Over the past one year, I have been trying to make a college in Kerala – in a women’s college in Kerala– take some action against one of their faculty members who rained abuse on me publicly, including a public assertion about his possession of a penis, at a seminar in which I was an invited guest. This happened in November 2019.Continue reading The gender between men’s legs and other learnings from a college in kerala
My earlier posts on the Kerala Left’s inability to forge an adequate and democratizing response to the ‘societal emergencies’ that have challenged Malayali society in the 21st century, and on the completely-unjustified attack on the body artist Rehana Fathima seem to have irritated, even angered, many supporters of the CPM on Facebook.
These people are not youngsters, a detail that is really important. Indeed, they largely belong to the upper-middle-class professional elite, indeed, perhaps among the best-off sections of Malayali society, which include medical professionals, male and female. Their responses reveal very interesting details about how the pandemic shapes our understanding of ‘useful expertise’: at this moment, we are told, just listen to medical professionals, and not just their views on issues pertaining to health, but also to ‘social health’. Many of these professionals believe that the brazen violence unleashed against Rehana Fathima’s family — her mother-in-law has been denied free dialysis simply because she is Rehana Fathima’s mother-in-law, and BSNL has ordered the eviction of the family on completely ridiculous grounds – is a minor diversion, an irritating, trivial one, compared to the task of controlling the pandemic on the ground, which of course, brings the medical professional (even when he/she works in Kerala’s private hospitals, which are surely not the epitome of altruism) to the centre of public discourse as the ‘hero’ that everyone should be eternally grateful to. And if such heroes tell you that Rehana Fathima is just a child-abusing publicity-seeker, then you have to just say yes. And, as as the artist Radha Gomathy put it, participate in the Break-the-Chain-and-Break-the-Family campaign — or punish Rehana’s supportive family for not being freakishly conservative, like good Malayali families.
Bolstering their claim to be the only ‘real experts’ to talk about Malayali society at the moment is their implicit understanding that medical professionals are somehow more ‘scientific’ than others. Yet I was amazed — indeed, alarmed — by the carelessness with which they dealt with empirical information and their easy abandonment of logic. The tendency to equate technical training with scientific is very strong in these Facebook debates, as also the idea that social science and history are some airy-fairy romance that lacks scientific basis.
I am mentioning these features not to put these people down — and I am also aware of, and grateful to, many other medical professionals who expressed unease at these acts of hubris. I wish only to flag what seems to me an emerging axis of power in post-pandemic Kerala. A form in which the state’s apparatus of biopower is projected insistently as the sole benevolent source of human sustenance that must engage us constantly; it is not that critical discourse should be abolished, but it must focus, and gently, on this pre-given object. In it, the biological body is the object on which the state builds its new protectionism; the only kind of body it is bound to protect. The ‘new expert’ wields power on it, and their technical interventions will henceforth be recognized as ‘scientific’ — and the significance of the gap between the two will be ignored. The suspension of neoliberal logic during the pandemic has indeed allowed the Left to behave, even think, like the left — this emerging protectionism seems to be actually riding on it.
It is not surprising at all then that for some of these experts, those of us who contested the purportedly ‘scientific claim’ that Rehana’s children will be necessarily harmed psychologically by the sight of their mother’s exposed torso, or the equally-shaky idea that they necessarily lack the psychological strength the resist the taunts of society, seem dangerous to society. Rehana’s use of the body is aimed at the long-term; it signals the possibility of seeing the body as the site of aesthetic play and creativity; its androgynous appearance and breaking of stereotypes about the maternal body make it defy gendered classification (so necessary for the state). Her husband deserves punishment because he had abandoned the role of Reformer-Husband so central to the twentieth-century reformist discourse. Our experts’ ‘scientific temperaments’ do not allow them to perceive the fact that the Reformer-Husband carried the burden of ushering his wife into (a gendered) modernity, while in twenty-first century Kerala, women no longer need such ushering — there is data that shows that more women than men complete their education and enter higher education; that they outperform men in most examinations and have entered most modern professions; that in marriages, the bride is now likely to be more educated than the groom. The family needs to be punished as a whole for allowing such explorations of the body.
