Thoughts on the Continuing Assault on Women’s Rights and Progressivist Gaslighting in Kerala

After the atrocious indifference and trivialisation of domestic violence displayed by the sneering alpha-male brigade of the CPM during the discussion of the Hadiya Case, nothing surprises me. However, it appears important to point out how such callousness is indeed becoming normalised here alarmingly. It seems that the gains of women’s movement which made violence against women at home something beyond an intimate private affair, a ‘family quarrel’, are being steadily depleted. Of course, we did see how so many smooth-talking liberal CPM-oriented or purportedly-rationalist young male intellectuals went ballistic at the mere suggestion that they are blind to the domestic violence in Hadiya’s imprisonment. Also intriguing was their persistent defense of the father’s right to keep an adult, mentally fit, educated daughter immobile and imprisoned because he feared for her safety. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Continuing Assault on Women’s Rights and Progressivist Gaslighting in Kerala”

Cutting the nose to spite the face?

It looks like the CPM’s enmity towards the Muslim organizations is such that they do not mind sacrificing women’s human rights and reinforcing the patriarchal family just to teach them a lesson. So they are happy to stick with the Sanghi understanding of conversion as necessarily forced in some way, ideological or physical. Media One broke news yesterday about a Sanghi torture camp for Hindu women who marry Christians or Muslims concealed as a yoga center. A woman incarcerated there for marrying a Christian managed to escape and complain to the police. Sixty-five women were reportedly incarcerated there when she was an inmate (a later report, after the place was shut down today on the order of the High Court, said 22 women and 23 men were allegedly for reconversion) . The reconversion therapy includes physical assault and threats. This 28-year-old woman married a Christian man without converting and her family seems to have initially accepted it. However, she was taken to this yoga cum counseling center by her own family without her consent and they left her there to the mercy of the criminals who ran the place.  She also confirms that a  young woman, Athira from Kasaragod, who had chosen to convert to Islam on her own who recently ‘returned’ to ‘Sanatana dharma’ with much fanfare, was in this place for twenty-two days and that she had continued to insist on her preference for Islam.

This place is in Tripunithura, in the heart of urban Kerala quite near the High Court at Ernakulam, which damned Hadiya’s right to choose her faith and a partner. Apparently, it is the Sanghi gang from this place who visited Hadiya at her father’s house. Here is the story:

https://youtu.be/ea-rJmuba8I

So it appears that the Sangh is clearly seeking to reverse what is an outcome of long-term social processes shaped by increasing access to higher education for most social groups in Kerala. Women entered higher education here in larger numbers in the 1980s and Muslims, men and women, since the 1990s till now. The expansion of the media and cellphones is such that young people are not influenced solely by their parents or community. In other words, there is a greater livelihood of women and men choosing partners actors communities. Even sensible people here whisper about how zealous Muslims are about conversion away from Islam but the discourse of Hindu tolerance is so pervasive that it lets concentration camp proliferate in secret. The response of the CPM participant is truly revealing — indeed, this is cutting the nose to spite the face. Whatever be their position about welfare and economic development, the CPM in Kerala seems appallingly on the side of the Hindutva security state. And the questions this raises for the fabled autonomy of women here that the CPM ideologues never ceases to claim credit for, are huge.

