An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram


We, the undersigned, wish to express our dismay and deep concern about the recent violent events at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, which seem to indicate that the rights of college students, especially women students, are seriously compromised in this venerable institution. As women researchers, academics and teachers of Malayali origin, we are deeply disappointed by the responses of the police, the concerned college authorities, and the teachers there. Continue reading “An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram”

CPM in Kerala = Caste-Gender Elitism Minus Cow

This is my Malayalam opinion piece for iemalayalam, on something despite the outcry against the CPM in the mess around Kerala Law Academy.  The public discussion has been, not unexpectedly, on the line of Kerala’s well-entrenched scandal journalism, which has a history of a hundred years, at least. This is a form of journalism that highlights the sexual lives – proper or improper – of powerful male politicians which accompanies the attack on their public failings directly or indirectly- a very highly successful tactic, hitherto, to undermine even the seemingly unassailable. When women began to figure in this kind of journalism as something more than just passive sexual objects, as active agents of corruption and manipulation – most markedly, in the controversy over the businesswoman Sarita Nair – scandal journalism worked by highlighting the huge contrast between their ‘feminine-respectable’ names, sartorial styles, behaviour, and so on, and the despicable manipulations they indulged in. This is the case also with much media discussion of the principal of the Kerala Law Academy, Lekshmi Nair.

However, this tactic is not only misogynist, it also lets the elite-femininity that she represents escape critique. This is a very contemporary form of respectable femininity that presents itself as essentially domestic, but wields delegated masculine power to vicious ends, and it is almost all-pervasive in disciplinary institutions in Kerala now. Not surprisingly perhaps, the CPM’s mishandling of the issue has not just shown how poorly committed the party is to women’s rights, but also how soft it is on this elite-feminine power.

The full essay, in Malayalam:


Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah


During a visit to the Kishori Mandal at Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s Uttari Rampur Centre in Forbesganj I met some lovely girls. They stayed in the community near the red light area. They were eager to learn new things. They asked me my story of life, “Didi aapki kahani sunao? Aapne kaise yaha tak sangharsh kiya?” I was again very surprised to encounter the subversion of queries. I should have been the one to ask those questions to the girls, but they wanted to know more about me. Perceptual understanding is a perspective rooted in feminist standpoint theory which could apply to any context from the onlooker’s context. For the young girls from the Red Light Area in Forbesganj, I was trapped in some realities which connected me to them. That was why she asked me to share my story of struggle. When I said education enabled me to survive the world around me, they laughed and said that was not their story. They said, “For us we have to get married as soon as we are 18 years old but sometimes even earlier. We just want to enjoy our freedom now in this centre till we get married. After that we do not know what holds true for us.” As women whether we are in the Nat community of Bihar or we are in the liberated spaces of North East India, our identities get defined by our marriage, cultural practices and socialisation. Unbound freedom for women seems to be a misnomer which should be forbidden for women as the evolved souls say.

Continue reading “Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah”

Dangal and the Phogat Sisters – A Tale of Many Struggles: Praveen Verma

Guest post by PRAVEEN VERMA


Dangal literally means the Indian style wrestling competition for male pahalwans (wrestlers). Dangal has been an important form of entertainment for ages, especially in rural (north and west) India. Dangals act in many ways. It works to settle the personal score between different Akharas and pahalwans. It’s a place where honour, reputation and social status are on stakes and personal and political rivalries are fought out, or settled. For example, one of the most important dangals used to happen every Sunday at Eidgahi Maidan, Jama Masjid in Delhi, till very recently. Itwari dangal, as it was fondly called, was the place where pahalwan like Gama, Imam Baksh, Chandgiram used to come and show their talent in front of thousands of wrestling lovers. I remember whenever I used to come to Delhi, I always wanted to win the bout at Eidgahi Maidan, as it meant a lot to win at Eidgahi maidan rather than any other place!

Gama Pahalwan at Eidgahi
Gama Pahalwan at Eidgahi

As it was strictly meant for male pahalwans, women were not even allowed to watch them fighting, let alone participating. Something similar to Khap Panchayats, where women still are not welcome. Women are the fairly latecomers in wrestling arena and yet not so welcome. In this context to make a film on the emergence and development of women wrestling in India itself is a fascinating idea.

