Monday, March 30, 2015

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians9

Five years later, on 15 January 1891, the Sioux chief, Kicking Bear, finally surrendered. The wars were effectively over. By 1900, a people which once represented a hundred percent of the population of the USA. was reduced to a third of one per cent.
So what does this all tell us, apart from, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it, "war is hell". And so was four centuries of genocide against the American Indians. In 2000, the US government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs apologised with the full support of the Clinton administration:
As the nation looked to the West for more land, this agency participated in the ethnic cleansing that befell the western tribes. … it must be acknowledged that the deliberate spread of disease, the decimation of the mighty bison herds, the use of the poison alcohol to destroy mind and body, and the cowardly killing of women and children made for tragedy on a scale so ghastly that it cannot be dismissed as merely the inevitable consequence of the clash of competing ways of life. … We accept this inheritance, this legacy of racism and inhumanity. (Kevin Gover, Bureau of Indian Affairs)
Perhaps one thing it all suggests is that the US celebration of Christopher Columbus Day on the second Monday in October every year is outdated and increasingly unacceptable to a growing number of those who have understood the man's motivations and his legacy of slavery, violence, and destruction.
Today, fanatics across the Middle East continue to bomb, shoot, or hack their way through non-combatant populations of men, women, and children for no more reason than the race or religion they were born into, or the land they were born onto. As the American Indians so tragically discovered, the world has become good at turning a blind eye to the genocides it prefers not to see.
At the start of this piece I suggested that readers could form their own view whether the American Indians had been the victims of genocide. Perhaps the final words on this should go to The New York Times.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow retired as Smith Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard in 1854. The following year, he published his epic poem about the Indian chief, Hiawatha. On 28 December 1855, page 2 of The New York Times carried a review of the poem, which described it as:
… embalming pleasantly enough the monstrous traditions of an uninteresting and, one may almost say, a justly exterminated race.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians8

The Cheyenne and Arapaho men of Sand Creek were away on a buffalo hunt, leaving around 600 women and children together with some 35 braves and 25 old men. When the American cavalry approached, the elderly chief, Black Kettle, emerged with his family. He waved a white flag and an American flag, and explained that the village had already voluntarily surrendered all its weapons to prove they were peaceful. All the while, he reassured his people not to be afraid. However, the Cavalry commander, the Rev. Col. John Milton Chivington, a devout Methodist pastor and elder, was an extremist in no mood for peace. “I long to be wading in gore”, he had announced a few days earlier:
Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! … I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.
The stomach-turning notion that “nits make lice” was one of his favourite justifications for the wholesale butchery of Indian children. Accordingly, at Sand Creek he sent in his 700 troops, who slaughtered the entire village, including a six-year-old girl waving a white flag. When they were done, they scalped the bodies, hacked off fingers and ears for jewellery, and sexually mutilated a number of the corpses.
Soldier Blue was released at the height of the Vietnam War, and attracted some criticism for its timing. But it was a tearaway international box office success, chiefly remembered for introducing an audience weaned on films of spectacular and heroic cowboy derring-do to a far more shocking and sobering view of how the West was won.
“The order was massacre, and good soldiers follow orders. These soldiers were the best.” Strapline to original 1970 movie poster of Soldier Blue.
Perhaps equally as shocking is that Chivington was never disciplined for the atrocity, and President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–9) declared the Sand Creek massacre was:
… as righteous and beneficial a deed as ever took place on the frontier.
He later went on to say:
I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe 9 out of 10 are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians7

Several decades later, in 1829, Andrew Jackson was elected president, although few now remember he had sacked Indian villages of “savage dogs”, made bridle reins of their flayed skin, sent souvenirs of corpses to the ladies of Tennessee, and claimed, “I have on all occasions preserved the scalps of my killed”.
President Andrew Jackson scalped his Indian victims
At the same time as the state-orchestrated wars of annihilation. theIndian Removal Act of 1830 required the resettlement of entire populations of Indians to new territories west of the Mississippi. When the Indians of Georgia won a ruling from Chief Justice John Marshall saying, effectively, they could stay, President Jackson ignored the Supreme Court and had the Indians sent on a death march anyway — the Trail of Tears. One former Civil War soldier said he had seen a great deal of brutality in his life, but nothing on the scale of the cruelty of the Indian death marches. Later forced relocations of Indians, like the Navajo Long Walk and the Pomo Death March in California, followed the same pattern.
The language of extermination coming from the top was also mirrored at state level. For example, Governor Peter Burnett of California stated in 1851 that war would:
… continue to be waged between the races until the Indian becomes extinct.
And the following year his successor, Governor John McDougal, reiterated the sentiment, urging that the whites’ war against the Indians:
… must of necessity be one of extermination to many of the tribes.
All the while, elements within the press supported the incitement to mass murder. L Frank Baum (most famous as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) was editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer in South Dakota. In it, he wrote:
The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are. (20 December 1890)
He returned to the same theme the following week:
The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extirmination [sic] of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. (29 December 1890)
These seem to have been fairly standard and established views among sections of the population. A generation earlier, in 1864, the Rev. William Crawford had written of the prevailing opinion in Colorado:
There is but one sentiment in regard to the final disposition which shall be made of the Indians: ‘Let them be exterminated — men, women, and children together’.
And, sure enough, one of the worst atrocities of the 1800s soon followed — the  infamous November 1864 massacre at Sand Creek, familiar to anyone who has seen the 1970 film Soldier Bluegroundbreaking for its graphic depictions of the slaughter.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians6

