The Ghosts of Dumbledore

Casual Vacancy

JK Rowlings

Little, Brown & Co., 2012

512pp.

The best thing that JK Rowling’s new novel, Casual Vacancy, has going for it is the success of the author’s Harry Potter franchise. Having created a loyal fan-base from a widely successful multivolume series, it is not surprising that her next venture would receive substantial attention and would force the critics to ask the necessary questions about comparison.

What made the Harry Potter series a success, in large part, was Rowling’s deep sensitivity to the real conflicts that plague young people. To the long tradition of English public school fiction, Rowling added something new by reversing the trend of depicting children as merely powerless and petty. There was the real possibility that they could accomplish something meaningful and important and define their own identities rather than succumb to the definitions that were imposed on them from above, even when prophesied. The forces that they faced were larger than mean-spirited teachers or unflinchingly severe bullies: they were defying racial eugenics, pervasive attacks on civil liberties, the standardization of education, and they were winning. That was the real magic of those stories.

Casual Vacancy, on the other hand, has none of the possibility, the sense of transformation, or the shining ambition of rebellion that the Potter novels possess. In part, this is because the novel is a reflection of the utter failure of Labourism in England, both as social agenda and as political philosophy. The England of today is not the England of the Potter novels, which was, at a minimum, the England that was turning away from Thatcherism and trying to imagine itself without neoliberalism: If Voldemort was the novel’s Enoch Powell, then Dumbledore was its Robin Cook. The switch from magic to realism in Rowling’s novel is in some sense a reflection of the fact that in every sense, things have gotten much worse. One of the reasons that you can’t go back to Harry Potter is that you can’t go back to the Labour Party—the magic is simply gone, if it was ever there at all.

Read the rest of the review here.

May Day Appeal from Jan Sansad


Our Labour ! Our Strength ! Workers Power Zindabaad !
Labour Day : An Appeal from Jan Sansad
Dear Friends,
Zindabaad !
Every year the May Day is celebrated by millions of workers around the world commemorating the the hard earned workers rights after years of struggles. It is a celebration but also a time to remember the victories, defeats and challenges infront of the workers movement even as we move ahead. Workers of the world unite ! The slogan has assumed much importance and the meaning of work and labour has also gone through significant changes over years. Today nearly 93% of the workers are in the unprotected and unorganised sector who are still having to fight for their basic rights : social security, job security, pension, health and education facilities, eight hour working day, mandatory leaves, fair wages, minimum wages, right to unionise and others.

A hard fought right to form independent unions by the workers is under threat and so are other rights in the era of global capital pushing for maximum exploitation of labour and complete privatisation and contractualisation of work in neo liberal reforms era. Millions of agricultural workers, NREGA workers, construction workers, fish workers, forest workers, hawkers, and many other non-traditionally recognised forms of workers remain outside the social security net and face problems with the authorities in forming their own unions across the country. In the same way millions of workers working in manufacturing sector face the same problem most recent being Maruti factory in Gurgaon, Rockman and Satyam in Dehradun and elsewhere.

Various studies, surveys and reports have accepted the fact that this group of workers contributes more than 60% to the GDP. From road construction crews to domestic help, they work long hours for less than the minimum wage, receive no compensation for work-related injuries; and they receive no social security. About 44% of all unorganised urban workers are construction workers but they have no social security or job security, most of them migrants who stream in from remote villages where agriculture can no longer support their growing numbers. It is unfortunate that even though nearly 60% of the population is engaged in the agriculture, fishery and forestry but their total contribution to the GDP has come down to nearly 16%, indicating worst agrarian crisis fuelling large scale farmers suicide and migration.

These issues and others were discussed at Rashtriya Jan Sansad held in New Delhi (March 19 – 23), attended by nearly 7,500 people from 20 States over five days. Member’s of People Parliament agreed that time has to demand rights and justice for the working class people who are running the economy today but remain unprotected and unorganised. Some of the significant resolutions from the discussions on the subject are following :

• The honest producers of this country – workers, artisans, fisher folks, hawkers, and others in unprotected and unorganised sectors continue to be oppressed and often victimised. The 93% of workers who have been denied social security pensions should be given protection equivalent to the organised and secured sectors. There should be access to food, water, shelter etc. to everyone equitably. Every service, every resource or development benefits should be equitably distributed.
• The Provisions for pension must be extended to the 93% workers in the informal and unorganised sector workers, the current provisions are not at all adequate. The inequality in various pension schemes in different states must be removed.
• There should be an end to inequality in the country. The politicians are working only for the interests of a handful of people, not for the interests of the masses. There shouldn’t be a difference of more than 1:10 in the income of the people and a ameeri rekha should be determined. Tax should be levied on property and assets, not on small productions or incomes.
• Right to Unionise is a fundamental right and it must be respected irrespective of the sector, work, etc.
• All forms of forced labour must be stopped effectively. There is need of comprehensive social protection for all unorganised sector workers and fair wages must be given to them. The minimum wages must be raised to a living wage level and it must be ensured that these are remitted on time. Minimum wages should be as such that the whole family is provided for by the income of one. The below poverty line families list should be enumerated by the members of the gram sabha or the electorate of the urban areas.
• There must be provisions for Rain Basera (shelter homes) for daily wagers and migrant workers. The migrant workers in cities who have faced eviction must be duly rehabilitated.
• Under NREGA, work must be provided throughout the year. Corruption must be stopped in NREGA and different pension schemes must be introduced.
• The ambiguities and contradictions in central and state labour laws must be removed. The labourers must be adequately represented in the labour boards.
• The use of machines in PMGSY must be stopped and manual labour be implemented so that the employment can be provided to workers and their skills can also be upgraded.
• There is a need for changes in the hawkers policy and provisions must be made for them to be allotted shops and given rehabilitation as per requirement.
• The domestic workers must be brought under the sexual harassment act and be provided protection and security under various acts.

Many other issues were discussed during the Jan Sansad which will take forward the struggle for the development with justice and equity. The programmes emerging from the Jan Sansad will be carried forward in coming days by the movements and community groups in their regions and areas through struggles, moblisations and advocacy.

On this Mazdoor Diwas on May 1st our constituent groups organise to demand the rights, dignity and security for the 93% of the working force of this country and pave the way forward for a most just and humane society. We hope you all will join us in taking forward the struggle for a life and livelihood of dignity for millions of working class people of the country.

In Solidarity,

Medha patkar, Prafulla Samantara (Orissa), Sandeep Pandey (Uttar Pradesh), Dr. Sunilam (Madhya Pradesh), Gautam Bandopadhyay (Chattisgarh), Suhas Kolhekar, Vilas Bhongade, Subhash Lomate, Sumit Wajale (Maharashtra), Shaktiman Ghosh (National Hawker Federation), P Chennaiah, Ramakrishna Raju (Andhra Pradesh), Gabriele Dietrich (Tamilnadu), Vimal Bhai (Uttarakhand), Rakesh Rafique, Manish Gupta, Rupesh Verma (Western Uttar Pradesh), Prof. Ajit Jha, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Vijayan M J, Madhuresh Kumar (Delhi), Gurwant Singh (Punjab), Anand Mazgaonkar (Gujarat), Mahender Yadav (Patna, Bihar), Nizam Ansari (Bokaro, Jharkhand), Geo Jose (Kerala) and others
(Jan Sansad Coordinating Committee)

Open Letter to UT Administration: Drop the Charges against peaceful protesters

(Please tweet me at @sshingavi if you want to sign on)

To the University of Texas, Austin administration:

We, the undersigned, members of the UT community are troubled by the arrest of peaceful protesters at the Office of the President on April 18, 2012.  Non-violent student protest ought to be met not with criminalization but with negotiations and dialogue.

Students were sitting-in to protest the University of Texas’s agreements with Nike (among others) under the notoriously discredited Fair Labor Association, a fig-leaf masquerading as a watchdog institution which has done next to nothing to eliminate sweatshop labor conditions but has done much to revive the ailing image of massive corporations like Nike and Disney.  Students took lessons that they learned in the classes taught here at UT, in departments like anthropology, geography, ethnic studies, sociology, political science, and philosophy and applied them to the real world situation of the conditions of their own education and asked the university to commit to real monitoring agencies under the Workers’ Rights Consortium.  Instead of being praised for their convictions, the administration has sought to vilify them for “trespassing.”

Once again the University of Texas will be embarrassed in the national media for its continuing preference for contracts with apparel producers with known ties to sweatshops over the educational and civic mission that the university is supposed to stand for.  Once again, the University of Texas  will be associated not with the bold slogan that “what starts here changes the world,” but with the banal repetition of the worst excesses of power at the expense of democracy, courage, and justice.

