False Charges and Brutality in Prison: Mohd Amir Khan


June 15, 2012

Guest post by MOHD. AMIR KHAN at Kafila

[ Mohd. Aamir Khan has spent 14 years in prison and was acquitted earlier this year]

I am in deep pain today. As though terrible, terrible memories, locked away in the deep recesses of my mind have been pried open. Heard on news that an accused in terror case was killed in judicial custody in Yerwada jail. That too in his high security cell.

I had read that the British rulers unleashed physical and mental torture on prisoners in colonial jails, but have never heard that they carried out killings of hapless convicts or undertrials in their custody. The naked truth of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has been brought before the world. But who will illumine the dark secrets of the netherworld of our prisons? Brutalisation and torture are routine in our jails.

I speak from experience, having lived for fourteen long and seemingly unending years in prisons in three states. There was a near fatal attack on me twelve years ago while I was lodged in the model prison of India, Tihar Jail. But when I survived the attack, a case was slapped on me. While I was thankfully acquitted in the case, not one of those who attacked me was charged until my father – who was still alive then—appealed to the court to intervene. Mercifully, the Court accepted his complaint and registered a case, which still goes on in Tees Hazari court.My co-accused, Mohd. Shakeel, died an unnatural death in Dasna jail in 2010. The jail superintendent and other officials are facing a trial in Ghaziabad. I have been witness to many such incidents of attack on accused, especially Muslims accused of terrorism. Have you ever heard of an attack on Lt. Col. Purohit, Swami Assemanand, Sadhvi Pragya etc? I pray for the safety and well being of all but why this difference? When news broke of Sadhvi Pragya’s torture in custody, the senior most leader of the second largest party rushed to the Prime Minister. But why are we abandoned? When there is but one national flag, one national anthem and one Constitution, why are people treated differently? Will the senior leader feel any need to raise the custodial murder of Qateel with the PM?

Whilst I was in Rohtak Jail in Haryana, a prisoner, who had recently been transferred from Ambala Central Jail, told me that prime accused in the Samjhuata Express blast received VIP facilities. I was surprised. I also heard that Pragya Thakur was sent for treatment to a hospital outside the jail, whereas most of us are not given proper treatment even in the jail dispensary.

Let it be that some undertrials receive VIP treatment and some deprived of it. At least treat us like human beings. Is it too much to ask for security against physical attacks. Is it too much to ask to live with dignity inside Indian prisons?

You might think that I am reacting unnecessarily. But I have lived the claustrophobic, life sapping existence of a prisoner. I know first hand the frustration and helplessness that comes with it. I can feel the pain of Qateel’s family. I wonder now whether his family will ever find justice. I wonder whether anything can recompense for his loss? I wonder whether this open mockery of our constitutional guarantees will continue unabated?

My only purpose in writing this is to appeal to all humane, secular people of this country to consider this matter of life, security and dignity of prisoners urgently.

In the hope for a more just future.

Sunday Reading–Artivism In The Age Of Capitalism- #SJ #Aamir Khan


by-Samvartha Sahil–

In a recent article on Satyameva Jayate (SJ hereafter) one of our important film, TV and theater artist B. Suresha brought in the argument of the visible and invisible connection between commerce and art and on how the control of commerce over art can limit art and also corrupt and dilute it.

When the strings of art is in the hands of commerce, whichever art may it be, how much ever concerned the art is and has its heart in the right (rather left) place finally its concern and artivism will be playing within the framework of commerce (read capitalism) and all its concern will be, in one or the other way, benefiting the larger capitalist structure. Else why would the capitalist structure even bother to hold the strings of art in the name of artivism.

What actually makes such associations quite limiting and also dangerous is that the art, in the name of artivism, will not be able to survive of its own and the commercial interest becomes more important than the very artivism of such art.

With all respects to the concern of Aamir Khan and all those who are watching the show, we should not let the question on how Aamir Khan, with so much of advertising, Ambani and corporate interest intertwined with SJ will be able to raise some of the most inhumane issues of this country- say caste discrimination/oppression, demand for reservation, khap panchayat, communalism etc- in his show? One show on caste discrimination and a call for mass support for reservation will make Aamir Khan a villain in the eyes of most of the viewers. One show on how monopoly of Reliance can ruin this nation and the capital flow for the show will vanish- or make the show itself vanish. Or let Amir give us one show on NBA- a movement with which he has identified earlier- and speak of the problems associated with the popular model of development. Will he and his show have the same number of audience the following week? The point here is not whether Aamir Khan is concerned or not but how these associations and negotiations chain one! He may not be able to speak of NBA, even while having his heart with the movement, because of the fear of losing TRPs.

This association between commerce and art, thus, lets art be concerned and speak about all those issues which, if spoken, doesn’t harm its commercial interest. So what happens as a result is that the structure of world, which in itself is very oppressive and needs to be fought, remains untouched. Moreover it keeps benefitting from such programmes too.

Have not people like Sainath, Kalpana Sharma, Harsh Mander, Arundati Roy, Anand Teltumbde spoken about burning issues to us? The fact that we require an Aamir Khan- with an aura of being a star- to wake us up speaks about the thick skin we have developed. This is a sort of moral illness. May be the world which we have constructed for ourselves is not a thick skinned one and – to use a marketing word- “good packaging” is required to take the message. But it becomes important to see what is happening to the message itself when it is sealed in a plastic cover?