This is probably the calculation of utility that underlies the chilling indifference/ outright contempt of the CPM leadership towards the plight of the Muslims:  the average CPM and CPI supporter is the middle-caste ex-avarna middle-aged male of the middle or lower middle class. This gentleman’s  preferences are such that his utility is maximised by staying with the organized dominant left in matters related to securing public resources to private ends (because the mobilization for that, given Kerala’s demographics and history needs to be necessarily by a multi-community mix) and by sticking to community/caste organizations for family matters. This choice has always been detrimental to women’s personal rights, particularly personal choices. The community/caste organizations of the 20th century are becoming more of economic institutions than social — and they manage the vast community assets once secured from governments for public ends now securing mainly the interests of the community elite. The social, however, is undergoing rapid transformation, and indeed, sections of the young now even dare to define the social for themselves. Into this gap steps the Sangh, desperate to make an entry, now that their efforts to secure the ex-avarnas have failed (because of their own irremediable casteism). The above-mentioned gentleman finds it prudent to use their services in making sure that the young stay under his patriarchal thumb. Especially young women, for they have nobody to really defend their rights. Thus arise the thriving if silent business of reconversion, well-protected from public view by the pervasive Islamophobia of the Right and Left, believers and rationalists. Also remember that in a post-demographic society, children are few and they are more akin to trophies that future labour for the family. The dominant left sees that as long as they don’t disturb this gentleman’s efforts to secure his patriarchal authority through whatever means, however violent, crude, and abhorrent to democracy they may be, they retain influence. In other words, the tattered influence of the dominant left — no longer hegemonic — endures through, among other things, looking away from the social and the familial as hierarchical institutions and the abuses. This is why a sexual attack on a film actor elicits a huge response from the feminist supporters of the CPM, while the unlawful confinement of a far less privileged young woman is largely ignored or supported ‘personally’.  The dominant left leadership reasons this to be its best strategy, since it loses nothing by letting the Sanghis handle family affairs. The presence of the Sangh works well for it too, since very many Muslims and Christians, who are sizeable in demographic and economic terms, will turn to it for protection from the Sangh!!  This strategy has worked hitherto, and the sole risk lies in the gentleman ceasing to remain a Rational Agent and joining the ranks of the Indo-Gangetic barbarians, essentially irrational in the Kerala context (I keep urging them to leave for Haryana in pursuit of what must be their choices if they choose to become such barbarians). But this has been largely limited to the upper caste Hindus and some sections of elite Christians who regret the loss of traditional power and hope that the Sangh will restore it. They are not the growing power, demographically or economically. Meanwhile, the effete rationalists generate a ‘secularised’ Islamophobia that serves as a neutral-sounding justification for the government’s inactivity.

There are very few moments in which I have felt so lonely. Almost everyone I know seems to be a player, a rational agent, in this game, either participating or creating justifications for the strategy or participating by simply looking away and remaining silent. But this loneliness is so much more dignified — and indeed, more human. I stand with the six young women who braved the Sangh and the police trying to reach Hadiya; I condemn those who serve up her father’s sickening sentimental patriarchal shit in the public in a way that renders them vulnerable. Hadiya’s father who had not the slightest compunction in approaching the High Court and painting his own daughter a potential terrorist such that her entire life promises to be hell (even if she escapes his confinement), is showered with sympathy by our critical intellects for being a poor worried father. Meanwhile, a radical student who claims to be on Hadiya’s side flings abuse on me for wearing a sleeveless blouse, for leaving my hair untied – she does not even notice that her tirade is so like a Brahmanical patriarch’s diatribe against the well-known signs of Kali — immodest women with their hair open — such missiles seem convenient for all, radical Ambedkarites even, to use against those they dislike.  The only silver lining in this mess is that it reveals with unprecedented and astounding clarity,  the enormous risks, dangers, and material losses ahead of anyone who wants to remain human, and not what is substitutable with Artificial Intelligence. And that in order to be popular, you must swim with some tide or the other.  But I’d rather be human than popular, still.

Shame on all of you — AIDWA leaders, Brinda Karat, M S Josephine, C K Asha, Geeta Nazir, Sreemathi teacher, Shylaja teacher — all of you women adherents of the CPM and CPI. If Hadiya dies in that horrible hell, her blood is on your hands. Her rights are already dead and you have done precious little.

 

Literature and Silence: Prasanta Chakravarty

Guest post by PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY

“Then is Now. The star you steer by is gone, its tremulous thread spun in the hurricane spider floss on my cheek.”
~ Basil Bunting, Briggflatts

 

“He who writes the work is set aside; he who has written it is dismissed. He who is dismissed, moreover, doesn’t know it. This ignorance preserves him.”
~Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature

 

“Blanchot is even greater waste of time than Proust,” Georges Poulet had famously remarked. Poulet was hinting at the grandeur of wasted time. A ruthless negativity, a rigorous retreat must take on all forms of reparation and facile optimism of human agency. Unconcern must be at the front and centre of our concern. The work of art is. Nothing more. The very idea of elucidation—to dwell upon the actual object that a writer has to offer us—is aesthetically vulgar and politically reactionary. A deep futility marks all perfection. A creation, like Eurydice when Orpheus looks at her, must disappear. The work is remote from itself. It is the incapacity to stop feeling what is not there to be felt.

