“When Mahatma Gandhi launched his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” As the resistance swelled, he announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” This hatred killed. To give just one, major, example, in 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused – as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proved – by the imperial policies of the British. Up to 3 million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to the region. He bluntly refused. He raged that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”. At other times, he said the plague was “merrily” culling the population.”
— Not his finest hour: The dark side of Winston Churchill (via foucaultthehaters)
7:01 am • 24 May 2013 • 1,879 notes
The Jews of India
Some time ago, I posted several pictures and some info about the Jews of India, here is an interesting article from GeoCurrents about the history of the Jewish communities in India. Enjoy!
Here are links to the previous things I posted on this blog about the Paradesi Synagogue in India: [x], [x], [x], [x], [x]
10:32 pm • 23 April 2013 • 79 notes
“Kill three million of them (Bangladeshis) and the rest will eat out of our hands.”
— Yahya Khan, President of Pakistan in 1971, military dictator that planned the genocide of Bangladesh under the name Operation Searchlight. (via politicsofyourlund)
12:39 pm • 8 April 2013 • 95 notes
“Ultimately, modern oppression, as opposed to the traditional oppression, is not an encounter between the self and the enemy, the rulers and the ruled, or the gods and the demons. It is a battle between dehumanized self and the objectified enemy, the technologized bureaucrat and his reified victim, pseudo-rulers and their fearsome other selves projected on to their ‘subjects’.”
— Ashish Nandy - The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism. (via mehreenkasana)
5:35 pm • 22 January 2013 • 127 notes
Modern colonialism won its great victories not so much through its military and technological prowess as through its ability to create secular hierarchies incompatible with the traditional order. These hierarchies opened up new vistas for many, particularly for those exploited or cornered within the traditional order. To them the new order looked like - and here lay its psychological pull - the first step towards a more just and equal world. That was why some of the finest critical minds in Europe - and [some] in the East - were to feel that colonialism, by introducing modern structures into the barbaric world, would open up the non-West to the modern critic-analytic spirit. Like the ‘hideous heathen god who refused to drink nectar except from the skulls of murdered men’, Karl Marx felt, history would produce out of oppression, violence and cultural dislocation not merely new technological and social forces but also a new social consciousness in Asia and Africa. It would be critical in the sense in which the Western tradition of social criticism-from Vico to Marx-had been critical and it would be rational in the sense in which post Cartesian Europe had been rational. It is thus that the a historical primitives would one day, the expectation went, learn to see themselves as masters of nature and, hence, as masters of their own fate.
Many many decades later, in the aftermath of that marvel of modern technology called the Second World War and perhaps that modern encounter of cultures called Vietnam, it has become obvious that the drive for mastery over men is not merely a by-product of a faulty political economy but also of a world view which believes in the absolute superiority of the human over the nonhuman and the subhuman, the masculine over the feminine, the adult over the child, the historical over the ahistorical, and the modern or progressive over the traditional or the savage. It has become more and more apparent that genocides, ecodisasters and ethnocides are but the underside of corrupt sciences and psychopathic technologies wedded to new secular hierarchies, which have reduced major civilizations to the status of a set of empty rituals. The ancient forces of human greed and violence, one recognizes, have merely found a new legitimacy in anthropocentric doctrines of secular salvation, in the ideologies of progress, normality and hyper-masculinity, and in theories of cumulative growth of science and technology.
This colonialism colonizes minds in addition to bodies and it releases forces within the colonized societies to alter their cultural priorities once for all. In the process, it helps generalize the concept of the modern West from a geographical and temporal entity to a psychological category. The West is now everywhere, within the West and outside; in structures and in minds.
Ultimately, modern oppression, as opposed to the traditional oppression, is not an encounter between the self and the enemy, the rulers and the ruled, or the gods and the demons. It is a battle between dehumanized self and the objectified enemy, the technologized bureaucrat and his reified victim, pseudo-rulers and their fearsome other selves projected on to their ‘subjects’.
Ashish Nandy - The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism.
5:28 pm • 22 January 2013 • 25 notes
“Putting landed property exclusively in male hands, and holding the latter responsible for the payment of revenue had the effect of making the Indian male the dominant legal subject [under British law]. The British further made the peasants pay revenue twice a year on a fixed date. Inability to pay would result in the land being auctioned off by the government. As a result, peasant were forced, during a bad year, to use their land as collateral to borrow from the moneylender, in order to pay taxes. Chronic indebtedness, instance, became the fate of a large number of peasants who possessed smallholding in Punjab. The British resolve to rationalize and modernize the revenue was particularly hard on women. From being co-partners in pre-colonial landholding arrangement, they found themselves denied all access to economic resources, turning them into dependents. In the event they faced marital problems, they were left with no legal entitlements whatsoever.”
