At close to 3.30 pm, vote tallies on most news channels put the Indian National Congress as having won 63 seats in the Punjab assembly—four ahead of the 59-seat majority required to form the government in the state. The Aam Aadmi Party, which had hoped to break ground as a national-level party with a win in Punjab, has reportedly
won less than 25 seats. The Congress was last in power in the state between 2002 and 2007, following which the Shiromani Akali Dal, led by the Badal family, ruled Punjab for 10 years. In his January 2017 cover story, “Under a Cloud
,” Hartosh Singh Bal reported on the issues facing the state and why Punjab was searching for an alternative to the Badals. In the following excerpt from the story, he discusses the issues with the AAP’s organisation in the state and where it was faltering.
On 24 February 2016, Amit Shah, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was in Bahraich to unveil a statue of Suheldev
—an eleventh-century king who is believed to have ruled Shrasvati, near present-day Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district. In the speech that followed, Shah said that it was his privilege to be present at the event, lauding Suheldev as a figure whose name is revered not just in Uttar Pradesh, but in the entire nation. The BJP leader went on to describe the defeat of the Muslim king Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud at the hands of Suheldev, who, he claimed, put a definitive end to Masud’s campaign to invade India. “A citizenry that does not remember its brave ancestors,” Shah continued, “cannot make history.”
On 23 February 2017, Gurmehar Kaur, an undergraduate student of literature at Lady Shri Ram College posted an image in which she was holding a placard that read “I am a student from Delhi University. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me. #StudentsAgainstABVP.” This picture formed part of an online campaign that had been initiated in response to the violent attack
that members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarti Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student affiliate, had launched at Ramjas College on 21 February, because of the inclusion of Jawaharlal Nehru University scholars Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid at a seminar called “Cultures of Protest.” The image soon went viral
, and several other students uploaded similar photographs. Shortly after, an older video from April 2016
began circulating widely on social media. In the video, Kaur held a series of 36 placards addressing the death of her father, who was killed
when militants attacked a Rashtriya Rifles camp in Jammu and Kashmir in 1999 during the Kargil war, and called for peace between India and Pakistan. One of the placards she held in the video read: “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him.”
On 21 December 2016, Seema, a 20-year-old woman, married Pradeep, a 28-year-old man, at a local court in Rohtak, Haryana. Both Seema and Pradeep lived with their families in Rohtak’s Amrit Colony, in opposite houses. They belonged to different castes: Seema was from the Jatav community, a Scheduled Caste which is also known as Chamar, while Pradeep was a Brahmin. Anticipating opposition to their decision, the couple decided to keep their wedding a secret, and continued to live in their respective homes. According to Pradeep’s maternal aunt, on 4 January 2017, he broke the news of the wedding to his parents. They appeared to be amenable to his decision, and informed Seema’s parents the same day. Pradeep's aunt said her family claimed that they had no objection either, adding that they told they would send Seema to Pradeep’s house “apne hisab se”—when they felt the time was appropriate. In the afternoon of 5 January, members of the Haryana police rushed to a crematorium in Rohtak
, reportedly following a tip-off they had received from Pradeep. There, they found that Seema, who had allegedly died the previous night, was being cremated by her family members. The police poured water over the funeral pyre and recovered her body. It was already half-burnt.
On 4 March 2017, Varanasi hosted the political heavyweights in the Uttar Pradesh election—Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, all campaigned in the city on the same day. Besides the prime minister, a flurry of union ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party was present in the city. Home Minister Rajnath Singh reportedly told the media
on his way to Varanasi, “Purvanchal UP mein BJP ki hawa nahi, aandhi chal rahi hai,”—In eastern UP, it is not the winds, but a storm brewing in the BJP’s favour. Not everyone in Varanasi agrees with Singh. “Work hasn't been done in Varanasi in the last three years. The centre hasn’t done anything,” Aftab Ahmad, an assistant professor in the Banaras Hindu University’s Urdu department, said. “The BJP has released its full force here. If you’ve done work then why do you have to expend so much effort?”
On 19 February 2017, as Uttar Pradesh entered the third phase of polling in the ongoing assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally
in Fatehpur. “If there is graveyard in a village, then there must be a cremation ground as well,” he said, as the audience roared in approval, “If there is electricity during Ramzan, then there must be electricity during Diwali too; if there is electricity during Holi, then it must also be made available on Eid.”
On a sunny day in late January 2017, I sat on a cot outside a small room with an asbestos roof, in Citizen Nagar, a resettlement colony in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with 32-year-old Siraj Malik, the room’s resident. An emaciated man with sunken eyes, sprouting grey hairs on his temples, Malik has the appearance of a man older than his age. Nearly 15 years earlier, on 28 February 2002, a rioting mob had attacked Naroda Patiya, a Muslim-dominated locality in which Malik then resided, leading to the death of over 90 Muslims. “Khel-kud toh sab khatam hi ho gaya hamara”—All the playing around disappeared, he said. “Bhag-daud mein lag gaye, ki hum gujara kaise kare”—We became caught in figuring out how to get by.
The 14 stories in Autoplay: Not-so Stories, by the author and editor G Sampath, are based in a futuristic world, in a country called the Hindu Aryan Indian Republic, or HAIR. The stories include, among others, those of a man having his wife’s dreams, a woman with a depressed pet, and a person who spends their waking hours solely on exercising. The following excerpt is a short story titled ‘Good Quality Girls Are Out of Stock,’ written as a frank matrimonial advertisement for a man from HAIR.
The English department of Ramjas College and Wordcraft, its literary society, first conceptualised “Cultures of Protest: A Seminar Exploring Representations of Dissent” in October 2016. The organising committee for the event, a team of over 20 members of which I was a part, comprised undergraduate students and faculty members who were eager to explore and engage with the idea of dissent. During the several meetings that the organising committee held over five months, we carefully chose the names of the speakers we would invite, and zealously debated the issues we would cover. These included, but were not restricted to: resistance movements in academic spaces; the political expression of marginalised communities; and the state’s role in conflict regions. Our meetings would elbow their way into our classes and our afternoon sessions would often stretch into late evenings. The seminar, which was slated for 21 and 22 February 2017, consisted of eight panels and close to two dozen speakers. Through the event, we hoped to understand the modes of protest that were employed to articulate political resistance. We planned feverishly, determined to host a seminar that would spur critical thinking and conversations on the subjects we were highlighting. Unfortunately, the event never reached its logical conclusion. The seminar, which was meant to be a discourse on dissent, became a site at which we were forced to defend the right to dissent instead.
In late January 2017, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) deferred the re-accreditation
of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC or NHRCI)—India’s central human rights body. The GANHRI, formerly known
as the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, is an international association affiliated to the United Nations. According to its website, it comprises national humans rights institutions (NHRIs) from all parts of the globe. The organisation is responsible for ensuring that the composition an functioning of NHRIs across the world are in conformity with the Paris Principles. Adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993, the Paris Principles
prescribe the minimum international standards for an NHRI.