FAQs-Who needs moral policing, how much and why? #mustread #Vaw #1billionrising #Valentinesday


, by Anjali MonteiroK P Jayasankar

Love in the time of moral policing

The moral police are everywhere. Crawling out of the woodwork into our public spaces. In our legislative assemblies, in our board rooms, in court rooms, on the streets, in colleges, in cinemas and cyber cafes, gardens and pubs, even in police stations. Alas, and perhaps in our heads too. The rabid Sri Ram Sena or the Shiv Sena or the Bajrang Dal foot soldiers who demonstrate their love for ‘Indian culture’ by molesting girls wearing jeans and vandalising Valentine’s Day celebrations are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg. They are supported openly and tacitly, by many ‘honourable’ others, ranging from chief ministers and health ministers to members of the National Commission for Women.

So many people in our country are in a state of moral panic over ‘western’ culture, pub culture, cyber culture and the many other ‘degenerate’ cultures that are polluting the sacred body of our Mother India and her pristine, fragile ‘Indian culture’, all of which call for more and more policing. Here are some Frequently Unasked Questions (FUQs, no pun intended) about moral policing in India.

Question 1: Who needs policing?

The list is long, maybe endless. At the top are impressionable young women and girls, who need to be protected from the corrupting effects of the afore-mentioned ‘evil’ cultures. Women are progenitors and homemakers — their sexuality needs to be strictly monitored, controlled and harnessed. If they have lost moral values, how can they become part of the eugenic project for a healthy and a morally sound generation next? What would happen to the sacred institution of the family if women got out of hand? Remember the Shiv Sena violence against a film like Deepa Mehta’s Fire? Love between two women leaves out the boys as arbitrators of women’s sexuality. Boys after all will be boys, they will settle down after marriage; but girls must be neither seen nor heard. Their ability to withstand the effects of ‘debauchery’ is far inferior to the male of the species. They cannot even handle cigarettes and alcohol. In other words, the moral police have to zealously shield all ‘less powerful others’ who are morally weak and can easily be perversely affected by stimuli of every kind: films, websites, beer, jeans, western music, birds and bees, in fact the list of provocative objects is infinite and ever growing.

This invention of a less powerful other is rampant and not confined just to the moral police, but informs the way in which ‘media impact’ is commonly framed. Our chattering classes are constantly exercised about the impact of the media on children, women, illiterates, poor people, villagers, slum dwellers — all subsumed under the category of the gullible and easily swayed ‘masses’ who have to be protected. This calls for a morally superior, intellectually more discerning ‘filter’ (in other words, people like ‘us’) who will decide what is fit for their impressionable eyes and ears. The censorship of the state is regarded as essential to uphold moral and aesthetic standards which popular cinema and television are prone to constantly violate.

This censorious mentality is widespread in our society and is perhaps uncomfortably close to the fine art of street censorship practiced by the Thackerays and Muthaliks.

Question 2: What needs policing?

Everything, but particularly all sites and signs of ‘modern’ ‘western’ culture, from greeting cards to cell phones, from pubs to cyber cafes: moral panic always hovers over frontier technologies. Our parents thought that films, or even radio, corrupted us. We worry about our children on the Internet; television has already become passé.

When printing was invented, our forefathers would have worried about its corrupting effects on young impressionable minds. In fact, in the medieval scriptoriums in European monasteries, access to certain texts was denied to younger writers. Today, sadly, no one grieves over the corrupting influence of books.

We forget that each generation has its own relationship with the cultural products of its own times. Personally, we have always thought of television as a ‘movie in a box’. When we took our daughter to her first movie, she asked us incredulously, when the first image appeared — “Is that a huge TV on the wall?” As someone who was born into a TV era, the relationship she has with the medium is qualitatively different from ours. Our collective inability to understand new technologies and our suspicion of what young people might be up to behind our backs makes us struggle to assert control — an essentially futile endeavour. Moral panic breeds behind the doors of the unknown.

Question 3: Why do we need policing?

The answer is simple: because ‘Indian Culture’ is fragile, because many Indians have delicate sentiments that are very easily hurt. And when these sentiments are hurt, maybe a few hundred people get massacred or raped, or maybe a shrine is pulled down or several thousand bar girls lose their jobs.

The state is assiduous in protecting the hurt sentiments of these sentinels of virtue. It usually turns a blind eye and sometimes even defends these actions — after all, how long can one hold back hurt sentiments? Our moral police know that they can strike with impunity; the chances are that the victims will get blamed for ‘provoking’ them.

Question 4: What is ‘Indian culture’?

The moral police are blissfully unaware of the contested nature of both the terms. Many years ago, a second generation ‘Indian’ child in London hesitantly admitted to us that she did not speak any ‘Indian’. Indian culture is as elusive as Indian food. In fact, one strong marker of it is the chilly. How many among the moral police, who lament about the fragility of ‘Indian culture’ know that the chilly first came to India with the Portuguese from South America not so long ago?

There are grids of exclusion at work, relations of power that begin to define the boundaries of Indian culture. A painting by Hussain done in the 1960s is suddenly a threat to our pristine traditions. Many of our 330 million Hindu Gods have spent the prime of their lives unclothed; the time has come to design moral robes for them. Khajuraho and Konarak now badly need saffron fashion designers.

Question 5: Why do the moral police indulge in policing?

Unfortunate tautology. How else would they grab the eyeballs of the nation? With very little work and no long-term investments, they can become famous overnight and reap rich political dividends. There are few risks involved, given the state’s sensitivity to their hurt sentiments.

Valentine’s Day provides rich opportunities. Dubbed as a threat to Indian culture, it throws up immense possibilities for great photo ops. The media has coined an endearing acronym to discuss certain goings on between young adults — PDA, roughly translated, it reads public display of affection. These acts are firmly handled by the moral police, who reiterate their faith in our great traditions by molesting the women publicly in front of television crews, who promptly arrive at the scene of the spectacle, forewarned and forearmed.

Question 6: Who gives the moral police the right to police?

Too many of us, through our sins of omission and commission. When the captains of industry cosy up to a champion of ethnic cleansing, when a leading television news channel gives an award to a staunch defender of the politics of hate, one begins to understand how deep and pervasive the rot is.

The normalisation of hate politics, the selective amnesia of the middle class — all these add up to strengthening the power of the moral police.

Question 7: What of love in the time of moral policing?

The moral police hate love and love hate. While the militant ones are easy to spot, the ‘soft’ ones are insidious.

They begin to define the realm of the ‘normal’. They censor our films, define dress codes, and make laws to control the Internet, all in the name of decency and order, of protecting the vulnerable and preventing social chaos.

While we must protest, firmly and loudly, against gross violations like Mangalore and Meerut, can we begin to speak fearlessly against the little everyday violations, the covert ways in which our spaces for love and freedom are encroached upon? And above all, we must never forget: Ayodhya and Mangalore are both manifestations of the same politics of hate and intolerance that we must resist till our last Valentine’s Day.

