Change.org — Cat is out of the Bag


Change.org  Cat is out of the Bag, so let’s stop playing Ping Pong

May 12, Mumbai- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Kractivism

  Its official now

After months of testing, Change.org is ready to launch a new revenue model that is geared to consumers, not organizations. By targeting consumers, the change.org team expects to pull in steady revenues in smaller dollar amounts. Contributions are capped at $1,000 per user per petition, but beta tests found that 98 percent of contributions were under $100. During the test period, a total of 5800 people contributed to promoted petitions. Read more here Now anyone can sponsor a petition on change.org

This is how petitions can be promoted and sponsored

Promoted Petitions allow anyone to promote their favorite petitions to Change.org users who may not otherwise come across them. Similar to promoted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter, Promoted Petitions allows users to pay to feature any petition to other users on the site.

Sponsored Campaigns are similar to Promoted Petitions, but structured slightly differently to help organizations establish long-term relationships with Change.org users who are passionate about their work and sign their campaigns. Each Sponsored Campaign has an opt-in box allowing users to agree to find out more information about the sponsoring organization after signing. Organizations ready to connect with their next generation of supporters can head to Change.org for Organizations to learn more.

My open letter to Ben Rattray, last October, was precisely about this , #India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism when they announced change in advertising policies that ,there is no confusion that change.org is  not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , they are making money on our database.

Now after my expose.#India – Change.org : Campaign Victory’s exposed #Vaw #Socialmedia, wherein I bought to notice two conflicting petitions on the same platform. I did get a reply on a tumblr.com  site ???  Wondering why  change .org  could not the responses  reply on an  official change.org site?  Also the tumblr.com   site with no  option to comment ,   My question,to   India director,  change.org Avijit Michael, that by replying to me, on another change/org staffs personal blog , with no option to comment,   this how change.org proposes to have a public engagement ?

The fact that  it was only after  I  pointed out that  two conflicting petitions, change.org looked into the matter and found that the  petition of voyeuristic  journalists managed  thousands  signatures by fraud  . They  have informed Information and Broadcasting  Ministry . Interesting but what if they would not be informed, will they know will  then and will they take action ?

For once let me make it clear I do not have a personal vendetta against change.org and neither people are confused by allegations they are concerned.

Here is a  Hoot investigative story on  change.org and how it operates  notes , Deconstructing Change.org

Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.

Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.

I will let the responses to my  expose on change.org speak for itself. I got many emails, facebook messages , some of them are below

आपने जो उदाहरण दिया है उससे स्‍पष्‍ट है कि कोई भी चेंज डॉट ओआरजी का दुरुपयोग कर सकता है। वैसे भी ये या तो व्‍यवसाय कर सकते हैं या सामाजिक बदलाव में कोई भूमिका निभा सकते हैं। और किसी को भ्रम नहीं होना चाहिए कि ये प्‍लेटफॉर्म सामाजिक बदलाव के लिए है। it’s really selling you and me on change dot org. –sandeepsamvad, new delhi, emaiil

it is hard to believe that change.org is not selling signatures as you have not completely denied when you said “Kamayani’s claim that we sell email addresses to sponsors is also incorrect. Our business model has been clearly outlined on the site. We allow our users to voluntarily opt-in to receive mailing from organisations via sponsored petitions.”there is a strong reason for not believing your words as in first instance you said in your reply “partly because one of them was the subject to anattempt at fraud and manipulation over the last week — almost 5000 signatures were added by two IP addresses” AND in very next line you say ” We have multiple levels of systemic checks to prevent this kind of abuse and ensurethat the integrity of our platform is maintained. The fraudulent signatureshave already been removed to reflect the count of genuine signatures.” WHAT HAPPEND TO THE MULTIPLE LEVELS OF SYSTEMIC CHECKS when peoples were signing petitions from one IP , in this case you have deleted signatures but how do we believe that other “victories” petitions are signed by individuals ;with this whole incident I think there are strong flaws on change.org , you have believed , trusted and took actions on almost all points Kamayani higlighted and on other hand you said “We completely respect Kamayani’s right to a different view, although we regret that she is spreading misinformation about Change.org”

I would have trusted on your words , if you would have removed this fraudulent signature petition and all other such petitions;I myself have written a petition and I know it is very difficult for us to raise a issue and bring in people to spend a time and sign it ; with this whole incidence of Change.org my belief on online petitions is shattered .lastly I perceive it in this way and that is , I think you also believe less  on change.org , as you chose Tumbler to highlight such a big news about your own website .I am hoping for a fair dialogue about this whole issues with a thread of previous emails and replies on change.org homepage so that truth must come out …

( Rahul Deveshwar on Facebook )

Change.org platform is no longer on the side of justice, but neutral in the fight against oppression, and hence, has actually taken the side of the oppressor…( Aashish Gupta  via email)

The idea that the  change.org makes no judgment on the type of petition seems a bit strange. Do they not have some sort of system of checks and balances? How many people sign things just on trust? I know I have done. To personalise the mistake (if it was a mistake) that they may have made to an individual who points out the inconsistency of their position on a specific petition seems to me a policy of “shoot the messenger” No petition is a trivial issue to those who take the trouble of starting one, or signing one. Motives would seem a significant factor. therefore this personalisation also would appear to have a motive. Is the organisation afraid of criticism? In which case the attack on an individual would seem logical. Why could not have change.org  provided a coherent answer to the inconsistency highlighted and not personalise the matter to an individual. It is those who work on the ground with people who matter, the idea of holding “people power and democracy in high regard” seems to me bullshit, and appears to appeal to interest groups who have a neo liberal agenda of control.
Kamayani I think all such organisations to me are suspect and anyone who points a finger that may expose their inconsistencies would be demonised in some way. specially such democracy movements of recent past seem to have had bloody results when western interests are threatened, Middle East, Pakistan orange revolution etc etc come to mind. There is sometimes more at stake than rights of people and that is the jobs of those who run these corporate “rights” organisations almost across the world and they would always go with their sponser, who would be western based or financed.  Kamayani, May be you have touched a brick that could shake the edifice ? I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.   I have closed by change.org account  (Satish Barot on FB)

