On moral policing

Some people are trying to organise creative protests against moral policing on Valentine’s Day. You may want to join them.

These public moral policing attempts, such as those we see on 14 February every year or the recent events in Mangalore, use the media to amplify their small-time vandalism and street violence to ‘national debate’. One man’s lunacy in a Mangalore becomes a billion people’s most urgent problem. The TV cameras, hungry beasts of visuals as they are, walk into the trap knowingly, voyeuristically broadcasting a crime they could have prevented by informing the police. But that’s not going to happen unless somebody bans Television Rating Points, and so the best way to counter V-Day Vandals is to feed the TV Beast with counter-visuals of pro-St. Valentine’s Day “protests”. Be creative folks – the more gimmicky and ludicrous you are the more airtime you’ll get!

There are others, then, who want an Indian Kamasutra Day on 1 March. The more the merrier.

While we are at it, it might be a good idea to ask if these good people would similarly run online campaigns for other causes – like violence against Dalits for instance? This is not to nit-pick but to point out that the issue of ‘moral policing’ needs some thinking beyond mere ‘rights’:

…there is something going on which demands a more thoughtful engagement with class-based moral divides than we have seen so far… it might be worth pondering over why it is the “liberated” woman’s body that ends up bearing the burden of festering class resentments in post-globalisation India. While defending our freedoms as women and as citizens to the bitter end, I suggest we start paying attention to the undercurrents of class that inflect so many of our urban interactions — interactions otherwise framed in terms of tradition, morality and especially, gender. [Trisha Gupta]

39 thoughts on “On moral policing”

  1. Moral policing comes in many forms. Here’s Shashi Tharoor, whom the UN escaped by the skin of its teeth, but Kerala may not, for apparently he’s thinking of contesting elections on a Congress ticket from that hapless state. Tharoor is aghast (at great length) that Indian women no longer wear the sari.
    Yamini Ayyagiri’s sharp response to his blatant and shameless sexism gladdened my heart.

  2. seeing the massive (overwhelming and contagious) media fuelled reactions of the chattering classes of India against the cultural activism of the misguided louts (unbearable i say) of the Ram Sene(inspired from other senas from around the country) leads one to believe that this country has been divided down the middle between the HMT’s(hindi medium types) and the chattering classes. The march towards modernity has taken off with the pub culture and talk of (ahem) gay rights and a new openness in society. Yeah baby you have truly arrived.

  3. Subash, take a look at the young couples being attacked on Valentine’s Day in small towns and cities in different parts of India – very “Hindi medium” indeed. (Or “Kannada medium” or “Gujarati medium”). As for people who are not heterosexual – you need to be wilfully blind to think they are all from the “chattering classes.” I’m not surprised, of course, for it’s very common for uncomfortable and challenging politics, whether feminism, or gay rights or even marxism at one time, to be dismissed with “it’s western” or “what about the slums” or what about the “HMT”s by people who dont give a damn about either poverty or Hindi the rest of the time, and wallow routinely in Western culture themselves (show me a middle class man in a dhoti in a public space – and I don’t count designer FabIndia wear!)
    Decrying the Ram Sene as “misguided louts” when you hold such views is simply opportunistic – it seems to me that the Sene is the visible strong arm of a society that would ideally prefer training in “traditional values” to happen inside the four wall of the home, so that on the outside, it looks “natural”.
    The Pink Chaddi campaign’s proud flaunting of adjectives like “Forward and Loose” as banners of revolt are meant to convey precisely their (mine too!) contempt for patriarchal hypocrisy and our rejection of those values. As the campaign has made very clear, their protest and statements are about protecting constitutional rights to the use of public spaces.
    And these public spaces include pubs. So deal with it.

  4. Not to belittle the merit of opposition in a climate where the ‘misguided louts’ have taken their bigotry to the point of taking kaanoon in their haath, I must point out the subtle interchangeability of binaries a la Pink+ Chaddi +Pub= Personal/sexual/political Freedom at work here.

    When we read history written the nationalist way today, loaded with all our cultural capital, we sort of sneer at the binaries generated by the swadeshi gurus that spoke the language of cleansing our ‘authenticity’ of the tarninshing ‘backward’ elements to create a healthy and pure tradition (minus sati and whatever). Looks to me that similar arguments are being pushed by Pink Panty- that repression of the Sena variety is particularly despicable because of its ‘vernacular’ packaging, hence its opposition must lie in posing a complete antithesis in freedom of the ‘global’ free variety.

    On public space, this is probably an appropriate climate to ask the question are spaces not battlegrounds for specific publics? A pub that privileges a certain level of income is definitely exclusive, just as a galli that is the arena of practice of the ‘behnchod’ variety of masculinity.