We think that it is time for this pattern of responding to protest with police to stop in favor of a policy of active engagement with student concerns.  We demand that the charges against the students arrested today be dropped.  We demand that the University revise its policies in dealing with student protesters.  But most importantly, we demand that the university drop its commitment to the Fair Labor Association and actively support the Workers’ Rights Consortium.

Sincerely,

Aaron Goldman, Community Art Education, UT College of Fine Arts

Adrian Reyna, 3rd year B.A. Government, University of Texas

Alejandro Márquez, MA candidate in Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and Global Policy Studies (LBJ)

Alida Perrine, Graduate Student in Latin American Studies, ILASSA Vice President, University of Texas – Austin

Albert A. Palacios, M.S.I.S., B. Arch., Film Curatorial Assistant, Digitization Technician, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Alejandra Cerna Rios, Graduate Student, Social Work, LBJ school

Alejandra Spector, Senior, Spanish and Portuguese

Alex Barron, Assistant Professor, St. Edwards University. UT graduate.

Alexandra Kaminsky University of Texas at Austin ’11, JD Candidate Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ’14

Allison Ramirez, Master’s candidate in Global Policy Studies (LBJ School) and Latin American Studies (LLILAS)

Albert Anthony Palacios, LLILAS Graduate Student

Allison G. Heinrich, The University of Texas at Austin ’14, Philosophy & Journalism

Alma Buena, University of Texas at Austin, Undergraduate, Government and Mexican American Studies

Amanda Austin, M. Ed., University of Texas Alumni

Amanda Gray, PhD Student, Department of American Studies and the Center for American Studies

Amy Price, UT grad student

Anabella Coronado, Ph.D. Candidate in Latin American Studies

Andi Gustavson, Doctoral Candidate in American Studies

Angelica Perez, Alumnus, Liberal Arts

Anindya Dey, University of Texas, Graduate Student

Anne Kuhnen, UT Undergraduate and President of Amnesty International-UT Chapter

Anne Lewis, Lecturer, Radio Television Film, University of Texas, Austin

Anthony Norton – UT Graduate, Spring 2010 – B.A.(Hons) Philosophy & Government. Current M.A. Philosophy student at Brandeis University

Axel Bohmann, English Department (grad student)

Ayesha Akbar, The University of Texas at Austin ’14 Psychology, Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic

Barbara Harlow, Professor, Department of English

Beliza Torres Narváez, Ph.D. Candidate 2012, Performance as Public Practice, Department of Theatre and Dance

Bernth Lindfors, Professor Emeritus, Department of English

Blanca Caldas, Ph.D. student Bilingual education/Department of Curriculum and Instruction UT Austin

Brett Anderson, History Department

Brian Stross, Professor of Anthropology, UT Austin

Caitlyn Collins, PhD student, Department of Sociology

Caitlin Eaves, Alumnus, Arabic and Religious Studies

Camilo Perez, Undergraduate, University of Texas

Carly Kocurek, doctoral candidate, Department of American Studies

Cecilia Cruz, Alumnus, Sociology and Latin American Studies

Charlotte Nunes, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, UT-Austin, Graduate Assistant, Bridging Disciplines Program

Chase Newton, Neurobiology Student at UT

Chris Ledesma, Alumnus, Spanish and Geography

Christopher Bernhardt Undergraduate Student, University of Texas-Austin

Chuck Michelson, doctoral candidate in Neuroscience, UT Austin

Claudia Chavez, graduate student, Anthropology Department

Colleen McGue, MA/MSCRP from UT 2011

Consuela Wright, Psychology Undergrad, UT

Czarina Thelen, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology

Dan Heiman (Curriculum & Instruction)

Dana Carina Wenker, Recent UT Grad, Linguistics

Dana Cloud, Associate Professor, Department of Communication

Daniel Rudin; MFA student in Studio Art

Dave Kalloor, former grad student, UT-Austin

Deanna Kilgore, Senior Linguistics major.

Dorota Biczel, PhD Student, Dept. of Art and Art History

Eliot Tretter, Geography Department

Elizabeth Anderson, International Relations & Spanish undergrad

Elizabeth Gonzalez, President of Voices for Reproductive Justice, UT Austin.

Elizabeth Velasquez, Doctoral Student in Anthropology

Eric Covey, Doctoral Candidate, Department of American Studies

Erica Mathews, Anthropology undergraduate at UT

Erick Rodriguez, Hispanic Studies Senior and Information Technology Services Sr. Student Associate.

Fatima Jafri, Undergraduate Advertising, University of Texas at Austin

Gabriel Daniel Solis, University of Texas, Alumnus

Gretchen Murphy, Professor, Department of English

Guillermo Hernandez Martinez, University of Texas, Journalism and History major.

Heather Houser, Assistant Professor, Dept. of English

Howard Cunningham, retired, UT Health Center, Tyler

Jacinto Cuvi Escobar, Department of Sociology

Jaime Puente, MA Candidate CMAS

James Ward, School of Social Work

Janet M. Davis, Associate Professor of American Studies, History, and Women’s and Gender Studies

Jason Brownlee, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin

Jennifer Kelly, Ph.D. Student, American Studies

Jessica Martin, graduate student, Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Jessica Osorio, LLILAS M.A. student

James Branson, Organizer, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 2186

Jennifer Scott, Doctoral Student, School of Social Work

Jesus Joslin, Government undergraduate

Jocelyn Charvet, MSSW candidate, Class of 2012

Joao Costa Vargas, African and African Diaspora Studies Department

John Lawler, Undergraduate, Geography Department.

Jorge Antonio Renaud, MSSW Candidate, May 2012

José García, Cultural Studies in Education, TA, PhD Student

Josh Haney, Master of Public Affairs Candidate, 2012, LBJ School of Public Affairs

Josh Walther, University of Texas, Austin

Joy Learman, Assistant Instructor and Doctoral Candidate, School of Social Work

Julia Lee, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Center for Asian American Studies

Julian Munoz Villarreal, Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology undergraduate

Julianne Wooten, Environmental Science – Geosciences undergrad at UT

Justin Olaguer, Class of 2011, Philosophy BA

Kalyan Venkatraj, Gov/afr lah undergrad

Karen D. Burke, University of Texas, Alumna

Karin Samelson, journalism undergraduate senior

Katherine Adams, UT Austin ’14 Mechanical Engineering

Kathleen Burns, English Honors & Biology (EEB), UT undergraduate

Katya Kolesova, Graduate Student, Women and Gender Studies

Kayli Kallina, Class of 2014, Psychology, Education

Ken Zarifis, President, Education Austin

Kiran Ahmed, Doctoral Student, Department of Social Anthropology

Kristen Hogan, Associate Director & Lecturer, Center for Women’s & Gender Studies

Kyle Landrum, Honors Philosophy Undergrad ’12, UT Austin

Lainey Brown, Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin

Laura Evans, University of Texas, Undergraduate

Leah Gilman, Undergraduate, Copyedit & Design

Leslie Cunningham, retired, Texas State Employees Union

Lisa Moore, Associate Professor, Department of English

Loretta Capeheart, Ph.D. Associate Professor Justice Studies, NEIU and UT class of 1990 (College of Liberal Arts)

Lucia Duncan, Film+Radio+Teaching

Lucian VIllasenor, Mexican American Studies undergradute

Lynn Romero, Undergraduate, Latin American Studies, UT Austin

Lynz Costa-Adams, Master’s of Science in Social Work- August 2012

Madhavi Mallapragada, Assistant Professor, Radio Television Film

Marcus Denton, LBJ School of Public Affairs, Dec. ’12

Mary Grace Hebert, recent graduate of the College of Communication

Matt Richardson, Assistant Professor, Department of English

Megan Coxe, UT Austin

Melanie Wilmoth Navarro, MSSW, UT School of Social Work, 2011

Melissa McChesney, MSSW Student

Michelle Uche, International Socialist Organization

Mike Corwin, UT staff, Texas State Employees Union

Mohammad Hamze, History and Religious Studies honors undergrad

Mohan Ambikaipaker, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Communication, Tulane University, UT Alumnus

Mona Mehdy, Associate Professor, Section of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Monica Teresa Ortiz, writer, UT alum, English Literature ’03

Mubbashir Rizvi, Doctoral Candidate, University of Texas Austin

Nancy Cardenas Government and International Studies Undergrad.

