The feminist poets of Mumbra

Mohammed Wajihuddin, TNN | Mar 4, 2012,

In a modest flat off a dusty lane in the Muslim-majority town of Mumbra, a group of young girls is sitting in a semi-circle. Before they entered the apartment, they were all covered with the black veil, the unofficial dress code of any conservative Muslim mohalla in the subcontinent. But now, faces kissed by the sunlight, they await their turn at something equally liberating: poetry.

The young poets, initiated into the art two years ago, are gearing up to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 with yet another poetry recitation session. Emotions-some raw, others mature beyond their tender years-flow as the girls’ words become banners of dissent. Their poems protest the many inequalities that women face-female foeticide, financial dependence on men, unrequited love and the curses of divorce and widowhood.

The group came into being after Iranian-American poet Roxy Azari conducted a two-month-long poetry workshop for the young women in 2010. Azari, then on a Watson Fellowship, toured seven countries to engage young Muslim women and train them to express themselves through poetry. Her first stop was the 27-year-old Mumbai-based advocacy group Awaz-e-Niswan.

“Three days a week, Roxy would visit Awaz-e-Niswan’s Rahnuma Library at Mumbra and discuss socio-political issues with us. Then she would ask us to pen our feelings,” recalls Saba Khan who coordinated the poetry workshop. Both Awaz-e-Niswan and Rehnuma Library basically counsel and educate women on their rights, and the poetry sessions held now are an adjunct of the same philosophy-a desire to be free from the oppression of men.

Azari, famous for her slam poetry performances, left after the workshop for other destinations and better things, but she definitely ignited the dormant poet in a dozen or so young women. Each member of the group penned several poems, which are now part of a collection appropriately and evocatively titled Bebaak Qalam (Frank Pen). Three of them-Neha Ansari, Rabia Siddiqui and Faiza Shaikh-collaborated on an imaginative poem titled Agar Main Mard Hoti (If I were A Man) which portrays the many things men take for granted. For instance: “Agar main mard hoti/Subah der tak soti/Raat ghar der se aati (If I were a man/I would sleep late into the morning/ Come home late at night). And the poem perhaps expresses a collective feeling when it declares: “If I were a man/I would change the attitude of all men).”

Siddiqui, who studies at SNDT Women’s College, Juhu, says that before she joined the workshop she never realised her poetic talent. “I would occasionally read Ghalib and Faiz, but the workshop emboldened me not just to write poems but even continue my education,” says Siddiqui, who adds that her brother did not want her to study beyond Std 12, but her husband is “quite supportive”. “I am restless if I don’t write for a few days. I feel good after I have penned a few lines,” she says.

Evidently, poetry-writing provides a catharsis to these girls who otherwise have limited avenues to vent their suppressed feelings. They may not take out morchas in the streets but their poems hold aloft banners of protest. Fauzia Qureishi, by far the most accomplished in this young, bubbly group, has many poems to her credit, but the one about zindan (prison) and azm (ambition) clearly shines through the collection. The long poem talks about almost everything that a girl from a conservative Indian Muslim family has to face-early marriage, the threat of triple talaq, the gruelling work at home and the restrictions put in her path. “It is not just my story alone, but my protest on behalf of all the women who are suppressed and oppressed in a male-dominated society,” says the bespectacled Qureishi, quoting a couplet: “Kab tak kisi ki milkiyat main maani jaaon/Ek mard ki pehchan se kyon jaani jaaon (For how long am I going to be considered a property/Why should I be identified with the identity of a man?).

Mumbra may seem like an unlikely centre for feminist poetry but these young women are taking it there.

Nebraska set to use India-made drug in execution


Narayan Lakshman, The Hindu

Unless he is saved by a clemency petition or last-ditch legal recourse, when Michael Ryan, death row inmate in a Nebraska prison, is strapped into a gurney and injected with lethal chemicals on March 6, 2012 he will die knowing that a drug made in the town of Kashipur, Uttarakhand in India caused his death.