I still repose faith in the democratizing possibilities that this window of time gives us, but that does not make me blind to this wilful shutting out of the long-term and the agency of citizens. It is as if future society may be imagined by citizens only with or after the state. The state sees a vague and uncertain future, and therefore all citizens should, therefore, limit themselves to the immediate and present. Nothing should be allowed to disrupt the Left’s hegemony-building through pandemic-control exercises. Even if that requires that we turn a blind eye to the fact that the refurbishing of this hegemony may not be antithetical to the further entrenchment of biopower and the reign of these new experts.
Perhaps celebrities know that talking about the plight of an animal—who died in a state not ruled by the ruling dispensation at the Centre—is a safe bet
Migrants wait for a means of transport to travel to their native places during the fourth phase of the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, at Kundali Industrial Area in Sonipat. (Photo: PTI)
The killing of a pregnant elephant has caused national outrage. The elephant had strayed into a village in Palakkad, Kerala, and is said to have been fed a fruit stuffed with firecrackers, which exploded in its mouth. It is impossible to comprehend the tremendous suffering of the elephant, who died a painful death. It is also learnt that people in the region have in the past used incendiary materials to protect their crop from animals, particularly wild boar.
One person was arrested after the matter came to light and few others have been identified. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised “justice will prevail”, but one does not know if that includes legal action against the hatemongers—including a former cabinet minister who gave the incident a communal colour by claiming, incorrectly, that the incident occurred in Muslim-majority Malappuram. A sitting cabinet minister also retweeted this fake news, which further vitiated the atmosphere.
In a complaint to the Malappuram Police, a lawyer has urged the police chief to file an FIR against the former minister and others for a “derogatory” campaign against the district.
Now, many Indian celebrities, for example Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, have said that they are “appalled” by the incident. The chairman of India’s biggest corporate giant, Ratan Tata, has compared the “criminal act” with “meditated murder”. The celebrities, the anchors of 24/7 news channels and many other prominent figures are undeniably upset by the plight of the elephant. But do they also feel the same kind of outrage and disquiet over the communal overtones being imparted to it?
( Read the full article here)
This is to announce a new series of postings I will be doing, relating to aachaaram in Kerala.
Aachaaram is loosely translated as ‘customary practices’ or ‘customary rituals’, but in 19th century Malayali society, it referred to a massive, inter-connected, all-pervading web of practices, rituals, and ideas which bolstered the domination of the upper-castes — in Kerala’s context, this meant the Brahmin-sudra nexus — over the lower castes. It touched the most intimate and personal aspects of a person’s life; through it, the allegiances and the labour of lower caste communities were extracted to benefit the upper castes. The lower-caste assertions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries here, through which modern democracy became a possibility at all, were directed against this web. Aachaaram, however, survived this phase through shrinking its spatial presence to savarna homes and temples; later, after the re-consolidation of brahmin-sudra power, towards the end of the 20th century, the rise of spiritual capitalism had led to aacharam’s resurrection as the vehicle of gendered savarna power — and as the provider of opening gambits for the Hindu fundamentalists — in Kerala .
In this series, I will post translations of selections/excerpts from the writings of the critics of aachaaram from early 20th century Kerala, with short reflections on each for the present. The many different readings of Hinduism that arose in that period when the Brahmin-sudra nexus was thrown into confusion, as well as the many different dreams of social liberation from different parts of the world that entered Malayali society then — from C Krishnan’s Buddhism to Marxism — produced powerful critical exposures that revealed aachaaram to be nothing but a vehicle and instrument of the power of certain groups over others. The effort made by these voices to point to the danger that it posed to a dream of a just society was largely ignored by the mainstream, especially the mainstream left.
The first of these is an excerpt from a conversation between the well-known social revolutionary, the avarna-born seer, spiritual leader, and philosopher, Srinarayana Guru and his disciples in which the annual pilgrimage to Sivagiri was planned, which I will post separately.
