Against the Yawning Jaws of Hell: Protest Against Hate on 23 April

After the Modi government came to power, citizens of this country have seen gate after gate of Hell — the Narakas — open relentlessly to suck them in mercilessly or condemn them to be helpless spectators to unspeakable acts of injustice and violence. We have by now crossed the Arbudanaraka and the Nirarbudanaraka many times; the ordeal of having to watch evil unfold in the attacks on people in the name of what they eat, how they love, what they speak, who they pray to, which caste they were born into, what gender was assigned to them at birth — the list is growing day by day. We seem to be reduced to waiting endlessly at the doorsteps of police stations, courts, morgues, nearly overpowered by the stench of power and majoritarian hubris, fighting to stay conscious, waiting for the dead, broken, defiled, or dismembered bodies of our kin, our friends, neighbours, people. For instance, can one ever forget how we stood in sheer anxiety outside the Supreme Court, truly like souls awaiting judgment at the gates of Vaikuntam, reduced to droplets of pure worry? Those of us who fought for Hadiya’s rights can hardly forget.

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ज़ुबां पर आंबेडकर, दिल में मनु

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एससी/एसटी एक्ट को कमज़ोर करने के ख़िलाफ़ बुलाए गए भारत बंद का दृश्य. (फोटो: पीटीआई)

 

2 अप्रैल का ऐतिहासिक भारत बंद लंबे समय तक याद किया जाएगा. जब बिना किसी बड़ी पार्टी के आह्वान के लाखों लाख दलित एवं वंचित भारत की सड़कों पर उतरें और उन्होंने अपने संघर्ष एवं अपने जज्बे से एक नई नजीर कायम की.

आजादी के सत्तर सालों में यह पहला मौका था कि किसी अदालती आदेश ने ऐसी व्यापक प्रतिक्रिया को जन्म दिया था. ध्यान रहे कि इस आंदोलन के दौरान हिंसा हुई और चंद निरपराधों की जानें गईं, उसे कहीं से भी उचित नहीं कहा जा सकता!

मगर क्या इसी वजह से व्यापक जनाक्रोश की इस अभिव्यक्ति ने उजागर किए सवालों की अहमियत कम हो जाती है? निश्चित ही नहीं!

वैसे इन तथ्यों की पड़ताल करना भी समीचीन होगा कि (जैसा कि कई स्वतंत्र विश्लेषणों में स्पष्ट किया गया है) कई स्थानों पर इस हिंसा के पीछे दक्षिणपंथी संगठनों एवं उनके कारिंदों का हाथ था, जो दलित उभार को कुचलना चाहते थे तथा साथ ही साथ उसे बदनाम करना चाहते थे. ( Click here for the full article :http://thewirehindi.com/39182/sc-st-act-dalit-agitation-narendra-modi-government/)

 

[Statement] In solidarity with students and faculty at JNU

The following statement has been signed by students and faculty from universities across the world. You may sign on by adding your name in the comments section.

In solidarity with the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU

We, the undersigned students and faculty members in art history, cinema studies, and other concerned academic departments across the world, are writing in protest against the recent removal of Prof. Kavita Singh from her position as Dean of the School of Arts and Aesthetics (SAA) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. This represents a serious attack on academic freedom, a blatant disregard for due process, and a worrying precedent being set by the University’s Vice Chancellor to silence and repress reasoned, principled dissent and disagreement. As students and  scholars who have learned a great deal from Prof. Singh’s scholarship and benefited from the cutting-edge research fostered at SAA, we stand in solidarity with its students and faculty as they strike to protect the school’s autonomy from the brazenly undemocratic acts being carried out by the current Vice Chancellor.

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Breastfeeling, not Breastfeeding

The raging controversy over the cover of a breastfeeding woman looking up with no shame about her exposed breast has, quite expectedly, sent conservative fools in Kerala into a raving frenzy. The case against the model and the conservative breast-beating going on now must be dismissed summarily as useless bullshit.
However, I must say that I had very mixed feelings about the cover and the defense offered for it by many. For many arguing in its defense seem to be saying that all one needs is gratefulness for the effort to open up the issue and the space gained, and all else raised isn’t really worth the trouble. Even this intelligent piece in the Ladies Finger slides into such complacency.

If you ask me, this cover is not of a woman breastfeeding, but of one who is declaring her determination to be comfortable while breastfeeding, thereby reinforcing her commitment to breastfeed her baby. I think this difference is important. Breastfeeding is a very intimate act; it is highly physical. If the mother and child are well, happy, and don’t have issues that may make this feel like a chore or hard to do, then it is very highly pleasurable too. As a woman who has breastfed continuously for 9 years with just a short break of a few months during my second pregnancy, I can say this: breastfeeding is also ‘breastfeeling’, so your attention is on the act, and you really don’t want to focus on anything else, especially irritating stares. It is as pleasurable as lovemaking. Many years later (my daughters are 25 and 20 this year), when I remember the act, my nipples rise, tingling. Breastfeeding was also play time, when the little one played with her mum’s breast with her tiny fingers feeling and squeezing it; and my younger one was especially playful, twisting her tiny body in sheer pleasure, and sometimes, remaining still and then naughtily sinking her little tooth into the nipple, rolling her eyes up to check the reaction from her mum! So when we traveled, I always carried a big, opaque duppatta with which I made a ‘tent’ over our heads that covered us completely. We would be sitting in a corner seat in the train, and having fun, she sitting on my lap (and later the tent would be big enough for the three of us, myself, my six-year-old, and one-year-old, the former listening to a story, and the latter happily suckling). We would sing, tickle, do what not. Demanding the freedom to breastfeed without being too bothered about modesty and in public without anyone staring, for me, then, is demanding the right to such intimate pleasure in public. In that sense, this should have been one of the afterlives of Kerala’s Kiss of Love protests.

