Archive for the ‘Balagopal’s English articles’ Category
Selected Writings on Caste and Class by Balagopal from 1982 thru 2009. (Listed as one of the memorable books published in 2011, Biblio Nov/Dec 2011).
Book Summary of Ear To The Ground: Writings On Class And Caste
As a human rights worker active since 1981, and slightly older than Balagopal, I remember him as a magical figure. The writings in this volume help interpret the often chaotic developments in Andhra Pradesh, and provide a model tool for understanding other regional realities of India.’
Balagopal’s writings, from the early 1980s till he died in 2009, offer us a rare insight into the making of modern India. Civil rights work provided Balagopal the cause and context to engage with history, the public sphere and political change. He wrote through nearly three tumultuous decades: on encounter deaths; struggles of agricultural labourers; the shifting dynamics of class and caste in the 1980s and thereafter in Andhra Pradesh; the venality and tyranny of the Indian state; on the importance of re-figuring the caste order as one that denied the right of civil existence to vast numbers of its constituents; the centrality one ought to grant patriarchy in considerations of social injustice; the destructive logic of development that emerged in the India of the 1990s, dishonouring its citizens’ right to life, liberty and livelihood. This volume comprises essays—largely drawn from Economic & Political Weekly to which he was a regular contributor—that deal with representations and practices of class power as they exist in tandem with state authority and caste identities.
Inspired by naxalism in the late 1970s, intellectually indebted to D.D. Kosambi’s writings on Indian history and society, and politically and ethically attentive to the politics of feminist and dalit assertion in the 1990s, Balagopal refused dogma and shrill polemics just as he refused theory that did not heed the mess of history and practice.
Balagopal was too self-effacing to put together his writings into a volume. But it is through his writings that his legacy lives on, giving us a roadmap for future struggles.
‘There is perhaps no issue on which we are such hypocrites as caste; nor any other which brings out all that is worst in us with such shameful ease. The moment V.P. Singh announces the decision to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations… an avalanche of obscenity hits the country. Caste will undoubtedly be the last of the iniquitous institutions to die out in this country. It will outlast everything else.’—Economic & Political Weekly, 6 October 1990
About the Author:
Kandala Balagopal (1952–2009) did not start out as a writer or commentator on contemporary politics. Like that other great modern Indian thinker, D.D. Kosambi, whom he read avidly, admired and wrote about, his training was in mathematics, a subject he taught at Kakatiya University, Warangal, from 1981 to 1985. The political culture of Warangal—home to the naxalite left and resonant with debates around questions of class, justice and revolution—proved decisive in Balagopal turning away from an introspective life of the mind. Instead, he came to train his acute intellect to identify, comprehend and critically examine key political and social concerns. He joined the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee in 1981, and became active in civil rights work centred at that time around extra-judicial killings of militant left cadres. Arrested under TADA in 1985 on trumped-up charges relating to the murder of a police sub-inspector, he spent three months in Warangal prison. In 1989, Balagopal was kidnapped by a vigilante group called ‘Praja Bandhu’—believed to be a front of the police, and in 1992 was beaten up badly by the police in Kothagudem.
Balagopal trained to be a lawyer late in his life and enrolled in the Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh in 1998, representing a wide variety of litigants whose lives, lands, status and employment were threatened. In fellow-traveller K.G. Kannabiran’s words, ‘Balagopal showed himself as the only lawyer of the poor of his generation with a reputation for competence.’ Owing to differences of opinion on the use of violence by naxalites, Balagopal left APCLC in 1998. He was one of the founder-members of Human Rights Forum in which he was active till his death.
K. Balagopal, ( Source: Niharonline.com, 22.01.2000)
How we look at an historical event depends upon what we have expected from it. This principle applies also to the Communist experiment that had its hey day in the century now past, and is for the present almost wiped out.
