Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Protest against Force and Farcical Protest

My dear friend, Atul, who is a thoughtful chap, and with whom I have had several interesting debates and differences of opinion, writes this piece on what he saw in the first week of March in New Delhi, in the name of Protest. He compares the protest against Bush and the "protest" against the denial of justice for Jessica Lal, a model who was brutally killed seven years back in a restaurant, and whose case occupies newspaper space like no case before. Atul's views are expressed in this write-up of his and I am privileged enough to host Atul's view here on "A New Praxis....". Here is the writeup:

Why does a society resort to agitation politics? Correction in that syntactical error, for agitation politics. A contract, social for those who bear it, political for those who enjoy it, fails. It fails when those, in whose name a democratic polity swears its existence, join the ranks of history’s eternally condemned. When does a society resort to agitation? Usually, when its faith in what it lazily understands as ‘system’, crumbles. It’s to dwell in a blind well to assume that the reaction emanates only when the system falls apart.

The country’s capital saw two protests on March 2 and March 4. The former was against that idiotic evil George W. Bush and his brutal American empire, against a supposedly realist Indian government’s foreign policies and, for many, against a simplistic sacrilege committed in a ‘liberal’, ‘civilised’ country of that cold, old Europe. The latter was against an audacious, shameful crime committed seven, repeat, seven years ago. The difference and similarity between the two protests end right here. But something else takes over.

Those who protest everyday, every minute, every step of the life. Whose lives are a living protest of governments and their anti-people policies, chose to go ahead with the business as usual. There was nothing extraordinary for that bright lady and her comrades from Bihar to march barefoot in the heat from Ramlila ground to Jantar Mantar with her little child in the lap. They perhaps walk more ground in the unsparing sun to fetch water or toil in the field everyday. For these people of the sweat, it was a lot of them at work, collectively. Is it not an embarrassment that ‘outsiders’ outnumbered the city folks in protest? I don’t know. Maybe city folks understand governments, and empires better than villagers and town folks. Aren’t we the repositories of the great, greater and brand-new (not borrowed from a dictator next-door)‘enlightened’ national interest? Woolsure.

Others, less numerous, who abhor agitation, happy and satisfied in sweet little velvet worlds of nocturnal variety also came out to protest against the ‘system’. And where? At that thoughtless symbol of colonial absurdity, India Gate. They assembled to protest all right. But ensured their comfort on a pleasant evening that allowed for the glamour of candles to emboss. No sweat please, it may dull the eau de whatever. They came in designer dresses to protest a model’s murder. Glamorous protest - of, for, by- glamorous people. There is not much to be surprised here. It’s a reflection of our own closed mindsets. We assume this democracy to be a continuous pleasantry. Once in action, it won’t stall. And if it does, we are not the ones suffering.

It’s sad that it takes a high profile travesty of justice for this apathetic lot – the social elite- to swing into action, if only for a couple of hours. Thousands and thousands of crimes, more heinous than this, take place in India every single day. Against women, children, dalits and adivasis. Justice is abused in village after village in the feudal India every single day. Why isn’t that a reason to protest? Everyday. Why ? What of the thousands of revolutions brimming in stifled pockets of rural India since ages? And pray why do we need a film to colour us into an awakening?

That justice is due to Jessica is not up for debate. The killer/s ought to be punished, justice must be done to the family that continues to wait for wrongs to be redeemed, and an example of a sensitive judiciary, police, and authority must be set. Of course this has been a travesty of justice. But there cannot be a selective understanding of travesty. Justice has no double standards. This was not meant to be a society where some are more equal than others. A million hits on a website devoted to ensure justice for Jessica? Virtual justice of the new age? This is not about justice. This is about our collective indifference, our ability to shut ourselves away from the street-struggles. The ‘system’ has acquired a reality of its own. It has become smooth, frictionless for the want of public-accountability. If we can’t affect something with a million voices across the land, are we serious about transforming it by encircling that dead monument of the dead?

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Left Winger

Question: Who is your favorite left winger?
Answer: Ronaldinho.

Ronaldinho or Ronaldo Gaucho, shows no "Gaucherie" on the football field, where his performances can be filed under the category "Impeccable". An astute reader of the happenings on the football field, a smart eye for goal, a feel for the pitch, a player whose heartbeat resounds to the beats and roars of the crowds which adore him, a player whose soul is in tune with the soul of a team, Ronaldinho is a success in Barcelona, because he is what Barcelona is all about. Teeming with class, representing the Renaissance Man, Art Barca is reflected in Art Ronaldinho, for whom football is "Art Artia Gratis" (Arts for Arts' sake). Ronaldinho typifies the Beautiful Game, which, for me, is the ultimate Socialist sport.