Dangal, the movie is based on a true story of Mahavir and his firebrand daughters and their ‘quietly’ active mother. It is an important movie to watch for many reasons. Firstly, it portrays a father who wanted his daughters to pursue something (wrestling) which was un-imaginable in those days. It reveals what it took for the first generation of women wrestlers to break those masculine stereotypes and depicts the overall impression of wrestling in the realm of sports culture in India. There are so many moments in the film to cheer about, to get goosebumps (at least I got many). Writing review is an unknown territory for me but there is a personal reason to taking to this venture of writing.  The release of this film forced me to say something which, as a former wrestler for almost ten years, is still left with me. Continue reading “Dangal and the Phogat Sisters – A Tale of Many Struggles: Praveen Verma”

Memories of a Machine, or the Machine of Memory?


Watching the much-debated ten-minute-film ‘Memories of a Machine’, which has been accused of justifying paedophilia, I remembered this woman:

I met her, a young woman professional working at Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram – where else, in these days, but in the queue in front of an ATM . In response to my grumbling, she told me that she had never experienced any kind of power in her whole life.  She had not even been affected by demonetisation much, she insisted. ‘True, I couldn’t pay the dhobi and the ironing-man, but those were minor inconveniences,’ she quipped cheerily, quite convinced, of course, that the predicament of these two people, definitely as much professionals’ as her, was none of her concern. Indeed, her constant effort was to cheer people in the queue with her don’t-worry-be-happy body-language with which she slipped and slid between acting and sounding like a grown woman and chirping and giggling like a teenager or child. She was attracted to the BJP, she said, because she needed some ‘philosophy’ in her life, to balance the heavy workload she carried in her workplace. As far I could see, her life was such that the philosophy-lesson she would find useful could have been obtained from something as commonplace as a treadmill – start slow, peak up, take regular dips, continue for a spell sufficiently long, stretch after the workout. In other words, her life seemed to be just one long workout, with no indication of when it would end or yield result. But just the feeling that she was on her way was enough to make her cheery to the point of being silly. Continue reading “Memories of a Machine, or the Machine of Memory?”

It Is About Women: Debating the Violence of the Uniform Civil Code – Kartik Maini

This is a guest post by KARTIK MAINI

The performative art of choice, like most habitations of discourse, is deeply political. To oppose the mythical creature of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), as heralded by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its parent votaries, is to find oneself in the august company of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMLB); both part, or so I must argue, of the same physics of power. Once again, if one does indeed trace the history of debating the suttee in what is now called the ‘colonial’ period, the spectre of representation (or lack of) haunts us: women are merely the grounds of debate, and the female body a site of contestation in the name of faith. As creatures of active agency, the figure of the woman disappears – not into a pristine nothingness, as Gayatri Spivak cautioned us, but into a violent shuttling of displaced figuration. It is, therefore, time to ask of ourselves the fundamentality of thought. What is the politics of rendering unintelligible the variegated nature of religious traditions and their pronouncements unto ‘uniformity,’ particularly so through the rationale of national integrity in a time when supposed dangers to the same are declared seditious? Is it not our collective responsibility to be virulently against the employment of the expressed and expressive agony of women to insidious political ends? What, finally, of those who lie at the interstices of ‘men,’ ‘women,’ and the compulsory heterosexual matrix?

Even in precluding Shayara Bano’s infamous claim on the immediate necessity of all, especially Muslims, to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai,’ the communal in the demand for the Uniform Civil Code is an effortless inscription. For one, the Hindu Code, which seeks the creation of uniform laws governing all Hindus, is itself not so – embedded in its semblance of pervasive homogeneity is heterogeneous pliability to the customs and traditions of different communities, as also the restriction in its uniform applicability to social groups that are now designated as the Scheduled Tribes. While Article 44 of the Indian Constitution exhorts the nation state to create a ‘uniform civil code’ for all, the Constituent Assembly had no perspectival clarity on what it would look like; B.R. Ambedkar elucidates that such a code ‘need not necessarily be mandatory.’ In fact, beyond the obvious ambiguity of Article 44, the glorious prospect of the Uniform Civil Code only finds silence, and in not being addressed in specificity, is subsequently regaled with the obstructions of political autonomy, detailed as they are in the articles and schedules on Kashmir, Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, and Meghalaya. In other words, the binary between the Uniform Civil Code and communalism, between Hindutva and the mythical uniformity that must now be forged against this ‘problem’ of diversity is a fundamentally false one – there is no independent discursive existence of the Uniform Civil Code, if the circular ruins of its debate are to tell us anything, besides its violent deployment against the personal laws of the Muslim community, Muslims in particular, and as it may now be said, against the idea of India in general. The indivisibility of the undivided Hindu family, tangential, if not absent, as it has been to the contention on the Uniform Civil Code, is a loud, almost resounding declaration of its essential purpose; to collapse unto its exercise the subjective agency of the patriarchal paradigm of ‘women’ collapses its very structure.

