Guest Post by Tupur Chatterjee
Sonam Mittal’s recent piece in Kafila, “Kashmir is Feminist Issue” draws upon an oft-cited gendered analogy to describe the Kashmir’s relationship with India and Pakistan. Though it makes a few pertinent points about the nexus of power and patriarchy and the urgent need for Indian feminist solidarity with the Kashmiri resistance, I found the analogy deeply problematic and strongly feel that it needs further unpacking to underline its worrying implications.
Continue reading A response to “Kashmir is Feminist Issue” by Sonam Mittal: Tupur Chatterjee
Guest Post by Shehla Rashid
(Pictures by Biju Ibrahim)
Dear Jisha, I never knew you, nor did you know me.
You were probably a “usual” student, pursuing your studies, dreaming of a better future for yourself and your country. You were probably someone like Rohith Vemula, who dreamed of stars and skies. I learnt that you were a Law student, but I regret to tell you that the Law of this country fails us miserably.
It is because a Bhanwari Devi does not get justice that Bhagana happens. It’s because no one in Bhagana gets justice that a Delta Meghwal happens. It is because a Delta Meghwal does not get justice that a Jisha happens. And most painfully, I can predict that you may not get justice either.
This is because the Law that you studied is not the law that actually runs this country- this country runs according to a parallel law which is called Manusmriti. It is routinely quoted by judges in their judgments, but perhaps you wouldn’t have studied that in Law school. It is the law of Manusmriti that prescribes limits for women and limits for Dalits.
Continue reading Do Not Rest in Peace, Jisha: Shehla Rashid
Guest Post by Nayanjyoti and Subhashini
In late October, the youth wing of the Sangh Pariwar among others vandalised a café in Calicut on the pretext that lovers ‘date’ each another sitting in this café. When many young men and women in Kochi gathered together to protest by expressing their love in public, they got beaten up by various right wing groups and the police in response. The students and youths in different regions of the country gathered in solidarity of this protest going by the name of ‘Kiss of Love’. At the same time, as the news spread rapidly through the media and social networking site, a polarization continues to develop in the society, even among the individual activists and similar organizations, for and against the form of this movement.
Continue reading Resist the Sangh Parivar’s Hatred of Love: Nayanjyoti and Subhashini
Guest post by SURABHI SHUKLA and ANUBHA SINGH
The Sports Authority of India recently excluded Dutee Chand from the Commonwealth Games on the basis that her androgen level exceeds the ‘normal’ range thus enhancing her performance and giving her a competitive advantage over other women athletes. This test seeks to eliminate any ‘unfair’ advantage which some women may draw from tested ‘elevated’ androgen levels and is invoked only when women perform excellently in non-traditional competitive sporting arena. Failing to accommodate the role of environmental factors and variations in ‘female’ bodies, such tests are deep rooted in the ideas of gender stereotyping and discrimination and question women’s abilities to perform beyond traditional gender defined roles. Understanding international standards and the constitutional guarantee of fundamental rights in tandem, the unconstitutionality of these tests and the various rights violations visited upon the athlete Dutee Chand begin to surface. Instead of focusing on this incident as a conspiracy or a political scheme, it is time that the matter is seen as violation of rights of Dutee Chand both on the grounds of the test failing to meet international standards and on its patent unconstitutionality.
“I am completely shattered over the development. I am an athlete and wanted to bring glory to my country. All my efforts have gone astray,”
Dutee Chand as reported to the Daily Excelisor, 19th July, 2014 Continue reading Strength Of A Woman? Surabhi Shukla and Anubha Singh
Guest Post by RAHUL ROY
Nivedita Menon ends her commentary on the unfolding Tehelka sexual assault case in Kafila by asserting – “the time has come. It is now”. It should be, but is it? Are we witnessing the end game of an old Indian patriarchal sport called sexual assault? The sport is akin to another old game called the royal hunt that was an important part of elite political culture of South Asia. The rules of the sport were then as now heavily loaded in favour of the royal huntsman – weapons, support teams, timing, everything required for the thrill of a kill were with powerful men out to conquer. The expeditions however were not just about the kill. The sport was also a means of asserting authority over tracts of the wild and those that lived there and were by some misfortune not aware of prevailing authority structures. The royal hunt was an event to showcase to subjects the might, prowess and authority of the elite rulers. It was the stamping of power over human as well as animal kingdom. The royal huntsman could not but win. He could not but kill.