Nandini Dhar, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature, University of Texas at Austin

Naomi Paik, Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies

Nazia Hussain, Anthropology undergrad, ’12

Neil Foley, Professor, Department of History and American Studies

Nhi Lieu, Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies

Nicole Powell, UT Austin

Noah de Lissovoy, Professor, Department of Education

Parvathy Prem, University of Texas, Graduate Student

Pedro Suarez, University of Texas, Undergraduate, Mathematics and Mexican American Studies

Penny Green, Senior Lecturer and Sociology Honors Advisor, Department of Sociology

Racheal Rothrock, UT student

Ramon Mejia, History & Religious Studies, UT Austin

Rebecca Dyer, UT alumna, English PhD 2002

Rich Heyman, Lecturer, Department of Geography and the Environment

Robert Jensen, professor, School of Journalism

Roberta R. Greene, MSW, Ph.D., Professor & Endowed Chair, School of Social Work

Roberto Flotte Anthropology Honors/Mexican American Studies/Native American Studies

Rocío Villalobos, MA, College of Education, May 2011

Sade Anderson, UT graduate Student of African Diaspora Studies & Anthropology

Sam Naik, Government and Latin American Studies, University of Texas

Sammy Zoeller, BA Journalism, 1971

Sandra Pacia, UT Undergraduate Student, School of Social Work

Sarah Ihmoud, Graduate Student, UT Austin Department of Anthropology

Sarah Sussman, TA English Department

Sarah Shah, UT Alumna

Sean Sellers, MA, Latin American Studies, 2009

Shannon Speed, Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Co-director, Native American and Indigenous Studies

Sharmila Rudrappa, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Shelby Krafka UT undergrad

Shirley Thompson, American Studies and African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Snehal Shingavi, Assistant Professor, Department of English

Somy Kim, Ph.D. Candidate, Comparative Literature

Sona Shah, Staff, Center for Asian American Studies, Alumna, University of Texas

Sucheta Arora, Graduate Student, Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology

Susan Youssef, alumna

Suzanne McEndree, student, School of Social Work

Suzanne L. Schulz, Ph.D. Candidate, Assistant Instructor Department of Radio-Television-Film

Tatiana Reinoza, PhD student, Art History

Teodora Vassileva, Human Biology Undergrad, UT Austin

Tiffani Bishop – Student

Trevor L Hoag, Doctoral Candidate in English, Rhetoric and Writing

Trisha Padayachee, UT School of Social Work, Candidate for MSSW

Vanessa Martinez, M.A. Latin American Studies, M.S. Community and Regional Planning

Virginia Raymond, JD, PhD — UT alumna/former lecturer

Vivian Newdick, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology

Wanjira Murimi, University of Texas, Undergraduate, Women’s & Gender Studies

Wasiq Sheikh, 2011 Graduate, Electrical Engineering

Will Patterson, B.S. Radio-TV-Film, Class of 2010

Zachary Dyer, Master’s Candidate in Latin American Studies

Zachary Guerinot, UT Undergraduate

Zachary Moore, Psychology Student and OccupyUt member

Zulema Nevarez, Sociology Student

Jai Bhim, Comrade — a film by Anand Patwardhan

Anand Patwardhan‘s new film “Jai Bhim Comrade” took 14 years to complete. Beginning with an incident at Ramabai Colony in Mumbai where 10 Dalits were shot dead by the police in 1997, the film goes on to explore the music of protest of those who were treated as “untouchables” by a caste hierarchy that has ruled the Indian sub-continent for thousands of years.

Free Soni Sori!

Adivasi teacher in jail in India on charges of being a Maoist sympathizer.  She’s currently in jail in Chattisgarh, and this video is part of an international campaign to win her freedom.

Wednesday, March 8, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press contacts:
Vinay Bhat
Cell: +1 412.527.7985
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Cell: +91 98207.49204
Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison

Video Montage Marks International Women’s Day
In a global show of solidarity marking the International Women’s Day, concerned citizens from around the world today released a video documentary based on letters written by imprisoned  adivasi school teacher Soni Sori, currently held in the Central Jail in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. The video is available for viewing and sharing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWnCrB1qwE4.

Soni Sori was arrested in New Delhi on October 4, 2012 and accused of being a Maoist supporter. Despite her appeals to courts in New Delhi, she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police and taken to the state where she was beaten, sexually assaulted and given electric shocks by the police. Sori documented her torture in letters she wrote to her lawyer.

“On Sunday October the 9th 2011, I bore the pain quietly, all by myself. Whom could I tell? There was no one on my side out there,” she wrote in her letter which was read in the video. A subsequent independent medical examination found two sizable stones lodged in her vagina and another in her rectum.

Participants in this video project joined hands to draw attention to Sori’s case by reading from Sori’s letters on camera, supplementing the video with additional materials including photographs, news footage and Sori’s medical reports. As Sori said in one of her letters, she is only one of dozens of women in her prison who say they have suffered torture and sexual assault in police custody.

Sori’s lawyers have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India to transfer Sori to Delhi or another state where she would not be under the control of the Chhattisgarh police. Despite the severity of the torture, the hearing on the final decision on her appeal has been repeatedly delayed. Today marks the completion of five months since Sori was tortured.

Amnesty International has termed Soni Sori a Prisoner of Conscience (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA20/047/2011/en) and demanded that she be freed immediately and the charges against her dropped. Human Rights Watch has appealed to the Prime Minister to investigate Sori’s case (http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/07/india-investigate-sexual-assault-police-custody).

Sori is in urgent need of medical treatment for the injuries that resulted from her torture. In another letter to her lawyer, she stated that the doctors in the Raipur jail have denied treatment, on grounds that she is a “Naxalite prisoner.” Protesting this, Sori went on an indefinite hunger strike.

The video documentary also highlights the need to hold the responsible police officials accountable. Instead of investigating the police officials involved in Sori’s torture, Ankit Garg, the Superintendent of Police who ordered and oversaw the torture according to Sori, was given a national award for gallantry last January 26, the Indian Republic Day.

Faculty petition against NYPD surveillance of Muslims

Updated: Over Four Hundred Faculty Nationwide Call for NYPD Commissioner’s Resignation

Today, more than four hundred faculty from across the country wrote to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, adding theirs to a multitude of voices calling for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Deputy Commissioner Paul Brown to step down. A response to the NYPD’s over-reaching and indiscriminate surveillance of Muslim student associations along the Northeast seaboard, this is the first nationwide faculty response to the Associated Press’s reporting of the NYPD’s extensive surveillance of Muslim communities in New York and beyond. The call for resignation is based on a number of rights-abusing practices under Commissioner Kelly including the widespread, invasive surveillance of Muslim life, particularly on college campuses, and the skyrocketing numbers of stop-and-frisks by police over the decade. Signatories include Muneer Ahmad, Meena Alexander, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Moustafa Bayoumi, Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Erwin Chemerinsky, Kathleen Cleaver, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Todd Gitlin, Matthew Frye Jacobson, Amy Kaplan, Rashid Khalidi, David Luban, Vijay Prashad, Bill Qugley, Bruce Robbins, Andrew Ross, Saskia Sassen, Joan Scott, Richard Sennett, Chris Tilly, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Howard Winant, John Womack, and more. Many of the signatories come from schools the NYPD spied on. 

***

We, the undersigned faculty, call for the resignation of New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.  Under their leadership over the past decade:

The number of stop-and-frisks has skyrocketed, reaching an all-time high in 2010 of 600,601 stops, eighty-nine percent of which were of Black and Latino people. This is up from 97,296 in 2002. While the department claims this is about fighting crime, only 0.13 percent of last year’s stops resulted in the discovery of a firearm, and only seven percent of the stops resulted in arrests.

In the decade since 9/11, with the help of the CIA, the NYPD, according to extensive investigations by the Associated Press, has “become one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.” According to the AP’s investigation, the NYPD Intelligence Division and its Demographics Unit engaged in extensive surveillance and mapping of Sunni and Shi’a Muslim communities in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey.

The NYPD monitored Muslim student associations at local colleges—Brooklyn College, City College, Baruch College, Hunter College, Queens College, LaGuardia Community College and St. John’s University—and universities across the northeast, including Yale University, Rutgers University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Syracuse University, and the University of Pennsylvania, going so far as to send undercover detectives to spy on student groups. Such surveillance has a chilling effect on student life and the intellectual freedom necessary for a vibrant academic community.

The NYPD screened for more than 1489 officers the anti-Muslim film The Third Jihad—which claims the “true agenda of much of Islam in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate” the United States. Kelly and Browne  cooperated in the production of the film, with Kelly sitting for a 90-minute interview with the producers. The NYPD covered up its involvement in the film until news coverage stemming from FOIL requests forced the NYPD to change its story.