In a strongly worded missive, Noorjehan Safia Niaz of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) expounds, ‘We condemn the attempt to politicize the debate by mixing up of the abolition of triple talaq – the demand for whose abolition we strongly reiterate, with the move by the Law Commission seeking views from the public on the Uniform Civil Code. These are two separate issues, and should not be treated as similar.’ Of the many meanings that azaadi has now taken, this statement of the BMMA is instructive in the difficulty of politics: as Muslim women today stand at the altar of the supposedly emancipatory modern state, complete with its accompanying structures of governmentality, their courageous struggle against the maulana-headed jamaats has reached a befitting crescendo. ‘The court is our jamaat,’ they declare, in Jyoti Punwani’s eloquent piece. Truly, the progressive thrust of judgements as Shamim Ara v. State of U.P.(2002) has faltered in its promise of remedying the inscription of subordination in the Muslim personal law, and revolution, as we know it, is in the offing. It is not my case, or, for that matter, of progressive groups that are now in the line of fire for having ‘lost the plot,’ to stand against this calling, indeed, this making of history. But history is replete with its uncomfortable lessons. It tells us tales of progression hindered by violent appropriation, of causes obfuscated by the malevolent reasons of statecraft, and of representation that fails to present its subjects. To struggle against the patriarchy of laws, then, is a struggle of its own, and therein is the opposition to the Uniform Civil Code. Historians are forgiving. History, and we need not search too arduously, is not.

Yet, appreciating the struggle that asks of the state must not presuppose an unproblematic depiction of the state itself. Indeed, if the state legitimises, then it must also render illegitimate. Such has been the case of a people who are, in a very particular expression of otherness, called the queer. Even as the Indian state, in all its time of being a modern, independent republic, debates the realm of the personal, it is our collective ignominy that what is debated as the personal eludes the queer. It is a denial, not merely of recognition, but of personhood. As the queer have sought to enter state registers of legitimation, they have had to confront the always already heterosexual nature of kinship; the governmentality manifest in personal laws and cultural politics, a totalising pontification of the compulsory heterosexual matrix, the violent institution of marriage, and, invariably, of monogamy. To queer the question of personal laws, even of the infamous Uniform Civil Code, is thus to challenge their fundamental premise: the systematic, seamless reproduction of heterosexuality, patriarchal relations, and above all, of violence. Is not, then, the making of queerness a simultaneous unmaking of how we debate the personal?

[Kartik Maini is at St Stephen’s College, Delhi]

