Category Archives: Feminism

लो मैं उठी: माया एंजलो/अनुवाद: निवेदिता मेनन

MAYA ANGELOU recites her iconic poem Still I Rise, followed by the translation into Hindustani by NIVEDITA MENON below.

 

चाहे लिख दो मेरी कहानी,

झूठी, विकृत, कडवी सी,

चाहे कुचल दो  मिट्टी में,

उड़ जाऊंगी, मैं धूल सी.

 

मेरी गुस्ताखी से हो नाराज़?

क्या इतना दुःख है दिल में?

मेरी चाल का यह गुरूर,

मानो तेल के कुँए बैठक में.

Continue reading लो मैं उठी: माया एंजलो/अनुवाद: निवेदिता मेनन

Gendering the Pandemic in the Prison: Pratiksha Baxi, Navsharan Singh

Excerpts from an article published in The India Forum. Link to whole article given below.

A powerful analysis of the injustice of the prison system in India (in which 70 percent of the incarcerated are under trial), the authors PRATIKSHA BAXI and NAVSHARAN KAUR make an argument for recognizing women, as well as gender and sexual minorities, as ‘custodial’ minorities.   

We argue that all women inmates may be defined “custodial” minorities. As per the 2020 statistics we collated, there are 68 persons incarcerated under the category “others”. No grave threat is posed to society by UTPs belonging to sexual and gender minorities that non-custodial alternatives cannot be found for them, while they wait for investigations and trials to be over. And alternatives to prison system need to be innovated for all convicted women, and gender and sexual minorities. There does not seem to be an attempt to recognise that their right to health and life is made far more precarious in a transphobic prison-medical complex. They must be counted and accounted for…

All women in prisons without distinction of charge, crime or sentence, whether pregnant, lactating, menstruating or menopausal, differently abled or ailing may be thought of as “custodial” minorities. Muslim women face terrible targeting and blame, as do Dalit women who face intolerable discrimination and bear the brunt of misuse of law against them. Similarly, Muslim and Dalit male undertrials are also subjected to sexualised forms of torture in police and judicial custody. And policies that exclude foreigners from interim bail position them as custodial minorities, who face institutionalised racism. However, the law has difficulty in “seeing” these prison inmates, especially undertrials, as custodial minorities.

Continue reading Gendering the Pandemic in the Prison: Pratiksha Baxi, Navsharan Singh

Farewell Kalpana Mehta – Remembering a Feminist Activist

The following is a statement Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression  on the passing away of leading feminist activist Kalpana Mehta. This English version was earlier published in Mainstream Weekly.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) deeply mourns the passing away of Kalpana Mehta in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The loss of a fellow traveller and a comrade at a time when we are going through a massive public health crisis and continuous clampdown on the right to dissent through arrests and detention is hard to bear. Kalpana has been with WSS ever since its inception in 2009.

Having done B. Tech in Aeronautical Engineering from IIT, Kanpur she had left for the US to pursue a degree in MBA. She came back to India in 1976, as it happened with many other fellow Indians who returned in those times, when the country was reeling under the clampdown of the National Emergency imposed by the Congress-led government in power at the centre. Within a few years in trade union work, she became part of a vibrant and powerful political current that brought to light women’s oppression and subordination in society and the need to organize as women, which was becoming well nigh impossible in the left and socialist movements of those years. Her life and politics have thus been shaped by the emergence of the autonomous women’s movement in the late 70s and early 80s. Kalpana was a co-founder of the autonomous feminist collective Saheli Women’s Resource Centre that was set up in 1981; she continued to remain at the forefront of the women’s movement ever since. Read the full statement here.

अलविदा कल्‍पना मेहता – एक श्रद्धांजलि

विमन अगेन्स्ट सेक्शूअल वायलेंस एंड स्टेट रिप्रेशन’ (WSS)

की कल्पना मेहता को श्रद्धांजलि

‘विमन अगेन्स्ट सेक्शूअल वायलेंस एंड स्टेट रिप्रेशन’ (WSS) कल्पना मेहता के उनके निवास इंदौर, मध्य प्रदेश में निधन पर गहरा शोक व्यक्त करता है. एक ऐसे समय में जब हम व्यापक पैमाने पर अभूतपूर्व सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य संकट से गुजर रहे हैं और जब सत्ता द्वारा असहमति के अधिकार को लगातार बेरहमी से कुचला जा रहा है, हमारे बीच से एक हमसफ़र और कॉमरेड का चले जाना बेहद पीड़ादायक है. 2009 में, WSS की स्थापना के समय से ही कल्पना लगातार इसके साथ जुड़ी रहीं.