This moral illness of our times is something which artivism has to cure. We the people, with this moral illness, who are a part of this larger structure and also benefiting from this structure, amidst our busy life strengthening the status quo and this larger structure for our own benefits, feel satisfied about our ‘sensitivity’ about ‘burning issues’ of the world by watching and speaking of some socially relevant issues. This is like personal/ individual CSR. It is, forgive the language, a kind of moral masturbation.

One should remember the recent Idea and Samsung advertisements which showed that ‘like’ buttons on facebook can change the world, bring a revolution, and awaken a generation. It may be speaking about how facebook can help in raising questions and bring about awareness. But the bottom line is “buy idea 3G” and “buy samsung”. Worse it takes activism and artvism from the real to the virtual space. SJ is not very different from this because it again is playing within the framework of an oppressive system, with its close association with commerce, which surely is benefitting capitalism.

One problem with SJ (and also the column by Aamir Khan in The Hindu) is that they sound very much like a moral science class. Bringing up issues and discussing them and thus opening the eyes of the people to the issues and also awakening them are fine. But what makes one turn skeptical about it is the moral high position that Aamir Khan seem to assume for himself. One wouldn’t become so skeptical about it the research team of SJ was to come and narrate these stories.  When SJ becomes more of an Aamir Khan show and not a programme which speaks of reality as it really is, there are all reasons for one to be skeptical about it as one has all reasons to be skeptical about all such works where an individual’s aura eclipses the work. In the narratives narrated by Sainath, Kalpana Sharma or Harsh Mander (for example) we do not see their individual personality casting its shadow on the issues they are raising.

It can be argued that Sainath, Kalpana Sharma or Harsh Mander has not been able to penetrate to the larger mass and mass consciousness the way Amir Khan has done. But how can we ignore the difference in the issues being raised by Sainath, Mander, Roy etc and Amir Khan? May be there is a need for the former to invent newer methods of speaking. Possible. But SJ does’nt become an alternative for the former.

That does’nt mean that SJ does’nt have any right for existence. To think that though within the framework of a capitalist system it is raising questions and trying to bring in a difference from within is to just have imaginations and not an imaginary. Like there is poverty of morality and poverty of sensitivity there exists also poverty of imagination. We have been tied by imagination and have not been able to imagine the imaginary to bring in a new form of activism and artivism.

Read more on his BLOG HERE

Doctor, Heal Thyself ! # Satyamevjayate #Aamir khan


 

Doctors asks Aamir Khan to apologise for his recent show on Satyamev Jayate

 

Rediff.com, Last updated on: June 06, 2012

The latest episode of Aamir Khan‘s [ Images ] television showSatyamev Jayate probed into malpractices that some doctors follow, looking at the way they dole out wrong treatments for monetary gains. It has understandably not gone down too well with the medical fraternity.

Dr Sanjay Nagral — a consultant surgeon, department of surgical gastroenterology , Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai [Images ] — explains what exactly has hurt the doctors. 

Satyameva Jayate‘s recent episode on healthcare in IndiaImages ] has created quite a stir within my fraternity. What began as benign posts on social media and closed door conversations has snowballed into a movement against what is being described as a ‘diatribe’ by Aamir Khan against the medical profession.

In an additional bizarre twist, the Indian Medical Association, the apex body of medical professionals in the country, is asking Aamir to ‘apologise’ and, in what can only be termed as an acute case of silliness, has called for ‘boycotting’ him.

The issues raised in the show, and the profession’s response to them, have important lessons. Lest they get lost in the din and drama, here is a contrarian view for the record.

What is it exactly in that episode that has hurt my colleagues?

From my reading of the various statements, it seems there are some common themes that many are upset about.

First, the show ‘exaggerated’ the extent of unethical practice in the profession. Second, it showed only the ‘bad’ side of the profession, not the ‘good’. Third, it was factually incorrect at times.

There were those who wanted to know why doctors are being targeted when the entire society is corrupt.

Finally, the one below the belt: Who is Aamir Khan to pontificate about service to the poor when he charges crores of rupees for the show?

The last one, though probably the most superfluous, is the most emotive of all.

Is it really a revelation that ‘stars’ like Aamir charge such amounts for television serials? If Aamir declares he has not charged for the show, will it in any way alter the response to the show?

Post your comments on Satyamev Jayate here.

Now, we come to the more substantive issues.

What was one of the unethical practices that the show highlighted and ‘exaggerated’? The episode talked about the practice of ‘cuts’ and ‘commissions’ that are offered by doctors, labs and hospitals for referral of patients. These are cash transactions; they are not revealed in official documents and are arbitrary in amount.

Although there is no documentation of the extent of this practice (Not surprising! How many would admit to it?), having had a ringside view in a large metropolis for many years, I would suggest it involves a large majority of referrals.

We can quibble over the precise extent, but that would just serve to obfuscate the issue at hand.

Hasn’t such ‘fee splitting’ become so commonplace and institutionalised that, as a young doctor, if you don’t participate in it, you are effectively ostracised? Isn’t this activity non-transparent and doesn’t it increase the cost of health care and affect quality? Has any medical association ever tried to build internal resistance or opposition to such a patently corrupt practice?

