The presence of South Asian characters in British theatre is not the extreme rarity it once was. Whilst South Asians and people of colour more widely are still hugely underrepresented in theatre – as actors, writers, directors and in storylines – there has undoubtedly been some progress in recent years. What remains less visible, however, is South Asian characters engaging in rich discussions of history in all its complexity, from a questioning, left-wing perspective. If this is not for you, you should probably avoid playwright and Momentum activist Sonali Bhattacharyya’s Two Billion Beats, showing now at London’s Orange Tree Theatre.
The following was originally published as the afterword to the collection Love after Babel and Other Poems by Chandramohan S, published in January 2020 by Daraja Press. The collection won the Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Outstanding Book Award in January of this year. You can order a copy direct from Daraja Press here.
They ask me why do you write poems?
I write poems – the people have the right to…bear arms.
These lines, taken from his one-stanza masterpiece ‘Why Do I Write Poetry?’, encapsulate the very essence of Chandramohan S’ approach to his craft in his third collection, Love after Babel and Other Poems. These poems are unapologetically weapons, fighting against the pre-modern notion of caste in all its insidious 21st century glory.
By Sean Meleady and Callum James
CN: death, violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, colonialism, racism, ethnic cleansing
Norwich, like many cities and towns across Britain, has seen a number of Palestinian solidarity protests in recent weeks. These protests came in the wake of the latest series of aerial bombardments between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of 256 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, according to UN figures. The spark for this recent escalation of violence occurred when an Israeli court greenlit eviction proceedings of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, and subsequent peaceful protests were brutally repressed, culminating in attacks by Israeli police on the holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, which elicited international condemnation.
Mosques across Norwich have been working hard in recent years to develop understanding of the Islamic faith and culture, and to improve community relations. Starting with the establishment of the Ihsan Mosque near Chapelfield Gardens in 1977, there are also mosques in Dereham Road, Rose Lane and Aylsham Road, and a community centre in Sandy Lane. Not only is the local Muslim community small but it is geographically isolated from larger communities in Birmingham, London and Yorkshire.
By Sean Meleady
Content warning: racism, examples of racist abuse
Norwich School has been caught up in a publicity storm this summer after a letter was sent to the school Governors from 264 former pupils and parents in June detailing numerous cases of racist behaviour by pupils and staff at the selective private school.
by Ella Wade-Jones
On 12th December India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed the Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA) into law. The series of protests that have erupted and brutal crackdown that has ensued has thrown the country into a state of flux. The highly controversial Citizen (Amendent) Act seeks to fundamentally amend the definition of illegal immigrants in India. Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Buddhist immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. Muslims are not included on the list.
by Jonathan Lee
A political party in the UK is defined by its members and its representatives. Regardless of the leader, the real character of a party is found in the policies it puts forward, and the things that its cabinet members, MPs, and local councillors do and say. In the Labour Party, the about turn the party took from being the neoliberal centre-right party of Tony Blair, to the democratic socialist party of Jeremy Corbyn was brought about by the will of its members. The elected politicians of the Labour Party do not always see eye-to-eye with their leader, but if you look at the collective things they say and do, and the policies they propose, there is a broad consensus on certain values which tell you the nature of the party as a whole. The same can be said of the Conservative Party. You can read more here if you want a ten year history of Conservative hate speech against Romani and Traveller people.
The following is a summary of Conservative policies which have affected Gypsies, Roma, & Travellers during the time the Conservatives have been in power.
During early October 2019, in the space of just nine days, Iraqi state forces killed over one hundred young people and injured thousands more. Thousands. In just nine days. As anti-corruption protests broke out, the state deployed live ammunition almost immediately. In some places, snipers positioned themselves on rooftops, picking off young Iraqi citizens who had nothing left to lose except the hope that they would one day experience a government that provides for their basic needs rather than greedily shovelling oil revenue into its own pockets.
The catalyst for these protests was the sacking of Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, who led the fight against ISIS as part of Iraq’s elite counter terrorism unit, and who was widely acknowledged as the liberator of Mosul. As soon as his transfer to an administrative role was made public, speculation arose that ‘his refusal to back a specific political party made him unpopular among officials in Baghdad’, and that he was ‘removed from his post because he broke sectarian barriers in Mosul.’ The sacking of al-Saadi was widely perceived as emblematic of the corruption that has characterized successive post-U.S invasion administrations, resulting in widespread protests against corruption, unemployment and poor public services.
by Jonathan Lee
There is a mendacious yet persistent fantasy that Roma could be saved from the horrors of racism and discrimination if only they weren’t so poor. It is the conservative idea that the free market can cure racism, that racism is purely a product of economic disparity, and that if only Roma were more economically engaged, most of the nasty symptoms of antigypsyism would simply fall away.
A news-based long read of the darkening climate under Boris Johnson, and consequent examination of the solutions.
NB: this piece was written before the announcement of the suspension of parliament. The call to progressive action is of the utmost urgency.
Shock, horror!! Boris Johnson is Prime Minister, we are on the verge of a catastrophic No-Deal Brexit, and Trump’s ego is bigger than ever before. Prior to this, the Scandinavian Peninsula, or the magical lands of social democracy and hygge, saw the rise of a nationalist group in Finland. There were also the New Zealand shootings in a show of Islamophobia, so horrific, that the country’s PM moved to ban militarised weapons practically overnight. So, amidst this caustic circus, where is the progressive clout? Given the gradual upheaval of the moral development of society, it’s apt to return to a timeless saying: ‘The personal is the political.’