” I am a little shocked that we bothered Mr. Tumbler. When I think, you own change.org. It would be more official when you post it there. Innit ?” (Harish Iyer, Facebook)

I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.    ( Kavita Krishnan, New Delhi email )

I completely agree that the case of the NALSAR students whose privacy was invaded and who were morally policed by these mediapeople shows exactly why change.orgshould not accept petitions from all sources. Many of us followed Kamayani’s use of change.org because we believed the organization had an explicit pro-justice bias in the campaigns it took on. Having change.org be a neutral platform to be used by anybody, or accepting paid sponsorships means that the platform indeed becomes something like Facebook – a profit seeking platform which we can use but which is not by itself an ally. I urge change.org to discard labels like neutrality, openness and democracy- all of which are used in our current socioeconomic system to mean that those with money will have the loudest voice – and to take an explicit stand on promoting justice through their petitions…( Kaveri, Bangalore )

It is sad that every space has been taken over by the BUSINESS and MONEY MAKERS…. we think we are playing in a free ground but that ground is also owned by the same corrupt minds… Amir Rizvi, Mumbai

It is indeed time that the issue about online petitions was addressed in more detail. Having read your blog and the response by change.org leaves me to conclude that change.org is definitely on the back foot as it has not bothered to explain the selling of email ID’s names etc for proit to other NGO’s. This is the business model of all the online petition sites and that is how they manage to have fancy pay packages for their employees and maintain their infrastructure. Sure, change.org may well be a technology oriented, democratic organization, but that does not absolve it from carrying out unethical practices.

The argument that change.org allows opt-in is not a favor done by the organization towards its users. It is legally mandated that such services should opt-in rather than opt-out services (throw back to Google, Facebook and other litigation’s and their results)

What happens to these online petitions (apart from creating a few seconds of “awareness”) is also debatable. I wonder if change.org has devised any metric to track what effect their online petitions have made. Being a “technology driven” organization, they should have the the means to track the effects of their petitions and should release such audits from time to time to their users.

In summary, the business model of change.org appears to be simply that of any other aggregator/mass e-mailer. To cloak this behind a veil of social consciousness and activism is doing dis-service to others who actually get their hands dirty doing real work and not sit behind computer terminals in air-conditioned offices selling their databases to the highest bidder. (Anuj Wankhede, Delhi)

I am completely with you and also understand the concern you raised in your narration. Media being one of the institutions operated and controlled by capitalist and patriarchal values certainly is not going to take pro-women, pro-equality stand. The argument of change.org that they provide space for ‘activism’ seem to be not true unless they take a critical position on issues being raised in and through their space. What if tomorrow anti-women, anti-dalits, anti-muslims, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-rights, anti-tribal, anti-minority people start putting up their petitions through change.org? What would be the position of owners/facilitators of this space?

Request to change.org from my side is to upload their position on many of the issues they feel are the result of inequalities, historic and systemic nature of discrimination, coercive hierarchies and culture of violence. Anand Pawar, Pune

Change.org has crossed the line between change-making and profit-making  .

So people are not confused by my expose ,but more concerned !

Why are Indian women being attacked on social media? #Vaw #Womenrights


By Divya AryaBBC Hindi, Delhi, May 8,2013

Sagarika GhoseSagarika Ghose has stopped giving her views on Twitter

What does a top woman journalist do when she is threatened regularly with gang rape and stripping on Twitter?

And what about when her teenage daughter’s name and details of her class and school are tweeted too?

“It was very disturbing. I didn’t know what to do. So for a few days I had her picked up and dropped off to school in our car and not via public transport, because I was really scared,” says Sagarika Ghose, a well-known face of Indian television news, who anchors prime-time bulletins on CNN-IBN and writes for a leading newspaper.

On Twitter, she has more than 177,000 followers.

“Targeting me for my journalism is fine. But when it is sexist and foul-mouthed abuse which insults my gender identity I get incredibly angry. In the beginning I used to retaliate, but that would lead to more abuse.”

Ms Ghose says women abused on Twitter in India tend to to be “liberal and secular”.

“The abusers are right wing nationalists, angry at women speaking their mind. They have even coined a term for us – ‘sickular’.”

Ms Ghose has now decided to stop putting out her views on Twitter.

“I just put out our programmes and disseminate information. Though I still re-tweet some of the abusive tweets because there has to be awareness of what women journalists face. What else can you do?”

Vicious attack

Kavita Krishnan, a prominent Delhi-based women’s activist, was attacked viciously during a recent online chat on violence against women onRediff.com, one of India’s leading news websites.

“It began well. I had answered a few interesting questions. And then one person, with the handle @RAPIST, started posting abusive comments. He then asked me where he could come to rape me using a condom,” she said.

She says she decided to leave the chat after the abuse continued.

Ms Krishnan considers herself “thick skinned, used to addressing difficult questions and dealing with abuse”, but this, she says, was “sexual harassment”.

“What angered me was that Rediff didn’t ensure that their guest was given a safe environment, the chat was not moderated nor was the abusive handle blocked.”

Meena KandasamyMeena Kandasamy chose to go to the police when she faced online abuse

Rediff did not respond to BBC’s requests for an interview.

However, they posted an edited transcript of the chat on their website. The offensive posts had been removed and an apology made to Ms Krishnan.

More than 90 million Indians are active users of Facebook and Twitter and a large number of them are women. Cyber stalking and bullying of women are common.

Writer-activist Meena Kandasamy chose to go to the police when she faced sexist abuse online.

Last year, she had tweeted about abeef-eating festival at a university in the city of Hyderabad after which she was threatened with “live-telecasted gang-rape and being torched alive and acid attacks”.

Hindus who regard cows as sacred had clashed with low-caste Dalit groups who had organised the event.

“On an average, I get about 30 to 50 abusive tweets on days when I am active on Twitter. During the beef festival, there were more than 800 tweets in a span of two to three hours,” Ms Kandasamy says.

‘Patriarchal’

She believes that many Indian men react to posts that are critical of “caste and of Hindu nationalism”.

“I face the threat of violence even outside this virtual world in terms of people who don’t like my writings, my politics. Copies of my books have been burnt. I feel that kind of pain is far more deep and real than anonymous trolls and threats,” says Ms Kandasamy.

