India News Interview Politics

BJP’s manifesto won’t succeed in TN, says Vaiko

MDMK founder Vaiko is considered a great orator and a strong voice for Tamil nationalism and the Dravidian movement. In an exclusive interview with IANS, the veteran leader said that the election manifesto of the BJP which promised to promote Tamil language and culture would not be accepted by the people of Tamil Nadu. He also said that the aim of the INDIA bloc was to win all 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry’s one seat and sweep the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Tamil Nadu eight times in the last two months and the recently released election manifesto of the BJP has touched upon Tamil Nadu, its language and culture extensively. Is the BJP slated to win at least a few seats in the state in the forthcoming elections?

The Prime Minister has visited Tamil Nadu several times and the BJP promises to open Thiruvalluvar cultural centres globally in its election manifesto. This won’t make any impact for the BJP in Tamil Nadu. These visits by the Prime Minister won’t get the BJP a single seat nor will the party’s new-found love for Tamil Nadu. The people of the state are smart enough to see through the game plan of PM Modi and the people will give a fitting response to the PM and his party from our state.

You are part of the INDIA bloc. What are the chances of your front in the April 19 Lok Sabha polls?

I don’t have any doubts that the DMK-led INDIA bloc will sweep the elections in Tamil Nadu. We are aiming to win all 39 seats of Tamil Nadu and one seat in Puducherry in the forthcoming elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we won 38 of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu.

How are you so confident of the DMK-led INDIA bloc sweeping the polls in Tamil Nadu even before the elections?

I have been in politics for several decades and can easily understand the pulse of the people and how they think. Everywhere INDIA bloc leaders go there is a huge welcome from the public. The people of the state wait for long hours just to meet our leaders and to hear what we say. These are clear indications that the people are waiting for the moment to vote for us.

Is there any specific reason for such a positive response from the electorate?

Yes indeed, there are reasons for this fabulous response and love from the people. First there is a people-friendly government at the helm in Tamil Nadu under the leadership of Chief Minister Stalin. The Chief Minister introduced several welfare measures for the people of the state ever since the DMK government assumed office. These people-friendly schemes are of immense help to the citizens. The breakfast scheme for schoolchildren and the Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai (KMUT) scheme that puts Rs 1,000 into the account of women heads of families each month are path-breaking measures. The Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam scheme of taking healthcare to the doorstep of the people is another revolutionary scheme of the Stalin government.

I can count many welfare schemes that have been successfully implemented ever since the DMK government under Stalin assumed office in Tamil Nadu. The care shown by the Stalin government is being reciprocated by the people of the state and they wait for hours to have a glimpse of the INDIA bloc leaders. My experience in electoral politics has given me the required insight to tell you that it will be a sweep for the DMK-led front in Tamil Nadu.

What’s your opinion about the General Elections at the national level?

Nationally, the BJP and its allies cannot repeat the 2019 performance. The BJP’s allies cannot win more seats in Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Its strength lies in North Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. However in Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was instrumental in bringing the BJP back to power in MP has been sidelined. This will lead to the Congress winning more seats in Madhya Pradesh. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar also, the BJP will not be able to repeat its earlier performance and the Congress will gain.

How do you rate the preparations of the Congress in the elections at the national level to take on the BJP?

The Congress party is united this time and has done proper groundwork. This was not the case six months ago. The Congress has settled all its differences and is now fighting the elections unitedly in a more cohesive manner. This is necessary for the country because if the BJP comes back to power, they will change the Constitution. Power has gone to the head of the BJP and PM Modi is trying to take the country towards the Presidential form of government like in the US.

ALSO READ-Election Commission acts on BJP, Congress complaints

Environment Interview Lite Blogs

Bhutan’s Mindfulness City to Harmonize Nature

I would say it’s extremely authentic so there’s nothing here that’s contrived for tourists. It’s really real. It’s very unusual now to go to places where you get this authenticity all the time…says Carissa Nimah, Chief Marketing Officer of Bhutan

Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has a new vision for the country, to make it an economic hub for South Asia, pointing out that small countries like Bhutan are not trapped by legacy and can innovate swiftly to implement plans that other countries might hesitate to pursue.

Gelephu Mindfulness City Special Administrative Region (SAR) in the South of the Kingdom is set to become a leading hub through investments in green energy, physical and digital connectivity infrastructure and education. Mindfulness City is unique for being founded on Bhutanese values and the Gross National Happiness philosophy, prioritising not only economic development but personal well-being for every resident.

Bhutan is already known worldwide for being a haven of pristine natural beauty, spirituality and unique cultural traditions. The SAR is the world’s ‘Modern Buddhist Lifestyle Destination’ for spirituality, wellness and rejuvenation. Gelephu Mindfulness City is also the gateway for tourists to the rest of Bhutan, nestled between two nature reserves – the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Royal Manas National Park – as well as connected to Thimphu via Paro airport.

Nestled between mountains, forests, and rivers, Bhutan stands as one of the last biodiversity hotspots in the world, with 70 percent of the country covered in forest. The Mindfulness City will cover an area of over 1,000 sq. km, or 250,000 acres. This is around 2.5 percent of the total surface area of the country.

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) shared its master plan for Mindfulness City. Proposing a series of bridges as new landmarks tailored to each of the nine Gross National Happiness domains, agricultural preservation, mobility connections, public spaces and low- to mid-rise development in the south of Bhutan.

The master plan aims to amplify the country’s abundant biodiversity by emerging as a vibrant tapestry of interconnected ecosystems forming eleven lively neighbourhoods shaped by the flow of the 35 rivers and streams that run through the site. The resulting ribbonlike neighbourhoods resemble paddy fields, forming urban terraces that cascade down from the hills to the valley. The city increases in density from the rural and recreational highlands to the urban and dense lowlands.

Each neighbourhood is designed based on the principles of the Mandala: defined by a series of repeating typologies organised symmetrically around a central public space, a gradual transition in density is created, from small buildings dispersed in the landscape in the north to larger footprints within an urban environment in the south.

To protect existing and future development against flooding in the monsoon season, paddy fields will be established along the site’s rivers and tributaries, running from north to south. These will further function as biodiversity corridors for local flora and fauna, leaving the migratory routes of elephants and other wildlife undisturbed.

We caught up with Carissa Nimah, Chief Marketing Officer of Bhutan to get more details.

Read Excerpts.

With the new SAR, do you expect a lot of Bhutanese people from surrounding areas to come and work here?

Nimah: Yes, definitely and I think the city will have a lot of knock-on impacts. There will be a lot of improvements in infrastructure and connectivity. There’s a big international airport that’s been planned and in fact, that’s going to be the first piece of the puzzle because when it’s ready in two years, we expect a flurry of activities. We expect the rest of the city to be completed anywhere from five years onwards.

The region will be inspired by the culture of Bhutan and its respect and compassion, the Mindfulness City’s vision will be to enhance ecological systems, while there will be urban development which will connect people and ideas with the flora and fauna. It is set to become a global example of creating a sustainable space for all.

What do you feel is the most magnetic and enchanting part of Bhutan?

Nimah: I would say it’s extremely authentic so there’s nothing here that’s contrived for tourists. It’s really real. It’s very unusual now to go to places where you get this authenticity all the time. For instance, last weekend was the biggest Paro festival, the biggest festival of the year and that’s not for tourists it’s for Bhutanese people. The word “magnetic” is important, because the energy in this country is really special. It’s a very spiritual destination and one respects the fact that it’s such a spiritual destination. You can hear everyone chanting, you see the flags and you see people turning the prayer wheels, there are more than 2000 temples and all these old structures like fortresses around the country.

You’re in the mountains, you’re at an altitude and the mountains are very imposing and I just feel that that creates a very special energy and it’s a great chance for people to come and learn but just to be here and reflect on yourself, and on your life. I think that’s special, you can’t find that many places like that on Earth. It’s like a spiritual pilgrimage that’s quite transformational for people.

What are the travel trends that you forecast for the region?

Nimah: This year is 50 years of tourism, as Bhutan only opened for international guests in 1974 this year, it’s important for Bhutan, which is a country still on its tourism journey. Tourism numbers haven’t quite recovered since before the pandemic but they are certainly on the right track, and Bhutan’s tourism strategy has now changed quite a lot. It’s now looking for higher-value guests. I would say higher profile, higher value guests don’t mean that everyone who comes has to be wealthy, but that’s not the point, we just want to attract people who want to be here.

We would love to achieve a target of 300,000 tourists which in terms of comparison to India is very low but for us in Bhutan that’s quite a lot. We’re trying to kind of facilitate new experiences and improve the entire guest journey to hit that number and also just promote a bit more to the world, both on a B2B level and B2C. There is very little awareness about what Bhutan has to offer, experiences, and itineraries, beyond the temples or Tiger’s Nest.

It’s I’d say it is very traditional and very authentic, but Bhutan is also trying to modernise in a way that’s very in line with its values. Modernise carefully I would say and it’s a really interesting time to promote Bhutan. It’s ready for growth but at the same time it doesn’t want to just do it willy-nilly, it wants to grow deliberately, carefully which I think is quite innovative for tourism boards, as most government tourism boards just focus on numbers and run the risk of losing culture, ruining your environment and that’s the real reason that people go there in the first place.

What are your tourism insights from India?

Nimah: We have seen a lot of Inbound tourism from America and other regions of the world which are expected to grow with the new airport. We are also focused on the Indian market. For foreigners, our Sustainable Development Fee is USD 100 per person, while for Indian nationals it is Rupees 1200 per person, per night. That just means that we attract the type of tourist who wants to be in Bhutan and explore the region. It’s not you just passing time for a weekend, but it’s a different type of tourist, I would say.

What are some of the guest experiences that have been curated?

Nimah: Still very much progress, but some of the new experiences include the Trans Bhutan Trail which is kind of repurposed the old human highway that spans from across the country earlier, it could take somewhere between 35 to 40 days, and before roads and cars that’s how people moved around.

In addition to that, we now allow Golden Mahseer fishing, catch and release, which is very elusive and found in the Himalayas. There’s also fly fishing, we just introduced a new astronomy experience because of the dark skies. You can learn about the history of time like how people navigated the skies and some of the historical things in Bhutan.

There are also river rafting and night rafting experiences that have been introduced, and there’s more to come. We’re also encouraging the private sector to come up with new experiences, some of which are just in the process of getting approvals.

What do you feel about the hospitality options and luxury in Bhutan?

Nimah: Bhutan has got a lot of really nice hotels, we have 10 five-star luxury brands here, which is quite a lot for a small country. We have Aman as the first hotel company to invest in 5 locations across its central and western valleys. Amankora has been a part of this legendary Buddhist Kingdom for almost 20 years. In addition, we have Six Senses, &Beyond, Le Meridien and a host of independent brands. We’ve got a lot of four and three-stars and what we see is that homestays are becoming increasingly popular. Guests want to experience a real mix, they want the comfort and the luxury of the 4 to 5-star but they also want the authentic experience of the three-star or family-run hotel, Bhutan offers both. I think that’s a real trend, maybe it’s just got something to do with authentic travel and people are chasing the experience along with luxury.

In the end, we would like to believe we have complete confidence in the success of the SAR undertaking, stating that Bhutan is blessed with an incredible opportunity to build its legacy via the Gelephu Mindfulness City.

ALSO READ-A Spiritual Journey through 108 Sacred Sites of Bhutan

Interview Lite Blogs

Abhay Deol Embraces Risk in Cinema

Stressing that he has always been disgusted by ‘formula’, the actor says it has always been a deliberate choice to sign films that allowed his authenticity to be reflected on the screen…writes Sukant Deepak

Someone who has navigated seamlessly between parallel and mainstream cinema, choosing scripts that had scandalised his colleagues in the Industry, actor Abhay Deol insists that taking a risk is his formula, and playing safe is not part of who he is.

The actor talked about films like ‘Dev D’ and ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!’ that made him a darling of independent film followers.

“These were directed by those boasting of a different cinematic language and story treatment. I have always believed in good work and the fact that people are ready to embrace the new. I am glad I was part of that movement where I worked with several debut directors or those who had just started their careers,” says the actor who debuted with ‘Socha Na Tha’ (2005).

Surprisingly, he came in very late for the publicity of the above-mentioned films. “Believe it or not, I was afraid of fame. Of course, now when I look back, I feel I missed out on a lot of hype. Frankly, I found self-publicity very cheap. Though looking back, I feel I could have handled it better and embraced what was coming my way.”

Someone who started watching World Cinema at an early age with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick being his favourite director (“his disgust for war” and making tragic -comedies fascinated me”), Deol, who was recently seen in the web series ‘Trial by Fire’ admits that the Hindi films being made during his growing-up years were all about escaping reality. “And I did not want to escape reality but embrace it,” he smiles.

Now that he has spent nearly two decades in the industry, the actor tells, “It feels the time has gone by really fast — I look back with curiosity; questioning — where I was right, wrong or what learn. In short, these 20 years were eventful and I feel gratitude.”

Stressing that he has always been disgusted by ‘formula’, the actor says it has always been a deliberate choice to sign films that allowed his authenticity to be reflected on the screen.

“If I do not like a movie, why expect that the audience will accept it? And who says those sitting in the movie theatre are unintelligent? Let us not have such dangerous assumptions. We have such a diverse and vivid culture boasting so many dimensions, so why do our films have to have set parameters? We are not just about song and dance, right? For me, the mainstream was limiting,” asserts Deol who is in Chandigarh for the Cnevesture International Film Festival (CIFF)

Surprisingly, some mainstream actors who have worked in independent projects have always gone back to their roots. Deol observes, that either they are struggling to get to the top or doing the same to maintain the top position. “Precisely why you do not see these ‘stars’ even in independent projects that offer a huge scope to tap their acting prowess,” he says.

The actor adds that there needs to be a change in culture about doing something distinct. “In the US, which is a much younger culture where being a rebel is something great. Here, it can be considered insulting.”

However, one cannot deny the fact that many good independent films are not marketed well. “Yes, of course, the budgets for marketing are low. But one needs to work hard on the publicity bit. Look at ‘Manorama Six Feet Under’, it became a cult hit on DVD but lacked theatre release publicity, ”observes the actor who feels Prashant Nair (the director of ‘Trial by Fire’) is someone to look out for. “I would love to work with him again,” he adds.

The actor says that over the years he has learnt to take a film’s failure better. While earlier he would get into a self-destructive mode, now he looks at the silver lining — perhaps the only way to live. “I have learnt to disassociate myself with both success and failure,” adds Deol who regularly practises meditation, and Yoga and has a strict fitness schedule.”

Smiling that at one point in time, he was fighting against the system, but gradually realised that change can be brought by not disassociating oneself completely from it, Deol says that he had decided not to do any film if the writing was not as strong as in ‘Trial By Fire’. “But then Bun Tikki, directed by Faraz Arif Ansari came my way. It’s an excellent script and should be out later this year,” concludes the actor who now lives in Goa and will be opening a wellness centre there later this year.

ALSO READ-Dive into India’s Rich History with These Must-Watch Shows and Films

Big Interview Interview Lite Blogs

Understanding the Roots of Dehumanization with David Livingstone Smith

By Aswin Prasanth and Augustine George

Philosophy teaches us to reason and to criticize, rather than to obey and conform, and as such has the power to fuel dissidence”: An Interview with David Livingstone Smith

David Livingstone Smith is Professor of Philosophy at the University of New England. His work has been featured extensively in national and international media, appealing to both academics and non-academics alike. His research interests include self-deception, dehumanization, human nature, ideology, race and moral psychology. Being an interdisciplinary scholar, his publications are cited not only by other philosophers, but also by historians, legal scholars, psychologists, and anthropologists. He has been featured in several prime-time television documentaries and his interviews have appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and radio. In 2012, he was a guest at the G20 Economic Summit, where he spoke on dehumanization and mass violence.

His major works include Freud’s Philosophy of the Unconscious (1999), Approaching Psychoanalysis: An Introductory Course  (1999), Psychoanalysis in Focus (2002), Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind (2004), The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War (2007),  Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others (2011), On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It (2020), and Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization (2021). His book, Less Than Human won the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf award for nonfiction.

1.         Which philosophical ideas or theoretical frameworks are used in Making Monsters to analyse dehumanization, and how do you make sense of the seemingly incompatible idea that the dehumanized entity is simultaneously a complete human and subhuman?

The two main philosophical ideas that I draw on are essentialism and hierarchy. The word “essentialism” has an exceedingly long history.  Over the centuries, it has acquired various meanings. When I talk about essentialism, I mean what psychologists call “psychological essentialism.”  This is the idea that all human beings tend to think that what makes any individual the kind of being that it is, is a deep unobservable property that is possessed by only individuals of that kind. Psychologists call this its “essence” and call our tendency to attribute essences to things “psychological essentialism.” 

