, spirituality and Yoga, and their role in life.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reforms introduced by the British were of benefit only to upper caste women

Politics and ethics of the Indian Constitution - Rajeev Bhargava - 2008 - Thus, the first task before us is to ask just what it is that the Constitution is trying to say, to identify the broadest possible range within which all of us, coming as we do from diverse background and different presuppositions, ...
Religion and law in independent India - Robert D. Baird - 2005 - India's Constitution and Traditional Presuppositions Regarding Human Nature Harold G. Coward A major conflict exists between the Constitution of India and the traditional presuppositions of karma and guna theory. The Constitution ...
India's living constitution: ideas, practices, controversies - Zoya HasanEswaran SridharanR. Sudarshan - 2005 - EgGP Verma, Caste Reservation in India: Law and the Constitution, Chugh Publications, Allahabad, 1980; BAV Sharma and ... related example of the transnational discourse is, Clark D. Cunningham and NR Madhava Menon, 'Race, Class, Caste . ...
Power and contestation: India since 1989 - Page 15 - Nivedita MenonAditya Nigam - 2007 - The recalcitrance of caste The "backward castes" in power The period since the mid- to late 1980s has seen a dramatic collapse of old political formations and parties, which had dominated politics in the Nehruvian era.1 Even the ...
Recovering subversion: feminist politics beyond the law - Page 170 - Nivedita Menon - 2004 - the growing presence of backward castes through successive elections is an equally significant development. I will argue that these processes produced two very different (even opposed) sets of concerns ...
Sexualities - Nivedita Menon - 2007 - The grounds of restriction are caste 'purity', a notion passed down through the caste hierarchy. Notions of caste purity have something to do with economic forces, the means of production and control over these, with such division of ...
The blindness of insight: essays on caste in modern India - Dilip M. Menon - 2006 - See Dilip M. Menon, "Caste and Colonial Modernity: Reading Saraswativijayam" , Studies in History, XIII, 2, 1997; also reproduced in this book, 110-144. 27 CA Bayly, "Returning the British to South Asian History: The Limits of...
Cultural history of modern India - Page 77 - Dilip M. Menon - 2006 - What is important to stress is that the upholding of genealogy is perhaps stronger in the low-caste groups than in the ... The Bhats charge the lower castes large sums of money to maintain their genealogy, and their poor patrons have no ...
The caste question: Dalits and the politics of modern India - Page 288 - Anupama Rao - 2009 - With regard to Christian conversion of the lower and untouchable castes in western and central India, ... Dilip MenonCaste, Nationalism and Communism in India: Malabar, 1900–1948 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); ...
Gendered citizenship: historical and conceptual explorations - Page 222 - Anupama Roy - 2005 - The period also saw a vehement and vociferous rise in upper- caste opposition to caste-based reservations in jobs. ... Menon shows how upper-caste opposition to the Mandal Commission reservations in jobs for the scheduled castes and ...
Everyday nationalism: women of the Hindu right in India - Page 176 - Kalyani Devaki Menon - 2009 - Caste in particular is of concern to the movement, which faces serious threats to its electoral base as well as its moral image from political groups and parties affiliated with lower-caste and dalit groups. Several women spoke of the ...
Borders & boundaries: women in India's partition - Page 21 - Ritu MenonKamla Bhasin - 1998 - The issue of gendered identities is central to any discussion on the interplay of community, class and caste with wider political, economic and social forces. The adoption of a perspective that locates women at the intersection of these ...
From Mathura to Manorama: resisting violence against women in India - Kalpana KannabirānRitu MenonInternational Centre for Ethnic Studies - 2007 - By the same token, demonstrating control by humiliating women of another caste is a sure-fire way of reducing the "manhood" of those castes.25 Spaces, domestic and public, are similarly structured along lines of caste and gender. ...
Women empowerment and challenge of change - Latika Menon - 1998 - Most of the reforms introduced by the British administrations were of benefit only to upper caste women who were the ones who were denied the right to remarry if widowed, and whose families could afford to educate them, if education ...