All quests are echoes. Foreign to presence. Any presence. Quests grasp us rather. But they exclude the writer. He is stupefied. He is idled out of his own work—hence he must go back to work, tirelessly. The lucidity of his insomniac regression keeps on emerging infernally in what we call art. Write he must. But only and solely by being on the verge of his ruinous look back.

Continue reading “Literature and Silence: Prasanta Chakravarty”

Academic Community stands firmly with JNUSU President; 100+ academicians, activists, writers issue statement of solidarity

Guest Post by Shehla Rashid on behalf of the signatories
We, the undersigned, are deeply shocked by the shameful attempts by JNU Administration to crush dissent in the University through imposition of arbitrary fines on student activists, denial of registration to students engaged in protests against the administration, including the elected President of the Students’ Union, Mohit Pandey. We stand in solidarity with the JNUSU President who has decided not to pay the arbitrarily imposed fine of 20,000. Many more Students’ Representatives and activists of JNU campus are facing 5-6 inquiries and false FIRs for raising students’ issues.
It is also shocking that a duly elected representatives of the students is being fined such massive amounts for merely raising students’ issues. Several other students have paid the fines, in order to be allowed to register, being forced to succumb under the threat of having their registration held up. Several students with pending inquires are not getting their degree- mark sheets and unable to continue their studies further. This amounts to imposition of a tax/fee on dissent, thereby creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the University. This is unacceptable in a University where knowledge creation is contingent upon freedom of ideas.
We call upon the JNU administration to display maturity and stop penalising alternative viewpoints. The current fine of Rs. 20,000 that the JNUSU President is being asked to pay for restoration of his studentship pertains to an instance of anti-administration protests led by the students’ union against the complicity of the JNU Administration in the disappearance of an M.Sc. Biotechnology student named Najeeb Ahmed following a mob assault on him by members of a students’ group affiliated to the ruling party – who were indicted for the assault by a report of the Proctor’s Office, but shielded by the higher ups in the administration, leading the then Proctor to resign from office.
So, the students guilty of leading the lynch mob against Najeeb Ahmed were given no punishment at all, whereas students protesting against his disappearance – who were demanding that the JNU Administration should file a police complaint in the matter – were fined Rs.  20,000 each! Ever since the JNU VC has been appointed by the present government, students not belonging to the ruling party student group have been systematically targeted and penalised for speaking out. There is no record of similar fines upon right-wing groups which routinely engage in vandalism on campus. This clearly amounts to blatant viewpoint discrimination and also serves as a green signal to lynch mobs on campus.
The JNU Administration is using an archaic statute in the book to ban protests at the Administration Block. However, JNU has always had a healthy culture of dissent and protest. Protests against the administration have always been held outside the administration block itself. That the protests disturb the working of the administration is the most dubious pretext for crushing dissent, as there have been historic student movements on JNU campus which have only made the University stronger, its academic traditions more robust and its intellectual environment more egalitarian.