This is not as complicated as it might sound. The idea is that what makes any individual a human being is their possession of a human essence, what makes any individual animal a goat is its possession of a goat essence, and so on. This way of thinking is a kind of cognitive bias that is not consistent with a scientific worldview, but it is nevertheless very pervasive. Essentialism explains how it is possible for us to think of others as not truly human. We imagine that although they appear human (on the “outside”) they do not have a human essence (on the “inside”) and therefore are not human at all.

The other component, hierarchical thinking is necessary for us to think of others as less or lower than human beings. It is the idea that there are “higher” and “lower” kinds of beings (this is sometimes called the Great Chain of Being).  Traditionally, God is placed at the top of the hierarchy as the most perfect of beings, humans a little lower down, and then various kinds of animals, plants, with inanimate matter at the bottom. 

Putting these two ideas together, we can derive an analysis of dehumanization. When people dehumanize others, then, they think of them as having the essence of an animal lower than the human on the hierarchy. 

However, this way of conceiving of others meets a psychological obstacle. When we encounter other members of our species, we just can’t help recognizing them as fellow human beings. The automatic recognition of the humanness of others is an unavoidable aspect of our nature as social primates. So, when people in positions of power and authority use their influence to get us to think of some group of people as subhuman, and we accept this, we end up believing that they are human and subhuman at the same time. This transforms them into monsters in the eyes of their dehumanizers, which unleashes immense cruelty and violence against them. We can observe this process unfolding again and again in genocides and mass atrocities.

2.         In light of current social trends like the rise of white nationalism and the dissemination of racist rhetoric, how do you negotiate the intricate relationship between racism and dehumanization in On Inhumanity? Furthermore, how would you suggest confronting and thwarting the ubiquitous threats of dehumanization to both people and society at large?

It’s helpful to begin by considering what race is supposed to be. The first point to be made is that the race is a folk theory of human diversity and is incompatible with what our best science tells us about the facts of human variation. As I see it, the idea of race is the idea that there are a small number of fundamentally distinct kinds of people, and everyone on earth is either a pure specimen of one of these kinds or a mixture of two or more of them. Second, membership in a race is supposed to be transmitted biologically from parents to offspring, through the inheritance of a racial essence. This racial essence may or may not be expressed in a person’s appearance—that is, they might appear to be a member of one race, while “really” belonging to another. Finally (and this is especially important) the notion of race involves hierarchy, the idea that some races are “higher” than others. It is obvious, then, that racism is not something that is extraneous to race. It is built into the ideology of race itself. 

The structure of racial thinking strikingly echos the structure of dehumanization. Both involve essentialism and hierarchy at their core. This is why racialization is very often a precursor to dehumanization. When a group of people is racialized, they are seen as lesser humans—that is, lower on the scale of humanity than the racializing group. When they are dehumanized, they are seen as less than human—demoted from the category of the human altogether. 

3.         What does Less Than Human add to our knowledge of pervasive dehumanization in history? Furthermore, how can you examine the numerous manifestations and fundamental causes of dehumanization using multidisciplinary techniques from fields like evolutionary psychology, biology, anthropology, and philosophy?

I wrote Less Than Human because there was at the time no comprehensive, book-length study of dehumanization in the English language or, as far as I can determine, any other language. I had three major aims in the book: to develop a conception of dehumanization (that is, develop a view about what dehumanization is), to develop a theory of dehumanization (that is, develop a view about how dehumanization works), and to trace out the history of the concept of dehumanization, from ancient times to the present.  To do this effectively, I had to take an interdisciplinary approach, because dehumanization is incomprehensible unless we take psychological, political, cultural, and biological factors into account. At the time (and this is still true today) almost all of the research into dehumanization was being done by social psychologists, and I saw very quickly that this exclusively psychological approach was far too limited. Less Than Human was my first attempt to give an analysis of dehumanization, and although there is much in it that remains of value, my later books On Inhumanity and Making Monsters revise and extend the analysis that I presented there.

4.         In Why We Lie, how do you examine the psychological processes and evolutionary roots of deceit and self-deception? What are the consequences of this approach for comprehending interpersonal interactions and the making of the human mind? Furthermore, what role do you think analysis of narratives, lies, and unintentional signals play in our comprehension of our own identities and thought processes?

Why We Lie has two basic components. One is an argument that deception and self-deception are central to human social life. Human existence as we understand it would be impossible without a large measure of dishonesty and manipulation, most of which remains unconscious. If we did not routinely deceive ourselves and each other, human society would fall apart. It follows that it is shortsighted to condemn dishonesty as intrinsically wrong and self-deception as a mental defect. Instead, we should distinguish between constructive and destructive forms of deceit.

I still stand by this view. 

The other component consists of evolutionary psychological claims about the origin and nature of deceit. I am much more sceptical of this now than I was in 2004, when the book was published. This is because I have become very sceptical of evolutionary psychology more generally. To avoid misunderstanding, it is important to be clear about what I mean by this. I do not deny that the human brain, and therefore the human mind, are products of evolution, and I do not deny that deception is extremely common among other organisms in the natural world. However, most of the claims made by evolutionary psychologists, including claims that I made in Why We Lie are poorly founded, and should be treated cautiously. When I wrote Why We Lie, my spouse, the philosopher Subrena Smith, who is a noted critic of evolutionary psychology, helped me to recognize its serious shortcomings.

5.         In The Most Dangerous Animal, how do you synthesize evolutionary, historical, anthropological, and psychological viewpoints to explain the dual nature of the human mind as reflected in our ability to be both fiercely violent and deeply repulsed by killing? Moreover, how can your investigation of human nature and its biological evolutionary foundations advance our knowledge of the pervasiveness of violence and horror throughout human history?

The Most Dangerous Animal is a transitional work. When I wrote it, I was still in love with evolutionary psychology, but I was also beginning to become interested in dehumanization. In fact, in the penultimate chapter, I tried to give an evolutionary psychological analysis of dehumanization in warfare. It was very crude, and from my present perspective, misleading. However, it did plant the seed in my mind that dehumanization plays a significant role facilitating mass violence and deserves to be thoroughly investigated. 

When I began writing The Most Dangerous Animal, I thought that it would be a book all about the innately violent propensities of our species, and I was quite surprised to realize not only that human beings have powerful inhibitions against killing one another, but also that the act of killing often traumatizes the killer. Because I was still in the thrall of evolutionary psychology, I offered a simplistic account of the tension between the inclination to violence and the abhorrence of violence, but it is a topic that I have carried forward and addressed in a more sophisticated way in my later work on dehumanization.

6.         How would you evaluate Sigmund Freud’s treatment of basic philosophical issues, including the nature of consciousness, the mind-body paradox, and the connection between language and cognition in Freud’s Philosophy of the Unconscious? In addition, how would you rank the criticisms and interpretations of Freud’s work made by philosophers like Wittgenstein, Davidson, and Searle, and how would you rank the merits and demerits of each of these analyses?

I am an unabashed Freud fan. I believe that although he got many things wrong, there is still much to learn from his brilliant work. Before transitioning to philosophy, I was a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and a trainer of psychotherapists. My first four books were about psychoanalysis, and my earliest philosophical writings were on this subject too. Freud’s Philosophy of the Unconscious began as my PhD dissertation at the University of London. The eminent philosopher of science Adolf Grünbaum urged me to publish it and arranged for its publication. 

Many people disparage Freud these days, and often have a mistaken view of his work, but I consider him to be a great philosopher and theorist of the mind who was far ahead of his time in all sorts of ways. His views of the relation between mind and brain, consciousness, and the relation between language and thought were radical when he first proposed them, but today are in tune with mainstream views in the sciences of the mind. Regarding the second part of your question, I do not rate the criticisms and putative defences of Freud offered by Wittgenstein, Davidson, and Searle all that highly. Adolf Grünbaum’s critiques are far more trenchant and far better informed.

7.         How do you resolve the conflict between psychoanalysis’s philosophical and ethical aspects and its status as a scientific discipline? What are the main objections to psychoanalysis as they are discussed in Psychoanalysis in Focus?

I do not see psychoanalysis as an intrinsically ethical project, although of course one can use it to inform one’s ethical views. Freud characterized psychoanalysis as a method for investigating mental life, a theory of the structure and workings of the mind, and a method of psychotherapy. None of these are intrinsically ethical, although they can certainly inform one’s ethical views. 