  5. I’m not sure what you are getting at Atreyee, but if I understand you correctly, you argue a) that the Pink Chaddi campaign equates pubs/pink chaddis with personal and sexual freedoms (your free use of the term ‘binaries’ in this context quite frankly, befuddles me). Just think a little bit about symbols and their power in political protest before you do such a quick and simplifying reading.
    I think the campaign has made it quite clear that the protest is about the violent policing of public spaces and the gendered nature of this violence, and they have selected a symbol that is most likely to offend Mutalik.
    b) that pubs are exclusive class-marked spaces as are “gallis” (you mean street here?)
    Yes of course, but unlike many who defended the Taj Hotel as a fuzzy-wuzzy democratic space, this campaign does not to me seem to imply this in any way. After all, the Ram Sene was not agitating for transformation of pubs into truly democratic spaces, nor did it want to stop both men and women from drinking in pubs. If the Taj tomorrow prohibits women from entering its “iconic” portal, regardless of the fact that I have never gone there and may not ever do so, I would certainly join in protesting at its sexist and unconstitutional policy.
    (Just as, despite my staunch anti-militarism, I decry the exclusion of women from the armed forces, and the sexist arguments made in its defence.)
    As for the kind of challenge (you dont exactly do this, but others do) that says would these people protest at violence against Dalits, or anti-poor policies – it’s rather presumptuous to assume full knowledge about all the thousands of people who participate in a protest of this sort. What do they do when they are not sending pink chaddis? Many of them are actually journalists and students and social activists who do in fact take it for granted that they have a responsibility to participate in political transformation in various ways. And it is because they do, that taking the Sene quietly was not an option.
    By the way, the campaign is quite appreciative of the pink saris they have been sent by Muthalik: “We greatly appreciate this and hope he continues to choose similar, non-violent methods to get his point across, just as we have chosen to be non-violent and loving in response to the brutality of the attacks on lovers and women in Mangalore and other parts of Karnataka…We will gladly wear them.”
    I can see them now – those lovely loose and forward women in hipster pink saris, raising a toast to the Sene in every pub in Karnataka!

  6. Mmmm…. as usual I believe I got tied up in knots trying to weave an argument without saying the ‘for’ or ‘against’ words. Let me take another shot at it.

    Many of the Pink women are my buddies and I am all for an exercise of the feminist voice, in the face of the upsurge of the Muthalik kind of voices that push a certain view of womanhood and terms of membership of public spaces. They do so using a lot of their musclepower. Let me clarify right at the outset that I am not making the hackneyed ‘they are urbane hip woman, what do they know’ argument at all. I have no issues with a creatin voice emerging from wherever it is situated, which speaks for itself. In fact, super-inclusiveness (of the Gandhian variety) of activism sometimes appears patronising to me. Very simply, I am getting at the choice of the symbol of the Pink Chaddi and the symbolic battles it initiates and transacts that no one seems to be talking about.

    Before asking what is the campaign about, I wanna ask what the Sene is about. Other than their rhetoric about ‘loose’ women, I see their anxiety lying in the increasing force of these cultural symbols that they see on television, billboards, in shopping malls. Which they find exclusionary. Which they find defiling, invasive and belittling their ‘authentic’ masculinity.

    The PCC reacts to this violence on women on the terms of their ‘loose’ness, by resorting an activist drama of ‘mockery’ (which has been known to be an effective tool against state/oppressor) by soliciting the attention of the Sene using the radically dramatic (shock-evoking) image of the Pink Panty. So now the battle of the binaries begin:

    Sena-man versus Pinkpanty-woman,
    Sena-repression versus Pinkpanty- freedom
    Sena- archaic ‘vernacular’ patriarchy versus Pinkpanty- global/modern/hip feminism

    Pink panties and the connection with Victoria’s secret version of the patriarchy are difficult to avoid, I’d say. But somehow, we seem to find it to easy to vent feminist frustration at the ‘vernacular’ patriarchs who sneer at our pantylines, and the galli machismo that titters at our breasts, because painting them as all of the above ‘demons’ appeals to our cultural imaginaries to easily.

    I am surprised that the binaries emerging out of the use of the Pink Chaddi and the resultant euphoria in the Facebook world has not caught your attention. Especially, in light of the long political genealogy that ‘underwear’ carries on it.

    You can find more of my rant here:

  7. @ subhash
    valentine day did start out as urban, metropolitan and youth oriented in india but that itself cannot become a ground to dismiss as unimportant the meanings it held for those who took to it. more importantly, for that lot it has actually become passe. the day means a great deal for precisely the kind of people u are talking about. and much of the reason the muthaliks and ‘misguided lotuses’ are so worked up about the day and public display of affection and pubs is because it is not confined to a small ‘elitist’, ‘urban’, ‘western’ section. thats what makes them so damn dangerous for the right wingers.