While Ryan had earlier obtained a stay order on his execution from the Nebraska Supreme Court, that decision was reversed at the end of last week when a County District Judge, Daniel Bryan Jr., rejected his appeal. In doing so the court however did not specifically comment on Ryan’s challenge relating to how Nebraska obtained one of three lethal-injection drugs it has on hand.

Ironically the setback for Ryan will also come as a blow to the proprietors of Naari, a Swiss-Indian pharmaceutical company. Naari has argued, for more than six months now, that the 485g sodium thiopental, an unconsciousness-inducing drug, now in the possession of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), were taken from it under false pretences by a middleman called Chris Harris.

The attempt of Mr. Harris to procure sodium thiopental, proved duplicitous by shipping documents and other paperwork in The Hindu’s possession, come in the wake of a similarly controversial attempt by him obtain the narcotic from a Mumbai-based firm called Kayem Pharmaceuticals.

Yet a U.K.-based anti-death penalty group called Reprieve, which had earlier tracked the NDCS’s efforts to source the drug from a shadowy firm in the United Kingdom, highlighted Mr. Harris’ interactions with Kayem and the intense pressure on the firm led to it stating publicly that it would immediately halt all exports of thiopental to the U.S.

The U.S. prison’s move to seek the drug in the U.K. had also met with a storm of opposition across Europe and led to the ban of all such drug exports to the U.S. from that continent. However, although the import from Kayem was not approved by U.S. regulators Mr. Harris succeeded in procuring over 500 one-gram vials of thiopental — enough to kill 166 men — for the NDCS.

According to sources, U.S. regulators have conveyed to the NDCS that they do not approve of the use of Kayem’s sodium thiopental in executions given that proper importation procedures were not followed. The NDCS along with Georgia, Arizona, Texas and other U.S. States, is said to be facing acute shortages of execution drugs since the 2010 voluntary shut-down of a firm called Hospira, the sole producer of sodium thiopental in the U.S. at the time.

Given the regulatory issues impeding the use of foreign-made sodium thiopental numerous correctional facilities in the U.S. are also considering a switch to pentobarbital, a veterinary euthanasia barbiturate used to put down dogs, or using a single-drug execution procedure.

If Nebraska does not switch to some alternative then fate of Naari’s drugs would appear to be written, despite Naari CEO Prithi Kochhar dashing of an anxious letter to Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican, in which he said he was “shocked and appalled” by the prospect that Naari’s drugs could thus be used in execution procedures.

According to Mr. Kochhar, Naari’s agreement with Mr. Harris was for Mr. Harris to use the vials for registration in Zambia, get the product registered there and then begin selling it there, given that sodium thiopental is used widely as an anaesthetic in the developing world. Unfortunately the most recent decision condemning Ryan to death will lead to Naari’s drugs being used for an entirely more macabre purpose.

Bombay HC orders state to stop work on Kalu dam

Dam Damned

Dam Damned (Photo credit: Lingaraj G J)

By Mustafa Plumber | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

The Bombay high court on Thursday stayed the construction of a dam being built on Kalu River in Thane district because necessary permissions were not obtained by the state government from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

The stay would continue for three months until the ministry decides on the proposal seeking permission.

On June 5, DNA had first reported how the dam, if built, would submerge an area of 2,100 hectares, including around 1,000 hectares of dense forest, and displace four villages.

“The private construction company appointed by the state government cannot undertake any activity unless further permission is given by the court,” said the division bench of Justice DD Sinha and Justice VK Tahilramani.

The bench rapped the ministry for not deciding on the proposal within three months as per the forest conservation rules, thus allowing the state government to carry out the construction activity on the dam site. “If it is a temple or a resort, it is ok. But if the matter is in larger public interest, it should be decided on a priority basis. You cannot keep everything on hold,” the bench said.

The bench noted that the ministry was non-apologetic for the delay.

“It is unfortunate that the statement made by the ministry on completing the entire exercise within four weeks was not honoured. However, nor there is an apology or regret in this regard. Because of procedural technicalities, the process was not completed. Due to the apology by the counsel, we don’t propose to take this matter any further.”