The philosopher Patricia Kitcher has argued that Freud wanted psychoanalysis to be a complete interdisciplinary science of the mind, and I think that there is much to be gained by remaining true to his vision of the discipline, while correcting his errors and incorporating what we have learned since Freud’s death in 1939. 

Freud was a fine philosophical thinker, but it is a mistake to think that there is an inherent antagonism between science and philosophy. Freud’s work is certainly relevant to several philosophical enterprises, including epistemology, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind, and even metaphysics. That said, psychoanalysis has significant scientific flaws. Its subject matter, the cognitive processing of emotionally charged information, is by its very nature difficult to investigate, and psychoanalysts have reacted to criticism by showing a haughty disdain for justified claims that they do not have adequate methods for evaluating clinical and theoretical hypotheses. But saying that psychoanalysis is un- or anti-scientific is incorrect. This charge is based on a very restrictive and impoverished notion of what science is. It is most accurate to say that psychoanalysis is a nascent or underdeveloped science. 

Several of Freud’s proposals have been taken into mainstream psychological science, without attribution. Freud anticipated the learning algorithm now called “the backpropagation of error” used in artificial neural networks, and he developed the notion of Hebbian learning decades before Hebb proposed it in 1941. Psychologists like to distinguish their view of the unconscious from Freud’s by insisting that their conception is of a cognitive unconscious, but in fact it was Freud who earlier claimed that the unconscious mind is essentially cognitive and went even further to claim that all cognitive activity is unconscious. Freud has not been given his scientific or philosophical due. 

8.         Could you elaborate on the rationale of choosing the ‘seven stars’ of psychoanalytic thought leaving out Lacan, for your Approaching Psychoanalysis. Would you include Lacan if a new edition of Approaching Psychoanalysis were in the works?

That is easily done. I find Lacan unintelligible, and I would not include him in a new edition.

9.         In your work Hidden Conversations you discuss the general lack of interest among psychoanalysts for Robert Langs’s communicative approach to psychoanalysis. Could you elaborate on some of the reasons for this and do you think that this general apathy towards Langs’s approach has changed in the present?

Langs’ approach is far too challenging for most therapists to handle. It demands a degree of self-criticism that most therapists are unprepared to embrace. At its core is the idea that people undergoing psychotherapy are exquisitely attuned to the implications of their therapists’ behaviour, and unconsciously convey this in encoded ways through the stories that they tell. What mostly happens is that they unconsciously regard their therapists as crazy, seductive, destructive, and so on, and convey these things in disguised ways through seemingly unrelated narratives. To give a simple example, after the therapist offers an interpretation, their patient might suddenly recall that her father used to gaslight her mother. In traditional forms of psychoanalysis, this might be seen as expressing an unconscious fantasy and interpreted as such, but in the Langsian approach it would be interpreted as a potentially veridical reading of the therapist’s intervention and interpreted along the lines of “After I spoke, you suddenly remembered how your father used to undermine your mother’s thoughts and perceptions. Maybe what I said a moment ago seemed just like that, that I was manipulating you by undermining your sense of reality by what I said.” No matter what the person next says consciously, the therapist waits to hear the patient’s unconscious feedback. 

Unlike other forms of psychoanalysis, Langs’ approach is highly disciplined, there are clear criteria for when and how to intervene. Best of all, there are clear criteria for evaluating interventions and falsifying hypotheses, as well as predicting the thematic content of patients’ narratives. Working in this way is demanding, and therapists usually react strongly against it, sometimes even with hostility. If anything, the situation is worse now than when Robert Langs was alive. Sadly, there are very few people who practice psychoanalysis in this way today. Despite the self-serving hype, psychotherapists often have difficulty reflecting on their own behaviour in the consulting room and accepting that their patients are often more insightful about them than they are about themselves. 

10.       As a philosopher, what are your views on how philosophy can help to resist the spread of conflicts and the global resurgence of fascist tendencies? How can philosophical understanding help to advance peace and oppose authoritarianism?

I see philosophy as the practice of thinking things through, courageously, precisely, and imaginatively. It is anathema to authoritarian regimes because these abilities are crucial for fostering resistance, pushing back against domination. Philosophy teaches us to reason and to criticize, rather than to obey and conform, and as such has the power to fuel dissidence. I wish that everyone could receive basic philosophical education at some point in their education, but sadly, the world—or at least the United States—is moving in the opposite direction. Philosophy is seen by university administrators as irrelevant and dispensable. Consequently, philosophy departments in many universities are under-resourced and shrinking, and it is increasingly difficult for philosophers to find employment. But for the sake of our collective well-being, we need to keep the subversive flame of philosophy burning.

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Bollywood Interview Lite Blogs

Kiran Rao Returns with ‘Laapataa Ladies’

The story of the movie revolves around two newly-wed brides who get separated from their families and how a slip-up sets many things right…reports Asian Lite News

After treating the audience with ‘Dhobi Ghat’, the ace director and producer Kiran Rao, is again back with another project titled ‘Laapataa Ladies’. As Rao is busy in promoting her film, she recently got candid about making a comeback as a director and what makes the story set in 2001 still relatable and relevant.

She told, “My struggle continued. I kept writing for 10-12 years. I was writing stories for films, I was writing stories for the OTT series as well. But for some reason, I wasn’t completely satisfied with them.”
“When ‘Dhobi Ghat’ was released, I became a mother. I was very busy and enjoying being a mother. I don’t know how the years went by. But I kept writing. I worked in the films of Aamir Khan Productions. I also contributed to the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. But the desire to make a film was left behind. Because I was not able to complete the script.”
She continued, “In 2018, Aamir got this script. He was a judge in a screenwriting competition. And he liked the story a lot. This story won the second prize. Writer Biplab Goswami wrote it. Then I thought, yes, this is my story. But it’s been six years since it was made.”

The story of the movie revolves around two newly-wed brides who get separated from their families and how a slip-up sets many things right. In a very subtle way, using the elements of humour and hope, Kiran has attempted to address a strong social issue and women’s empowerment
However, the original story was much realistic and dark though her film comes with the elements of comedy and hope.

As she explained, ” When we met Sneha Desai as a writer, I felt that this could be done because the story was very good, which was written by Bipalab, but it was very realistic and I felt that the fun should come because this is a kind of satirical situation that two girls get separated and then what happens next. How can this be changed? And then what happens? There is a twist in the story. Sneha Desai brought the fun in the twist very well. And I will give her full credit. Biplab had also written a very good story. Sneha did this and Divyanidhi Sharma created the character of Shyam Manohar(played by Ravi Kishan).

“So the challenge was that the topics on which we have to discuss to change people’s perspective, we should do it under the table. We should do it through comedy. So that you don’t feel that someone is giving you a lecture standing and someone is explaining something to you. It’s not something to explain. The audience understands. Whatever you want to say, you don’t have to explain it. If your story touches them, then they understand. So actually, while writing, a lot of us we were conscious that the less we kept preaching, the less we kept lecturing. But I felt that the comedy element was very important. Because people then understand what you want to convey very easily, ” she added.
‘Laapata Ladies’ is set in 2001 Madhya Pradesh, a time when mobile phones were precious and the internet and technology had not made everything easily accessible. But, she feels that the story is still relatable. made. “I think this story will touch people’s hearts as emotions and dreams have no age.”

On how she decided about the locations, the director shared, “So, we saw a lot of recce tapes from the villages, because, as I said, it was the time of Covid, so we couldn’t travel that much to find them. So, from everywhere, from Bihar, UP, Delhi, MP we saw a lot of recce tapes in Maharashtra as well. So, we thought that we were getting a lot of locations together in MP. They are not that far away from Bhopal. Their shooting infrastructure is very good. The government and tourism support the film industry a lot. And we got to see very beautiful villages that haven’t changed that much in the last 20-25 years. As you have seen, it’s the story of 2001.”

“So, we also had that requirement that we don’t get a very solid house in that village. So, where there is a beautiful mud house of India, they should be there. A simplicity, a beauty, where the fields are behind the house. It’s not that there are thousands of acres of fields, but someone is living in a bungalow. We needed that kind of atmosphere that we got in MP. And we did the train shoots in Maharashtra. Train stations, we shot them in Nashik district,” the director added.

