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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Posted by
Venu K.M


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marxism and Identity Politics- a Video Speech by Sharon Smith

Posted by
Venu K.M
Dear Friends,
Please have a listening of this video (37 minutes) which discusses certain serious faultlines in Identity Politics(part of supposedly 'post-Marxist', postmodern line of thinking, which many an academic and intellectual in India and the Third World holds as gospel truth)as premised by the fierce contest between an Afro American male and a White woman for the Presidential candidature representing the Democratic Party in the last US Presidential elections 2008;
this debate seems to be much relevant for us in evaluating the merits of dalit politics sans genuinely left concerns about the society.
Ms Sharon Smith points out that despite both Obama and Hilary being owners of fabulous capital, the election campaign as a whole, was seeking ways to thrust Identity Politics to the voters and thereby keep hidden the worst aspects of global capitalism and its telling impact on the present and on the future of all people, world over.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Politically Apathetic Indian by Ruchi Gupta

Posted by
Venu K.M
http://bourgeoisinspirations.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/the-politically-apathetic-indian/ " Political status-quo: Politics in India is opaque, nepotistic and highly centralized. Entire political parties are identified by their leader (this encourages coalition politics, making the vote “transferable” with the leader and not the party’s ideology). The top-down corruption and bureaucracy is so entrenched that political action seems too daunting, and often futile. For instance, to start a company in India, one needs multiple permissions from various departments. Each of these permissions will require onerous procedures, and the absence/delay of any can stall the entire company. Given the enormous investment required to start a company, how many people are likely to take on the “babu” who wants a bribe for an approval despite all the correct paperwork? Government bureaucracy and corruption has spawned an entire industry in the intermediaries between the state and citizen. Hidden in their lumpsum fees are the many “greased palms”. Domestic social structure: India propagates itself on the family structure. Gender inequality, lack of opportunities, and absent state safety nets necessitates that one person financially support multiple people. This is most easily enforced via the family unit. Family is hence actively cultivated, and conformity zealously enforced - as soon as the middle-class individual starts work, the parental units declare progeny marriageable. Further imposition of caste and class ensures propagation of common ideals. This domestic structure limits the ability to take risk, both in terms of agitation against the status quo and as the opportunity cost of time/money that will have to be spent in political activity. "

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Posted by
Venu K.M

Friends, I got invitations purportedly from a films forum fridaythadka (my spelling doubtful). It is suspected sent from concocted ids in the name of friend/poeople who may be already in your contacts. Sensing some thing bad in inviting others to join even before myself seeing the home page in full ,I had to delete my contacts displayed with tick marks there.(the option to deselect the ids of the invitees were hidden, in an automated set up);I had to spend as much as 15 minutes to delete the tick marks one by one,prevent the messages from going to all my contacts.

Please beware of this fraud. Please send no id or pass word of yours, or others' ids through the automatic invitations message mode there.

If you happen to be trapped, immediately change your pass words already submitted to these thugs.



Friday, March 13, 2009


Posted by
Venu K.M
(created by another blogger)

Review : Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen

Posted: 11 Mar 2009 11:28 PM PDT

Amartya Sen’s book, “Identity and Violence’ examines the unfortunate connection between violence and our tendency to identify with one key trait — our ethnicity, or religion, for example — to the exclusion of all others. Sen argues that we can combat this tendency by rejecting this narrowly defined, limited sense of identity, and embracing a broader, richer and more complex understanding of ourselves.

Speaking of his own identities, he says:

” I can be, at the same time, an Asian, a British citizen, a Bengali with Bangladeshi ancestry, an American or British resident, an economist, a dabbler in philosophy, an author, a Sanskritist, a strong believer in secularism and democracy, a man, a feminist, a heterosexual, a defender of gay and lesbian rights, with a nonreligious lifestyle, from a Hindu background, a non-Brahmin…This is just a small sample of diverse categories to each of which I may simultaneously belong. “

He bemoans our predisposition to separate human kind into many different boxes – he cites Samuel Huntington and his Clash of Civilizations stereo types. Huntington of course contrasts Western civilization with “Islamic civilization,” “Hindu civilization,” “Buddhist civilization,” and so on. The supposed conflicts of religious differences are incorporated into a sharply fractured vision of hard-boiled divisiveness. In fact, of course, the people of the world can be pigeonholed according to many other subsets, each of which has some—often far-reaching— importance in our lives: nationalities, locations, classes, occupations, social status, languages, politics, and many others. While religious groupings have received much expression in recent years, they cannot be supposed to eliminate other characteristics. Amartya Sen contends that our society is driven as much by confusion as by hatred. Challenging the division of people by race, religion, and class, he presents an alternate understanding of a world that can be made to move toward peace as firmly as it has spiralled in recent years toward brutality and war.

