In the 1980s, when the first feminist articulations began to be heard in Kerala, left-leaning feminists often sought to maintain a critical distance from the state, emphasizing its inherently patriarchal nature. This was not surprising as feminists of that generation had radical-Marxist roots or strong connections with it. Radical Marxism in that generation was clearly suspicious of the state – quite unlike the mainstream left.
I have never been a carceral feminist anytime in my life. Right now, there is a massive tide of abuse and misrepresentation of non-carceral feminism in Kerala, so much so that any suggestion of solutions to the problem of sexual harassment outside the framework of the state is immediately dubbed anti-woman and anti-feminist. Carceral feminists are so warped, they seem to be totally unseeing of the fact that the debate has always been about the significance of the state and its instruments in the generally agreed-upon goal of gender justice, and not really about who is the true, or truer feminist. Indeed, this is strongly reminiscent of the mass attack on the sex worker activist Nalini Jameela years back and the anti-carceral feminists who were prepared to hear her out and stand with her. I remain a non-carceral feminist, rejecting the binary between carceral and anti-carceral feminism. I refuse the insistence that proportional punishment is irrelevant in dealing with sexual misconduct. I refuse to see ‘Men’ — I will not buy the idea that all male bodies share the same privilege and power and hence must be dealt with in the same way. I write the following in this spirit. If I am banished from the feminist mainstream for this, so be it.
Statement by women’s groups, democratic rights organizations and individuals
Shri Ajay Singh Bisht, The Chief Minister, UP
Shri Avnish Kumar Awasthi, Secretary, Home, UP
Dr Devendra Singh Chauhan, DGP, UP
Shri Ajay Kumar SSP, UP Police
We, the undersigned women’s organisations, democratic rights groups and individuals, write to you to strongly condemn the attempts of the Uttar Pradesh police to take into custody civil society activists who have been active in the anti-CAA struggle on the false and completely unsubstantiated claim that they were “masterminds” of the protests that happened in different parts of the country on June 9-10, 2022.
We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.
We are issuing this open statement to voice our grave apprehensions regarding the provision in the recently enacted Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 to link the Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC-Voter ID) issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) with the Aadhaar card issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an agency of the Government of India.
GR Santhosh Kumar captured the crux of the unbelievable denigration of democracy by the ruling CPM leadership who are out to defend their local level leaders guilty of the grossest patriarchy that rivals any khap panchayat misogyny. The context is the ongoing struggle by a couple, Anupama Chandran and Ajithkumar, to find their baby who was abducted by her parents, both influential local-level leaders of the CPM, last year and given away illegally for adoption. The story of Anupama’s experience of unspeakable death threats, physical violence, cheating, exposure to health risk, forced confinement, denial of vital information and means of communication, casteist insults, and on and on strips off the claims of women’s empowerment which the left in Kerala has claimed for so long. On social media, thousands of left supporters have literally rubbished women’s rights and the Indian Constitutional morality itself, even as the AIDWA in Kerala has been largely struck dumb.
The cartoon is a spoof on Raja Ravi Varma’ famous mother-and-child painting ‘Here Comes Papa’ in which an aristocratic woman dressed in a way identifiable as ‘traditional’ holds her baby and points to it the unseen ‘papa’ . Though the cartoon is captioned ‘Know the pain of the adopting mother’, an obvious reference to the cry by CPM sympathisers on social media that the child need not be returned, and that the adopting mother was fitter, and though the protagonists here are Pinarayi Vijayan and Anupama’s father, Peroorkkada Jayachandran, who he has been defending, it has layers. Ajithkumar’s dalit status and his earlier marriage has, in the eyes of CPM supporters, rendered him unfit for fatherhood — of a child by the daughter of an influential CPM family. Papa, then, and Papa’s coming, continues to be our favourite obsession.
Throughout the terrible times we have seen these last two years, it is the news from Kerala that has helped so many of us to keep faith in governance – that a state can be honest, open, participatory, concerned for its people, focused on health, and not play politics, all of these have been remarkable and many of us, Keralites and non-Keralites alike, have drawn valuable lessons from the Kerala experience.
Today morning we woke up to the news that the Child Welfare Committee has ordered that Anupama’s child must be brought to Kerala in five days for a DNA test.
However, the process is still overseen by the officials who directly connived to give the baby away for adoption. The family’s criminal acts are still under a very lax, lagging investigation. Anupama’s educational certificates are still in their possession and the police refuses to intervene to restore them to her.