The film stars Ravi Kishan, Pratibha Ranta, Sparsh Shrivastav, and Nitanshi Goel. Talking about the casting of the film, and working with new as well as established names, Kiran shared, “It always comes with a challenge to work with new stars but to hire new people, you have to balance the equation. You have to keep your project within a certain size, being realistic, and then you can be free in this project. And we both felt, Aamir and I, that if the actors are completely new to this, who fit this character perfectly, then you(the audience) will believe this world in some way, and you will understand this world. You won’t think, how is this possible? You know, you will start flowing with this story. So, because of Aamir’s faith and sharp planning and design casting happened.”

Presented by Jio Studios, ‘Laapataa Ladies’ is directed by Kiran Rao and produced by Aamir Khan and Jyoti Deshpande.
‘Laapataa Ladies’ is a story set in 2001 in rural India about two young brides who get separated during a train journey and what happens when Kishan, a police officer, takes it upon himself to probe the missing case.
The film received a standing ovation during its screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.’Laapataa Ladies’ is produced by a team that has collaborated for such hits as ‘Delhi Belly’, ‘Dangal’, and ‘Peepli Live’.

The film has been produced under the banner of Aamir Khan Productions and Kindling Productions, with the scripting by Biplab Goswami. Sneha Desai wrote the screenplay and dialogue, while Divyanidhi Sharma jotted down the additional lines.
‘Laapataa Ladies’ will hit the theatres on March 1. (ANI)

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India News Interview Politics

‘Archaeological Survey Report on Gyanvapi Not Reliable’

Historian Prof. Audrey Truschke discusses the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report on the Gyanvapi Masjid that a ‘ large temple’ existed under the present Mosque before the construction of the Mosque. 

Audrey Truschke is Professor of South Asian history at the University of Rutgers, Newark.  She is the author of three acclaimed books, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court, 2016,  Aurangazeb, 2016, and the Language of History : Sanskrit narratives of Indo Muslim rule, 2021. She is currently working on a single volume history of India, ‘ From Mohenjo Daro to today to be published by the Princeton University Press.  

In an Exclusive interview with Abhish K. Bose, Prof Truschke discusses the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report on the Gyanvapi Masjid that a ‘ large temple’ existed under the present Mosque before the construction of the Mosque. 

Excerpts from the interview 

Abhish K Bose:  As a historian who is working in the contemporary period and influenced by ideals such as communalism, democracy, ethics and other values emerged in the last two hundred years or less, how can you ascertain the objectivity of chronicling history of the medieval period when none of these belief systems existed, and what prevailed then was archaic thinking, which has no connection with the contemporary ideas or ideals? 

Audrey Truschke  : My goal in studying history is to understand the past, not to judge it. Modern ideals are just that, modern, and so often not especially relevant to excavating the ideas and casualties of prior periods. Except that, in the present day, many of us value an honest account of the past. In that sense, my core motivation as a modern historian is decidedly modern, even as it is not shared by many other modern people who, instead, embrace an approach of mythologizing the past.

(Photo: IANS)

Abhish K. Bose  : How do you respond to the  Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) finding made in its latest survey report on the Gyanvapi Masjid in Benares. The (ASI) report has claimed that a “large Hindu temple” existed there prior to the construction of the existing Mosque and that parts of the temple were used in the construction of the Mosque. The narrative is similar to the tone of the narrarive spread initially at the time of the controversy surrounding Babri Masjid. As a historian of the medieval period what are your inferences on the (ASI) findings on the said Mosque ?

Audrey Truschke  : I do not find the ASI to be a reliable source of information or analysis at present. In the case of Benares’s Gyanvapi Masjid, they are asking the wrong question. The critical question is not: Was there once, hundreds of years ago, a temple there that premodern people destroyed? Indeed, this is something few, if any, historians contest. Rather, the key question is: Should 21st-century Hindu supremacists destroy a mosque that has stood for centuries as part of their ongoing agenda to oppress Muslims and undermine Indian democracy?

Abhish K. Bose  : Based on your research on the Medieval period and rulers how do you recall the Muslim rulers relations with the hindu community? Has the hindu community benefited or became disadvantaged as a result of the Mughal rule?

Audrey Truschke  : It is difficult to characterize the relationship of all Indo-Muslim kings with all Hindu communities, both because it varied and because Indian kings did not tend to think about a Hindu community in the singular. One especially influential set of alliances featured the Mughals and Rajputs. The Mughals relied on many loyal Rajput lineages in military and cultural ways; those Rajputs benefited enormously, financially and otherwise, from their investment in the Mughal state. Collectively, the Mughals and Rajputs fashioned what we sometimes call “Mughal ruling culture.”

Abhish K. Bose  : Your works  ‘ Aurangazeb’ ‘ The Man and the Myth’ and ‘ culture of encounters ‘ refers to the cultural exchanges and bonhomie in between the Mughal rulers and hindu community in the medieval period such as learning of Sanskrit by the Mughal rulers for understanding Indian ethos, and the Mughal rulers like Aurangazeb protecting Hindus from Muslim aggression. While this is the scenario why the Indian historiography highlighted the Mughal rulers only as plunderers of Hindus and destroyer of temples? Is it the lapse of historians or the lapse of the readers in understanding the history? 

Audrey Truschke  : Professional Indian historians are on the same page as historians worldwide in understanding the nuances of Hindu-Muslim relations during Mughal rule. But India seems to have a growing number of people at present who are popular historians at best and, more honestly, Hindutva propagandists. They churn out books (and, maybe more often, blog posts and Twitter threads) with false information, plagiarism, and misleading claims that participate in the ongoing Hindu nationalist agenda to malign Indian Muslims, past and present.

A priest offers prayers at ‘Vyas Ji ka Tehkhana’ inside Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, after District court order, in Varanasi, on Feb 01, 2024.(IANS/X/@Vishnu_Jain1)

Abhish K. Bose  : As a historian specializing on the medieval period what are your views on the claims by the hindu right-wing over the disputed Mosques in different parts of India?       

Audrey Truschke :  Legally and ethically, Hindu supremacists should not destroy any premodern mosques moving forward. Realistically, they’re probably just getting started as they further transform India into an ethno-nationalist state where minorities face rising oppression and violence.

Abhish K. Bose  : The currently prevailing demarcation of historical periods was a colonial-era innovation designed to dignify colonial rule, among other things.  What are some of the gains and losses of this way of separating historical periods, for understanding our historical present?

Audrey Truschke : In my next book (which is currently under peer review), I do not demarcate South Asian history into standard periods. This will throw off some readers, and that’s part of the point. If we are ever to move beyond bad colonial-era ideas about South Asian historical periods, well, we must move on and challenge ourselves and others to see things in new ways.

Abhish K. Bose  : The focus on demolition of Hindu temples some times excludes all other aspects of the historical past. Can you provide some context for understanding such events? Temples were symbols of power and wealth and not exclusively of religion or spirituality; Hindu kings also demolished Hindu temples of rival kings etc. Why are demolished Hindu temples so important to a certain kind of nationalist history-writing?

Audrey Truschke : Hindu nationalists rely on a grievance machine to fuel their ever increasing hatred of Muslims. Indian history poses many problems for Hindu nationalists in this regard, including that it does not furnish many examples of persecuted Hindus that might produce such grievances. So, they invent persecution, mischaracterize and exaggerate the few crumbs they can find, and otherwise engage in bad faith arguments. In brief, Hindu nationalists are obsessed with temple demolitions because it fuels their modern prejudices; it has little to nothing to do with history. Also, there might be a bit of projection involved. After all, Hindu nationalists are some of the great iconoclasts of our times and have destroyed many places of worship in contemporary India.

Abhish K. Bose  :  You are currently working on a historical account from early Indus valley civilisation to the contemporary period. Could you share a little bit on the book you are working?    

Audrey Truschke  : My current book project is a single-volume overview of South Asian history. It is aimed at undergraduates and educated popular readers. Among other things, I strive to bring in a diversity of Indian voices, meaning more women, lower castes, and lower classes than have many prior historians.

ALSO READ: Puja performed inside Gyanvapi mosque complex

Films Interview Lite Blogs

Sonalee Kulkarni’s Memorable Journey with Mohanlal

The actress also spoke about director Lijo Jose Pellissery and shared that the unexpected becomes the norm in the cinematic universe of Lijo…reports Asian Lite News

Actress Sonalee Kulkarni, who is receiving a lot of positive response to her work in the recently released Mohanlal-starrer film ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’, shared her experience working with the Malayalam cinema legend, Mohanlal.

She narrated an incident from the shoot about the Malayalam megastar’s generosity.