Sen also notes the inclination to create a random -often historically inaccurate- identity of the self in order to distinguish it from the other. Here he criticizes the idea of the Western mind whereby certain ideas (e.g., democracy) are claimed to be the sole property of the Occident. Citing examples of Buddhist councils during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (3rd Century BC) and tracts on religious freedom during that of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (16th Century AD), Sen attempts to demonstrate how such an identity can be quickly disputed.

A lot of the book is preoccupied with the Muslim identity because much of the attention is directed towards the perception and understanding of this identity in the world. Moreover, much that is valuable in the Western civilisation is a legacy of Muslim as well of other, such as the ancient Hindu, civilisations. In other words, watertight compartments between civilisations are historically unsustainable. And, of course, people themselves are blends of several civilisations so that it is not correct to assume that there is such a thing as a uniform, homogenous, monolithic Muslim civilisation.

But is it really possible to fix the responsibility for all the violence that we witness today on the failure of people to recognize the various identities of others? Would that not be as naive an attitude to take towards the occurrence of violence as the perpetrators of aggression take towards identity? How are identities really shaped and very importantly how are they correlated to more concrete, real-life processes that go on in the world? Again, while it is true that everyone has multiple identities what compels one person to prioritize one of these many identities over all others? That is for us, the readers to figure.

Thursday, March 12, 2009



(Women’s Day 2009 is being celebrated all over the world as the
centenary year of International Women’s Day. It marks about a hundred
years since the working women of several cities in the US sparked off
a remarkable struggle for their wages, the 8-hour working day and
other working conditions – and also for the right to vote.

In India, Women’s Day will be an occasion to reflect on the remarkable
strides that the women’s movement has made – in the world and in India
too. But recent events – like the assaults on women in Karnataka;
women being drawn into the workforce in large numbers, but in
ruthlessly casualised, contractualised, insecure and exploitative work
conditions; the denial of equal rights and minimum and equal wages in
the workplace (even in ‘flagship’ schemes like NREGA); and the
betrayal by the ruling UPA Government of the Bill for 33% reservation
for women in Parliament and Assemblies – will also remind us that
those achievements of the women’s movement are under a concerted
attack – by the communal fascists as well as by neoliberal economic
policies being pursued by the Government. Ed/-)

Gendered Violence by Communal Fascists

(Rati Rao, Vice President of AIPWA, has for several decades been a
leading figure in the women’s movement in Karnataka and the country,
associated with the Mysore-based Samata Vedike. Rati Rao comments on
the pub attacks in Mangalore and its implications for the women’s

Mangalore is a port city known for its cosmopolitanism, where speakers
of many languages (Tulu, Kannada, Konkani, Beary etc), as well as many
communities including Hindu Billavas, Mogaveeras, Bunts & Saraswats,
the Muslim Bearys, Catholics, Jains and others have coexisted. Today,
however, Mangalore is at the center of a communal fascist tsunami that
threatens this heritage – and gendered assaults on women are a key
element in this fascist offensive.

A spate of incidents:

On 24 January 2009, Sangh Parivar goons styling themselves as the Sri
Rama Sene (SRS) entered a pub in Mangalore, brutally assaulted women
guests, dragging them by hair, tearing their clothes, slapping and
molesting them. The few onlookers (like one Pavan Shetty) who came
forward to help were also not spared. On the same day in the Balmatta
area of Mangalore, SRS goons attacked a house where women from non-
Hindu communities were invited for a party. On 06 February 2009,
Shruti a 2nd year Pre-University student of St Aloysius College,
Mangalore (and daughter of C.K. Kunhambu, CPI(M) MLA from Kerala),
along with a Muslim friend Shabeeb, were dragged out of a private bus
at Pumpwell and forced into an auto rickshaw by Hindutva goons, who
warned Shruti not to talk to non-Hindus as they are ‘inhuman’.