How The British Created The Dowry System In Punjab
Another slap in the face of those who try pulling the argument that “Western imperialism brought progress in the East” when it clearly did the opposite. You won’t find most Western feminists discussing the patriarchal practices and abuses by the Western empire(s) and their invasions. Go read this. (via)
1:24 pm • 18 December 2012 • 269 notes
“Survivors of 1971 in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, however, cannot forget the memories of the loss of humanity, or insāniyat/manabikata that they recall. For them the loss of their humanity in violence is the most unforgettable outcome of the war of 1971, and they struggle to reassemble a sense of their human selves in slow and careful reflections. To reconvene their human identity and become wholesome again survivors, particularly perpetrators, men who committed incredible violence against vulnerable groups of women, children, and the old and infirm, emphasize the need to do tauba or repent for their crimes.”
A People’s Remembrance of 1971 - Yasmin Saikia in Tanqeed.
My heart broke at this:
There is a loss. A loss of memory so deep that even our subcontinent’s humanity has become questionable.
I want to scream.
1:18 am • 17 December 2012 • 72 notes
A Conversation with Pakistani Historian Ayesha Jalal
“In the unlikely event of my being asked to spearhead a reform of the history curriculum in Pakistan, I would have to operate on multiple fronts in order to succeed. I could start with a group of historians, teachers and concerned citizens and sketch out the outlines of a history curriculum at different levels of schooling, all the way to college. We would lay special emphasis on teaching students to think analytically about key themes and periods in history. That would be the least of my problems, that is to say if I have to only think of what a good history curriculum should look like in today’s world. But a paper proposal would be meaningless since, even with the elusive political will, there will be innumerable snags in implementing the recommendations. Education after all is a provincial subject and I doubt all the provinces would accept the suggestions put forward. If the proposal makes it past the federal and provincial bureaucracies, there are vested interest associated with provincial textbook boards who would be among those gunning for the proposals, which would invariably call for major alterations in the current textbooks on history. Then there will be any number of free wheelers in Pakistani politics who will object to the inclusion of certain themes, events or periods in history which are inconsistent with their sense of Islamic identity. The media will have its own variegated views and the ‘experts’ brought on talk shows will do much to muddy the waters. Even if the proposals for a reform of the history curriculum survive bureaucratic scrutiny and the hazards of ‘public debate’ in Pakistan, and new textbooks get written, one cannot be sure that the teachers will be qualified or willing enough to teach them to students.
This is not to say reform is impossible, but to underline the complexity of what I refer to as the political economy of curriculum reform. Any history curriculum for Pakistan has to try and locate the country historically in the larger global context. At the same time, it is imperative that students understand the broader region of which they are part. This cannot be achieved by teaching narrowly focused national histories with no systematic attempt to draw broader historical connections and excising entire eras from the curriculum. None of this, I am afraid, can be achieved so long as there are so many different conflicting groups that have a keen interest in preserving the existing curriculum. So more than political will at the top is needed. There will have to be a broad public consensus on the need to teach history as a discipline and a methodology rather than as an instrument with which to project national ideology. Until then I suspect my proposals for a reform of the history curriculum will either make no headway or end up looking quite different from what I would have originally recommended.”
It would be dishonest of me to claim I agree with everything that Ayesha Jalal opines, and that is natural, but this interview taken by Five Rupees was quite brilliant and I recommend it to those interested in Pakistani and South Asian politics and history.
1:56 am • 7 December 2012 • 110 notes
“Since 2009, the targeting of Ahmadi community has continued unabated. Assassinations, public and private, coupled with state-backed “blasphemy” witch-hunts are the ordinary state of being Ahmadi in Pakistan. Into that particular majoritarian violence enters the attempt at mass annihilation of Shi’a communities across Pakistan. This is the targeting of Shi’a civilians in Quetta or in Sindh and Karachi. The longer history of anti-Shi’a/anti-Ahmadi violence in territorial Pakistan stretches back to the early 1950s when the Jama’at-i Islami sought public and private ascendancy against its “communist” opponents. As the aims of Maududi-led Jama’at came closer and closer to the politico-military regimes of Ayub, Bhutto and then Zia ul Haq, the religious and political organizations became para-military execution squads.”
— Dead Bodies Amongst in Chapati Mystery. (via mehreenkasana)
12:17 pm • 5 December 2012 • 26 notes
The Middle Man in Chapati Mystery by Manan Ahmed
The construction of nationalist identity in Pakistan, since 1971, has relied exclusively on a communal reading of South Asian histories – positing Hindu and Muslims as inchoate categories. Such reductive narratives may suit the purpose of nationalist discourses but they do not represent history. I have decided to tell the story of Seth Naomul Hotchand as a story of a broker between regimes of power, as a local negotiator of globally written politics. In my telling, Hotchand is a symbol—not of treason or collaboration but—of the fugue state that cripples the modern nation-state, which forgets pasts just as easily as it invents new ones to fill the gaps.