Elaborating on the same, the actress said: “Collaborating with Mohanlal sir was an immersion into the realm of cinematic brilliance and unparalleled dedication. From the very first encounter on the sets in Jaisalmer, his warm welcome set the tone for an extraordinary journey. During his action sequence shoot, amidst the cold desert winds, his immediate concern for my comfort epitomised his generosity and camaraderie.”

She continued: “It was during this shoot that I witnessed firsthand his commitment to perfection, every action sequence, a testament to his enduring passion for his craft. He not only recognised my work but also expressed genuine curiosity about the nuances of my recent popular songs.”

She added: “His childlike enthusiasm in discussing his favourite action sequences from ‘Lucifer’ or demonstrating dance steps between takes was both delightful and enlightening. It’s not every day that a legendary actor, with a plethora of accolades and accomplishments, exhibits such humility and genuine interest in others’ work.”

The actress also spoke about director Lijo Jose Pellissery and shared that the unexpected becomes the norm in the cinematic universe of Lijo. She said that working with him is an exhilarating experience, filled with spontaneity and surprises.

She said: “My journey into Lijo’s world began unexpectedly, much like the twists in his narratives. I never imagined working in a Malayalam film under his direction, but here I am, living a dream I never saw coming. His visionary approach to filmmaking, demonstrated in masterpieces like ‘Jallikattu’ and ‘Angamaly Diaries,’ drew me into a world of storytelling that defies conventions.”

She further mentioned: “The turning point arrived when I was finally slated to shoot my first dialogue portion, a crucial scene with Mohan Lal Sir. However, just before the sequence, Lijo decided to rewrite the scene, leaving me in shock. A sudden change in script and a completely new scene thrown at me just an hour before shooting—panic set in. Miraculously, the scene unfolded seamlessly in a single take, becoming one of my favourite moments in the film.”

“This incident encapsulates the essence of working with Lijo Jose Pellissery—a director who thrives on unpredictability, pushing actors to embrace the unexpected. With him, every moment is a unique adventure, a testament to his genius and the electrifying magic he brings to the canvas of cinema,” she concluded.

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Arab News Interview World News

‘The devastation of Israel-Hamas war will haunt future generations’

Marianne Hirsch is William Peterfield Trent Professor Emerita English and Comparative Literature; Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender Columbia University.      

Hirsch writes about the transmission of memories of violence across generations, combining feminist theory with memory studies in global perspective, a process she has termed “postmemory.” Her books include Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory (1997), The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (2012). She co-authored Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory (2010) and School Photos in Liquid Time: Reframing Difference (2020) with Leo Spitzer. Her (co)-edited volumes include The Familial Gaze (1998), Women Mobilizing Memory (2019) and Imagining Everyday Life (2021). Hirsch is professor emerita in Comparative Literature and Gender Studies at Columbia University in New York. She is a former President of the Modern Language Association of America and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a co-founder of Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Social Difference, where with a group of artists, scholars and activists, she co-created the Zip Code Memory Project, dedicated to finding community-based ways to memorialize the devastating losses resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic while also acknowledging its radically differential effects on Upper New York City neighborhoods. Hirsch is currently working on a book about reparative memory.

In an interview with Abhish K. Bose she discusses how the disastrous impacts of tragic incidents affects the posterity.

1, You have studied the psychological and physiological impact of the Holocaust on survivors and their descendants and proposed the term postmemory for inherited trauma. According to you, memories of tragedies will not end in one generation, rather they get transmitted to posterity. What is the scientific basis of this contention? Please explain?

Yes, I have argued that we can remember other people’s memories.  Descendants of individuals and communities that have survived powerful collective experiences – catastrophes such as war, genocide and extreme violence, but also transformative political movements such as coups, revolutions and uprisings – often feel as though they were shaped by events that preceded their birth.  But they experience these events not as memories, but as postmemories; they were not there, so their recollections are belated, temporally and qualitatively removed.

This argument is based on literary, artistic and autobiographical second-and third generation accounts and on research about trauma and its intergenerational transmission. In recent years, neuroscientists have substantiated these accounts by showing how trauma can be transmitted across generations epigenetically. Thus, parental trauma can be encoded in children’s epigenetic structures – not their DNA sequence but in the gene expression which encodes environmental factors that are heritable. This can make them more vulnerable to traumatic and post-traumatic stress symptoms.  Although this research is in its very beginnings and not yet conclusive, it does corroborate the more subjective accounts of members of what the writer Eva Hoffman has called the “postgenerations.”

2,   What do you think the impact of calamities such as the current wars will be for posterity? The Israel  – Hamas war is ongoing with indescribable destruction and butchering of humanity. Could you evaluate the repercussions of the loss of human life for the descendants of the victims and the survivors?

It is harrowing to think about the generations of trauma that are being produced by the brutal wars in Ukraine/Russia and Israel/Gaza. And by other less publicized wars and ethnic cleansings. The fear of deadly aerial bombardment; the intimate brutality and devastation children are suffering and witnessing;  the wounding, maiming, hunger, lack of medical care they are experiencing – all this will haunt traumatized survivors and their descendants for generations to come. And this violence is sure to breed further enmity and hatred against the perpetrators. In all these wars and on all sides, the current devastation is also reactivating older histories of violence that have not been worked through but that fuel current conflicts. It is both fascinating and extremely troubling that the Holocaust, for example,  is being used as an alibi for war, both by Russia and by Israel. It feels impossible to “solve” these wars and to envision peace—but, as intellectuals, we must try to shift the frames of war and to think beyond and against its inevitability.

3, The impact of communal riots resulting from partition also bears similar long standing consequences. India had a fair share of communal riots and the partition triggered mass displacement. Are there connections between them and the descendants of Holocaust survivors as far as the repercussions of these historical events are concerned? 

This is not my field, but I do believe that the violence of the partition and the mass displacement that resulted left lasting scars that were and are transmitted to subsequent generations. It took longer for this research to emerge but studies of the long-term effects of the partition are now central to the field of memory studies. Literary, artistic and historical works about the partition are offering a new focus in the field and the opportunity to study both the particularity of each of these catastrophic histories and points of connection between them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an official ceremony marking the Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. (Xinhua/Du Zhen/IANS)

4, What mitigation  measures do you offer the post generations suffering from the disastrous effects of these traumatic histories ? Can the individual and communal mental, psychological and emotional torment be repaired or healed ? 

Can individuals and communities repair long-standing legacies of structural inequality and violence and their traumatic after-effects?  For the last three decades,  I have worked on the memory of the Holocaust and other catastrophic histories, yet the reparative potentials of memory—the possibility of healing and repair – were not my primary concerns.  My goal was to trace and to understand the workings of trauma and its transmission across generations.   I worked under the assumption that some traumatic events would remain irreparable. In recent years, however, for me and many of my colleagues, doing work on memory within the unforgiving frame and teleology of trauma – the powerful idea that it will repeat,  and can never truly be healed – has come to feel constraining.  I’ve had the occasion to study the workings of social and cultural memory in the context of several transnational interdisciplinary working groups and to participate in memory networks and conferences in numerous locations across the globe. Inspired by feminist, queer, de-colonial and indigenous ideas about time and memory and by commitments to social justice, some of these groups have displaced the focus on trauma and its inexorable after-effects.  I have joined them in examining alternative, multiple, non-linear ideas about time and memory that help to reveal aspects of the past and its continuing presence that resist the inevitability of trauma and its unforgiving return. Without denying the magnitude of traumatic loss,  the focus on vulnerability, care, mutual aid and repair can help us reveal instances of resistance and refusal in the past, and also of hope and belief in a future. 

These questions of repair, reparation and justice became urgent for me as I lived through the Covid-19 pandemic in New York City and observed how legacies of racism and inequality created enormous differentials in how individuals and communities experienced the pandemic. I worked with a group of academics, artists and activists to seekreparative ways to acknowledge these devastating losses and to memorialize the people, institutions, moments, and places that our communities lost. In what we called the Zip Code Memory Project, we acted on the belief that when memory activates the past in a communal setting,  it can also reframe it and help us imagine a different potential ending – one that can serve as a provocation for collective political engagement. Thus, perhaps, memory could be reparative and oriented toward the future.  Through a series of art-based workshops and communal gatherings, we built a community that could envision trust, care, and the possibility of repair. It was a small, local experiment, but as you can see on the Zip Code Memory Project website, many of the practices are replicable in other settings.

5, Children of survivors and their contemporaries inherit catastrophic histories not through direct recollection but through haunting postmemories, multiply mediated images, objects, stories, behaviors, and affects passed down within the family and the culture at large. Do you have any evidence to prove that postmemory changes across geographical and historical differences? 

