Having arrested 6 Wet’suwet’en defenders on 6 Feb the RCMP arrested another 4 on Friday and 11 more on Saturday 8 Feb in the ongoing conflict between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (Gilseyhu, Laksilyu, Tsayu, Laksamshu, Gitdumdenet) on one side and corporate interests (TC Energy Corp, LNG Canada, Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp, Kogas Canada)and the state (BC, Canada) on the other. The arrests are pursuant to an injunction granted by the BC Supreme court against the Wet’suwet’en blockade of on the $6.6-billion dollar Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
In extending the injunction on Dec. 31, Justice Marguerite Church is reported to have said, “the Wet’suwet’en people are deeply divided with respect to either opposition to or support for the pipeline project.” As I have noted before, the 5 Wet’suwet’en elected band councils which derive their authority on reservation lands from the Indian Act support the pipeline, while the Hereditary chiefs who claim title to wider territories on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose it.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline, which crosses unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, is owned by TC Energy Corp (formerly TransCanada) with LNG Canada(Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp, Kogas Canada) as a venture partner, whose significance is indicated in TC Energy Corp’s own documents which describe it as a ‘customer’. In other words the pipeline is being built for LNG Canada with investment from LNG Canada, in which Malaysia’s PETRONAS corporation holds a 25% stake.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad continues to reiterate his promise to make way for Anwar Ibrahim to take the reins of Power in Malaysia. Malaysiakini reports reports that he said, “I have made a promise and we keep our promises. … but if a candidate is rejected by the Dewan Rakyat, he … cannot become prime minister” When asked whether he would consider serving out a full term if support from the Dewan Rakyat increases, Mahathir is supposed to have smiled and said, “I don’t know”.
Disappointingly, as reportedin Swaraj, SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth supports the BJP’s new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019. Wearing his politician hat he has stated, with a Kollywood glibness, “CAA is no threat to Muslims. If they face any problem, I will be the first to raise my voice for them.” Ludicrously, his measure of harm seems to be the effect this act has on Muslims who crossed over into India at partition, while the act’s direct impact is on newer refugees, and indirectly, on the very definition of India as a secular nation.
This Citizenship Amendment Act provides access to Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled to India from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before 2015, glaringly excluding Muslims. The CBC cites Niraja Gopal Jayal, a professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at New Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, who states that the Act runs afoul of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees to all persons (not just citizens) the right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law. She stated that it “creates gradations of citizenship based on religion, which is clearly discriminatory.”
According to the CBC, 6 people were arrested by the RCMP on Feb 06, 2020 pursuant to an injunction against those blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary Chief Na’Moks is reported to have said, “They came in with armed forces to remove peaceful people that are doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. We’re protecting the land, the air, the water. Our rights and title, our authority as hereditary chiefs. And we’re exercising our jurisdiction … We’ve never ceded nor surrendered our lands. We’ve never signed a treaty. We are the law of the land, we are free people and I will go to my territories.”
The injunction which was issued by the BC Supreme Court, and the consequent arrests, seem to be at odds with Bill 41 of the BC legislature which embraces the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and which, as summarized by West Coast Environmental Law, “requires the government to prepare an implementation and action plan in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous people” Most significantly, this act also seems to recognize the authority of Indigenous governing bodies, like the hereditary chiefs that Chief Na’Moks refers to above, which stand outside the ambit of the Indian Act.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, is reported to have said “It’s an absolute outrage and deeply frustrating that the RCMP is acting in the capacity of a goon squad on behalf of business and industry”. This is where Malaysia’s premier Crown corporation PETRONAS is implicated as one of the corporations with a significant interest in seeing the pipeline implemented, with investments at both ends of it (upstream and down.)
This interview with Najwa Shihab is my favourite of those given by Dr M in recent years. Whether you like him or not, you can not deny that Mahathir’s clarity and incisiveness are beyond compare … see how simply he explains the mechanics and ethos of his political alignment with Anwar, subtly indexing the political realities of the the post victory scenario,” … kita perlu bersatu untuk jatuhkan Najib dan itu sudah tercapai”. (minute 16:05) Indeed, regardless of second tier electoral promises, the primary aim of the initial alignment has been achieved, and the central promise delivered. With Najib’s fall, a new evaluation must be made of the alignment, to ascertain if the need to continue is mutual … perfectly natural, perhaps even ethical in the realm of politics!