Continue reading A hunt, the aftermath, angry Indian men and a tragedy: Rahul Roy
Rural Indian Women (Courtesy India Post) and An Urban Indian Man (Narendra Modi)
I watched the television broadcast of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s speech at the Japanese Park in Rohini in Delhi on Sunday morning with breathless anticipation and some trepidation. With the restless anxiety that he would spin at least half a new idea, that could induce some naive fence-sitters in Delhi, my city, to sign up behind his juggernaut along with the rest of his zombie horde.
Would his spin doctors have worked hard and tirelessly overnight to give their client a new teflon coating? Would his savvy advisers have given him a sharp new statistic to play with, an incontrovertible fact, a compelling argument that would persuade my fellow citizens? Continue reading Can Narendra Modi Apologize to Four Hundred and Five Million Rural Women in India?
Guest Post by Parnal Chirmuley
A very young man, who should have been cheerfully devouring the world of ideas over samosas and tea from the canteen, tries instead to hack an equally young woman, his classmate, to death. With an axe, some say. Tries to shoot her too, but the pistol is too stubborn, they say. Then turns the blade and the poison on himself. There he sees success. Succumbs to both.
This leaves behind rivers of blood in the classroom and gashes in the minds of those who witnessed this, bravely intervened, or ran away from it. It leaves everybody entangled in a sea of Gordian knots that are just questions.
Continue reading Gendered Violence and the Hall of Mirrors: Parnal Chirmuley
Guest Post by Pratiksha Baxi
Many competing frameworks have given expression to shock, disbelief, rage, grief, guilt and fear after the violence witnessed as the new semester kicked in, with a monumental tragedy, on the JNU campus. Everyone is stunned by the tragic turn of events that has resulted in a young woman battling for her life in a neuro–ICU in Safadarjung hospital. Confusion gripped the campus as the classroom became a scene of crime, a classmate became a bloodied body and the familiar transformed into the incomprehensible. It was devastating that the assailant, who succeeded in extinguishing his own life, aimed to unite in death the object of his obsession through a planned and highly performative act of violence in the routine setting of a classroom.
Continue reading The Affective Claims of Violence – Reflections on the JNU Campus Tragedy: Pratiksha Baxi
Guest Post by Shivani Nag
In the days following the brutal rape and murder of a young woman in December last year, I remember waking up each day and being out on the streets raising slogans on women’s freedom and liberation. For months after that, there were a series of mobilizations, vigils, parades and protests, and my strongest recollection of those events is the resounding reverberation of ‘mahilaayein maangi azaadi… khaap se bhi azaadi aur baap se bhi azaadi, shaadi karne ki azaadi aur na karne ki azaadi…’. It WAS about justice for that one woman, but it wasn’t ONLY about that… it was also about many other such women – some forgotten, some not, some dead and some still around… it was also about all women, demanding not just justice but their right to life as equal citizens. We did not come out on the streets to be told how to be safe, but to convey it loud and clear that we cannot spend our entire lives trying to be safe without actually getting to live it. We came out to demand and defend our right to choice!! Continue reading Unrequited love or simply ‘self love’? – Reflections in the wake of a Campus Tragedy at JNU: Shivani Nag
A five year old girl is now in a critical condition in a Delhi hospital after being brutalized and raped by a neighbour. The Delhi police, which has dealt with the situation with its characteristic incompetence, first refused to file an FIR when her parents went to the police station, and then, tried to bribe the girls parents with two thousand rupees so as to ‘hush them up’. Subsequently,a young woman who tried to protest against the behaviour of the police at the Dayanand Hospital were the girl was initially taken for treatment was slapped by a policeman, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, in full public view. His actions have been recorded on video. It is believed that the policemen who tried to bribe the victim’s parents and the policeman who slapped the young woman have been suspended.