  8. @Atreyee
    Oh, THAT binary, the old old one that feminists in India have battled with forever – mainstream articulate women versus marginalized masculinities, whether marginalized through class or caste or community (witness the Uniform Civil Code debate for example, and the great auto debate here on kafila, that ended, unsurprisingly, without resolution.) For any Indian feminist, this must always be an implied horizon, without of course, leading to the abandonment of feminism.
    The Blanknoise Project is definitely problematic in this sense, because it isolates a particular elite woman experience of the public space as “feminist”, and it came in for criticism on the auto debate.
    I agree with you that this tension needs to be recognized, but its continuous invocation cannot be permitted to delegitimize and paralyse feminist politics. Most of us who term ourselves feminist are not into sneering at “vernacular patriarchies”, and that kind of quick generalization in an effort to display consciousness of class is self-defeating.

  9. unfortunately it is the same “emancipated” women whoi were out there in the streets as YFE to prevent Dalits/Adivasis/OBCs entering “elite” exclusivist eductional institutions where the whole merit has been reserved for the “upper” castes based on their caste merit.
    is there any difference between these pub-going emacnipted caste Hindu women and the Hindu terrorists like sriram senas/RSS/Bajrangdal/sivsena ??
    both are the vanara senas to the core

  10. Are you sure, Ranju Radha, that they are the same? Do you know them? And are you sure that dalit bahujan women don’t go to pubs and like to sip milk or tea always, even when they can afford it? After all there are many who can afford going to pubs, no? And where did you get your data that the ‘same’ ’emancipated’ women who go to pubs go to YFE demonstrations? All of them? If nobody has told you this, let me say it at some risk. Your sole reliance on heavy rhetoric detracts even from the valid points that you may have in your argument. People like you are enough to drive anybody away from being a supporter of the Dalit or dalit bahujan cause.

  11. yabasta

    do u believe that i am here to garner support for Dalit cause? and do u belive that i expect any support from these caste hindu women?

    data is always with YOU
    and it s YOU who always hide it from US

    and i repeat: I cant find any difference btn sri ramsena and the “emancipated” pub going women who also participate in anti-reservation protests… both are products of the same ideology.

    did i say that Dalit women never go to pubs? but have u seen them rallying against the democratisation of public sphere? ever?

    but u can see “upper” cast women in such feudal speheres. and they do it with the same attitude. why?

    have u seen Dalit women uttering the nonsense such as “we dont want jobless husbands”. (remember the Burkha dutt era of anti-reservation drama)

    there s srirama sena in these caste hindu” spheres yabasta… and this srirama sena is created out of the same ideological sphere from which emerges these women and throng to laugh at the sufferings of Dalit/Adivasi/OBC lifeworld.
    why d Dalits support their pink cchaddi campaigns? no need
    bz it s the same people who laughed when our ancestors were tortred
    they will continue to laugh when our granschildren get tortured
    why d WE support them for preserving their elit spheres?

  12. Oh no, here we go again. Dialogue busted, conversation stopped.
    Ranju Radha, one small empirical correction to your confidently repeated claim that ALL the women of the pink chaddi campaign are also anti-reservation – including myself I can think of fifteen women I personally know (whom I can think of off-hand while writing this comment) who are firmly pro-reservation who also strongly support the pink chaddi campaign. I can also think of four Dalit women who drink alcohol in pubs. I dont know exactly who were among the thousands in the PC campaign, and chances are there would be at least several hundreds who do support reservations, and attacked the anti-feminist and casteist slogan “we dont want unemployed husbands”.
    But dont let these trivia bother you – after all, it’s the easy road to radicalism to polarize rather than to recognize and build solidarities. If Dalit v the rest is the sum total of your politics, nothing I say can be anything other than casteist, so basically, I’m out of this thread.

  13. I totally agree with ranju radha…….this debate on pink chaddis vs ram sena is false. Both are the same…….When dalits intellectuals like Rajnu say this, the TB feel uncomfortable. The TBs control all the data that is used to question the dalits. For dalit intellectuals like Dr chandraban prasad and politicians like Mayawati ram sena and pink chaddi supporters are non issue…it power that matters and until dalits come to power by hook or crook indian society will always be opressive.

  14. The Pink Chaddi campaign, as Nivedita has pointed out more than once, had women from a variety of different backgrounds participating in it. Several of us are acutely aware of our context of privilege but why should that equal to denying ourselves any agency which is what ultimately some arguments seem to be boiling down to. Just look for example, at this criticism: http://www.dailypioneer.com/155693/Liberty-is-not-libertinism.html

    I happen to be pro-reservation, of indeterminate caste, sari wearing, an activist lawyer, sometimes pub going, sometimes drinking woman and I refuse to slot myself into the various reductionist categories that all and sundry against the PC campaign seem to be finding for us.