Continue reading अलविदा कल्‍पना मेहता – एक श्रद्धांजलि

महिला आन्दोलनकारियों की गिरफ्तारियां और भारत सरकार की पितृसत्ता : अमन अभिषेक

Guest Post by Aman Abhishek

Big Brother's Patriarchal Authoritarianism

गुलफीशा फ़ातिमा, सफुरा जरगर, देवांगना कलिता और नताशा नरवाल

दुनिया के जाने-माने प्रोफ़ेसर और पत्रकार डॉक्टर लेता होन्ग फ़िंचर अपनी किताब “बिट्रेइंग बिग ब्रदर: दी फेमनिस्ट अवेकनिंग इन चाइना” में लिखती हैं कि किस तरह चीनी सरकार के द्वारा मार्च 2015 में पांच कार्यकर्तायों की गिरफ्तारी ने चीनी नारीवादी आन्दोलन को एक नया मोड़ दे दिया | जिन पांच महिलाओं को गिरफ्तार किया गया था वे विश्वमहिला दिवस के मौके पर यौन उत्पीडन के खिलाफ बसों और ट्रेनों में पर्चे बाँट रही थी | परन्तु चीनी सरकार ने झगड़े उसकाने के आरोप लगाकर गिरफ्तारी कर ली | इसका परिणाम यह हुआ कि ये पांच महिलाएं “फेमस फाइव” यानी “पांच प्रसिद्ध” के नाम से जानी गई | इन गिरफ्तारियों ने चीनी नारीवादी आदोंलन को कमजोर करने के बजाए एक नयी उर्जा प्रदान की और गिरफ्तारियों के विरोध में बड़े पैमाने पर आन्दोलन शुरू हो गए|

अब भारत में हाल की परिस्थितियों पर गौर करें | दिसम्बर 2019 से मार्च 2020 तक देश के सैकड़ों सार्वजनिक स्थानों पर हजारों आन्दोलनकारियों ने, महिलाओं के नेतृत्व में, सीएए के विरोध में सशक्त और शांतिपूर्ण आन्दोलन किया और लगातार धरना चला | शाहीनबाग जैसे जगहों पर रात दिन धरने चले | देश भर के आन्दोलनकारी उसी सीएए का विरोध कर रहे थे जिसे संयुक्त्त राष्ट्र संघ और और अनेकों मानवाधिकार संगठनों ने मुस्लिम विरोधी और घोर पक्षपातपूर्ण करार दिया है| महिलाओं के नेतृत्व और भागीदारी की वजह से सीएए विरोधी आन्दोलन केवल नागरिकता के सवालों तक सीमित न रहकर भारतीय नारीवादी आन्दोलन के इतिहास में एक अहम कड़ी बन गया |

अप्रैल से भारत सरकार ने सीएए विरोधी आन्दोलन के महिला नेतृत्व की गिरफ्तारियां शुरू कर दी | इन महिलाओं की गिरफ्तारियों की वजह हिंसा भड़काने से लेकर आतंकवाद तक बताई गई | गिरफ्तार लोगों में शामिल गुलफीशा फ़ातिमा मुस्लिम समुदाय की नेता हैं, सफुरा जरगर जामिया मिलिया की छात्रा हैं तथा गिरफ्तारी के वक्त तीन माह से गर्भवती थी | देवांगना कलिता और नताशा नरवाल , पिंजड़ा तोड़ आन्दोलन की संस्थापक हैं (पिंजड़ा तोड़ समूह के कार्यकर्ताओं ने शैक्षणिक संस्थाओं में लैंगिक भेद-भाव और पितृसत्ता के खिलाफ आन्दोलन किया है) | यह गिरफ्तारियां एक वैश्विक महामारी के दौरान की गई है, जो इस महिलाओं की जिन्दगी के लिए घातक साबित हो सकता है | Continue reading महिला आन्दोलनकारियों की गिरफ्तारियां और भारत सरकार की पितृसत्ता : अमन अभिषेक

Why does the Left in Kerala fear Rehana Fathima and not COVID- 19?

