India Dissents, an anthology edited by the poet Ashok Vajpeyi, is a collection of expressions of dissent spanning nearly three millennia. Beginning from writings Nasidiya Sukta, in the Rigveda, the volume examines the tradition of registering doubts and protest against the Indian state and its traditions and practices. It includes writings from: the Tamil poet Sundarar, who rebukes god for ignoring the devout public; the Sikh guru, Nanak, who writes against the divisive religious and caste systems; the Dalit poet Kalavve, who condemns caste oppression and patriarchy; the writer Ismat Chughtai, who mocks the trial against her on the charges of obscenity; the laywer Siddharth Narrain, who chides the Supreme Court for terming the LGBTQ community in India a “miniscule minority”; the writer Robin S Ngangom, who addresses state-sponsored terrorism and the militarisation of states such as Meghalaya, from where he hails; and the activist Soni Sori, who opposes the state action against Maoist rebels and the tribal residents in Chhattisgarh; among several others. The book emphasises that India—both in its ancient and present forms—has always included a robust culture of dissent and critique.
At close to 11.30 pm on 7 June, the news publication the Milli Gazette published a video
to its Facebook page. The video showed a group of people demolishing a brick structure. According to the caption that accompanied the clip, this structure was a rudimentary mosque located in Ambay Enclave, a small basti near Sonia Vihar in Delhi, where 25 Muslim families resided. Finding themselves with no place of worship during the month of Ramadan, the caption said, these families had constructed a makeshift mosque. “Its existence began to pinch certain enemies of peace,” the caption alleged. On the morning of 7 June, a group of people attacked the structure, and razed it to the ground.
Somnath Chatterjee, a former speaker of the Lok Sabha and a former member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is a disappointed man. He is disappointed with the lack of leadership plaguing his former party, the growing prominence of religion in Indian politics, and the state of the nation and its judiciary. In July 2008, the Politburo of the CPI(M) expelled Chatterjee
for “seriously compromising the position of the party.” After the Left parties had withdrawn support from the Indo-US nuclear deal that month, Chatterjee had refused to step down from the position of speaker of the Lok Sabha despite both implicit and explicit requests from the party leadership, leading to his expulsion. At the time, Chatterjee was a ten-time member of parliament and the first member of the CPI(M) to be appointed speaker.
In the summer of 2001, Gulzar Ahmed Wani was a 27-year-old student at the Aligarh Muslim University, in the second year of his PhD programme in the university’s Arabic department. During the summer break, Wani visited his hometown in the Tapper Bala area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. Upon his return to the university, he stayed at his friend’s residence in Azadpur, in Delhi, for a few days. On 30 July that year, the Delhi Police arrested Wani from his friend’s house. He was accused of orchestrating a bomb blast on the Sabarmati Express train
, which killed at least nine people, when it was near Barabanki, in Uttar Pradesh, in August 2000. Wani then spent more than a decade incarcerated in different jails in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. On 20 May 2017, he was acquitted by a trial court in Barabanki for lack of evidence. On 6 June, Wani, now 44 years old, stepped into his home for the first time after 16 years of imprisonment.
The Supreme Court’s recent judgment in the case of Binoy Viswam vs Union of India
is the latest in a series of developments with respect to Aadhaar, the central government’s program to provide unique identification numbers to all residents of India. In the judgment, which was pronounced on 9 June, the court was adjudicating a challenge to Section 139AA
of the Income Tax Act. The section was introduced into the Income Tax Act as a part of the Finance Act in April 2017. It included two controversial mandates: that all individuals seeking to file income-tax returns or apply for a fresh Permanent Account Number (PAN) card after 1 July 2017 must quote their Aadhaar number in the return or application; and that a failure to link a PAN card allotted before 1 July to an Aadhaar number or Aadhaar enrolment number would result in the invalidation of the PAN card. While the Supreme Court has read down the latter to mean that a PAN card will not get invalidated if a person does not obtain an Aadhaar card, it failed to address the necessity of providing an Aadhaar number for filing income-tax returns, leaving open the possibility that a failure to do so would invite penal consequences.