K Jaishankar, a teacher of criminology who has been studying bullying, stalking and defamation of women online, says India’s “patriarchal mindset has pervaded the internet space”.

“Men don’t like women to talk back. Public personalities who express strong opinions are trolled in a bid to force them off line,” he says.

Mr Jaishankar, who counsels victims of cyber crime along with his colleague and lawyer Debarati Haldar, says that Indian users online are largely male introverts who have found the web a place where they can express themselves freely and anonymously.

Kavita KrishnanKavita Krishnan was attacked on an online chat

“These men could be respectable professionals such as doctors, lawyers or professors in real life but online, they tend to show a darker side.”

Most of the women affected online do not go to the police, Ms Haldar says. Instead, they try to get the objectionable content removed, which is not usually easy.

India has a law – Section 66A of India’s Information Technology [IT] Act – against sending inflammatory and indecent messages on the internet and in recent times it has been used by the state as a weapon against dissent.

But, Ms Haldar says, women facing cyber bullying of a sexual nature have not been able to convince the authorities to take action against their abusers under the law.

“In many instances, when I motivated the woman to go to the police, they came back and told me that their complaints were dismissed as trivial. Instead, the police told them that it was not necessary for women to give their opinion on social media.”

Ms Haldar says the authorities must take these cases more seriously and charge the offenders under Section 66A of the IT law.

Even charging the offenders under the existing laws on sexual harassment could go a long way in curbing such abuse against women, she says.

 

Does the Internet belong to the cyber bully? #FOS #FOE #Vaw


Rape threat to Kavita Krishnan

 

by  Apr 27, 2013, Firstpost

 

“Tell me where I should come and rape you using condom”, wrote someone to activist Kavita Krishnan during a public chat organised by Rediff.com. This person had chosen for himself the handle “RAPIST” and initially, his ill-begotten suggestions were directed at women in general. However, when his gracious offer to stop raping women if they stopped wearing “revealing clothes” was brushed aside, perhaps he found it necessary to narrow his focus. So he threatened to rape Krishnan.

How could Krishnan have responded to his threat? In the virtual world, all Krishnan could do was retort or ignore, and then retreat. Krishnan’s experience isn’t exceptional. When she was threatened during the live chat, Krishnan became one of the countless for whom the virtual world isn’t quite as free, fair and welcoming as most of us imagine the Internet to be.

India ranks third in cyber bullying after China and Singapore. In an article on Huffingtonpost,  writer Soraya Chemaly points out how the internet is perceived as medium where it is easy, and also justified, to silence women. The methods of silencing, as has been found on several websites in India and abroad, is severe abuse.

Reuters

Reuters

David Porter notes in his book Internet Culture that the internet has evolved from being a “peripheral phenomenon” to a “site for cultural production and transformation”. Ways of negotiating virtual identities and communities, therefore, have to be constantly discussed, reinvented and regulated. Communities and identities that populate virtual spaces can display desires that may not manifest themselves obviously in the real world.

Real life prejudices often take on monstrous proportions online. Women are subjected to insults, criticism and extreme cases of abusive behaviour. Take, for example, the case of Amaresh Mishra, whose bio on Twitter reads, “Author, Historian, Film writer and Politician”. Incensed by Modi-supporters who “abuse Sonia and Rahul Gandhi”, he went on a Twitter rant spree and threatened to rape and brutalise (with rods) Narendra Modi‘s female supporters. Some time later, presumably once he’d calmed down, Mishra deleted the damning tweets, thereby almost doing away with evidence that could be used to sue him.

Abuse on the Internet thrives for the same reason street harassment does — because it is tolerated and it’s difficult to ascertain who precisely is your tormentor. The targets, as in the physical world, tend to be those who question the status quo, those who are perceived as less powerful in the social hierarchy.

“It’s not just women,” says Krishnan, while speaking about how the internet can be a threatening space. “Dalits are targeted a lot, I know. I’m told Muslims also receive lots of hate messages. Basically, it’s minorities who are attacked.”

Debarati Halder, who runs the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling in Chennai, says the preferred way of lashing out at a woman on the internet is by calling her a “slut”. It’s not used in an embrace-your-sexuality way, but seeks to demean the woman into a sexual object.

“They may also bring up personal details including her vital statistics. In many occasions such bullies openly invite trolls to escalate the situation. I have seen if the victim is an active participant in these chat forums, in the beginning they try to protest. But more defensive you get, the more the bully is encouraged,“ says Halder. She says several such instances of abuse can make a woman feel unworthy of respect and even suicidal.

According to Chemaly, when faced with intimidation online, vocal women usually choose to mellow and stop fighting on public forums. When a masked identity taunts you with graphic threats –how he wants to violate you, where he wants to rape your school-going daughter and so on – the most common response is to create a distance between yourself and the commenter.

In India, cyber bullying gets the necessary go-ahead from the absence of laws attuned to such cases. Except for Section 66A of the IT Act, according to which a person can be booked for sending false, offensive messages through communication services, there is no strong law to tackle cases of online abuse. Most cases of online abuse are dealt by clubbing Section 66A with the Prohibition of Ragging Act (Section 509 of IPC), meant to tackle sexual harassment. However, Halder, points out, “Except for cases of monetary fraud over the internet, they [the police] don’t fall back upon the law too often.”

Delhi-based lawyer Apar Gupta says it’s not the absence of well-defined laws that hampers action against cases of cyber abuse.

“Abusive messages are actionable under provisions of existing penal laws since they extend to online mediums as well,” says Gupta. “Personally I feel rather than a problem of lack of laws, there is a problem of lack of enforcement and conviction.”

Anja Kovacs, who runs the Internet Democracy Project, agrees that laws alone can’t create a healthy internet culture.

“Free speech ends where it harms someone’s human rights,” she says. “We have to create a culture of civility on the internet. At present, there is no clear distinction between what can be accepted levels of criticism and rage and what should be blocked and disallowed.”

Looking at the current state of affairs, where the internet isn’t completely safe, Kovacs suggests that we grow a “thick skin”. Halder says that at least moderated forums should take up the responsibility of blocking and booking perpetrators.