(The authors are professors at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)

 

Why Girish Karnad isn’t wrong about V.S. Naipaul


Karnad says honouring Naipaul, who justifies inter-generational transfer of guilt, is wrong
Salil Tripathi , livemint.com

First Published: Mon, Nov 05 2012. 11 05 AM IST

A file photo of Girish Karnad. Photo: HT
A file photo of Girish Karnad. Photo: HT
Once the word got around that Girish Karnad had evisceratedVidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, the Trinidad-born British writer who had been given the lifetime achievement award at the Tata Literature Live! Festival in Mumbai, the battle-lines were drawn clearly. Karnad had to be wrong because Naipaul was great and his critics were insignificant (he is a lion and people like me are “rats”, as someone on Twitter described me, when I defended Karnad, although Naipaul would have shown off his wider vocabulary, and called his critics “pygmies” or something suitably outrageous); Karnad had insulted his hosts by misusing the stage he was given, since he was invited to speak about his theatre, and not about Naipaul’s failings (even though his session was called, ironically, “Straight Talk”; that Karnad’s own understanding of Indian history was selective and his contribution to Indian culture was puny; that criticizing an award to Naipaul was an attack on free speech; and that Naipaul was somehow a flawless literary lion.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. First, Karnad’s politics is irrelevant in evaluating Naipaul’s worth as a writer. Second, Karnad was invited to talk about his life in theatre. That life represents a certain world-view, certain values, of a syncretic, inclusive India. When he saw someone like Naipaul, who glorifies a worldview built on triumphalism, which justifies inter-generational transfer of guilt and who has supported vandalism (the Babri Masjid destruction) as a sign of “inevitable retribution,” Karnad uses the stage – he is an actor, after all – and tells a story of why honouring Naipaul is wrong. If you think Naipaul is right, you haven’t understood my theatre, my worldview – that’s Karnad’s underlying message. Third, one can of course challenge Karnad’s own reading of history and debate with him. But anyone who thinks “Hayavadana” and “Tughlaq” don’t matter in understanding modern India has the worldview shaped by growing up on a tiny island. Fourth, Karnad’s remarks do not attack Naipaul’s free speech; seeking to silence him attacks Karnad’s free speech. And nobody has suggested any lunatic idea, such as Naipaul’s books to be banned, that he be denied entry into India, or that his books be burned.
But what about the fifth part: Naipaul’s significance as a writer? Far too many critics have written eloquently about Naipaul’s prose – how good it is, how perspicacious and prescient he is, how uncanny his predictions have turned out to be, and, since the award is being given in India, to a writer of Indian origin, how deep his understanding of India is.
Karnad is right to challenge that. But it is worth noting that Karnad is not the first to point out that the emperor has no clothes. Think back and recall Nissim Ezekiel’s magnificent essay, “Naipaul’s India and Mine” which I read many years ago in Adil Jussawalla’s anthology, “New Writing in India” or William Dalrymple’s essay outlining the gaps in Naipaul’s retelling of India’s past. Naipaul’s fellow-Caribbean Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott once called him “Sir V.S. Nightfall.” His former friend Paul Theroux, (they have since been civil to one another) wrote an anecdote-rich, entertaining but ultimately bitter biography, “Sir Vidia’s Shadow” which showed many instances of Naipaul’s meanness. And Patrick French’s majestic biography “The World Is What It Is” revealed an emotionally-stunted man with a pathological dislike for most people except those who agreed with him.
Neemrana, 2002: soon after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Naipaul was being feted in India, the subject of three of the more than 30 books he has published. Those present portray a near-unanimous picture of an impertinent guest, unhappy with everything. During one of the sessions, when Nayantara Sahgal was making the rather sensible points about India’s failure in educating its children, how the country needed to do more to promote literature in Indian languages, and talked of the yoke of colonialism subjugating Indian languages, Naipaul interrupted her, saying he hadn’t come to listen to a political lecture. She held her ground; he raised his voice, and Ruchir Joshi stepped in, telling Naipaul he was being obnoxious and he should stop the inquisition.
Hardly the first time. A few years ago at the South Bank Centre in London, French, who was then working on his authorized biography, was interviewing Naipaul about his writing. Once the session opened for questions from the audience, a young American student asked Naipaul about his identity. Did he see himself as British, Indian, or Caribbean? Instead of answering, he called her ignorant, saying she had asked the question only because she liked listening to her voice. (This, apparently, is a recurring insult, usually directed at women: I know of at least two similar instances). Then a year ago at the Hay Festival, Naipaul said no woman, not even Jane Austen, was his literary match , and called the writing of Diana Athill, who edited Naipaul for years at Andre Deutsch, as “feminine tosh.”
Why the boorishness? French talks about a Caribbean trait, picong, which is supposed to be light comical banter deliberately said to provoke someone, but not the kind of verbal outrageousness that it becomes when Naipaul uses it.Good or bad, its origin is at least not Indian. Should one make a cultural consideration for Naipaul, when he does not offer the same courtesy to cultures he finds reprehensible? If Naipaul can give, surely he can take what Karnad offers?
These are not unknown secrets about Naipaul. He is his favourite subject. Throughout his life, scattered across continents,encompassing the colonial rule, the response to it, early hopes ofnationhood, and the inevitable disappointments that followed, he has carried a magisterial air, saying, “I told you so.”
But he was never the only one, nor the most original.
Should Naipaul’s meanness matter? Do we overlook the frailties of the painter Pablo Picasso, the film-maker Woody Allen, and the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, because of the haunting reality ofGuernica , the delightful charms of Annie Hall , and the sublime beauty of the 40th Symphony? Telling the man apart from his work is difficult in Naipaul’s case because so much of one influences the other. His life has its roots in resentment that displacement causes, a linear narrative begins with the arrival of Indian indentured labour in the Caribbean after British reforms ended the more blatant form of slavery from Africa, replacing it witha less crude form of slavery, this time from India. The nascent Indian community in the Caribbean included Naipaul’s ancestors; his father dreamt of becoming a writer, and Vidiadhar wanted to leave the small islands: his stage was meant to be bigger.
Carrying resentment on his sleeve, he despised the former colonized nations he encountered, calling them “half-made societies” in the post-colonial world, and grandly proclaiming, “Africa has no future,”unsympathetic to the humiliation of colonialism the society suffered. (David Hare mocks such a character brilliantly, naming him Victor Mehta, in his play, “A Map Of The World”.
There is an air of armchair intellectualism in the acuity of observations that he makes. What French describes in his biography about how he operates in India is not unlike how he has operated elsewhere, while observing other societies: “During his journey through India, Vidia would hone the technique he was to use in his subsequent non-fiction writing: he found experienced local journalists to guide him, took whatever assistance or hospitality was available, interviewed people in great detail, linked what he had discovered to his existing ideas about the country, and wrote up the results fast.”
In “A House for Mr Biswas,” Naipaul described his father as inadequate, lonely, but unassailable. Naipaul may not perhaps accept that he has certain inadequacies, but he believes himself to be unassailable. That explains his loneliness.