Indeed, the evil that Prof Kannabiran identifies so excellently in this letter must still be fought, until justice is done. Just the return of the child to Kerala cannot replace justice. Anupama suffered tremendous domestic violence, deliberate endangerment, cheating, and illegal custody at the hands of her family. That cannot be papered over,
Anupama has committed no crime. She got pregnant. She did not murder anyone. She did not rob a bank. She did not betray the nation. She committed no terroristic threats or acts. She is not a smuggler, a thief, a rapist, or a crook. She got pregnant. Getting pregnant is not a crime. She got pregnant and decided to keep her baby. This is not a crime.
This post is prompted by a discussion that followed some remarks I had made on social media regarding the way in which a certain common sense that we may call ‘Hindu Nationalist’, had come to dominate the sensibilities of even those intellectuals in the Hindi world who otherwise might stand opposed to the Hindu Right. ‘Decolonizing’ has lately become a banner of the Hindu Right and for many otherwise secular Hindi intellectuals too, an occasion for an often strident anti-West rhetoric. Such a common sense assumes, simply by default, that the only “authentic” position of critique of the West is one framed by Hindu/ Indian exceptionalism. Needless to say, as I have argued at length in my recent book (Decolonizing Theory), the narrative that structures the imaginative world of many such modern Hindus is already a narrative produced by colonialism.
An upcoming conference in the USA titled Dismantling Hindutva is being attacked by the Hindu right-wing both in the US and India as “anti Hindu” and “racist”. See for example, this link and this and this.
This post is a letter sent to American Universities supporting the conference by US-based HINDUS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS.
To: All universities and departments co-sponsoring the academic conference on Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) on September 10-12, 2021
Re: We are Hindus who support academic freedom and the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” conference on September 10-12, 2021
We are writing to you on behalf of Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), a two-year old advocacy organization that provides a platform for progressive Hindus to speak out in support of democratic freedoms and pluralism.
HfHR advocates for civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, rooted in the values of our faith: shanti (peace), nyaya (justice) and satya (truth). We provide a Hindu voice of resistance to all forms of bigotry and oppression based on one’s faith, color, caste, gender, or sexual orientation.
We also staunchly oppose the misappropriation of our Hindu faith by the ideology of Hindutva (also frequently referred to as Hindu supremacy, Hindu nationalism, etc.), whose foundational principle is to redefine over 200 million Muslim and Christian citizens of India as the ‘other,’ who do not legitimately belong and must therefore either accept second class citizenship or be displaced from their homeland. Continue reading Hindutva is not Hinduism: Hindus for Human Rights→
We had reported earlier on the call for a convention to commemorate the anniversary of the historic Santhal Rebellion associated the immortal names of Sidhu and Kanu. The convention was organized by the recently constituted forum in West Bengal, Ekusher Dak – Call of 21 – which was formed in the run up to the recently held elections in the state. ’21’ of course, refers to the year 2021 when the elections were held and the initiative for a new/ different Left platform in the state was launched. But ’21’ also recalls the date 21 February 1952, the historic day of the Bhasha Andolan (the Language Movement) in what is now Bangladesh. It recalls the assertion of Bengali identity that overrides the religious divide that the BJP made every effort to exacerbate. The convention was held yesterday and really came like a whiff of fresh air. The film we embed below is a very short but powerful telling of the story of the revolt with graphics. Ekusher Daak Film Team – Arjun, Debalina, Maroona, Boro, Laboni, Malay, Mitali, Arundhati, Saikat, Baijayanta, and Swarnava -have produced the film. For those who would like to watch the proceedings of the Convention, the YouTube streaming link is here.
‘Sunped in Haryana and Natham in Tamil Nadu, separated from each other by hundreds of kilometers, populated by communities speaking different languages and cultures, find themselves connected because of this ‘Unity in Diversity’ of a different kind; being witness to atrocities on Dalits in very many ways.’
“The Smallest Coffins are the Heaviest”.
Sunped, a small village in Faridabad, Haryana, hit the national headlines recently once again, when a CBI court gave its verdict in case of the deaths of two Dalit children.
If memory does not fail you, one would recall that this village had witnessed the deaths of two children – two and a half year-old Vaibhav and ten-month-old Divya – who were burned alive and their parents Rekha and Jitender suffering burn injuries half a decade ago.
These deaths in a village which had a background of simmering conflict between dominant castes and Dalits, despite police protection provided to the ill-fated family, had caused tremendous uproar at the national level. Rallies and marches were held in different parts of the state and in the rest of India as well, demanding justice for the family. A callous statement by a Union Cabinet Minister about the incident where he argued that the government cannot be held responsible if “someone throws stones at a dog” had then added further fuel to the fire.
Perhaps to douse popular anger, the state government led by Manohar Lal Khattar had ordered a CBI enquiry into the case. It also took into custody eleven members of the dominant caste (namely Rajputs) from Sunped for their alleged involvement in these killings, based on a complaint by the victims.
