Volume 5: Number 1, Feb 21 2002
Editorial
Reading the
NCERT Framework

by Balmurli Natrajan, Rahul De', Biju Mathew
NCERT Framework Meeting
-- A Report from the Khoon Pasina Network

Review: Manil Suri: The Death of Vishnu
by Anhoni Patel

Dream and Nightmare: Urdu Progressive Poetry's Flirtation with Modernity
by Raza Mir
Notes From The Street
Hisham Amer's
Case
by Biju Mathew
A Victory for Ms. Kaur
by Amitave Kumar
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Editorial

After lying dormant for nearly two years, this occasional publication of the Forum of Indian Leftists has been revived through the efforts of those who felt its absence. In our discussions about what the journal represents, we agreed on the continuing need for more arenas where debates and conversations on the South Asian left can take place. This issue only initiates one such forum: we solicit articles for future, longer, issues.

The resuscitation began with a 'whatever-happened-to-Ghadar?' email sent out by one member of the editorial collective last year. Concerns expressed about the wisdom of posting arguments within the left on the web --where they could be accessed by hostile parties-- sparked a debate about the purpose and intended audience of this publication. Some felt that contentious issues within the South Asian left should be aired only within broadly like-minded company, while others felt that giving visibility to internal debates would go a long way in dispelling the notion of a monolithic and close-minded left. What are your thoughts on this? Send us a letter or a longer piece.

Many of our readers have noted with alarm the increasingly bold right-wing incursions into school and university curricula in India. There are regular reports of the addition of subjects such as Vedic mathematics and astrology; attacks on left academics have increased in frequency and intensity; and the rewriting of history textbooks is fully underway. The National Council on Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the apex body for policy on school education in India, came out with a draft of a new curriculum framework for school education in November 2000. This was the first revision of the framework in twelve years, and was clearly motivated by the concerns of the ruling party. In recent months, the document has come under a lot of fire from activists and academics, notably Dr. D. N. Jha, chairman of the senior secondary courses committee for history in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). The draft document was in fact produced without the approval of the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE), which normally oversees such matters. The present government nonetheless continues its attempt to push through the document, and achieve the curricular overhaul it intends.

Based on their reading of the NCERT draft, Balmurli Natarajan, Rahul De' and Biju Mathew take us on an imaginary visit to a meeting of the drafting committee. In 'Reading the NCERT Framework,' they point out the absurdities of the process of right-wing educational policy formulation and the kinds of intellectual violence that it often entails. Their analysis of casteist and patriarchal vision that underlies the document gives us an insight into the contradictions of Sangh Parivar thought in the era of globalization. The question, note Murli, Rahul and Biju, is how the mythic Village India elaborated in the document is being reconciled with equally-mythicized notions of a global village. The NCERT exerts a coercive pressure through its textbook selections and grant-making capacity, and a sustained vigilance and critique of its new positions is necessary; this article is the first of FOIL's offerings on the topic.

We are introducing a new section with this issue: 'Notes from the Street', where we will provide clippings on the ongoing struggles of radical South Asian groups in North America. In this issue, we feature two victories in New York city: A domestic worker successfully scared her former employers into an out-of-court settlement in a lawsuit charging them with treating her as a slave. The lawsuit highlighted the routine exploitation and harassment of South Asian domestic workers by their employers, often carried out under the pretext of protection from the INS. The New York Taxi Workers' Alliance also brought to attention of the city yet another appalling case of police brutality under the Giuliani regime, that against Hisham Amer. In view of the rising tide of harassment of immigrants since September 11, we hope that NYTWA's work in vocalizing such stories will continue.

On an introspective note, Raza Mir examines the commitment of a bygone generation of radical Urdu poets to modernist ideals. Exploring their unselfconscious appropriation of scientific and technological achievements, Raza suggests that such gestures expressed a deep-seated internationalism. Finally, in her largely favorable review of Manil Suri's novel 'The Death of Vishnu,' Anhoni Patel also notes that it was written by a full-time college professor. We hope that this example will inspire the already overworked to write for Ghadar: all we want are articles, not novels...


 

[This issue was put together by Priyamvada Gopal, Ashwini Tambe, Anhoni Patel, Murli Natrajan, Biju Mathew, Raza Mir, Amitava Kumar, Rahul De', Gautam Premnath, Usha Zacharias and Maya Yajnik. Address all correspondence to: murlin@iastate.edu, usha_zacharias@yahoo.com, or ashwini8@msn.com]


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