We, therefore, demand that
1) the JNU administration must end its petty tactics of penalising dissent;
2) JNUSU President, Mohit Pandey, must be allowed to register for the next academic semester, unconditionally;
3) all fines against students being imposed for the mere act of protest must be revoked unconditionally;
4) JNU Administration must stop trying to deprive students of the right to protest at the Administration Block, and engage, instead in dialogue with the elected students’ body without bias against the ideology held by the student union representatives;
5) JNU Administration must punish the students who assaulted Najeeb Ahmed, resulting in his disappearance.
Sd/-
Prof. Anand Teltumbde, Senior Professor, Goa Institute of Management
Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Delhi; Member, Presidium, All India Forum for Right to Education
Dr. Rohan D’Souza, Associate Professor, Kyoto University, Japan
Prof. Chaman Lal, Retired Professor, JNU; Former President, JNUTA
Prof. Nivedita Menon, Professor, Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi
Jairus Banaji, Research Professor, SOAS, University of London
Prof. Laxman Gaddam, Professor of Commerce, Osmania University
Anwesha Sengupta, Assistant Professor, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata
Arvind, Professor, IISER Mohali
Rana Partap Behal, Associate Professor (Retd.), Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi. Association of Indian Labour Historians.
Madhu Kushwaha, Professor, BHU
Brinda Bose, Associate Professor, JNU
Debaditya Bhattacharya, Assistant Professor, Nivedita College, University of Calcutta
Dr. Rohini Hensman, Writer and Independent Scholar
Anand Mathew, Director, Prerana Kala Manch, Varanasi
Mary E John, Researcher, Centre for Women’s Development Studies
Padma Velaskar, Professor (Retd.), Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Ravi Kumar, Associate Professor, South Asian University
Ritajyoti Bandyopadhyay, Assistant Professor, IISER Mohali
R. Nandakumar, Art Historian, IGNCA
Madhu Prasad, Associate Professor (Retd.), Zakir Hussain College, DU
K. Laxminarayana, Professor, Hyderabad Central University
Jean Chapman, Adjunct Professor, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
T K Arun, Editor, Opinion, The Economic Times
John Cherian, Journalist, Frontline
Teesta Setalvad, Journalist, Activist, Educationist; Citizens for Peace and Justice; Sabrang India
Ravindra Tomar, Senior Researcher, Parliament of Australia
Manorama Sharma, Retired Professor, NEHU
Dr. Sushmita Sengupta, Associate Professor, NEHU
Prof. K. Chakradhar Rao, Member, Presidium, All India Forum for Right To Education
Perumal Vijayan, Research Associate, University of Saskatchew
Sangeeta Chatterji, Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Mohd Mushtaq, Assistant Professor, Govt. Degree College, Baramulla, J&K
Hiren Gohain, Retired University Teacher
Nandini Rao, Social Activist, JNU Alumnus
Devyani Borkataki, Activist, Northeast Network
Kiran Shaheen, Director, Media Action Group
Wilfred Dcosta, Convenor, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
Firoz Ahmed, Teacher, Lok Shikshak Manch
Manoj Chahal, Research Scholar, University of Delhi
Manuj Mukherjee, Ph.D. Scholar, Indian Institute of Science
Sanjay Palshikar, Professor, University of Hyderabad
Dr Navneet Sharma, Assistant Professor, Central University of Himachal Pradesh
Bhangya Bhukya, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad
Abani K Bhuyan, Professor, University of Hyderabad; President of the University of Hyderabad Teachers’ Association
Dr. G. Vijay, Assistant Professor, University of Hyderabad
Sohail Hashmi, Freelance Writer, Filmmaker, JNU Alumnus
Nikhil Kumar, Policy Analyst
Roger Alexander, Independent Journalist, Pink City Press Club
Saeed Haider, Associate Editor, Saudi Gazette