“No service provider actively monitors the user’s activities,” says Halder. “This becomes a huge problem especially for Indian victims (specifically women victims) as many perpetrators take this opportunity to continue harassing the victim.”

study on internet users revealed 45 percent people prefer to use pseudo-names in public discussion forums and social networking sites. But 74 percent people on these sites also exchange personal information, including photos, with people they know just virtually. The study also says that more than 69 percent of users have faced abuse and a whopping 78 percent have received abusive messages from known and unknown sources.

From Twitter to Facebook, most social networking portals announce in their policy section that bullying, harassment and abuse will not be tolerated. Facebook has separate sections that warn users against bullying, harassment, using hate speech. Twitter too mentions that offensive content will not be tolerated on the site. It even has a provision that allows the site to block the user completely. However, rarely do the websites make efforts to force out abusive users, which is how the likes of Amaresh Mishra continue to use Twitter.

“The only action they can initiate and conclude is to cancel the registration of the user on their web service for violating the terms,” says Gupta.

Gupta feels the only way to tackle cyber bullying is police reform rather than more legalities. He cautions against legal provisions against online harassment that could be used by conservative and far-right political groups to further grudges and book anyone who seems to oppose their politics vocally on a public web forum.

And so, Krishnan’s harasser and others of his tribe will walk free and perhaps they’ll log on to another chat and spout their threats. They’ll do so fearlessly and confidently because at present, all the odds are in their favour.

 

Rape threats on Rediff.com : Kavita Krishnan speaks out #Vaw #Online


by  , FirstPost Apr 25, 2013

 

Activist Kavita Krishnan is used to caustic abuse being flung at her. It’s part and parcel of organising and attending demonstrations and an occupational hazard of being Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. As one of the editors of Liberation, a monthly Marxist publication, she’s also used to getting unpleasant emails. Consequently, she knows how to fight back, which is what she did yesterday during a live web chat organised by Rediff.

However, does this exonerate Rediff from taking any responsibility for the abuse directed at Krishnan during a chat organised and moderated by the website? “My demands are simple,” said Krishnan when she spoke to Firstpost earlier today. “I don’t want more regulation or anything that curtails free expression. But I would like a formal apology from Rediff because they invited me and their moderators failed to restrain someone who repeatedly threatened me with rape.”

Krishnan was invited by Rediff to participate in a chat discussing violence against women. “They wanted me to speak as someone who has been part of anti-rape protests and I was happy to do this,” she said. Krishnan is among those who have been regularly called upon by various media outlets to speak about rape and its implications. “Onkar Singh from Rediff’s Delhi office came to set up the chat at my office in the afternoon,” said Krishnan. “Questions started coming in and as is the practice, I’d pick one and answer and so on. It was going fine at first.” A little later, someone with the handle “RAPIST” appeared. “They’d chosen to write the word in capitals, so it was very visible. You couldn’t miss it,” recalled Krishnan.

Screengrab of Kavita Krishnan's twitter feed where she has also posted about the Rediff incident.

Screengrab of Kavita Krishnan’s twitter feed where she has also posted about the Rediff incident.

RAPIST’s first message to Krishnan was to tell women to dress properly. “He wrote something like, ‘Tell women to not wear revealing clothes, then we will not rape them’ followed by gaali.” Krishnan replied to RAPIST, saying he was proving her point rather than making a counter-argument. “There’s no way that the person monitoring the chat in Mumbai could not have seen this exchange,” said Krishnan. “This person was writing in all caps. You couldn’t miss it. Also, I did respond. Whoever was monitoring must have seen me replying to that handle.”

After Krishnan’s reply, there was silence from RAPIST for some time. He returned after a bit with, “Kavita tell me where I should come and rape you using condom”. Again, the message was written in capital letters. “It popped up at least three or four times, all in CAPS,” said Krishnan. “I was very taken aback that this person, with a handle like that, could keep posting something like this.” Krishnan reacted sharply. “I wrote something like, ‘Give me your name and address, and I’ll show you’. I was disgusted.” The response didn’t stop RAPIST, who kept repeating his threats.

At this point, it was Rediff’s Onkar Singh who told Krishnan to log off. “He behaved with the utmost decency and had great presence of mind,” recalled Krishnan. “I was too taken aback to react properly, but he was the one who told me to get out of the chat. Before leaving, I wrote that this shouldn’t be the kind of offensive comments you should have to field and that I was leaving because of it.” That was the end of the chat and the beginning of a more tangled debate on intimidation, free speech and responsibility.

Immediately after the chat, Rediff promised Krishnan that an FIR would be lodged. “Ganesh Nadar of Rediff told me they had great connections with the Worli cyber crime lab, that they had a screenshot and they would lodge an FIR,” said Krishnan. She asked if the chat would be edited so that the abusive comments are removed. Nadar said yes. Krishnan told him that she wanted her last lines to remain because she wanted readers to know why she’d left the chat abruptly.

Nadar agreed. He also told her that it wasn’t possible to screen who left a comment because it was a live chat. Nadar changed the story later and told Krishnan that the person monitoring the chat had missed RAPIST because there were so many people sending questions.

Neither explanations seem particularly plausible to Krishnan. “I know that’s not true because I’ve done these chats before,” said Krishnan. “Screening can and is done. As for not noticing, it’s not possible to miss someone who calls themselves RAPIST, especially since I did respond to him.” Krishnan asked Nadar for a screenshot of the offending section. He said he’d send it to her along with the FIR number. He also gave her the editor’s email and suggested she write a letter detailing the incident. Krishnan did so. She also recounted her experience on Twitter and Facebook, and urged others to write to the email she’d been given about Rediff’s comment moderation policy.

This is the unedited text of Krishnan’s email to the editor of Rediff.

“Dear editor,
Rediff.com

Sir,
Mr. Ganesh Nadar fom Rediff had contacted me yesterday to participate in a live chat today, and I agreed. Mr. Onkar Singh from Delhi’s rediff office came to my office today to facilitate the chat, which was to take place from 2 pm to 3 pm. The chat had been advertised as an opportunity to chat with me as one of the activists involved in the recent anti-rape protests.

