Check Hindutva Patriarchy: Prof. Akeel Bilgrami writes to the Chief Minister of Kerala

 (This is the text of the open letter written by the eminent philosopher Prof. Bilgrami, who was honoured by the Government of Kerala a few years back, to Com. Pinarayi Vijayan, on the Hadiya case)
Dear Mr. Vijayan,

You may not remember me from a couple of years ago when you and Prof. Pannikar were kind enough to award me the Social Science Research Prize and attend my lecture on that occasion in Trivandrum. I write out of the blue now —an impertinent liberty— to urge you to intervene in the case of Hadiya where an important constitutional right to choose one’s religion is being violated since, as is well-known, there was absolutely no force exercised upon her in her conversion.   Both Hindutva mischief and patriarchal attitudes are at play in her plight and they need to be strongly resisted.  Moreover it seems to me that the NIA’s being allowed to play a role in this matter is a deplorable interference in the the state of Kerala’s autonomy in the federal system of governance to which our country is committed, and should also be resisted.
  Won’t you please lead the way on this  —your voice, speaking out on all these issues and your support of Hadiya from your position of authority as Chief Minister, will make all the difference.
With my very best wishes,
Akeel Bilgrami
Akeel Bilgrami
Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy,
Professor, Committee on Global Thought,
Columbia University,
Tel: 212 316 3458
Fax 212 854 4986

Free Hadiya March on 3 Oct: Citizens for Hadiya

On October 3, students, human rights activists, muslim-dalit-adivasi-bahujan organisations from all over India are converging in Thiruvananthapuram to march for the freedom of the twenty-four-year-old Hadiya, who is under virtual house arrest in the home of her father, Mr Asokan after the shocking annulment of her marriage to her chosen partner by the Kerala HC. The march will begin from the Martyr’s Column, Palayam, at 11 AM and end at the Kerala State Government Secretariat junction. Through this we hope to draw the attention of the public to the grave dangers posed by these decisions of the judiciary and by the shameful silence and criminal inaction of the Kerala government , which claims leftist and secular credentials. We invite all to participate in this march and strengthen the hands of those who are fighting to undo this unspeakable violation of justice to an Indian citizen and the gross attack on the fundamentals of Indian democracy. We also request you to kindly change your Facebook profile pictures to Citizens for Hadiya and/or write supporting posts.

Continue reading “Free Hadiya March on 3 Oct: Citizens for Hadiya”

A letter to Kummanam-ji, but also to all Pujya/Poojya/Poo Hindutva fanatics from Kerala, in the wake of revolution in the prasad-giving practices in Haryana

Dear Kummanamji

This is to let you know how the events presently unfolding in Dharmakshetra- kurukshetra (or at least its vicinity) are making even me, a lapsed sudrathy from Kerala, more and more creative about convincing your masters in Delhi that Hindutva fanatics in Kerala are no less worthy of kind consideration than their own home-grown fanatics. Actually, is this not the time you should be making a splash? Alas, despite your earnest efforts, these days, the Kerala police (and even your arch-enemies in Kerala, though they seem to be a bit less enthusiastic  these days), take all the credit of minority-bashing and gender-criminalising. And the best you can do is go home to home telling Hindu women to cover up etc. and shout at Muslim groups doing the same, accusing them of nearly the same acts.

My ex-sudra blood boils perhaps when I notice how in the course of post-independence history, Kerala politicians in Delhi with the exception of a few of the likes of AK Gopalan, have performed mostly sudravritti especially after the 1980s even when they were in powerful posts (often clearing the shit your predecessors have made according to the instructions from above and to the extent to which they permit). Now is your chance, I think, to rise, or at least put your head above the ground. Continue reading “A letter to Kummanam-ji, but also to all Pujya/Poojya/Poo Hindutva fanatics from Kerala, in the wake of revolution in the prasad-giving practices in Haryana”

The Heavy Footsteps of Brahmanical Dandaneethi : The Hadiya Case

 

It appears that for women in India, the modern judiciary is fading and in its place, the terrifying face of Brahmanical Dandaneethi is emerging. A ten year old rape victim is denied abortion, women fleeing dowry harassment are to submit to the rule of local elders and leaders of ‘family welfare committees’, and now, in the Hadiya case, the judges declared that unmarried daughters should be under their parents according to ‘Indian tradition’.

Read more:   https://thewire.in/169543/hadiya-islam-conversion-supreme-court/

 

An Anthem for Kerala: Mojitopaattu

In these days in which Indo-Gangetic barbarians seethe with rage against Kerala and unleash all sorts of false propaganda about the state of affairs here, I have been thinking about my own love for and quarrels with this place. My relation to it has been largely critical, as a Malayali woman born and raised here who has endured, and continue to endure, much second-rate treatment. More than anyone else, I realize, it is Malayalis who have criticized Kerala.  Not surprising, then, is the fact that one of the most ardently-discussed themes in public politics here in the past decades has been the critique of the entrenched imagination of Kerala, and its exclusions. Not for nothing, too, have the struggles of marginalized people here demanded not just material gains, but the reimagining of Kerala in more expansive terms. And newer and newer groups of excluded people keep renewing it – most recently, the LGBTIQ+ people.