The show talked about the shocking state of the Medical Council of India and how its president, Dr Ketan Desai, was arrested by the CBI in 2010 on charges of corruption. He was thereafter removed from the post of MCI president by the government and is now cooling his heels in Tihar jail.

Desai amassed crores (one estimate pegs the amount of money recovered from the raid on his home at Rs 1800 crore (Rs 18,000 million)) from the lucrative business of recognition of medical colleges.

The episode also showed how Desai, who had been indicted by the courts and temporarily sacked in 2002, staged a return. What the episode did not mention is that the same individual was also the national president of the Indian Medical Association.

Thus, a convicted individual not just survived but actually thrived for an entire decade at the highest levels in the Indian medical establishment both as the president of the Medical Council as well as the IMA. Isn’t this a reflection of the permissiveness and ambivalence medical professionals have developed towards corruption in their own representative bodies?

The current president Dr K K Talwar, who appeared on the show, had no credible answer when asked why not a single doctor in India has had his licence cancelled when the General Medical Council of the UK figures showed substantive numbers every year.

One of the ‘errors’ repeatedly pointed out by those outraged by the show is the numbers that were quoted about private and public medical colleges in India. One wonders, though, what is more important — the precise number or the fact that India can be counted among the countries that have the highest number of private medical colleges in the world? Isn’t the crass commerce of medical education in these colleges, where seats are sold at high prices, the real issue?

Isn’t it true that private medical college empires have grown because they have managed to hire and retain medical teachers, set up arrangements with hospitals to provide ‘clinical material’ in the form of patients and get recognition for postgraduate courses from inspection teams consisting largely of doctors?

Of course, there is a large industry supported by politicians at work here but the collusion of the profession is substantial.

Did the episode show examples of ‘good’ doctors and the positive side of things?

To be fair, the show did profile alternative models quite extensively. The issue of generic drugs and the work of Dr Samit Sharma in Rajasthan [ Images ] were highlighted in some detail.

That they predictably chose media favourite Dr Devi Shetty, when they could have profiled any of the hundreds of brave, committed doctors who have chosen to work under harsh  conditions in rural India to come up with alternative models of people-centric health care, is a pity. But some of this is inherent to the medium and its compulsions.

And, finally, a very old complaint — why should doctors be ‘targeted’ when the entire society is commercial and corrupt?

It is obvious that, unlike other professions, health care has a huge social dimension and hence will inevitably be scrutinised more intensely. But it is exactly this aspect that also gives doctors more visibility (don’t many of our colleagues enjoy a lot of media publicity on a regular basis?).

Historically medicine has a social contract which allows it a unique form of self-regulation in the form of medical councils, a front on which we have failed miserably. So whether it is the killing of the female foetus or the sale of kidneys, the state has had to step in with new laws because self-regulation failed.

The principle of market economics have been rejected by most societies, including western nations, as inappropriate to health care. In a strange paradox, India has one of the most privatised of health care systems.

Now, before my colleagues say that this is a result of state policy, which it essentially is, we have to admit India’s medical profession is a willing and enthusiastic participant in this process. Witness in the current boom of market medicine a new entrepreneurial spirit that is sweeping the profession. But the same market medicine, which uses media and television to sell its wares, is disturbed when the medium turns around and asks disturbing questions.

Was the show free of blemishes? Of course not.

There were occasional moments, like when the rather improbable allegation of a ‘liver transplant’ being advised for gastroenteritis was made by a member of the audience. Or when a family alleged that they did not know that a pancreas would be transplanted with the kidney in a large private hospital in Bengaluru [ Images ]. But these aberrations should not distract from the big issues that the show managed to raise.

Rampant commercialisation of the practice and of medical education, hard selling by pharmaceuticals, the high cost of drugs and the shocking price differences for the same drug from different brands are all highly disturbing parts of our healthcare policy.

That a popular film star with a huge audience articulated on prime time television what health activists have been saying for years is perhaps what has disturbed some in my fraternity.

Organisations like the IMA should actually seize the moment and ask Aamir to commit to a sustained public campaign on universal health coverage and the right to health. That would also test Aamir on a charge that has been made about him; that he raises social concerns transiently to stimulate interest in an ongoing release.

As for the boycott call, I would suggest that Aamir doesn’t really need to worry on that count. He has to just sneeze or cough and there will be a bevy of doctors running to attend on him.

After all, being a film star’s physician counts a lot in a doctor’s professional trajectory in India.

Satyamev Jayate: Of downright manipulations and status-quoist revolutions


By Saswat Pattanayak,  Kindle Magazine

Aamir Khan claims to address the roots of social evils, engages statistics, experts and pending court cases to illustrate his findings while offering solutions to overturn Indian feudal structure, all within an hour’s televised show, intensified with tears, hopes and resolutions. And the unprecedented success of ‘Satyamav Jayate’ underlines that this tactic is effectively working. If a generation had somehow failed to awaken following Rang de Basanti, it is wide awake, this time.