The bench directed the MoEF to decide on the state government’s proposal, seeking permission for development on forest land within three months. The Central Advisory Committee of MoEF has two months to submit its report/suggestions/recommendations based on the report dated February 9, submitted by the Chief Conservator of Forest (Central) in the ministry for consideration. Thereafter, the central government has to take a decision on it within a month.

The directions were given during the hearing of a petition filed by Shramik Mukhti Sanghatana, an NGO, alleging that the dam is being built without required permissions from the forest department.

In an affidavit, the state government admitted that work on Kalu dam in Murbad began in October 2010 without permission from the Centre and MoEF.

The MoEF had carried out a site inspection and the report submitted by the chief conservator of forest said the construction should be stayed as the state government had not got the necessary permission.

Advocate Gayatri Singh, appearing for the Sanghatana, argued that the work order was given on May 29, 2010, and only after the petition was filed, the state government applied for permission to the chief conservator of forest in June 2011.

According to the state government, as per a resolution passed on July 9, 2009, it was granted an approval for building the dam.

Maternal death 3 times more in tribal areas of Jharkhand

Tending to her flock in Jharkhand


Tarpari Ji from Jharkhand says that they have found that in tribal areas of Jharkhand the rate of maternal death at child birth is 3 times more than  the average. He says in parts of 2 blocks in Godda District between April 2011 & Feb 2012 in a population of about 1,36,000 with an estimated births of 3117 there has been 23 Maternal deaths, which is about 3 times of the State reported figure (261 per 100,000 live births).72% of the deaths were in tribal communities (Santhal & Paharia) .For more Tarpari ji can be reached at 09934353484

Listen here


Judge rules Illinois eavesdropping law unconstitutional for second time in a year

Map of USA with Illinois highlighted

Image via Wikipedia

By Associated Press,

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — An Illinois law against recording conversations was ruled unconstitutional Friday, the second time in the past year a judge has struck it down.

The eavesdropping law makes it a felony to record conversations without the consent of everyone involved. Even recording public officials in public places can be illegal.

Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks declared the law unconstitutional Friday, saying it went too far and could make “wholly innocent conduct” illegal.

The ruling comes in the case of Christopher Drew, an artist who was arrested in 2009 for selling his work on a downtown Chicago street without a permit. Police charged Drew with violating the eavesdropping law after learning he recorded conversations during his arrest.

Drew said Friday he was happy with Sacks’ decision. The law should let people gather information about police conduct in public, he said.

“Otherwise, you need to come out with a big camera rolling, and they’ve already pulled their pants up,” Drew said.

But Drew’s attorney, Joshua Kutnick, said Sacks rejected Drew’s claim that he had a First Amendment right to gather information on police. Instead, he said, the judge ruled the law’s restrictions were simply too broad.

The decision comes as state lawmakers consider legislation to revamp the eavesdropping statute and permit the recording of public officials on duty in public places.

There was no immediate word from the Cook County state’s attorney or the Illinois attorney general on whether the ruling will be appealed. A similar ruling issued by a Crawford County judge in September has already been appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Kutnick said the Legislature meant to protect individual privacy but went too far. He compared the law to one struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2008. That law barred secret compartments in vehicles that could hide weapons. The court said it was flawed because it also criminalized harmless uses like hiding jewelry or documents.

The attorney argued Illinois should change its law so anyone taking part in a conversation can record it. That would still protect people from having outsiders tape their conversations.

“I think the state of Illinois is finally starting to come around,” Kutnick said

“To those who believe in resistance, who live between hope and impatience and have learned the perils of being unreasonable. To those who understand enough
to be afraid and yet retain their fury.”

Feminism’s unfinished business

Ritu Menon | March 3, 2012, TOI, Crest Edition

On any given day the Yahoo group Feminists India carries dozens of postings on dozens of issues, from protesting Vedanta‘s “support” of balwadis and anganwadis, to campaigning for tribal activist Soni Sori’s right to a fair trial and demanding accountability from the police for her abuse in custody, to the politics of Slut Walk. The group sends open letters (including to Sri Lankan President Rajapaksha on equal rights for Tamils), invitations to seminars, book and job announcements, information on campaigns, requests for information, statements of solidarity, comments on legal judgments – all in a day’s work. Recently, Shyam Benegal and Gul Panag responded to an Open Letter sent by FeministsIndia by withdrawing from judging a short films competition sponsored by Vedanta.