But can the suspension of a few individuals address what is obviously a deep rooted culture of misogyny and class prejudice (what else is it but class prejudice – would a policeman in a thana, say in an affluent South Delhi colony be able to offer two thousand rupees as ‘hush money’ to parents of an assaulted child with the same ease with which they could in Gandhi Nagar in East Delhi) within the Delhi Police? Is more severe and strict action that goes right to the top and to the source, not necessary in order to send a signal that this kind of behaviour within the police force cannot be tolerated? Must Delhi’s police commissioner not be compelled to resign, for his abysmal failure in terms of dealing with sexism and for failing to address the contempt for citizens who are not affluent that is now clearly endemic to the Delhi Police’s work culture?
Continue reading Another rape, still more incompetence: Time to teach Delhi Police a Lesson?
Guest Post by Vrinda Marwah
On 6th March, in the run up to International Women’s Day, I was involved in two panel discussions on women’s rights, both adrenalin-raising but for entirely different reasons. As someone who has been working in feminist organisations, and who, like so many others, is trying to be active and simultaneously make sense of the agitations and conversations following the Delhi gang rape, I decided to write about this experience because it was so revealing about how power operates.
The second panel, which I will talk about first, was in the United Nations Information Center, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM approx., organized by the New Delhi hub of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum, on issues of women’s safety in Delhi and practical measures that can be taken to address these. I don’t know much about this rather fancy sounding group (in their correspondence with me they describe themselves thus: The Global Shapers Community is a network of hubs developed and led by young people who are exceptional in their potential, achievements and drive to make a contribution to their communities). Continue reading A Tale of Two Panels: Vrinda Marwah
In the last month the streets of Delhi have echoed with a slogan familiar to many in Kashmir – ‘Hum Kya Chahtey ? – Azaadi !’ (‘What do we want ? – Freedom !’). Thousands of young women and men have chanted this slogan in Delhi while protesting against rape and sexual violence, and while doing so, they have also spoken out, with great courage and integrity, and carried explicit banners and signs about the fact that women in Kashmir have had to face rape and sexual assault by the AFSPA protected armed forces (the army, police, irregular counter-insurgents and paramilitary forces) of the Indian state. And no, the young people carrying these signs, and chanting these slogans, that talk about Nilofar and Aasiya Jaan, that name the atrocities and rapes that took place in Shopian and Kunan Poshpora have not been all Kashmiris. Some of them are Kashmiri students studying in Delhi University, JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia. But along with them, several of the young people who have been weaving the reality of Kashmir into the fabric of the protests in Delhi are not from Kashmir. Each time that they have walked with these signs and chanted these slogans – (and I have seen them in every gathering and every demonstration – their numbers are growing – as more young people in Delhi use the protests as sites of learning about the many complex realities of power and oppression) – they risk being branded as ‘traitors’ by the mainstream of Indian nationalist opinion, which can never question the Indian state’s conduct in Kashmir. They have tempered their sense of justice and deepened it with the substance of solidarity. Continue reading Azaadi (Freedom) for ‘Pragaash’, an All Female Band from Kashmir
The RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat (or to call him out in the way he is referred to in the Sangh – Sarsanghchalak Param Pujya Shri Mohan-ji Bhagwat-ji) has now joined the pavilion of eminent Bharatiya moustachioed misogynists. In a breathtakingly revealing statement, he has told us that rapes happen in India, not in Bharat. What he means is that rape only occurs in urban areas where the influence of Paschatya Sanskriti (western culture) leads women astray into being raped by men unable to help or control themselves in the face of the assault of women, out and about, by day and night, defying Mohan Bhageat’s Sangh-mandated Lakshman Rekha.