Each episode is a testament to this resounding success. Aamir poses significant questions in the beginning, acknowledges the conventional answers, moves on to  dismantle those very assumptions, and the audience bursts into tears at its own ignorance and at the promise of a new tomorrow bereft of the maladies.
Just when the cynics wonder if he has turned self-righteous, it turns out ‘Satyamev Jayate’ works precisely because Aamir identifies himself entirely with the audience. He, too, learns of the bitter truths about Indian society from the very show itself, live on the stage. “Mujhe bhi aaj yeh seekh mili hai” is oft-repeated. Along with the audience, he is shocked at the barbaric, with them he sheds the tears, with them he signs petitions. The routine criticisms usually reserved for holier than thou shows simply find no outlets here.
Finally, it is the content area where the Aamir Khan effect shines. Female infanticide, dowry tortures, child sexual abuse – the themes so far – are societally entrenched as innately problematic, inherently evil and acutely in need of redress. They are so commonplace that they should have ideally lost any shock value by now; and yet Satyamev Jayate revels in the euphoric disconnect of the audience with their harmful consequences.
And yet, what goes almost unnoticed is that Satyamev Jayate is a reality television show, not a reality; that the truth has not triumphed in the show capitalizing on our national motto. What remains deeply unsettling is that the solution evinced in the show is part of the problem, that the answers gathered are critical question marks, the lulling agents are masquerading as the antidotes, the normative as surprises, and the status quo as revolution.
Aamir Khan, along with his corporate sponsors, the so-called philanthropy partners and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, have together created a recipe for unparalleled commercial venture, the most gigantic instance of private capital earning public respect, a creative collaboration that gloriously abolishes economic class as a social determinant, an immaculate shield against revolutionary restructuring.
A reality television show is entirely scripted, and Satyamev Jayate is no exception. Where it resorts to downright manipulation is where it hides behind the cloak of social change agency. What percentage of Indian children are sexually abused, asks Aamir Khan. Two percent, says one, four percent, another. All nice and dandy, except that either the reality show does not arrange for a single informed member to be present amidst the audience, or that the host chooses not to ask this question to people whose answers can upstage his assumptions. No Pinki Virani there. Does female infanticide take place majorly in rural areas or how does one plan one’s wedding could likewise – effortlessly – generate opposing views, but Aamir, bent upon cashing in on the shock value, chooses to register the answers that suit the script.
So are the ignorant answers from the audience a result of random sampling? Hardly so, considering each episode has target audience representing a certain age/gender group. Instead of facilitating a dialogue among the people representing diverse views owing to unique social locations, Aamir Khan chooses to engage in a linear fashion, as a preacher, as an instructor, and eventually as the tool of social change.
As part of the script, the critical voices in the audience are not asked for opinions independently, but only as supporting evidences that embolden Aamir’s heroism. It would have upset the stage had the members of Tanzeem Khuddam E Millat engaged in a dialogue with the young people who advocated lavish wedding in the beginning of that episode. Hence, after the unassuming audience was sarcastically applauded for its wedding preference, and after Aamir had made forceful arguments against audience perception, Mausim Ummedi is introduced as his supporting voice, whose adulations for Aamir’s mammoth sacrifices are then televised to the viewers. One wonders if becoming the highest paid anchor in the television history to showcase impacts of poverty is the sacrifice, or being a descendant to Maulana Azad itself constitutes this acclaimed sacrifice of Aamir Khan.
Turns out, neither. More disturbing is the claim on part of the elite host that women’s rights issues have nothing to do with economic class. Infanticide is a practice across classes, dowry torture equally universal, sexual abuse as well. Political economy is not the culprit, and there is no need to address feudalism, let alone capitalism. Both rich and the poor suffer equally, and even the poor are romanticized as happier survivors. There is light at the end of the tunnel because patience with the system, and not privilege redistribution holds the key. In fact, so content is Aamir in the status quo, that his constant disclaimer is his complete and unwavering faith in our judicial system and that he – on behalf of us all – is perfectly assured, justice shall prevail in each case.
That, the oppressed state of women and children is a necessary consequence of patriarchy, which in turn is unequivocally interwoven with capitalism, is entirely lost to our beloved renaissance man. While claiming to be addressing the root causes of social evils, Aamir conveniently blames it all on individual conscience without addressing a commodified society that must treat its weaker sections as non-entities. In an increasingly individualistic society where profit – and power – accumulations are ruthlessly preserved – and whose direct beneficiaries include the illustrious host himself – the next logical step is to sign the petitions in a dramatic manner and repose trust in the law and order system of our assumedly robust democracy.
So the woman continues to be worshipped as a sacrificial mother, motherhood as a moral virtue, every abortion is a killing without a word spoken on abortion rights of women, wearing jeans and miniskirts continue to be slutty, big weddings remain fine so long as the couples pay for them, child sexual abuse victims should forgive their abusers, belief in the gods and religious scripts remain the saviors, and the pending court cases shall invariably meet justice. In Aamir Khan’s troubled India, trouble is forever over, when he comes back to reassure the awestruck audience, after the break.
It is not the disbelievers, the radicals, the Maoists, the agitators, the ones who have given up on the political economic system that inherently sustains the wealth and gender gap who should be emulated. It is the pacifiers, the collaborators, the petitioners, the forgivers, the individualists who must pave the way. Contrary to the claimed exceptional values this show provides, the truth is we have continually worshipped the heroes, the successful and the glorious, the judicial system and the political democracy, just as Aamir envisages. Moreover, we have always waited for the superhero to come fix what is wrong with the system while leaving its roots intact. The role of the messiah is not to discard the god, after all; just to empower the masses into believing a tiny bit more.
When this season of televised empowerment started, Aamir outlined India’s biggest obsessions, he mentioned cricket, films and weddings. The truth would have surely triumphed, had he not overlooked the most apparent one, the one obsession he has willingly turned himself into becoming: the Messiah. Alas.