First Published: Mon, Nov 05 2012. 11 05 AM IST

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Girish Karnad- Why is #Naipaul being Honoured ? #Mumbai Literature Festival


At the Mumbai Literature Festival this year, Landmark and Literature Alive have jointly given the Lifetime’s Achievement Award to Sir Vidia Naipaul. The award ceremony held on the 31st of October at the National Centre of the Performing Arts coyly failed to mention that Naipaul was not an Indian and has never claimed to be one.  But at no point was the question raised, and the words Shashi Deshpande,the novelist, had used to describe the Neemrana Festival conducted by the ICCR in 2002 perfectly fitted the present event: ‘it was a celebration of a Nobel Laureate …whom  India, hopefully, even sycophantically, considered an Indian.’

Apart from his novels, only two of which take place in India and are abysmal,  Naipaul has written three books on India and  the books are brilliantly written—he is certainly among the great  English writers of our generation. They have been hailed as a continued exploration of India’s journey into modernity, but what strikes one from the very first book, A Wounded Civilization, is their rabid antipathy to the Indian Muslim.The ‘wound’ in the title is the one inflicted on India by Babur’s invasion. Since then Naipaul has never missed a chance to weigh in against the ‘invaders’, accusing them of having savaged India for five centuries, of having brought, among other dreadful things, poverty into it and  destroyed the glorious ancient Hindu culture .

A point that strikes one immediately about these books is that there is not a single word in any of them on Indian music. And I believe  that if you cannot respond to music, you cannot understand India. Music is the defining art form of the Indian identity. Naipaul’s silence on the subject  when he is exploring the whole of modern Indian culture suggests to me that he is tone deaf —which in turn explains his insensitivity to the intricate interweaving of  Hindu and Muslim creativities, through the Bhakti and Sufi movements, that gave us this extraordinary  heritage, alive in the heart of every Indian home.

What Naipaul’s virulence against Indian Islam conceals , however, is that he has borrowed his model of the history of Indian culture from the  British musicologists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, like William Jones. These scholars were acquainted with many other ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptian , the Greek and the Roman. But they were mystified by the fact that while the musical traditions of these civilizations were entirely lost, the Indian musical tradition was  alive and thriving. They decided that this once pure-and-glorious music must have been, at some point during the course of its long history, corrupted and mauled —-and they found the villain in the invading Muslim. So, according to them, once upon a time there was a pristine Indian musical culture, which the Muslims had disfigured. They therefore ignored the music that was being perfomed around them and went in search of the true Hindu music.

In his analysis of Indian culture Naipaul simply borrows this line of argument and reemploys it— as his original perception. And not for the first time.

Naipaul accuses R.K. Narayan of being indifferent to the  destruction and death symbolized by the ruins of Vijayanagar , which to him was a bastion of Hindu culture destroyed by the maurauding Muslims. But again he gets this interpretation of the history of Vijayanagar readymade from a book by Robert Sewell called, A Forgotten Empire, published in 1900. Naipaul, as always in awe of his colonial sources, simply accepts this picture as the unadorned truth and recycles it wholesale as his own. That historians and archaeologists working on the site during the last century have proved the situation to be much more complex and have shown that religion had little role to play in the conflict is irrelevant to him.

Of the Taj, probably the most beloved of the monuments  in  Indian, Naipaul writes, ‘The Taj is so wasteful so decadent and in the end so cruel that it is painful to be there for very long. This is an extravagance that speaks of the blood of the people.’ He brushes off  historian Romila Thapar’s argument that the Mughal era saw a rich efflorescence of the mixture of Hindu and Muslim styles, by attributing her judgment to her Marxist bias  and says, ‘The correct truth is the way the invaders look at their actions, They were conquering. They were subjugating.’  To Naipaul , the Indian Muslim remains an invader for ever, forever condemned to be condemned, because some of them had invaders for their ancestors. It is a usage would yield some strange results if applied to the USA.

As for Naipaul’s journalistic exploration of modern India,  mainly in the form of a series of interviews conducted  with Indians right across the board, one must confess they are supremely well written and that he is a master in drawing sharp and precise visuals of the people he talks to and of the places he visits. What begins to bother one after a while  however is that he invariably seems to meet brilliant interviewees whose answers to his questions are expressed with a wit and elegance that  match his own mastery of the language . Even half-literate interviewees suffer from no diffidence in their expression.

How reliable are the conversations he records? In a well-known essay Naipaul describes his  visit to the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad , where he stayed with his friend, Ashoke Chatterjee, the Director of the Institute. In a recent email to me, Mr Chatterjee said, that Naipaul’s essay was ‘ a scenario that could have been but was not what he actually saw. Fragments of reality, selected and put together, into a collage of pure fantasy.’ Chatterjee’s friendship with Naipaul came to an abrupt end when Chatterjee told Naipaul that his book, A Wounded Civilization, should be classified as fiction.

In a recent book, Naipaul takes up for examination the autobiography of Munshi Rahman Khan, who emigrated to Suriname at the end of the nineteenth  century, and contrasts it with Gandhi’s .  Sanjay Subramaniam, the historian, has reviewed the essay in the London Review of Books and it doesn’t take him much effort to establish that Naipaul could only have read a third-hand, truncated translation of the text. ‘It is as if a reader in Gorakhpur was reading Naipaul in Maithili after the text had passed through a Japanese translation.’ That doesn’t prevent Naipaul from commenting even on the style and linguistic usage of Rahman Khan.

The question surely is by giving him the Lifetime Achievement Award, what statement is being made by the Award-givers.  As a journalist what he writes about India is his business. No one can question his right to be ignorant or to prevaricate

But the Nobel Prize has given him a sudden authority and his use of it needs to be looked at.

One of the first things Naipaul did on receiving the Nobel Prize was to visit the office of the BJP in Delhi. He who had earlier declared that he was not political, ‘that to have a political view is to be programmed’, now declared that he was happy to be politically ‘appropriated’. It was then that he made his most infamous remark: ‘Ayodhya’, he said,’ is a sort of passion. Any passion is creative. Passion leads to creativity.’

Salman Rushdie’s response was that Naipaul was behaving like ‘ a fellow-traveller of Fascism and [that he] disgraces the Noble Prize.’

In the wake of Ayodhya close to 1500 Muslims were slaughtered in the streets of Bombay alone. I was attending a Film Festival in New Delhi when the riots broke out and received anguished calls from my friends in Bombay to say Muslims were being pulled out of their homes or stopped in the streets to be killed. I rang my Muslim editor to say he and his family could use my flat, in a predominantly Parsee building, until the situation became safe. The great Marathi actress, Fayyaz, whom I finally located after a week in a corner in Pune where she had fled in distress from Mumbai, described how Shiv Sainiks had thrown fire bombs into Muslim slums and  how, when the inmates of the houses rushed out in terror, they were shot down by the Police as trouble-makers.