Question: Politically, why is Ronaldinho your favourite player?
Answer: Because he typifies football, which is at its sublime best, when it is passed around. Football, when played by Brazil typifies why socialism is a target worth working for. Ramachandra Guha once wrote a column on the sociology of sport, in his book "Anthropologists among Marxists", where says why Football is the ultimate socialist game, and I fully agree. The Prima Donna in football ideally is the one who runs the game, by involving his team-mates, and its the team that wins unlike other American sports, where it is the headline maker who wins the game for the team.

Getting to the point: As most of my closest pals know, I am a huge aficionado of football and I still follow whenever I can, the UEFA Champions League and Spanish Primera Liga. I developed interest in watching football from viewing the World Cup matches that were telecasted in Doordarshan, but I became a true fan ever since I started following Champions League football in 2000. I remember that I fell in love with the Real Madrid squad which passed the ball with gay abandon during the pivotal Quarterfinal game against Manchester United (aah that Redondo back heel which resulted in that heavenly Raul goal). Thats when I started following Spanish football, on the internet (I was a regular contributor to the now defunct forums in and still active forum in, and also via the late night live shows on Star Sports.

Spanish Football always intrigued me, because the game was always played in a artistic manner, reflecting the romantic aura that surrounds Spain. Think Spain and you think art, Pablo Picasso is the name that comes to mind. Then, I saw passion reflected in the games between Barcelona and Real Madrid. I saw Luis Figo being jeered and a pig's head thrown at him at the Nou Camp. I was puzzled at the fury that followed every goal, every move that lit up passions every derby game, be it between Barca and Real Madrid or Sevilla and Real Betis or even Deportivo La Coruna and Celta Vigo. Somehow this passion was not really quite there between Liverpool and Everton or even Inter and AC Milan. Whats so special about the Spanish Derbies? Why does Athletico Bilbao recruit only Basque players? All these and more were answered in a introductory manner at, but for a detailed account, you can go no further than to read "Morbo, the Story of Spanish Football", an excellent book by Phil Ball, a columnist in

Morbo, succinctly tells you how the politics of Spain is linked to the football in Spain. How Spain is a multi-dialect, multi-cultural nation, with its fierce autonomous nationalities within. How the Basques detest the Spaniards, owing mainly because of their distinct Euskadi language, their distinct Basque culture, quite different from Spanish. How the Catalans are protective of their distinctiveness too, how therefore Barcelona typifies Catalan nationalism in a way, how Valencia, the "Los Ches" recruit Argentininians, because they blend in the "Che" spirit too. Why do Sevilla and Betis hate each other? Is it because of the class based support, the gentry and upper classes supporting Sevilla, while the blue collar proletariat supports Betis? All and this and more in "Morbo", an exciting book, a journey in exploring Spain's polity and its integrated football.

Then I realize that politics is part and parcel of football as is football a parcel and part of politics. Silvio Berlusconi is nothing without AC Milan. Jose Luis Zapatero opposes Jose Maria Aznar just as Barcelona detests Real Madrid (you can guess which Jose supports which team now). But the compound mixture is nowhere as complicated and tight as it is in Spain. Every football supporter has a political agenda in supporting his team. If you are a Madridista and a Real fan, you are not merely a Castilian with local fealties, but you are a pro-Nationalist, a pro-Franco royalist. The moment I realized this was the case, my base shifted.

My goalposts were now in the Nou Camp, my affinities were with the then tormented Barca squad, suffering under the tutelage of Louis Van Gaal and under the thrall of the panjandrum Juan Gaspart. Even as the Real squad were accumulating Galacticos, and becoming further more capitalist, playing to the market, and when Florentino Perez's philosophy was reflecting cut-throat capitalist spirit, with the only rationality, being the formal rationality that Max Weber would have approved of, Barcelona did the obvious. It recruited Ronaldinho, suffering at individualist Paris St. Germain and dropped this exquisite fish in troubled Barca waters. Aided by Pit Bull and midfield clean up specialist, Edgar Davids, Ronaldinho did the unthinkable (at that time). He resuscitated Barca's fortunes, lighting up their stadium with not merely his goofy teethy smiles, but also his free flowing football matching his locks. He brought cheers back to the city that celebrates Johan Cryuff's era of total football as much as it symbolizes "total art". He ushered in the new era of Barca football, helped by Riijkaard's "five year planning" as a coach, helped by his upcoming Eisenstein in Lionel Messi, Barca's commissar, Xavi Hernandez and transformed the arty Barca squad into a winning machine.

Just last week, socialism triumphed over capitalism. Barcelona "arty team football" deservedly beat Chelsea "money bags". I was itching to sense the disappointment in Roman Abrahamovich's plastic face after the game. I did.

Viva Barca. I hope they clinch the Champions League this time, I hope Ronaldinho plays the samba at Stade de France, and make France proud of its socialists in town.