Penalties for this type of racial disloyalty were harsh. In 1612, Thomas Dayle, Marshall of Virginia, captured some young English settlers who had run away to live with the Indians. His retribution was swift and brutal:
Some he apointed to be hanged Some burned Some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some to be shott to deathe.
So far the focus of the story has been the settlers’ violence. But the biggest killer of the American Indians was undoubtedly the arsenal of diseases brought by the Europeans. The role of disease in this context remains a hotly debated issue. However, it is wholly misleading to think — as many now do — that the Indian deaths caused by these invisible microbial killers were unforeseeable, accidental, inadvertent, or otherwise an unintended consequence of peaceful contact between the Europeans and the Indians. The volumes filled with eyewitness accounts of settler savagery leave no one in any doubt that the conquerors of the New World wanted land, and were pleased by all opportunities to take it. The British Puritans viewed the decimation of tribe after tribe from disease as being an integral part of God’s active support for their new colonies. For instance, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony noted after an epidemic of smallpox in 1634 that the British settlers had been largely unharmed, but:
… for the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so as the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess.
The human devastation wrought by the diseases carried by Columbus’s men and everyone who followed was cataclysmic: a rolling cocktail of diphtheria, influenza, measles, mumps, typhus, scarlet fever, smallpox, syphilis — the list is endless. Not only did these pathogens cull whole native populations, but they kept on killing, even once individual outbreaks had abated, because there was no one left strong enough to bury the dead or gather food.
It is wholly misleading to think that the deaths caused by disease were unforeseeable or an unintended consequence of peaceful contact

In 1793, once the American War of Independence had concluded with the Treaty of Paris, the “Indian Question” became a domestic matter for the new American administration.
Alongside growth in the African slave trade, the slavery of Indians continued undiminished right up to the general abolition of slavery in 1865. For instance, in 1861, in Colusa County, California, Indian boys and girls of three and four years old were still being sold for small sums. Such child slaves were often kidnapped and sold by traders, secure in the knowledge that the parents could do nothing, as Indians could not give testimony in court against whites.
As the settlers pushed across the Plains and the West, tales of whooping, tomahawk-wielding, Indians slaughtering whites became ever more widespread. But it is noteworthy that, pre-colonisation, many of the Indians in the area did not have violent cultures. Among some tribes, sneaking up on an enemy and touching him with a weapon, stick, or even a hand was traditionally deemed the highest form of bravery. However, in the face of continual attacks, the Indians learned to respond with violence.
As alien as it may seem now, by the late 1700s, many American leaders were openly advocating the destruction and extermination of the encampments and tribes. For instance, in 1779, a decade before he became first president of the U.S., General George Washington told the military commander attacking the Iroquois to:
… lay waste all the settlements around … that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed
and not to:
… listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.
He insisted upon the military need to fill the Indians with a:
… terror with which the severity of the chastisement they receive will inspire them.
Other presidents were more explicit still. In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson told his Secretary of State for War to use “the hatchet” and that:
… we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated or is driven beyond the Mississippi … in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.
It was a theme Jefferson was to return to several times, freely using words like “exterminate” and “extirpate”.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians5

However, the question of how to deal with the Indians was never far away. For instance, William Berkeley, one of Virginia's early governors, came up with the idea of massacring all the men, then selling all the women and children into slavery to cover the costs of the exterminations.
A particularly shocking episode involving the British Puritan settlers was the Pequot War (Southern New England, 1634–8). Following several tit-for-tat skirmishes, the British resolved to respond with crushing force.
The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, what cheere, Englishmen, what cheere, what doe you come for: They not thinking we intended warre, went on cheerefully untill they come to Pequeat river.
The British then went on a village burning spree, in response to which the Indians marched on Fort Saybrook. After a few opening gambits by either side, the Indians sent a message to ask the British commander if he felt they had all “fought enough”. Lt Lion Gardiner avoided a direct answer, prompting the Indians to ask if the British meant to kill their women and children. Gardiner replied “they should see that thereafter”. Under cover of night, the British then attacked the Indian encampment at the Mystic River. Shouting “we must burn them”, Capt. John Mason torched the site, and shot or cut down anyone who tried to escape. He left a description of the massacre:
And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished. … [And] God was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven: Thus were the Stout Hearted spoiled, having slept their last Sleep … . Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!
As feared, the majority of the 600 to 700 slain were women and children. But as John Underhill, Mason’s co-commander, noted:
… sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents.
To finish the job, the river Pequot was renamed the Thames, and the town of Pequot was made New London — to ensure that the Pequot people would be wiped from the map and forgotten.
It was also under the British that one of the few recorded cases of intentional biological warfare occurred. In 1763, General (later Baron) Jeffrey Amherst, governor of Virginia and commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, sanctioned the purposeful spread of lethal disease. In a set of orders given to Col. Henry Bouquet at Fort Pitt, he commanded:
You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.
Despite the relentless hostility of most senior European settlers towards the Indians, some of the less powerful saw things differently. As we have seen, Columbus’s companion, Bartolomé de Las Casas, ended his days fighting for the proper treatment of Indians. And under subsequent British and then American rule, we know that Indian culture was not universally abominated. No less a figure than the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin explained:
When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return. [But] when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians4