New York deserves police leadership with integrity that respects and protects the rights of all New Yorkers. We call for Police Commissioner Kelly’s and Deputy Commissioner Browne’s resignation.

[Affiliations are for identification purposes only.]

Adele Bernhard, Associate Professor, Pace Law School

Ahmad A. Rahman, Associate Professor of History and Director of African and African American Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Ajmel Quereshi, Supervising Attorney and Adjunct Professor, Howard University Law School

Alan A. Aja, Assistant Professor & Deputy Chair of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Alan Feigenberg, Professor of Architecture, City College (CUNY)

Alejandra Marchevsky, Professor and Associate Chair of Liberal Studies, California State University- Los Angeles

Alexandro José Gradilla, Chair and Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies, California State University, Fullerton

Alex Gourevitch, Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Political Theory, Brown University

Alex Wermer-Colan, Adjunct Professor of English, Hunter College (CUNY)

Ali Akbar Mahdi, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Ohio Wesleyan University

Ali Mir, Professor, William Paterson University

Alina Das, Assistant Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law

Allie Robbins, Adjunct Professor of Law, CUNY Law School

Ammiel Alcalay, Professor of English, Department of Classical, Middle Eastern and Asian Languages & Cultures, Queens College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Amna Akbar, Adjunct Professor and Supervising Attorney, CUNY School of Law

Amy Herzog, Associate Professor of Media Studies, Queens College (CUNY)

Amy Kaminsky, Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota

Amy Kaplan, Edward W. Kane Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Andrew Feffer, Associate Professor of History, Union College

Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Aniruddha Das, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Columbia University

Anjana Malhotra, Co-Director, Civil rights Amicus and Advocacy Clinic, Seattle University School of Law

Ann E. Kottner, Adjunct Instructor, Brooklyn EOC/New York City College of Technology (CUNY)

Anna Bigelow, Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies, North Carolina State University

Anna Roberts, Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering, New York University School of Law

Anthony Alessandrini, Associate Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Anthony Gronowicz, Faculty Adviser for Student Government, Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY)

Anthony Paul Farley, James Campbell Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Albany Law School

Anthony Macias, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Riverside

Arjun Jayadev, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston

Arlene Avakian, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Arlene Istar Lev, Lecturer in the School of Social Welfare, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Arnold Franklin, Assistant Professor of History, Queens College (CUNY)

Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics,University of Massachusetts Boston

Ashley Dawson, Professor of English, CUNY Graduate Center

Ashwini Rao, Associate Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation, Columbia University

Ashwini Tambe, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Maryland

Athan Theoharis, Professor Emeritus of History, Marquette University

A. Tom Grunfeld, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, State University of New York (SUNY)-Empire State College

Ayman Naquvi, Continuing Education Teacher, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Aziz Rana, Assistant Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School

Aziza Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Babe Howell, Associate Professor, CUNY School of Law

Baher Azmy, Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law

Balmurli Natrajan, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, William Paterson University

Banafsheh Madaninejad, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Middlebury College

Barbara Applebaum, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Barbara Katz Rothman, Professor of Sociology, Baruch College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Barbara Winslow, Associate Professor of Education, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

Benji Chang, Postdoctoral Fellow, Teachers College, Columbia University

Bernard L. Stein, Professor of Film & Media, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

Beryl Blaustone, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Beth Baker Cristales, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies, California State University-Los Angeles

Bette Gordon, Associate Professor of the Practice, School of the Arts (Film), Columbia University

Bill Mullen, Professor of American Studies, Purdue University

Bradley Lubin, Graduate Teaching Fellow, English Department, Baruch College (CUNY)

Brenda Cardenas, Associate Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Brian Pickett, Adjunct Lecturer, Speech and Theater Department, Queensborough Community College (CUNY)

Brian Purnell, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Bowdoin College

Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University

Bryan McCann, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Wayne State University

C. Heike Schotten, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Caren Kaplan, Professor of American Studies, University of California-Davis

Carla Shedd, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Carly Smith, Adjunct Professor of Communications, Baruch College (CUNY)

Carolina Bank Muñoz, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Caroline Bettinger-López, Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education, Director, Human Rights Clinic, University of Miami School of Law

Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Mary Frances Berry Collegiate Professor, Emeritus, University of Michigan

Celina Su, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Cemil Aydin, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Charity Scribner, Associate Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Charles E. Butterworth, Professor Emeritus of Government & Politics, University of Maryland

Charles Pinderhughes, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Essex County College

Chaumtoli Huq, Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School

Chi Adanna Mgbako, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Fordham Law School

Chris Tilly, Professor of Urban Planning, University of California-Los Angeles

Christopher Ebert, Associate Professor of History, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Christopher Stone, Associate Professor of Arabic, Hunter College (CUNY)

Crystal A. Parikh, Associate Professor of English, New York University

Cindi Katz, Professor of Geography in Environmental Psychology and Women’s Studies, CUNY Graduate Center

Conor Tomás Reed, Graduate Teaching Fellow, English Department, Baruch College (CUNY)

Corey Robin, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Cynthia Casey, Continuing Education Teacher of CUNY Language Immersion Program, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Cyra Akila Choudhury, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Florida International University

Daniel Campos, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Daniel E. Manville, Director of Civil Rights Clinic and Associate Clinical Professor, Michigan State University College of Law

Danya Shocair Reda, Acting Assistant Professor, New York University School of Law

David Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Wayne State University

David Kazanjian, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania

David H. Kim, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco

David Luban, University Professor in Law and Philosophy, Georgetown University Law Center

David Ludden, Professor of Political Economy and Globalization, New York University

David O’Brien, Professor of Psychology, Baruch College (CUNY)

David F. Weiman, Alena Wels Hirschorn ’58 Professor of Economics and Dean of Faculty Diversity and Development, Barnard College

Dayo F. Gore, Associate Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Dean Spade, Assistant Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law

Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Media Studies and Middle East Studies, Rutgers University

Deirdre Bowen, Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills, Seattle University School of Law

Diana Pei Wu, Professor of Liberal Studies/Urban Communities & Environment, Antioch University-Los Angeles

Dina Siddiqui, Visiting Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies, Hunter College (CUNY)

Donna H. Lee, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Donna Young, Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Ed Webb, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Dickinson College

Eleanor J. Bader, Adjunct Lecturer, English Department, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Elizabeth Sanders, Professor of Government, Cornell University

Ellen Gruber Garvey, Professor of English, New Jersey City University

Ellen Reese, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California-Riverside

Ellen Schrecker, Professor of History, Yeshiva University

Emad Hamdeh, Adjunct Professor of Arabic Language and Culture, Montclair State University

Enrique C. Ochoa, Professor of Latin American Studies and History, California State University-Los Angeles

Eric Lott, Professor of English, University of Virginia

Ernesto Rosen Velasquez, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Dayton

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California-Irvine Law School

Evan Rapport, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, The New School for Social Research

Eve Oishi, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, Claremont Graduate School

Falguni Sheth, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory, Hampshire College

Felicia Kornbluh, Director of the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies and Associate Professor of History, University of Vermont

Flagg Miller, Associate Profesor of Religious Studies, University of California-Davis

Frances Geteles, Professor Emerita, City College (CUNY)

Frank Deale, Professor of Law, CUNY Law School

Frank A. Pasquale, Schering-Plough Professor in Health Care Regulation and Enforcement, Seton Hall Law School

Gabriel Arkles, Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering, New York University School of Law

Gabriela Fried-Amilivia, Assistant Professor of Sociology, California State University Los Angeles

Gary L. Anderson, Professor of Administration, Leadership, and Technology, New York University

Gaston Alonso, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Gautam Premnath, Assistant Professor of English, University of California-Berkeley

Geert Dhondt, Assistant Professor of Economics, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)

George Ciccariello-Maher, Assistant Professor of History and Politics, Drexel University

George D. Sussman, Professor of History, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

George Theoharis, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Gil Anidjar, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies/Religion, Columbia University

Golbarg Bashi, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Rutgers University

Graciela M. Báez, Instructor in Spanish and Portuguese, New York University

Graham MacPhee, Associate Professor of English, West Chester University

Gregg Morris, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Hunter College (CUNY)

Gregory M. Pflugfelder, Associate Professor of History/East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

Gregory Sholette, Assistant Professor of Art, Queens College (CUNY)

Gregory Smithsimon, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Grisel Caicedo, Program Administrator for the Research Center for Leadership in Action, New York University

Gunja SenGupta, Professor of History, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Harvey Stark, Adjunct Professor of Religion, Depauw University