Our love for Kerala is a cursing, stumbling love – but love above all.

That’s why I think Anitha Thampi’s poem  Mojitopaattu (The Mohito Song) ought to be our anthem. Anitha is undoubtedly one of Kerala’s most perceptive poets of the present, capable of delving into the depths of the present cultural moment and surfacing with inscrutable yet pervasive feelings and moods and weaving these into words. Our crazy love of Kerala which cannot be but critical is brilliantly caught in this poem In it, this love comes alive as moonlight falling on this place which illuminates erratically, sways madly, and disappears without notice; this loving looks as hard and risky as a drunk’s faltering steps along a rough bylane through treacherous yet playful moonlight; this love eddies through the blood of two and a half generations and comes awake even as the whole world sleeps. Long before the Indo-Gangetic barbarians even noticed us have we felt this mad love, and it will take more than vituperative slander to kill it.

Below is my translation of Mojitopaattu – and I take Anitha’s suggestion that it a song, and a drunken one, seriously. I hope someone sets it to music and it becomes the anthem of crazy-lovers of Kerala.

 

 

Four-five sprigs fresh mint

Two spoons sugar
Juice of three limes
Vodka, two measures and a half 
Soda
Ice

Hey you, swayin’-shakin’-rollin’
 on night-time alley that’s runnin’
all o’er earth that’s green and shinin’
Banana-leaf-like, straight and gleamin’*
Hey sweet moonlight, 
who you be,
you be man or you be woman?

Hey you, fallin’ easy-loose-y
You for real, or just a feelin’?
Hey you singin’ , spreadin’-creepin’
Who you be to sunshine beamin’?

Hey you lurchin’, fallin’, stumblin’
on each an’ ev’ry greenly leafling  
Hey bright moonshine,  distilled-dried blood, bluish, 
two and a half generations bleedin’
Who be you?

You be me, or you be you?

*Kerala, that lies at the foot of mountains like a bright green banana leaf beside the sea.

( Anitha Thampi , ‘Mojitopattu’)

 

And here is the original, much more terse and controlled in its use of language, but a paattu all the same:

 

മൊഹീതോപ്പാട്ട്

നാലഞ്ച് തളിർപ്പുതിന

രണ്ടു സ്പൂൺ പഞ്ചസാര

മൂന്നു നാരങ്ങാ നീര്

രണ്ടര വോഡ്ക

സോഡ

ഐസ്

 

നാക്കിലമണ്ണിൻ∗

രാവൂടുവഴിയൂടെ

 

ആടിയാടിപ്പോകുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ

ആണാണോ പെണ്ണാണോ?

അഴിഞ്ഞഴിഞ്ഞു തൂവുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ

നേരാണോ പൊളിയാണോ?

പാടിപ്പാടിപ്പരക്കുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ

വെയിലിൻറെ ആരാണോ?

 

പച്ചിലകൾ തോറും തപ്പിത്തടഞ്ഞു വീഴും

രണ്ടരത്തലമുറ നീലിച്ച വാറ്റുചോരപ്പൂന്തെളിനിലാവേ നീ

ഞാനാണോ നീയാണോ?

 

∗കേരളം

 

 

 

 

 

Take back the Poison-Rain: Ambikasutan Mangad’s Swarga

Swarga_300_RGBWhen I first encountered Enmakaje, it was already much praised in Kerala as the powerful little book that aroused the Malayali’s moral conscience towards the unspeakable tragedy wrought by the unbelievably-callous aerial spraying of the insecticide Endosulphan in north Kerala, over some of the most lush, verdant areas of the State. It was criticised by some for what I thought was a very interesting experiment with form: it begins as fiction, slowly shades into a historical account of the beginnings of the anti-Endosulphan struggle in north Kerala, and then shades back, in the end, to fiction again. For me, Enmakaje was much more than an activist tale. It was a determined effort to renew the Malayali self, through a prayerful weaving and imaginative retelling of the many stories that have shaped us. Reading of Neelakantan’s and Devayani’s stories, one remembers these stories, but differently. For example, what if Raman and Seetha left Ayodhya forever, renouncing its sickening power games? What if Adam and Eve voluntarily renounced Paradise? What if Vararuchi’s wife had rebelled in the origin-story of Kerala, of the Parayi petta panthirukulam?

Juggernaut has just published my translation of this gem of a book, and the title of the English version is Swarga: A Posthuman Tale . Below is an excerpt from the book.