Another marvel was the exuberant artwork they found everywhere. Theconquistador Hernan Cortés brought some of it home to Europe, where the great Albrecht Dürer’s reaction was rapture. He said he had:
… never seen in all my days what so rejoiced my heart, as these things. For I saw among them amazing artistic objects, and I marveled over the subtle ingenuity of the men in these distant lands. Indeed, I cannot say enough about the things that were brought before me.
The culture of the Indians throughout the Americas varied enormously, as would be expected for such a vast area. But the Spanish were nevertheless amazed to discover that many of the tribes were peaceful, harmonious, and egalitarian, with little sense of greed, crime, or warfare. This was naturally not true of all, but the passivity, hospitality, and community demonstrated by tribe after tribe fills the eyewitness Spanish accounts, which also note their frequently calm and respectful manner of exercising authority, and even unheard of social systems like the cultural, spiritual, and economic matriarchy within the Iroquois.
As the Spanish seized ever more land, Columbus implemented therepartimiento (or encomienda), which gave each of the conquerors a number of Indians to enslave, turning the natives’ previously peaceful way of life into a nightmare of unending brutality and violence as they were forced to mine precious metals and work plantations in sub-human conditions.
This subjugation was repeated throughout the Caribbean, before theconquistadores turned to the mainland, and wreaked the same carnage on the Aztecs of Mexico, the Maya of Central America, the Incas of Peru and Chile, and the other Indians they found.
Unlike the Caribbean Indians, the Aztecs in Mexico were familiar with warfare, although they had formal rules. A declaration of intention to declare war was required, along with the opportunity for the other side to make reparations to avert the conflict. The attacker might also supply the defender with weapons and food, as there was no honour in defeating the unarmed or weak.
However, Hernan Cortés, the conquistador who led the advance into Mexico, had no intention of observing these formalities. Having been welcomed by Montezuma into the great city of Tenochtitlán (now ruins within Mexico City), Cortés set about starving and slaughtering its people, before eventually levelling the city, burning all books, and feeding its priests to his war dogs.
This same pattern of annihilation and conquest was repeated throughout Central and South America. Tens of millions of Indians were rounded up and used as slaves on the coca plantations, or as labour down the GOLD and silver mines, where they worked and slept without ever seeing the light of day, constantly exposed to highly toxic cinnabar, arsenic, and mercury. Life expectancy was brutally low. Theconquistadores calculated that with such an abundant slave workforce, it was cheaper to let them die of starvation and exhaustion than waste time and money providing food or survivable conditions. Oneconquistador recalled, “If twenty healthy Indians enter [a mine] on Monday, half may emerge crippled on Saturday”.
As the conquerors moved south, the strongest resistance came from the Maya, whose empire extended across southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras, and northern El Salvador. But even they were ultimately no match for the fanatical invaders, and the same fate befell them as everyone else.
In shockingly few generations, European greed, savagery, and disease had exterminated all but a handful of the citizens of the millennia-old American Indian civilisations. On average, the tribes’ populations were reduced to around 5 per cent of the size they had been before Columbus arrived.
So much for Central and South America. Further north, in what is now the USA, the Spanish, French, and British pillaged the Atlantic coast for slaves, raiding today’s Florida, Georgia, and Carolina. Finally, in 1607, the British settled permanently, initially at Jamestown, Virginia, where one of the British troops wrote they had found:
a lande that promises more than the Lande of promisse: In steed of mylke we fynde pearl. / & GOLDE INN steede of honye.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians3

The physical taking of new territories was farcical. The Indians were summoned, often manacled, and a proclamation called therequermiento was read to them. They spoke over 2,000 languages, but Spanish was naturally not one of them, so the ceremony was meaningless to them. Nevertheless, it stated that if they did not acknowledge Ferdinand and Isabella as their just sovereigns, all men, women, and children would be enslaved, and their possessions taken by force. In fact, the proclamation was actually meaningless for everyone — Columbus was there to enslave them and loot their property whatever.
The early records of kind and generous natives were soon replaced by descriptions of them as backwards savages and wild animals, who could therefore be treated as such. (This process of dehumanisation is seen throughout history when one people settles on the land of another.) As a direct result, native blood flowed freely, and within 21 years — and four voyages by Columbus — Hispaniola was a ghost-island. The tropical abundance had been destroyed, and all its inhabitants were dead.
By 1900, a people which once represented a hundred percent of America’s population was reduced to a third of one percent
The Indians had originally moved into the Americas across the Bering Straits from Asia perhaps around 40,000 BC (some say as early as 70,000 BC). They had crossed between the eastern tip of Russia (the Chukchi Peninsula) and the westerly part of Alaska (Cape Prince of Wales) using the “Bering land bridge”, a vast slab of land now submerged under the Bering Straits leaving only a few rocky mountain tops poking out of the icy waters. The new land the people moved into — the Americas — was immense, covering a quarter of the earth’s land mass.
There, entirely cut off from the rest of the world’s history — unaware of ancient Egypt, China, Greece, Rome, Europe, or the rise of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam — the American Indians simultaneously developed their own civilisations.
When the Spanish finally saw the cities of the New World, they found themselves gazing on the stuff of fantasy — like in Aztec Mexico, where they came across the great cities around the Lake of the Moon, with Tenochtitlán rising mystically out of the centre of the water. Theconquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo wrote:
… when we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land … we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments they tell of … . And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream? … I do not know how to describe it, seeing things as we did that had never been heard of or seen before, not even dreamed about.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians2

He also described the "innumerable" native Indians who greeted him:
They have no iron or steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well-built people of handsome stature, because they are wondrous timid. … They are so artless and free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts; and whether the thing be of value or of small price,
However, power and greed soon took over. On the first voyage, Columbus seized men, women, and children to take back to Spain and parade like circus animals. Most died on the voyage, and all were dead within six months.
This spurred him to be more ambitious on his second voyage, in which he selected 550 of the best specimens he could find, and allowed his men to take whoever else they wanted, which turned out to be another 600. The journey back to Europe was so debilitating for the captives that Columbus ended up throwing over 200 corpses overboard. There are no records of what happened to the 600 taken by his men.
Columbus’s second voyage had been on an altogether different scale to the first. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain had kitted him out with 17 ships and 1,200 men, principally soldiers, including a cavalry troop of lancers. When they arrived at Hispaniola, the natives came out to meet them with fish and fruit “as if we had been their brothers”. In return, Columbus dispatched his troops to the island’s interior and the nearby islands to plunder the gold mines.
Columbus never found North America, from J Cohen, Christopher Columbus: The Four Voyages. 1969
Armed with the latest weaponry and armoured mastiffs trained to rip people apart, the Spanish tortured, maimed, raped, slaughtered, and burned the inhabitants in search of GOLD. Bartolomé de Las Casas, an eyewitness who eventually became a Dominican friar and fought for the Indians’ rights, left a harrowing description:
… whenever the Spaniards found them, they pitilessly slaughtered everyone like sheep in a corral. It was a general rule among Spaniards to be cruel; not just cruel, but extraordinarily cruel so that harsh and bitter treatment would prevent Indians from daring to think of themselves as human beings or having a minute to think at all. So they would cut an Indian’s hands and leave them dangling by a shred of skin and they would send him on saying “Go now, spread the news to your chiefs.” They would test their swords and their manly strength on captured Indians and place bets on the slicing off of heads or the cutting of bodies in half with one blow. They burned or hanged captured chiefs.
It was an orgy of looting and butchery, faithfully recorded by eyewitnesses. The accounts are too graphic to quote, but they detail the widespread massacres, including of children, dashing out their brains, and even feeding them to the armoured attack dogs. This senseless savagery was described as “pacification”.
Theodor de Bry, illustration for Bartolomé de las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552)
Wherever Columbus’s men landed, they seized the land outright. His letter back to Ferdinand and Isabella is crystal clear:
… and of them all have I taken possession for Their Highnesses, by proclamation and with the royal standard displayed, and nobody objected.