Seven years later, in cold blood, Naipaul was glamorizing  these events as ‘passion’, as ‘ a creative act’.

It is significant that this part of Naipaul’s sociologizing was not mentioned in the citation of the Award, or by Farouq Dhondy, who while interviewing him, mentioned the book, ‘Among the Believers’ and then quickly moved to a long-winded account of how he had helped Sir Vidia adopt a cat which thirteen years later was put to sleep lying on his lap—giving Naipaul another chance to burst into sentimental tears. Presumably Dhondy was trying to prove how ‘human’ Naipaul was.

But Landmark and Literature Alive who have announced this Award have a responsibility to explain to us where exactly they stand with regard to these Naipaul’s remarks. Naipaul is a foreigner and can make pronouncements as he wishes. But do they mean to valorize Naipaul’s stand that Indian Muslims are raiders and marauders? Are they supporting his continued insistence on Muslim buildings in India being monuments to rape and loot? Or  are they by their silence suggesting that these views do not matter?

  The Award givers have much to answer for.     ——       Girish Karnad,   1 Nov 2012       Mumbai

 

#Invitation – Artistes travel across #Gujarat- Oct 29- Nov8 #mustshare


 

AJWADI WATEY

VIVIDHTA KA JASHN

AN ARTISTS KARWAN TRAVELS ACROSS GUJARAT

October 29- November 8, 2012

 

MALLIKA SARABHAI TO FLAG OFF ARTISTS CARAVAN ON OCTOBER 29, 2012 AT 3PM AT SABARMATI ASHRAM, AHMADABAD

 

CITY DATE Time Address
FLAG OFF:Ahmadabad 29/10/2012 3.00PM Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmadabad
Surat 30/10/2012 8.00PM Ishwar Farm,In Union Park Street, Ghoddod-Bhatar Road, Opp. Krushi Farm, Surat.
Ankleshwar 31/10/2012 7.30PM GIDC Town Hall, Ankleshwar
Ahmadabad 1/11/2012 7.00PM Darpana Academy, Usmanpura, Ahmadabad
Anand

Anand

02/11/2012

FRIDAY

8.00pm Town Hall, Anand
Mehsana 04/11/2012 8.00pm Samarpan Chawlk, Near Lake ,Mehsana- 384001
Rajkot 06/11/2012 9.30pm Hemu Gadhvi Hall, Tagor Road,Rajkot.
Bhuj

Bhuj

08/11/2012

THRSDAY

8.00pm Town Hall, Bhuj

 

Cultures, civilizations grow and develop because they constantly take from each other. Civilizations borrow from others and give to others. And it is in this process of give and take that each civilization, each country, each nation constantly reinvents itself. It defines and redefines itself. The idea is not to purge what we consider alien but to recognize that it is impossible to say what is ours and what is not. What we need to do is to see what is relevant, living and robust in our culture as it exists today, to accept what will enrich our lives and help us to improve as human beings and to reject and discard all that is likely to sustain prejudice and malice towards other human beings.

 

The search for the meaning of culture is a continuous process in the historical evolution of all societies. The dynamism of Indian culture is derived from its diversity, which molded the cultural practices of the people.

Anhad as part of its campaign Bole Gujarat is celebrating this diversity.

 

The programme’s objective is to contribute in creating a conducive environment for safeguarding cultural diversity, to promote and design ways of ensuring access to culture to all and to create platforms for artists to promote peace, diversity and pluralism. The programme also aims at strengthening the capacities of professional and rural  artists and youth at large to contribute towards a diverse and composite cultural atmosphere in Gujarat.

 

An Artist Caravan (musicians, dancers, poets, writers, designers, filmmaker etc will travel across seven small and large towns of Gujarat and perform in seven cities: Surat, Ankleshwar, Ahmadabad, Anand, Mehsana, Rajkot and Bhuj between October 30 and November 8, 2012.

 

Performing artists include: Siddi Goma Tribal Dance Group, Avni Sethi- a classical dancer from Ahmadabad, Odyssey Rock band from Surat, Sufi singer- Dhruv Sangari from Delhi and Namrata Pamnani –a Kathak dancer of international repute. A number of video spots and celebrity interviews will be screened during these concerts.

 

The programme called ‘Us Subah Ki Khatir’- Ajwadi Watey- hopes to spread the message of peace, communal harmony and non-violence through the artistic expression and celebrate the intermingling of different streams of cultural expression.

 

The artists will stop on the way to interact with local villagers in a number of villages on November 3, 5 and 7, 2012.

 

Information on Performing Artists

 

Dhruv Sangari

 

Dhruv Sangari began training in Hindustani classical music at the age of 7 under Smt. Shahana Bannerjee and Tabla with Pt. B.S. Ramanna. Later, he developed an interest in Sufism and Sufi music,and began learning Qawwali under Ustad Meraj Ahmed Nizami of the Delhi-Qawwalbachhe Gharana. He was also given training and guidance by the legendary Qawwali and Classical maestro late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khansaheb.

 

Dhruv has a masters degree in Hindustani Classical music from the University of Delhi and has been performing professionally since 2001 with his Sufi music troupe ‘Rooh’. His repertoire includes Persio- Arabic poetry, Punjabi-Hindvi Sufi poetry and Urdu Poetry from the works of famed poets and saints such as Amir Khusrau, Sant Kabir, Baba Farid , Bulleshah, Meerabai,  Hafez,  Rumi ,  Jami,   Baba Nanak, Sant Tulsidas

 

In addition to stage concerts at major festivals and international collaborations with artistes in more than 15 countries including China, India, Morocco, Turkey, Italy, Germany, France, U.K. and Spain; he has recorded for a number of private albums, film and solo projects like Jet-Lag (Phat-Phish Records, Mumbai, India.) and Rooh e Sufi.

 

Dhruv has taught and performed Sufi music in several universities, museums and cultural institutions such as Colby College, Maine, University of Boston, Massachusetts, University of York, UK; Nehru Center, London, UK; House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany; Stadt Theatre, Freiburg-Breigsau, Germany; Louvre Museum, Paris, France; Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC, Society for Ethical Cultures, New York, US Library of Congress; Washington DC, Embassy of India, Washington DC, and Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC etc.

 

Avni Sethi

 

Avni  Sethi is an interdisciplinary artist who works with multiple mediums. Her work extends from choreographing large ballets or performing small solos to creating sound installations in parks to creating new forms of organisms in a lab to devising performance pedagogy for schools.

Her focus has primarily been on exploring the politics and poetry of humanity through her artistic practice. She is presently curating a museum of conflict in Ahmedabad.

 

Siddi Goma Tribal Dance Group

 

The Siddis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin which came to India eight centuries ago and made Gujarat their home. They carried with them their exceptionally rich musical tradition and kept it alive and flourishing through the generations, unknown to the rest of the world.

