Majma and Swaang are organizing JURRAT – A week long campaign on violence against women, from Dec 10-16.
On 16th December 2013 one year would have passed since the shameful, horrific and brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi. And yet this whole year, city after city and village after village has screamed ‘Rape’ ‘Gang Rape’ in the months after the much publicized and condemned Delhi-gang rape. Continue reading Jurrat – 10 to 16 December 2013, Delhi→
By SHIVAM VIJ: The census counts ’urban agglomerations’, and the Census of India says that Mumbai is India’s largest urban agglomeration. This includes Mumbai’s suburbs. In counting Delhi, the suburbs are not added because They are separated by state boundaries. If you were to add suburbs of the ’National Capital Region’, Delhi’s population would be not 16 million but over 22 million, making it the world’s largest urban agglomeration after Tokyo. This bustling urban centre is made of its people. Today’s Delhi cannot be stereotyped as just the seat of power. There is more to Delhi than the endless roundabouts of Lutyens’ capital.
Delhi’s core – the Partition refugee Punjabi – is not xenophobic like the Marathi ’manoos’ of Mumbai. In fact Delhi today is what Bombay once was, India’s foremost cosmopolitan metropolis. It is the city of choice for people from across India to migrate to with dreams of riches.
A lot has been written about “the Delhi gang-rape”. 16 December 2012 started a conversation that doesn’t seem to end. This conversation has largely been about rape, not about Delhi. Continue reading In Delhi’s defence→
This is a guest post by ENAKSHI GANGULY and ANANT ASTHANA
July 17 was an important day. Supreme Court announced its judgment refusing to interfere with the Juvenile Justice Act. This was with respect to the eight petitions that were filed in the wake of the alleged involvement of a juvenile in the rape and murder of a 23 year young girl on December 16, 2012. The boy, who was found to be below 18 years, was described by the media as the most heinous of the rapists, a monster and a beast, and even the main accused—and this even before the police had filed the charge –sheets based on statements of the witnesses and evidence gathered. Should there be a fair judicial process that decides the case based on scrutiny of relevant facts or should we let media undertake a trial? Continue reading The media monster of the juvenile offender: Enakshi Ganguly and Anant Asthana→
The chief accused in the Delhi gang rape “found dead” in his cell? Killed with his own shirt? Hanging from a grill, with his three cell mates sound asleep all the while? The moment I heard the news on Monday, every conspiracy theory-oriented cell in my body did a quick cartwheel. Promptly I sent out a mail to the sisterhood on the Feminists India e-list:
I’m wondering whether there is something more than police negligence involved here. I have always felt that the role of the police on that night was more than simply their usual laparwahi – that bus may have been used often in the past for such activities, remember they didn’t follow up the complaint of the man who had been earlier that night robbed by the same guys? And how they located the bus from their hafta diaries? I’m wondering – and going to sound paranoid and like a loony conspiracy theorist – whether the key accused in court would have revealed more about police complicity in rapes and other activities on buses like Yadav’s than we imagine. Prisoners in jail often carry out attacks on other prisoners on the orders of the police themselves.
Yes, Indian prisons are violent and brutal, and the police callous and vicious. Yes, there should be an enquiry to assign responsibility. But I’m pretty certain I know who killed Ram Singh – some other prisoners. And I think that they did it on orders from the police. Continue reading Why was Ram Singh killed in Tihar jail?→
Some good news for embattled and weary Indian feminists. All those endless submissions to the Verma Committee prepared and submitted, all those critiques of the Ordinance written and disseminated, all those street protests, all those meetings with students and the public, all those delegations to government officials, ministers…not to mention decades of efforts to amend the rape laws.
The shameless and cynical Manmohan Singh government has found an easy way out to appear strong, deflect attention from its failures and save itself from the opposition’s questioning. Just hang a death row convict before every Parliament session! It is very likely that if the 16 December Delhi rape-and-murder accused are placed on death row by this time next year, the UPA government will hang them just in time for the 2014 general elections.
I am opposed to death penalty in principle, and there are good reasons why so many democracies have abolished death penalty. But even if you do not agree that death penalty should be abolished, please consider why it should not be applied to the five accused in this case.
About a month ago I visited the Ravi Das “camp”, a slum colony near RK Puram where four of the six accused lived. I met the mother of one of them. Champa Devi’s son Vinay Sharma was the first to plead guilty and say he should be hanged; his father agreed on television. Continue reading Why the Delhi rapists should not be hanged→
I teach a big word in my critical theory classes: phallogocentrism. It is the idea that our societies are centred by the phallus and language (logos) and is a word that often scares, perplexes, and disturbs my students, but I unpack it using an example. In English, the word seminal, which means something important and path-breaking, derives from “semen” and in contrast, the word hysterical or hysteria, which is a word that has for long been associated with peculiarly female physical and mental disorders (and often used for recommending women’s confinement), derives from “hystera” or the womb. What does such loading of the language – what a 20th century Russian thinker, Mikhail Bakhtin, called the formation of the verbal ideological world – in terms of the perspective, validation, and supremacizing of one gender over the other do to/in our varied lives? Think of the word vanilla that, at least since the 1970s, has meant the ordinary and bland: its etymology derives from the Latin word for vagina (vaina) or “little vagina” for the pods of the plant that reminded someone of women’s genitals. The word porcelain – a thin, fragile kind of clay – too comes from the word for “cowrie shell” whose Italian links to porcella or young sow (a female pig) for someone recalled the shape of a piglet’s orifice. One more: the word amazon which refers to a legendary race of female warriors and has come to mean a strong woman derives possibly from many sources: from the Classical Greek a-mazos or breastless to the Iranian *ama-janah or “virility-killing” – a meaning that interprets the idea of women’s strength as both a mutilation of her physical self and/or as a threat to men. Continue reading The Languages of Sexual Violence: Anupama Mohan→
To me, the most memorable scene in Dev D is the one where Paro takes a mattress from home and ties it to her cycle. When she reaches the edge of the field, she abandons the cycle, lifts the mattress on her shoulder and marches to the clearing where she lays it down and waits for her lover. There are no words spoken and the camera holds her face close. Her expression is one of intense seriousness. You can see her desire is a field force of intensity that fuels every step. She is determined to see it through, to let that desire take over herself completely; not surrender to it but to let it explode out of her. You know that when she meets Dev, the sex would be passionate and powerful. And yet, in the south Delhi multiplex where I was watching the film, most of the audience burst into rapacious laughter. The women smiled embarrassedly at each other. Which made me wonder, why is female desire a laughing matter? Continue reading When women ask for it: Veena Venugopal→
The UPA Govt, in a Cabinet meeting held on 1 February, has introduced an ordinance that it claims will address the most urgent concerns on sexual violence. In fact, the Government has been completely reluctant to acknowledge and implement the Justice Verma Committee recommendations: the PM refused to accept it from Justuce Verma, the Ministry of Home Affairs removed it from their website, the Govt never adopted any transparent process of discussion to decide the way forward on implementing the recommendations, rather they said Justice Verma ‘exceeded his brief’. Now, they claim that their ordinance has ‘implemented’ the Justice Verma recommendations. Is this true?
The fact is that the Government’s ordinance is a mockery of the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma recommendations. Why? Let us take a closer look.
[ Protestors from the Bekhauf Azaadi/Freedom Without Fear Campaign Demanding Complete Implementation of the Justice Verma Committee Recommendations during the Freedom Parade to Reclaim the Republic on Republic Day, 26 January, 2012 in New Delhi. ]
So, first they come with water cannons and tear gas, and then they come with an ordnance.
Yesterday, the Union Cabinet decided to rush drafting an ordinance in response to the massive protests against rape and sexual violence that have been occurring ever since the 16th of December, 2012. According to preliminary reports, the ordnance, which will be signed into law by the President of India before Parliament even meets, flies in the face of the detailed and exhaustive list of recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) which had been hailed by the protesting young people and a large number of women’s organisations. In other words, the government feels no need to discuss the JVC in parliament. It feels no need to even give time and an opportunity for its recommendations to sink in, for there to be more thinking, more ideas, more awareness of the issues and questions at stake. No wonder, the government had so hastily pulled down the JVC report from its own websites after it had been released. Continue reading Water Cannons, Tear Gas, Ordinance: How the State Responds to Protests Against Rape and the Justice Verma Committee→
The social, political and legal debates that have followed the gruesome incident of gang rape in Delhi on 16 December – including the debates on the recently published report of Justice Verma Commission widely hailed for its revolutionary character – have not sufficiently engaged with the structure of violence perpetrated in the act of brutality. In forging the solidarity against the suffering, there is a popular tendency to externalise the act of barbarity causing this suffering as demonic and hence out of this world. For instance, one of the posters in the protests that followed the incident read “your suffering is my suffering” – in the same poster it was demanded that those who caused this suffering were narpishach and should be hanged. The pain of the victim is shared collective pain, but the brutality of the act is certainly not the shared collective responsibility. In the preliminary remarks below I want to argue that we need to revise the nature of power asserted in the act of brutality, and in doing so we need to not only convert the demonic caricatures as flesh and blood human beings produced by this world but also to embed their acts into deep-rooted structures of violence in our society.