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians1

Given the conquests and consequences we see unfolding every day in the Middle East, now is a good time to look at the timeless reality of what happens to people who are in the way.
Christopher Columbus never set foot in the land that would become the United States of America. In fact, he never even saw it.
His four voyages took him to the Caribbean, a small detour to Central America, and a hop to the north-east coast of Venezuela. He had no idea the continent of North America existed, or that he had even stumbled into a “New World”. He thought he had found China, Japan, and the region of King Solomon’s fabled GOLD mines.
What he had categorically not done was “discover” anything, as somewhere between 50 to 100 million people already lived there quite happily, just as they had done for tens of thousands of years. On the other hand, what he did was to start a brutal slave TRADE in American Indians, and usher in four centuries of genocide that culled them to virtual extinction. Within a generation of Columbus landing, perhaps only 5-10 per cent of the entire American Indian population remained.
People can argue the semantics of what genocide means, and whether it is applicable in this context. But if it sounds fanciful, consider the UN’s Genocide Convention, passed by the General Assembly in December 1948. Although President Harry S Truman handed it to the US Senate the following year, the US only finally ratified it in 1986, along with a “Sovereignty Package” requiring US consent for any actions brought against the US. The key reason for the delay and conditional ratification was the senators’ concern that the US could be pursued in connection with its treatment of the American Indians (and also African Americans).
It should come as no surprise that the term “genocide” is highly controversial in the context of the American Indians. Nevertheless, this article will tell the story of the destruction of the indigenous peoples of the Americas — predominantly by the Spanish conquistadores, British Puritans, and finally the American settlers — and you can make up your own mind. To start, here are two definitions:
genocide. The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group. 1940s: from Greek genos ‘race’ + -cide (Oxford English Dictionary)
Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group: (a) killing; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm; (c) deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births; (e) forcibly transferring children (Article 2, UN Genocide Convention, abbreviated)
On 3 August 1492, Columbus slipped out of Palos de la Frontera on board his flagship, the carrack Santa María. Along with him were two nippier caravels, the Pinta and the Niña. Exactly 10 weeks later, on 12 October, he landed on “San Salvador” — a still unidentified island in the Bahamas. By October he was in Cuba, and on 6 December he had landed on the island of Haiti, which he renamed La Spañola (Hispaniola).
He described the islands as “very fertile to an excessive degree”, “beyond comparison”, “most beautiful”, “filled with trees of a thousand kinds and tall, and they seem to touch the sky”. In addition he found: “nightingale and other little birds of a thousand kinds”, “honey”, “a great variety of fruits”, “many mines of metals”, and “rivers, many and great, the most of which bear GOLD”.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