On 11 February 2009, 16-year-old Ashwini, daughter of Mr Jayamoolya
Elinge of Mulky (near Mangalore) committed suicide following public
humiliation by the Hindutva forces for walking on a street with a
Muslim boy. Ashwini and her classmate Madhavi, students of a PU
college at Aikala village, boarded a bus on 10 February. Rafique, the
helper of the bus, said they got off at Moodibidri with Abdul Salim,
the bus conductor, whose father was the owner of the bus. The three
walked towards Venoor where Hindutva vigilantes accosted them. The
girls were beaten up and humiliated for being friendly with someone
from another religion. Later in the police station at Moodibidri,
Ashwini’s father was asked to lodge a complaint against Abdul Salim by
the police, but he refused. Then Ashwini’s family too was publicly
humiliated by the mob at the police station – and she committed
suicide the next morning.

There is a long record of such incidents in the past several months in
the same region (see The Hindu, 2 September 2009). In December 2008, a
college bus on an official trip was stoned at Mangalore by Bajrang Dal
activists. Classmates, both boys and girls, were beaten up – the
pretext was that Hindu girls should not interact with Muslim or
Christian classmates. On 24 August 2008, a bus was intercepted at a
prominent junction in Mangalore; a Hindu girl and her Muslim fiancée
were dragged off the bus and assaulted. In another incident on 8
August 2008, Bajrang Dal activists stopped a bus in the city, and
assaulted Syed, Zulfikar and Ameen, because these young boys helped a
few girls with their bags, as the latter did not get seats in the bus.
Bajrang dal leader Sudarshan Moodbidri had claimed responsibility for
both the August incidents (Hindu 9.02.09), declaring that “girls
reform themselves once they are thrashed and humiliated in public, but
boys are tougher to control.” Clearly, months before pub attack, a
Sangh Parivar leader in Karnataka was openly recommending ‘thrashing
and humiliating’ women, including school girls and college going
women) in public as a measure of moral policing. He and his ilk were
allowed a free rein; and at least one schoolgirl – Ashwini – lost her
life as a result of such ‘thrashing and humiliation.’

The pub attack was of a piece with these communal fascist attacks. The
mischievous attempts to whip up a debate on ‘pub culture’ deliberately
deflect attention from the fact that the real target is not pubs, but
women’s freedom and communal harmony.

Subsequently, the SRS declared they would oppose Valentine’s Day all
over Karnataka and India; if they found any couple or girl and boy
together, they would force them to opt for either “rakhi or

Waves of protests: The pub attack became a national issue because the
electronic media showed live footage of the incident. The
unprecedented coalition of civic groups all over Karnataka and in the
other parts of India to protest the attacks on women by SRS, Bajrang
Dal and their other outfits has been heartening. On 30 January 2009,
progressive organizations in Mysore held a sit-in dharna at Gandhi
Square in the heart of the city. Women’s organizations including
Samata Vedike and AIPWA, PUCL, drama groups, peasant groups, dalit
organizations, and intellectuals spoke on the occasion. More than 100
people participated. On the same day at Bangalore a huge rally was
organized to condemn the incident, and various women’s groups and
democratic organizations took part, raising slogans, “Ban SRS,” “Home
Minister should resign”, “Who gave the SRS the contract to save Hindu
culture”? It was pointed out 42 cases pending against Muthalik, State
President, SRS, were withdrawn. Thus the State has helped these self-
proclaimed vigilantes to indulge in their criminal activities.
Karnataka Komusauharda Vedike has been organizing public protests
against Sangh Parivar at Davanagere, Gadag etc .

On 31 January 2009, people from all walks of life (numbering around
300) assembled at Kadri park at Mangalore. They lauded Pavan Shetty
for his courage and conscience in accosting the perpetrators, and
filing a case against the SRS goons even after being beaten up by
them! Many prominent citizens of Mangalore condemned the pub attack.

Protests against the Valentine’s Day threats have been pouring in.
Many civic groups all over Karnataka and India protested against
these. At Mysore on 14 February, more than 100 people belonging to
various progressive groups formed a Human Chain at K R Circle. A huge
public protest was organized at Mangalore on the 20 February at the
DC's office against “Goondagiri in the name of protecting culture.”

