All posts by Nivedita Menon

The Politics of Piety in Naya Pakistan: Afiya Zia

Guest Post by AFIYA ZIA

A year ago, Pakistan’s national elections brought in a new government led by the Pakistan Tehreeq e Insaf (PTI) and headed by the former-cricketer-turned politician, Imran Khan. Khan had been drifting in the political wilderness for 22 years, waiting for providence to appoint him Prime Minister. As the 2018 elections loomed, this was not looking possible. However, a series of legal cases of corruption started being levelled against the serving PM, Nawaz Sharif, and efforts were made to atrophy others from the major parties of the PML-N and PPP (who had signed the ‘charter of democracy’ to prevent military intervention in civilian governance). The methods of these moves made it clear that the ‘establishment’ was betting on a new horse. Khan was not taking any risks though.

Six months before the national election, he entered marriage for the third time (with no less controversy than his previous marriages) to Bushra Maneka who was also his spiritual guide or pirni. A mother and a grandmother, there was speculation that Bushra divorced her husband for the higher cause of marrying the PM-in-waiting. In the days prior to the summer election, Khan performed Umrah in Mecca with Bushra, and was seen prostrating at a shrine in Pakistan and accessorised with rosaries and amulets in preparation for the polls.

Continue reading The Politics of Piety in Naya Pakistan: Afiya Zia

Why I Celebrate the Wedding of Nusrat Jahan: Zakia Soman

Guest post by ZAKIA SOMAN 

The wedding of Nusrat Jahan the TMC MP to Nikhil Jain is refreshing news. It is heartening to see two young Indians from different faith backgrounds uniting and celebrating their marriage in the times of religious hate and division.

The mixing of politics and religion has led to a climate where marrying a person from another faith has become extremely difficult specially for young people. The case of Hadiya may have been highlighted in the media but it is certainly not the only instance where a couple had to undergo tremendous hardships for falling in love. The self-appointed guardians of religion who seem omnipresent in family, community, police, judiciary, government, media would walk great lengths to prevent inter-faith marriages from taking place. Continue reading Why I Celebrate the Wedding of Nusrat Jahan: Zakia Soman

Lok Sabha Elections 2019 – Calling the Election Commission to account: Statement by retired civil servants, veterans, academics and concerned citizens

Letter to the Election Commission of India written by 64 former civil servants, endorsed by 83 veterans, academics and other concerned citizens.

Shri Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Ashok Lavasa,  Election Commissioner, and Shri Sushil Chandra, Election Commissioner.

Election Commission of India.

Sirs,

Serious Irregularities in the Conduct of General Elections, 2019  

  • We are a group of former civil servants that takes up, from time to time, matters of exceptional national interest, seeking to remind our cherished democratic institutions of their responsibility to uphold the lofty ideals of the Constitution. We write to you today to draw your attention to the several very troubling and still unexplained issues pertaining to the conduct of the General Elections, 2019, by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • From time to time, the media has reported on various irregularities in the conduct of the 2019 General Elections. While we accept that not every media report is accurate or true, the ECI’s non-rebuttal of an untrue or inaccurate story leaves the public to draw its own conclusion: that the ECI has no valid explanation to offer. The mere dismissal of the allegations as baseless, without an explanation as to why they should be so considered, is unsatisfactory. As the custodian of the most precious commodity in a democracy – the people’s mandate – it is your duty to be transparent, and accountable to the Constitution and the people of India. Continue reading Lok Sabha Elections 2019 – Calling the Election Commission to account: Statement by retired civil servants, veterans, academics and concerned citizens

Draft New Education Policy 2019 through a Gender and Sexuality Lens

Recommendations on Draft New Education Policy (DNEP) by a collective of women’s groups, queer groups, NGOs, students, and academics working in the field of gender, sexuality and education.

We, a collective of women’s groups, queer groups, NGOs, students, and academics working in the field of gender, sexuality and education, across India strongly recommend and reiterate that for all the recommendations given here, the policy and thereafter, the Government of India and State Governments must ensure that there is a proactive strengthening of democracy within educational institutions. The right to expression, liberty, equality and diversity are rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. We welcome that the DNEP 2019 as it states that it will promote constitutional values in education. However, for the implementation of this objective, changes in the content of the curriculum will not suffice. Constitutional values must be protected in the processes and institutional structures of schools and higher education bodies.

