An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram

 

We, the undersigned, wish to express our dismay and deep concern about the recent violent events at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, which seem to indicate that the rights of college students, especially women students, are seriously compromised in this venerable institution. As women researchers, academics and teachers of Malayali origin, we are deeply disappointed by the responses of the police, the concerned college authorities, and the teachers there. Continue reading “An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram”

An Open Letter to the Teachers and Parents of the Students of University College, Thiruvananthapuram

I am writing to express my deep dismay at the recent incidents at the University College, and more importantly, at your near-total inexcusable and cowardly passivity that not only permitted the culture of violence to grow in this institution, but also allowed the situation to be such that the aggrieved young people continue to be ostracized and threatened by fellow-students. It escapes my reason why responsible authorities at University College cannot recognize a few basic facts about higher education in post-independence democratic India : (1) the fact that all students, irrespective of caste, class, gender, and other such considerations, have equal rights of access and equal mobility inside the campus, and of course, an equal right to justice, (2) that violence by any section of students against other students is not permissible and must invite prompt action by authorities, (3) that any section of students subjected to violence have full rights to complain and obtain redressal, (4) that the dignity of women students is protected by law and the institution is bound to take action against erring parties following the process laid down by the law. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Teachers and Parents of the Students of University College, Thiruvananthapuram”

Longing for the World: A Memoir of Two Days at the Kochi Biennale

[Disclaimer: I am not an art critic, artist, or travelled in the world of art. This is just a memoir]

(I)

Fort Kochi, 9 Feb. 2017

Though I had already been to the biennale in January and had a roaring time, something kept urging me to go there again. That something, I believe, is my insatiable imagination – which has always had a life of its own as long as I can remember, needs to be fed all the time, and actually drives me crazy. But maybe I should be thankful: if I survive this loveless existence that is my life, it is because my imagination has always spirited me away even from the midst of the worst emotional violence and uproar. Social theorists who use trickster figures or such characters as Daedalus who give power the slip, or manipulate it to their own ends, are probably saying the same thing.

The only ‘Moral Science’ lesson I remember from school was from the fourth standard, about the invisible guardian angel who supposedly protected us from evil. What intrigued me was the suggestion that each of us had a special angel-companion of our own who was ever-present though invisible – quite a lovely idea to a lonely child who found it hard to blend and settle into her playmates’ world. For me that was the unseen power which transformed a boring class into a musical concert by playing music inside my head; wove words and images into tales there; scared me sometimes, but equally let me exorcise the fear; and led me to all sorts of nooks and corners in the house and the yard and showed me all sorts of things, almost a world that I, but no one else, could see.

I pulled myself out of the world of research that employed, that did not satisfy, my imagination, and went again to the biennale. Two golden days! No words exist to reveal how my heart sang at the prospect. And besides, I was going to stay with dear, beloved friends, people who lived steeped in imagination – unlike me, whose current existence involved the use of the imagination (though it can never be mastered fully for sure) in a self-conscious way. My friends who run a little homestay near Fort Kochi reach out to others with extraordinary warmth mainly because, I think, their world is so incredibly diverse – populated by not just all sorts of diverse human beings, (rich, poor, high, low, of different faiths and castes, related by marriage, friendship, acquaintance, country-cousinship, common humanity, vague feelings of familiarity and so on), but also by spirits, saints, gods, all of who are felt and reached. Continue reading “Longing for the World: A Memoir of Two Days at the Kochi Biennale”

CPM in Kerala = Caste-Gender Elitism Minus Cow

This is my Malayalam opinion piece for iemalayalam, on something despite the outcry against the CPM in the mess around Kerala Law Academy.  The public discussion has been, not unexpectedly, on the line of Kerala’s well-entrenched scandal journalism, which has a history of a hundred years, at least. This is a form of journalism that highlights the sexual lives – proper or improper – of powerful male politicians which accompanies the attack on their public failings directly or indirectly- a very highly successful tactic, hitherto, to undermine even the seemingly unassailable. When women began to figure in this kind of journalism as something more than just passive sexual objects, as active agents of corruption and manipulation – most markedly, in the controversy over the businesswoman Sarita Nair – scandal journalism worked by highlighting the huge contrast between their ‘feminine-respectable’ names, sartorial styles, behaviour, and so on, and the despicable manipulations they indulged in. This is the case also with much media discussion of the principal of the Kerala Law Academy, Lekshmi Nair.