Rajesh, Activist, Lok Shikshak Manch
N.D. Jayaprakash, JNU Alumnus
Anjal Lele, Travel Consultant; former JNU Student
Dr. Vikas Bajpai, Assistant Professor, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Indira C, Public Health Researcher; Consultant
Rashmi Kumari, Ph. D., Jawaharlal Nehru Univerity
Dr. C. Sadasiva, Associate Professor, Deptt. of Botany, Dyal Singh College, University of Delhi
Sajid, National Vice-President, Campus Front of India; Ph.D. Scholar, JNU
Shehla Rashid Shora, Research Scholar, JNU
Mohit P Gandhi, Ph.D. Scholar, CSMCH, JNU
Vasanthi Gupta, Academician; JNU Alumnus
Apurba K. Baruah, Retired Professor, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong
K. Laxminarayana, Professor, University of Hyderabad
Dayaram Yadav, Former General Secretary
Dr. M. Gangadhar, Chief Editor, Adhyapaka Jwala; Democratic Teachers’ Federation, Telangana
Avinash Chandra Jha, former Associate Professor; former JNU student
Mohan Rao, Professor, JNU
Shashwati Goswami, Research Scholar, CSMCH, JNU
Joby Joseph, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad
Sumegha, student, JNU
Caroline C. Netto, Ph.D. Scholar, JNU
Ramesh Patnaik, Former General Secretary, JNUSU
Sri Raghunath Joshi, Professor (Retd.)
Thokchom Surjit Singh, Social Activist; All India forum for Right to Education
Ratan Kumar, Ph.D. Scholar, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Susmit Isfaq, Student, NLU Assam; Students’ Federation of India
Roobala, Ressearch Scholar, Indian Institute of Science
Himangshu Baruah, student
D N Reddy, Professor of Economics (Retd.), University of Hyderabad
Akshay Pathak, General Secretary, AIRSO
K Venugopal, Chief Editor, Upadhyaya Dharshini
B Sudha, Retird Teacher, TPTF
M. Raghushankerreddy, State President, Democratic Teachers’ Federation; All India Forum for Right to Education
Aviroop Sengupta, Ph.D. Scholar, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
M. Balakumar, Headmaster; DTF
Arunank, State General Secretary, Democratic Students’ Union, Telangana
V. Raji Reddy, HM, Democratic Teachers’ Federation
Manjari Gupta, Post Doctoral Fellow, HRI
M. Somaiah, Teacher; State Vice-President, DTF
Vijay Kumar, Central Committee Member, CPI(ML) Red Star
Somasekharasarma, Retd. English Lecturer; AIFRTE
Kalyani Menon Sen, JNU Alumnus, (1977 batch)
T. Sobha Rani, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad
Shephali Frost, Writer, Poet, Musician
Srinivas Reddy A., Teacher, Democratic Teachers’ Federation
Bittu Karthik, Associate Professor, Ashoka University
Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Artist / Writer, Raqs Media Collective, Delhi
Madhu, State Secretary, Democratic Teachers’ Federation
Suraj Beri, Doctoral Candidate, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, JNU
Vijay Shankwe Choudhary, Producer/Director Films and Television, former JNU Student (1972-81 batch)
Shilpa Shital, Research Scholar, IIT Delhi
Partho Sarothi Ray, Assistant Professor, IISER Kolkata
Nupur, Research Scholar, JNU
Susie Tharu, Retired Professor, EFLU
Sarwat Ali, Associate Professor, IASE (Jamia Millia Islamia)
Dyuti, Researcher and Activist
P. S. Mukherjee, Founder Member, Friends of Latin America-India
D. M. Diwakar, Professor, A N Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, Patna, Bihar
Muzaffar Ahmad Dar, Research Scholar, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Aishik Gupta, Activist
Aijaz Ahmed, Lecturer, Shinas College of Technology, Ministry of Manpower, Oman
Vandana Mahajan, Independent Development Practitioner, Feminist Movement for Equality, Justice and Non-discrimination
Afzal Hussain, Masters Student, CAAS, JNU
Masood Ahmed Azhar, Research Scholar, JNU; NSUI
Harshad Tayade, Engineering Student, Pune University
Shivam, Student, University of Hyderabad
Dharti Putra, Student, BIT Sindri, Dhanbad, Jharkhand