During the chat, someone with a handle ‘RAPIST’ repeatedly intervened in capital letters. In one ‘question’ he said, “Kavita tell women not to wear revealing clothes then we will not rape them.” The same man then posted another question several times: “Kavita tell me where I should come and rape you using condom.” Both questions were in block capitals and very visible. Mr Nadar initially said live chats cannot be ‘screened’ – which I know for a fat is not true since I have been in such chats with other media groups. Later Mr Nadar said that the man in the Rediff Mumbai office monitoring the chat failed to spot the ‘RAPIST’ because there were ‘so many questions.’ I find this difficult to believe since this was the only handle in capital letters and the questions were also in capitals.

Yet, no one from Rediff did anything to screen the guest – me – from such offensive questions, or to block someone with a handle of ‘RAPIST’ from the chat!

Mr. Ganesh Nadar has informed me that Rediff has taken a screenshot of the chat and is filing an FIR and sending the screenshot to Worli cyber crime labs to identify the ‘RAPIST.’ But I am yet to get a copy of the screenshot though I have asked for it; excuses are being made. I am also yet to receive the FIR number. Mr Nadar is very vague and contradictory about why the transcript of the chat is yet to be posted; whether the RAPIST’s questions will be screened there; whether I will receive a screenshot or only the transcript (which will only have the questions I responded to); and other queries that I have.

I demand a public apology from Rediff for its failure to ensure that a chat organised by them was a safe space for me, a woman. Condoning and allowing such intimidatory behaviour against women keeps women out of the online space – just as rape keeps women off the streets. I resent this intimidation, and in this instance, hold Rediff squarely responsible for failing to keep ‘RAPIST’ out of the chat.

Expecting a public apology from you.

Kavita Krishnan,

Secretary, AIPWA”

So far, the only response Krishnan has got from Rediff is an aggrieved email from Nadar asking why she’d put the editor’s email in the public domain. It’s a perplexing question to Krishnan. “The email I was given is not a personal email,” said Krishnan. “It’s not a violation of privacy. I don’t even know who the editor is. What I have and what I’ve circulated is a generic, professional email. It’s the kind of email to which people write letters to the editor, which is what I and a few people did.”

Krishnan has not received either the screenshot or the number of the FIR that they promised they’d lodge. The chat has not been uploaded. Some have urged Krishnan to file an FIR herself but Krishnan doesn’t think it’s her place to do so. “I think it’s for Rediff to do because they organised the chat and it was during something they organised that I received these personal threats,” she said. “It’s their responsibility. I’m more than happy and willing to appear and testify should they need me to, but I think it’s their responsibility to take measures that will give their guests a sense of security.”

On hindsight, Krishnan has just one regret: “I should have taken a screenshot of that transcript. Not because I want to make it public – I shouldn’t have to. Rediff told me it was a public chat, so it’s in any case public – but because I should have kept my own record of this man’s behaviour towards me. But I was just too taken aback and disgusted then. I just shut my computer.”

The incident has reiterated to Krishnan how concerted an effort there is to corner and threaten women in the virtual space. “It’s a reflection of the intimidation and lack of security that we talk about in the physical space,” she said. “We can’t let this happen. Women, much like Dalits, Muslims and other minorities, must be free to access and make use of the virtual space without fearing for their personal safety and without the threat of this kind of abusive and personal intimidation.”

Despite the ugly trolling she’s faced, Krishnan is unequivocally against any kind of increased Internet regulation that could be manipulated to curb free speech. “There’s many kinds of hate speech and it exists in the real and the virtual world, but that’s no reason to impose any kind of government regulation of the internet,” she said. “Whatever someone says, I believe they’re free to say it. The difference on the Internet is that anonymity offers security to the victimiser rather than the victim, which is the concern. It falls upon all of us, individually and collectively, to uphold the norms that will ensure security and encourage debate, rather than intimidation. That’s why all I’m asking for from Rediff is a public, formal apology. It’s just churlish to invite me to a chat, to do nothing when I’m exposed to this kind of intimidation and to not even enquire after my wellbeing afterwards.”

 

Don’t divide films based on region: Kay Kay Menon


Chennai, April 16 (IANS) Don’t divide cinema region-wise, says actor Kay Kay Menon, who is moving from Hindi cinema and theatre to the south with the Tamil film “Udhayam NH4”.

“There is absolutely no need to divide cinema region-wise. Except for the language, I don’t see any difference in cinema made in any part of the world. By dividing cinema based on its region, we are only taking that language for granted,” Kay Kay told IANS.

“We have catered enough to the masses with stupid films. Time has come to make films with certain calibre. I can understand Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Bengali. I’m ready to do films in these languages if I find something off the beaten path,” he added.

He admits language is a barrier when you do not understand it and adds: “One of the reasons I chose to work in ‘Udhayam NH4’ is because I can understand the language. I hate to mouth dialogues in a language I don’t understand.”

Why didn’t you do a Tamil film all these years?

“Honestly, I haven’t been approached. Moreover, I have been extremely busy with Hindi films. I have finally decided to diversify because I’m bored of being part of films that are made only to churn profits,” said Kay Kay.

The 45-year-old, who’s a management graduate, worked in Bollywood ventures like “Black Friday”, “Sarkar”, “Silsiilay”, “Gulaal”, Life…In A Metro” and “Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd”.

His first Tamil film “Udhayam NH4” is a road movie. The upcoming film also features Siddharth Suryanarayan, Ashrita Shetty, Deepak, Ajai, Kalai and Karthi.

The film’s story has been penned by National Award-winning director Vetrimaaran; it is being directed by debutant Manimaran.

“I agreed to work in the film because of Vetri (Vetrimaaran). I consider him a modern-day filmmaker. He had a clear-cut view about what they were making and what they want from me,” he said.

“The personality of a director reflects in his or her cinema. I have heard about Vetri’s National Award-winning film ‘Aadukalam’, but I haven’t watched it yet. However, when I met him, I knew from his personality that he is not one of those directors catering to a particular type of audience,” he added.

Kay Kay plays a character who realises the power of love while chasing a couple across three states.

