Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Calcutta, Calcutta, Calcutta

Ominous words in the Calcutta Telegraph about the situation in London: 'Terror can only be countered by terror. But the use of terror by the police cannot be as indiscriminate as that of the fanatics who are the targets.' The editorial then goes on to compliment London police for their honesty in admitting their mistake, contrasting this with analogous situations in India. Do we suffer from the reverse racism of lower expectations?

Admiring words in the Calcutta Telegraph about the relative tolerance of that city towards courting couples. One-time Bangalore resident Janaki Nair contrasts this with the situation in the southern metro, where 'lathi-wielding police make sure that all benches are lover-proof.' This piece is about a lot more, though.

I am reading about the Naxalite movement in West Bengal in 1967. Apparently, when the movement reached Calcutta, among other things, students began smashing statues of Bengal Renaissance heroes such as Vidyasagar and Tagore. (This, I suppose, is the equivalent of Bengali blasphemy.) All of this is (i) filling out my picture of what was happening in the world in 1967-68 (I know something about events in Mexico City, the US, Paris and Prague in those momentous months, but much less about events closer to home); (ii) making me wonder what was happening in Andhra Pradesh and giving me the eerie feeling that I had family on the other side in Warrangal district. So here I am, reading about subalterns and 'new' social movements in India, seeing them as progressive agents because of the role they might have played in attacking caste hierarchies, but vaguely aware that my ancestors would have taken a much more grim view of things - particularly if they were being tied up and shot, as many upper-caste landowning families would have been in areas where the movement was most active.

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