Heather Love, Associate Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Heide Estes, Associate Professor of English, Monmouth University

Hester Eisenstein, Professor of Sociology, Queens College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Holly Jarman, Assistant Professor of Political Science, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Hope J. Hartman, Professor of Educational Psychology, City College (CUNY)

Howard Pflanzer, Adjunct Associate Professor of English, Bronx Community College (CUNY)

Howard Winant, Professor of Sociology, University of California-Santa Barbara

Hunter Jackson, Adjunct Lecturer, Geography Department, Hunter College (CUNY)

Immanuel Ness, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Ira Shor, Professor of English, CUNY Phd Program in English and College of Staten Island (CUNY)

Irene Sosa, Associate Professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Isis Nusair, Associate Professor of International Studies & Women’s Studies, Denison University

Isolina Ballesteros, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Baruch College (CUNY)

Jackie DiSalvo, Associate Professor Emerita, Baruch College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Jackie Orr, Associate Professor of Sociology, Syracuse University

Jacob Remes, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and History, Empire State College-State University of New York (SUNY)

Janet Bauer, Associate Professor and Co-ordinator of Global Studies, Trinity College James Caron, Lecturer in South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania

James D. Hoff, Adjunct Lecturer of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

James Holstun, Professor of English, University of Buffalo

James Schamus, Professor of Film, Columbia University

James Smethurst, Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Janna Shadduck Hernandez, Project Director, UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education

Jay Arena, Assistant Professor of Sociology, College of Staten Island (CUNY)

Jay Driskell, Assistant Professor of History, Hood College

Jeanne Flavin, Professor of Sociology, Fordham University

Jeanne Theoharis, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Jeff A. Redding, Assistant Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law

Jeffrey C. Alexander, Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University

Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Jenna Loyd, Postdoctoral Fellow, Syracuse University

Jennifer L. Ball, Associate Professor of Art History, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Jennifer McCormick, Assistant Professor of Education, California State University-Los Angeles

Jennifer Tang, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Hunter College

Jeremy Walton, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Religious Studies, New York University

Jerome Krase, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Jessica Attie, Instructor of Legal Writing, Brooklyn Law School

Jessica Winegar, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Joan W. Scott, Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study

Joanne Reitano, Professor of History, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Jodi Dean, Professor of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Joe Rosenberg, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law (CUNY)

Johanna Fernandez, Assistant Professor of History and Black and Latino Studies, Baruch College (CUNY)

John Boy, Instructional Technology Fellow, CUNY Honors College

John L. Hammond, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

John Lawrence, Chairperson of Psychology, College of Staten Island (CUNY)

John Ramirez, Professor of Media Studies, California State University-Los Angeles

John R. Wallach, Professor of Political Science, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

John Whitlow, Clinical Law Professor, CUNY School of Law (CUNY)

John Womack Jr., Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

Johnny E. Williams, Associate Professor of Sociology, Trinity College

Josefina Saldaña, Professor of Latino Studies Program and Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University

Joseph Entin, Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Joshua Guild, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and History, Princeton University

Joy James, Professor of Political Science, Williams College/University of Texas-Austin

Juan Flores, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Joseph B. Shedd, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Joseph E. Lowry, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

Judith Smith, Professor of American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Judith Wittner, Professor of Sociology, Loyola University

Julie Causton-Theoharis, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Julie Cooper, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Julie Novkov, Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Junaid Rana, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Justin Rogers-Cooper, Assistant Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Justin Stearns, Assistant Professor of Arab Crossroads Studies, New York University-Abu Dhabi

Kade Finnoff, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Karen Miller, Associate Professor of Urban Studies and History, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Kandice Chuh, Professor of English and American Studies, CUNY Graduate Center

Karl Steel, Assistant Professor of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Katherine DeLorenzo , Adjunct Professor of Women and Gender Studies Program, Hunter College (CUNY)

Katherine Tate, Professor of Political Science and African American Studies, University of California-Irvine

Kathleen Belew, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in History, Rutgers University

Kathleen Cleaver, Senior Lecturer in African American Studies, Yale University, and Senior Research Scholar, Yale Law School

Kathy Hessler, Clinical Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School

Kathy Pence, Associate Professor and Chair of History, Baruch College (CUNY)

Kelly Anderson, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, Hunter College (CUNY)

Ken Estey, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Kendra Salois, Adjunct Professor of Music, Montclair State University

Kenneth Boockvar, Associate Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Kimberly R. King, Associate Professor of Psychology, California State University-Los Angeles

Kim F. Hall, Lucyle Hook Chair and Professor of English and Africana Studies, Barnard College

Kiran Asher, Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change and Women’s Studies, Clark University

Kirsten Weld, Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Latin American History, Brandeis University

Khalid Blankinship, Associate Professor of Religion, Temple University

Komozi Woodard, Professor of History and Public Policy, Sarah Lawrence College

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University

Larry Van Sickle, Associate Professor. of Sociology, Rollins College

Laura Briggs, Chair of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Laura Kang, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California-Irvine

Laura Kaplan, Graduate Teaching Fellow, Hunter College (CUNY)

Laura Y. Liu, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Eugene Lang College, The New School for Social Research

Laura L. Rovner, Associate Professor of Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Laura Tanenbaum, Associate Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Lawrence Blum, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Education and Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Lawrence Davidson, Professor of History, West Chester University

Lawrence Rushing, Professor of Psychology, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University

Lee Anne Bell, Professor, Barbara Silver Horowitz Director of Education, Barnard College

Leyla Mei, Assistant Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University

Lila Gardner, Continuing Education Teacher, CUNY Language Immersion Program, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Lily Shapiro, Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering, New York University School of Law

Lisa Edstrom, Lecturer/Certification Officer in Education, Barnard College

Lisa Freedman, Adjunct Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Lisa Hajjar, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California-Santa Barbara

Lise Vogel, Emerita Professor of Sociology, Rider University

Lynne Teplin, Counselor, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Macarena Gomez Barris, Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Maggie Clinton, Assistant Professor of History, Middlebury College

Manissa McCleave Maharawal, Graduate Teaching Fellow in Anthropology, Baruch College (CUNY)

Marc A. Hertzman, Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures Faculty Fellow, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University

Marcelle M. Haddix, Assistant Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Margaret Conte, Continuing Education Teacher, Language Immersion Program, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Margaret R. Hunt, Henry Winkley Professor of History and Political Economy, Amherst College

Margo Okazawa-Rey, Professor Emerita, San Francisco State University

Maria Hantzopoulos, Assistant Professor of Education, Vassar College

Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University

Mark Noferi, Instructor of Legal Writing, Brooklyn Law School

Mark Ungar, Professor of Criminal Justice, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)

Mark Wild, Associate Professor of History, California State University-Los Angeles

Mario Rios Perez, Assistant Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Marvin Carlson, Sidney E. Cohn Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature, CUNY Graduate Center

Mary Dillard, Associate Professor of African History, Sarah Lawrence College

Mary A. Lynch, Clinical Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Matthew Frye Jacobson, Chair of American Studies, Yale University

Maureen Fadem, Assistant Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Max Weiss, Assistant Professor of History, Princeton University

Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Melina Abdullah, Associate Professor and Acting Chair of Pan-African Studies, California State University-Los Angeles

Melissa Phruksachart, Graduate Teaching Fellow, English Department, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Meredith L. Weiss, Associate Professor of Political Science, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Micaela di Leonardo, Professor of Anthropology and Performance Studies, Northwestern University

Michael Busch, Adjunct Lecturer in International Relations, City College (CUNY)

Michael Friedman, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology, Queens College (CUNY)

Michael E. Green, Professor of Chemistry, City College (CUNY)

Michael Haber, Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

Michael Meagher, Assistant Professor of Education, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Michael Palm, Assistant Professor of Technology and Media Studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Michael Sullivan, Professor Emeritus of History & Politics, Drexel University

Michael West, Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Binghamton University

Miguel Macias, Assistant Professor of Television and Radio, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Miriam Ticktin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research

Molly Talcott, Assistant Professor of Sociology, California State University-Los Angeles

Monica J. Casper, Professor of American Studies, Arizona State University

Moustafa Bayoumi, Professor of English, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Muneer I. Ahmad, Clinical Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Nadine Naber, Associate Professor of American Culture and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan

Najam Haider, Assistant Professor of Religion, Barnard College

Nancy Gallagher, Professor of History, American University-Cairo and University of Californina-Santa Barbara

Nancy Romer, Professor of Psychology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Naomi Braine, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Naureen Shah, Lecturer-in-Law, Columbia University School of Law

Neil Smith, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography, CUNY Graduate Center