“It’s a road film that takes the characters on a journey from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu via Andhra Pradesh. Two lovers are being chased by the character I play and how in the process my character realises the power of love. This forms the story,” said the actor.

As far as work culture is concerned, Kay Kay doesn’t find any difference between Bollywood and the south.

“Bollywood has made good and bad films; so has the Tamil film industry. Even the organisation structure and work process in both these industries are much similar. The only difference I find is the language,” said Kay Kay.

The trend of remakes doesn’t excite Kay Kay.

“I always want to be part of something new and original. If a film is really worth being remade for larger audience, then I would love to be part of it. I wouldn’t mind being part of a remake if it’s done effectively with a purpose, but we all know why remakes are made.”

(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at haricharanpudipeddi@gmail.com)

IANS 2013-04-16 13:21:13

 

Fazil Say : Turkish Pianist Receives Suspended Jail Term For ‘anti-Islam’ Twitter Comments #Blasphemy #Censorship #FOS #FOE


 

 By Suzan Fraser  

April 15, 2013

 

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court on Monday convicted top Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say of denigrating religion through comments he made on Twitter and handed down a 10-month suspended prison sentence, his lawyer said.

The 43-year-old musician who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony and other world orchestras was on trial for sending tweets last year, including one that joked about a religious leader and some Islamic practices.

He is the latest in a series of intellectuals and artists to be prosecuted in Turkey for expressing their opinions and his case has raised further concern over rights and freedoms in the country, a democracy with a mostly Muslim population that seeks membership in the European Union.

Say has also been a strong critic of the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim who expounds conservative values, alarming some secular Turks who fear the government plans to make religion part of their lifestyle.

In one tweet, Say joked about a call to prayer that he said lasted only 22 seconds. Say tweeted: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?” Raki is a traditional alcoholic drink made with aniseed. Islam forbids alcohol and many Islamists consider the remarks unacceptable.

The charges against Say also cited other tweets he sent, including one – based on a verse attributed to famous medieval poet Omar Khayyam – that questioned whether heaven was a tavern or a brothel, because of the promises that wine will flow and each believer will be greeted by virgins.

Emre Bukagili, a citizen who filed the initial complaint against Say, said in an emailed statement that the musician had used “a disrespectful, offensive and impertinent tone toward religious concepts such as heaven and the call to prayer.”

Lawyer Meltem Akyol said the pianist’s sentence has been suspended for five years, which means he would have to serve the sentence if he reoffends in that time.

The lawyer said Say has not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict. He has closed his Twitter account, however.

In a statement, Say called the verdict “a sad one for Turkey.”

“The fact that I was given a sentence despite my innocence is cause for concern with regard freedoms of expression and belief,” he said.

The government meanwhile, appeared to distance itself from the verdict.

“I would not wish anyone to be put on trial for words that have been expressed. This is especially true of artists and cultural figures,” Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik said. “But… this is a judicial decision.”

Sevim Dagdelen, a German lawmaker who has campaigned for Say, called his conviction “a scandal,” and said that Turkey’s attempts to join the EU should be frozen. She also accused the court of making an example of Say to silence critics of the government.

Turkey has a history of prosecuting its artists and writers.

Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for his comments about the mass killings of Armenians under a law that made it a crime to insult the Turkish identity before the government eased that law in an amendment in 2008.

In 2007, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who received death threats because of his comments about the killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

 

Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/fazil-say-jailed-turkish-pianist-receives-suspended-jail-term-for-twitter-comments_n_3083849.html

———

 

Study confirms abuse of Indian women online: Here’s how to stop it #Censorship


 

by  Apr 15, 2013, Firstpost

Something unusual happened when Anshika, a Mumbai based media professional retweeted a tweet noting that a respected left-leaning historian had argued that the politics behind book-banning should be exposed.

One of the respondents to her tweet, whose profile picture was the sacred Hindu symbol Om, asked her how she would react if someone wrote about the sex life of her parents without proof. Anshika said she wouldn’t read the book. What followed was an avalanche of tweets containing graphic details of her parents’ supposed sex life.

Sowmya, a blogger with a wide range of interests, was in for a shock when she wrote about national politics. Many of her readers, who were otherwise fond of her views, wondered why she wanted to dabble in political writing. Similarly, when  Sharda, a Mumbai based online activist extended her support to ‘slutwalk’, she was asked if that was her chosen career. Among other names, she was given the title ‘chief slut’.

Social media is widely considered to be a democratic alternate medium against conventional forums, and in some cases has even empowered maginalised communities, but sadly, it mirrors the real world in respect to the treatment of women.

Gender based verbal abuse, harassment, and stereotyping of women is as much a part of the online world as it is in the real world. Even the ways in which women tackle abuse online is not very different to how they deal with abuse offline. And laws have failed victims in both the real and virtual spheres.

Representational Image: Reuters

Representational Image: Reuters

How women are targeted online

“Misogynists will do whatever they can to humiliate women and abuse them. Basically, everything that they can get away with. And I think one can get away with more in the virtual world,” said Meena Kandasamy, Chennai based writer and active blogger.

Not all the abuse targeted at women is direct, underlined a qualitative study of women and verbal online abuse in India, done by the Internet Democracy Project (IDP), a Delhi based NGO which works on online freedom of speech and expression.

The study, based on interviews with seventeen women including the three case studies mentioned above, noted that women reported to have been abused on the sly. (Firstpost has received early access to the report.)

How this works, is that a small online community will gang up against the woman without mentioning her name or addressing any comment directly to her. The targets of sly communication, noted the study, are considerably troubled when the abuser in question is someone more powerful or popular than the woman as the sly communication will frequently also result in an increase in direct abuse.

Opinion is divided, though, on whether merely being a woman is enough to become a target of online harassment or whether it is related to the topics they choose to write/ comment on.

Based on the experiences of transgender people- who have been a part of online spaces as both men and women however, the IDP report noted that the resulting abuse was disproportionately higher when the online avatar was female as opposed to male.

Refusal to chat with a man on public platforms has caused women to receive cuss words and rape threats. “On chat forums it has happened multiple times that if you refuse to talk to them, they will call you a bitch or a whore or other names,” Kalpana, an Internet enthusiast told the surveyors.

