Now What? After the Betrayal of Women at Sabarimala

At the end of the five-day worship in the month of Tulam, it is clear that women have been betrayed. The right wing which promised not to violently stop women devotees did precisely that; their leader also hurled vicious insults are trans people. The dominant left which foamed Ayyankali and Sree Narayana Guru at the mouth ended up reinforcing the ‘good woman’/bad woman’ division, saying first that only the former would be allowed to proceed, made the term ‘activist’ into a code word for ‘bad woman’, and then finally threw up its hands saying that it was impossible to implement the court order. The government and the CPM had obviously not done enough to make sure that women would indeed enter the shrine. Clearly, they are reluctant to touch the savarna moral majority.  Continue reading “Now What? After the Betrayal of Women at Sabarimala”

Rehana Fatima and the Goons: A comment on the good-cop-bad-cop game that’s on in Kerala

Yesterday’s high drama at Sabarimala told us quite a lot about the games that politicians play in Kerala. Rehana Fatima, a young woman activist who decided to take the challenge (it is now a challenge, since the trekking path to the shrine is in effect controlled by Hindutva goons heaping verbal abuse, threatening open violence, and using children as shields) had to face not only the naked threats of the so-called bhakths and the vandalisation of her home at Kochi by the same elements, she had also to swallow the Kerala Minister Kadakampally Surendran’s jibe that Sabarimala was not a playground for ‘activists’! By saying so, he hinted that only ‘pure’, ‘untainted’ women believers who are apparently by definition not activists, can be helped by the Kerala Police to reach the shrine. So much for Pinarayi Vijayan’s evocation of Kerala’s legacy of enlightened Hinduism!

This is a piece I wrote in the TOI today on the issue.

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On: Dealing with Patriarchal Carpet Bombing in Kerala

For all women in India, what is happening in Kerala should be an eye-opener.  This is how Indian society rewards you for reaching the top, aspiring seriously to be on top, and actually asking questions to authorities about why they keep drawing on women’s energies and resources while simultaneously undermining the very ground on which they survive. In Kerala, two things are going on: there is on the one hand, a vicious gang led by Rahul Easwar which is openly threatening women who would dare to enter Sabarimala with the worst kinds of violence, on the other, the horrid misogyny of the press was revealed at the press conference held by the Women in Cinema Collective who expressed their deep disquiet at the way in which the organization of cinema actors, AMMA, and its president Mohanlal, were eager to protect oppressors and ignore survivors. Also, even male intellectuals who have been very supportive of feminist and gender justices causes have been named in the MeToo campaign among journalists in Kerala.

Kerala is a society where, in the past twenty years, we have seen women come up everywhere — in journalism, literature, academics, cinema, architecture, engineering, art, management, sports, trade unionism, activism. Women in Kerala have been the force of social democratizing as evident from the struggles ranging from the Munnar tea garden workers’ struggle to the brave nuns protesting against sexual violence. For sure, a very large number of women in Kerala are ultra-conservative, and that is apparent both in their presence in the muck that Easwar and his gang are raking up in Kerala, as well as in the shameless way in which some of them were emboldened to hurl caste insults at the Chief Minister of Kerala. This is therefore reminiscent not so much of the Battle of Britain in World War II, but for the Battle of Stalingrad — which was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, even as there was hand-to-hand combat on the ground for control of the tiniest slices of the city, and where the city residents were often subject to the terrors of both the Nazi and the Soviet sides alike.

If you want to see male hubris overflowing, please take a look at this video, of https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWomeninCinemaCollectiveOfficial%2Fvideos%2F249328929064857%2F&show_text=0&width=267“>the press conference held by the Women in Cinema collective. All I can tell us all is, Keep Calm and Carry on. After all, unlike in the World War II, the ammunition of these creeps need not hurt us at all; it can make it only more powerful.

 

 

 

സ്ത്രീവാശിയുടെ ആവശ്യകത :ശബരിമലപ്രശ്നം, സ്ത്രീകൾ, സാമൂഹ്യജനാധിപത്യം

അഭിനവ അച്ചിയാകാൻ എനിക്കു സമ്മതമില്ല. അതുകൊണ്ട് രാഹുൽ ഈശ്വറെ എന്തുവില കൊടുത്തും ഞാൻ എതിർത്തു തോൽപ്പിക്കും.