The “Orient” is a fiction, and a romance. The fiction espoused by the British officer in the opening quote frames our colonial and postcolonial stories – a Hindu son’s revenge for a Muslim injustice wrought upon his father. This romantic story swivels on its axis in postcolonial Pakistan – all Hindus are traitors, and can be represented by the money-lending, vengeful Seth Naomal Hotchand, who brought down a princely state. In what follows, I lay out a fuller picture of Hotchand’s life and argue that the real tragedy lies with the collective memory to which his history has been ascribed.
Painting by Daisy Rockwell.
Wish this was a chapter in our national curriculum on both sides of the border.
12:09 pm • 5 December 2012 • 27 notes
“Over the dead body of his son, a Bengali mother is howling out of agony today,
Whose feeble chest is tattered by bullets that went deep,
And an old mother’s whole being is sinking into abyssal pain.
Over there that small kid, soaked in blood, is trying to say, “mama”
Yet half his tongue is cut.
His breath is going high and high yet no tears in his eyes
Before his breath could break to finally end him,
His mama breathed her last.”
Sindhi poet Anwar Pirzado from the then-West-Pakistan lamented the genocide the Pakistani military carried out in East Pakistan.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, another Pakistani poet, openly criticized and condemned the atrocities the Pakistani military committed in Bangladesh in 1971. An excerpt from the article says a lot:
Since Faiz was a poet of international repute, just having won the Lenin Peace Prize, the Pakistani military junta did not dare libel him. However, Habib Jalib and Ahmad Salim (Pakistani poets and writers) were not so fortunate. Jalib was imprisoned and Salim jailed and sentenced to canning for writing poems against the genocide of Bangladesh.
A friend of Jalib recounted an anecdote to Shahriar Kabir in Lahore. “Towards the end of March, when the news of genocide was being broadcasted sporadically through the radio, Jalib and his friend had gone to a bar for an afternoon drink. Jalib told his friends ‘it is a shame that while we are drinking, our Bengali brothers are being butchered and our sisters are being tortured.’ When a friend asked what they can do, he suggested that they bring out a procession in protest. Immediately, the seven or eight leftist poets in that group went out in the streets and started shouting ‘Manzur Manzur Bangladesh Manzur’ (Recognise Bangladesh),” relates Kabir.
Unfortunately, most of us in Bangladesh remained oblivious of these voices even after 40 years as the news of protest by West Pakistanis never reached the media. Shahriar Kabir explains, “At that time, the military regime of General Yahya Khan had imposed strict censorship on the entire media and prohibited any news of genocide from reaching the international arena.”
Make sure you read this.
11:09 am • 30 November 2012 • 82 notes
Partition of Bengal (1905-1914)
By 1905 there were a large number of leaders who had acquired during the previous period valuable experience in guiding political agitation. Thus the conditions for the development of militant nationalism had developed when in 1905 the partition of Bengal into two parts-eastern Bengal and Assam and the rest of Bengal were announced. It was said that the existing province of Bengal was too big to be efficiently administered by a single provincial govt.
The British authorities thought that by partitioning the province they would succeed in dividing the Hindu politicians of West and East Bengal and increasing Hindu-Muslim tensions. The people and the national leaders realized the real intentions of the government. Hunderds of meetings were held over Bengal to protest against these schemes. Opinion in Bengal against the partition was united. Disregarding public opinion the partition came into effect on October 16, 1905.
The partition of Bengal was regarded as an insult and a challenge to Indian nationalism. A movement was launched to end the partition. It was the work of the entire national leadership of Bengal. Initially the leadership was in the hands of moderates. Militant and revolutionary leadership took over in the later stages. Some of the prominent leaders of the movement were Surendranath Banerjee, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh, Tilak and Abdul Rasul.New methods of protest were adopted. These soon became important features of the struggle for freedom. These were Swadeshi and Boycott. A large number of people were drawn into the movement. The aims of the national movement become more radical. (via)
3:45 pm • 29 November 2012 • 27 notes
Pritilata Waddedar was an anti-British pro-India revolutionary in East Bengal, (then part of region of Bengal in pre-independence India), presently in Bangladesh. Pritilata was born to a humble family. Her father was a clerk in the Chittagong Municipality. She was an intelligent student at the Khastagir High School of Chittagong and passed the matriculated in first division in the year 1927. She continued her learning in EDEN COLLEGE, Dhaka and in 1929 passed the Intermediate examinations securing the first place amongst the candidates from Dhaka Board. Two years afterward, Pritilata graduated in Philosophy with distinction from Bethune College of Kolkata.