Before I start, a request:    Friends who are reading this, if you are close to Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen, or Soumya Swaminathan, or the other left-liberals who appear in the Kerala government-sponsored talk series from outside Kerala, please do forward this to them? I hope to reach them.

 

The Left government in Kerala is gathering its international intellectual-activist support base to cash on its commendable  — ongoing — success in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is not new — it has always been part of the dominant Left’s hegemony-bolstering exercises, especially after the 1990s, when its unquestionable hegemony in Kerala began to face a series of challenges. It has also been forced to pay attention to the oppositional civil society which relentlessly questions the dominant Left’s fundamental understanding of social justice and forces it to take seriously such ideas as freedom, autonomy, as well as identities not reducible to class. Continue reading Why does the Left in Kerala fear Rehana Fathima and not COVID- 19?

‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men

 

Populismo – ISS Conference poster by Filipino artist Boy Dominguez, image courtesy future-agricultures.org

In an earlier post last month, I had discussed the global rise of the Right as related to the revolt of the ‘little man’ (a term I borrow from Wilhelm Reich) and his search for a ‘father-figure’ of authority. I had also argued in that post that the revolt of the little man in itself could not have led to the rise of the Right, were it not for  the ways in which Capital moved to appropriate and channelize that revolt against the Left and Left-of-Centre politics – and regimes that dominated the scene earlier. It is virtually impossible to understand this huge tectonic shift in the politics of the past few decades without understanding the conjunction of the little man and Capital – the Big Men – as it were. No less important, it is impossible to understand this shift without understanding the revolt of the liittle man in relation to the different structures of privilege that appear before us as culturally encoded power relations – as tradition, as ‘our way of doing things’, so to speak.

Continue reading ‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men

International Feminist Solidarity / Solidaridad Internacional Feminista – con feministas de la India/with Indian feminists Devangana Kalita and/y Natasha Narwal

Please read and sign below /por favor lea y firme abajo

We, the undersigned feminists, community activists and academics from around the world stand in solidarity with Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal who are being held as part of the Narendra Modi government’s brutal clampdown on dissent against the deeply discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The government is taking advantage of the dispersion caused by the COVID19 crisis.

Nosotras/xs las personas abajo firmantes, como feministas, activistas comunitarias y académicas de distintas partes del mundo, nos solidarizamos con Devangana Kalita y Natasha Narwal, detenidas como parte de la ola de represión contra el movimiento nacional de protesta por la naturaleza profundamente discriminatoria del Acta de Enmienda a la Ciudadanía (CAA en ingles) y del Registro Nacional de Ciudadanos (NRC) impulsados por gobierno Indio de Narendra Modi.

Devangana and Natasha are feminist activists and founding members of the Pinjra Tod -‘Break the cage’ collective (For more info: https://www.facebook.com/pinjratod)
made up of women students fighting for their rights. Devangana studies an MPhil at Centre for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Natasha is a doctoral student at the Centre for Historical Studies, at the same university.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy during the Covid pandemic – Statement by concerned citizens

Statement by medical doctors, public health workers, researchers and feminists concerned with issues of reproductive health, rights and justice.

In the case of Sama vs Union of India and Ors, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi ruled that the Union of India and Government of NCT Delhi

 …shall work in tandem to make sure that no barriers are faced by pregnant ladies and their family members residing in hot spots during the lockdown.”  (High Court of Delhi, W.P.(C)2983/2020 & CM APP Nos 10345-46/2020, dated 22/04/2020)

While this is a welcome move, we urge that access to safe abortion is specifically recognized and appropriate services extended to women seeking abortion.

 It is completely understandable, and correct, that all non-emergency procedures be suspended at hospitals in these times of Covid-19.  Thus, not only elective plastic surgery procedures, but surgeries such as that for inguinal hernia, or thyroid adenomas, have to be postponed. This is for two reasons: first, to prevent exposure of people to Coronavirus in hospitals and second, to reduce the demand on health systems, overwhelmed in the Coronavirus pandemic.

The situation with Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) is however unique, and cannot be classified as a “non-emergency” procedure worthy of postponement. Continue reading Medical Termination of Pregnancy during the Covid pandemic – Statement by concerned citizens

Over 1100 Feminists Condemn Crackdown on Women Activists in Delhi

Issued on 3 May, 2020

Over 1,100  feminsts across religion, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and genders

DENOUNCE false narratives that try to link anti-CAA protests with the violence in Delhi.