We commend the policy for introducing the following provisions:

  1. DNEP 2019 addresses the issue of early childhood education, especially the timely recommendation of making Years 3 to 8 as a foundational stage. This becomes critical as early education and experiences are the most formative in a child’s life, and a holistic pre-school education continues well beyond traditional schooling years.
  2. It is the first policy to uphold the Honourable Supreme Court’s 2014 directives around transgender inclusion in education.
  3. The policy has taken cognizance of many children who continue to dropout at different levels, and the even more serious problem of enrolled children not attending school regularly.
  4. It seeks to strengthen departments/ centres of education at universities.

Having said this, the subsequent list of recommendations is laid down to strengthen the DNEP 2019 from the lens of gender and sexuality, especially for the most marginalised communities. We feel that gender and sexuality related rights could only be ensured if there is a larger enabling environment, in which diversity of thought and practices are respected. These, we feel, would be critical in developing a robust educational policy for the country, which would address the fundamental intersectionalities that individuals and communities face in their lives. Continue reading Draft New Education Policy 2019 through a Gender and Sexuality Lens

Standing up for those who stood with us – Statement of support for Lawyers Collective

We, the undersigned concerned citizens, are extremely perturbed at the increasing tendency of the Government, through its agencies, to use excessive power to curb the voice of the people, which is the very essence of democracy.

The work of Lawyer’s Collective in general and that of Indira Jaising and Anand Grover in particular, has contributed to changing the lives not just of individuals but of citizens of a democratic republic. They have not only represented the rights of individuals and communities such as slum dwellers, workers, trade unions, prisoners, SC/ST associations, Bhopal Gas tragedy victims, women, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities as lawyers, but have also contributed immensely to the discourse of human rights and state accountability as public intellectuals.

Continue reading Standing up for those who stood with us – Statement of support for Lawyers Collective

Draft New Education Policy 2019 – Mass Feedback Campaign: Better Universities

In support of the campaign launched by BETTER UNIVERSITIES.

The Government of India has finally unveiled the much-awaited draft of the National Educational Policy (NEP) 2019, and with that, has come a host of new issues to address and engage with.

To access a copy of the draft, please click here.

Here is the full point by point critique made of the Draft NEP by Better Universities, that anybody concerned about education in India should read very carefully.

At the end you will find the link that will take you the campaign for mass feedback on the NEP.

Response to the Draft National Education Policy 2019

Most significant point in my opinion:

What is even more damning is that the appointments to all statutory bodies in the higher education sector will have to be made by the RSA – and must, by default, await the nod of the Prime Minister. It is unambiguously stated that appointees to the NHERA, HEGC, NRF, NAAC and all other standard-setting bodies must report to the RSA and thus be beholden to the infirmities of political will and favour. Needless to say, this amounts to the NEP’s unashamed surrender to ruling party intervention and an effective imagining of higher education as subservient to political interests. Autonomy is shown the door, both structurally and ideologically – despite the Draft making a shrill pitch for it through the previous chapters.

Introduction

While the former HRD minister’s message (included in the Draft policy) congratulates the exercise as evolving “path breaking reforms” based on the “foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability”, the higher education sector is instead coming under greater political control and contributing to wider inequities with respect to institutional inputs and outcomes. Even the employment goals envisioned by the curricular reforms proposed in the Draft policy might produce greater job insecurities among students coming into higher education from across different social and economic backgrounds. Continue reading Draft New Education Policy 2019 – Mass Feedback Campaign: Better Universities

The politics of Hindutva and its erotic charge: Jaya Sharma

Guest post by JAYA SHARMA

In the post election bewilderment that continues to grip us, might it be that we are asking the wrong questions?

The questions are by now familiar. How can it be that a Pragya Thakur wins and an Atishi loses? How can it be that demonetization doesn’t translate into loss of votes? How can it be that the party under whom lynching of Dalits and Muslims becomes a norm gets re-elected? How can it be that hatred for the other wins over humanity?

In response, journalists, political scientists and writers have pointed out that our assumptions related to the significance of macro economic indicators, caste-based voting patterns, among other things, were faulty. But the questions still remain,  including the big one: why did facts and logic lose so dramatically?

Might it be that the bewilderment continues because there is a glaring blind spot in the way in which we understand politics? Might it be that facts and logic were never the only driving force? I will argue here that in order to understand the recent election results and the power of Hindu Nationalism more broadly, we need the lens of the psyche. The play of desire and the erotic is key to understanding politics and dipping into our own sex and love lives can help us see this.  ‘The personal is political’ mantra can come to the rescue in the bewilderment that we feel today.  In making this argument I will draw upon research that I have undertaken for a book that I am in the process of writing called Fantasy Frames: Sex, Love and Indian Politics, to be published later this year. Continue reading The politics of Hindutva and its erotic charge: Jaya Sharma