If the Communist experiment is understood as a force that stood against the Capitalist system and the mode of life it offers to humankind, its victories and its failures take on one meaning. They take on a different colour if we understand it as an experiment to rebuild human existence on a basis of equality and cooperation. From the second view point, failure is the judgement one passes on the Communist experiment. It is true that it has given us some knowledge of what is to be done to build a society based on cooperation and equality, but it has told us more of what is not to be done. If it is said that that too is knowledge and we should be grateful for it, then so be it. Read the rest of this entry »
Human Rights activists have generally found political violence to be problematic. By political violence I mean here the violence of rebel movements. There is no theoretical difficulty in understanding the kind of political violence that stems from the attempts of oppressors to sustain their domination over the oppressed. The Human Rights movement finds it easy and unproblematic to condemn it. Nor is there much problem with intra-elite violence. The Human Rights movement has sometimes ignored it as a matter of no concern, or else analysed it and opposed it from the point of the harm it does to the life, livelihood or other interests of the poor and the oppressed. Read the rest of this entry »
K.Balagopal August 2009
( Foreword to ‘Special Economic Zones in Andhrapradesh : Policy Claims and People’s Experiences’ book written by S.Seethalakshmi )
Wishes have a way of coming home as caricatures. There was a time when the rural poor, especially those living in agriculturally backward areas, asked for industries to be set up so that they could leave the uncertain life of rain-fed agriculture and get a job with a monthly wage slip. In the days when spinning or weaving mills were the prototype of industrial establishments, the industries could often absorb more persons than they displaced, especially because the proprietor of the establishment often had to purchase the land for himself, and therefore did not gobble up huge expanses. But even if the Government acquired the land for him, it would acquire and transfer no more than the minimum required, for land was not seen as vacant space made by god to house the infrastructure that Capital needs. It was seen however inconsistently as the substructure of life for millions. Read the rest of this entry »
Balagopal Interview Transcript—by DEEPA DHANRAJ
I had vaguely leftist sympathies almost from my initial college days. Though I think in the beginning I was more of an admirer of Bertrand Russell and through him I had an idea that communists are good in the heart but wrong in the head. That’s roughly Bertrand Russell’s attitude towards the communist movement. Up to the emergency, I also thought that… I had a lot of friends among the Naxalite movement in Warangal where I was studying, but I thought that philosophy was all wrong, though they were, they were good in the heart. Their heart was in the right place. The Emergency that way.. I mean I couldn’t find anything in Russell’s philosophy which would explain the Emergency. Or in anything else that I believed at that time which would explain the Emergency. I thought the Marxist understanding would help me to explain more. If I remember rightly it was during the Emergency that I declared to myself that I am a Marxist hereafter. Later I became a sympathizer. But as far as activity is concerned I was never… I was only in the civil rights movement from the very beginning. In 1978, 79 I was in civil rights movement. Being in Warangal made a lot of difference; if I had been somewhere else perhaps I won’t have been involved in these…. Warangal was a major center for the ML movement in its earlier phase. Where one could see its social content, one did not have to infer it dialectically. One could see it physically. That they were there among the poorest sections of the people and for whom the law had done nothing for the last, by that time 30 years, today it is 50 years. That one could see. Read the rest of this entry »
Editorial, Special issue ofHuman Rights Bulletin,2009
(Translator: A Suneetha, Anveshi)
We wanted to bring out the tenth bulletin of Human Rights Forum as a special issue on destructive development to mark the event of its tenth anniversary. We are glad that we could do it despite a delay of eight months.
Development has become the universal mantra of contemporary Indian politics. When asked about what they would do if they come into power, every party’s stock answer is “development”. When analysts are asked as to what the people in power/government should concentrate on, pat comes the answer i.e., “development”. Surprisingly, nobody seems to ask or find an answer the fundamental question as to, ‘what is development?’. Without asking oneself such a question, if one embarks on implementing development, one would have left the most important task of its definition to dominant political and economic forces. And also would have begun to adopt the same in practice. Read the rest of this entry »
This was the last article written by Balagopal for EPW. It is available here in PDF: