v. 40: No. 7-8 July-August 2012 #470-471
Editorial Note, p. 1
"Kitty Boomla, The South East Asia Youth Conference: Memories," Ashok Mitra, p. 3
"The Many Journies Of Kitty Boomla," Prabhat Patnaik, p. 13
"Kitty Menon: Fragments Of A Life Less Ordinary," Manini Chatterjee, p. 17
"Farewell,Comrade Kitty," Sitaram Yechury, p. 25
"Comrade Kitty," Rajendra Sharma, p. 29
"Reporting History: Early India," Romila Thapar, p. 31
"Three ?returns? To Marx: Derrida, Zizek, Badiou," Aijaz Ahmad, p. 43
"Rethinking The Muslim Question In Post-Colonial India," Maidul Islam, p. 61
Book Reviews, p. 85p. 85-88. Kamalakanta Roul reviews Suchetana Chattopadhyay, Leftism in India, 1917-1947, MacMillian, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 254; Rs. 375.
p. 88-91. Anisha Bardoloi reviews Priyam Goswami, The History of Assam : From Yandagbo to Partition, 1826-1947, Orient Blackswan, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 300; Rs. 195.
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Several stalwarts of the progressive movement of the country have passed away in the last few weeks. Two outstanding women, Kitty Menon and Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, both from affluent backgrounds who declassed themselves and joined the struggle of the toiling people, have left us, as has Sunil Jana, the renowned photographer, who had left college to join the Party Commune in Bombay and who had captured for posterity moving images of the Great Bengal famine of 1943. Social Scientist would like to pay homage to all of them. We shall be carrying obituary articles on Captain Lakshmi Sehgal and Sunil Jana in our next issue. In the current issue we remember Kitty Menon, who was also a member of the collective that runs Social Scientist for many years, when she served on its editorial board. Ashok Mitra, Prabhat Patnaik, Sitaram Yechury and Rajinder Sharma share with our readers their memories of Kitty, while Manini Chatterji, who had been engaged in the project of recording Kitty's recollection of her own life, gives us the results of her interviews, along with a brief autobiographical note written by Kitty herself.
Among the other articles, we carry Romila Thapar's recent Convocation Address to the Asian College of Journalism, where she attempts to sensitise budding young journalists to the intricacies of reporting on matters involving historical themes, and also to introduce them to some of these themes. As a result, we have a panoramic survey of Indian history and historiography, from a critique of James Mill's periodisation of Indian history, to a questioning of the theory of an Aryan invasion, to an analysis of the evolution of the caste-system, to a discussion of popular religion, which was much less sectarian and based much more on a mingling of various religions. What is striking about the essay is the fact that some of the author's path-breaking insights gathered over a life-time of research are tucked unobtrusively into brief sentences and paragraphs. No single article of course can possibly capture, even in "bullet form", the research insights of one of our foremost historians, but this essay provides an entry point to Romila Thapar's very distinct perspective on Indian history, especially the history of early India, which can better equip the readers to approach her substantial writings.
Aijaz Ahmad's Michael Sprinker memorial lecture which we also carry in the current issue discusses three "returns" to Marx: by Derrida, Zizek and Badiou. The fact that each of the three rejects "capitalist triumphalism" in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Derrida, the person most
Social Scientist, p. 2
distant from the Communist cause, even dedicating his Spectres of Marx, delivered as lectures at the University of California, Riverside, in 1993, to the memory a Communist, Chris Hani, who, in Derrida's own words, had just retreated, prior to his assassination, from "important responsibilities in the ANC" to "devote himself once again to a minority Communist Party", testifies to a certain theoretical grandeur informing these thinkers' encounter with capitalism. At the same time, however, as Aijaz Ahmad notes with such great lucidity, the actual revolutionary project that each of them outlined was remarkably paltry. In fact, it is not these thinkers alone. As any reader of the book The Idea of Communism, which contains contributions from some of Europe's foremost Left thinkers, would have realized, the grand philosophical excursuses that all these thinkers produce lead at best to World Social Forum-type praxis.
Maidul Islam' essay whose publication has had a long gestation period, is a study of the conditions of Muslims in post-colonial India. The author argues that the Left's response to the "Muslim question" has been constrained by being trapped within the communalism-secularism discourse, rather than being informed by a view of the Muslims as a marginalised group like the dalits, the tribals, and women. The field has thus been left open for the emergence of a "Muslim particularism" which lacks any perspective of transcending the neo-liberal capitalism that oppresses not only workers and peasants but also all these marginalised groups. The Left needs to reconstruct its political appeal to the marginalised groups , including the Muslims, by emphasising both social justice and distributive justice, within the context of a vision of transcending neo-liberal capitalism itself.
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