    Awareness of context should not equal inaction. Neither should it entail derecognition of the fact of our complex political and personal hybrid identities. The attempts, from both the left and the right to discredit the participants by painting them as one dimensional elitist snobs unable to recognise cultural or political nuance and context is irritating and disheartening but not surprising.

    As for the pink chaddi as a problematic symbol-ANY symbol can be problematic, the point is how far can it be used as a symbol of transformation. I don’t think this is a Victoria’s Secret version of anything-there has been a categorical use of the word “chaddi” as opposed to “panty” because it is understood by everyone. Chaddi includes all kinds of underwear, not just the VS version. There is also an allusion to the “chaddiwallas” (long used as a reference to the right, in various “vernaculars” -I have heard this reference in Marathi many times). Of course, the pink chaddi symbolises humour, rudeness and irreverence without violence.

    I think the discomfort with the chaddi as a symbol has a lot to do with internalised prudery and misogyny as well-after all we’re not supposed to reveal something so intimate as our underwear. Here’s a good take on this aspect of the issue: http://uberdesi.com/blog/2009/02/11/chaddigate/#comment-35082

    Not every symbol is going to appeal to everyone, indeed there were those who sent roses and cards to the campaign instead and these were sent along to the Ram Sene as well.

  15. ranju radha,
    truly wonderful!

    “data is always with YOU
    and it s YOU who always hide it from US”

    Under the Official Secrets Act? So far as I know, despite caste Hindus and other assorted villains, there are superb Dalit researchers and research institutions. They GO and COLLECT data and don’t simply sit back and crib.

  16. Nivedita,

    I won’t dismiss an activist group so easily as problematic, maybe more so because I have been involved at various stages and happen to persons involved closely and understand some merits of their point of view. I believe discomforts within us-n-them battles like the one at hand, deserve to be expressed time and time again, not to dilute the merit of activism, but to caution against possible adoption of hegemonic hat by the activists of whatever hue. Especially, when they seem to create unchallenged images of correct and incorrect.

    The complete and unchallenged euphoria over the pink panty was surreal. It made my cynical nervous system go on fourth gear. I suppose I will continue to be the self-appointed party-pooper.

    And transaction of symbols to create an impression of vanquisher and vanquished are not so much about urbane women sneering at kannada-speaking men actually, but the kind of feminist discourses (popular ones i might add) are churned up in the process, that are predictably FB-friendly, and make for fun conquests for pub clientele.

    (Again, lest I should be painted anti-pub or anti-feminist, let me add the disclaimer that I trying the critique the popular notions of correct and just, as is my wont, doesnt mean i wont buy pink panties or hang out at pubs:))

  17. Uttara,

    I don’t know if my response to Nivedita above helps you in any way. I am not dismissing action as fruitless because it is elite, if you read my second comment carefully, you will note how I steer clear of that sort of critique in para 2.

    On the political genealogy of feminist politics and ‘underwear’, let me bring your attention to the various currents of third wave feminism (mostly written about in the west) that have embraced the mainstream categories of ‘sexy’ to use it to construct their sexual identities with confidence and brusqueness. May I also point out the earlier feminist hullabaloo over underwear – over bra-burning and decoding the brassiere as a patriarchal tool?

    So the posturing of the Pink Pantie here, is t bring confident, in-your-face feminism into the faces of insecure Sene masculinity. I only want to poke the unchallenged notion that the metaphor of the Pink Panty, is, in fact, representative of feminist confidence. I have my doubts, as I have stated above, that it carries with it stamps of wider currents global, consumer patriarchies that we don’t react so violently against (while doing so against the Sene) simply because they are normalised in the lives of urbane, hip women (much like me).

  18. yabasta

    YOU are the nation
    YOU are the state
    YOU have datas
    YOU run research institutes
    where you proudly practice academic untouchability
    YOU decide what is true research
    YOU award PhDs and fellowships
    YOU edit journals
    YOU run media houses
    YOU experiment with truth
    YOU means the SATYAM

    WE the wretched
    We the lesser humans

    We have no country
    We have no nation
    We have no merit
    we have no data

    Our stolen Datas
    patented by YOU
    must by kept safe in your research reports and policy documents
    And YOU reproduce it as history
    and in your own terms

    We are people without history
    We dont need history
    we dont need datas

    When we came with data
    YOU called us “empirical shudras”
    YOU the theoretical TB
    Listen we dont need your data

    our history can be writen without data
    our history…

  19. to nivedita

    pls read it. i never said ALL the women.
    this is what i wrote and stand by;

