Author Archives: Prakash Kona

Caste injustice and the politics of abuse

While no one denies that caste injustice is a reality, I wish to dwell on the politics of abuse or abusive behavior from social groups that claim to inherit the legacy of historical discrimination. When the Supreme Court of India decided to punish Justice Karnan, a Dalit judge for “contempt” with a six-month jail sentence, what no one seems to discuss, is the kind of abusive behavior the man had generously indulged in for the past couple of years. Continue reading

A flawed political argument

When a white actor plays a non-white character in a present politically charged atmosphere with movements such as Black Lives Matter, the public is made conscious of the actor’s race more than ever before. Not surprisingly the social media was not receptive to the idea of DiCaprio playing the 13th century mystic poet Jalaluddin Rumi for a biopic still in the birthing stage. Continue reading

Living in the age of ageism

One of the deadliest forms of discrimination and one that is hardly talked about except in the clichéd and sentimental terms scripted by popular movies is ageism. Continue reading

The right to be ‘wrong’

A few years or months ago, I would not have been saying this: but, now, I am convinced that the most sacred of all rights, which every government should protect with all the tools at its disposal, a right for which societies must stake whatever they possess to safeguard, is the right to have a wrong opinion, the right to think and feel wrongly just about anything, the right to live in a manner completely at odds with the expectations of the rest of the world, in short, the right to be wrong for the sake of being wrong. Continue reading

‘Clever, classless and free’: The problem with compulsive activism

I remember a fellow student who was in his twenties and who had had made it his business to oppose everything the teacher said on Marxist economic terms. He was a recent convert to the Marxist vocabulary who merely was hell-bent on annoying the teacher and tiring the rest of us because he had nothing else to do. The motive was sheer boredom and attention-seeking behavior. I have no idea where he is these days but I’ve a strange feeling that he is a control freak trying to run the lives of those around him and is a flag-bearing marcher to the right-wing government. This is one generation ago back in the late 1980s or very early 1990s. Continue reading

Why the upper caste leftists in India are ‘upper’ rather than ‘left’

Two things I wish to emphasize: one is that a section of the upper castes, the ones who might not be privileged enough, but wouldn’t mind holding on to some kind of power or other, have an interest in playing an ideological role in perpetuating casteism while seeming to oppose it. That is my personal observation of the upper caste leftists who are usually trying to portray themselves as defenders of the “lower” castes for no other reason except that they have personal agendas. Interestingly, we have a fair number of people among the “lower” castes themselves, who need the ideological support of the disgruntled and more subtly opportunistic of the upper castes, in order to enhance their position in the caste hierarchy. They don’t want to change the caste hierarchy; they merely wish to be the new upper castes. Continue reading

Annihilation of the casteist mindset

This is not a review as such but a reflection on a few aspects of the speech Annihilation of Caste by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, written to be presented in 1936 at an anti-caste association in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Continue reading

Canonization politics: The diverse legacies of John Paul II and John XXIII

I am seriously distressed at the choice not to mention the speed with which John Paul II was canonized as if to seal a reactionary agenda which, in essence, defines what the Catholic Church has been standing for in the past couple of decades and has stood for more than a thousand years since the message of its founder, a carpenter’s son, from a remote village corner, crossed the arid West Asian landscapes and became a religion of the Roman empire. Continue reading

Is the death penalty a deterrent to the rape problem in India?

I was a bit surprised by the dramatic pronouncement of the death penalty on three of the four men convicted in the Mumbai Shakthi Mills gang rape of a 23-year-old photojournalist and more importantly for being “repeat offenders.” Continue reading

Expressing solidarity with the workers who rioted in Singapore’s “Little India”

Two nations I would neither like to live in nor be born into: one is Dubai and another is Singapore. Continue reading

The multiple lives of the Indian bourgeoisie

The news of Tarun Tejpal, the ex-editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, being accused of sexually assaulting a younger journalist was followed by something as sensational if not more, when the parents of the 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar were convicted and sentenced to life for murdering their daughter, apparently caught in an “objectionable” position with the male servant. I was amazed at how familiar names and faces in the media took sides as they continue to do in order not to seem inconsistent in their foolishness and mediocrity. Continue reading

Why Indians cannot write their own history

Historians are a bit like philosophers: you assume they know everything until they state their views, which are a repetition of some of the most common prejudices you encounter in any normal situation. Continue reading

The terrible plight of the Christians in Pakistan

Heart-rending scenes were shown on television of the coffins of the innocent victims of the suicide bombing following a Sunday morning mass at the All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar. Apparently this was done by Islamic militants in response to the “US drone strikes.” Continue reading

Why I might support the Congress-led UPA in the 2014 Indian general elections

With Narendra Modi’s candidature declared as the prospective prime minister of India in case the NDA should win the 2014 elections, L. K. Advani must be a broken man. Cardinal Wolsey, a politician and cardinal under King Henry the VIII of England, famously said before he died, “If I had served God as diligently as I have done the King, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs.” Having entered the twilight of his life, I am sure L. K. Advani feels the same, that had he served the people of this country rather than the sectarian agenda of the BJP he wouldn’t have been a lonely, isolated man and the people would still be with him. The historic opportunity for a politician to be a statesman is a lost one. Continue reading

What activism is

When a colleague of mine told her students she was more an activist than an academic I was amused to say the least. If, in all naivety, she thought being an activist was enough reason to neglect academic duties I think it’s a time-honored excuse for insincerity and laziness. Reading and preparing for classes is hard work. Making sure students are able to meet specific standards of reading and writing is labor. To say one is an “activist” in the “comfortable” zone of a state-run university is euphemism to expressing distaste if not contempt for academic work. Continue reading

If hanging were a solution to violence against women!