Have Indian Muslims become the new ‘Make in India’ Punching Bag? Sabiha Farhat

Guest Post by Sabiha Farhat

[ A month ago from yesterday, a teenager called Junaid was lynched and murdered on a train in Haryana. Sabiha Farhat writes in the wake of visiting his house and meeting his family. The news cycles may have moved on to other stories, but we need to keep remembering Junaid, and why he was killed. – Kafila]

Once upon a time there  was a 15 year old boy called Hamid, who went shopping on the day of Eid with his Eidi .  A few days ago there was Junaid who went shopping on the eve of Eid.  Premchand’s Hamid was an orphan and lived with his grandmother in extreme poverty.  Junaid lived surrounded with love of his brothers, a sister, a doting mother, father and friends. Instead of the old, decrepit house of Hamid,  Junaid’s house has two rooms, it is not falling apart but it’s size and unplastered walls, do speak about the economic condition of his family.

As we approached Khandawli, Junaid’s village in Ballabhgarh a fear gripped me.  I did not have the courage to walk upto the house.  Junaid was brutally murdered on 22nd and here I was on 25th.  It was too soon, my mind said.  I should have let Eid pass.  But how could I have prepared Sewai in my house when a mother like myself had lost a young, healthy, happy child to hindutva fanatics?  I am a mother, I was angry and ashamed at home. And here, standing outside Junaid’s door, I was weak and helpless. Useless too.

Continue reading “Have Indian Muslims become the new ‘Make in India’ Punching Bag? Sabiha Farhat”

No Flag Large Enough – Jubilation in India and Collateral Damage in Kashmir

The recent incident of violence that led to the death of a police officer, DSP Ayub Pandith, was condemned by all kinds of people in Kashmir, as well as elsewhere. It prompted introspection, sadness and regret – like any tragedy of this nature should.

Yesterday two unarmed civilians, Tahira Begum, a forty three year old woman and a young man called Shahdab Ahmed Chopan of Brenty Batapora Village in Anantnag district in South Kashmir were killed along with two Kashmiri combatants (Bashir Ahmed Lashkari and another person who may or may not be called Abu Maz) in the course of a joint operation by the 19th Rasthriya Rifles of the Indian Army, CRPF and the Special Operations Group of Jammu & Kashmir police.

Continue reading “No Flag Large Enough – Jubilation in India and Collateral Damage in Kashmir”

Why Two Hundred Ordinary Hindus Did Not See A Dead Muslim Child On A Railway Station In North India

On 22 June 2017 fifteen-year old Hafiz Junaid was stabbed to death on a Mathura-bound train from New Delhi. He was traveling home for Eid with his brothers and two friends. A dispute over seats resulted in a group of men repeatedly assaulting and stabbing Junaid and his companions. The assailants flung their bodies onto the Asoti railway platform. A crowd gathered. At some point an ambulance was called and two bodies were taken away. Junaid is dead. His companions are in critical condition. While one person has been arrested the police investigations are running into a wall of social opacity since they have been unable to find a single eye-witness to the incident. Of the 200 hundred strong crowd that assembled on Asoti railway platform on Thursday evening, the police cannot find one person who can say what they saw. The police cannot find a witness because something very peculiar seems to have happened to those present at Junaid’s death. A report by Kaunain Sherrif M in the Indian Express provides specific details. When asked if he had seen anything that evening, Ram Sharan a corn-vendor whose daily shift coincides with the killing, Sharan said he was not present at the time of the incident. Two staffers who were sent to investigate by the station master were unavailable for comment. Neither the station-master, the post-master or the railway guards saw the event they were present at.

In this startling piece the journalist reports how the public lynching of a Muslim child becomes a social non-event in contemporary India. He shows the reconfiguring, and splitting, of a social field of vision. He reports all the ways in which people – Hindus- did not see the body of a dead – Muslim – child that lay in front of them. The Hindus on the Asoti railway platform managed to collectively not see a 15 year old Muslim boy being stabbed to death. Then they collectively, and without prior agreement, continued to not see what they had seen after the event. This is the uniquely terrifying aspect of this incident on which this report reflects: the totalising force of an unspoken, but collectively binding, agreement between Hindus to not see the dead body of a Muslim child. Hindus on this railway platform in a small station in north India instantly produced a stranger sociality, a common social bond between people who do not otherwise know each other. By mutual recognition between strangers, Hindus at this platform agreed to abide by a code of silence by which the death of a Muslim child can not be seen by 200 people in full public view on a railway platform in today’s India. Continue reading “Why Two Hundred Ordinary Hindus Did Not See A Dead Muslim Child On A Railway Station In North India”