“You’ve waited 20 years, extending six months doesn’t actually matter,” Anwar is reported to have told Reuters, expressing confidence that the Pakatan Harapan coalition allies would stand behind him, as they have stood behind Mahathir.
“If there’s a request to go back to parliament, of course it can be done, but PH has the majority right now. Even those who are not in PH, some would support the PM of the day. I also have been given that assurance. They support Mahathir as the PM, and they will continue to support me when I assume the premiership.”
One scene from the Pa Ranjith/ Rajinikanth film Kaala (2018) that resonates deeply is that in which the villainous Hari Dada’s (Nana Patekar) granddaughter asks him “Who is Kaala dada?” and he answers pensively, “Ravan … Ravan.”(second 0.37 in trailer) In this moment the films palpable Dravidian ethos is emblazoned upon the screen narrative, eliminating all possibility of a misreading. For those who are unfamiliar with the political history of Tamil Nadu, the central tenet of the Dravidian self-respect movement that informs the political parties that have governed the state since 1967 is that of the a North/ South (or Aryan/ Dravidian or Brahmin/Non-brahmin) divide. In symbolic terms, this dichotomy has been articulated in a deconstruction of the Hindu religion, particularly in the desecration one of its sacred narratives, that of the Ramayana. Those who subscribe to the Dravidian ethos, identify with Rama’s nemesis Ravana or as Nana Patekar refers to him, ‘Ravan’.
This identification of Ravana with the hero Kaala, and with the SUPERSTAR, clearly advances director Pa Ranjith’s well known brand of Dalit activistivism. This film is a vehicle for his message about the ancient dispossession of Dravidian peoples in an Aryan conquest and the consequent oppression of casteism in contemporary India. If the film can be said to echo its director’s politics what can be said of its resonance with that of his star, his SUPERSTAR, Rajinikanth, who is in the runup to an entry into Tamil Nadu politics? Rajinikanth is himself a signifier of the Dravidian ethos in that he was the first dark skinned (the North/ South dichotomy presents as the light skin/ dark skin complex of the Tamil people) leading man in Tamil cinema. It has long been known that Rajinikanth is not a stalwart of Dravidianism as the movement is atheistic whereas he is invested in Hindu spirituality. Further he has explicitly announced a platform of spiritual politics and has regularly aligned himself with the policies of the federal BJP, while at the same time working hard to eschew over-identification with the Hindutva branding of the BJP.
Indeed, Rajinikanth seems to have tried to keep his potential alignments open for the coming assembly polls in Tamil Nadu in 2021. In a recent statement however he seems to have burned all bridges with the hard-core Dravidian parties by raising the spectre of an anti-superstition rally from 1971 in which the founder and light of the Dravidian social reform movement, E.V. Ramasamy Periyar, is said to have desecrated icons of Rama and Sita. In the ensuing decades, the Dravidian movement has regressed to an accomodation with Hindu theism, and paradoxically Periyar has himself come to be venerated as an icon of sorts. In this light, Rajinikanth’s indexing of this controversial event, compounded by his refusal to apologise in the aftermath, has resulted in what, I suggest, is an unbridgeable chasm between his spiritual politics and secular Dravidianism. Most significantly, it might have soured the potential alignment with his friend and staunchly secular political co-aspirant Kamal Haasan who seems to have reached out to him recently.
It has even been suggested that Rajinikanth’s speech was ‘scripted’ by the BJP. Frontline magazine has reported that former head of the Tamil Department of the University of Madras , V. Arasu, has said: “Why should Rajinikanth broach an incident that was half a century old and long forgotten? The D.K., too, over a period of time has toned down its anti-god rhetoric significantly. Hence, the actor’s casual remark on a revered social reformer needs strong convincing. Periyar stands for rationalism and social justice. The anti-god doctrine was just one among many themes of his social reform campaign. Besides, recalling an event that was mired in legal and political controversies at that time has no relevance now. By raking up this issue, Rajini has willingly fallen into the hands of those who are out to exploit the name and fame he has earned as an actor.” This brings us back to the question of what can be said of Kaala’s resonance with the politics Rajinikanth. It is with regret that I must note that if the question to be answered here is, “Who is Rajinikanth dada?”, given the accumulation of the SUPERSTAR’s statements to date, I find myself having to say, no less pensively than Hari Dada, “Hanuman Ji … Hanuman Ji”