ARVIND NARRAIN has an op-ed in today’s Hindu about the Justice Verma Committee. This is a longer version of the article
The public discourse post the brutal rape of Nirbhaya has witnessed a persistent degrading of the public discourse. Having been subjected to crudely offensive remarks by members of the political establishment, right from belittling a serious movement for equality as led by ‘painted and dented ladies’ to ostensibly sympathetic responses which belittle women who have suffered a serious violation of their bodily integrity as nothing more than ‘zinda laash’, we finally have a document authored by a Committee set up by the state which honours Nirbhaya.
The Verma Committee Report most fundamentally alters the public discourse on crimes against women by placing these crimes within the framework of the Indian Constitution and treating these offences as nothing less than an egregious violation of the right to live with dignity of all women. What is particularly moving and inspiring about the Report is that it does so by placing the autonomy and indeed the sexual autonomy of women at the very centre of its discourse.
(This article began as a rejoinder to Hindi columnist Raj Kishor [Vaam se dakshin tak ek hi tark, (‘The same argument from Left to Right’), Rashtriya Sahara, January 13 2013], but it has also provided an occasion to address some common misconceptions about women’s freedom and capitalism.)
When women demand ‘freedom,’ why does it immediately raise the spectre of ‘licentiousness’?
Why, in other words, is women’s freedom automatically taken by many as equivalent with ‘licence,’ whereas the similar freedom on the part of men is never branded as ‘licence’?
This question arose in my mind after reading a piece by Hindi columnist Raj Kishor. Raj Kishor’s argument is that those – from Left leaders like I, to those whom he sees as representatives of the market – who are calling for women’s freedom are ‘consigning women into the fire of capitalism.’ When he hears me use the word ‘azaadi’ (freedom) he calls such freedom ‘utshrnkhalta’ (literally ‘unbridled-ness’, or licentiousness). He says and I, and the capitalist market alike, are calling for women to be free to ‘break all bounds of licentiousness’ if they so choose. Of course, Raj Kishor anticipates my criticism of his use of the word ‘utshrnkhalta’, since he says that is a word that ‘has feminists up in arms, demanding with red (infuriated) eyes the definition of ‘utshrnkhalta’.
Guest Post from BEKHAUF AZAADI / Freedom Without Fear Campaign
UPA Government: Implement Justice Verma Committee Recommendations Without Delay!
The Report submitted by the Justice Verma committee marks an important measure of victory for the ongoing people’s movement against sexual violence, as well as for the decades of the women’s movement and democratic movement in India.
Nine years ago, on a hot summer day, I was sitting in the New Delhi railway station waiting for a train to Dharamsala where I had planned to do my summer internship in a human rights organisation. There, I met a person who used to live in the same locality as I did when I was a child. He asked me where I was headed and I excitedly told him about the summer internship I was going for. He gave me a sympathetic look and said in Nepali “God, what all, daughters have to do these days”. I was taken aback by his statement but I knew where it was coming from. I come from Sikkim, a beautiful state in the foothills of the Himalayas. Students from Sikkim generally come to Delhi for graduation and after completing their higher studies most of them return back. After their return, they either start their own businesses or get into comfortable government jobs and live with their parents. This is how things work there. So, I think he felt bad for me since he thought that I was being made to “face the big bad world” when I could have gone back home happily. I didn’t agree to his logic then and have not till date. Continue reading Letting Go of Fear: Tenzing Choesang→
(Photographs courtesy: Pipit Apriani who is a Jakarta based activist and a blogger)
Protests against sexual violence are spreading across Asia. Last week demonstrations against rape and sexual violence were held in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Inspired by the protests held in Delhi for last three weeks, hundreds of university students and activists march on the streets of Jakarta few hundred meters away from the Presidential Palace for a world free of sexual violence. The call for the protest march was given by a coalition of University Students’ Unions and civil society organizations in response to the death of RI, a 11-year-old girl, who died last week after suffering severe vaginal and rectal injuries due to repeated sexual assaults. Continue reading From Delhi to Djakarta, Protests Against Sexual Violence Across Borders: Bonojit Husain→
I have been wanting to post about an experience with Delhi police since yesterday, but haven’t found the time yet… Here goes.