 

A traditional occupation of African-Indian Sufis in Gujarat has been to perform sacred music and dance as wandering faqirs, singing songs to their black Sufi saint, Bava Gor.

 

Sidi Goma perform in a group of twelve: four lead musicians (drummers and singers) and eight dancers. While the music gradually gets more rapid and excited, the dances unfold with constantly evolving individual and small-group acts of animal imitations, climaxing in a coconut-breaking feat.

 

The exuberant energy and joy Sidi Goma brings to the stage is captivating and powerful, their unique African-Indian heritage a fascinating discovery, and every performance an exhilarating experience!

 

NAMRATA PAMNANI

 

Born in 1980, Namrata Pamnani began her training in Kathak with Guru Smt. Bharti Gupta with later specialization under Pt. Jaikishan Maharaj at the National Institute of Dance, Kathak Kendra, in New Delhi. A graduate in Economics from Delhi University, Namrata decided to take up her passion as a profession. She has also taken formal training in Hindustani classical music and holds a diploma from Prayag Sangeet Samiti; she is also learning the nuances of dhrupad singing from the Gundecha brothers.

Namrata believes that dance is a form of self purification.

 

Some of her major overseas performances have been at the Lincoln Centre in New York, the International Kathak Festival in Chicago, the Avignon Festival in France, and at venues in Switzerland, Estonia, Finland, South Korea, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Moscow, Sri Lanka and Germany.

 

Within India she has been featured at the Kathak Mahotsava (Baroda), Konark Festival, Pt. Lacchu

Maharaj Utsav, Kalakshetra Festival, Natya Vriksha Festival, Taj Mahotsava and Kathak Yatra by Sangeet

Natak Academy. Namrata has been a member of the renowned Kathak Kendra Repertory, New Delhi where she had the opportunity of working under some of the best gurus.

 

Odyssey Rock Band

 

Sometime in 2009, in the historical city of Surat, Odyssey was formed with the aim of creating independent, original music. Hailing from the diamond city draped in textile, Odyssey is a rock band with a unique touch to it. Five guys, each having more than a decade of stage experience, combine to create music that is not restricted to any specific genre. Each band member is a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Odyssey. The band strives to put Surat, a city more known for its trade and cuisine (not to forget its trademark slang!), on the global music scene.

 

ENTRY TO PERFORMANCES IS FREE AND DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY INVITATION ON FIRST COME FIRST SERVE BASIS.

 

Some questions for Guwahati men #VAW #gender #mustread


 

GUEST POST BY- Krishna Malakar

In the year 1991, my family shifted to Guwahati from a village in the outskirts of the city in the hope of better education for their children, better facilities and in all, a better standard of living. I was two years old at that time. I have spent my entire school life in Guwahati. After my class 12th boards, I enrolled myself in Delhi University for higher education. I stayed in Delhi for five years. Now I have come back to my hometown, Guwahati to prepare for entrance examinations for pursuing a PhD. I am delighted to be back home. Staying with one’s own family is a different joy altogether but once I step out of my house it’s a strange world I encounter outside. The men in the streets do not allow me to be what I am as a woman. I have to keep my eyes low or straight on the street in front of me. Otherwise I will fall eye to eye with some staring loser and sometimes end up swallowing comments like ‘Madam, where to?’ or ‘what is your rate?’  Sigh! I have vomited my frustration in the following paragraphs and whatever I have written is based on my own and my women friends’ experiences and contains no real statistics.

In these last few years, there have been some major changes in the city’s infrastructure and lifestyle. A number of flyovers have sprung up, international fast food outlets like KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, etc. have opened up their franchises, international clothing brands are easily available, number of internet and mobile phone users have increased manifold, easy access to international TV channels and so on. The youth and the middle-aged men wear jeans. (The earlier generation used to wear trousers and the generation earlier to them used to wear dhotis). These days, people enjoy Hollywood movies and listen to Akon, Mettalica, Black Eyed peas etc. There have been visible changes in people’s lifestyle and such change is inevitable. Many ‘international’ things have successfully taken place in our lives but ‘international’ thinking has failed to seep into the minds of Guwahatians. People still consider a girl wearing shorts, skirts, or having a drink as a taboo.

Strange it may sound given that Northeast India is considered more ‘women- friendly’ than rest of India but I have experienced more eve teasing in these last three months of my stay in Guwahati than in the entire five years in Delhi put together.

I generally dress in full-length jeans and tops or kurtis. It’s a personal choice I make. Tomorrow if I wish to wear shorts on the streets I would like to wear one. It is none of people’s business what I am wearing. But the problem lies in the fact that even if I cover my entire body, I deserve to be teased, as I am a woman, it is not because what I am wearing but because what my gender is. Thank you Society, you have indeed been successful in keeping ‘a girl within her limits’! No late night parties for girls otherwise she will be tagged as a prostitute (especially in Guwahati). No skirts and shorts, girls! Now people will question me why do I want to wear skirts and shorts like girls do in metro cities or other countries, why don’t I follow my own culture. I would say that I love my culture and I love Assamese clothing. I always make it a point to wear a mekhla chadar (a traditional Assamese woman- wear) during Saraswati Puja. I would jump at any occasion where I can adorn a mekhla chadar or a sari. But when I go to meet my friends in a mall (mall is not a part of Assamese culture, by the way), I would like to wear a western outfit. After this statement I hope people don’t think of closing malls and fast food joints as they are instigating girls to wear western outfits! If Guwahatians can accommodate malls, fast food, English songs, and western outfits for boys then why can’t people accept girls wearing western clothes?

I remember reading somewhere that the blouse that is worn with a sari is actually a western innovation. It is not a part of Indian culture. Previously, women used to wear saris without a blouse, which is still the preferred way to dress among some ethnic cultures. In mekhela chadars and saris, the back and the belly of a woman are clearly visible, then why can’t girls wear tops where the belly is hardly visible! Saris expose more body than skirts. Why can’t girls wear skirts then? We can’t blame a girl’s clothes for a man’s behavior. Even fully clothed women in saris and kurtas become victims of a man’s touch or comment. What do the people of the civilized society have to say on this? Is it a curse to be woman and hence be subjected to humiliation? Shouldn’t men be taught to behave rather than teaching girls to sit at homes? When will Guwahati men stop sexualizing every other woman they see on the street?

Also, people here in Guwahati consider women who drink as ‘characterless’. When will people get rid of these primitive ideas? If a man drinks in a gentlemanly way and do not create a scene, his character is considered to be intact. Why does not the same thing apply to women? Don’t we women have the right to enjoy a few cheerful drinks with our friends?

In Guwahati, open urination is such a popular hobby among men! Keeping public places clean is an alien etiquette for them. They don’t even bother to find a secluded place to attend to nature’s call. If a girl passes by them, she will turn their heads in the opposite direction out of embarrassment, but our Guwahati men are macho enough to continue staring the girl while peeing. Bravo! There has been no protest in Guwahati against men exposing their most private parts in public.