Deflecting the Debate:

The National Commission of Women Chairperson Ms Girija Vyas refused to
accept the report of its member Nirmala Venkatesh who was sent on fact-
finding mission to Mangalore on the pub issue. She rejected the report
on the ground that it had not followed the norm that requires a three-
member team inclusive of a social activist; and also because none of
the attack victims were contacted and because undue emphasis was
placed on the nature of license issued to the pub which was not a part
of the mandate. However, Girija Vyas was silent on the worst
patriarchal sentiments uttered publicly by Ms. Venkatesh: declaring
that the ‘poor boys’ (perpetrators of crime) who met her in jail told
her they were disturbed by women in ‘naked dress’ (a mystifying
concept; after all, we know ‘naked’ and ‘dress’ – but what is ‘naked
dress’ we wonder), and that ‘after all ‘women have to be responsible
for their own safety.’ Later, the statement of the SRS backing this
woman did not surprise us. The SRS has no objection to ‘sadhus’ going
naked, nor to nakedness in temple sculpture – the only objection is to
women exercising choice and control over their bodies and
relationships. In any case, it was obvious in the live footage of the
assault, that the women were far from naked: it was only the SRS cadre
who were tearing off their clothes!

The Ministry of Women & Child Welfare also sent a team to investigate.
The Mayor of Mangalore has filed a case against Minister Renuka
Chaudhry for talking of ‘Talibanisation.’ The Mayor, so proactive when
it came to the charge of Talibanisation, did nothing to protect the
city’s women from goons.

There have also been some protests by SHG and Stree Shakti groups
obviously sponsored by saffron brigade against ‘pub culture’. These
got a fillip from the pronouncements of many – including Rajasthan CM
from the Congress Ashok Gehlot and Union Health Minister Anbumani
Ramadoss against ‘pub culture’. The simple question is: how come there
was no debate on men going to pubs? Why were women singled out for
attack in the pub? Pravin Valke, founder of the SRS’s statement
reveals that it not pubs, but women’s freedom and unconventional roles
that are the target. He said, “Pubs should be for men only. Women
should be at home by 7 pm. Why should they go to pubs: are they
learning to serve their husbands alcohol? They should learn to make
chapattis instead.”

Government Patronage:

All along the State Government, and especially the BJP government, has
been soft on the Sangh Parivar. In fact the Home Minister even said he
was considering appointing a media ‘ombudsman’ to screen media reports
that ‘lack objectivity’ and pronounce 'judgment' on issues. No doubt
he has no objection to media pronouncing judgement on innocent Muslims
branded by the police as terrorists – his concern is to muzzle the
media which exposes the Sangh’s own violent, communal, and anti-women

The State Human Rights Commission Chairperson SR Nayak has pulled up
the State for its inaction on the issue of moral policing in the wake
of the suicide of 16-year-old college girl.

Understanding the roots: The Dakshina Kannada (DK) district has been
known for the highest literacy rate in the state and for a modern
cosmopolitan society. The syncretism had a material basis in the
coastal communities. Fishing is the occupation of Mogaveera men,
wholesale purchase, that of Beari (Muslims), and retail that of
Mogaveera women. The famous Mangalore lily, is grown by Christians,
wholesale purchase done by Bearis and retail sale by Hindus, who also
wear it. The coconut, mangoes, tamarind grown by Hindus, is purchased
wholesale by Bearis.

The soil of DK has witnessed powerful social movements since the 1980s
– some of the prominent ones being against the MRPL, against the deal
with the US power MNC Cogentrix, against coal-fired thermal power
plants, against the Nagarjuna steel plant and on environmental issues.
There is a powerful local legacy of communal harmony: the Bappa temple
built by Bappa Beari near Mulky in Bappanadu; the figures of Chamundi
and Babbaria; the cult of Madeena Durga of Ullala and Saida Bee Durga
of Mangalore (important Sufi cultural figures). The growth of the
Sangh Parivar in this region has been marked by the systematic
destruction of this culture, replacing it by one of communal hatred –
a project nurtured in the Sangh ‘laboratory’.

Women’s Movement Gains Under Fascist Attack

The idea that the pub attack reflected some sort of real resentment or
moral outrage against a certain elite lifestyle is not looking beyond
the surface. The women’s movement fought for decades for democratizing
their private sphere and the public space. All along the conservatives
tried to push us back to smothering spaces inside the homes and even
at the workplace. The women’s movement aspires for freedom, space and
decision-making power for women. But, all along we are pulled up on
the issue of dress codes, behaviour, mobility and personal life
choices (as to whom to choose as life partner etc). Why are women
alone made to bear the burden of ‘culture’- thereby forcing them to
tolerate the ‘culture’ of female foeticide, female infanticide, denial
of education for women, dowry murders, and drunken husbands’ daily

This is the real question posed by the Mangalore attack – with which
the women’s movement is grappling.