And like in the real world, the moral police is very active over the Internet. When women share their personal lives on the Internet, they often encounter a community telling them the do’s and dont’s of life. When Tripti, an active blogger, mentioned in one her blogs that she was keener to relocate to India than her husband, she got several hate mails saying that she was a selfish bitch; that she had no right to dominate her husband and that she was making him relocate when he didn’t want to.

But to say that only gender decides the tone, type and content of abuse would be to implifying a complex issue. “Those who tweet about politics, women’s liberation, persecution of religious and sexual minorities are targeted,” said Kandansamy.

The types of abuse against women

Almost every woman respondent interviewed for the IDR report, said that commenting on Modi or his policies in Gujarat inevitably leads to a barrage of abuse. Mridula, a human rights activist and active blogger, said that among the many hate emails or ‘love letters’ as she calls them, which she received on email groups, for condemning Narendra Modi and the BJP’s politics, included statements such as “Like the women in Gujarat, you should have been raped because you converted”.

One of the preferred ways to target or silence a woman on an online forum is to attack to attack her sexuality. “The real problem is when they do not talk about my thought process, but about my appearance,” the study quoted Nidhi, a rightwing political commentator and active twitter user, as saying.

Trolls also often use images and videos against women online. Many women, who don’t get offended by rape threats and explicit verbal abuse, feel uncomfortable when their pictures are circulated online.

Muskaan, a Kashmiri woman who is vocal about the situation in the valley, discovered that an online forum had obtained her picture and had started writing captions on it like, “Look at her, she’s a Kashmiri. But shameless, partying!” Muskaan is however was not new to online harassment. But when her image started doing the rounds on social media, her reaction, as noted in the IDR report, was “Get my picture off the page, you can write whatever you want to.”

Akin to online communities across the world, the rape threat is also used in the Indian blogosphere as a device to hammer out the message of male superiority. “Background research and testimonies of women bloggers from different parts of the world suggests that irrespective of your popularity or readership size, there will always be harassers who seek a woman out, simply on the basis of her gender,” notes the report.

Remedies to counter gender abuse online

Non- legal strategies used by women to tackle online abuse include ignoring the abuse, moderating comments, blocking abusers, reporting abusers, naming and shaming, self censorship and taking the trolls head-on.

Also social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have mechanisms to report abuse.

On receiving a complaint, Twitter probes and suspends the account if it finds merit in the complaint. But the person can always come back to the micro-blogging site with a new email id. That said however, they will lose the number of ‘followers’ they previously had, and it will also cause them to think twice before targeting the same women.

IDR noted that while Facebook advises complainants to block the abuser and claims to have removed the abusive content, the policy has loopholes.

One of the report’s respondents Namrata runs a page on feminism on Facebook. The content on her page is regularly taken down because of terms such as slut and whore.

To the IDR interviewers, she said, “Facebook has an evident bias towards these [hateful, abusive] pages. When we were blocked recently, I got in touch with a Facebook official in USA. He told us that since we use the world slut, bitch on our pages and there is a programme which automatically searches for words like these, and that’s why they were deleted. But this is a lie because there are so many pages that use the word slut, bitch in a derogatory way and those pages are still there and they are just flagged off as ‘controversial humour.’

However, when harassed or abused online, women prefer not to report the matter to family members or friends. Prashant Mali, a Mumbai based lawyer who specialises in cyber security cases, gave one such scenario. “This woman had a boyfriend in college but she refused to marry him. The man did not let it go. Years later, when she was married, he put their old pictures on Facebook. Out of embarrassment or societal pressure, the woman did not want to discuss the matter with her husband or anyone else.”

Despite this, online support networks have played crucial role when women at the receiving end look out for help. “Support was considered crucial, but was usually drawn from an online community and took the form of public tweets private messages and sometimes even phone calls, when friendships move to offline lives as well,” highlighted IDR report.

While retweeting abuses on twitter emerged as a popular strategy to gather online support and to name and shame the abuser, fewer women recommended taking the troll head on.

Legal remedies are the least sought after in such cases due to various reasons- delayed justice, victimization and anonymity of abuser.

Police advising the victim on how to conduct herself has permeated in the online realm, too. Mumbai police has uploaded four YouTube videos on cyber security.

While two of these videos suggest that women protect themselves, there is no direct message about the IT Act or IPC provisions under which legal action can be taken for online abuse, noted IDR. According to Prasahant Mali, lack of awareness about laws is one the reasons why online abuse continues unabated. “Every time a social media company is questioned, it says that it is governed by international law and treaties. I believe they should allocate funds to spread awareness about facts, such as, what constitutes defamation and harassment online and what is the punishment in Indian law for these offences”, he said.

Yet, advocates of online freedom of speech and expression argue that more stringent laws are not the answer to tackle online abuse of women. Apar Gupta, Delhi based lawyer and cyber law enthusiast said there is a need to bring parity in provisions which apply across media as it will build consistency and predictability which is beneficial to understand crimes. But he doubts if a law meant to govern online speech will be used impartially. “The provisions for criminalising speech which is made specifically online, will be used against dissenters and minorities who enagage in conversation contrary to dominant social values,” he said.

Pranesh Prakash, policy director at Bangalore based Centre for Internet & Society concluded, “Politeness and civil discourse cannot be legislated. We need societal change and more avenues of free speech rather than laws to tackle online harassment of women.”

