SASI and 3rd i NY present: What it Means to be a Muslim in India Today, by Shabnam Hashmi

What it Means to be a Muslim in India Today is a unique collection of testimonial documents, interviews and short reportage from all across India on the state of the muslim minority and the broader battle against communalism in India today. Put together between 2009 and 2011, through a series of public hearings of a range of topics — from the use of “terror” to victimize the muslim minority by the Indian State and the Hindu right wing movement to post violence conditions for the minorities from Gujarrat to Orissa, the report is a painstaking and evocative testimony to the battle against communalism in India. Using the work done in bringing the report together as the launch pad, Shanmam Hashmi will talk about the current state of the struggle, including the latest events surrounding the arrest and subsequent release of “whitleblower” top-cop Sanjeev Bhatt.
About the Author

Shabnam Hashmi (born 1957 in Aligarh, a small town about 80 miles from Delhi) has worked for more than 25 years to combat communalism in India. She shot into national prominence in India in the immediate wake of the Gujarat carnage of 2002, when she become one of the first people from outside Gujarat who went into the refugee camps not just to provide the immediate relief required but also to bear witness and build the long and hard road to justice. Out of this initial experience in Gujarat was born, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad), that hashmi co-founded to systematically counter fascist propaganda/ ANHAD, has under her leadership emerged as one of themost important nodes into the anti communal struggle in India with a unique combination of cultural, human rights advicacy and youth education work.

Hashmi started her political work more than 15 years before she started ANHAD, with the creation and running of Sahmat, formed by artists and intellectuals in memory of her activist brother, who was murdered while performing a street play in 1989.

Some of recent writings can be found here

About the Co-presenting Organization

SOUTH ASIA SOLIDARITY INITIATIVE (SASI) is an organization based the United States that is in solidarity with progressive social movements and democratic politics in South Asia.  We believe in the shared history and common struggles of South Asia and break from the confines of nation-states to carry forward an alternative vision for South Asia and its peoples.

Our Sponsors

3rdi NY Programming is made possible in part by the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by NYSCA and the Manhattan Community Arts fund, supported by NYC DCA, both administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Alwan for the Arts

hosts our monthly screenings series. We are thankful to the SINGH Foundation for acting as our fiscal sponsor.

 

Great Conversations – Transnational Torture: Law, Violence, and State Power in the U.S. and India, with Jinee Lokaneeta and Ahilan Kadirgamar

The conversation will start off by situating the discourse on torture in the United States in a larger context of debates on law and violence in liberal democracies. Then we focus on three other themes from Jinee Lokaneeta’s book, Transnational Torture: Law, Violence, and State Power in the United States and India, that have implications for understanding torture and state violence in Sri Lanka and India: Colonial Continuities, Exception and the Norm, and the interventions of human rights groups.

The permanence of extraordinary laws such as Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), and Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) in India, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Sri Lanka has to be understood in relation to the British colonial interventions. Colonial policies introduced a “rule of law” alongside spaces for extraordinary acts enabling postcolonial states to implement repressive policies. The use of torture, custodial deaths, and disappearances in South Asia has to be addressed in this context.

The justification of diluted safeguards in extraordinary laws often relies on a distinction between a temporary exceptional legislation to address terrorism and a well protected routine criminal justice system. In India, it appears as if the exception or state of emergency has emerged either during particular periods (1975-77) or in certain areas more than the other (Kashmir and North East for example) but in Sri Lanka, the state of emergency has been existing for decades. The question is how do these specific histories help understand this distinction made between norm and exception and the integral relation between the two.

The human rights movements in both the countries have emerged in response to state violence but over time, groups such as Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) and University Teachers for Human rights (UTHR) have been forced to address the violence of non state actors such as the Maoists and LTTE. How have they addressed the issue of human rights and human dignity particularly since the non state actors in question claim to represent the people fighting for social transformation and autonomy?

About the Book

Evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and harsh interrogation techniques at Guantánamo Bay raise the question: has the “war on terror” forced liberal democracies to rethink their policies and laws against torture? Transnational Torture focuses on the legal and political discourses on torture in India and the United States—two common-law based constitutional democracies—to theorize the relationship between law, violence, and state power in liberal democracies.

Analyzing about one hundred landmark Supreme Court cases on torture in India and the United States, memos and popular imagery of torture, Jinee Lokaneeta compellingly demonstrates that even before recent debates on the use of torture in the war on terror, the laws of interrogation were much more ambivalent about the infliction of excess pain and suffering than most political and legal theorists have acknowledged. Rather than viewing the recent policies on interrogation as anomalous or exceptional, Lokaneeta effectively argues that efforts to accommodate excess violence—a constantly negotiated process—are long standing features of routine interrogations in both the United States and India, concluding that the infliction of excess violence is more central to democratic governance than is acknowledged in western jurisprudence.