കുറേ സ്ത്രീകളെ തെരുവിൽ കൊണ്ടുവന്ന് ആചാരസംരക്ഷണത്തിൻറെ പേരിൽ സ്വന്തം താത്പര്യങ്ങൾക്കെതിരെ സംസാരിപ്പിക്കുക, അവരുടെ പൊതുജീവിതപരിചയമില്ലായ്മയുടെ ഫലങ്ങൾ കൊയ്തെടുക്കുക (പിണറായിയെ ജാതിത്തെറി വിളിച്ച ആ വിഡ്ഢിസ്ത്രീ തന്നെ ഉദാഹരണം), ബ്രാഹ്മണമൂല്യങ്ങൾ തങ്ങൾക്കു സമ്മാനിക്കുന്ന അപമാനഭാരത്തെ ആത്മീയസായൂജ്യമായി എണ്ണുന്ന അഭിനവ അച്ചി-സ്ഥാനത്തെ ഉത്തമസ്ത്രീത്വമായി ചിത്രീകരിക്കുക –ഇതൊക്കെയാണ് ശബരിമലപ്രശ്നത്തിൽ കേരളത്തിലെ ഹിന്ദുത്വശക്തികൾ ചെയ്തുകൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്നത്. Continue reading “സ്ത്രീവാശിയുടെ ആവശ്യകത :ശബരിമലപ്രശ്നം, സ്ത്രീകൾ, സാമൂഹ്യജനാധിപത്യം”

The Impossible Gandhian Project and its Limits – Remembering the Mahatma Today

Gandhi, Nehru and Azad, Wardha 1935, image courtesy Governance Now

Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi (Roughly: Compulsion thy name is Mahatma Gandhi)

I have grown up hearing this expression and have often wondered about its meaning and at the almost proverbial status acquired by it. Whose majboori or compulsion was Gandhi really? Well, at one level, everybody’s, for practically every current within the anti-colonial struggle was uncomfortable with his presence and his leadership. Jawaharlal Nehru had even remarked once that after independence, his fads would have to be kept in check. All nationalists who fought for independence from colonial rule (as opposed to the pseudo-nationalists who tried to convert it into a cow-protection movement) had their gaze fixed on the state. They wanted control of that coveted instrument – that was the crux of their anticolonial struggle. There were others like BR Ambedkar, who too invested a lot in the state but realized that the state in the hands of the nationalists would be a disaster for his people. But no one among them (poet-thinkers like Tagore apart) was prepared to look beyond the state. And Gandhi’s disavowal of the state – and of politics as such – was something that no one could digest. More than anything else, that was what made him a majboori for this set of people who could only lay their hands on their object of desire as long as Gandhi was in the leadership – for he alone could move millions like no one among his contemporaries could.

But my hunch is that these were not the people who coined this expression. Gandhi was a bigger majboori for another set of people who were, ironically, equally disinterested in the state and its ‘capture’ – at least till recently. Yes, these were the different currents of the Hindutva Brigade (VD Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha and his followers and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). They had to tolerate Gandhi – that is exactly what their majboori meant – till they could finally eliminate him. And it was one Nathuram Godse, with connections to both Savarkar and the RSS, who eventually killed him. There were earlier attempts too on Gandhi’s life – all from upper caste Hindus (one lot being Chitpavan Brahmins). Continue reading “The Impossible Gandhian Project and its Limits – Remembering the Mahatma Today”

Beneath the glitter – Looking at The Asian Games : Praveen Verma

Guest post by PRAVEEN VERMA

Hima Das

Does it amaze you when you hear the stories of poverty and success in same sentence? Does it amaze us when we hear the stories of some of the best sports-persons and the hardship they have dealt with before and throughout their careers? Does it amaze us when we hear about the sorry state of affairs of sports facilities and some athletes still coming up with great performances? Does it amaze that most of these athletes come from rural India and mostly where they have much economic and social constraints, where work and employment is still precarious? Does it alarm when one get to know that some of these phenomenal sports-persons come from the areas which are still dealing with the issues of hunger, high rate of unemployment, major gender gap? Areas where women coming out and trying to make cut into sports are still taboo? How often does one hear about women from marginal sections (Dalit/Backward caste/tribal) becoming a sportsperson?

Some stories of these kinds make usual snippets in many Hindi newspapers around big sports events. Though, these stories, which are posed as individual heroic one and less of a critical approach to see the working of sports administration, are meant to be sensational and don’t do justice to the entire sports affairs in India. Continue reading “Beneath the glitter – Looking at The Asian Games : Praveen Verma”

Performing the goddess: Chapal Bhaduri and Naveen Kishore

Film on Chapal Bhaduri by Naveen Kishore.
Conversation with Chapal Bhaduri transcribed and translated by Naveen Kishore.

Chapal Rani.

I can no longer hear. The whispering autumn leaves.

Everything touches me. Nothing. Touches. 

I am no longer as beautiful as I used to be, he says with a twinkle that went back to the sixties and sparked memories in my head of this once and ever beautiful woman-man. Chapal Rani. The reigning queen in those days of our youngnesseses. A woman we-of-the-theatre grew up adoring. The Adoration of the Chapal Rani. In the days of a purer Jatra the travelling theatre of Bengal when men played women. Wounding the hearts of an enthralled audience in performances that lasted an entire night. Sheer stamina. Coupled with a monumental style of acting with every gesture exaggerated to live music and declamatory dialogue. Voices that boomed and thundered and whispered and cried tears that would overflow and flood the hearts of a riveted audience of men women children. 

Continue reading “Performing the goddess: Chapal Bhaduri and Naveen Kishore”