However, this tactic is not only misogynist, it also lets the elite-femininity that she represents escape critique. This is a very contemporary form of respectable femininity that presents itself as essentially domestic, but wields delegated masculine power to vicious ends, and it is almost all-pervasive in disciplinary institutions in Kerala now. Not surprisingly perhaps, the CPM’s mishandling of the issue has not just shown how poorly committed the party is to women’s rights, but also how soft it is on this elite-feminine power.

The full essay, in Malayalam:

https://www.iemalayalam.com/opinion/cpm-j-devika-law-academy-lekshmi-nair-gender-caste-women/

 

Taming the Brat? Thoughts on the Kerala Law Academy Imbroglio

 

Reports of exploitation, humiliation, violence, and rampant nepotism are still flowing out of the private-sector law college popularly known as the Law Academy, in Thiruvananthapuram twenty whole days after the commencement of the students’ struggle there. At the centre of the controversy is the principal, Lekshmi Nair, who seems to have ‘inherited’ that position in the institution owned by her family: clearly, the students are determined to teach her a good lesson. Rarely have we seen all student organizations, from the far-right to the far-left, rally against one person with equal determination; but from the complaints of students – subsequently confirmed by the University of Kerala to which this college is affiliated – it appears that there is no reason to be surprised.

But the irony of  utter lawlessness and blatantly feudal despotism perpetuated in an institution devoted to legal education  in a democratic nation itself seems lost, for the authorities’ commonsense about liberal education in Kerala has been that it should be neither liberal nor education nor anything to do even remotely with the practice of democracy. I have been saying this over and over again, and really, feel utterly breathless at this. Continue reading “Taming the Brat? Thoughts on the Kerala Law Academy Imbroglio”

Maternity Entitlements were Legal Rights 3 years ago, not a New Year Gift: Statement of the Right to Food Campaign

 

On New Year’s Eve, the Prime Minister in his much-anticipated speech amongst other commitments made a vague announcement of a “nation-wide” scheme for maternity entitlements for pregnant women.

But the PM has not spelled out any specifics – neither the timeframe;budget nor its universal coverage as obligated in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) since2013. Clause 4B of the law already promises all pregnant and lactating women maternity entitlements of atleastRs 6000 for each child. But for three years, the central government didn’t honour this legal obligation. Though better late than never, re-packaging this legal right as the PM’s New Year gift is disingenuous.

Further media reports, from December indicate that the Finance Ministry may hike the budget by a mere 20 percent (instead of the sevenfold increase necessary for universalisation) and that too restrict the benefit to only women Below the Poverty Line (BPL). This would be in complete violation of the NFSA.

But there seems to bearecurring trend to subvert the law. For the last three years, this government continued with the pilot Indira Gandhi MatritvaSahyogYojana (IGMSY) in just 53 districts of the country despite repeated demands by civil society activists and women from across the country. This year, Right to Food Campaign activists from across India even sent postcards to the PM to remind him of the state’s obligation.

In September 2015, even the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre on the non-implementation of maternity entitlements under the NFSA.

While the government did initially enhance the IGMSY allocations from Rs 4000 to Rs. 6000 to be in tune with the NFSA, neither the coverage nor the budget was enhanced which languishes at Rs. 400 crores. Instead to ensure that all eligible women are covered as per the NFSA, Rs 16,000 crores is necessary. A real test of the Prime Minister’s announcement will be in the fine print of the allocations in next month’s budget.

A Dog Writes to a Minister: Dear A K Balan …

 

Dear Mr A K Balan

I am writing to you because I feel that it is my duty to disabuse you of the ideas you seem to harbour of, and in the name of, Indian nationalism (and not just bark at the portentous approach of the peddlers of ‘nationalism’, the Hindutvavaadis). You are a Minister in the CPM-led government of Kerala, which was elected by  Malayali citizens to ward off the monstrous Hindtuva-Nazi-Predatory Capitalist combine that has taken over India nearly, and so my barking should have been enough. But you seem to be totally wrapped up in your ignorance. Continue reading “A Dog Writes to a Minister: Dear A K Balan …”