হকারদের স্বার্থ দেখতে চাইলে ভেন্ডিং কমিটি তৈরি করেই এগোতে হবে শক্তিমান ঘোষ

সম্প্রতি রাজ্যে সংবাদপত্র দেখলে মনে হবে হয়ত হঠাতই হকার সমাজ যেন খুব প্রাসঙ্গিক হয়ে উঠেছে। ব্যাপারটা কতটা সত্যি তলিয়ে দেখা যাক। গৌতম বুদ্ধের আগেও ভারতীয় সমাজ সংস্কৃতি, অর্থনীতিতে হকারদের বিপুল ভূমিকা ছিল বিশ্বায়নের প্রভাবে গ্রাম থেকে উচ্ছেদ হয়ে আসা চাষী, হস্তশিল্পী, কারখানা বন্ধ হওয়া শ্রমিক, বেকার যুবক শহরের ফুটপাথে হকার হতে বাধ্য হনঅনেকেই সম্প্রদায়গতভাবে ব্যবসায়ীএই হকারেরা দেশিয় বাস্তবতায় নতুন এক মাটির অর্থনীতি বা লো-সার্কিট ইকনমি তৈরি করেছেন, যে অর্থনীতিতে তাঁরা শুধু নিজেরাই রোজগার করে না, স্থানীয় উৎপাদন দেশে বিদেশে বিক্রি করে স্থানীয় মানুষদের রোজগার দেন এবং স্থানীয় সংস্কৃতি রক্ষা করেন সারা বিশ্বে বড় পুঁজির আর্থনীতিতে ধ্বস নামলেও হকার অর্থনীতি এই বাজারের বাইরে থাকায় ভারতে এর আঁচ পড়ে নি। শপিং মলে আশি কোটি চাষী, ছোট উৎপাদকের উৎপাদন থাকুক চাই না থাকুক, ভারতের এই মানুষদের শহুরে বাজার তৈরি করে দেন চার কোটি হকার। এর বিনিময়ে তাঁরা সরকারের কাছে চাকরি চাইতে যাননি, ব্যবসার পুঁজিও ধার হিসেবে চাননি – যদিও সেটি তার সাংবিধানিক অধিকার ছিল নিজেরা পুঁজি জড়ো করে  শহরের নানান এলাকা সমৃদ্ধ করেছেন, ব্যবসা, বসবাসের উপযোগী করেছেন। এর বদলে নয়ের দশকে তাদের কর্মস্থল থেকে, বাসস্থান থেকে রাষ্ট্রের থেকে উচ্ছেদের হুমকির সামনে পড়তে হয়েছে। ১৯৯৬ সালের কলকাতায় আপারেশন সানসাইনে(না সানসেট?) ১৮ জন হকার মারা যান বিযয়টা হল বড় পুঁজি দশ হাজার কোটি টাকার কলকাতার রাস্তার ব্যবসা দখল নিতে চাইছে। তারা সংগঠিত ভাবে হকার বিরোধিতা চারিয়ে দিতে চাইছে জনগণের মধ্যে কিন্তু রাস্তায় হকারদের ব্যবসা জনগণ-সমর্থন ছাড়া হয় না। ২০০০ সালে হকার সংগ্রাম কমিতির গ্রাহক সমীক্ষায় পরিষ্কার হকারদের থেকেও মানুষ যে সেবা পান তা যে কোনও সংগঠিত সেবা ক্ষেত্র থেকে ২৫-৭৫ শতাংশ শস্তা, ভাল এবং হাতের কাছে পাওয়া যায় ২০০৪ সালে হকারদের নিয়মিত প্রশিক্ষণ দিয়ে কলকাতায় চারটি মডেল হকার জোন(পার্ক স্ট্রিট, রাসেল স্ট্রিট, ক্যামাক স্ট্রিট, এলগিন রোড) তৈরি হলে হকারদের গ্রাহক বেড়েছে ফুড হকারেরা কলকাতায় দিন আসা কয়েক কোটি মানুষের মুখে অন্ন তুলেদেন। এঁদের সেবা দেওয়ার সামর্থ নেই সংগঠিত হোটেল রেস্তোরাঁর ১৯৯৩ সালের অল ইন্ডিয়া ইন্সটিউট অব হাইজিন এন্ড পাব্লিক হেলথের সমীক্ষা বলছে ফুটপাথে ৩০০ ধরণের গরম এবং টাটকা খাবার পাওয়া যায়। তাই জীবানু বাসা বাঁধে না হকারেরা বাসি খাবার বিক্রি করেন না শুধু ব্যবহারিক জলের মান উন্নত করতে পারলে টুকরো সমস্যাগুলো নিয়ন্ত্রণে নিয়ে আনা যায়। সমাধানে সরকারের অংশগ্রহণ জরুরী। কিন্তু দীর্ঘ দিন ধরে বাংলায় সে উদ্যমের অভাব রয়েছে২০১৩, ৯ সেপ্টেম্বরে সালে সুপ্রিম কোর্ট রাজ্যগুলোর সচিবদের নির্দেশ দিয়ে বলে চার মাসের মধ্যে পৌরসভাগুলোতে টাউন ভেন্ডিং কমিটি তৈরি করে হকারদের রেজিস্ট্রেশন, হকিং জোন নন হকিং জোন তৈরি করতে হবে, তাদের পরিচয়পত্র দিতে হবে। যতদিন না কমিটি হবে ততদিন কোনও হকার সরানো যাবে না। ভারতে ৮৫ শতাংশ কর্পোরেশন সেটি করলেও বাংলায় আজও টাউন ভেন্ডিং কমিটি তৈরি হয় নি। ২০১৪ সালে ২০ ফেব্রুয়ারি সংসদে সর্বসম্মতিক্রমে, ৪ মার্চ, রাষ্ট্রপতির স্বাক্ষরে গৃহীত হওয়া হকার সম্বন্ধীয় আইনে তিনটি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ কাজ সম্পন্ন হল। শহরে মানুষের চলাচল, যান চলাচল বাধাহীন হয় এবং একি সঙ্গে হকারদের জীবন জীবিকার স্বার্থ সংরক্ষণ হলআমরা মনে করি শহরে গতি আনতে হবে। তাই টাউন ভেন্ডিং কমিটি সর্বসম্মতিক্রমে ঠিক করবে হকারেরা কোথায় বসবে আর কোথায় নয়। যদিও বলা হয় কলকাতায় মাত্র ১১ শতাংশ রাস্তা। কিন্তু সেই ফাঁকা স্থান বজায় রেখে হকারদের মূলতঃ ফুটপাথে পুনর্বাসন সম্ভব। বাকিদের কলকাতার পৌর বাজারগুলো বহুতল করে নিচের একটি তলা হকারদের জন্যও কর্তৃপক্ষ দিয়েও দেন তাহলেও প্রচুর হকার বসতে পারেন। কোনও ডেভেলাপার যদি হকারদের ব্যবসার জন্য নিচে তলাটি ছেড়ে দেন তাহলে তাঁকে একটা তলা বাড়িয়ে নেওয়ার জন্য ছাড় দেওয়া যায় ইচ্ছে থাকলে উপায় হয়। আইন এবং কোর্টের রায় বলছে আগামী দিনের নতুন শহরে শহর পরিকল্পনায় আড়াই শতাংশ স্থান হকারদের জন্য ছেড়ে দিলে বড় শহরের ওপর হকারদের চাপ কমে যাবে। আমরা মনে করি আরবান রিনিউয়াল মিশনের দর্শনে যারা সব কিছু কিনে নিতে পারেন তাদের জন্য শুধু উন্নয়ন নয়, ফ্লাইওভার, বড় বড় বাড়ি, শপিং মলও উন্নয়ন নয় দরকার মানুষের উন্নয়ন। আরবান লাইভলিহুড মিশনের বিপুল টাকার মধ্যে পাঁচ শতাংশ হকারদের সমীক্ষা, প্রশিক্ষণ, পারিবারিক সুরক্ষা আর পুনর্বাসনের উন্নয়নের পরিকল্পনায় খরচ করতে পারবে রাজ্যগুলো কোর্টের রায় এবং কেন্দ্রীয় আইনে বলা হয়েছে শহরে টাউন ভেন্ডিং কমিটিতে স্থানীয় সরকার, পুলিশ, হকার এবং অন্যান্যদের প্রতিনিধিত্ব থাকবে। এরাই ঠিক করবেন আগামী দিনে শহরে কোথায় হকার স্থায়ী ভাবে, আর কোথায় নিয়ন্ত্রিত ভাবে বসবেন। আগামী দিনে যখন শহরের লোকসংখ্যা বাড়বে, তখন সেই বাড়তি জনসঙ্খ্যাকে সেবা দিতে হকারদের জন্যও যে আড়াই শতাংশ জায়গা রাখা হয়েছে, সেখানে কোন নীতিতে হকারেরা বসবেন। আমি সংগঠন করতে গিয়ে মহাদেশগুলোর চল্লিশটি দেশ ঘুরে দেখেছি দক্ষিণ পূর্ব এশিয়ায় থাইল্যান্ডের হকার পরিকল্পনা সব থেকে ভাল। এদের সমাজ বাস্তবতা ভারতের মত। প্রচুর মানুষ, প্রচুর হকার। এঁরা নিজেদের মত করে হকারদের সাজিয়ে নিয়েছেন। রাস্তার জায়গা নিয়ে দখলদারি নেই। কিন্তু খুব গুছোনো। পরিষ্কার পরিচ্ছন্ন। শহরের হকার নেতাদের সেগুলো দেখালে তাদের চোখ ফুটবে। আমরা মনে করি শহর জনগণের,  হকারেরাও এই শহরের গুরুত্বপূর্ণ অংশএটি সুন্দর রাখা হকাদের দায়িত্ব। এই শহরের যে হকার পিচের রাস্তায়, গুরুত্বপূর্ণ মোড়ের ৫০ ফুট, ফুট জুড়ে বসে তারা হকারদের বন্ধু নয় এদের মদত দিচ্ছে প্রশাসন, পুলিশ আর তথাকথিত ইউনিয়নের নামে তোলাবাজ। সারা দেশে এরা বিপুল অর্থ হকারদের থেকে তোলা তোলে। আমরা কলকাতা পুরসভাকে বলেছি, সারা বছর হকারেরা ১০০ কোটি টাকা সরাসরি কর দেবেন। এই রাজ্য হকারদের স্বার্থ দেখতে চাইলে ভেন্ডিং কমিটি তৈরি করেই এগোতে হবে এই কমিটি ঠিক করবে কোনও হকার বিধি ভঙ্গ করলে তার কি সাজা হবে। হকার ইস্যুতে দরকার রাজনৈতিক সদিচ্ছা মাননীয় মুখ্যমন্ত্রীও আশাকরি এই ভাবনাই ভাবছেন নান্যঃপন্থা।