Pritilata had partaken in ‘activities subversive to the state’ since her studies in Eden College. She became an associate of Sree Sangha in the Dipali Sangha led by Lila Nag. In Calcutta she was an associate of the Chhatri Sangha led by Kalayani Das. After graduation she returned to Chittagong and took up the profession of the headmistress of a neighboring English medium secondary school named Nandankanan Aparnacharan School.
In the 1930s, there were a lot of radical groups all over Bengal and Chittagong. Members of these groups thought that India’s liberty could be achieved only through armed struggle. Pritilata believed that time had come for women to take an important responsibility in the armed fight against the British. They needed to surrender their lives if essential, and tackle all risks, dangers and troubles, on similar foothold as their male comrades. She was involved in operations for demolition of the Telephone & Telegraph workplace and the capture of the reserve police line. She took part in the Jalalabad battle, in which her liability was to provide explosives.
In one of the missions in 1930, Pritilata was sent to Alipur Central Jail of Calcutta to meet up Ram Krishna, who was a political captive, sentenced to death and was behind the bars under firm surveillance and in absolute privacy. Pritilata went to Dhalghat to meet her mentor ‘Mastarda’ at his hiding place on 13 June 1932. The location was enclosed by a police throng and there was a fight in which some revolutionaries lost their lives. Mastarda and Pritilata were able to flee. Immediatedly her name was enlisted in the ‘most wanted’police list.
In 1932, Surya Sen designed an assault on the Pahartali European Club, which bore the disreputable sign ‘Dogs and Indians not allowed’. He assigned Pritilata to lead an aggressive team that would demonstrate their protest in the Club on 23 September 1932. Members of the team were instructed to take potassium cyanide with them so that in case they were trapped by police they could consume if caught. The attack was victorious but Pritilata, dressed as a man was trapped without a way to escape on that crucial night. She committed suicide by swallowing the cyanide. She was only 21 when she died. Her martyrdom provided an enormous stir and acted as a motivation for revolutionaries in Bengal and India. (via)
(Source: , via fyeahbangladesh)
3:08 pm • 29 November 2012 • 300 notes
The Sikh Empire began from 1799 and lasted till 1849.
The Sikh Empire forged upon the basic origins of the Khalsa. It was headed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who used a number of autonomous Punjabi Misls. In the 19th century, the Sikh empire was seeing its peak time and so it focused on its expansion. Hence it extended from the Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south and Tibet in the east.
The Sikh Empire can be traced from as early as 1707 when the last Mughal ruler Aurangzeb died and the Mughal Empire began to decline. The Khalsa Army, known as the Dal Khalsa took opportunity of the Mughal fall and Guru Gobind Singh inaugurated a rearrangement of the Khalsa in order to launch expeditions against the Mughals and the Afghans. Hence the army grew in and gradually split into semi-independent “Misls” (sects or groups). Different individual Misls had different areas and cities under their control.
When these “Misls” merged under Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Empire is believed to have started then. It was on 12 April 1801 (the date was to coincide with Baisakhi intentionally) that Ranjit Singh was crowned. The coronation was conducted by a descendant of Guru Nanak Dev, Sahib Singh Bedi. From a mere leader of a Sikh Misl, Ranjit Singh had become the Maharaja of Punjab, in a short span of time. Under his rule the army began to modernize, with the implementation of the latest training as well as weapons and artillery. The Sikh empire weakened way too much after the death of Ranjit Singh, the main causes being internal divisions and political mismanagement. It was in 1849 that the state, after their defeat in the Anglo-Sikh wars, dissolved. For about 50 years (from 1799 to 1849) the whole of the Sikh Empire was divided into four main parts, which are: Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Kashmir.
A Hindu ascetic namely, Banda Singh Bahadur on meeting Guru Gobind Singh at Nanded converted to Sikhism. Guru Gobind Singh just a few years before his death had sent a letter to him ordering to re-conquer Punjab and commanded the Sikhs to join him. After Banda Singh Bahadur gained support he initiated an agrarian uprising which broke the large properties, lands and estates of the Zamindar families into small parts and distributed this segmented land to the poor Sikh, Hindu and Muslim peasants who used the land for agriculture.
With the defeat of the Mughals at Samana and Sadhaura, the rebellions of Banda Singh Bahadur had started. He had his territory between the Sutlej River and the Yamuna River where he had established a capital. His army got defeated in 1716 by the Mughals while he was attempting to protect his fort at Gurdas Nangal. He was captured and tortured to convert to Islam which he refused. Also his son was executed brutally. Punjab saw a highly turbulent time both politically and militarily from 1719 to 1799. The main cause of which can be stated as the fall of the Mughal Empire. (via
2:33 pm • 29 November 2012 • 279 notes