Some days ago, (early this month if I recall rightly), I got a call from a woman worker living in Usmanpur near Seelampur. She got my number through the son of one of our Trade Union comrades, who is a friend of her brother’s. She said she was being stalked by a man who made calls to her thretening an acid attack. She has 3 children and was concerned for their safety too. She told me she was scared to complain to the police, and asked for advice. I was reluctant to advice a police complaint without her being fully ready, knowing that it might not yield satisfactory results. So I suggested we meet and talk things over before deciding.
But soon after, she called again: feeling buoyed by a sense of hope arising from the ongoing movement, she had gone to the police station – alone – and written out a complaint, giving the stalker’s mobile number, the number of his bike, and offering to share recordings she had made on her phone of the threat calls. She said, though, that the police had not given her any proof of having received or recorded her complaint (in spite of her asking).
The death of the young girl brought incommensurable grief for the ‘Indian’ people. A national angst ensued with divergent voices seeking divergent ends: justice, death penalty, fast track courts, end to patriarchy, chemical castration, and a long list that cannot be spelt out here. There was a glimmer of hope that the discursiveness would ensue a quintessentially democratic process of debate, discussion, and deliberation amongst the people. The Indian state with its long-standing reputation wouldn’t allow for that to happen. It had to continue on its pet peeve of Breaking the Collective! The people’s movement in Koodankulam, the anti-corruption movement, the movement for seperate Telangana are some of the many instances that remind us of this pet avocation of the Indian state being pursued in recent times, almost, vocationally. However cynical it may sound, amidst the entire candle lighting and sloganeering, we failed to realise that the protest in Delhi was happening on the terrain that the government decided, in a manner that it wished for it to play out, and was party to the people it wanted to see there. I wish to argue that the closing down of the metro stations has a relation to the nature of the protests at Jantar Mantar. Furthermore it concurs with the tactics of chocking people’s movements logistically and stifling the collective by pathologizing the everyday life of masses. The tragedy of this lies in the fact that such actions of the state have become so recurrent that they have entered our common sense and they present themselves as normal and logical responses. Albeit they have been rationalized by invoking a specious reference to law, order, and safety, there is a need to unpack such a rationalization. My attempt is to extract these actions from that location of common sense and present them for public scrutiny. Through this essay, I would like to draw the connections between the democratic protests happening in locations across the country and state action in dealing with them. In doing so, I hope to bring to notice how the Indian state uses its machinery to purge protests of their democratic tenor and eventually, at least, attempts to break the collective. Continue reading Breaking the Collective – Notes from Jantar Mantar & Koodankulam: Vivek Vellanki→
Rarely does a city experience the sort of upheaval that Delhi is witnessing. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone has an opinion. It is impossible to walk down the street without overhearing snatches of conversation. Issues that usually find brief mention in some obscure corner of the newspaper are now being subject to analysis by every passer-by. A rickshaw driver refuses to take any money when he realises I am on my way to a protest. I remember the old man at a photocopy shop who had looked up and asked no one in particular: do you think she will die? The receptionist at the doctor’s clinic is distraught, providing waiting patients her explanation for the recent events. Men huddled around tiny fires littered across the foggy city carp on about the state of politics, the police and the government. Everyone is invested in this moment of reckoning.
There’s a funny telepathy between people running or walking in opposite directions along a narrow jogging track. You both move to one side to avoid bumping into the other, only to find that the other person has moved in exactly the same direction you have. We exchanged half smiles at this long before we actually collided. As we approached each other, I smiled more widely as an acknowledgment of having managed to get it right and avoid each other.
His pockmarked face broke into a smile too. And in the moment he passed right by me, he reached out and grabbed my left breast hard and then moved on. Something I couldn’t have planned or thought about happened; I snapped like a brittle twig, swung around and went after him. His back was turned to me and he didn’t expect this. I hit him in the middle of his back with my fist, my keychain around my fingers giving him an additional gouge. He whirled around, surprised, the mouth now a quivering O, and went for my chest again.