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I don’t have the image of me breastfeeling happily, but here is the picture of my little one after one of our sessions. Does anyone doubt anymore, that it is indeed breastfeeling, not just breatfeeding. Here is she, looking ecstatic, the milk still in her little mouth!
However, the sartorial codes of the model make me feel very disconcerted. Sharanya Gopinathan, in the above piece, argues that Grihalakshmi caters to largely savarna women probably. But no, savarna women are not the demographic majority, and they are possibly not the dominant section in the magazine’s readership. But savarna culture is pervasive in Kerala, cutting across caste and faith, and the cover clearly panders to it. The model’s huge sindoor — mark you, wearing the sindoor is a very recent import from the north to Kerala, the demure-looking sari, and the girl-next-door look was probably calculated to make up for the exposure of the breast. So we have a young woman who announces through her sindoor that she is married — legally and customarily penetrated, to adopt a Foucaldian way with words — and modestly dressed, that she belongs to the elite, evident in her professionally-groomed looks, and also tells the world that she is determined to breastfeed no matter how much the lechs stare. Intended or not, it brings to the mind too readily the dream-girl of the Hindutva modernist vanguard: the educated woman, maybe even a corporate professional, with looks that fit that environment, who is determined to mother well and indeed stay close to her biological ‘essence’, and of course whose maternity has not been allowed to affect her slim body and maidenly-looking breasts. The idea, I think, was to say that such a woman can and should be brave enough to fend off irritating stares — but it backfired with the conservatives, apparently, who are not ready to concede any quarter. Breastfeed she must, remember her womanhood, she must, look pretty and stay slim she must — and demand no open breastfeeding.
When will we see the image of a woman you see in the bus stops every day in Kerala, harried, sweaty, with her budget-beauty parlour looks and less-than-chic sartorial choices sitting in a bus shelter perhaps and immersed in feeding her infant, her not-perfect breasts bulging out un-prettily, caring nothing at all for what the world thinks? She can of course be imagined as staring back defiantly, but the glow of pleasure is what should animate her being and fill her with courage. Normination to be a good biological woman and mother. Not the developmentalist commitment to produce healthy babies. What ultimately counts is the space of intimacy between a mother and her child, which is physical, which involves pleasure — and we need to demand that women should be able to create it everywhere.
And why on earth are we waiting for Grihalakshmi to lead? Thankfully, third wave feminism in Kerala is devoid of prudishness and values pleasure — and among our third gen we have a great many artists — poets, painters, photographers, of many genders! We should be able to assert that what is at stake is breastfeeling, not just breastfeeding. Let us reduce ourselves to neither those who sneak in a litany to biological motherhood through their seemingly radical cover, nor with those who want to see nothing but physical nourishment in breastfeeding.

ECR Devoid of Orange is Still a Deterring Passport: V J Varghese

This is a guest post by V J VARGHESE

The aborted move of giving the Emigration Check Required (ECR) passports a distinct look by orange-jacketing them was arguably driven by reasons of administrative expediency. Though unexplained officially, the aim was to ensure discreet and dedicated handling of the large number of ECR passport-holders emigrating from India for overseas work. Had the colour code been carried through, the orange passport holders would have been relegated practically to an inferior citizenship not just at overseas but also through the multiple stages of emigration at home and in transit. The ill-thought colour-bracketing would also have nearly stigmatized the most vulnerable section of Indian passport-holders through contravening ‘special’ treatment at multifarious levels. Continue reading “ECR Devoid of Orange is Still a Deterring Passport: V J Varghese”

Civil Disobedience under Democracy: The Case of Boycott of Centralised Compulsory Attendance in JNU: Tejal Khanna

Guest post by TEJAL KHANNA

It is often advised that civil disobedience in the form of breaking a law must not be practiced under a democracy. It is because democracy by giving the space for open discussion prevents a situation wherein people are compelled to think of civil disobedience. Moreover, if citizens develop faith in civil disobedience then that only undermines the rule of law. Such an act doesn’t strengthen democracy but rather helps in diminishing its ethos. People must be discouraged to break laws because in a democracy, it is they who elect their representatives through free and fair elections. These representatives then make laws to which open disobedience must not be practiced. Citizens can also vote for change of leadership in the subsequent election cycle, if they feel their representatives have been incompetent. However, while these provisions fulfil the conditions of a well functioning procedural democracy, what recourse do citizens have, when their representatives don’t act in the interest of the governed continuously but function in an autocratic manner? What if laws are made without following the spirit of democracy? Does that really result in making a substantive democracy?

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The Crisis in JNU – Calling out the Administration : Parnal Chirmuley

Guest Post by Parnal Chirmuley

This is the complete version of the edited text published as “Learning Without Regimentation: On Compulsory Attendance” published in The Hindu on February 19, 2018

It may, at first glance, seem odd that students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, are pouring out in the thousands in angry protest against the administration’s move to enforce compuslory attendance. A leading national daily even misrepresents the boycott of this move by students and faculty as a struggle for the ‘right to not attend classes’, suggesting that they are angry over a triviality, which it is not. It is yet another assault by the present University admnistration against proven academic practices that choose not to infantilise students, and rely more on active learning and participation than on mere physical presence. It has been one among other important practices that has set this university apart. The nuances, therefore, of the anger among the students and faculty of JNU need to be fleshed out.

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