If hanging were a solution to violence against women, we wouldn’t have enough rope in this world to execute men who have committed acts of violence directly or indirectly against women. We can exclude this option for lack of rope more than anything else. We still could keep most men in the “deserve to be hanged” category. I think that would help in bringing about some awareness of the violence being done against women. Continue reading

Fools! said the Buddha

Freud notes that emotional unhappiness is at the root of contradictions in a culture that in turn fuels the human craving for fame, power and money. The cruelty of war stems from a morbid need to deprive the world of what one is deprived of. Thus Gloucester will say in some of the most famous opening lines from Shakespeare’s The Life and Death of Richard the Third “since I cannot prove a lover,/ To entertain these fair well-spoken days,/ I am determined to prove a villain/ And hate the idle pleasures of these days.” Continue reading

The innocence of Afzal Guru

I’m far more convinced that Narendra Modi is singularly guilty for the Gujarat riots of 2002 that killed close to one thousand Muslims than I am of Afzal Guru’s guilt in the Indian Parliament attack of 2001. Yet, if life must continue to be unfair, Narendra Modi might actually be the prime minister of India if he has to oppose a political Lilliputian such as Rahul Gandhi who simply does not have the wherewithal to run a country of India’s magnitude. Continue reading

Ashis Nandy and his ‘intimate’ enemies

In India the law exists to protect the servile, the wicked and the dishonest, irrespective of the caste they belong to, and not to serve the needs of the poor and the powerless. Continue reading

India against corruption but Indians for corruption

I refuse to be cynical or pessimistic about a political party with a name like “India against Corruption” which has a strikingly Bollywood simplicity about it. The problem with the simplicity is that like in the Bollywood movie—the title is often not original and the plot and theme along with the subplots and subthemes are predictable enough to kill any sense of uncertainty or doubt you might possibly have. What is even more predictable is that there are heroes and villains; everyone who is outside the corridors of power qualifies to the dubious state of heroism; everyone in power is automatically promoted to villainy with or without his or her choice. This is not really about choice; this is more about scripted roles and how well you are able to play the role as long as you are in it. Continue reading

India’s fratricidal caste divisions

If I did not have an SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (a law meant to prevent Dalits from being harassed or victimized by non-Dalits in one form or the other) case filed against me a year and half ago in the nearest police station by my well-meaning Dalit student friends, merely because when in an official position, I attempted to prevent them from being deliberately provocative towards believing Hindus from communities other than the one to which they belonged, perhaps I would’ve been in a state of doubt. Continue reading

Why India needs a patriotic and not a nationalist media

The distinction George Orwell makes between nationalism and patriotism in his essay “Notes on Nationalism” is true of the media as well. A nationalist according to Orwell is basically a power-monger and nationalism an ego-centered discourse whereas patriotism stands for “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.” Continue reading

Internet pirates! Unite! You’ve nothing to lose . . .

I’ve always thought I must thank them. Continue reading

Why India must nationalize corporate hospitals

As important as the nationalization of the commercial banks by Indira Gandhi in 1969 is the current need to nationalize healthcare—which means that private hospitals should be brought under the purview of the state. The state hospitals are generally believed to be a veritable nightmare. However, when I visited the state-run Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad fairly recently to check on an ill neighbor who could not afford corporate treatment, I was impressed by the general behavior of the young doctors and realized how much more the poor could gain by being given the opportunity of free healthcare. This hospital had the potential of being a very good hospital with a little more support from the government and the public at large. Continue reading

Pakistan, where fanaticism is a virtue

It didn’t come as a shock when Salman Taseer the governor of the Punjab province was assassinated by one of his own security guards on January 4, 2011. What was truly shocking were the bouquets offered to Taseer’s assassin from the so-called “true” believers—the sheer inhumanity of it and the disrespect to a man’s life! Salman Taseer’s “guilt” was clear to the assassin. Taseer may not have committed blasphemy but he was “guilty” of defending the Christian Asia Bibi who allegedly did so. The evidence against her is so blatantly cooked up that you would laugh if only you did not know that the joke would be such a cruel one. Continue reading

Once upon a time there was a dog called Hosni

A Palestinian Arab student and friend of mine says: You can have a pack of dogs led by a lion but you cannot have a dog leading a pride of lions. That is the truth of the Arab world he added: we’re nations of lions being led by dogs. The end of the dog-regimes in the Middle East is nowhere in sight. But the Tunisians and the Egyptians just made a beginning, a beginning that’ll free West Asia of families of curs who live as if the world is without an end. Continue reading