Monday, March 23, 2015

‘Indians writing in English cannot come close to Manto, Premchand or Bibhutibhushan'

Earlier this year, the noted Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade won the Jnanpith award for the first volume of his long-awaited tetralogy, Hindu – Jagnyachi Samrudhha Adgal.  (This magnum opus comes several decades after his Changdeo Patil tetralogy – HoolBidharJareela, and Jool.) Almost immediately after that, a storm of controversy arose over Nemade’s comments on English in general (it was reported that Nemade had asked for English to be removed from school curricula at once – the word “ban” was bandied about). The now infamous “footwear” metaphor was used – English should be treated like shoes – and writers Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul came in for particular attack. Salman Rushdie responded on Twitter the next day:

Grumpy old bastard. Just take your prize and say thank you nicely. I doubt you've even read the work you attack.

Several articles followed in the wake of this spat – and things continued to simmer. Here’s what Nemade had to tell me on the subject. A tall spare man with a generous white moustache and a surprisingly gentle manner for one so hot-blooded, he was supremely interesting – as always.

Shall we talk about the recent controversy about your comments on English in India. And I don’t mean English as a merely functional tool but a literary language.

English is an important language which everybody should know. It is a language which has united us for a long time.  English is the language of our freedom struggle. All these things are acceptable to me. I have been teaching language, linguistics…

You’ve been teaching English literature as well…

Oh yes, I’ve been teaching English literature, linguistics, comparative literature, Marathi – everything. People think that there is no balance in what I am saying but that is not so. All of the above things about English are true. But your mother tongue has to be your first language. Because it is the only way by which you understand reality.

All linguists have come to this conclusion. Every expert believes that the child, especially around the age of 12 or 13, must have a deep exposure to the mother tongue. Because the mother tongue is the only source of knowledge in the universe. That is why your mother tongue should always have priority, any other language should only be in second place – including English.

I don’t want to ban English or totally hate English or anything – but English is encroaching upon the innocence of children. The guardians don’t understand this. They are guided by commerce

What is the metaphor you had used at the time that became so controversial – the footwear metaphor for English? Do you want to elaborate upon this?

It is a metaphor through which you can make these two different things – the different uses of language – meet. You walk through the gutters, the rain, dust and dirt – the world outside. You need different shoes for that purpose. When you enter your house though, you leave them outside. English is like that. You walk through the gutter by way of English, but don’t bring it to your kitchen.

When you are bilingual, each language must be assigned a function. When I go to a station or the airport, if I go to Assam or Bengal, I can’t carry Marathi with me. I will carry those shoes of English. But inside the house, where I don’t need those shoes, it must be Marathi. What is wrong with this?

I understand the metaphor – though I can see why many people might be offended by it. Or misunderstand it.

That is why it was misreported.