Hours after the two women entered Sabarimala, the Hindu terrorists began their handiwork. Mad mobs, including women, began to roam the streets and attack by-passers, in their desperation to foment violence and provoke riots. In Karunagappally, Muslim establishments and shops were singled out for vandalism. The Sangh-backed Sabarimala Action Council called for a hartal today and they have spared no effort to make sure that people are terrorized. Continue reading Hindutva Terror and Left Hegemony: After Women’s Entry into Sabarimala
T T Sreekumar, an important commentator on contemporary politics in Kerala — a public intellectual who now qualifies to be an irritant in the eyes of the Kerala police, now that he has openly declared his allegiance to the dalit people fighting injustice and Vadayambady and inaugurated a protest-event there — writes about the issue and its historical origins:
When I visited Vadayambady the other day to express my solidarity with the cause of the agitation, what I witnessed there was an atmosphere of utmost fear and police terror. A big task force of police was stationed at the location. The team that included the special branch officers, had created a situation of terror at the peaceful site. Activists mentioned that a particular police officer continuously hurled abuses, including caste abuses, at the protesters that included Dalit women and children. When the protest began to draw national attention, the ruling dispensation of CPIM that had hitherto remained unconcerned has started to take up some damage control measures. However, when they finally arrived at the site of the agitation almost after a year since the agitation began, the CPIM leaders allegedly refused to address the caste question involved. Dalit activists, including women activists, surrounded them and raised several objections to this attitude pointing to their sheer hypocrisy and lack of integrity.
Read more at:
The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, not our own powerlessness, stupefy us.
As frightening spectres of untouchability and unseeability hover around the festering sore of the ‘caste-wall’ at Vadayambady in Kerala, as the so-called mainstream left-led government here continues to pour its energy and resources into aiding and abetting caste devils there, as most mainstream media turns a blind eye, as the Kerala police continues its mad-dog-left-loose act, many friends ask me: why have you not yet written about the struggle there of dalit people fighting of the demon of caste now completely, shamelessly ,in the public once more? Continue reading Malayali Feminism 2018: In the Light of Vadayambady and Hadiya’s Struggle
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.
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
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/
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
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:
രണ്ടു സ്പൂൺ പഞ്ചസാര
മൂന്നു നാരങ്ങാ നീര്
ആടിയാടിപ്പോകുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ
അഴിഞ്ഞഴിഞ്ഞു തൂവുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ
പാടിപ്പാടിപ്പരക്കുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ
പച്ചിലകൾ തോറും തപ്പിത്തടഞ്ഞു വീഴും
രണ്ടരത്തലമുറ നീലിച്ച വാറ്റുചോരപ്പൂന്തെളിനിലാവേ നീ
When 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.
‘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.
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 …
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A new wave, nay, tsunami, of (THE) Faith has risen in Kerala. Soon, it will sweep the Nation. This is the mighty thrust of Lord Dinkan, now known all over Kerala as Dinkamatam – or Dingoism.
…. Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red/ Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O Dinka,/ Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed ... [from ‘Ode to Dinka’ by the early Dinka devotion poet Muroidea Muridae Murinae, later stolen by Shelley and rewritten as ‘Ode to the West Wind’. Note that Dinkan, superhero airborne rat and Shelley’s West Wind are both powers of the Air]
If you don’t believe me, visit this url:
Now, like many others, I too was an unbeliever until I went there. One click, and I knew this was truly Faith. Market logic is nowadays the true marker of anything genuine (redefined an anything worth pursuing), and Dinkoism is unmatched in this regard. Even Amritanandamayi who successfully packages and sells all styles of Hinduism (the astrologer-obsessed style, the Saibaba-singing-style, the Sivakasi-print style, the shallow version of the Upanishadic style, the Christian-inflected Hugging-Mother style, the belligerent Hindutvavadi-style) cannot match him. Upon opening this Divine page, my eyes fell upon a notice in Malayalam which said: Mega offer before the world ends in 2012 [that needs updating, I suppose – small error; the spirit is more important] . 100 % guarantee in securing sin-free existence. Many years of service. Ridding of curses undertaken responsibly. We have no branches. Now, what further proof did I need to be convinced that this was the true Faith? Who doubts now that faith in the Logic of the Market precedes faith in faith? The Logos of Dinkan and the Logic of the Market are in perfect harmony!