Protests in Karnataka

On 31 January 2009 CPIML and RYA jointly organized a protest rally at
Gangavati against the attack on women in a Mangalore pub. The 200-
strong rally of youth demanded a ban on SRS, booking Pramod Muthalik
and other culprits under Goonda’s Act, and resignation of Home
Minister VS Acharya and Chief Minister Yeddyurappa. They held that the
government is diverting the real issue of women’s freedom and secular
democracy and fanning feudal culture through communal fascist outfits
by invoking the bogey of ‘pub culture’. The BJP government is actually
promoting such outfits will links with terrorist organisations like
the ‘Abhinav Bharat’, and others alleged to have links with the
Malegaon blasts. At the culmination of the rally the young rallyists
burnt the effigy of Pramod Muthalik. The rally was led by Comrade J
Bharadwaj, State President of AIALA and the dharna was presided over
by Rafeeq, RYA convener.

Dr Lakshminarayana, State Convener of Indian Institute of Marxist
Studies (IIMS) and V Shankar, CCM, addressed the gathering.

AIPWA joined the protest rally on 30 January at Mysore, jointly
organized by various women’s and progressive organizations, including
PUCL and Samata Vedike. Comrade Rati Rao, National Vice-President of
AIPWA, Dr Lakshminarayana, State General Secretary of PUCL and Meera
Nayak of Samata Vedike addressed the gathering at Mysore apart from
many leaders representing various other organizations. Comrade
Gandhimathi, NCM joined the protest rally at Bangalore on the same
day. Comrade Rati Rao participated in the protest rally at Mangalore
also on 31 January 2009.

AISA and AIPWA Defy the Morality Police

To challenge the Sangh Parivar's Valentine's Day threats, hundreds of
students of Delhi University, together with teachers from DU and JNU,
writers and literary figures, including Rajendra Yadav (editor, Hans),
Arundhati Roy (writer) and Rameshwar Rai (Reader, Hindu College)
gathered at the DU Arts Faculty to celebrate 'Love in our Times.' The
event was organized by AISA and AIPWA. The event was preceded by an
intensive two-week-long campaign amongst DU students.

Students and teachers from DU read out passages on the theme of
freedom of expression, women's rights, from Periyar, Engels, Canadian
writer Margaret Atwood, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Habib Jalib, and gay and
lesbian writings to an enthusiastic audience. One student read out a
poem by Akka Mahadevi – woman poet-saint of Karnataka several
centuries ago, whom the BJP wanted to ban from the textbooks. One
teacher read out a poem on the suicide of the Mangalore schoolgirl and
one on the nude protest of the Manipuri women after the army jawans
raped Thangjam Manorama. The area outside the Arts Faculty was
decorated with poetry-posters. One poster asked, "Daughters killed for
'honour', Rizwanur Rehman, Nitish Katara – why does love in caste
society carry the price of death?"

Rameshwar Rai, Reader, Hindu, spoke about love as a form of rebellion.
Ridiculing the Sangh plan to force couples to choose between rakhi and
sindur, he said that love, friendship, relationships were a personal
matter and no one should be allowed to impose their own views on
others in such matters.

Rajendra Yadav, editor, Hans, said that we in India cannot face the
future if we burden ourselves with the weight of the past 'culture.'
The Sangh Parivar and BJP in the name of 'Indian culture,' are
imposing a patriarchal norm, he said, and seeking to suppress women's
freedom. He said their opposition to 'western culture' is hypocritical
– and it is impossible to separate 'Indian' culture from 'Western'

Arundhati Roy read out the passage from 'The God of Small Things' –
which speak of breaking the "Love Laws" which lay down "who could be
loved, and how, and how much." She said that we are indeed in the
midst of 'love wars' – on the one hand, she said, we love freedom, and
democracy and they love repression, they love celebrating rapes of
Muslim women in Gujarat. She said that for her, 'love and azaadi
(freedom) were inextricably linked, and she spoke of the linkages
between the struggle against the Sangh Parivar and other people's
struggles against displacement and democracy. She said that for all
those gathered there, 'Valentine's Day' as such had no meaning; it
meant nothing but 'Styrofoam hearts'. But what was important was to
challenge and celebrate, daily, the struggle for freedom and
democracy. It was because the Sangh Parivar was attacking Valentine's
Day that this day has been chosen for this celebration.

On Valentine’s Day itself, AISA and AIPWA held a march in and around
the DU North Campus. Cultural teams of Sangwari and Awaam comprising
of Jamia Millia Islamia students sang creative and defiant songs
celebrating the "right to live and love in freedom" and performed
street plays on this theme. The students marched to various colleges
in the DU campus and also to the Kamla Nagar market area where, in the
past, the Sangh Parivar has indulged in vandalism on Valentine's Day.
In the crowded Kamla Nagar market they raised slogans, "Love is not a
crime, so why fear the Sanghi terrorists?"