But I have a different view here. I don’t know if you would agree. But just as, sometimes, as opposed to an author choosing a form, a form chooses the author, I feel, for a bilingual person, the language in which one will write also selects the writer. Then, in other cases there have been writers who changed language mid-career. Nabokov, for example. His mother tongue was Russian, he wrote in Russian for half his life and then mid-career, he switched to English. There have been studies comparing the subtle changes that came about in the interior world of his writing, as a result of this. But perhaps, however ineluctably, does the artistic process not compel a writer to a particular language, which might even end up being the second language, for their literary work? 

See, the writer’s ability is put to all kinds of hardships; there are an infinite variety of circumstances under which writers work. The kind of circumstances under which, say Pasternak worked, or Nabokov worked, or, say, Konrad worked – all bilingual writers – these are quite different from those under which the Indian English writers work.

There are an infinite variety of circumstances under which a writer has to find his form. I agree. The compulsions of the language and the form to be respected. I agree.

But what I am saying is that in India, there is no such compulsion where they should quit their mother tongue and choose a language which is much inferior to their own language. I think Bengali or Marathi is much superior to the kind of English – I am not talking about English of the British Isles – we get here. That kind of English which we call Indian English, is not potent enough for any writer to have that compulsion.

Well, this is where I think writers who write in Indian English might disagree with you, might have their own perspectives. There are of course many shades of experience. It’s peculiar why I started writing in English. Not only is my mother tongue Bengali, I grew up reading a lot of Bengali literature too. My grandmother, my parents – all read Bengali literature. We were steeped in it. I continue to read in both. But when I write in Indian English, I am thinking of reaching, through it, a community of people, young people like myself, who share many of the same concerns – whether of macro concerns like nationhood and globalisation or merely its consequences on the inner worlds, but I cannot reach them only through Bengali. They are Marathis and Tamilians and Manipuris – and I reach them through English. I do see your point, though I don’t agree.  The struggle that I face in transmuting thought into prose – is that I am writing in Indian. It’s not Indian English, it’s Indian. So there is certainly the possibility…

Of Indian English being a first choice for some?

Well, yes.

I have to …

(Long pause, when he thinks deeply, closing his eyes.)

…take objection to this because I don’t believe there is any Indian English community anywhere in India.

That’s true, there isn’t any one community. But imagine the joy of that… What happens to my generation is that, especially post-globalisation, a whole community has emerged from bits of communities of the past, which is trying to articulate a similar shared experience in India. No wonder there has been such a flowering of Indian writing in English published in India for Indians. While I understand theremight be certain perceptions about writers living abroad and writing about India in English for a foreign readership or writing to certain pre-conceived frameworks, but there are, today, resident in India, a whole generation of writers working in English, attempting to articulate some of the very same concerns that writers working in the bhashas deal with… And their readers are also very much in India. 

I know readers are there. But the kind of activity you are entering into is not just a matter of communication. It’s more than that.

Of course. It’s political.

There are questions of roots, literary cultures. Languages work within a number of contingent factors, including folklore, say, literary history, shared history and geography, flora, fauna, everything. Unfortunately, the kind of medium you have chosen – whatever your compulsions – you may land yourself into a no-man’s land gradually. Because you are using a form which has no folklore, no shared history.

You have so many different kinds of readers and they will be reacting differently. As an activity at a superficial level, it may succeed. You may be a bestselling writer – Rushdie and Naipaul have millions of readers, that is another matter – but the kind of organic literary culture which Manto, Premchand or Bibhutibhushan represent – that you cannot really even come close to. This is my very frank opinion. You may not like it but this is my very considered view. I am convinced of this fact.

But what I think is happening in my case – and I can of course speak only about myself, though in a very minor way – in my case, I have no quarrel with my identity. Identities, in fact. I am constantly drawing from the same pool of experiences – Bengaliness, Indian-ness, brown-ness. I completely understand the problematic relationship between language and content that you suggest – of course there is a certain tension between language and content. But I do not borrow English because I want to be something I am not, because of some complicated reasons of escape or discomfort in my own skin. Not at all. So there must be some potential…

I don’t deny that. But being a very good writer, you will land yourself in a mire of this no-man’s land later on. Because of the kind of readership I pursue – all kinds of people, from the remote areas in the Sahyadris and Satpuras, to Goa – it gives me a very concrete stand on everything in life: rationalism, rituals, everything. All those people, I reach with a kind of mission. That is a gift given to me by my language.

Once I choose this language, it is this language that will guide me to all these corners. But your language of choice will not be able to guide you in this same way. You will be working in a very sparsely populated zone. There you will be wasting your talents. Or, like strayed people who become bestsellers, you might pander to foreign tastes. Without the mother tongue, things get lost. Folk songs, babbling songs, nonsense rhymes – all these make language, construct repertoires. This repertoire you miss. A child needs this.

Interview: Devapriya Roy

Friday, March 20, 2015

Massive Violations of Karnataka High Court directives makes a mess of Mavallipura, again Indian Air Force says landfill threatens India's Defense Preparedness


Since August 2012, when the landfills of Mavallipura were forced shut by orders of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board as the landfill operator M/s Ramky had not complied with pollution control norms, and consequently caused widespread damage to environment and public health in nearby villages, there have been repeated efforts by BBMP to revive the landfills on one pretext or another. Responding to various Public Interest Litigiations on this issue, the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka has been categorical that landfilling in commons lands, forests and lakes in villages around Bangalore cannot be a solution to garbage management. (High Court orders may be accessed at:

The frequent, specific and exhaustive orders of the Court to tackle various problems of waste management in Bangalore has resulted in a progressive strategy of segregation and management of waste at source with environmentally friendly technologies that pose no risk to public health. The Court has gone into the minute details of the waste stream in Bangalore and directed that Bulk Waste Generators (Kalyana Mantaps, Apartments, Institutions, Office Blocks, Bus/Train Stations, Markets, Malls, etc.) would be responsible for their waste which they would manage by setting up stations locally to manage segregated waste, compost/bio-methanate organic waste, recover all recyclables for further processing, and also minimise waste generation. For households and neighbouhoods, the Court directed that dry-waste collection centres and composting units must be set up in each ward, and that the effort must be to ensure that all waste is managed locally and not be trucked out to landfills which not only destroy villages, but also involve wasteful investment in enormous quantities of diesel. The Court has also taken stern action against truck lobbies that tended to leach valuable resources, and on a thorough evaluation brought down the annual expense of trucking waste out from Rs. 800 crores to about Rs. 300 crores.