It’s true that an internet presence may not have the same immediacy or visibility as being out on the streets, but the activism is still around and its reach is considerable. To all those who feel the women’s movement in India is on the wane, perhaps a more accurate assessment is that it is more dispersed, has deeper roots, and has shifted from being urban and middle class to more hinterland and, often, even more rural. In major metropolises, for example, the objective is not simply demanding that “eve-teasing” be treated as a crime;rather it’s working with the police, with college students, with planning and civic bodies to ensure safe cities for all – women, children, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged. If the 1980s-1990 s were a time of consciousnessraising (as much for society as for ourselves) with all the exhilaration and energy that this generated, the 2000s may well be about actively working towards change, not just in laws but on the ground, in society.

Of course, one misses the excitement and togetherness of demonstrating on the streets and the sense of accomplishment at having a law amended or an act passed. But the movement is older now, more mature, and the environment has changed – we’re in a globalised, connected India today, and forms of protest and mobilising, of negotiation and intervention, have had to take this into account.

About seven or eight years ago, Akshara, a women’s resource centre in Mumbai that has been in the forefront of the movement since the 1980s, decided they needed to reach out to young people in the city. Not via your usual fete-and-sports events, but through a sustained and continuing engagement with them on gender issues. Today they work with 18 “low-resource ” colleges in the city, and over the years the students have fanned out to district colleges and reached several thousand others. With Xavier’s College and five other institutions in Mumbai, Akshara carried out a safety audit of the city, monitoring 22 locations with the help of 150 students. Their Blow the Whistle Campaign resulted in setting up a police helpline 103, responding to crimes against women, children and senior citizens. “The response from students has been amazing, ” says Nandita Shah of Akshara, “especially from the boys”.

Resisting and reporting violence against women has, unfortunately, remained a staple of the Indian women’s movement, but its ambit has expanded to address a range of civic issues that encompass unsafe spaces for women in cities, ensuring safe travel in public transport, sexual harassment at the workplace, including the space where women street vendors ply their trade. In 2005, Jagori spearheaded a Safe Cities project in Delhi with (like Akshara) a safety audit, and in 2009, the Delhi government launched the Safe City Campaign in partnership with Jagori and UN Women. Its Awaaz Uthao programme has set up collectives in 15 communities across the city, made up of the police, schools, the municipality, women and other “stakeholders” to identify key concerns regarding safety, and then working to address them.

Meanwhile, Jagori Grameen in Himachal Pradesh works with women farmers in 45 villages, encouraging them to replenish natural resources through organic agriculture. “There is a direct link between the patriarchal exploitation of women and the capitalist exploitation of land”, says Abha Bhaiya of Jagori Grameen, “land and women, both are seen as objects of exploitation. ” SAFAL (Sustainable Agriculture, Forest and Land) recognises women’s work as agriculturists, as well as their role as ecologists.

Read more here

Susan Nathan wants to be in ” War Free Zone “

KOCHI: Susan Nathan, the British-born Israeli writer who achieved fame through her book ‘The Other Side of Israel‘, is continuing to stay in India despite her visa expiring as she wants to be in a war-free zone, her counsel submitted to the Kerala high court.

When the writer’s petition challenging the deportation move came up for hearing on Friday before division bench of acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice PR Ramachandra Menon, her counsel Manjeri Sunder Raj submitted that she was staying in India as she wanted to be in a “war-free zone” in the last years of her life.

The counsel’s submission was in response to the court’s statement that she could have left the country after completing the medical treatment for which she came to Kozhikode.

Susan, who migrated to Israel from England in 1999 to make aliyah – the Hebrew term for Jewish people migrating to Israel – had later highlighted the oppression faced by Israel’s Arab population through her writings. The district administration of Kozhikode ordered for her deportation after a translation of her book by a local publisherbecame controversial. The deportation order was based on an intelligence report that she was in contact with Muslim extremist outfits., her counsel submitted to the Kerala high court.