I think that the structure of postmemory exhibits a lot of parallels across different histories, but also that its particular manifestations take different shapes in different national, geographic and historical settings. So much depends on the infrastructures of memory and in the structure of power that shapes and controls it. If groups and nations are shaped by their memories, then memory is always contested. Whose memory, whose voice,  counts? Whose is silenced? Who decides? How do silenced voices nevertheless get heard? These questions are constant across various histories, but the instances are different.

And yet, memory is also a global phenomenon and we see remarkable similarities in its manifestations. Across the globe, contemporary writers, filmmakers, visual artists, memorial artists and museologists have forged an aesthetic of postmemory.  They have sought forms through which to express the gaps in knowledge, the fears and terrors, that ensue in the aftermath of trauma, the excitements and disappointments that follow revolutions.  Some of these tropes and artistic strategies have been remarkably consistent, constructing a global memory and postmemory aesthetic that both bridges and occludes political and cultural divides.  The wall of photos at the Museo de la Memoria in Santiago, Chile, recalls similar walls in memorial museums in Phnom Penh, Paris, Amsterdam, and New York. Lists of names recall victims of the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, the September 11, 2001 bombings, and more. Memorial artists like Horst Hoheisel have worked in Germany, Argentina and Cambodia; Daniel Libeskind in Berlin, Stockholm and New York.  Their memorial sites are dominated by idioms of trauma, loss and mourning, invoking tropes of absence and silence, unknowability and emptiness.  They tend to rely on archival images and documents, highlighting ghosts and shadows, gaps in knowledge and transmission.  They use projection, reframings, recontextualization. They juxtapose or superimpose past and present, without allowing them to merge.  But some of these practices also do more in an activist frame: they demand accountability and justice. Thus, groups of mothers walk or sit in squares from Buenos Aires to Mexico City to Istanbul, memorializing their disappeared children by holding photographs of them from a time before their violent disappearances or deaths. Memory can serve progressive ends, but it can also be mobilized in opposite ways—to provoke enmity and conflict.

6, Your book Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory, co-authored with your husband, the historian Leo Spitzer, is a family/communal memoir about the city in which your parents grew up and survived the Holocaust. What message do you have to convey to humanity based on your exploration of the period of Holocaust?   Has our species matured enough to deter the occurrence of similar incidents in the future?  

Our species has decidedly not matured in any way. Racialized hatred and persecution are everywhere visible and are being practiced with impunity by many nations. It’s only a few months ago that Armenians were brutally displaced from Azerbaijan with the world watching and not intervening.

As I mentioned, I have been alarmed at how the Holocaust has entered present political conversations and actions. Alarmed not only as a scholar of the Holocaust, but also as a daughter of parents who were persecuted, chased from their homes, and targeted for extermination as Jews. It is unbearable to me that my ancestors’ suffering is being misused by politicians and the media to justify the necessity of continuing cycles of violence and war by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine and by Israel in the aftermath of the horrific racialized violence of October 7 perpetrated by Hamas. Holocaust memory has become an alibi for repression, violence, and racialized hatred and for the contagious perpetuation and exploitation of transgenerational fear and trauma.

If you are asking about a message, I’d say: Don’t invoke the Holocaust in these ways. Don’t exploit its memory. Don’t take it out of history. Don’t divide the world into Nazis and Jews and then apply these terms to groups and nations  for your own political purposes.Learn from this history that genocides can happen and do your utmost to prevent them by building a world of care and repair.

ALSO READ: Global Threads: Unravelling the Link Between Iowa, Rwanda, Gaza, Ukraine, and Ayodhya

India News Interview Politics

Babri Demolition Fuelled BJP To Power, Observes Arvind Rajagopal

Arvind Rajagopal is Professor of Media Studies at New York University (NYU) and is an affiliated faculty in the Department of Sociology and Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU. In 2010-11, he was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. His books include Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India (Cambridge, 2001), which won the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize from the Association of Asian Studies and the Daniel Griffiths Prize at NYU, both in 2003, and The Indian Public Sphere: Structure and Transformation (Oxford, 2009). He has won awards from the MacArthur and Rockefeller Foundations and has been a Member in the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. In addition to his scholarly writing, he has also published in forums such the SSRC’s Immanent Frame and, and in newspapers and periodicals.

In an interview with Abhish K. Bose he discusses the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in which the entire accused in the the Babri Masjid demolition case were absolved of the charges. The interview is with particular reference to his study of the serialization of Ramayana in Television.

Excerpts from the interview

None of the accused in the Ayodhya temple demolition got convicted in the case despite documentary evidences to prove their presence in the scene of crime. Why did the Indian judicial system failed to punish those culpable for the demolition of the Babri Masjid? Could you explain the process through which the evidences of the presence of the leaders of BJP and other affiliate organisations were obliterated thereby sabotaging the Indian judiciary’s commitment to justice? 

It is often said that the bigger the crime, the more likely that its perpetrator becomes a hero and not a villain. As Indians celebrate the inauguration of a grand temple to Lord Ram in Ayodhya, we are at a moment when our major national monuments are no longer dams and power plants, but temples and statues. We need the sense of psychological empowerment that we earlier lacked, because our core Hindu identity was not acknowledged, we are told. But proud Hindus should not shirk from the facts. And the facts are that the legal right to the 400-year-old Babri Masjid was with the Sunni Waqf Board. The Hindu claim was faith-based, and essentially, inadmissible on the terms of constitutional law. But the courts bowed to the fact that the ruling party is the BJP, which came to power promising the Ram temple. Popular justice has triumphed over the letter of the law, and the courts have been wise enough to accommodate that – it could be said. But the court is abrogating fundamental rights on a partisan basis.

The report of the 17-year-longLiberhan Inquiry Commission clearly identified the RSS as having planned the demolition. But the Supreme Court and the CBI Special Court chose to disregard crucial evidence, and in the end found insufficient evidence of a pre-planned demolition. This is when the BJP’s political ticket to power was the demolition itself. It was simply inadmissible to apply the law because it would destabilize the new political regime.

Who was the master brain behind the Ram Janmabhoomi movement ? Is there any precedent in history which the progenitors of the movement depended for deriving inspiration so as to orchestrate the movement, which traversed the length and breadth of the country paving the seeds of hindutva mass mobilisation and the subsequent  electoral victory of the BJP till 2019?  

“I gave them the national angle,” former BJP Gen Secy Govindacharya once told me. They (the rest of the BJP) were simply anti-Muslim, he said. As for drawing inspiration, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan seems to have been important. At a BJP National Conclave in Ahmedabad in 1987, BJP leader Jay Dubashi, who was a columnist for the financial press, noticed that no one showed up – because, they later learned, that the Ramayan telecast was at the same time. When I asked him about it, Dubashi said, “We thought there was something there.” The VHP began to draw on the imagery of the TV serial in its propaganda. There are also clear signals of VHP propaganda in the Ramayan serial itself, as I have shown in my book, including text lifted verbatim from RSS leader Sudarshan.

Ram Mandir being decorated with flowers ahead of its consecration ceremony, in Ayodhya. (Photo: IANS/@ShriRamTeerth)

At one level the victory of an overtly Hindu party in a Hindu majority society is not surprising; that is only a difference of degree between the Congress and the BJP, which are historically parties dominated by upper-castes. The political difference is actually about methods – how to be Hindu, and how to practice Hindu politics, while making violence more visible alongside, which may also be a methodological preference.

You may be right that there is no precedent in a large electoral democracy such as India’s, for a minority party to have propelled itself to such a powerful status.A small spark that accidentally became an all-consuming conflagration. As late as 1984, the BJP election manifesto clearly positioned itself as a minority party to the Congress. They did not envision becoming a ruling party until the rath yatra, whose ground effect was actually limited. It was in the Hindi news media that the story caught fire, for example. The power of a political identity based on majority religious identity is that it is unopposed. There should be numerous parties reflecting Hindu diversity – instead we are told there can only be one.

Why was LK Advani, the leader and architect of the Ram Jannabhoomi movement relegated to second position in the BJP leadership, though he played a pivotal role in cementing the base for hindutva in Indian politics?  What was the role of RSS in that decision? 

It is ironic that the man who became the face of assertive Hindutva, LK Advani, was overtaken by the next generation. Maybe it is the dramaturgy of party politics at work here. Modi would like to claim that he has no predecessors; he does not want to recognize Advani. We should not forget a crucial mediator, namely the late Arun Jaitley, who advised Modi and helped broker his relationship with the national media.