The verdict by the CBI court in the case has landed the struggle for justice in this particular case into a black hole.
In this guest post, RAHUL GOVIND gives us, by way of a review of Audrey Truschke’s book, a glimpse of the world of medieval Sanskrit and what they tell us about ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ identity in their own time.
Why Audrey Truschke’s The Language of History is essential reading for every Indian (and Pakistani and Bangladeshi)
There is the view that the medieval period of Indian history witnessed an all-consuming battle between Hindus (who were native to India) and Muslims (who came to India as conquerors). This originated as a typical colonial strategy of ‘divide and rule’ in the 19th century, but then transformed into a communal politics that ultimately led to Partition. In India today this very view is becoming a dominant one, where the medieval period is assumed to be nothing but the destruction of an ancient indigenous Sanskritic culture by invading Muslims.
The post below is hard to read. It is written with a great deal of rage and pain and grief. It is a post about sexual violence. It is not explicit in any way. It does not describe sexual violence. It describes the feeling of being before the violence of masculinity. It describes the violence of the feeling of feeling. Which is why it is hard to read. You may wish to think carefully about whether you want to read further. Please consider this a trigger warning.
Today I performed an exorcism. I performed an exorcism of every image that floods the media of sexual violence, of rape and mutilation, of violation, of violence that should be undoable and unthinkable. I decided to think it. I let these images move through my mind and my body. I performed an exorcism for every woman, and everyone who believes herself woman, and lives woman, and every one who lives as not man. I performed an exorcism for everyone who is not a man. I performed an exorcism for every man who is not a man. I let image, upon image, upon image, upon image, upon image, upon image, flood my mind. I opened my mind as wide as I could, without filter and protection. Eventually I let my mind break at the seams, for many hours. I let my mind descend into terror. I let my mind touch madness. I let my mind become a not mind. And not by reaching atman or bhramaan believe you me. I let my mind become incoherent.
A statement by WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION
हाथरस में एक दलित लड़की के साथ हुई बलात्कार की घटना व उसकी जघन्य हत्या के बाद, पीड़ित परिवार के साथ डॉक्टर राजकुमारी बंसल जिस निर्भीकता और साहस के साथ खड़ी हुईं उन पर देश भर की मीडिया ने जिस तरह की फर्ज़ी और झूठी खबरें चलाईं उसके विरोध में हम सभी सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता, प्रोफेशनल व तमाम संगठन, जो जातिगत और यौनिक हिंसा का विरोध करते हैं, डॉ. राजकुमारी बंसल के समर्थन में एकजुट हैं। उनकी निर्भीकता व मानवीय प्रयास के लिए हम उन्हें सलाम करते हैं।
विगत 24 अक्टूबर 2020 को मध्य प्रदेश महिला मंच, छत्तीसगढ़ महिला अधिकार मंच, एनएफआईडब्ल्यू (मध्य प्रदेश), नागरिक अधिकार मंच, डब्ल्यूएसएस (मध्य प्रदेश-छत्तीसगढ़) के प्रतिनिधियों ने डॉ. राजकुमारी बंसल से जबलपुर में उनके घर पर मुलाकात की।
India cannot take its syncretic tradition for granted. A culture of communal amity has to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Irony died a thousand deaths on Monday, 2 November, when 48-year-old non-violent activist Faisal Khan, a founder member of a revived Khudai Khidmatgar, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police. The charge against him is that he spread disharmony and hurt religious sentiment, by offering namaz at a Krishna temple in Mathura. He and three other members of his organisation, whose name roughly translates to “servants of god”, have been charged by the police, though Faisal is the only one arrested so far.
Faisal was arrested at “Sabka Ghar”, a centre for communal harmony he has established near Ghaffar Manzil. People of all faiths can stay at this centre and celebrate festivals of all religions together. He had revived the historic Khudai Khidmatgar, an organisation established by the legendary Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Frontier Gandhi, whose role in the anti-colonial struggle has been documented in South Asia and the world.
Faisal himself is well-regarded for his deep knowledge of Hindu and Islamic religious traditions and scriptures, and it is for promoting harmony within India, and between India and Pakistan, that he is most recognised. He and his team have also provided relief to people devastated by communal riots or natural disasters.
Finally. Decades have passed in which we slumbered on eased by the magic mantra that women’s empowerment will emerge like a butterfly from the cocoon of women’s self-help groups, whispered in our ears by the state in Kerala. In the meantime, what we saw was often the opposite. Indeed, the more women became central to family sustenance and public care-giving in society, the deeper the misogyny penetrated, the wider it spread.