Dil Se Nahin Dimaag Se Dekho – Thoughts on Satyamev Jayate


Guest post by SHOHINI GHOSH

 

The first episode of Aamir Khan’s much publicized TV show Satyamev Jayate telecast on May 6, 2012 dealt with “Female Foeticide”. The following is a reflection of the show’s line of reasoning. Since only one out of 13 episodes has been telecast, what follows should not be taken as a judgement on the series but a response to the first episode. For reasons that I will explain later, I will use the term Sex-Selective Abortions (hereafter SSA) instead of `Female Foeticide’.

 

Satyamev Jayate (hereafter, SJ) takes inspiration from the format of the Oprah Winfrey show. In this format the celebrity host is as important as the issues being discussed and the issues of “human interest” are narrated through a number of `affective’ tropes that include cathartic revelations, shocking testimonies, interviews with experts, cutaways of shocked or tearful studio audiences and a host who is both emotive and inspirational. The show’s attempt to mobilize affect is reflected in its many promos and tag-line that reads:  “Dil Peh Lagegi, Tabhi Baat Banegi.”  Shows with such formats usually end on a feel-good note where a “solution” to the problem is proffered.

In SJ, the “solution” is the “jaadu ki chhadi” (magic wand) which the host explains is the collective strength of “me” and “you”. The episode ends with Aamir Khan (hereafter, AK) promising to write a letter to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan on behalf of all of us demanding strict action against doctors who practice sex-selective tests and procedures.

Unlike most talk shows on TV, SJ has high production values. Despite a certain preachy sanctimoniousness reminiscent of his role in Taare Zameen par, AK is a respectful and competent host who helps to keep the conversations on track without being rude or abrupt. On the first episode, he speaks to three women who provide moving testimonies of how they were forced to undertake sex-determination tests and sex-selective abortions against their will. The testimonies show how sex-selection and son-preference is not a problem that plagues the rural backwaters as is commonly assumed but prevails within the educated middle class. AK punctuates the conversation with `useful’ information. For example, he rightly points out that the sex of the child is determined by the sperm of the father and not the egg of the mother. There was an important intervention made by a lawyer representing one of the three women who describes how the judge declared that there was nothing wrong in desiring a “kuldeepak” (the son who will carry forward the lineage) and upbraided the policeman who had dared to arrest the in-laws who had forced the woman to undergo forced SSA. The show included interviews with a reputed gynecologist as well as two journalists who had carried out a sting operation on doctors in Rajasthan who were carrying out SSA’s.

On the surface, the show is “pro-women” but as the arguments unravel, it becomes increasingly evident that “all is not well’. Let me explain. In describing the “consequences” of a skewed, women-unfriendly sex-ratio, AK takes us (through Airtel “3G link”) to Kurukshetra, Haryana where in one village women have practically disappeared. AK speaks to a group of men who claim that they are unmarried because SSA’s using “ultrasound” had ensured that there were no women in the village. Earlier in the show AK had linked the declining sex-ratio to SSA and the Kurukshetra example was being produced as a perfect example. Even if we were to set aside our skepticism about this easy explanation, what follows’ is worse. Back in the studio, AK extrapolates from this example to expound on a simplistic and dangerously flawed prognosis according to which the shortage of women will result in “two crore men” remaining “unmarried” thereby creating a “shaadi ka bazaar” (marriage market) with buyers, sellers and “dalaals” where women will be bought and sold like commodities only to have unbelievable atrocities visited upon them.

This idea is seconded by a member of the studio audience who says that the marriage market had already begun and that women in the all-men village had to face harassment from the “kunwara fauj” (army of singletons). (Of course, by now you are wondering who these women are since we were just told that there were none!) The other suggestion being made seemed to be that if (heterosexual) men were not provided partners in heterosexual matrimony, they would explode in a libidinous frenzy and commit atrocities on women! (Thanks to SJ, on those rare occasions that they are brought to the courtroom, sex-offenders could now take refuge in the “singlehood-made-me-do-it’ argument and ask for their sentences to be mitigated.) Another question is to ask is whether equal numbers create gender equality and prevent violence against women.  If yes, then how do we explain atrocities against women when the sex-ratio was better as recorded by say the 1961 census?

What falls by the wayside in the paradigm that AK proposes is a central tenet of women’s equality: her right to choose. If we believe in equality then the women born in Kurukshetra should have the right to decide when, who and where they want to marry. They cannot be burdened with the task of having to marry men in their village in order to maintain the sex-ratio and thereby prevent violence against women even if this thesis were true. At the risk of detonating the libidinous ire of the `kunwara’ fauj, it may be said that the women in Kurukshetra – like women everywhere – should have the right to decide what they want to do with their life and body and this includes their right to reject both heterosexuality and matrimony if they so desire.

By locating the declining sex ratio within a paradigm of `female foeticide’ and `violence against women’, SJ replays a problematic logic; one that links declining sex ratio to violence against women and the elimination of women through `female foeticide’ using the key act of abortion.