 

Margaret Thatcher dead: 10 key quotes from Glenda Jackson’s speech on the former PM #Video


10 Apr 2013 19:18

 The Labour MP ripped in to Margaret Thatcher’s record as Prime Minister during today’s Commons debate

 1. “Thatcherism wreaked the most heinous, social, economic and spiritual damage upon this country”

2. “It’s a pity she did not start building more and more social houses after she entered into the right to buy, so perhaps there would have been fewer homeless people than there were”

3. “During her era London became a city Hogarth would have recognised”

4. “We were told it was going to be called Care in the Community. What in effect it was was no care at all in the community”

5. “Everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism was in fact a virtue”

6. “If we go back to the heyday of that era I think we will see replicated again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from”

7. “People knowing under those (Thatcher) years the price of everything and the value of nothing”

8. “I’m beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basis of the spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side”

9. “If we go back to the heyday of that era I think we will see replicated again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from”

10. “A woman (Thatcher) not on my terms”

 

Check out all the latest News, Sport & Celeb gossip at Mirror.co.uk http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/margaret-thatcher-dead-10-key-1823133#ixzz2Q8SoKyE8
Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook

 

PRESS RELEASE-IFJ Demands Justice for Journalist Dismissed after Filing Harassment Complaint #Vaw


 

Media Release: India                                                                                       

April 4, 2013         

 IFJ Demands Justice for Journalist Victimised after Filing Harassment Complaint

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in demanding justice and fair treatment for S. Akila, a journalist placed under suspension by the Sun TV news channel based in the southern Indian city of Chennai, after she filed sexual harassment complaints against two of her seniors in the organisation.

According to information provided by the Network of Women in Media, India, Akila joined Sun TV in its Chennai headquarters in December 2011 as a news anchor and producer and faced, from that moment on, extraordinary pressures on the job. Two of her immediate seniors were reportedly explicit in the demands she would be expected to fulfill.

Refusal to comply led to Akila’s probation being extended, her earned perks – such as the annual bonus – being denied, and finally, to her being threatened with “dire consequences” if she went public with the situation she faced. Despite a time-honoured convention that women would not be put on shifts at odd times of the 24×7 news cycle, she was soon assigned as anchor for the 6 a.m. news bulletin, requiring her to report at work an hour ahead.

After repeated protests failed to fetch any relief, Akila on 19 March, filed a complaint of sexual harassment with the nearest police station. Her two immediate seniors, both named in the complaint, were soon afterwards arrested and charged under the relevant law applicable in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Akila reportedly began receiving threatening telephone calls afterwards. A male colleague who had supported her struggle against harassment was soon afterwards placed under suspension. On 25 March, Akila reported for work at her appointed time but was not allowed to anchor the noon news bulletin she was assigned to. A day later, one of the men named in her complaint rejoined Sun TV after securing bail.

Akila was served an order of suspension the following day.

“We are shocked at this sequence of events in one of India’s largest and most diversified media conglomerates”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

“The IFJ demands a quick and impartial inquiry into the entire range of circumstances leading to Akila’s dismissal from her job and prompt restitution for the mental trauma she has suffered.

“The news organisation that has permitted this manner of exploitative culture to flourish should without further delay, hold out reassurances to all its female employees and institute strict sanctions against any further recurrence of such behaviour”.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter@ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebookwww.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific 

 

Ahmedabad -‘Tales of Tears’- a play on riots #Theatre


Angela shah, March 4, 2013

Saturday night I went to see a play called “Tales of Tears,” staged by a local group called “Apna Adda.” The story is about a man who is on trial for raping Muslim women during the 2002 riots in Ahmedabad. His daughter, a lawyer, is convinced it’s a case of mistaken identity and much of the play is set in the courtroom as she cross-examines state witnesses, Muslim victims, who attest crimes they say her father has committed.

tale

I won’t tell you how it ends. If you are in Ahmedabad and they have another performance, you should definitely see it. The cast performed Saturday to a packed house. Tickets were oversold. When the lights came up at the end, several people were sniffling and/or had tears in their eyes.

After the show, we had a Q-and-A with the cast, a remarkably candid discussion on the riots and why we should or should not still be discussing them. It very much felt like a reconciliation panel; the comments were sometimes raw and emotional but honest. One man got up to ask what good does essentially picking open a healed wound do? His opinion was the minority and I appreciated his willingness to, one, show up to the performance and, two, to step up and start a conversation that might be perceived as hostile by a majority of those assembled.

His comments prompted several responses along the lines of “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it” – an opinion I largely agree with. Also, it seems to me that the city and its residents must come to terms with what happened in some way. Indian justice will move slowly. Perhaps very few of the victims will see their tormenters pay for their actions. But how can a city merely brush aside – whether it be in the name of progress or “moving on” or what – the idea that their neighbors, friends, even family members are capable of such terrible violence? Many of the perpetrators were not say, hardened criminals or conventional psychopaths. Yet there was something psychopathic about what these people were able to do to fellow human beings.

In the decade since, Ahmedabad has moved on by increasingly compartmentalizing itself along religious lines. Muslims live in Muslim areas and Hindus in their own for the most part. I tagged along with my cousins to see some new apartment buildings constructed to meet the high demand for middle-class housing in the city. The new neighborhoods were being constructed along communal lines; Urdu and Arabic names on the buildings meant for Muslims; Hindi or Gujarati names for those meant for Hindus. It’s not the fault of the developer. They are only providing their customers the product that they want to buy. But I found it disheartening to see.

So it was interesting to hear from the actors in this play. Most of them are in their early 20s and prior to joining the cast their memories of the riots in 2002 consisted of “5 days holiday from school and no ice cream” being available with shops closed. One of the student actresses said that just before taking on the role in which she plays a Muslim riot victim, she  decided against taking one rickshaw home one night “just because the driver was Muslim.” That was her perspective of Muslims: other is not to be trusted.

Her participation in the play, she said, helped her realize the prejudices she didn’t even know she harbored.

Among the audience, a British-Indian woman, who said she had moved back to Ahmedabad with her family a year ago, said she was shocked at the fixation of people on caste and the general derision of “other.” She said her neighbors had strongly discouraged her from hiring a maid who happened to be Muslim and that her children were constantly being asked – even by schoolmates – what their caste was. In Britain, she said, questions on castes are not raised. “They don’t even know,” she said.

(I was introduced to Apna Adda by Zahir Janmohamed, an Indian-American by way of Africa, who happened to be in Ahmedabad during the riots. He’s now living and writing part of the year in Ahmedabad, working on his book on his experiences then and the conversations he’s having with Hindus and Muslims about that event today. I read one of his columns in The Times of India and he was kind enough to respond to my Twitter message. Follow his work!)

connect with angela shah http://journeytogujarat.wordpress.com/ and twitter @angelashah

 

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,228 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,839,229 hits

Archives

April 2021
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
%d bloggers like this: