Cricket – Sachin Tendulkar and the Subaltern

I love the contradiction and irony of this.

Source: Times of India

We have the greatest batsman in the history of cricket on the one hand, making history yet again by becoming the highest run-getter in Test Cricket.

Juxtaposing that individual brilliance is the Sensex (Indian Stock Market) dipping below 10 K yesterday thanks to the US-led global financial meltdown.

Congratulations to the Master Blaster for succeeding where neo-liberal markets have failed; after all markets are not for ‘uniting’ peoples or nations, and building solidarity. However, employing the legend of Sachin Tendulkar is a win-win game for global capitalism even if the Sensex does not show it.

Such is the strength of the human spirit and national pride, that the Indian media called Sachin Tendulkar ‘King of the World’ and announced that 1 BILLION Indians are celebrating this proud moment. It was a moment of ‘national unity’ maybe even Pan-Indian unity, in the midst of a financial crisis that has bankrupted businesses, left thousands jobless and worried about their future. I can only speak for myself; sick, hungry and fasting all the way in the United States but up at 2am to see the historic moment.

I don’t know how the subaltern feels about Sachin Tendulkar and this historic moment. Tendulkar is the Mahatma Gandhi of Indian cricket — his story, his legend perpetuates the Indian space as a universal solvent or solution for caste divisions, religious differences and communalism. From an industrialized-nation standpoint, cricket is considered a ‘subaltern sport’ and mistakenly-so.

We can hardly call it subaltern in the world of corporate sponsorship and ownership. Cricket was part of the colonial seduction, the colonial paraphernalia of the British Raj and co-option by Indians was of the utmost importance to British empire. It was only through making Indians part of the game, making them consumers of yet another colonial product that an elitist sport, considerably a ‘gentleman’s game’ like cricket instead of kabaddi or gulli danda, became a national sport, a site for national glory.

As a legacy of British colonialism, cricket presents a strong critique of the term ‘post-colonialism.’ After all, how post-colonial can India be as a country if it has simply adapted a British sport and turned it into the national sport of India?
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Journal of Peasant Studies – Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India

This book review should appear in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Peasant Studies. I cannot publish the whole bit here even though it is my work, since I signed over licensing rights but it should be available through your college databases.

I don’t know whether I will have time for more book reviews in the future or if it is an endeavor that I am any good at, but it was worth experimenting and I am not too displeased with the results. (The Publisher ain’t complaining; why should I)?

Review: Vinayak Chaturvedi, Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, University of California Press, 2007.

by Prerna Lal

Small excerpt:

The untold narrative of peasant classes marginalized from the promise of the postcolonial nation-state is a popular subject of research and criticism among subaltern scholars seeking to pose ruptures and discontinuities in the hegemonic history of Indian nationalism.

In Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, Chaturvedi embarks on this project after a chance discovery while pouring through archives on the agrarian economy of Gujarat: he discovers notes by the district magistrate about the historically-celebrated Patidars forcibly extracting labor from the Dhalara peasants in Kheda. Upon further investigation, Chaturvedi discovers that the Dharalas were considered a ‘criminal class’ by both the colonialists and Indian nationalists through the passage of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and given their treatment, it came as no surprise that the Dharalas opposed Patidar-led nationalist politics along with colonialism.

Enamored by the prospects of an untold history of peasant pasts, the central thesis of this scholarship revolves around the actions, practices and discourses of the Dharala peasants before the emergence of an Indian nation-state. Chaturvedi claims that the Dharalas were political in their own right and their opposition to Patidar nationalism allied with Gandhi did not denote that these peasants lacked an understanding of politics or an inability to imagine political community. On the contrary, through rigorous fieldwork and archival study, Chaturvedi lays out a fragmentary and episodic history of the Dharala peasants that establishes their broad political discourses, complex understandings of political community, and subsequent resistance to both colonialism and nationalism.

Repeal Section 377 – Homosexuality Ban in India A Legacy of British Rule

Mumbai: Almost 150 years after the British enacted a law in India criminalising homosexuality, a rainbow coalition of lesbian, gay and transgender groups in the city came together on Saturday asking the British government to apologise for Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
“We invoke the Father of our Nation’s spirit and call on them to apologise for the legacy of hatred they left us in the form of Section 377,’’ said Manvendra Singh Gohil, the prince of Rajpipla, who issued a statement on behalf of the groups at one of the most well attended gay pride parades that the city has seen. “The idea of treating homosexuals as criminals was imposed on the more tolerant traditions of India and the Union government must abandon this abhorrent alien legacy of the Raj,’’he added.

This should come as vital insight for all those that purport the spread of “Western democracy, institutions and ideals” to the rest of the world. Often, you would hear the anti-migrant lobby, the neo-con developmentalists, and liberal feminists firmly asserting that the spread of democracy and “Western civilization” or values is vital to the promotion of human rights.

Sometimes, you even hear Indians say that British colonization helped to ‘modernize’ India and ended the caste system. Of course, not much is said about how the British created the dowry system that the “West” now criticizes and sees as a part and parcel of Indian tradition. Self-proclaimed “Third World” feminist, Uma Narayan provides a great discussion on this in Dislocating Cultures, a must-read (and quite captivating) for anyone interested in these subjects.

My MA thesis was on decolonizing International Relations and specifically Fiji–how it is a failure of the colonial imagination, how the legal and political systems in postcolonial nations like India and Fiji are degenerate relics of colonial rule, how a colonial globality thrives today through the preservation of colonial structures, values and ideals in so-called ‘post-colonial’ nations.

Being anti-gay and banning ‘homosexual’ practices is indeed a legacy of British colonial rule. Despite the tolerance of homosexuality in ancient Hindu religious texts and culture (see here), what is shocking is that homosexuality is seen as a ‘Western affliction’ by a large segment of the Indian population. You cannot possible be gay if you are Indian (Remember the “BUT you are Indian” line from Bend it Like Beckham)? In effect, the historical memory of an entire colonized peoples was effectively erased and replaced with a colonial memory. When I was younger, I remember joking that “Western civilization” was an oxymoron.

So for all my desi friends, next time anyone points a finger at the ‘motherland’ or puts down our country or culture for not living up to ‘the largest democracy in the world’ label, just send them packing by citing how intolerance of homosexuality is actually a legacy of those very ‘Western’ ideals and values they hold so dear.

Disclaimer: This post is by no means in defense of how India has treated its homosexuals and minority populations. Nor do I mean to dichotomize West/East by using those binary terms or ‘blame the British’–that game is outdated. Obviously, India should repeal Section 377 not because it is a legacy of British colonialism, but because it is the right thing to do, period.

WALK ON: Several gays and lesbians marched from August Kranti Maidan to Chowpatty on Saturday