This is a guest post by ELSA T OOMMEN
‘For the last 20 years woman irrespective of their age were allowed to visit the temple when it opens for monthly poojas. They were not permitted to enter the temple during Mandalam, Makaravilakku and Vishu seasons’
– (S. Mahendran vs The Secretary, Travancore Devaswom Board and Ors. (1991) (8) [AIR 1993 Ker 42])
The Supreme Court of India will soon be hearing the final arguments on the question of the restriction imposed on women in the reproductive age from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The court had earlier questioned the constitutional basis of the restriction at the behest of a the public interest litigation (PIL) placed before the apex court of India by the Indian Young Lawyers Association (IYLA) where it called for allowing women of all ages to be allowed entry to the temple. Continue reading Women in Sabarimala – The Untold Story: Elsa T Oommen
The latest assault on the Kiss Of Love movement, the last in the long list of assaults against its activists over the past one year in Kerala, involves the arrest of two former KOL activists, Rahul Pasupalan and Resmi Nair, over sex trafficking charges. While the media has been mixing up this case with that of a pedophilia FB page in a rather unwarranted way , the media has been screaming about the pair’s connection with KOL and some reports almost imply that their actions were because of their associations with KOL. Others, including the arch-conservative newspapers, have asked whether the KOL was a cover for sex work markets! Continue reading Two Trees Don’t Make a Forest: Leave KOL Alone
August 26, 2015
Digital rights advocates demand a revision of Facebook’s policies that perpetuate violence against women in non-English speaking communities.
On July 28th a social activist, Preetha G, was brutally slut-shamed, harassed and abused in Facebook through a page which was in a native Indian language, Malayalam. The hate pages instigated a huge degree of violence, hurled abuses at her dignity and womanhood. It contained her morphed pictures with sexually explicit abuses, targetting even her autistic son. Preetha hailing from the state of Kerala in India, has around 22K followers on Facebook and uses the platform to to express her political opinions, her ideas on gender and other minority rights.
Many users including Preetha reported the hate pages (a total of 5 pages in a span of 3 weeks) to Facebook and also to the cyber crime wing of Kerala Police. Facebook replied with a generic message stating “The post doesn’t violate community standards”. The hate pages continued to update its content with threats and abuses to the women who publicly supported Preetha. Amidst all this, profiles of several supporters, especially women were suspended by Facebook. All these, including that of Preetha was blocked stating “violation of Real Name Policy” possibly due to reporting by those cyber-criminals who started the hate pages.
As the story of violence aided by Facebook policies spread, stories emerged from other countries as well. A recent incident occurred in Peshwar, Pakistan where a similar hate campaign was unleashed towards several young women through Facebook. When this was reported by users, Facebook responded in a similar fashion with the generic message that “no community standards were violated”. These young women’s lives were put to extreme risk and their own families did not protect them.
The women in countries like India and Pakistan do not get family support and Facebook refuses to understand the cultural complexities. With respect to this context, different individuals and organizations had several conversations with Facebook, but Facebook failed to take any measures until now to rectify these.
From the generic response that Facebook provides while hate pages in non-English language is reported, it is evident that the language experts that Facebook claims to have in place, is a myth. The actions or rather the lack of actions from Facebook, make it easier for several majoritarian forces to unleash violence against women and other marginalized sections. Facebook’s flimsy community policies are putting women’s lives in danger and this platform is used as a tool to silence women and bring forth more oppression.
It is high time we collectively inform Facebook about renegotiating its policies what adhere to majoritarian forces, and initiate a global mass campaign against those policies.
We, Women In Campaign, demand the following to Facebook:
a) Right to Privacy: To get rid of the real name policy and its associated proceedings.
b) Right for protection against hate crimes: A systemized responsive system or a set of language experts for assessing hate pages in non-English languages and a timely response and follow up in such situations.
c) Right to cultural diversity: Facebook needs to understand the complexity of non-English cultures and cannot impose its American corporate colonization into other societies. It urgently needs to appoint linguistic experts who can verify hate pages and understand regional languages and it nuances.