 

It was past midnight.

Jayarajan started from his sleep and sharpened his ears for sounds from outside.

He shook Neelakantan, who was fast asleep, awake. Neelakantan woke to darkness assailing his open eyes. He was frightened.

‘What is it?’

In a trembling voice, Jayarajan said, ‘Something is happening outside. I can hear noises.’

Neelakantan’s throat was parched. He asked in a loud voice, ‘Who is there outside?’

Jayarajan noticed his fear in the dim light of the lantern.

‘Not human beings. Something like a storm and strong winds . . . I can’t make out much . . .’

Neelakantan’s breath returned.

‘Oh, that! Must be the wind . . . I’ve been scared ever since you came in . . . it’s just that I didn’t show it. You lie down, I’ll see you off tomorrow morning; put you on the first bus back. It is not at all safe for you to come and stay here again.’

Jayarajan got up.

‘Come, let’s go out for a bit.’

Neelakantan yawned. His voice was lazy. ‘The rain and wind will go their own way. You should lie down.’

Jayarajan took his hand and made him get up.

‘I’ve seen quite a bit of rain and wind too . . . but something extraordinary is happening outside.’

Neelakantan began to listen, alert now. There was a whole symphony of unpleasant sounds rising outside.

Taking care not to wake Devayani, they opened the door and stepped out.

They saw the most unbelievable sights on top of the Jadadhari Hill.

The huge trees were shaking hard, writhing, in the wind. From the clouds above, golden-coloured lightning-snakes descended, falling on the tops of the massive trees and enveloping them. As if from the impact of the lightning, the tall trees bowed as low as the ground, seeking to shake off the golden serpents . . .

In the next moment, the wind came hurtling like a demon’s hand, swooping up the trees. The branches clung and cleaved to each other as if in a paroxysm of desire, and shivered as though in the throes of an orgasm. And then, the lightning-serpents returned, and the whole cycle began again.

Startled, Jayarajan asked, ‘What is happening up there?’

For a few moments, Neelakantan had no words. He kept watching the hill’s frenzied dance and then said, ‘Terrible thunder and lightning. And the wind and rain besides. All of it together, that’s all.’

But even as he said those words, he knew how inadequate they were. Human language was too limited to describe this miraculous phenomenon. It was too vast to be comprehended by puny human consciousness.

‘Look, it is raining on top of the hill,’ Jayarajan pointed out. ‘Some of it is falling here too. But just see – there is not even a sign of rain or wind anywhere near here. Here the trees are still as if they have stopped breathing. It is a miracle . . . let me call chechi.’

‘No, she will be scared.’

Jayarajan remembered Devappa’s words. ‘On the night of the Kozhikkettu in Bhagyathimaarkandam, no one goes out!’

‘Two years ago, on a night like this, I heard the jungle sway like this around midnight. I thought it was a storm and did not go out.’

‘I think,’ Jayarajan said and stopped.

‘What?’

‘Is this really Siva’s dance of destruction, the thandava? Isn’t this the Jadadhari Hill?’

Neelakantan asked, ‘Are you a believer?’

‘No. What about you?’

‘I haven’t been to temples or shrines after I began to see things differently . . . In my view, Siva is Nature itself. Siva exists in every leaf, every flower. The thandava that you mentioned–’

‘The dance of destruction of Siva, who swallowed the divine serpent Vasuki’s deadly venom! This is it! Is this thandava- Jadadhari Hill’s, Nature’s – that means Siva’s – own attempt to shake off the terrible chemical poison, so like Vasuki’s venom, the Kalakoota?’

‘You tie up everything to your consciousness of the environment!’

Jayarajan pointed out: ‘See, the wind’s grasping fist now eases. The lightning retreats. The rain and thunder depart. The trees stand up straight once again.’

Neelakantan nodded, his eyes wide open and filled with the magic in the air. Yes, the dance of destruction was now ebbing.

Excerpted with permission of Juggernaut Books from Swarga by Ambikasutan Mangad, translated by J Devika available in bookstores and on Juggernaut.

 

Love in the Time of Public Despair: Remembering Kamala Surayya

31 May passed like any day in present-day Kerala – filled with the cacophony of mediocrities and expressions of greed, envy, and hate which have become the new normal. No wonder, then, that most people did not remember that this was the poet Kamala Das/Madhavikkutty/ Kamala Surayya’s death anniversary. I cannot help recollecting that I had predicted that this would happen: that people here would celebrate her death, display sickening sentimentality, and then quickly forget. In life and in death, Surayya never received the critical attention that she deserved as a thinker, nor did those interested in progressive left politics take her forays into politics seriously. In these times of despair, one must, however, turn to her …

Read more on:

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/know/seeking-rhyme-in-reason/article8737506.ece