When an upper-caste landlord in a village claims his ‘droit de seigneur’ (land-owner’s claim) with a Dalit woman, it is not rape, it is a yagya, a time honoured shastric ritual. When husbands persuade minor wives on their ‘suhaag raat’ with a few disciplinary measures that leave them with black eyes and sore limbs, it is not rape, it is the carrying out of an Upanishadic injunction. When swamijis, babajis, acharyas and prachaks have their way with ignorant and nabalik shishyas, it is not rape, it is the partaking of the naivedyam of a woman’s body. It is the realisation of a ‘pushp ki abhilasha’, even if the pushp gets pushed around a little bit in the process. Continue reading RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat’s Thoughts on Rape
Guest post by PRACHEE SINHA
The curious Ways of Indian Democracy,from India Gate to the Slum Habitat
It has taken a horrific tragedy and a precious young life to stir the conscience of a nation. Or so one would like to believe! Reality may not still cater to our wishes. Our grand old civilization is also a culture of billion brutalities on its women and countless other victims. One can only hope that it changes for the better, even if a little, after what it has witnessed through the last fifteen days of the last year. Greater probability, however, is for such hopes to be belied yet again. It may take a lot more to lift the weight of an age-old way of life. After all, one would not have expected that rapes and molestations would be reported from across the country, and even from Delhi itself, right in the middle of anger, sorrow and protests that seemed to engulf the country. One would expect that the rapists and the criminals would lie low for a while till the situation returns to normal. Least of all would have one expected that women would be harassed, and one or two would even be molested, during those very protests that were taking place at the India Gate and Jantar Mantar. Continue reading Run with Gender, Hunt with Class: Prachee Sinha
Guest post by RAHUL ROY
I have been sitting quietly trying to finish my new film and had promised myself that I would not get side tracked and concentrate on the task at hand. But enough is enough. I am shocked and disappointed at the way men high jacked a protest that could have been and probably still is the most significant pouring out of women who may never have thought in their wildest dreams that they would be facing water cannons and cops giving them a chase with iron tipped sticks. I am sure it is a coming of age moment for many young women of the city of Delhi.
I am aware that there has been a fair bit of cynicism about middle class women running up and down Raisina Hill and whether it adds up to anything. It damn well does. The next time they see adivasis being chased down by the police in Chattisgarh or in Orissa a penny will drop. It already is, today there is an article by a 19 year old student form Lady Sri Ram College narrating her brush with Delhi Police at the Parlaiment Street Police station and quite significantly she adds that if they are capable of behaving the way they did with a group of ‘well connected’ college students in Delhi then what must be happening in the more remote areas of non metropolitan India. Continue reading What Do Men Have To Do With It?: Rahul Roy
Guest post by KETAKI CHOWKHANI
Over the last few days there seems to be sudden explosion in talking about sexual violence and other forms of violence on women. A huge discourse is being created around what rape cultures are and how we are part of these cultures which produce and construct these very acts of violence. Sexual violence has been linked to sexist, misogynist attitudes, remarks and behaviour, and ranging from scriptural affirmations to popular songs. The rape cultures are discussed as existing within the spaces of homes, streets, offices, courts, police stations, public transport, universities and so on. Continue reading Sexual Violence and Sexuality Education – The Missing Link: Ketaki Chowkhani
Dear Kafila Readers,
Here is a modest proposal to castrate police men and male police officers and security forces personnel in India who come into contact with women in the line of duty. I thought it would be an appropriately thoughtful, and at the same time useful and practical way to end a turbulent year. The context from which this modest proposal emerges is elaborated upon below. In a remarkably forthright statement, the chief of police in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Shri Dinesh Reddy in southern India has recently said that ‘fashionably dressed women’, including ‘women who wear salwar kameez in villages’ provoke and invite rape, as men are not able to control their ‘sexual jealousy’ and the ‘police are not able to control men’. The Indian Express and Asian News International (see below) have carried reports of this statement.
Incidentally, the last few years have shown a high incidence of custodial rape all over India, where police men and security forces personnel have raped women detained by them. According to some reports, these incidents are on the rise. In other words, police men are increasingly unable to control the men that they themselves are. Continue reading A Modest Proposal for the Castration of Male Police Officers