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March 08 Post by Beena Sarwal, Karachi :" South Asians, Arabs and their Diasporic Peoples are Elizabethans Still."

Posted by
Venu K.M

"South Asians and Arabs and their diasporic peoples are Elizabethan still. In their world, children are parental possessions, marriages arranged, personal autonomy frowned upon. Strong women like Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing or Katherine the shrew must be tamed. Countless Juliets are bullied, beaten, even killed if they refuse to be despatched to a chosen bridegroom."


Women are speaking out all over the country, attempting to exercise their rights to personal autonomy

by Beena Sarwar

Another March 8, another 'women’s day'. Time to focus again on the injustices that half the world's population faces because of being born female. This day also provides a benchmark to look back and celebrate how far women have come. But all this is not just about women. What women suffer, and what women achieve, has to be looked at in the socio-political context in which they -- we -- live.

Gender injustices are as much about class and power struggles, about economic policies that continue to increase the gap between rich and poor, about inherent racism and prejudices. Among the marginalised sections of society, women are further marginalised. Where there are class and economic inequities, it is women who suffer the most. And when there are wars and violent conflicts -- initiated, it must be said, almost exclusively by men -- it is women who bear the brunt. Of the over 31 million people displaced by violent conflicts around the world, most are women and children.

Often, women's bodies are the battleground over which men satisfy their lust for revenge and to bring 'the enemy' down. This is not just the case during full-scale wars and violent conflicts. It is also the norm in patriarchal societies where rape for revenge is common, when a woman is targeted in order to teach the men of her family a lesson. Mukhtiar Mai in Meerwala village near Multan is only one example of paying the price for a supposed transgression by her brother.

In actual fact, the men who assaulted her had first sexually assaulted her younger brother Shakoor, about 14 years old in 2002 when the incident took place. When it appeared that he would not remain quiet about the assault, his assailants sought to protect themselves by accusing him of having an affair with their sister.

The politics of caste and class figure prominently in this saga as they tend to do in other such cases. Mukhtiar Mai's family belongs to the lowest social rungs in the village. Their opponents, who belong to a 'higher' social class, convened a village council to settle the matter and said that they would 'do to Shakoor's sister' what he had allegedly done to their's. Those present tried to convince them otherwise. According to Abdur Razzaq, the village maulvi, whom I talked to in 2006 while making a documentary on the issue, "We said that would be wrong. Instead, one of them should marry Mukhtiar (a divorcee) and Shakoor should marry their sister". This kind of watta-satta arrangement is common in the area.

When they insisted they would dishonour Mukhtiar, he says, he left along with other villagers. Some stayed back at the site of the meeting, across the field from Mukhtiar's house. The men appeared to agree that Mukhtiar should come to them and ask pardon for this 'crime'. When her uncle escorted her out of her parents' home for this purpose, the young men, who were armed, seized her and dragged her into a room in front of all those present. No one dared step in.

Rape itself was and remains common. As Maulvi Razzak said, "It happens. Two or three bad boys will sneak into someone's house and commit an excess ('ziadati', as most people commonly refer to rape). But this was really bad."

What he meant was that while rape was commonplace, the way that it happened with Mukhtiar could not be countenanced. He said that he heard about the incident a few days later. That Friday, he spoke against it in his sermon. A local journalist who was present took up the matter. Their intervention kept Mukhtiar from committing suicide as she says she felt driven to do. Instead, she registered a report with the nearest police station, at the next village. It is also a sign of the changing times that other villagers supported Mukhtiar, enabling her to remain in the village, which doesn't happen usually after such a public disgrace.

Remember Nawabpur in the early 1980s, the first such case to come to media attention, where a carpenter was accused (like Mukhtiar's brother) of dallying with a woman from a higher-caste family. The men of that family beat him so severely that he died. They stripped the women and paraded them in the streets -- made them 'dance naked' as news reports put it. The family subsequently left the village, unable to bear the shame. Many similar cases have taken place.

A major difference in Mukhtiar's case is that the opposing family did not kill her brother when they accused him. Secondly, she received enough local support to be able to survive in her own home (the government also provided her with 24-hour protection, even building a police station across the street from her house). Thirdly, she had the innate courage and wisdom to focus not on herself, but on others. In the process, she has polished herself, gained self-confidence, learnt to read and write (at her own school), and gained an international profile.