    “and i repeat: I cant find any difference btn sri ramsena and the “emancipated” pub going women who also participate in anti-reservation protests… both are products of the same ideology.”

    should one dictate terms about conversation? what u think as converation need not be the same for me

    conversations need not always be in mono tones. let us bring different and differng voices

    NB: I can also add to your list of Dalit/Adivasi/OBC women who drink. Is it a great invention? of course not for me. may be it s so for yabasta

  20. see
    Dalits have been there to support all movemnts from marxism, feminism to to protect OBC reservation…

    but at the end of the day, when it comes to the issues of Dalits, none of these great wo/men will be seen there. Correct me if i am wrong. \
    apart from patronising preachings what else can they give?
    so i think it s really important at this moment to remind the pub-going “emancipted” women that even while givng moral support to the campaign protesting against hindu terror unleashed by RSS/Sriram sena/Bajrang Dal/Sivsena, one should not forgt that -we r ready to carry pink cchaddis in support, but will u do it for us or not? will u ever?

    hearing the rhetoric of support for long ..
    will it materialise? ever?? no expectations. but a reminder should be there na?
    take it as a warning or a friendly dialogue.
    after all does it matter?

  21. this is incredible. does this mean that dalit women who go to pubs but ‘do not rally against democratisation of the public sphere’ will never defend their right to go to pubs because they can never ever ally themselves with the the upper caste women who go to pubs, rally agaisnt reservation and also invariably take the lead in organising protest against attack on their democratic rights. by this logic the dalit woman has no agency either among women or among dalits. not really emancipation, is this?

    its also incredible how the whole debate focuses on pubs. women drinking in public spaces turns out more uncomfortable than even the ram sene has made out. the target of ram sene, and right wing and joined in by chief ministers and other ‘representatives’ of the people is ‘pub culture’. This ‘culture’ for them is women (not men) drinking alcohol in general but in public spaces, dancing, men and women meeting outside of caste/community frameworks, holding hands, kissing, and celebration of valentine’s day. u mean dalit women (and men) have no stake in opposing infringement on all this?

  22. Dear Ranju Radha, having given us a long list of things you dont need, can I suggest just one thing you seem to sorely need? YOU need to take a good hard long look in the mirror. Because the complete lack of self-reflexivity you are displaying in this rant above is truly breathtaking. Who are you to speak on behalf of anyone I would like to know, when you deny everyone else besides yourself any right or space to define what their speaking positions might be. Not only will you decide what positions everyone else speaks from, but you will also define the limits, horizons, boundaries and possibilities that their utterances encompass.

    Others on this thread have already pointed out the absurdity of your us-them, pink chaddi-dalit, elite-subaltern binaries so I will not rehash them. Needless to say I am of the large tribe of chaddi-wearing, pub-going, reservation-supporting women who clearly, in your view, have no business expressing any solidarity with anyone, so we’ll let that pass.

    Let me state it baldly thus: no one owes you anything. And surely, being such a politically articulate person, you will know that no politics of any variety, and certainly not the OBC or dalit movement, has ever succeeded through a rhetoric of inclusion by guilt. You are absolutely right to say that many of the women who support the pink chaddi campaign possibly have never given any thought to any ‘politics of protest’ much less the dalit movement. Perhaps this is the first ‘political’ action some of them have ever participated in. And of course they might be impelled entirely by a desire to protect a lifestyle that hits close to home. But this in no way encompasses everyone who has supported the campaign, and there are also seasoned activists from the women’s movement for whom this is an extension of a larger progressive political agenda. People ally for all sorts of reasons, many of whom may disagree on other issues. Isn’t that how politics is done? I am amazed that this simple material understanding of how actual politics takes place is something you cannot comprehend because you are so caught up in trying to be the authentic oppressed subject of history.

    best as always

  23. I read this post and the comment thread with great interest. But I was wondering…it strikes me that much of what is worth discussing here is precisely concerned with the symbolism, the mechanisms, the ‘binaries’ that Nivedita and Atreyee have been tossing back and worth.

    The Ram Sene through their actions spoke on many levels, with only one – the violence – being universally condemned. But moving on from that clearly despicable aspect of their politics, its worth asking what the violence speaks for? When Nivedita talks about them being the visible strong arm for a sympathetic (majority?) she’s probably stumbled on something but its not a simple object.

    ‘Training within four walls’ – thats what we call the instilling of *any* cultural norms, whatever they may, thats the process. We’ve all been trained withing 4 walls, perhaps in different ways, so really you’d need to ask what kinds of training are being attacked here?