When I was in Delhi I used to read newspaper reports about rapes almost everyday and most rape incidents occurred at secluded areas and at late nights. There have been number of molestation cases also outside pubs and nightclubs. But X-ray stares, hoots, whistles, leering and jeering from men were rare in my experience, maybe 2 out of 10 men will do so. But here in Guwahati, in broad daylight, starting from early morning to late night, almost every man in the street will stare at you and some of the passing guys will make loud audible comments at you. And this is not limited to poor and illiterate males; males belonging to almost every class of the society shamelessly participate in eve teasing. Even education seems to have failed to bring in refinement of the male mental faculty. For me, in Guwahati, people trying to touch me in public buses, people colliding with me intentionally when I walk on the footpath or in markets are common. But in Delhi, I haven’t faced ‘pre- planned collisions’.

In Delhi, the participating male sees molestation as an offence. The police will never dare to portray the girl in a bad light. The media, intellectuals and the NGOs are supportive. But in Guwahati, if you are a woman and a victim of molestation, most of the local TV channels will title the news as ‘Girl creates ruckus in public area’ and the police will arrive half an hour late to take the girl ‘who was behaving indecently’ away from the angry mob. No action will be taken against the mob at that instant. The viewers seeing all of these on TV at home will curse the girl, question her character and blame her for whatever had happened to her. Only after the news is nationalized, is on youtube and facebook the regional media and the police will realize that a heinous crime has been committed against the girl and the mob should have been arrested.

The regional media features stories every now and then on how the Assamese youth, especially girls, are threats to ‘Assamese culture’ and how moral cleansing is the need of the hour. Here in Guwahati most of the people, especially the youth are scared of TV camerapersons. Most camerapersons are very efficient in capturing couples on their cameras spending some ‘lovey dovey’ time in parks. They film girls wearing shorts, skirts on streets (without their knowledge) and feature them in stories discussing how Assamese girls have lost their moral values in these modern times. Even girls wearing quarter length pants are not spared. People get pleasure in watching news stories about how leggings worn by girls beneath their kurtas get wet in the rain and become transparent. That particular channel where this story was aired is of the opinion that girls should not wear leggings and wear cotton pyjamas that do not stick to the skin. How ridiculous! Is this what the media is for? I think the situation has become a lot worse for young women after the state has been blessed with 24- hours news channels.

Yes, I agree women are oppressed all over the world. There have been complaints against molestation, rape, and domestic violence from even developed countries. Unlike the Punjabis and Haryanvis who take pride in their loud and rowdy attitude, the Assamese society takes pride in their peace loving, meek and polite attitude. But I am saddened to say that my observations have been contradictory to the above statement. Majority of Guwahati men are definitely not meek and polite. Just the other day, my female friend (who is on a visit from Delhi) and I were complimented with whistles and comments like ‘amaak fuck koribo diba neki?’ (‘Will you allow us to fuck you?’) in a city park! On another occasion the same day a man in his 30s commented on how my friend’s breasts were like apples in front of strangers on the streets. This is nothing new; I have been facing such harassment since as long as I can remember. Even 10 years back, I had to deal with men caressing my body while they passed by me. 10 years back, as a little girl, I used to shout at them. But now, after 10 years, I am afraid to raise my voice. I fear if I raise my voice, I may become a target of mob rage, I may get molested and become the next ‘indecent girl’ news story. I have been made to realize that it is better to listen to the dirty comments than actually give them a chance to touch me with their dirty hands.

Is it so hard for Guwahati men to behave as humans? Their sisters and mothers must be going through the same, don’t they think about them before making a comment on a girl on the street? Is teasing and molesting women, are part of Assamese culture? When will the media start acting in a responsible and ethical manner and stop imposing a new form of ‘talibanism’? When will women themselves stop looking down upon women who have been victims of molestation, rape or eve teasing? When will men think that a girl wearing shorts is not an invitation for them to tease or molest? When men have accepted westernization in their lifestyle, why can’t women be a part of it? I do not think its impossible to answer these questions if someone really attempts to.

Krishna Malakar

Guwahati

contact her at  krishnamalakar26@gmail.com 

 

Main culprit behind Mangalore homestay attack held #moralpolicing #VAW


 

By PTI – BANGALORE

04th August 2012 08:04 PM

The main culprit behind the Mangalore homestay attack has been arrested and booked under the Goonda act, Deputy Chief Minister R Ashoka said today.

Subhash Padeel has been booked under the stringent Act, Ashoka, who holds the Home and Transport portfolio, told reporters on the sidelines of a function.

So far 23 persons, including Padeel (who is the city coordinator of Hindu Jagarana Vedike), have been arrested in connection with the July 28 incident, he said.

Thirteen students, including five girls, celebrating the birthday of one of them at a homestay on the outskirts of Mangalore were targetted by alleged activists of “Hindu Jagarana Vedike” who accused them of indulging in “immoral activities”.

Television footage also showed them misbehaving with and assaulting some girls, with the episode evoking public outrage.

Ashoka also said select police officials and personnel are proposed to be trained by the Border Security Force to deal with threats from naxal and terrorism front.

 

Mangled Lore- Would our culture saviours revive the attire of the Chola bronzes? #VAW #Moralpolicing


 

MEENA KANDASAMY, in Outlook

Marriage took me to Mangalore. Living in Attavar, I saw the city as a sister/lover: a feisty woman caught in the grip of a violent, disapproving man, she’d be rid of him if she found her strength. So, when I first heard of the recent assault by Hindutva vigilantes at a resort in Padil, I was relieved that Mangalore’s everyday fate was finally gaining national attention.

Mangalore’s story has its twisted echo in Subash Padil, a right-wing criminal of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike with an astounding record: participation in the pub attacks in 2009 to real estate-related violence to masterminding the July 28 assault at Morning Mist Home Stay.

Mangalore’s story also shows how Hindutva seeks to regulate social life; how dress becomes a component of identity construction to define the Other. RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat had wanted the veils of Muslim women to be lifted so he could glimpse what they had to offer. Even ex-women and child development minister C.C. Patil, with a weakness for pornography, had exhorted women to dress decently. Here, Muslim women are blamed for covering up, Christian women are blamed for showing skin and Hindu women are blamed for aping them.

Capitalising on conservative tendencies, Hindutva has managed to turn everyone in the city into an informer. Bus conductors send SMSes to reactionary outfits when they see an inter-religious couple socialise. Mobilisation, like justice, is instant. Recruiting its rank and file from the backward castes like Billavas and Mogaweeras, Hindutva has indoctrinated them and created vigilantes. So, they break into private property to deliver justice. Under the BJP government, they have immunity from prosecution. To keep its loyalty intact, the police arrive late, chat with the assailants and question the “morality/necessity” of partying. Cases are filed against TV journalist Naveen Soorinje under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, though without his footage, this incident would have been buried in the hundreds of cultural policing episodes that hold Mangalore ransom.

Today, a friend tells me that in response to spontaneous protests by students, Kadri police station inspector Venkatesh Prasanna—infamous for inflicting violence on inter-religious couples—has vowed to make life miserable for students of St Agnes College.

The reaction of the state machinery is as much revealing as it is outrageous: Padil, July 28, is not viewed by the state machinery as sustained, majoritarian, hypermasculine Hindu terror in a multi-religious society; or as molestation, sexual harassment or non-penetrative rape enacted on the female body in order to punish and discipline it; or as a total sellout of the police to fanatical forces. Things that are normal almost everywhere else in the world—young people wearing stylish clothes, sitting next to each other in a bus, having a drink, partying—are identified as problem elements by Hindutva hooliganism that legitimises itself under the guise of protecting ‘Indian culture’.

This Indian culture is the most radical idea in recent years to have simultaneously entered the minds of Hindu fundamentalist groups and self-proclaimed feminists like National Commission for Women chairperson Mamta Sharma. In keeping with the patriotic spirit of the season, I call upon these outfits to revive the said culture by promoting the elegant style of clothing showcased by Chola bronzes. Desi Designer Wear. Since it’s always summer in south India, there’s no need to bother about a Fall/Winter collection.

Moving from apparel to food, I want to remind the right-wing outfits that Sangam-era warriors enjoyed their booze after a delicious meal cooked to such perfection that distinguishing meat from rice was like picking silt from river sand. That’s a couple of thousand years ago, but country booze can be brought back into fashion. In Tamil, there is documented evidence of toddy from the root of the fig tree, toddy from the bark of the usilam (sirisa) tree, toddy from the flowers of iluppai (mahua) tree, palmyra toddy, peepal toddy, coconut toddy and even paddy toddy. We Tamils were known to dig our drinks in its highly fermented form, so sour you would make a face just sipping it. My personal pick would be the mattu, distilled liquor from the sugarcane, a recommended aphrodisiac. Or, it would be the undaattu, an eponymous spirit that required you to drink, then dance. Ideally, I would buy it from a patuvi, a lady who sells liquor. Sorry for making references to my mother-tongue alone, but since you have Indian culture in mind, don’t forget that there are at least a thousand different languages here and 10 times as many drinks. Each of them is as Indian as the other. Dear Protector of Indian Culture, doesn’t this bubbly idea intoxicate you? Bring it back, bring it on, we’ll get drunk on this delight. Let us hit the dance floor, now.

 

Mangalore Homestay Attack Victim Barred From College Exam #moralpolicing #VAW #WTFnews


 

PIL Filed For CBI Probe

Four days after the blatant attack at a Mangalore resort on Saturday, a management college has barred one of the assault victims from taking her internal third semester examination which begins on Wednesday. 

The New Indian Express reported this unprecedented decision by a management college, without citing the name of the college. The daily said that it was unsuccessful in drawing a comment from college authorities when asked under what circumstances the decision was taken.

Meanwhile, advocate S Vasudeva has moved the Karnataka High Courtseeking for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into Saturday’s homestay attack. He has also sought the court to book the moral activists of Hindu Jagarana Vedike involved in molesting the victims under Goonda Act.

Vasudeva contended that the police did not take required steps to prevent the incident, despite receiving information from intelligence agencies about the possibility of likely attacks on revelers at the resort. The attackers barged into Morning Mist resort on Saturday evening and beat 13 students that included five girls and eight boys. The students gathered there for a birthday party and were oblivious of getting beaten up in the name of morality.

Post the incident, the right-wing activists and their supporters alleged that the students were having a rave party and indulged in illegal activities which went against Hindu culture.

Police officials, who inspected the resort room, confirmed that there were no signs of a rave party or anything related to illegal activities.

The miscreants’ act was caught on camera by a local TV reporter Naveen Soorinje, who is currently facing charges under the IPC section of unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Soorinje is accused of not alerting the police despite having firsthand information that the right-wing activists were about to pull a raid on the Morning Mist resort.

The visuals of Mangalore attack which were aired on mainstream channels spurred massive protests across the state, with students, several NGOs and women’s associations coming onto the streets protesting the hooliganism at the resort.

 

Creative writers speak up against #moralpolicing in Mangalore #VAW


 

‘There is no governance in State’

Hindu, deccan herald, TOI

 
Vaidehi, writer, speaking at a protest meeting in Udupi on Tuesday.
The HinduVaidehi, writer, speaking at a protest meeting in Udupi on Tuesday.

Vaidehi, writer, said on Tuesday that the attack on the partying youth at a homestay in Mangalore last week had shown that there was neither government nor governance in the State. She was speaking at a public meeting organised by the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike (KKSV) and Catholic Sthree Sanghtan (CSS) to protest against the attack, here.

Ms. Vaidehi said that it was not necessary for any vigilante group to teach Hindu culture to others. Many miscreants were forming vigilante groups for protecting Hindu culture. But they were bringing disrepute to the Hindu culture by violent and illegal acts. “It is necessary to fight such forces in a united manner,” she said.“It is not our culture to dishonour women,” she said and regretted that government is silent over the act of Hindu Jagarana Vedike activists who took law into their hands.

Stating that the Home Ministry has failed to initiate measures against the offenders, she said that there are already increasing number of female infanticide cases in the society and these incidents may compel women to take decision against giving birth to girl child.

The repeated attacks on women raised doubts about the existence of a government in the State. “What is the government doing? Where is the Home Minister? Where are the MLAs? Where are the police?” Ms. Vaidehi questioned.

Writer Sukanya Kalasa said that the activists of the vigilante group which had beaten the students at the homestay had stated that the girls were not wearing traditional outfits.

“But all the men who attacked them were wearing trousers and shirts. They should have worn the traditional ‘mundu’. They are dictating dress code to others, but not following it themselves,” she said.

DRESS CODE

It was not possible for parents to impose dress code on children. The outfits worn by people kept changing with changing times. “What happened to the students at the homestay might happen to our own children. This cannot be allowed,” Ms. Kalasa said. Sharada Bhat, writer, said that the homestay incident in Mangalore had raised doubts in the minds of people as to whether they were living in a democracy or were under the rule of Taliban.

President of district unit of Mahila Congress Veronica Carnelio said that the inaction of the State Government in punishing the perpetrators of the pub attack in Mangalore in 2009 had emboldened the activists of other vigilante groups.

Though the Regional Commissioner of Mysore Division M.V. Jayanti had submitted a report to the Government over a month back on the “rave party” which took place at the St. Mary’s Island (in February), the Government had still not made it’s findings public, Ms. Carnelio said.

KKSV president G. Rajashekhar, honorary president Gopal B. Shetty, Dalit Sangharsha Samiti leader Jayan Malpe, CSS leader Reena Roche, and Jamaat-E-Islami Hind leader Idris Hoode were present.

 

Writer Sharada Bhat alleged that law and order mechanism in the state is collapsed. It is a kind of despotic rule by the government that reminds the governance of Taliban.