It began when she used the 'compensation' cheque provided by the government to buy land on which to build a school -- the first in the village. Inspired by her courage and also driven by their own need to earn income, young women from nearby villages come and teach there. One teacher, Parveen, told me that she used to walk an hour from Waduwalla village where she lives to Meerwala and back, until Mukhtiar Mai bought an ambulance van that that doubles as a school bus, picking up and dropping students and teachers.

"I realised that those who supported me were the educated people," said Mukhtiar, explaining why she felt education was so important. "Before this, women had no other options but to work in the fields."

Yet, despite all the international and national support and sympathy Mukhtiar has generated, her rapists have still not been punished, nearly seven years later.

Her story reflects the changes taking place in our society as well as all that remains stagnant within it. On the one hand, there is an increasing refusal to accept injustice. Unable to countenance this defiance, those perpetuating the injustice respond with greater brutality – for which they are now well armed, thanks to the great Afghan 'jehad' of the 1980s that introduced an influx of arms and ammunition into Pakistani society.

Women are speaking out all over the country, attempting to exercise their rights to personal autonomy -- education, choice of life partner, employment. Those who acquiesce to their family's wishes at the expense of their own aspirations fade quietly into the sunset. Those who refuse now make media headlines not for their acts of defiance, but when their families respond with violence. For all those embroiled in such high-profile dramas, many others get away with it -- their families reluctantly accept their choices or 'merely' ostracise them. This does not make the news.

In most cases, the more civilised responses either come from those too poor to have an 'honour' front to keep up or the better educated. The British columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, whose family migrated from India to Uganda where she was born, relates how her father never spoke to her again because she defied his wishes to act (Juliet) in an English play while in school, back in 1965.

Writing about the relevance of Shakespeare to people of various backgrounds around the world she comments, "South Asians and Arabs and their diasporic peoples are Elizabethan still. In their world, children are parental possessions, marriages arranged, personal autonomy frowned upon. Strong women like Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing or Katherine the shrew must be tamed. Countless Juliets are bullied, beaten, even killed if they refuse to be despatched to a chosen bridegroom."

Today, more and more Juliets are speaking up, not only in Pakistan but around the world. Somehow, somewhere, this will make a difference. It gives cause for hope even as we despair about those who continue to insist on dragging us back into the Middle Ages.

The writer is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Karachi beena.sarwar@gmail.com

Monday, March 9, 2009


{Part of Discussion on an original Post on March 08 ,2009 by me in a web discussion forum }
Contemporary dilemma of modernity/westernization/universalization
vis a vis third worldly crisis of identity is so beautifully
illustrated in Orhan Pamuk's Snow. How the modernist ambitions of
the sixties in Turkey under Kemal Pasha ended up in grave political
and social crises after two generations of ruthless secularizing
project is the theme of the novel. Snow appears as a motif everywhere
in this wonderful novel, symbolizing suspicion,terror, insecurity,
instability in the minds of people. New generation of Radical
Islamists pledge to end old secularists' slavish adherence to western
norms on the one side, and contemporary ways of the state machinery
in suppressing faith by employing the crudest and treacherous methods
of army, intelligence and and police, on the other. Anything
associated with the West is asked to be seen as malice and ruthlessly
revolted upon. In the novel, Contemporary Turkey is represented not
only as the geographical fault line in this Euro- Asian conflict,
but also is chronologically mapped as the site of disillusionment of a
whole new generation with the pursuit of modernity. Pamuk rather than
being able to take sides, speaks out his dilemma through the
protagonist Ka, a Western educated young poet and journalist who
revisits Istambul in late 90s after years of stay in a European city.
My point here in the discussion, is just making a reference to
Pamuk's experience of engaging with this dichotomy as a creative
writer and particularly point to his implicit suggestion that he is
at a time, both an insider and outsider of both these worlds.This is
also suggestive of how genuinely creative people like to encounter
these dilemmas just as they are existing and without being prejudiced
by the ways people perceive the reality of their existence the
contemporary world everywhere. Posted by
Venu K.M

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Few Questions to Women's Rights Defenders of Kerala On March 08,2009