    I’m (I think) a fairly enlightened/modern/non-sena-esque Indian male (pick your adjective or call me a new one) but I don’t think the choice of icon in the Pink Chaddi campaign is without meaning. In fact the symbolism is all important because it affects how people react to it – is it cool?/facebook post worthy?/lets tell our foreign friends/too loud/patronizing/silly in its conflating of many different ideas in one cliche?

    So do tell won’t you? What does the symbol mean to you? Would you have picked it? Can we understand what the silent traditionalists who Nivedita claims share an empathy with the Sene actually stand for? If you want my opinion, I think the Pink Chaddi is a beautifully chosen symbol to guarantee media coverage. As a tactical choice, great. As a representation of an ideological position though it carries a lot of baggage – not necessarily wrong but certainly only one of many points of view.

    I do acknowledge that the problem of course with having this discussion is the timing. Don’t talk to me of the merits of property rights when my house has just been robbed. Pity the Indian media doesnt seem to see things that way.

  24. Anant, your condescension is stunning:

    “When Nivedita talks about them being the visible strong arm for a sympathetic (majority?) she’s probably stumbled on something but its not a simple object”

    That complicated “object” is not something I stumbled on accidentally in the dark, but an idea that is constitutive of my feminist and New Left practice and scholarship.
    As for “training within four walls” – EVERY kind of training is up for critique, and yes, every subjectivity is a subjectivation. As Foucault said “One has to recognize the indefiniteness of the struggle.”

  25. Dear Ranju Radha,
    Just a few points for your consideration:
    1. You cite Gopal Guru (’empirical shudras’, theoretical TB etc) which actually brings us to the heart of the matter. Guru has a biting critique of twice born civil society, to be sure, but is one of the foremost Dalit intellectuals in the foremost leading academic institution in the country. His scholarship is not limited to accusing the twice born of monopolizing data, but is concrete theorizing of issues arising out of contemporary politics.
    2. A whole range of intellectuals from Dr Ambedkar himself, to SK Thorat or Anand Teltumbde (and one could name many others) actually have produced the most learned writings with ‘data’ that they have accessed from freely available sources – libraries, censuses, government surveys and materials collected by individual researchers in their field work. It is therefore facile to suggest that ‘data’ is kept in the safes of Hindu upper castes.
    3. All the above Dalit intellectuals and scholars I have mentioned do not seem to think, unlike you, that “our history can be written without data”. I personally am not a great one for ‘data’ as in statistics but surely none of the leading scholars in the country believes that Dalit histories can be written without reference to any material.
    4. Finally, just one observation. By now we have seen on this very blog how any attempt to raise feminist issues or issues of freedom in the public domain are relentlessly made into anti-feminist tirades in the name of caste. Ram Sene and feminists, according to you, are two sides of the same coin. Despite your contempt for ‘data’, may I suggest that such positions taken in the name of the oppressed are not rare in history. Indeed the great popular appeal of fascism has always derived from the fact that it has always been a platform for the ‘revolt of the small man’ (to borrow Wilhelm Reich’s term). The politics of deep resentment is the ideal cannon fodder of fascist movements. Simply by speaking in the name of the oppressed you do not gain a high moral ground. For that you must do what intellectuals and scholars from Ambedkar’s time onwards have done.

  26. dear o dear,


    that mirror is out there. i m also requesting those “emancipated selves” to look in the same mirror. (thanks to remind me the same)

    it is interesting to see all the “responsible responses”. I appreciate all ur concern. as nivedita said, originated from ur ontological subjectivities. and u have every right to voice for ur rights. did i say anything against it? thence who is creating binaries? who is simplifyin?
    the cultural realm is filled with binaries. we live and breath in binary though it exist as conflated web of identities. can any one escape it? so let us address it, not evade the question like the secularists used to avoid the question of caste.

    issue is simple as well as complex.
    when i say, Dalits have been voting for congress for long and they should stop it bz congrss plays Gandhian treachery all the time, one yabasta will come and blast me asking for data (how many dalit for the last 60 years voted for congress? of which how many are alive and how many dead? how many male/female/gay/lesbian?
    as if these people wont shit unless smelling empirical evidence!!)
    and another nivedita will come and preach how to “behave”.
    this discomfort of your kind and that f my kind will continue.. there wont be any end to it. (indefinite in Foucauldian terms)
    but at the end of the day Dalits will stop voting Congress. they know what to do. neither you nor am i need to tell them what to do.
    so no one can “talk on behalf”, neither me nor you.

    but arti will u ask Arjun Kamble also to see mirror, when he says ;
    “We were busy smelling the flowers of paradise;
    They came and they buried our feet in the ground;
    They stole the scent of flowers
    and built mansions.”

    then arti u r missing a very important point. u need not a mirror. perhaps a magnifying lens may hepl you.
    yes whether Foucault said or not the struggle will continue indefnitely..