मज़ाक मज़ाक में : किशोर

Guest Post by Kishore
(Summary: Article is about recent  racial comments on a  actress  and channel’s response to it.Now a days there is increasing trend of serving any thing in the name of comedy. This article raises questions on comedy. Is purpose of comedy is just to make us laugh or it has any social resposibility)
 पिछले दिनों तानिष्ता चटर्जी के रंग पर की गयी टिप्पणी के बाद वह एक मशहूर कॉमेडी शो को बीच में छोड़ कर चली गयी. बाद में उन्होंने इस टिप्पणी को नस्लवादी करार दिया. दूसरी तरफ इस चैनल ने इस आरोप को गलत बताते हुए कहा है वह तो बस “रोस्ट” ( एक तरह की खिंचाई) कर रहे थे और रोस्ट करना उनके शो में व्यंग करने करने का तरीका है . साथ में यह भी कहा कि उन्हें पहले ही बता दिया गया था कि उन्हें “ रोस्ट” किया जाएगा. किसी के रंग पर उलटे सीधे व्यंग करना कैसी  खिंचाई है इसका कोई स्पष्टीकरण नहीं दिया गया.
इसके बाद मुझे ध्यान आया कि पिछले कुछ सालों में टेलीविजन पर कॉमेडी शो की बाढ़ सी आ गयी है जो खुद ही कुछ कह कर खुद ही हँसते है. इन शो में किसी का मजाक उड़ाना कॉमेडी समझा जाता और इनमे किसी स्थिति से हास्य पैदा करने का सामर्थ् नहीं है. इन शो में कई बार किसी व्यक्ति या समूह को नीचा दिखा कर मजाक उड़ाया जाता है. अगर मैं कॉमेडी को एक विधा समझता हूँ या मैं उस समुदाय से सम्बन्ध रखता हूँ तो इस व्यंग पर मुझे हंसी नहीं आएगी.
वैसे मुझ जैसे अज्ञानियो को इन जैसे कॉमेडी शो से ज्यादा हंसी ए इस पर दिखाए जाने वाले होरर शो पर आती है जो डराने के मकसद से बनाये जाते हैं. खैर यह दीगर बात हएै पर एक बात तो तय है कि यह शो  बहुत लोकप्रिय हुए हैं और इनको देखने वालों की संख्या लाखो में है. भले ही तानिष्ता को उनके व्यंग करने के तरीके पर एतराज हो पर लोग इस अंदाज को बहुत पसंद कर रहे हैं.
मुझे उन लोगों की बात भी याद आई जो, जो मन में आये वह कह देते हैं और फिर कहते हैं इस बात को इतनी संजीदगी से लेने की क्या जरूरत है , यह तो महज एक मजाक था. इसी तरह किसी खास समुदाय और औरतो को लेकर बहुत से चुटकले चलते हैं जिनमें बहुत खराब खराब बातें होती है, और लोग हँसते भी है . आलोचना करने  पर इतना कह  कर बात टाल देते हैं कि यह चुटकला ही तो है. आखिर हम लोग कब कॉमेडी को संजीदगी से लेना शुरू करेंगे.
कॉमेडी का एक साधारण सा नियम तो समझ आता है कि कॉमेडी में जो हंसी का पात्र बनता है या बनती है उसे खुद भी अपनी उस स्थिति पर वैसे ही हंसी आनी चाहिए जैसे  की किसी और को आ रही है.  अर्थार्थ हंसी उसके रंग रूप , आकार या नैन नक्श से निरपेक्ष उस कलाकार के हाव भाव या उस परिस्थिति से आनी चाहिए. यह स्पष्ट है कि हंसी का कारण रंग रूप , आकार या नैन नक्श नहीं है.
दूसरी बात कि हंसी का कारण किसी समुदाय विशेष के प्रति पूर्वाग्रह नहीं होना चाहिए. हम यह कह कर मुक्त  नहीं हो सकते कि यह तो एक मजाक है. वास्तविकता यह है कि इस तरह के मजाक पूर्वाग्रहों को मजबूती देते हैं. यकीन ना हो तो अपने आसपास नजर दौड़ा कर देख लो. क्या इन पूर्वाग्रहों के सुदृढ़ होने मैं इस तरह के मजाक का हाथ नहीं है? क्या औरतों और पत्नियों के प्रति होने वाले मजाक ने समाज में उनकी स्थिति को प्रभावित नहीं किया ?
इन शो में से अधिकतर शो में कलाकार अपने हाव भाव और बातों से हंसाया जाता है. अब कोई पूछ सकता है कि हाव भाव या बातों से हंसाने में बुराई क्या है. सभी महान हास्य कलाकार बातों और हाव भाव से ही तो हंसाते थे या हैं. तो यह शो उन हास्य शो या फिल्मों से अलग कैसे हुए?
अंतर है कि किन बातों या किस हाव भाव से हंसाया जा रहा है. उस बात की विषय वस्तु  क्या है. कोई हाव भाव या बात फूहड़ या अश्लील  भी हो सकती है और सौम्य  भी. अब प्रश्न यह उठता है कि यह कौन तय करेगा कि यह विषय वस्तु फूहड़ या अश्लील है या सौम्य? हर समाज में फूहड़ या सौम्य होने के कुछ मानदंड होते हैं और कॉमेडी शो कि विषय वस्तु भी उसी से तय होगी. पर यह कहने में मुझे एक खतरा दिख रहा है? जिस तरह से किसी भी चीज को अश्लील या अनैतिक बता कर उस पर हमले हो रहे और कलाकारों की अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतंत्रता पर रोक लगाई जा रही  हैं उसमे इन शब्दों का प्रयोग बहुत संभल कर करना होगा.
मैं इस बात से आश्वस्त हूँ कि “ जाने भी दो यारों” नामक फिल्म में जो हास्य था वह उच्च कोटि का था और सौम्य था और जो मैं आजकल टी.वी. शो में देख रहा हूँ वह फूहड़ है. पर मैं यहाँ अपना तर्क गढ़ नहीं पा रहा कि क्या चीज “जाने भी दो यारों” को इन टी.वी. शो से अलग करती है. मेरा इस बात पे भी दृढ विशवास है  कि किसी के रंग रूप, नैन नक्श या किसी समुदाय के आधार मजाक उड़ाना गलत है . मैं पूरी तरह से इस शो के खिलाफ तानिष्ता का समर्थन करता हूँ.
बस मुझे बस इस बात पर संशय है कि किस आधार पर किसी बात को फूहड़ कहा जाएगा और किस आधार पर सौम्य?
(लेखक डेवलेपमेंट प्रोफेश्नल के रूप में  में कार्यरत हैं  और पिछले कई सालों से बाल अधिकारों के क्षेत्र में काम कर रहे हैं।)