Well, we may do well to ask the organizations, or the personalities
presiding the pennkodathi these questions:
Do they really like to see women of Kerala ever having autonomy over
their bodies ?
Even while we find chapters of peedanam unending here in Kerala, are
we confident enough to be able in any near future, to stop seeing
women of Kerala just as victims of 'peedanam'?
When will we able to find them as active individuals/ collectivities
fighting , challenging the male regime of gender and sexuality on the
one hand, and demanding progressive reforms in education about sex and
reproduction on the other?
When will we/ they be able to take on this essentially anti-woman,
protectionist attitude that promotes kind of
single handed discourse on peedanam, wherein, active agency is denied
to women on every count?
When will be able to dispense with the need of outfits like "Stree
Suraksha Samithis" ,which virtually edifies the dictum of Manu (Women
should always be protected, and they never deserve to be free)
Flip side of the institution of peedanam is family, the burial ground
of every right of women to full citizenship.
These die hard defenders of culture seem to suggest that culture is something that should essentially,unilaterally and permanently control women through imposed dress codes,prescribed body languages and demarcated boundaries of space and time crossing which, they might spoil everything.How the Lakhshmanarekha in the Hindu epic symbolizes this equation of
restriction =protection is too well known to be elaborated here.

Why blame SriRam Senes for acts (albeit a little outrageous and violent) in teaching women of their status, if one is going to argue that protection is so conditional and dependent on curtailing the civic freedoms of women ?

It is high time that we openly defied Culture, Morals and Traditions
at least to the extent that they openly take sides with an agenda of
perpetuating patriarchy in all walks of life, be it physical labour,
reproduction, sexuality or the organization of family.


What is the connection between March 08 and Sartre?
I don't know and perhaps anybody else knows either.
Nevertheless, each March 08 reminds me of Sartre.
My memories from having read very few texts by him/about him
suddenly bring forth this statement made by him to an interviewer
why he was often seen more attracted to women, rather than men:
Just because they look less comic than most of the men I meet!

Greetings of the day,

March 08 and Kerala Concerns of Sthreepeedanam

At least to a section of opinion makers here in Kerala,
Agolavalkaranam (Globalization) in the context of women's rights, just means massive onslaught
on this beloved country's great Culture!
Like women daring to visit pubs, daring to defy the dress codes,
daring to shatter the values of family and bringing shame to the
country and the countryMen, so on and so forth.
While Muthaliks and Modys are there in Karnataka and Gujrat at large
to fight these evils, who will fight here?
Going by the press reports, we find the local police to the leftist-
rightist women/youth/students organizations to the neighborhood
fraternity vigilance volunteers arrayed in the great task of defending
culture. Part of the task of (people) getting opinionated against w
omen's assertions, is of course left to the Fourth Estate together
with the Samskarika Nayakans and Nayikas of Kerala through rhetoric s
and imagery of globalization destroying Culture.... especially by
w omen shedding their sense of guilt and shame, daring to express
their sexuality in first person, unmindful of the Culture and
We find in one report after other ,youths being rounded up by the
police for no cognizable crime.
An item appeared in Malayala Manorama daily on the other day. It was a
report under a sensational caption, about an incident at Kollam
railway station. Lacking in many details,esp of the legality of the
police/railway court's action, the report would mean that two people
of different sex, unconnected either through marriage or through
blood relation, sitting together and talking is an act punishable with
instant arrest and fine!
Well, one is tempted to ask a few questions to these self-styled defenders of culture:
Do they really like to see women of Kerala ever having autonomy over
their bodies ?
Even while we find chapters of peedanam (atrocities) unending here in Kerala, are
we confident enough to be able in any near future, to stop seeing
women of Kerala just as victims of 'peedanam' (perpetration of atrocities)?
When will we able to find them as active individuals/ collectivity
fighting , challenging the male regime of gender and sexuality on the
one hand, and demanding progressive reforms in education about sex and
reproduction on the other?
When will we/ they be able to take on this essentially anti-woman,
protectionist attitude that promotes kind of
single handed discourse on peedanam, wherein, active agency is denied
to women on every count?
When will be able to dispense with the need of outfits like "Stree
Suraksha Samithis" ,which virtually edifies the dictum of Manu (Women
should always be protected, and they never deserve to be free)
Flip side of the institution of peedanam is family, the burial ground
of every right of women to full citizenship.
It is high time that we openly defied Culture, Morals and Traditions
at least to the extent they openly take sides with an agenda of
perpetuating patriarchy in all walks of life, be it physical labour,
reproduction, sexuality or the organization of family.

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always want to defend peace, justice, peoples' right to love each other and live with dignity,struggles against parochial visions and hatred;instinctively a defender of socialist and democratic values  

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