  27. aditya nigam,

    1) On data
    see i know how difficult is to dig any data regarding the marginalised from any of those sacred places u mentioned. Some data will be always missing, as u must be knowng. the politics behind the visiblity and invisibilty of data also can form an EPW article. so from the theoretical works of Guru to the empirical works of Sathsh deshpande and thorat, for a Dalit, data is alwys missing.

    the problm of empirical inquiry could be seen here in yabasta, nivedita, arti, and even in u.
    when i say Dalits u jump empirically onto it. that is why nivedita says i can count 15 and some may count 25. so what? the problm with data is this. the issue remains. bz the issue never begins and ends with empirical data.

    2) on history
    when history is orally reproduced not textually archived, the writing of history need not happn in traditional way. moreover, some communities alwyas remain outside history. they reject history and not want to be historically registered. that is another possiblity of living. are u not aware?

    3) when Ambedkar said “we have no motherland” and “I wont die a Hindu”
    was he not looking at the mirror? what was the data he s looking at?

    skeptics aprt, Dalits understood the political core of Ambedkar’s claim.
    Do we?

    4) femnist v/s caste

    when u wrote that dalit ciritique of modernity is embdded as “absent presence” in the whole body of Dalit writings, cant u see the same critique agaisnt “upper” caste feminsm in it?

    5) if u cannot see the same Brahminical hindutva ideology operating in sriram sena and those ’emancipated’ women who throng at IITs/IIMs/AIIMS to proudly state their discomfort in democratising higher education, what more can i say. i am just pointng it out.
    even if they are feminists, i wil oppose them.

    6) pub as public sphere
    the public/private divide itself cannot be homogenously defined. as public for some may be private 4 someone else and cannot be an easily differentiated realm. one needs to talk only from one;s subjective locations. access to pub like claiming streets is revolution for some; but what abt those who r already there and wants to escape it. for them revolution means escaping from those streets. so, when u r out there to preach me, like arti and nivedita, first go back to the lessons, and correct the basics. sorry to say this.

    7) last but not least, a mirror should be there with evry one. and should not forget to look at it daily. (NB: I have already borrowed one more mirror for safety .. haha)

  28. Nivedita –

    I’m glad you quote Foucault, its wonderful how he always seems to apply :)

    Now I wasn’t being condescending when I used the word ‘stumbling’ – perhaps I was merely projecting the serendipity of my own discoveries onto the text of your comment.

    My admittedly halting thought was that perhaps insufficient attention is being paid here to precisely why this empathy exists and conversely what a Pink Chaddi stands for and symbolises an opposition to. After all to critique a protest or to accuse the silent majority (beyond a universally agreed upon condemnation of violence) requires the addition of greater context and meaning to these symbols and frames of scholarship.

    Absent that, don’t you agree we risk falling into a kind of empty rage clad in jargon, the sort of thing an Indian Roger Scruton might fall upon with delight as an example of knee jerk New Left anti-establishmentarism (forgive the word)

    To be clear, I completely agree with the universal condemnation of the Ram Sena’s actions here – but I think you’re brushing over the task of understanding the actors involved, especially the ones who are silent. I remember getting an email from a friend recently asking about the Pink Chaddi campaign, wondering what it meant exactly before participating because it was the only protest she knew of against the Ram Sena. The Pink Chaddi on a Hindu religious symbol as part of a campaign started by a section of young urban India is not something lacking semiotic content!

    To the extent that we are discussing a protest, rather than participating in one on this blog it might be useful to remember that Foucault also said

    ‘Everyone has their own way of changing, or, what amounts to the same thing, of perceiving that everything changes. In this matter, nothing is more arrogant than trying to dictate to others. My way of no longer being the same is, by definition, the most unique part of what I am . Yet God knows there are ideological traffic police around, and we can hear their whistles blast: go left, go right, here, later, get moving, not now… The insistence on identity and the injunction to make a break both, and in the same way, feel like abuses.’ (trans.mod.)

    Michel Foucault, (2000) [1979] ‘For an ethic of discomfort’. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Power The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume Three. New York: New Press, p. 444.

  29. I think we;ve been there, done that; or is it only me who has a sense of deja vu with these comments?

    Firstly, the point I was making by quoting Trisha Gupta’s article was not so much class against gender but class with gender. I suggest the article be read and critiqued on its own terms rather than going on and on about each other’s positions. The original context is just lost.

    Ranju Radha, you write:


    unfortunately it is the same “emancipated” women whoi were out there in the streets as YFE to prevent Dalits/Adivasis/OBCs entering “elite” exclusivist eductional institutions where the whole merit has been reserved for the “upper” castes based on their caste merit.

