This guest post is an investigative report by MAYA JOHN, SUNITA TOPPO and MANJU MOCHHARY, who are associated with Gharelu Kamgar Union and actively involved in organizing domestic workers.
Recently, the otherwise docile workforce of domestic workers – most of whom are migrant labourers from the poorest states in the country – showed remarkable collective zeal against their wealthy employers in Noida (Uttar Pradesh). On the morning of 12th July 2017, a confrontation broke out between wealthy residents in a posh housing society, Mahagun Moderne in Noida Sector 78, and a gathering of agitated domestic workers and their families. The rampant exploitation of domestic workers, and the huge antagonism between their interests and those of their employers was directly exposed with the outbreak of this agitation.
The 12th July incident and subsequent developments have also revealed the sickening nexus between the police, employers, and right-wing politicians who have extended support to the wealthy residents. Within hours, an obvious labour issue, and the struggle of workers against the alleged illegal confinement of a female domestic worker was projected as a communal confrontation. With the accused employers and their sympathizers identifying the protesting workers and the missing domestic worker as ‘Bangladeshis’, the social media exploded with communal diatribe and messages of hate. Conditions for communal discord were consciously sown by Mahagun residents, putting at risk the lives of hundreds of workers living in neighbouring slums.
Guest Post by Sanjay Kak, for #Notinmyname / Statement from Not In My Name, Delhi
Last evening’s (June 28th) spirited protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, under the banner of Not In My Name, was an autonomous citizens protest against the recent spate of targeted lynchings of Muslims in India – the most recent of 16 year old Junaid, stabbed to death on 23 June 2017 in Delhi (NCR).
For an audience that was estimated to be 3500 strong, the torrential downpour at a little past 8 pm may have rained out a part of the programme. But something remarkable had already been achieved: the evening had washed away, even if temporarily, an almost overwhelming sense of despondency, of hopelessness, and of fear.
Since the Not In My Name protest had announced that the platform was not meant for political parties, and their banners and slogans, the stage saw the marked absence of the speeches (and faces) of routine protest meetings at Jantar Mantar. Rhetoric was displaced by feeling, and it was left to the poets and musicians to carry the sharp political messages of the day. On an evening that was often very emotional, the most difficult moments came when a group of young men from Junaid and Pehlu Khan’s extended families (and residents from their respective villages) came on stage and spoke to the audience.
When the call for a protest meeting went out last Sunday we were hoping that a few hundred people would gather to express their outrage at what is happening around us. For the attacks on Muslims are part of a pattern of incidents that targets Dalits, Adivasis, and other disadvantaged and minority groups across the country. In almost all these incidents the possibilities of justice seem remote, as the families of the victims are dragged into procedures they are ill-equipped to handle. Through all these heinous crimes the Government has maintained a silence, a gesture that is being read as the acquiescence of all Indians.
Not In My Name aimed to break that silence. But the scale and spirit of the protest meeting at Jantar Mantar became amplified many times over, as similar gatherings were spontaneously announced all over the country. As word spread through social media, groups in 19 other locations announced Not In My Name protests, and this phenomenal synergy inevitably drew media attention to all the events, and gave the protest a solidarity and scale that was truly unprecedented – there were at least 4 protests in cities abroad too. (And more protests have been announced for later this week…) The protest meeting ran on the shoulders of a group of volunteers who managed to put together everything in less than four days. No funds were received (or solicited) for the expenses from any political party, NGO, or institution. Instead volunteers worked the crowd and our donation boxes received everything – from Rs 10 coins to currency notes of Rs 2000, and everything in between.
The impact of the Not In My Name protest at Jantar Mantar yesterday only points to the importance of a focused politics to deal with the crisis this country seems to be enveloped by. Less than a day after the protests Prime Minister Modi broke his silence on the matter of lynchings. It could not have been a coincidence: speaking in Ahmedabad he said killing in the name of gau bhakti is unacceptable. But to protect the life of a 16 year old being brutalised in a train needs more than a tweet, and we all wait and watch.
This fight has just begun. In the days to come the exceptional solidarity attracted by the protest in New Delhi will have to become less exceptional, and more everyday.
Sanjay Kak is a filmmaker and writer based in Delhi.
The #NotinMyName protests, which began in a response to a Facebook post uploaded by Delhi filmmaker Saba Dewan, have since taken place in more than twelve cities in India, and also in the UK, USA and Pakistan. More protests, under the #NotinMyName tag, as well as independently of it are being planned by citizens groups, organizations and individuals in many places.
Tomorrow, July 2nd, 2017 will see a sit in at Jantar Mantar from 11 in the morning, at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi called by families, individuals and panchayats from Nuh, Ballabhgarh and Faridabad, they will be joined by students, activists and other individuals.
Guest Post by Bastar Solidarity Network Delhi Chapter
The democratic forces, organizations and the thinking minds of IIMC took part in a spirited protest today against the invitation extended to notorious ex-IG Kalluri by the IIMC administration to take part in a seminar. To start with, since last two days, there were several attempts on the part of the organizers to confuse/conceal Kalluri’s invitation. Immediately after the declaration of the protest, Kalluri’s name was dropped from the poster. There were also threats of counter-mobilisation by the BJP goons. But undeterred, as we reached the gates of IIMC at 11am, the site echoed with slogans of “Killer Kalluri Go Back”!
Everyone else’s father is in prison in Istanbul,
they want to hang everyone else’s son
in the middle of the road, in broad daylight
People there are willing to risk the gallows
so that everyone else’s son won’t be hanged
so that everyone else’s father won’t die
and bring home a loaf of bread and a kite.
People, good people,
Call out from the four corners of the world,
say stop it,
Don’t let the executioner tighten the rope
[ Nazim Hikmet, 1954 ]
Its best to stay as far aways as possible when two mafia dons meet to talk business. Especially when their deep state security detail has a disturbing tendency to shoot first and ask questions after. Today, Delhi’s roads are emptier than usual, even on a Sunday. And I am reading Nazim Hikmet, because a thug is coming to town.
Guest Post by SABIHA FARHAT
These are tough times for muslims in India. But now that I look back and shed my ‘liberal’ prejudices – muslims were never acceptable as ‘who they were’ in Indian society. I had always blamed my mother for not giving me proper lunch box to carry to school. But the truth is that even in class 5, no student ate from my tiffin and gradually I started going to the play field in recess rather than enjoying a meal under the big Peepal tree. After that I took tiffin only when I prepared it myself, that was class 11 & 12. But even then the girls would hardly eat from my lunch box. We did sit together but no one touched my food. Was I the Untouchable?
My friend Guddi has a great story about a Gujjar wedding she attended recently in Ghaziabad. It was a typically chaotic event, marked accurately by the swirling crowds around the dinner stalls. If Gujjar weddings are chaotic and the dinner doubly so, the scene around the tandoor is triply compounded chaos. Barely concealed competition amongst overmuscled Gujjar men in overtight pants for that precious hot roti ensures that none but the most Hobbesian men remain, circling the tandoor like hungry wolves, periodically thrusting their plate forward like fencing champions and shouting obscenities at the harried servers. In such a heart-stopping scenario, a young server had as Guddi recounts, figured out the formula to keep everybody from killing each other (or him). As soon as the roti would be pulled out of the tandoor, seductively golden brown and sizzling, this man would hold it high up with his tongs so everybody could see, then in an elaborate dance-like ritual, touch each of the empty extended plates in front of him with the roti, and finally, in a mysterious but authoritative decision, place it respectfully on a randomly selected plate. Repeat with every single roti that emerged from the tandoor. A hushed silence followed by nervous laughter followed every such flourish.