Jinee Lokaneeta

Jinee Lokaneeta is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Drew University, New Jersey. Her areas of interest include Law and Violence, Human Rights, and State Violence in democracies. She has published in journals such as Studies in Law, Politics and Society; Economic and Political Weekly; Theory and Event; and Law, Culture, and Humanities. She is also a member of South Asia Solidarity Initiative, which is an organization based in the United States that stands in solidarity with progressive social movements and democratic politics in South Asia and in the US. Prior to coming to the US, she taught Political Science at Kirorimal College, Delhi University, India.

 

Ahilan Kadirgamar

Ahilan Kadirgamar is an activist with the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum

, a member of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative in New York , a contributing editor for Himal Southasian and blogs on Kafila. He is interested in the political economy of South Asia and writes on questions of state and society in Sri Lanka in forums such as the Economic and Political Weekly, The Sunday Island and the newly formed Sri Lankan social justice magazine dissenting dialogues.

The Great Conversations Series

The Great Conversations series invites thinkers to choose people from other disciplines or areas of study who are of intellectual and inspirational interest to them in an attempt to enlarge the scope of our understanding of the production of knowledge. The series is meant to offer a paradigm of comparative experiences, where other forms of knowledge can better enrich consciousness of the self.

Great Conversations is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Great Conversations – Two Wings Without a Body: Many Pakistans, Warring Histories featuring Saadia Toor in conversation with Naeem Mohaiemen

Saadia Toor talks with Naeem Mohaiemen about the many versions of post-1947 Pakistani history, including the unresolved legacies of the 1971 rupture of Pakistan and birth of Bangladesh. This event marks the New York launch of Saadia Toor’s new book: The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan.

While Toor and Mohaiemen are both active members of pan-South Asian activist networks in New York and have overlapping areas of research, they present their research in different spaces: Toor in the academy and Mohaiemen in the museum. Their discussion will focus on the history of nation-state projects from the Pakistan and Bangladesh context– especially through the prism of the personal and political within post-1947 border demarcation, ideology invention and left movements.

Saadia Toor is Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. A native of Lahore, she has a twenty-year history of activism among feminist and left circles in Pakistan. Her new book, The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan, comes out of this personal history, and is inflected by her interest in exploring the relationship between culture and power. Born in 1971, the year of the separation of East Pakistan and birth of Bangladesh, Toor grew up in a truncated Pakistan defined by a historical amnesia regarding its shared past with Bangladesh, and a categorical refusal to acknowledge the brutal state violence visited upon ordinary people during the genocide of 1971.

Naeem Mohaiemen uses essays, photography, and film to explore histories of the international left and failed utopias. Chapters from his ongoing project on the 1970s ultra-left, “The Young Man Was”, were shown at Frieze Art Fair (London), Sharjah Biennial (UAE), MUAC (Mexico City), Finnish Museum of Photography, etc. Other museum projects include “Kazi in Nomansland” (part of Lines of Control), which looks at three country’s claim to poet Nazrul Islam. Publications include Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism (Drishtipat), “Flying Blind: Waiting for a real reckoning on 1971” (Economic & Political Weekly), and “Islamic Roots of HipHop” (Sound Unbound, MIT Press). Excerpts from his work featured in Granta (Pakistan Issue) and Rethinking Marxism. shobak.org

About the Book

The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan(Pluto Press), by Saadia Toor, tells the story of Pakistan through the lens of the Cold War, and more recently the War on Terror, to shed light on the domestic and international processes behind the global rise of militant Islam.

Unlike existing scholarship on nationalism, Islam, and the state in Pakistan, which tends to privilege events in a narrowly-defined ‘political’ realm, Saadia Toor highlights the significance of cultural politics in Pakistan from its 1947 origins to the contemporary period. This dimension allows Toor to explain how the struggle between Marxists and liberal nationalists was influenced and eventually engulfed by the agenda of the religious right. Timely and unique, this book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the roots of modern Pakistan and the likely outcome of current power struggles in the country.

Copies of the book will be available for sale.

http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329918&

Great Conversations Series

The Great Conversations series invites thinkers to choose people from other disciplines who are of intellectual and inspirational interest to them in an attempt to enlarge the scope of our understanding of the production of knowledge. The series is meant to offer a paradigm of comparative experiences, where other forms of knowledge can better enrich consciousness of the self.

Great Conversations is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

About 3rd i NY

3rd I New York’s monthly film/video/media/conversation salon is designed by local filmmakers and cultural producers to showcase the works of independent media makers and intellectuals of South Asian, Central Asian, and Arab descent. Providing alternative forums for these voices, who often have few venues to showcase their work and whose cultures and histories are often demonized or misrepresented in mainstream media, not only increases their visibility, but also provides a social forum for peers and audiences to participate in an ongoing discussion. We are thankful to the SINGH Foundation for acting as our fiscal sponsor.