In The Purveyors of Destiny: A Cultural Biography of the Indian Railways, Arup K Chatterjee writes about the varying representations of the Indian rail network, from its conceptualisation by the British in the mid-nineteenth century to its representations across decades of Indian cinema. “Under the guise of nation-building, the railways were primarily tools of economic exploitation and moral policing,” he writes in his introduction to the book. “Even then, so many literary and cultural representations of nationhood would have been lost without [them].” Chatterjee writes that several Indian cultural and political events have a strong relationship with the railways—the rise of Indian nationalism in the Independence era, the Partition, or the development of modern Indian culture over the subsequent decades, such as in the films of Satyajit Ray and in the writings of the poet and lyricist Gulzar. “Undoubtedly, the Indian Railways were the biggest single industry the British gave India,” he writes. “But representations of the railways ... are an even bigger industry.”
On the evening of 7 June, the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO)—the student wing of the Islamic organisation the Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind—hosted an iftar get-together at the SIO headquarters in Jamia Nagar, in Delhi. Present at the gathering were the families of: Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer from Haryana’s Nuh district, who, in April, was killed
in Alwar, Rajasthan, by a mob of cow-protection vigilantes while he was transporting cattle to his farm; Mohammed Akhlaq, a resident of Bisada village in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, who was murdered
in September 2015 by a mob that suspected that he had been storing and consuming beef; and Najeeb Ahmed, a first-year Masters of Science student of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, who went missing
in October 2016 after an alleged altercation with members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad— the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student affiliate. Azmat Khan and Mohammed Rafiq, two dairy farmers from Nuh who were attacked along with Pehlu Khan and his sons, were present at the event as well.
Ayaz Siddiqui, the general manager of operations at Frigerio Conserva Allana Private Limited, or Allana, a subsidiary of Allanasons—one of the biggest exporters of buffalo meat
in India—has not been sleeping well. Siddiqui told me this when I met him at the Allana office in Aligarh on 30 May 2017. “Every night I get calls from suppliers,” he said. He said some of them are highly distressed because the agents who normally sell them the buffaloes are no longer bringing animals to the market. Later, he showed me a spreadsheet on his phone. “Look at our production, today we have only slaughtered 612 [buffaloes], usually it is around 1,800 a day.” Siddiqui told me that this was a result of a recent notification issued by the central government. He added that there were rumours were circulating among those selling the buffaloes that police officers in Aligarh were stopping sellers and telling them that the animal markets were shut down. “The markets are still operating, but the rumours are taking a toll on the business,” he said.
In 2013, Anandi, then a 33-year-old woman, lived in Chennai with her husband and two children—an infant girl, and a seven-year-old boy. Anandi’s nine-year marriage had been tumultuous. Her husband was an alcoholic whose emotional and physical abuse had become a regular feature of her life. Her constant anxiety was exacerbated by the financial problems that had propelled their family into debt. “I could not step out of my house without creditors questioning me about the money my husband owed them,” she said. One evening that year, after 40 days of sobriety, Anandi’s husband came home drunk. An altercation ensued, during which he beat Anandi. She could not sleep that night. “I thought things were getting better. But that night I felt that he had not changed at all. I was very upset and his alcoholism kept coming back to me again and again,” she told me when I met her in November 2016.
At around 9 am on 10 May 2017, the body of 22-year-old Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz Parray reached his home in the cluttered village of Sarsuna, in Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Ummer had been abducted
in Shopian village the previous night, and early that morning, his body was discovered in Hermain village. His death was widely covered by the Indian mainstream
media. Many politicians released statements condemning
Ummer’s killing, and others paid tributes to him
for his service to the nation. Before burial, the army officer’s body was draped in the Indian tricolour. Soldiers offered a gun salute to their slain colleague, and lay wreaths by his body.