Democracy is losing its roots and the incident of home stay attack is an act of brutality. She said that women should raise their voice against the havoc and demanded police to immediately arrest all the activists who were involved.

Udupi district Komu Souharda Vedike member Phaneeraj said that the incident of law and order anarchy is not a new phenomenon in the region. The activists of Hindu organisations are involved in creating chaos since 2001 in the area. It seems as though these people are assigned to take law and order into their hands. He said it is astonishing that police were the mute spectators’ when the incident was going on. They failed to take immediate actions when the girls and boys present in the birthday bash were thrashed by the activists, he said.

Phaneeraj questioned the relevance of the charges of IPC Sections filed against TV scribes by the police department.

Forwarding the memorandum to Governor through Tahsildar, Udupi district Komu Souharda Vedike President G Rajashekar strongly condemned the attack. He said as the resort was a private entity, it is not criminal offense to organise birthday parties or any other sort of parties. After all it is not Hindu Jagarana Vedike activists who should take action against the illegal activities taking place in the homestay, when police are available to look into it.

The footages that appeared in TV channels are the evidence and government should intervene and should take immediate action against the attackers and also the masterminds behind the attack, he added.

Writer Sara Abubakar wondered that when the high court has said that women can work in pubs, what is wrong in women partying in a private place. “These attackers respect neither our Constitution nor our women. No one has the right to assault a woman. Who are these goons to decide what kind of dresses should girls wear,” she fumed.Terming Saturday’s incident as a criminal conspiracy, she said when the visual media was in the know, why didn’t they inform police.

“Capturing these kind of incidents has become entertainment for TV channels,” After the pub attack, the accused were released on bail within a few days.

 

 

In the name of Bharatiya Sanskar


 

RASHEEDA BHAGAT

 
...and stop lecturing women on all the wrong things.
…and stop lecturing women on all the wrong things.

Can we, as a mature country, stop pointing an accusing finger at women all the time? How come nobody is giving homilies to men that it is not alright to assault and molest women, as witnessed in Guwahati recently?

July 23, 2012:

In Khalid Hosseini’s heart wrenching and brilliant novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, Nana tells her little daughter Mariam, the protagonist: “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”

That story is set in Afghanistan and traverses the country’s 45-year period, beginning with the pro-Soviet era. However much women in the developed world and non-Islamic countries such as India might pity the pathetic state and status of women under the Taliban era in Afghanistan or even Pakistan, in their hearts, they know these searing words hold good for any woman.

Let’s take this comment in the context of the horrendous incident that took place in the heart of Guwahati, where a 17-year-old girl was molested by 11 men — some accounts say 15 — for more than 20 minutes. And this, not in a confined space but a busy street, as shown from the footage captured by a television cameraman.

One needs to have nerves of steel to watch on the Net the footage of that barbaric incident, where the young girl, who is being relentlessly pawed, pushed and pulled brutally by her hair, her top ripped to expose her breasts. She keeps pleading: “Aisa mat karo … tera bhi bahen hei (Please don’t treat me thus; you too have sisters),” but to no avail.

What is even more depressing to watch is that nobody does anything about it. The entire nation has expressed outrage at the incident; some finding fault with the photographer for filming the whole episode instead of helping the victim; others at a member of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Ms Alka Lamba, for making public the girl’s identity. Actually, in the footage, the girl gives her name when the police do arrive, a good 30 minutes later. And, this, despite a police station being barely one km away from the scene of crime.

ANOTHER TWIST

But once everybody had condemned the beasts who assaulted a girl in this horrendous manner, the debate took another turn.

The schoolgirl had come out from a bar where a fight had broken out. So eyebrows were raised at why “respectable” girls should go to bars and drink, or rather, why they should drink at all. After all, isn’t this against our Bharatiya sanskar?

And, then, we had a real gem from the Chairperson of the NCW, Mamata Sharma. If you thought NCW is supposed to bat for women, you thought wrong.

A few days ago, we had a lecture from the honourable lady on how women need to be “careful about the way they dress, because blindly aping the West can result in such incidents.”

After a sermon on how “aping the west is eroding Indian culture”, she deigned to admit that after 64 years of Independence it was not fair to give “such blanket directions” to women. But what to do, the poor woman had no option.

Now, this is absolute rubbish, and of the worst kind. First of all, from what I could see from the footage, the teenager was dressed in a pair of jeans and a top that thousands of Indian women wear.

Where does erosion of Indian culture come if girls/women want to wear jeans? By the way, a young Pakistani cop in Lahore shot his sister dead two days ago for wearing jeans.

And even if the Assamese girl was wearing what Ms Sharma and her ilk might consider “provocative” clothes, isn’t that her own business, or at the most that of her parents or immediate family?

Emboldened, perhaps by the missive let loose by the NCW chief, we now have the Madhya Pradesh Minister for Industries, Mr Kailash Vijayvargiya, lecturing Indian women on their dress code. His words of wisdom: “Women’s fashion, lifestyle and conduct should be in accordance with Indian culture. They should not wear clothes that provoke others. They should dress in such a way that they invoke respect in others.”

DRIVEL, AT BEST

I am livid at being forced to listen to this kind of drivel. By blaming the poor girl, a mere child of 17, and insinuating that she was responsible for the disgusting behaviour of the morons who attacked and molested her, totally ignoring her repeated pleas for mercy, can we please have somebody lecturing the male devils who assaulted her? Why is it that I am yet to hear any mantras on “Bharatiya sanskriti” being read out to men?

How come no one of any consequence is giving homilies to men that it is not alright to assault and molest women; to paw or pinch them in buses; to stalk them on streets; to kill them for the sake of saving your family’s so-called honour — oh yes, honour killings do happen in India, too — to rape them to show their physical superiority?

Can we as a mature country, a mature people, please stop pointing the accusing finger at women all the time? And, stop lecturing them on how they should dress or behave? One is getting a little tired of trite comments from modest brains that take it for granted that women dress in one fashion or another only to please men, or attract them, or “provoke” them. Most of the time this is the male point of view; it is tragic that the NCW chief fell into that old trap too.

Instead of such nonsense and moral policing, can we have sensible debates on the serious issues that confront Indian women? Such as challenges on adequate health care, sanitation or drinking water, to fetch which millions of Indian women have to move heaven and earth; equal opportunities for education, employment and a supportive environment for employed women? Most of all, how do we ensure a safe environment in which women can move freely without fear of being violently assaulted as happened in Guwahati?

Last, but not the least, let’s talk about a safe home, where girl babies are allowed to be born and not slaughtered in the womb after sex selection tests, or burned because they did not fetch adequate dowry. Forget the streets of Delhi, Guwahati or Patna, our fast declining gender ratio points an accusing finger at the home being the most unsafe place for the girl child, sister, wife or mother.Bharatiya sanskar? Give me a break, please.

Responses to rasheeda@thehindu.co.in and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in

 

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