In India, the women’s right to abortion emerged not from feminist struggles but as a by-product of family planning policies. Abortion has been legal in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act since 1971.  Despite its default origins, it is an important right for women and all campaigns against SSA must ensure that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is never threatened. The Right to Abortion is vital for gender equality and there can be no doubt that women are safer when abortions are legal and their mental and physical well-being is not threatened by having to obtain unsafe and illegal abortions.  While SSA gets a high degree of publicity what is less publicized is how difficult safe abortion still is for large numbers of women.

The makers of SJ might argue that women’s right to abortion and forced SSA are not the same thing. Certainly they are not and the three cases presented in Episode 1 of SJ demonstrate that. But unfortunately, not all cases of SSA fall into this category. There are innumerable instances where, for a number of complicated reasons, women are complicit in choosing SSA which then muddies the demarcation between oppressive villains (husband/in-laws) and oppressed victims (wives). The reasons why a woman will opt for SSA can range from her own son-preference to a desire to survive safely in a hostile household. How women should be discouraged from sex-selective practices without jeopardizing her right to take decisions about her life and body, have long agonized Feminists. An important lesson that Feminist Activism has taught us is that the inevitable fallout of empowering women to take their own decisions may well result in her choosing a path that many of us would regard as anti-feminist or regressive.

“Pro-choice” Feminists (as Abortion Rights Activists call themselves) have always privileged the personhood of the mother over that of the foetus which they argue is a `potential person’ and not an “actual person”. The “Pro-life” Lobby (as right-wing, anti-abortionists call themselves) does just the reverse. By using terms like the “unborn child” and the “death of the girl child”, they privilege the personhood of the child over that of the mother. Similarly, the term “female foeticide” carries connotations of both personhood and murder through its association with words like homicide, matricide and regicide.

Read more at Kaafila

 

Does the truth prevail in Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate?


Satyen K. Bordoloi , http://www.sify.com

aamir
Aamir Khan in the very first episode has shown society the mirror, but perhaps we also need to investigate what lies behind the mirror, says Satyen K Bordoloi

The most surprising thing about Satyameva Jayate is Aamir Khan. The star who is otherwise so inaccessible, has suddenly become someone you cannot escape even if you want to.

What with his program being shown at the same time in eight channels and viewers being subjected to a countdown as if something earthshaking was about to happen.

To begin with, one has to give in to the marketing genius of the man, the star… who in his quest to brand himself as the “socially conscious star” has finally nailed it.

Yes, Aamir Khan indeed shows the society the mirror, exposing the hypocrisies of the educated middle class. Yet, to get the true picture we will have to see the other side of the mirror.

First, however, let’s look at what Aamir Khan wants us to see.

What happens when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? # Satyamevjayate


Satyamev Jayate
Posted by Khamba  on May 7, 2012

Nazar Suraksha Kavach

I’ll be honest – I’m a little tired of Aamir Khan looking down at me from every hoarding in Mumbai as if I’m a pathetic human being. So annoyed infact that I’ll consider doing the exact opposite of what he tells me to do on the show just to spite the guy. If he talks about drunken driving – I’ll down a bottle of Old Monk and run over people in an auto-rickshaw. If he talks about pesticide dependency across farmlands being linked to cancer, I’ll drink bottles of Coke he endorsed a couple of years ago. If he talks about abor…well one doesn’t need to when its so easy to abuse OTC pills being sold in happy Shilpa Shetty packaging.

It’s like he’s the only one concerned with what’s happening around the country and pardon my French…like hum sab bas ch***ye bethe hain… as if staring at someone with keen intensity accentuated by soft lighting and adequate depth of field is going to solve the poverty of people’s backs. I understand one needs to play the emotional card, because without it Indians ko kuch samajh nahi aata, but I have enough people preaching their moral superiority to me everyday and I can do without another one.

But before I move on to talking about how the show told me more about us as people than it did about the issue it chose to address, I want to get some stuff out of the way.

Aamir Khan: Contrary to how annoyed I am with the marketing blitz; I actually have no beef against Aamir Khan doing the show. The intention is noble, and props to him for even trying something like this on Indian television. He’s using his star power to “raise awareness”, and while personally I will always skeptical of that terms intangibility, I hope some good will come of it. What and how? I don’t know, and I don’t even think anyone cares. People are just happy that Aamir Khan is “doing something”! And we as a people seem so starved of role models and hope that even “doing something” is enough to get them on your side.

One of the biggest challenges within the development sector always remains impact assessment – so while I don’t expect massive “societal change” (the term rich people use to say we hope poor people reach our level someday before making sure they never do) to happen through the show, it’ll definitely get rich people to think about the issues it raises through its run. (I like how rich people keep saying the show is meant for a “DD Audience” – our of saying poor bastards – because for us everything that is wrong with society only happens amidst these poor fuckers who dirty our streets and have no civic sense and have the audacity to ask for something more than minimum wage and more than one holiday a year while they clean our houses)

Again, parts of the show made me cringe (Aamir’s opening monologue – and the song in the end interspersed with pictures of helpless kids that we as society have wronged – straight out of the aao videshi tourists se gareebi ki numaish ke zariye paisa nikaalte hain playbook) but let’s face it – shots of people crying and a painful story are what work to get people’s attention and there the producers got their desired results.