Nicole Smith, Law School Instructor, CUNY School of Law

Noor-Aiman Khan, Assistant Professor of History, Colgate University

Norma Claire Moruzzi, Associate Professor of Political Science, Gender & Women’s Studies, and History, University of Illinois-Chicago

Omid Safi, Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina

Omnia El Shakry, Associate Professor of History, University of California-Davis

Paige West, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University

Paisley Currah, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Pamela Allen Brown, Associate Professor of English, University of Connecticut

Pamela Edwards, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law

Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of California-Berkeley

Patrick D. Jones, Associate Professor of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Patrick Lloyd, Associate Professor of Physical Sciences, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Paul Amar, Associate Professor of Global and International Studies, University of California-Santa Barbara

Paul Levinson, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University

Paul Maltby, Professor of English, West Chester University

Paul A. Passavant, Associate Professor of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Paul Sedra, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of History, Simon Fraser University

Peter Brooks, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar and Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

Peter Halewood, Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Peter Ranis, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center

Piya Chatterjee, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California-Riverside

Priya Parmar, Assistant Professor of Education, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

R. Shareah Taleghani, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures, City College (CUNY)

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University

Rachel Heiman, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research

Rachel Rubin, Professor of American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Boston Ragini Shah, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School

Ramzi Kassem, Associate Professor of Law, CUNY Law School

Randy Albelda, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies Department of History, Columbia University

Raymond William Baker, College Professor of International Politics, Trinity College

Rayya El Zein, Graduate Teaching Fellow, Theatre Department, City College (CUNY)

Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

Renate Bridenthal, Professor of History, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Ricardo Dominguez, Associate Professor of Visual Arts, Univeristy of California-San Diego

Richard Delgado, Adjunct Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law

Richard Sennett, University Professor, New York University

Richard Shin, Associate Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Rick Shur, Adjunct Lecturer, English Language Acquisition Department, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

Robert Rozehnal, Associate Professor of Religion Studies, Lehigh University

Roberta Gold, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tamiment Library, New York University

Robyn C. Spencer, Assistant Professor of History, Lehman College (CUNY)

Roozbeh Shirazi, Postdoctoral Fellow in Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota

Rosalind Morris, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University

Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Ruben Hernandez-León, Associate Professor of Sociology, UCLA

Rupal Oza, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Hunter College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Associate Director for the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, CUNY Graduate Center

Ryan Daley, Adjunct Professor of English, New York City College of Technology (CUNY)

Saadia Toor, Associate Professor of Sociology, College of Staten Island (CUNY)

Sahar Aziz, Associate Professor of Law, Texas Wesleyan School of Law

Sally Bermanzohn, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Sally Frank, Professor of Law, Drake University

Samah Selim, Assistant Professor of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University

Sameer M. Ashar, Clinical Professor of Law, University of California-Irvine

Samir Chopra, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Sandi Cooper, Professor of History, Chair, University Faculty Senate, College of Staten Island (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Sanford F. Schram, Visiting Professor of Social Work and Social Research, Bryn Mawr College

Sarah Haley, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California-Los Angeles

Sarah Hoagland, Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor Professor of Philosophy, Women’s Studies, Latino/a/Latin American Studies, Northeastern Illinois University

Sarah Rogerson, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Sari Knopp Biklen, Laura and Douglas Meredith Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Saul Slapikoff, Professor Emeritus, Tufts University

Scott Dexter, Professor of Computer and Information Science, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Sebastian Purcell, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York-Courtland

Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University

Shamita Dasgupta, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law

Shamsad Ahmad, Lecturer of Physics, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Shana Agid, Assistant Professor of Art, Media and Technology/Director, Printmaking, Parsons, the New School for Design

Shana L. Redmond, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Shefali Chandra, Assistant Professor of History, International and Area Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

Sherifa Zuhur, Director of Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Diasporic Studies

Sherine F. Hamdy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Brown University

Shireen Roshanravan, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Kansas State University

Shirin Sinnar, Fellow, Stanford Law School

Sinan Antoon, Assistant Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Chair of Media Studies and Robertson Family Professor, University of Virginia

Snehal Shingavi, Assistant Professor of English, University of Texas-Austin

Sohaib Chekima, Arabic Lecturer, State University of New York-Albany

Stephen Pitti, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University

Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education, CUNY Graduate Center

Stephen Sheehi, Associate Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature, University of South Carolina

Steven Zeidman, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law Stuart Ewen, Distinguished Professor of History and Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies, Purdue University

Suad Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Women’s & Gender Studies, University of California-Davis

Sufia M. Uddin, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Connecticut College

Sujatha Fernandes, Associate Professor of Sociology, Queens College (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate Center

Sumanth Gopinath, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, University of Minnesota

Sunaina Maira Professor of Asian American Studies, University of California-Davis

Susan O’Malley, Professor Emerita, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Suvir Kaul, A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Suzanne Gardiner, Professor of Writing, Sarah Lawrence College

Tamara Vukov, Visiting Research Professor, Department of Culture and Communication, Drexel University

Tamer el-Leithy, Assistant Prof. of History, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University

Tanweer Haq, Counselor and Advisor on Islam, Syracuse University

Tazim R. Kassam, Associate Professor of Religion and Islam, Syracuse University

Ted Swedenburg, Professor of Anthropology, University of Arkansas

Timothy K. Eatman, Assistant Professor of Education, Syracuse University

Timothy Shortell, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Timothy Stewart-Winter, Assistant Professor of History, Rutgers University

Tina Campt, Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Africana Studies Program, Barnard College

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University

Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning, Hunter College (CUNY)

Torrey Shanks, Assistant Professor of Political Science, State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany

Tovah P. Klein, Associate Professor of Psychology, Barnard College

Tugrul Keskin, Assistant Professor of International and Middle Eastern Studies, Portland State University

Uli Schamiloglu, Professor of Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Velina Manolova, Graduate Teaching Fellow, City College (CUNY)

Victoria Wolcott, Associate Professor of History, State University of New York (SUNY)-Buffalo

Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies, Trinity College

Wesley Hogan, Associate Professor of History, Virginia State University

William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of Illinois-Chicago

William Harris, Professor of History, Columbia University

William Quigley, Janet Mary Riley Professor of Law, Loyola University-New Orleans

Yvette Christiansë, Professor of Africana Studies and English, Barnard College

Zakia Salime, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University

Zareena Grewal, Assistant Professor of American Studies, Yale University

Zoe Hammer-Tomizuka, Associate Professor of Political Studies, Prescott College

Review: Kashmir: The Case for Freedom (Tariq Ali, et al)

In the summer of 2010, protests erupted throughout Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim part of what India claims to be its northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmiris have always asserted their independence from India).  Throngs of young men and women defiantly hurled rocks at Indian security forces and set tires on fire to prevent armored vehicles from entering into neighborhoods.  Their chants were bold—“Go, India, Go!” and “Azadi (Independence) for Kashmir” and “Quit Kashmir” (the last being a reference to the slogan of the Indian movement against British colonialism: Quit India).  The rare media outfits that did cover the protests began calling the movement, the Kashmiri Intifada, drawing explicit comparison to the other longstanding occupation in Palestine.  For fear of having international opinion turned against it, the Indian government quickly clamped down on all media coverage of the resistance in Kashmir and opened its playbook to its favorite page: the rock-throwers in Kashmir were quickly dubbed Islamic terrorists.

At the same time, the repression in Kashmir against the population was brutal.  Protests were met with shootings, lathi (baton) charges, the firing of tear gas, curfews, mass arrests, shootings, disappearances, and torture.  The viciousness of the crackdown has its basis in the suspension of any legal oversight or consequence for the Indian security apparatus; since 1990, Kashmir has come under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows, among other things, any soldier or officer to fire upon any group of five or more people or anyone suspected of having a weapon, arrest anyone without a warrant and conduct home invasions. It also gives military personnel full immunity from prosecution for their actions.  Additionally, Kashmir is also one of the most heavily policed and militarized places in the world, with estimates of Indian security forces in the region at well over 700,000 (the Government of India refuses to release official numbers).  It bears underlining that the population of Kashmir is approximately 5.5 million, which means that there is one security personnel for every eight Kashmiris, a ratio which beggars Mubarak’s Egypt.  The carte blanche given to the police and military and the constant rhetoric of Islamic insurgency have proven to be a deadly and humiliating mix for ordinary Kashmiri civilians.  In one shocking video that was uploaded to youtube, Indian soldiers were seen parading young Kashmiri men naked through their village en route to a military camp.

