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/)

 

On Not Having Sindh – Reflections on an Irredentist Anthem: Sajan Venniyoor

Guest Post by  SAJAN VENNIYOOR

Hoax claim that circulated for a while

(Image added by Kafila for no good reason)

Every once in a while, it dawns on an Indian citizen that, among the list of provinces of British India thoughtfully provided by Tagore in our national anthemSindh is an anomaly.

Sindh was a fairly significant part of the British Empire ever since it was absentmindedly conquered by General Napier in the 1840s. (He is believed to sent his superiors a brief message on the conquest, Peccavi, Latin for ‘I have sinned’, which is to say, Sindh. The man was an insufferable nerd).

However, the Partition of 1947 placed Sindh on the wrong side of the Indian border, and its continued presence in the national anthem does not sit well with some Indians. “Why Sindh?” they ask plaintively. “Why not Rajasthan or Jammu & Kashmir? What about the North East States? Isn’t it time we rewrote Jana Gana Mana to reflect our current political realities, etc?”

Passing lightly over the fact that replacing ‘Sindh’ with ‘the North East States and Sikkim’ would play hell with the scansion of the disputed line, there are apparently very good arguments for not tinkering with Jana Gana Mana as it has stood from 1911.  I have only the haziest notion of what these arguments are, but among other things, we are told it would “disregard its existence as a poem by Rabindranath Tagore and an associated ethic that you do not take other people’s poetry and make changes to them.” Continue reading “On Not Having Sindh – Reflections on an Irredentist Anthem: Sajan Venniyoor”

In the wake of the AUD report

This post is not a statement from the Kafila collective, but my individual response to the news about the Ambedkar University report having found Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment. This response will also address some of the comments that were posted on the Kafila statement posted yesterday.

We learnt from media reports that a duly constituted committee of AUD has found Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment. We did not know about this earlier, as some characteristically self-righteous and ill informed twitterati assume we did. Those whose social concern and activism is limited to busy fingertips obviously have no idea about the processes that have been carefully put in place in sexual harassment policies in universities, which protect confidentiality primarily to protect the complainant. So the first we heard of the leaked AUD report was from the media. Lawrence’s own statement was then issued that says that he plans to appeal this decision. This statement too we saw in the media.

From enquiry to report to appealing the decision (which can be done by complainant or accused) – these are all established stages of due process that feminists have worked for decades to establish, from the Vishakha judgement of 1997 onwards. That judgement itself was a result of feminist intervention. I do not understand ‘due process’ as a technicality alone, nor do feminists in general who have worked with women and men complainants on this complicated issue, especially in a context of power in academic contexts. Continue reading “In the wake of the AUD report”

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.

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?

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

Exposing the mirage of ‘Modicare’: Jan Swasthya Abhiyan

Statement by JAN SWASTHYA ABHIYAN

The Union Budget 2018-19 makes tall claims, with no clear road map for the health sector, one that is sensitive to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable population of India.

The allocations for Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) (including for AYUSH) have increased from Budget Estimate of Rs. 50,281 crore in 2017-18 Rs. 56,226 crore in 2018-19.

However, from 2017-18 (Revised Estimate) the increase is much lower, a mere Rs. 1374 crore, or just about 2.5 percent. This is a decline in real terms if we account for inflation, and Union Budget allocations for the health sector have stagnated at 0.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The 2017 target of National Health Policy (NHP) is 2.5 percent of GDP as health expenditure by the Government (both Centre and States) by 2025. However, with central allocations stagnating at the current 0.3 percent of GDP, it would not be possible to achieve this target.

The ‘Modicare’ mirage

Continue reading “Exposing the mirage of ‘Modicare’: Jan Swasthya Abhiyan”

The Vice Chancellor of JNU has lost all moral authority: A dossier of misdeeds

SEE UPDATE AT END OF POST, ADDED ON FEBRUARY 20, 2018

Student poster displaying a clear understanding of Foucault and surveillance. Compulsory attendance is really not needed at JNU!

Let us begin with a basic fact. The diktat on compulsory attendance in JNU is only a symptom of the larger, continuing crisis created by the utterly dictatorial style of functioning of this Vice Chancellor.

Professor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar has, since his taking over in January 2016:

  • openly flouted every statute and regulation of the university
  • shut down admissions almost entirely for the 2017 academic year
  • violated the law of the land, that is, constitutional provision for reservations
  • failed to implement JNU’s Deprivation Point system that attempts to bring about representation for students from a diversity of class, regional and caste backgrounds
  • shut down the country’s oldest functioning Committee on Sexual Harassment (GSCASH)
  • brazenly cooked up and manipulated Minutes of meeting after meeting of the Academic Council and
  • treated faculty and students of JNU as his enemies to be defeated by the naked use of authoritarian power.

Continue reading “The Vice Chancellor of JNU has lost all moral authority: A dossier of misdeeds”