The show: I don’t know why people are bothered about Aamir charging 3 crores per episode. Like any other professional he’s spending his time and effort making the show and will/should be compensated for it. I know for a fact that some of my friends who have been working their assess off on the ground for a pittance will be irked at so much attention being showered on issues they’ve been crying hoarse about for years and years purely because Aamir Khan has said it – but that’s just how we’ve become. We can’t eradicate polio till Amitabh Bachchan tells us its fucked up, so I don’t know why we’re surprised now. I am curious to see how sensitively issues are treated and whether the research is accurate – and I hope I won’t be disappointed given how television is forced to stick to broad strokes. I’m looking forward to the piles of academic literature that will flood JSTOR and the likes once the show is done, and how friends working on the ground and on campus react to it. On many levels, it is and can be a critical show.

The people’s reaction: The best thing that Satyamev Jayete did for me however was providing an insight into how people (using Twitter as a sample) thought. It immediately became taboo to even make jokes about Aamir Khan simply because “he was doing something and all we were doing was tweeting”. It’s almost as if you had to qualify yourself as having good karma before being able to comment on the show incase you didn’t like it. So what is it then? Does one have to had donated a certain amount of money to charity, spent x number of years working with an organisation, personally saved 8 kids from a fire? Why must one be chastised for not liking the show or joking about it?

It’s amazing how by just watching the show – people thought that they had done something amazing which made them morally superior beings. And while my first instinct was to mock it, I realized it became taboo to mock the show simply because Satyamev Jayete – for that moment – became a beacon of change. For that brief period, it became more than just a television show – and cheesy as it sounds – Aamir became the crusader who gave voice to people’s hope. We’ve become so disappointed and disgusted with our political and social representatives, that Aamir Khan became that one guy we could look up to because he seemed to have no personal agenda and was using his influence for something other than selling biscuits.

Here’s what made me uncomfortable however. The issue dealt with yesterday was one of female feticide and there really is no conflict within it. No one would willingly (I would imagine) admit to not wanting a girl, especially amongst the educated elite. So the sheer number of people who seemed aghast at the existence of this practice across the country was on some level – hilarious. How isolated does one have to be from the country one is living in to not have a clue about how widespread a problem this is? It was even funnier when rich people expressed shock at other rich people following this practice. “YOU MEAN EDUCATED PEOPLE ALSO DON’T WANT GIRLS?” I doubt if the upper caste farmer in Punjab who is crushed with debt and needs more male hands to help till the land will give a shit about the show, but that it hit some people on Twitter like a ton of bricks was very amusing.

What happens however, when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? What when an Aamir Khan talks about caste based discrimination across religions and takes a side? What if Aamir says he is pro-reservation in educational institutions? What if Aamir Khan is against nuclear energy? What if Aamir Khan supports the ban on beef? These are all hypothetical questions – and we will likely not have these answered simply because it is a television show and Aamir cannot afford to get into so much trouble. But how will we as people react? Will we again give him the same wholehearted support we do so now when it offends our own sensibilities? In their heads people seem to have already made Satyamev Jayete more than a television show – but I don’t think we’re ready to be confronted by actual truths of our societal order. We are happy as long as we’re making a noise about issues we’re all against – but that’s not even a real debate. We will also avoid the real debate because we’re not ready for it – and instead of worrying about governance deficits we will like to be distracted by Aamir Khan for atleast he’s talking about some things we can all agree on. And that is where the massive support we’re giving Aamir right now seems to ring a little hollow. And that’s not Aamir’s fault at all – he’s doing what he can with his talent and influence and that’s a good thing – I just don’t know how much we as people are willing to be taken down that road of societal change, especially when it offends what we believe in.

I’m going to be watching the show keenly – simply because it has and can have so many implications. I’m sure everyone else will to, but maybe lets keep our shit together while we watch it?

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Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate- Copied ? You Decide


, TNN | May 7, 2012

Aamir Khan‘s TV debut yesterday, which was preceded by months of publicity, culminated in a controversy with the band Euphoria alleging that the chorus of the show’s 22-minute anthem, Satyamev Jayate, had been lifted from the band’s decade-old song Satyameva Jayate. While Euphoria’s lead singer Palash Sen said all the TV show’s team had to do was ask him for their song to be used, composer Ram Sampathrefused to comment.

I was shocked: Palash

For the last few days, Palash Sen has been receiving calls from many of his fans who told him that the tune of the anthem of Aamir’s show, Satyamev Jayate, was the same as Euphoria’s song, which was also called Satyameva Jayate.

“The trailers and the anthem of this show have been running on television for quite a while, but I had not seen the videos. When I heard it, I was shocked. In 2000, Euphoria released its second album Phir Dhoom, and one of its songs was named Satyameva Jayate. And the chorus of composer Ram Sampath’s version of Satyamev Jayate is exactly the same as the chants in our song. They’ve basically used the same refrain. Jo baaki ka gaana hai, that has different words and tune. But the mainstay of the song – the chorus – is ours. Which is why I’ve sent a legal notice to them,” says Palash.
He adds, “It was the first Indian non-film song that was composed on the thought and phrase of ‘satyameva jayate’. We used to play that song extensively at our concerts about a decade ago. That song is not as popular as Maaeri (from the same album) because we did not make a video for it. But I believe that is the point – if one takes a 12-year-old song and picks up its chorus, most people won’t know about it, barring a few passionate fans who instantly recalled it and called me up.”