Kashmir: The Case for Freedom, with contributions by Tariq Ali, Hilal Bhatt, Angana Chatterji, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy and selections of poems by the 16th-century Kashmiri poet, Habbah Khatun, comes at an important time, as new political and economic realities put the resistance of the Kashmiri people back on the map of global protest.  The book is essentially a handbook for human rights activists across the world, who have seen the protest movement in Kashmir grow but who have been left confused by the obfuscations which pass for journalism and the lies which are official politics in India, Pakistan, and the United States.  The overwhelming conclusion that any reader can come to after reading the book is the simple and straightforward one that Arundhati Roy arrives at: “Does any government have the right to take away people’s liberty with military force?  India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much—if not more—than Kashmir needs azadi from India.”

Kashmir has long tradition of religious syncretism, cultural innovation, and political resistance, but an equally long legacy of feudal, colonial, and now sub-imperial conquest.  The crux of the contemporary problem stems from the opportunistic way that the independence and partition of the Indian subcontinent was carried out and the vicious way that those terms are enforced on the population.  When British rule was established in Kashmir in 1846, Kashmir (recently conquered by the Sikh invader Ranjit Singh in 1819) was sold off to Dogra royalty (the Hindu rulers of neighboring Jammu) for 7.5 million rupees, 6 pairs of shawl goats, and 3 shawls (under the absurd Treaty of Amritsar).  Dogra rule was economically ruinous for the population who were reduced to a condition of absurd poverty; the few young people who could, escaped to other places in India, where they were radicalized and returned to raise slogans of freedom, justice, and land reform.  Before the partition of India, the dominant politics of the movement for Kashmiri independence, led by Sheikh Abdullah, were a heady mix of socialism and nationalism, not political Islam as is often claimed by more contemporary analysts.

When the British left India, the 565 prince states which had maintained a degree of political autonomy through treaties with the British were given the choice of acceding either to India or Pakistan or remaining independent.  Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, still hadn’t decided; leaders of the Muslim League were attempting to woo him to Pakistan, while his Hindu sympathies seemed to incline him in favor of India.  Leaders in Pakistan decided not to wait and planned an invasion.  Hari Singh, worried about being deposed militarily, quickly negotiated an accession to India in exchange for military support.  But under the terms of the agreement, Kashmir was to be allowed a referendum to determine the will of the people on the question of accession.  Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, despite publicly proclaiming his support for the plebiscite (as Arundhati Roy’s excellent collection of excerpts of his speeches shows), ultimately reneged on his promise.  The Indian army was able to repel the Pakistani invaders only up to a point; the current Line of Control which divides Kashmir more or less marks the results of that confrontation.  Since then, Kashmir has become a pawn in the cynical and deadly game between India and Pakistan.  India uses Kashmir to claim that it is a democratic society (but does so by rigging elections, importing pliable Hindu rulers, imprisoning elected leaders, brutally oppressing the population), while Pakistan claims that it is interested in Kashmiri independence (despite having flooded the Valley with guns and an intolerant variant of Islam and denying independence to its other occupied territory, Balochistan).

The book makes two important contributions to our understanding of what has happened in Kashmir since that point.  The first has to do with the form of the resistance, which has shifted over the years from secular nationalism to Islamist politics and back again.  The period between the 1940s and the early 1980s was dominated by the secular, nationalist forces in Kashmir organized under Sheikh Abdullah who initially sought some kind of compromise with the Indian state for greater autonomy within a larger federation.  When even democratic dialogue broke down and India reneged on promises, a few groups (like the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front) broke away from the dominant nationalist coalition and began waging a guerrilla struggle.  At the same time, Pakistan flush with arms and militants it was recruiting and training for the American-sponsored resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, began both recruiting Kashmir youth to jihadi outfits and began to send Islamist groups into Kashmir as well as providing weapons and training to secular groups as well (though they eventually stopped backing these groups all together).  The devastating effects of that policy on ordinary Kashmiris are documented in Hilal Bhatt’s personal essay in the collection.  But by the late 1990s, Islamist organizations had exhausted whatever appeal they may have had as their social policies came into conflict with Kashmiri ideologies and their inability to produce a military solution meant that ordinary Kashmiris were the ones suffering for the barbaric Indian crackdown that followed those terrorist activities.  The last decade of resistance has been characterized by secular, democratic opposition to the policies of the Indian state, a reality which goes against all of the mainstream propaganda that Kashmir is another front in the war on terror.

The second has to do with the staggering scale of violence that the Indian state perpetrates against the Kashmiri population (the condition of the Pakistani administered section while poor, is not nearly as bloody).  As Angana Chatterji puts it, “Kashmir is a landscape of internment, where resistance is deemed ‘insurgent’ by state institutions.”  [Chatterji and her husband, Richard Shapiro, have been targeted by the Indian government for their views on Kashmir and were both recently fired from their jobs at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in part, for their outspoken political advocacy.]  Part of the reason that Kashmir is so brutally repressed is because the Indian state is now governed by an ideology which requires the fiction of a massive security threat in order to justify exorbitant expenditures on its military and police forces.  This fiction is propped up, as Chatterji argues, by an ideology which amalgamates Hindu chauvinism, neoliberalism, and authoritarian statecraft.  The result has been the wholesale criminalization of even the mildest form of public protest.  Most recently, the police filed sedition charges against Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education for showing a man in blue carrying a stick under the Urdu letter “zoi” for “zaalim” (oppressor).  The police have charged everyone affiliated with the book with criminal conspiracy, defamation, and provocation with the intent to breach peace, since the innocuous depiction was assumed to be a police officer.  In another instance, an English professor, Noor Mohammad Bhat, was thrown in jail for administering a “provocative” examination assignment.

Despite making the case for an independent Kashmir and offering a brilliant indictment of the Indian government’s claim to being the largest democracy on the planet, the book falls short on one important point, namely in pointing out a strategy by which that independence can come about if armed struggle, mass protest, and even political compromise have all failed in turn.  The unfortunate reality in Kashmir is that it is extremely similar to Palestine, where the indigenous populations lack the necessary social force to repel the violence of occupation forces and then are forced into taking part in the opportunistic diplomacy of larger states around them.  But like Palestine, the Kashmiris have allies in both Pakistan and India who have no interest in the occupation of Kashmir, in fact whose lives would immediately be improved if both Pakistan and India were to stop spending Himalayan sums on security personnel and instead spend money on eradicating poverty.  The Indian and Pakistani working classes have common enemies—their own states—and the end to the occupation in Kashmir will only be the result of their unified struggle.  This though is only the slightest of criticisms; the spirit if not the explicit argument of the Arab Spring runs throughout this entire book.

[Special thanks to Huma Dar for suggestions and edits.]

JOINT STATEMENT ON POLICE ATROCITIES AND STATE REPRESSION ON ANTI-POSCO STRUGGLE

MARCH 6, 2012

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We strongly condemn the attack on and illegal abduction by the Odisha police of Umakanta Biswal, a famer belonging to Dhinkia village of Odisha, and an active member of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), that has been engaged over the last six years in resisting the forcible acquisition of their land by the Odisha government for handing over to the South Korean multinational corporation POSCO. This incident, which occurred on 2nd March 2012, is the latest in the series of atrocities inflicted by the Odisha government and by hired goons associated with the government and the POSCO company, on the people of these villages. Umakanta Biswal, who was engaged in agricultural activity in his paddy field at the time of his abduction, was pursued by a group of armed plainclothes policemen on a motorbike, and shot at when he tried to escape. He has reportedly been kept in Paradip prison, and has not been produced in front of a magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest, as is required under law. We have cause to fear that he is being tortured in police custody, and are gravely concerned about his safety. This highly irregular, and illegal, form of detention of a citizen, amounting to a kidnapping by the police, is emblematic of the situation in which the villagers of the POSCO-affected area are living for the last six years, just because they have tried to protect their lives and livelihoods from being devastated by corporate greed. Numerous villagers have multiple false cases lodged against them by the police, and people are in danger of being abducted and detained by the police while being engaged in day to day activities such as farming. There have also been incidents where a villager taking his sick child to hospital has been arrested by the police. This continuing victimization and violation of basic human rights of a whole community of people is intolerable, and goes against all tenets of constitutionality and humanity. We condemn this brutal and illegal action by the Odisha government and demand that Umakanta Biswal be immediately produced in court and released. We request the National Human Rights Commission to take cognizance of this illegal detention and violation of rights of a citizen, which is symptomatic of the violation of rights of the entire community of villagers in the area of the proposed POSCO project.

Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Prafulla Samantara NAPM and Lok Shakti Abhiyan
Prof. Ajit Jha Samajwadi Jan Parishad
Partho Sarathi Roy SANHATI Collective
Kiran Shaheen Media Action Group, Delhi
Aarti Chokshi Secretary PUCL, Karnataka
Students for Resistance Delhi University and JNU
Amit Chakrabarty Research Scholar, JNU
Mamta Das NFFPFW and POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi
Subrat Kumar Sahoo POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Kamayani Bali Mahabal Lowyer Activist, Mumbai
Asit Das POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Nayan Jyoti Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
Shankar Gopal Krishnan Campaign for Survival and Dignity
Mayur Chetia Research Scholar JNU
Arya Thomas Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
P.K. Sunderam Research Scholar JNU
Bhanumati Gochhait POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi
Ranjeet Thakur Journalist, Uttarakhand
Rajni Kant Mudgal Socialist Front
Rita Kumari Pravasi Nagarik Manch
Pushpa Achanta Women against Sexual Violence State Repression Karnataka

The politics of general strikes in India

General Strike in India 

On February 28th, India’s major trade union federations declared a general strike, with early estimates of workers participating in the one-day industrial action in the tens of millions, making it the largest strike in India since the nation’s independence in 1947.  This is the first time that the trade union federations (which are all affiliated to one or another political party) have come together to protest against “neoliberal economic and labor policies” pursued by the UPA (United Progressive Alliance, led by the Congress Party) government; the action was also supported by more than 5000 independent unions.

This reveals two important things about India that are usually forgotten by the western media.  First, that India is not merely a seething mass of desperation composed of peasants and the abject poor; it has a massive working class with some real organizations that are capable of bringing out their own forces.  And second, that the economic realities of neoliberal growth do not go unchallenged indefinitely.  Even in the places where the vice grip on workers has been tightened to extreme levels, people still find a way to fight back.

Among the demands that the unions made were the establishment of a national minimum wage, the ending of temporary employment (what are called “contract laborers” in India) in favor of permanent jobs, more effort to curb runaway inflation (hovering at around 7.5%), guaranteed pensions, and an end to the privatization of publicly owned companies.

The banking and insurance sectors were hit the worst by the strike, but other workers including dockworkers, postal workers, and transportation workers were heavily hit.  The coordination of a national strike of this scale marks the beginning of a new stage in the confrontation between labor and capital in India, as the benefits of India’s boom have produced a sclerotic economy, with benefits accruing to the few at the top.

Despite threats from the central government and a last minute offer to negotiate, the strike proceeded and brought out millions.  In places like Kerala, the state government threatened workers with a “dies non” order (no work-no pay), while in other places like Delhi, the government attempted to enforce the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to force workers in industries like power generation back to work.  In West Bengal, cadres of Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) also attacked and injured strikers.

Slumdogs, Millionaires, and Manmohanomics

For the past decade, India has been the darling of the economic pundits globally, with massive growth rates and a burgeoning middle-class whose consumptive powers have fuelled the national mythology of “India Shining.”  According to current estimates, the Indian economy grew at around 7% last year and is projected to grow again at a similar rate in 2012.

At the same time, the benefits of that growth have been massively skewed.  As Katherine Boo’s new book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, demonstrates, the growth of the Indian economy has happened at the same time as the growth of its underclass.  Mumbai, the symbol of India’s new economic power and famous for its massive film industry, is now commonly referred to as “Slumbai”; more people live in slums in Mumbai than not, where they work in the hyperexploitative informal economy (if they work at all).

Agricultural reforms implemented in the past twenty years have immiserated people in the countryside.  Last year alone there were more than 15,000 farmer suicides as a result of indebtedness and bad harvests.  Desperate farmers then migrate to the larger cities and towns where they form the massive reserve army of the unemployed which drives down wages.

At its core, the national strike is a response to these conditions and the pinch that workers are feeling throughout the country.  Last year there were some spectacular job actions at places like Maruti-Sazuki in the Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, where workers fought a pitched battle for wages, and occupied the factory for almost two weeks.

At the same time, the official line of the Congress Party-led Government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is that neoliberal economic policies are going to continue.  At the heart of the fight with the unions is the controversial Pension Bill in Parliament currently, which would tie the pensions to market-driven financial instruments and put employee retirements in jeopardy.

But also at issue are Singh’s plans to sell off major state holdings in order to finance repayments on international loans and budget deficits.  Singh did, after all, cut his teeth as the economic architect of India’s neoliberal reforms which began to be implemented when he was the Finance Minister under PV Narasimha Rao.

It is the twin pressures that workers in India feel, both from the immiseration into which they are sinking from below (from inflation and from a growing underclass which they are trying desperately to unionize) and from above (in the form of neoliberalism and attacks on union rights) which has produced the conditions for greater militancy in India.

The Official Trade Unions

There are two reasons though that this confrontation between labor and capital in India will not be decisive, which are also the reasons that the unions have only put forward a tentative one-day strike with a rather long and vague list of demands.  First, the official trade unions are all connected to various political parties, and these massive days of protest are usually connected to political gamesmanship that the parties play against one another.

The unions at the head of the strike were dominated by the official left in India, which is still dominated by Stalinist and Maoist political organizations.  So in India there is the All-India Federation of Trade Unions (run by the CPIML-Janashakti), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (run by the CPIML), All India United Trade Union Center run by the Socialist Unity Center, the All India Trade Union Congress (run by the CP), Center of Indian Trade Unions (CPIM), United Trade Union Congress (run by the Revolutionary Socialist Party).

Now since many of these parties are no longer revolutionary parties in the long run, they tend to play a dampening rather than developing role on class struggle.  Which is not to say that workers don’t fight back, they do, but that their fights are limited from the top.  In 2006, there was an attempt to form a federation of Independent Trade Unions called the New Trade Union Initiative, which holds out some of the best possibilities for an independent trade union movement in India.  Many of their unions also participated in this one-day action.

Second, there are also reactionary trade unions like the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sabha [this was corrected thanks to a comment below -NRI] run by the right-wing BJP and the Bhartiya Kamgar Sena, run by the ultra-right Shiv Sena which brought out their members.  Both of these unions also participated in the strike, largely because the leftist unions kept the slogans vague enough that the right-wing could use the one-day strike as cover for the purported populist politics.

Part of the reason that the right and the left were able to come together (as they have in the past, as under the Janata Party government in the 1970s) is because they are both now in the opposition to the Congress Party’s UPA coalition which runs the central government.  In fact, despite agreeing early on to support the strike, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (run by the Congress Party) withdrew, after the party leadership put substantial pressure on it.  “The strike is politically motivated and illegal.  We will oppose it on Tuesday,” said Ashok Chaudhary, the national president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).

But this alliance can only be temporary and opportunistic, as the BJP and Shiv Sena are both pursuing neoliberal policies (in Gujarat and Maharashtra respectively, where both of them play much larger regional roles).  It also sets forward a danger, since the right wing has not been shy about stoking up ethnic and communal hatred in times of economic contraction.

Communist Party and West Bengal

Part of the reason that the strike took place in as spectacular a way as it did was because of the routing the official left received at the polls in the last elections.  While they were in power in places like Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal, they were able to play a dampening role on industrial actions.  Once they were removed from office, they have found it possible to release the discontent that their members face, in order to embarrass the current government, but only up to a point. Too much worker militancy threatens their own ability to contain mass anger, which is the only real thing that they have to offer in exchange for capital investments in their economically impoverished states.

It was also in those places where the strike was strongest and was able to do more than simply industrial work-stoppages but actually stop much traffic and business throughout major cities.  In other places throughout the country (Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka) the effects of the strike were not as strongly felt.

But the most significant showdown in the strike was clearly in West Bengal, where Mamata Bannerjee attempted to flex against her muscle against what she called “the politics of bandhs” (shutdowns of cities).  Having recently beaten the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the polls, Bannerjee is now in the position of having to do the bidding of large capital, despite having organized strikes and bandhs herself in the past.

In Kolkata, the police were out in droves attempting to get people back to work, while Bannerjee’s TMC sent many of its members to break up rallies and pickets throughout the city.  Bannerjee came to power on the basis of a negative referendum on the CPM, when it tried to raze entire villages in order to make way for a manufacturing campus in the countryside for industrial giants like Tata Motors.  Bannerjee’s opportunistic about-face (now doing the work of the same capitalists that she claimed to oppose) will only expose her to greater challenges.

What the general strike reveals is the simultaneity of ordinary working class anger at the economic and political system in India as well as the inability of the major left groups to deliver anything but symbolic and token changes in their lives.  The general strike revealed that the working class in India is quite large and has the muscle to topple capitalism, but it will require new forms of political and union organization than the ones that are currently on offer.