Every act of translation encodes something political, and, regardless of whether we like it or are even aware of it, all translators are political commentators. As such, to translate in today’s polarised political climate is delicate work, especially when translating the Indian epics.
On 8 July 2016, I was home for Eid. It was my fourth evening back in Srinagar. I was in the living room, flipping through a family album. The room smelled of musk, and the embroidered curtains fluttered in the breeze. My father entered the room looking bewildered and sad. In a quavering voice, he said, “Burhan is dead.”
During a speech at the India Today Conclave
in March this year, Sonia Gandhi said, “The BJP has managed to—I don’t say brainwash because that is a rude word, but it has managed to convince people, to persuade people that the Congress party is a Muslim party.” The speech was an attempt to defend the Congress’s need to project Rahul Gandhi’s new-found love
On 2 July, Rajat Sharma, the chairman and editor-in-chief of India TV, was elected the president of the Delhi & District Cricket Association
. Sharma swept the elections, defeating his closest competitor, the former cricketer Madan Lal by 517 votes, while his group of candidates won all 12 seats in the panel. The margin of the defeat was along the lines that Sharma’s group had reportedly predicted over the weekend before the results were announced—a fact that Lal referred to while claiming that “there is something wrong somewhere.” A day after the results were announced, Vinod Rai, the chairman of the committee of administrators—appointed by the Supreme Court to implement sweeping reforms in the administration of Indian cricket—said that the results may later be annulled
for having taken place without a constitution endorsed by the court.
In her recent book, She Goes to War, the senior journalist Rashmi Saksena tells the stories of 16 Indian women militants in the insurgencies in Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. The women, Saksena notes in her introduction, have much in common—the role that the prevailing conflict in their native places played in shaping their lives, and a drive to “take ownership of their unorthodox decisions and carry them through without a thought for the consequences.”
Twice every year, the Chinta valley in Jammu echoes with the bleats of sheep and goats as caravans of the Bakerwals, a Muslim pastoral tribe, traverse through the region, often setting up camps for a couple of days. In the summer and winter months, the Bakerwals migrate to the upper Himalayas and then down to the plains, respectively, in search of fodder for their livestock. For two days in the last week of April, I travelled with a caravan of the Bakerwals, who left from the Bhaderwah town of Doda district on a dilapidated road, through the Chinta valley, where they were surrounded by rings of lofty mountains with a thick cover of tall deodar trees, streams and waterfalls, and towards the upper mountains.
This year, the Azim Premji University and Lokniti, a research programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, jointly published a report titled, “Politics and Society between Elections,” which seeks to understand the relationship between the citizen and the state after the completion of elections. The report is based on a series of surveys conducted among 16,680 respondents across eight states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra—between November and December 2017.
On the morning of 18 February 1983, over 3,000 Bengali Muslims in central Assam were brutally murdered over a period of just six hours. The massacre came to be known after Nellie, one of the 14 villages where the attacks took place. No action was taken against the perpetrators and no one was ever held responsible. The impunity has since been replicated in many anti-Muslim massacres in Assam—each time, the victims were branded illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, to justify the violence. The last such attack happened in May 2014, when 38 people, including 20 children—the youngest of whom was three months old—were shot dead in Khagrabari village on the periphery of Manas National Park.
On the evening of 14 June, the day before Eid, Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of the centrist newspaper Rising Kashmir, left his office in Srinagar’s Press Enclave locality to attend an iftar, the traditional evening meal that breaks the Ramdan fast. Within minutes, his colleagues, working to put the next day’s edition to bed, heard a burst of gunfire. When they looked down from their windows, Bukhari was lying dead
in his car.
In late May, Shiv Kumar Banerjee, the sub-divisional magistrate of Chhattisgarh’s Rajpur area, conducted an inspection of a school premises ahead of a public meeting organised by the state government. The meeting was part of the Chhattisgarh government’s Vikas Yatra—according to Chief Minister Raman Singh, a government programme to “provide the benefit of various schemes” across the state. Banerjee reportedly issued directions for the removal of
the BJP flags hoisted at the venue, noting that flags of political parties could not be displayed at a government programme, which prompted angry BJP workers to protest and demand disciplinary action against Banerjee. The protest only ended a few hours later, once the workers were allowed to hoist the flags.
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