    So? Just because some Emancipated Women are against reservations, you will not support them in a progressive campaign against Hindutva vigilate groups? What kind of narrow thinking are you coming from? This is the kind of mindset, this despicable crab mentality, that prevents building alliances. With such an approach you end up being a sole defendant of your position, because you disagree with everyone on everything and agree only with yourself on anything.

    Also, the words, “it is the same ’emancipated’ women…” do suggest that you meant to say that all the women in the pink chaddi campaign are against reservations.

    You write:

    Dalits have been there to support all movemnts from marxism, feminism to to protect OBC reservation…

    but at the end of the day, when it comes to the issues of Dalits, none of these great wo/men will be seen there. Correct me if i am wrong. \
    apart from patronising preachings what else can they give?

    On the contrary non-Dalits who are interested in the Dalit movement are treated with suspicion and never accepted as equals just because they are non-Dalits. This reverse ideological discrimination on the lines of caste is regrettable to say the least. So first you will not accept me, if I dare to utter my individual opinion you will call it ‘patronising preachings’, and when I give up, you will accuse me of not joining you. Heads you win, Tails I lose. Is there a way out of this?

  30. shivam vij

    why should i support an ideology that produce these two? I oppose both who are there to prevent the democratisation of pub/educatioanl sphere. Got my point.

    and abt a non-Dalit’s interest in Dalit Movement..
    it s like a male partirch wanting to be a feminist. at the end of the day, he can be seen dictating terms for feminism.. (may be there r so many male feminists.. i dont know..havnet seen)

    so for a patriarchl male, it s better to be in dialogue with feminism. ..wait before u start NGOsing …. similar is the case with you and dalit movemnt.

    ever looked at the mirror (ask arti for one if u dont have) self reflexively to understand why they look at u with suspicion. just reflect on you and then u will understand WHY?

    head or tale, you will always win the game babooo.. bz this is your world
    jai ho!

  31. Dear Ranju Radha,
    I have pondered a lot over the question, and I suppose that amounts to looking at the mirror. I suggest you to now buy a mirror as well, a sufficiently large one so that despite your narrow vision you are able to see how nauseating your masochist rants are.

  32. shiv vij

    after reading u, i m really nausuating
    i need medicine not mirror now
    and mirror s der
    i can aslo lend some extra mirror
    if u want
    probably i can offer u a magnifying lens as V-day gift. u can share it with ur friends as well


  33. Can all the male feminists here please raise your hands so ranju can see you?

  34. Dear Aarti
    The crux of the matter is that that only women can speak on behalf of feminist, dalits on behalf of dalits, kashmiris on behalf of kashmiris, naxalites on behalf of naxalites and so on…the twice born who claim to understand the pain of minorities are making false claims and trying to promote self or their NGOs. And also those who say there is class or caste divisions amongst dalits, women and other minorities are agents of state power, TB, Malaria and small pox. We should be careful of them because they also have data process and technology on HIV which can be used against minorities.

  35. just want to share with u all what one of my sisters wrote in this regard. i m here to receive all these “brahminical” rants bz of the strenght she gave me. can u all academic intellectuals give an answer to her?

    excerpt from her mail;

    “Its very difficult for me to differentiate between upper caste girls protest against Dalit/OBC reservation in higher education and Ramsena’s attack on pub going girls.
    Both the incidents are about preventing certain categories from entering
    into certain places which they believe are reserved for particular categories”

    pls raise ur hands if got the guts to answer her..

  36. Dear Ranju Radha, since you took the liberty last week of telling me what I might be knowingly or unknowingly believing in – I hope you will not mind me repaying in kind.

    I think, knowingly or unkowingly you believe in and aspire to a pure dalit self. To the best of my knowledge only a particular sect of brahmins has been preocupied with that sort of quest for ‘the ultimate brahman’ for a thousand years now. Of course, a sect of communists also joined them in the last 60 years – seeking the ‘pure working class consciousness’. That you should be engaged in the same quest in the name of the dalit, is testimony to the success of those ideologies.

    On a different note, i just counted one large size and 13 regular size mirrors; one magnifying glass and the promise of extra mirrors of unspecified size in this thread. Unless my namesake objects, I propose that this thread be closed and a mirror gifting campaign be launched forthwith. Male feminists should be eligible only for pocket mirrors.

  37. Dear All,

    I am now closing comments on this post because the conversation is simply re-traversing tired old terrain that we have covered ad nauseum on this forum. In the event that anyone has something particulalry illuminating to say on the subject of valentines day, caste, chaddis, pink, women, feminism, hindu fundamentalism and public space, there are several other ongoing discussions on which relevant points can be raised.


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