Justice Mr. N. Kumar and Justice B. V. Nagarathna of the Karnataka High Court have been monitoring the situation regularly, and have also directed that punitive actions should be initiated against anyone who does not comply. To ensure there is widespread public participation and transparency in waste management operations, the Court directed the State Government to set up Constitutionally mandated Ward Committees, which were required to be set up two decades ago. When the High Court learned that BBMP had not paid Pourakarmikas (who are amongst the poorest of the poor) their due wages for over 6 months, the Court observed “the Special Commissioner will have no moral authority to call upon the persons to perform their functions in the matter of solid waste management unless the bills submitted by them are cleared expeditiously”. This forced the BBMP to release Rs. 120 crores of pending payments in March 2015.

Gross Mismanagement at Mavallipura:

In the case of Mavallipura, the Court has been clear and categorical that no more landfilling would be allowed. The Court has directed BBMP to initiate bio-mining and remediation of the legacy waste and BBMP is on record in Court that it has issued tenders. That was six months ago. Yet, absolutely no action has been initiated to take care of the legacy waste till date.

When the Chief Minister of Karnataka took a decision to close down the Mandur landfill on December 1st, 2014, and garbage piled up all over the city, the High Court allowed only a small amount of segregated organic waste to be taken for composting at Mavallipura to the capacity of the windrow platforms, and ensuring all necessary precautions are in place. The concerns of Yelahanka Air Force Base that birds attracted to the landfill seriously threatened the flight movements of defense aircraft was taken note of, and BBMP was directed to ensure the entire facility was covered and made bird proof. In addition, the Court directed BBMP to provide drinking water daily to all the affected villages (as all wells and tubewells have been contaminated), ensure that health surveys and cattle surveys were done in collaboration with 5 affected Panchayats, and initiate various public health measures to tackle the adverse impacts.

Instead, BBMP has resorted to bring unsegregated waste, upto 200 tonnes per day on most days, and resorted to dumping the waste at the landfill. There is no effluent treatment plant to treat the leachates, which find their way into local streams and ponds. Cattle deaths are frequent and the suffering of the local villagers from the pollution continues. Thousands of birds hover over the landfill, and this presents a clear and present danger to the flight movements of Indian Air Force. (Attached is the affidavit filed by IAF in the High Court, that highlights the grave risks the landfill poses to the defense of the country.)

Talks with BBMP Spl. Commissioner ends in failure:

On 18th March 2015, Mr. Darpan Jain, IAS, Spl Commissioner (SWM) of BBMP held a meeting with representatives of impacted villages as directed by the High Court. But this meeting ended without any resolution. This was because BBMP was not willing to commit to any time bound action plan, thus violating its commitments before the Court.

When Bhargavi Rao of Environment Support Group read out various Court directions relating to cleaning up Mavallipura and providing relief to local communities issued over the past two years, Mr. Jain kept saying “we are making efforts to comply”. “They all sound so insincere and empty to us”, Bhargavi replied. Srinivas, a Gram Panchayat Member and leader of Dalit Sangarsh Samithi explained how, till date, not a single one of the directions of the Court have been complied with by BBMP. Ramesh, another Gram Panchayat Member, highlighted how the failure to deliver, despite High Court directions, had resulted in an utter lack of faith in Mr. Jain's assurances, coming as they did without a plan or budgetary support.

Dhanraj of Mavallipura was so frustrated at the end of this 2 hours back and forth with Mr. Jain, that he told the Spl. Commissioner that they have not come for charity, but to assert their Fundamental Rights to Live peacefully, healthily and productively like everyone in Bangalore. He said that to throw some water and mosquito nets at the suffering communities was like rubbing salt into their wounds. Geetha, who lost her husband to cardiac arrest on 23 August 2012 when police lathi-charged villagers peacefully protesting against the illegal operation of the landfill by Ramky, asked how she was to survive with Rs. 4000/month she earns doing coolie work. She said not one rupee has been paid in compensation by the Government, despite all sorts of assurances from all sorts of Commissioners, that she is now homeless and forced to support her three daughters all on her own.

Mavallipura Villagers Walk out in Protest of meeting with BBMP Spl. Commissioner Darpan Jain
 r. Darpan Jain was not able to make a single commitment specifically and convincingly. All he did was to assure villagers BBMP was serious in conforming with the High Court directives. Shocked and dismayed by Mr. Jain's lack of intent in initiating concerted action to tackle their problems, the villagers were forced to return empty handed.

Garbage Gumma”:

People of Mavallipura and other villagers are keen that this problem receives the attention it deserves at all levels: from the household and community all the way to the Chief Minister. They assert that the Right to Life and Livelihood of villagers is as critical as those of residents in metropolitan Bangalore. To raise the consciousness of residents of Bangalore to conform with the directions of the High Court and to also take responsibility for the waste they generate, which is literally killing and maiming people in villages and destroying their livelihoods and health, the villagers inspired Gollahalli Shivaprasad, noted poet and lyricist, to compose a series of songs into an album called “Garbage Gumma”. Set to tune by Shivaprasad and his team, these songs are being made available free to all online at:

Nagaraj, Srinivas B. and Ramesh
Bhargavi Rao and Leo Saldanha
Dalit Sangarsh Samithi and representatives of Mavallipura and other villages impacted by garbage dumping
Environment Support Group
PS: A compilation of Karnataka HIgh Court Directives relating to Mavallipura and the Affidavit filed by Indian Air Force is accessible at 
For further details, please contact:
Srinivas (9448174834, ), Ramesh (9740152184)