DENOUNCE false narratives that try to link anti-CAA protests with the violence in Delhi.

DEMAND an immediate stop to targeting of Muslim women activists
under the shadow of the Covid 19 lockdown.

SEEK ACTION against actual perpetrators of violence, not peaceful protestors.

STAND FIRM with the conscience keepers of the nation

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the brazenly malicious attacks, arrests and intimidation by the Delhi Police of Muslim women, students and activists, as well as other citizens who have spoken up against the unconstitutional moves of the present ruling dispensation. Media reports that about 800 + anti-CAA protesters have been detained or arrested since the Covid 19 lockdown, which means they have had little or no access to lawyers and legal aid, and their families given no information of their whereabouts for extended periods after they were in custody. The impunity with which the Delhi Police is carrying out this sweep under direct orders from the Home Ministry is facilitated by the reduced media, public and legal scrutiny under the lockdown.

Continue reading Over 1100 Feminists Condemn Crackdown on Women Activists in Delhi

Over one thousand women write to Chief Ministers opposing NPR

Given that the updation of the National Population Register (NPR) is scheduled to begin from April 1, 2020 along with house listing for the Census of India 2021, women rights activists released a letter at Delhi’s Press Club on March 17, 2020, that was sent to every Chief
Minister in the country by over one thousand individual signatories and 18 organizations. The signatories include activists, writers,
academics, lawyers, doctors, farmers, professionals, anganwadi workers and women from all walks of life from more than 20 states.

LETTER TO CMs from Women’s* Groups and individuals_

Dear Chief Minister,

 *Subject: NPR PRESENTS A CLEAR DANGER TO WOMEN.*
*DE-LINK NPR FROM CENSUS HOUSE LISTING.*

  1. *We write to you as Indian women [1] who are opposed to the proposed National Population Register (NPR) [2]*. Women constitute nearly 50% of India’s population, and this opposition is based on clear evidence from our own lives.
  2. Section 14 A of the Citizenship Act, the accompanying 2003 Rules, and official reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs, all provide for using NPR data to compile the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). The NRIC will be prepared by local registrars scrutinizing information of individuals in the Population Register and marking people as ‘Doubtful Citizens’.

Continue reading Over one thousand women write to Chief Ministers opposing NPR

A Moment of Unprecedented Possibilities

 

Beginning this week, we are starting a column which will appear every Thursday. The name of this column, ‘Parapolitics’, is meant to indicate something that happens all the time, outside the formally designated sphere of politics, or what is sometimes called ‘the political’ by political theorists. As a matter of fact, most of such politics – parapolitics – takes place everyday and is deeply tied to our everyday lives. It is also what we may call ‘existential politics’:  the dalit boys flogged by upper caste men inside a police station in Una, the woman of Unnao, whose family is decimated by the rapist’s henchmen, the mob-lynching to which Muslims are subjected on a daily basis, the farmer or the unemployed who commits suicide, the displaced adivasis or the workers who fight back – all these are instances of things deeply political but occurring away from or beneath the ‘proper’ domain of politics. The ‘proper domain of politics’ – that of state/government, parties, elections, alliances and so on – has repeatedly historically revealed its fundamental disconnect with such existential politics. Indeed, whenever faced by mass protests, the first response by the political class is to reduce it to the purported machinations of ‘opposition parties’. It cannot think of people, ordinary people, coming out in autonomous action. We might recall the response of the UPA government, at the height of the anti-corruption movement, challenging the locus standi of the protesters with the questions: ‘who are you?’ or ‘who has authorized you?’ etc Parapolitics is that unauthorized politics of everyday life, which often bursts out into the open but may also simply go on under the surface without any necessary public manifestation.

Students protest in Bengaluru, photo courtesy PTI

The most striking aspect of the present upsurge of popular anger around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as has been widely noticed, is the way defiant young women have become the face of the struggle. I am not referring here only to the women whose iconic images are circulating everywhere today, but also to the sheer number in which they have come out and the power with which they have been speaking their mind before the media. And they belong to all communities.

Continue reading A Moment of Unprecedented Possibilities

Execution of Gang Rape and Murder Convicts  Will Not Serve Cause of Justice: Statement by Feminists

Joint Statement by Feminists Urging the President of India
to Commute Death Sentence to Life Imprisonment


As individuals and groups who have been engaged in the struggles for women’s rights, safety and justice, it is often presumed that we would support the demand for death penalty for sexual assault. But for decades, even as we have consistently fought to make the world safer for women through changes in policy and law, and social awareness by breaking the silence on these heinous crimes, we have consistently argued against the death penalty for sexual assault, as well as, all other crimes.

In the light of the death warrant being issued on 7 January 2020 against Akshay Kumar, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, and Mukesh Singh convicted of the brutal assault, gangrape and murder of a 23-year old medical intern in Delhi in December 2012, we reiterate our position against the death penalty. Continue reading Execution of Gang Rape and Murder Convicts  Will Not Serve Cause of Justice: Statement by Feminists

Faculty Feminist Collective, JNU, condemns police violence on students

December 11, 2019

We, members of Faculty Feminist Collective, Jawaharlal Nehru University, condemn in the strongest terms the unprovoked police brutality on the peaceful protest marches of JNU students against the illegal adoption of a revised Hostel Manual by the JNU administration and the proposed steep rise in fees. Three times since November 11, 2019, the day of the JNU Convocation, the police have lathi-charged assembled and marching students. The first time, students were expressing a legitimate demand to meet the Vice Chancellor who now conducts all business outside the campus and has not met any member of the JNU community for some time now. On the second occasion it was a march to Parliament, to meet the elected representatives of this country; and the third time, to meet the President of India who is also the Visitor of JNU, to press upon them the urgency of the situation in which nearly half of the current students of JNU will not be able to come back next semester if the IHA Manual and the fee hike is not rolled back. Continue reading Faculty Feminist Collective, JNU, condemns police violence on students

Against Aachaaram: Moorkothu Kumaran’s Dream of the Future

This is the fifth in a series titled Against Aachaaram: A Dossier from Malayalam on Kafila. The note below is by J Devika. The excerpt from the essay by Moorkothu Kumaran has been translated by K R GOPIKRISHNA.

Moorkothu Kumaran (1874- 1941) was one of Malayalam’s earliest short story writers, literary critics, and public intellectuals. Born in the avarna Thiyya community in north Malabar, he was educated at Thalassery and Madras and was closely associated with Sreenarayana Guru. He was active in the SNDP Yogam in its early years and highly influential through his pioneering journalism and contributions to modern Malayalam, as it was shaped in and through the new voices that were now heard in the emergent public sphere.

Below is an excerpt from an essay of his titled ‘Oru Pusrushasamajam’ (A Men’s Association), in which he indulges in a fantasy of a social event set in 2029. Written in the late nineteenth century, it imagines a world which women have taken over, and where the Manusmrithi is a long-lost and obscure text, while the writings of late-nineteenth century women authors, like Tottaikkattu Ikkavamma, are widely in circulation. In other words, a world in which the aachaaram of Manu has somewhat declined, though there are indications that it has not disappeared fully.

Reading this, one cannot help noticing the fallacy often shared, sadly enough, by reformers and conservatives, then and now: that empowered women will merely seize patriarchal-caste-heteronormative power and exercise it unchanged. And so their imagined utopias of gender equality inevitably look like the inverted version of patriarchal society. But perhaps Moorkoth Kumaran leaves us a clue about why this was so: as is evident from the extract below, caste seems alive and well despite the disappearance of Manusmrithi– the privileged sudra identity of Menon, Nair seem untouched, alongside upwardly mobile individuals born in lower castes aspiring to the new savarna status. It is not, however, clear that Moorkoth makes this gesture deliberately.

Sadly enough, this aspect of the emergent order of gender, in which the new empowered woman (irrespective of where she originates in the spectrum of castes sharing the renewed Brahmin-sudra social contract or among the avarna individuals who seek upward mobility into the savarna, partakes in the refurbished savarna power) was hardly ever discussed. In this fantasy, it is stretched to its maximum, and so the ‘oppressed’ men now complain of women inverting the order, in effect, behaving like upper caste men of the late19th century. Women have removed all portions of aachaaram that limit them and imposed those on men, but they have not delegitimised caste, one may suppose. In short,  women have managed to replace words like paativratyam with others like patnivratyam.

To avoid this  we have,  precisely, the insistence- still audible in left cultural circles as well  — that women are not interested in sameness,  only equality.  Sameness within  the new savarna order would mean that women may take caste power and that may even make them conspire to impose a cultural agenda in their favour, proscribing scriptural authority that sanctions make authority.  It is not merely the love of ‘Indian culture’, but also this fear that makes the Indian right wing  and the still-savarna reformers on the left embrace the infamous despoilation of women’s public voice – in two different ways-during last year’s  savarna mutiny against the Supreme Court’s verdict about  the entry of women of menstruating ages into Sabarimala.

Of course visions of feminist utopia  have been strikingly different in that they envisage the wholesale elimination of all forms of patriarchy, but then when both the really-existing left and the right both are interested only in demonising the feminists,  their protestations will be surely ignored.

_____________

A Men’s Association

A meeting that may be held a hundred years into the future
AD 2029 October 1, Tuesday, Kanni 15, 1205, the Kollam Era:  An important convention of Kerala Men’s Association is being held on the westside garden of Smt. VCR Amma M.A. M.L.C.’s house at Kozhikode (Calicut). Sri Narayanan Nambiar (husband of High Court judge L D Amma M.A. B.L.) was chosen to preside to over the meeting based on the suggestion of Smt. TKG Amma B.A. M.R.A.S.’s husband Sri Kannaran, which was seconded by Barrister Smt. B K Amma’s husband Sri. Gopala Menon. In his inaugural speech, the President spoke engagingly about men’s lack of freedom He essentially pondered how in the older times, men were free and were educated, and how they worked and earned when women engaged in domestic duties, serving their husbands, bearing and nurturing their children, and how peace prevailed in households and the society in those days. He spoke in detail, and with considerable poignancy, how, in contemporary times, women have attained education, entered into all government jobs, and become members of the governing bodies and legislatures t and how this has destroyed the freedom of men. Finally, he said, “Dear brothers, there are umpteen illustrations to prove that the brave men who were our ancestors enjoyed freedom in households and the country. I have found reasons to believe there existed a great scripture named Manu-Samhita. In it, it is stipulated that even education must be denied to women. Somewhere I have read that Manu-Samhita is the rule-book for the Hindus. I have been able to find documents proving that women were men’s slaves and women’s worlds were confined to the kitchen and bedroom only – cooking food and taking care of children. Women have destroyed Manu-Samhita completely, without sparing a single copy.
“Freedom is not for women
The Father will save her at adolescence
The Husband will save her at adulthood
The Son will save her at old-age.”

Thus states this scripture of antiquity. It appears that that this section has been redacted out from the edition of this scripture currently in publication. A drama written by a poetess who died 125 years ago is being circulated by the women of our times. Though it was an attempt to prove women were scholarly at those times, however, a sloka confirming that women didn’t have freedom at those times, was included in the print. Also, it can be understood that women wrote poetry rarely and men considered them incapable of it. This was that sloka:

“Didn’t Krishna’s beloved Bhama fight?
Didn’t Subhadra ride a chariot?
Isn’t all this world ruled by Victoria?
If the beauties can accomplish all these,
How will they be incapable to writing a poem?”

What can you decipher from this shloka? Does it not hint that women wrote poetry rarely? That they were considered inadequate to it? If these justifications were given for a woman writing a poem, doesn’t it mean that these were early attempts of women writing poetry? Now, we don’t blame women for being newspaper editors, poets or dramatists. We hinder do not them from being one. We don’t disapprove of them occupying any office, as much as they can. Our sole grievance is against reducing men to slaves capable of only doing domestic work. Is it fair that the burden of care and protection of children they bear is turned into a liability of ours?

They haven’t done enough to meet our educational needs. Despite our raising our need for exclusive schools and colleges many times, they have ignored us. Despite their decision that we are capable of only domestic work and after having forced us into it, they have not provided us with the necessary instruction in domestic work at school. We are being offered the same subjects and textbooks as them. Young women ill-treat youngsters who are forced to study in the same schools as them. Meanwhile, the infamous tale of how a young woman threw a letter at a high school-going youth and how he complained to the principal, and how she did not inquire into the matter at all against the offending woman has been in the news. Headmistresses also do not listen to the complaint that young women are spilling ink on the shirts of young men and bothering them thus! Though exclusive elementary schools have been established for us in a few places, it is a concern that it was all women who were appointed as teachers. Though a few amongst us has risen to become elementary level headmasters, they are harmed by transferring them off to faraway lands.

Apart from all this, women insult us claiming that our vows to our wives – our patnivratyam  – are insufficient and slander us in their newspapers. That few youngsters amongst us are living as ganikanmaar– prostitutes – in certain city houses that they have leased is indeed a great weakness on our side. But the responsibility to abolish it is on the women who rule and they have failed to act on it. A woman member has introduced a bill in the legislature to abolish the system of polyandry and it is deeply concerning that few other women members are opposing the bill. You all must be aware from the invitation that this today’s meeting is being heldwas convened to discuss this matter and send a joint-representation to the Lady Governor. As my time is limited, I conclude my address and request the subsequent proceedings to be held.

(Applause)
 (K R Gopikrishna is a Master’s student of Political Science at University of Hyderabad.)

Against Aachaaram: Lalitambika Antharjanam

This is the second in a series titled Against Aachaaram: A Dossier from Malayalam on Kafila. The note on Lalithambika Antharjanam is by J Devika. The excerpt from her story Vidhibalam (The Power of Fate) is translated by GEORVIN JOSEPH.

Lalitambika Antharjanam (1909-1987) was the first Malayali woman to achieve prominence in the field of modern Malayalam literature, and also among the first thinkers to reflect critically on modern gender as a framework for social existence in Malayali society. Born in the notoriously-aachaaram-bound Malayala brahmin community, she grew up to become one of its strongest and most vocal opponents. Her powerful short stories exposed the horrors that women suffered in conservative Malayala brahmin households. They indicted aachaaram again and again of dehumanising women, through heartbreaking accounts of their emotional and physical suffering, all sanctioned by the cold and ruthless workings of aachaaram.

Continue reading Against Aachaaram: Lalitambika Antharjanam

Queerness as disease – a continuing narrative in 21st century India: Kaushal Bodwal

Guest post by KAUSHAL BODWAL

In August 2018, it came to my knowledge that a few of my pictures wearing sarees were circulating in my extended family’s WhatsApp group. Phone calls from home regarding my “obscene” behaviour were followed by a shift in the entire conversation towards my having some illness that needed to be cured. At some point my mother called me to tell that one of my aunts knew a doctor who can heal me. My first thought was that she was joking; unfortunately, she was only too serious. Once I registered the gravity of the situation, I panicked. Even though I was staying in a closed campus, I was not sure of my family’s potential to do what they claimed they wanted to.

The issue was with both my gender expression and my sexuality. I was a male assigned at birth walking in a saree and they thought that it was because of my interest in men. One of my aunts assured my mother that my love for sarees will end once my homosexuality is cured. The next time I went home, I was anxious and terrified. I knew I had to speak to them and explain what was going on. There were going to be a lot of questions. It’s not as I had ready-made answers for them, especially since the understanding of gender and sexuality that I had was not easy to articulate in my native language of Haryanvi. Through whatever words I could, I came out to my parents. My mom cried and my father stood numb. But mostly, confused. Despite their anger and other emotional expressions, the overall emphasis was on going to a doctor to get me fixed. After all, I was sick. Continue reading Queerness as disease – a continuing narrative in 21st century India: Kaushal Bodwal

From revered icon to unruly subject – Irom Sharmila and the politics of gender: Panchali Ray

Guest Post by PANCHALI RAY

In the month of August, 2016, Irom Sharmila Chanu, also known as the ‘Iron Lady’ and ‘Mengoubi’ (the fair one) announced that she would break her 16 year long hunger fast, which she commenced  as a protest against the imposition of AFSPA (Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act) by the Indian state on the tiny hilly state of Manipur. While some cheered, others were curious, and many shocked and angry at what they perceived as her betrayal of the Manipuri cause. The backlash from her community was quick and ferocious, and newspaper headlines carried titillating stories of how she was rejected by her ‘own’.[1]

While much has been written on Sharmila’s hunger strike, her breaking of the fast, and entry into electoral politics, there has not been an equal amount of discussion on the politics of gender. For instance, the fact that Sharmila’s location in the North-Eastern part of the country has been central to her marginalization and non-acknowledgement[2], or that the mainstream media’s highlighting of her predicament, post-hunger strike, reinforced stereotypes of Manipur as the ‘wild’ and ‘savage’ North East[3] has received considerable attention.

Continue reading From revered icon to unruly subject – Irom Sharmila and the politics of gender: Panchali Ray

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

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