Is Gujarat riots a sequel to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement as designed by the Sangh Parivar to saffronize India ? Both in the range of the mayhem and destruction wreaked by the riots likewise in the Ayodhya movement, apart from the saffronization of the state, as well as the elevation of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP in 2014 general elections, all these scheme of things instils such a doubt?  Is their any veracity in that way of thinking?  

The RSS was not a political organization – it was a secret organization that was periodically banned, and thus, not quite respectable, for most of its 100-year life. But its program has become a political program because the RSS’s political wing has come to power. As we might expect, that program – of saffronization, as you say, is rigid. The unwillingness to negotiate is the side-effect of Modi’s aesthetics of power, of immaculate wisdom, that can only be admitted, and that no one can criticize. Now, Modi is both an RSS man and someone who is not likely to allow the RSS to question his own authority. In other words, Modi defines the RSS today. When he loses one battle, as with the kisan andolan, does that make him more open to accommodation in the next battle, more empathetic to popular voices? It seems as if his program is unchanged; defeat is only a setback, not an opportunity to rethink his program. After being told for years how tolerant and democratic Indians are, and this would be Modi’s claim even today, we now have an opportunity to see how much overt aggression Indians like to endure. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets senior BJP leader LK Advani on his birthday, in New Delhi. (IANS/Twitter:@narendramodi)

What was the role of TV serials including Ramayana serialized in Doordarshan in supporting the hindutva nationalism project of the Sangh Parivar?  Is their any evidence to conclude that the serialization of Ramayana close to the heels of the Ram Jannabhoomi mobilization in the 1980s was part of a grand scheme to support the hindutva nationalism? 

It was all an accident, although in retrospect everything looks inevitable. Our problem is – we are not able to imagine anything different. But things would have been different if a different set of accidents occurred.Hindutva was the program all along, so to that extent it is pre-programmed. But the RSS leader Golwalkar, who led the RSS but the BJP proceeded from one lucky break after another. First, the Congress MP DauDayal Khanna, who initiated the Ram Janmabhumi agitation, and then the Congress decision to open the Babri doors for exclusively Hindu worship under Rajiv Gandhi, and then the decision to depart from the secular ethos of state television and sponsor devotional Hindu programming. S.S. Gill, who was I&B Secretary under Rajiv Gandhi, said the Ramayan serial was his idea; he criticized Ramanand Sagar’s devotional treatment, and saw himself as a Congress leftist. The BJP had two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984; the Ramayan serial together with the Ramjanmabhumiandolan brought it to power in 1998.There are a number of points where different decisions could have been made. But the driving force of saffronization has linked all of these points.

You are right therefore, to insist on the political logic of winning power and ask about its meaning in ideological terms. This was the first party that squarely equated televisual popularity with electoral success, beginning with the Ramayan serial itself. The Ramayan serial in fact remade the BJP, as a party that began to compete for a national audience. Its tactics suited the new medium of television better, and they grew their audience more successfully than the Congress was able to do.

There is no RSS script however, for dealing with today’s context. Golwalkar had actually warned against the method of “advertisement” as opposed to the long-term work of cadre-building, and to support the Congress rather than seek an independent political identity. By 1993, LK Advani spoke of the need to project the illusion of victory(in an interview to the Economic Times). This suggests how experimental such thinking was in the BJP at the time, that it could be said openly before an educated audience. So the question of how Hindutva should translate to a non-cadre audience was a new one. The only way Advani was able to express it in the secular terms that his audience expected, was to call it an illusion rather than a program. 

Was it a given that the BJP would carry out a program of delegitimizing existing institutions and creating arbitrary and personalistic structures of power – was that implied in Hindutva? After all, the RSS trained individuals to depersonalize themselves in the cause of building the Hindu nation. But Modi broke the RSS mould, and created a cult of personality around himself. Instead of a cadre as large as the nation itself, as Golwalkar had envisioned, and where the psychological wage of sacrifice to the nation would be shared by all, we notice something different. A small cadre has developed a large and mobile vigilante force, in real and virtual domains. And there is a change in the terms of the sacrifice. Now it may easily be the other person’s sacrifice, whose spectacle I can enjoy.

Is there any precedent internationally for political leaders to attach national development to a religious symbol to the same extent as in Ayodhya? 

Maybe we can find a parallel in Saudi Arabia where the rulers made much of the renovation of the Kaaba in Mecca. Western countries may celebrate religion; for example the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation was celebrated in Germany. But here religion was an ethos of social reform as well as a symbol of devotion. The Ram mandir can of course symbolize many things, but what this inauguration represents is also among other things, an attempt to nationalize Hindu symbolism and render it into a political vocabulary in which all the poetry and all the prose convey the message of Hindutva. We can foresee that this is doomed to failure, but we also have to acknowledge that there is a scope for turning Hinduism into a kind of political church that the BJP has discovered, that had not been possible before. The attempted unification of Hinduism is political and not spiritual. Somewhat like American Evangelical Christianity, there is a conscious decision to take advantage of the political opportunity, in their case, presented by Trump; the spiritual element is token at best.

Why it was that the Congress allowed demolition of the Babri Masjid to take place  when the cause was BJP’s and not the Congress’s ? 

Narasimha Rao, who was the PM during the time, did not think he could stop the demolition. If he had tried to do so, the BJP would have used that opposition to escalate their agitation as they had done under Mulayam Singh, whom the BJP called Mulla Mulayam Singh. What he showed was that the demolition did not automatically translate into political victory – it was the Congress that ruled for most of the 1990s, although saffron began to colour more of civil society afterwards.

Why is the mainstream left parties which are ideologically opposed to the hindutva not shown sufficient resistance to the Babri Masjid demolition?

Communal mobilization proceeds through stoking fear and violence. Hinduism is in danger can be a powerful rallying cry – whereas proletariat in danger or socialism in danger don’t have the same appeal. The left parties focused on interest assuming that identities would reflect rational interest. As it turns out, these can be compartmentalized. Workers can support unions for their economic benefits and the BJP for their psychological benefit. There is the affirmation of Hindu pride, and a pride of belonging, but also an acceptance that the real unity is for the most part, abstract and virtual. In practice, there are a series of distinctions, exceptions, marginalizations that fracture the community, and render it more porous to political influence.

Bollywood Interview Lite Blogs

Pankaj Tripathi Exposes Filmmaking Realities

For the film ‘Main Atal Hoon’ I had to do prosthetic make up on my face and nose speaks Pankaj Tripathi

Actor Pankaj Tripathi, famed for his refined acting abilities and diverse unconventional performances has opened up on what actually goes behind filmmaking and emphasises the challenges that actors face
In an interview with Tripathi points out that there is much confusion and misconception about the film industry and film fraternity, particularly fuelled by updates posted on social media.

“People think there is lot of fun happening in film industry. Just because actors make their PR machinery to their fun footages like spotted at an event, airport, etc. People think actors have dreamy life,” the actor said.
Tripathi goes on to detail the difficulties he faced while shooting the soon-to-be released biopic “Main Atal Hoon” in which he wears prosthetics to resemble late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The National Award-winning actor said, “Shooting is a very difficult task.

For the film ‘Main Atal Hoon’ I had to do prosthetic make up on my face and nose. There is a rule in prosthetic make up that you should stay in at least 22 degree or beyond temperature zone so, that you don’t sweat. Otherwise the prosthetic will start melting and due to which actors get distracted.”

“I shot with prosthetics in 46-degree temperature in Lucknow. I was shooting for 12 hours straight. And when there is so many problems happening in body then it gradually effects your mind. It also effects your performance. For me, I didn’t want this problem to show in my performance,” the actor said.

He added, “As it’s Atal ji’s film, you can’t make any improvisation in it. You can only play with posture and gesture not with his speech and dialogues. Filmmaking is all about hard work. Cinema demands hard work, not like what’s shown on insta… There is gruelling 12-hour shoots for which we have to arrive on sets one or hour an hour prior. It’s not an easy task as it seems to be.”

Directed by Ravi Jadhav, the film ‘Main Atal Hoon’ written by Rishi Virmani and Ravi Jadhav is all set to hit theatres on January 19.
It is backed by Bhanushali Studios Limited and Legend Studios, Vinod Bhanushali, Sandeep Singh, Sam Khan and Kamlesh Bhanushali.

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