On Tuesday Aug 18th 2015, an online meeting was held with representatives from Facebook (India and US), Maya Leela and Inji Pennu (Women In Campaign) and members of a few other organisations who stand for Facebook policy revisions. We are waiting for a post-meeting response from Facebook. Depending on their response, we will disclose our future strategies.
We stand in solidarity against the invasion of Facebook into our right to privacy and political choices.
A Facebook page is started for the campaign: https://www.facebook.com/womenincampaign
hashtag for solidarity: #forabetterfb
Women In Campaign, India
[Aswathy Senan, Inji Pennu, Jaseela Cheriyavalappil, Jina Dcruz, Kunjila Mascillamani, Maya Leela, Najma Jose, Preetha GP]
Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan – Nighat Dad
Internet Democracy Project, India
Point of View, Bishakha – India
Phone Contact:Inji Pennu : (USA) +1-3212502484
Jaseela CV: (India) +91-9497550324
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr Adani
Writing to you from Thiruvananthapuram, where you recently signed an agreement with the Kerala government, undertaking the construction of the international container terminal at Vizhinjam off the Thiruvananthapuram coast.
The Malayali press went wild in their delight ; the politicians beamed in triumph (well, most of them. Some of them –guess who — could not, having discovered that they had shot themselves in the foot); the contractors and sundry middlemen in the construction sector rubbed their hands in glee. This is Onam season in Kerala, and Onam, you may know, is our national festival. You are very much in the talk here. To the contractors and our miserably corrupt and craven political class, you are Maveli reborn in flesh and blood. To the poor fisher people on what is arguably Kerala’s poorest coastal stretch, you are a newer version of evil Vamanan himself, threatening to banish them to the nether-world. There was a time when the political left in Kerala reinterpreted the Maveli myth as a vindication of the Welfare State. But since the welfare state has been almost as good as dead in the minds of Kerala’s mainstream political classes, the throne has also been conveniently empty.The mainstream press has set you up on it indirectly but definitely, and that’s pretty much evident. But Malayalees who love this land and are not blinded by hollow –false– national sentiment can see that not only are you the very opposite of Maveli, but also that this Emperor-figure has no clothes at all.
Secularism and socialism can be thrown out, so says the Hindutvavadi. Among those who protested against this suggestion were, of course, the Congress. But then, increasingly, many of us who live in Congress-ruled Kerala are unable to tell the Congress from the BJP as they have thrown out not just secularism and socialism but even minimal forms of liberalism. For our rulers seem as adamant as the BJP in forcing down our throats at least a softer version of Hindutva, reinforced with protection to shameless plunder of public resources and repressive police measures. Now young people and activists in Kerala, many of who were active in many protests including the Kiss Protests, are being pursued and hounded by the police. Apparently, a few people who participated in the latest edition of the Kiss Protests, the Lovefest, were hounded by the police for having been seen in the vicinity of a police station repeatedly! The most convenient excuse is pursuing the Maoists, a fear that is easily excited in our fattened and lazy middle classes. By the way, I am actively considering saving some money by ending my subscriptions to newspapers. In fact it is not being on FB which makes me feel out of touch with the world these days. Two leading human rights activists, Thushar Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, have been arrested and the papers are busy covering that shameful and utterly criminal waste of our common resources, the opening ceremony of the National games.
I am not surprised at all, having been an observer of local politics. In Kerala, after the Left-Right differences in politics came to an end, what we have seen is the transformation of our politics into a neofeudal space inhabited by powerful male leaders and their craven followers vying for power. Because the discourse of social development still lingers and the oppositional civil society has not yet given up, entry of predatory capital from national or global sources has not been easy. However, a whole generation of NRI — Malayali –capitalists based in the Gulf countries who essentially manage the wealth of the rulers there have been able to enter Kerala unimpeded.It is this group which is increasingly taking over our resources in overt and covert ways, legally and illegally. These capitalists themselves are interesting — their transnational belonging needs to be studied. They have apparently managed to become part of the non-democratic political systems in the Gulf countries, entering the lower levels of the court there, as juniors who help manage the rulers’ wealth. And from that position of strength, they now work to systematically undermine everything that Malayalis hold dear : our welfarist democracy, social development achievements, our rich ecology. Continue reading Murdering Democracy in Kerala : the Latest