As alumni of Jadavpur University (JU), we condemn the casteist abuses hurled against a renowned professor of History at Jadavpur University, Dr. Maroona Murmu, because of her identity as an Adivasi.
The remarks were made in response to Dr. Murmu’s comment that an academic year was not more important than a student’s life and that in-person examination during the ongoing deadly coronavirus pandemic was not a good idea. This was admittedly a reasonable stand in face of the government’s decision to hold exams during the Covid-19 outbreak. In response, she received casteist abuses from an undergraduate student who called her out on social media as a “worthless, undeserving idiot” (“jogyotaheen opodartho” in Bengali). It questioned both her scholarly credibility and her right to speak out on any aspect of academic life (the security and well-being of students during a contagious disease outbreak, for instance). The student then went on to “remind” Dr. Murmu of her identity as an Adivasi Santhal and her inferior position in the caste hierarchy that made her unworthy of any consideration. This was followed by over 1800 trolls and rebukes. It is continuing. Continue reading Jadavpur alumni in solidarity with Dr. Maroona Murmu in face of casteist/racist violence in Indian academia→
What does turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque mean for global political practice?
In an unusally brazen move Turkey’s top court recently ruled in favour of transforming Hagia Sophia, a museum of global tourist attraction, into a mosque. Originally a cathedral built in pre-Islamic Turkey but converted into a mosque when Ottomans invaded Constantinople in 1453, with the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire, Attaturk transformed it into a museum in 1934 as a secular gesture to herald what is called modern secular Turkey. This was more recently followed by transforming another historic Chora Church, that went exactly through the same iteration, into yet another mosque.
We are publishing below the following statement in support of and solidarity with Dr Maroona Murmu, signed by more than eighty faculty members of Presidency University, was issued yesterday.
We, the undersigned teachers of Presidency University, Kolkata, are shocked to know about the recent attacks on Dr. Maroona Murmu, Associate Professor of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
Dr. Murmu is an accomplished scholar, an activist, and an intellectual. She is an important voice of our time insofar as she regularly writes and speaks about the rights and plights of the Adivasi community. She is a unique personality to have graced the academia with her rare ability to combine scholarship with activism.
We are aware that the academic space in West Bengal, as elsewhere in the country, is, even today, predominantly Brahminical. Students and teachers hailing from SC, ST, and OBC communities regularly face discrimination due to their caste and tribal backgrounds. The suicides of Chuni Kotal, Rohith Vemula, and Payal Tadvi amply demonstrate the fatal consequences of such discrimination. As various instances from academic institutions from across the country suggest, not only students but teachers from such communities also face victimization regularly. We are also aware that only a tiny percentage of such instances of discrimination make it to the news.
अभय दुबे की पुस्तक हिन्दू एकता बनाम ज्ञान की राजनीति पर जारी बहस में एक योगदान।
दि प्रिंट में 8 जुलाई 2020 को योगेंद्र यादव का लेख ‘भारतीय सेक्युलरिज्म पर हिन्दी की यह किताब उदारवादियों की पोल खोल सकती थी मगर नज़रअंदाज़ कर दी गई है’, अभय दुबे की पुस्तक को केंद्र मे रखकर लिखा गया है. उन्होनें लिखा: “अगर अभय की किताब के तर्क उन सेकुलर बुद्धिजीवियों के कान तक टहलकर नहीं पहुंचे जिनके लिखत-पढ़त की उन्होंने आलोचना की है तो इसकी वजह को पहचान पाना मुश्किल नहीं. वजह वही है जिसे अभय ने अपनी किताब में रेखांकित किया है कि भारत के अँग्रेज़ीदाँ मध्यवर्ग की सेकुलर-लिबरल विचारधारा और देश के शेष समाज के बीच सोच समझ के धरातल पर एक खाई मौजूद है.” योगेंद्र के लेख के जवाब में, दि प्रिंट में ही 15 जुलाई को राजमोहन गांधी का लेख ‘भारत में धर्मनिरपेक्षता की विचारधारा पराजित नहीं हुई है, इसके पैरोकारों को आरएसएस पर दोष मढ़ना बंद करना होगा’ पढ़कर संतोष और असंतोष दोनों हुआ. संतोष इसलिए कि योगेंद्र के आग्रह पर बुद्धिजीवियों ने बहस को आगे बढ़ाने की पहल तो की. इसी कड़ी में 16 जुलाई 2020 को काफ़िला में छपा आदित्य निगम का लेख ‘डिसकोर्स ऑफ हिन्दू युनीटी इन द स्ट्र्गल अगेन्स्ट द राइट’ को भी देखा जा सकता है.