When the writer’s petition challenging the deportation move came up for hearing on Friday before division bench of acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice PR Ramachandra Menon, her counsel Manjeri Sunder Raj submitted that she was staying in India as she wanted to be in a “war-free zone” in the last years of her life.

The counsel’s submission was in response to the court’s statement that she could have left the country after completing the medical treatment for which she came to Kozhikode.

Susan, who migrated to Israel from England in 1999 to make aliyah – the Hebrew term for Jewish people migrating to Israel – had later highlighted the oppression faced by Israel’s Arab population through her writings. The district administration of Kozhikode ordered for her deportation after a translation of her book by a local publisherbecame controversial. The deportation order was based on an intelligence report that she was in contact with Muslim extremist outfits.


Susan Nathan, the Israeli writer, mired in controversy, had a deportation notice slapped against her recently for allegedly violating visa rules. The High Court single bench has asked the Police Commissioner, G Sparjankumar, who is also the Foreigner’s Registration Officer to deport the writer to Israel. The 62 year old British born Jewish writer is currently under ‘house arrest’ at Sree Nivas, Kozhikode, Kerala. During her one and half year stay in Kozhikode, her world renowned book- “The Other Side of Israel” was translated into Malayalam by Abdulla Manima and published by ‘Other Books’.

Her book fearlessly exposed the neglect, oppression, entrenched segregation and discrimination faced by the indigenous Arab population in Israel. In a resounding, unwavering voice she revealed to the world the little known intangible wall that existed between the Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs and demanded for equality and justice for all Jewish citizens irrespective of their religious and cultural differences.

She is known to be a rebel and a non conformist who does not fear to speak her mind. She spent a few years of her life in the apartheid era South Africa where her father was born. Even at the age of 16, she questioned the rigid rules of apartheid that existed in South Africa.

After her divorce in 1999 nothing pulled her back when she left her comfort zone and lived as the only Jew amongst the 25,000 odd Muslims in the Muslim dominated and neglected town of Tamara. Critically evaluating the Jewish government’s policies she wrote about the country she loved as a land that “enforces a system of land apartheid between… two populations,” just as South Africa had. Time has taken a toll on her physical self but has failed to touch the indomitable spirit encased within.

For her stand against the Israeli government and her pro Arab and humanitarian views she has been looked upon with suspicion and skepticism and for some time she has been under the intelligence scanner. Though conspicuously, expiry of visa has been sighted as the reason for deportation, after detailed enquiries, the police revealed that her actions, movement and interactions with various individuals and groups have been considered to be ambiguous, debatable and suspicious.

Susan Nathan, who is currently working on her new book, in an exclusive, most recent, detailed interview with Niranjalli Varma, Copy Editor doolnews talks about her case, her predicament and her political views regarding Israel, Iran and the world at large.

Recently a deportation notice was issued against you. What are the charges filed against you and what do you think are the reasons behind this action?

It is because I have overstayed my visa. Perhaps the police wouldn’t have told you that it is not a criminal offense to overstay your visa. I can’t reveal or disclose much right now as I have to protect myself and my case. I am sure you would appreciate that.

More at Doolnews

MLA puts bill on Facebook, seeks response

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

B Sreejan, TNN | Mar 4, 2012, TOI

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For the first time, digital ayes and nos are going to play a role in the presentation of a private bill in Kerala assembly.

The bill, being moved by MLA VT Balram, is aimed at the formation of an authority to protect the nurses and paramedical staff working in private hospitals in the state.

Balram, handpicked by Rahul Gandhi to contest from Thrithala, has posted his draft bill on Facebook, inviting all to respond to the initiative. The draft was also posted on a Google group in which he is an active member.

As expected, Balram got 144 likes and 88 comments on the website. Thrilled by the response, Balram said he hoped to incorporate all valuable suggestions when the bill is finally presented during the next session in May. Balram ruled out the chance for privilege issues haunting his unconventional move. “I have taken the permission from the Speaker‘s office,” he said.


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