I’d have given permission

“They could have asked me and I’d have agreed at one go. I wouldn’t have asked for money. I would have just asked for a small credit to the band for the song,” says Palash.

“A lot of times, I see Euphoria’s tunes, catch-phrases, etc, in many Bollywood songs, but since that was not full-fledged copying, I didn’t raise any objection. I admire and respect Ram, and I remember how he fought for copyright issues when his own song was lifted and used in Rakesh Roshan’s Krazzy 4, hence the shock is even greater. The problem is that today, in the industry, copying is so frequent that people don’t even care about the original contributor’s objections.I want the audience to hear Euphoria’s Satyameva Jayate and decide on their own,” says Palash.

In 2008, Ram was involved in a similar copyright controversy, but back then, he was the one accusing the Roshans of not giving him credit for the music of Krazzy 4. He ultimately won the case and got 2 crore as compensation.


No comment: Ram Sampath

When contacted about Palash’s allegations, Ram Sampath, composer of the anthem for Aamir’s TV show, said, “I don’t have any idea about what you are saying. Nobody has said anything of this sort to me yet. So, I refuse to comment.”

Ditto: channel

When we spoke to Star India, they refused to speak on the matter. “No comment”, said the official spokesperson. Another official, though unwilling to be quoted, told us, “We don’t deny that we have received a legal document on this. But before we take any action or revert on this, we’ll check the authenticity of the allegation. We will not simply accept what someone is shouting from one corner of the world. We need some time.

YOU WATCH BOTH VERSIONS AND DECIDE

Aamir Khan specially screens Satyamev Jayate in villages


Aamir Khan‘s much awaited TV debut Satyamev Jayate premieres today. The show will be telecast in over 100 countries around the world, but sadly, not in Karnataka.
After months of hype and curiosity, D-day has finally arrived for Aamir Khan’s first TV show, Satyamev Jayate. The first episode of the non-fiction talk show will air today at 11 am across eight channels on the Star TV network, including four regional language channels which will feature dubbed versions. It will also be aired on national broadcaster Doordarshan.To make sure the show reaches people in remote areas who don’t own TV sets, the actor will hold special public screenings of the first episode for them on community TV sets in their villages. Bhingara and Kahupatta in Maharashtra, Jhunkar in Madhya Pradesh and Khannapurwa, Lalpur Sarauta and Maaniram in Uttar Pradesh are some of the chosen villages.

“It is a relevant show for the whole country and we are making sure that it reaches out to all Indians, even in places with limited or no TV connectivity,” says Gayatri Yadav, marketing and communications, Star India. Based on the response to the first episode, Star will consider screening subsequent episodes of the show in this manner as well.

Telecom brand Airtel, Satyamev Jayate’s sponsor, has reduced the cost of SMS responses to the show from Rs. 3 to Rs. 1. Also, reports say that the revenue collected via SMS and from caller tunes of the show’s title track will be donated to charity.

Aamir’s dream to reach out to every Indian might hit a roadblock however. Recent news reports have said that Karnataka has banned the show from being aired because of a state policy that disallows dubbed versions of non-Kannada serials on regional channels. At the time of goin to print, Star TV officials were trying to work out a solution.

Sunday Reading –Shah Rukh Khan, Islamophobia and a message for Bollywood


at http://www.sify.com

Shah Rukh Khan‘s two-hour detention at a US airport may not be as random as US authorities claim, says Satyen K Bordoloi as he profiles Islamophobia and its roots in cinema.
(With invaluable inputs from Monica Wahi and Shama Zaidi)

Three people stepped out of the private jet owned by the second richest man in Asia. Two of them were the man’s wife and daughter while the third was a film star whose global fan base outnumbers that of the biggest Hollywood star.

Yet, the film star was picked up for ‘terror’ screening in the US airport and detained for two hours. Though no one said so, everyone knows that the star’s fault lay in his name – Khan, Shah Rukh Khan.

So what if Khan means ‘leader’ or ‘commander’ and that he is perhaps the most well known ‘Khan’ on the planet.

The hilarity, however, had only begun. After Indians protested, the US authorities claimed that this was a random screening and that thousands of people get screened every day.

Random? Private Jet… one in three people… with the family of the second ri

chest man in Asia… a hugely popular star who needs only a 0.278 second Google search to confirm… Perhaps the US foreign policy on India is devised by watching the country’s illogical commercial cinema for them to believe that the Indian public will buy any nonsense.

Shah Rukh Khan downplayed the incident with his characteristic wit saying, ‘Whenever I start feeling too arrogant, I take a trip to America. The immigration guys kick the star out of stardom.’

The film industry, aware of the King Khan‘s megalomania, would have smirked in acknowledgement at this tongue-in-cheek self-flagellation. Yet, for the umpteenth time, this incident has put the spotlight on the tornado called Islamophobia that has left no one untouched – presidents and superstars included.

Aamir Khan was strip-searched in 2002. Irffan Khan had so many trysts, especially in 2008 and 2009, that he dropped the surname Khan from his name.

Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked twice in one day in 2010 at New York airport.

If this happens to such globally affluent Muslims, one can only imagine the kind of ‘random’ search common Muslims are perhaps subjected to.

Ironically what has been used the most in spreading this Islamophobia, is the medium of cinema itself.

History of Hollywood’s anti-Islam propaganda

Read more below