By Akhil Kumar:
2014 was quite an eventful year, and we saw a varied spectrum of opinions coming in from our readers and writers on the events that transpired during the year. It was a challenge to select 10 stories among the many powerful pieces that we published. Here, we bring to you 10 powerful stories that were the highlight of the year that went by.
Section 377: How Natural Is Normal?
On December 11, 2013, the Supreme Court set aside the Delhi High Court’s verdict, and upheld the constitutionality of Section 377, leaving the decision to amend or repeal it to the Indian Parliament. In this post, prominent feminist author and academician Nivedita Menon delves into the nuances of Section 377 and the myths surrounding it.
Afzal Guru’s Secretive Hanging Lays Bare The Truth Of ‘Collective Conscience’
In a highly controversial move, terror accused Afzal Guru was hanged to satisfy the ‘collective conscience of the nation’. In this post, Saem Hashmi writes why he sympathises with Afzal Guru for being treated as an icon of suppression by the powerful.
The Doctor You Didn’t Show And The Saint You Didn’t See: A Reply To Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy’s much acclaimed ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ came out this year, and kicked up quite a controversy on the question of appropriation and representation. In this post, Abir Misra articulates his differences with Roy.
This World Cup, Some Sick Men Are Travelling to Brazil For Sex With Children
The Brazil World Cup was one of the most popular events of the year. While there was a lot of reporting on the various aspects of the sports saga, not much was written about the dark underbelly of Brazil. Here, Bala Sai writes about a horrific practice that went on along side in the name of tourism.
FULL BROADCAST: Exclusive Election 2014 Google Hangout By Youth Ki Awaaz And ADR
Prior to the Lok Sabha elections, we organised a Google Hangout with prominent faces like journalist Ravish Kumar to talk about the election. Here is the full video of the hour long hangout.
This Powerful Performance By Kalki Koechlin Is A Refreshing Look At Disability And Sexuality
Veda Nadendla writes about a film showcasing the coming of age journey of a young girl with cerebral palsy, played by our very own “Girl in Yellow Boots”, Kalki Koechlin.
In Pictures: Jadavpur University Shows The Power Of Solidarity, Over 1 Lakh March For Justice!
This year also saw massive protests in Jadavpur University regarding administrative inaction on a case of molestation. The students took to the streets and raised slogans of ‘Hokkolorob’, which reverberated throughout the country.
IIT Non-Veg Food Issue: Why The Demand For ‘Veg Only’ Spaces Is Dangerous
In October, there was controversy surrounding the issue of separate spaces for veg and non-veg food in IIT. In this post, Abul Kalam Azad writes about the politics of what he calls ‘food fascism’.
The Nithari Case: Should A Mentally Ill Convict Be Hanged Based On A Torture Confession?
Amidst popular demands of death penalty for Surender Koli, Veda Nadendla explains why she believe Koli shouldn’t be hanged.
Dear Shenaz Treasurywala, “A Collective Thirst For Blood” Isn’t The Solution, “It’s Our Shame Too”
The popular MTV VJ wrote an open letter to some of the most prominent public faces in our country addressing the issue of safety and security of women. The letter instantly went viral on social media. Guneet Kaur, in this post, points out what she thinks was problematic in the letter.
By Anshul Tewari:
As 2014 comes to an end, here’s a look at the 10 stories that grabbed your attention and sparked multiple conversations across the internet. These stories were the ones that were most read and shared by you, and proved how much our generation is concerned about some of the most pressing issues our society faces. Garnering over 2.5 million readers and over 300K shares, the following are the conversations that started some very intriguing debates:
I Am Not A Kitchen Appliance: A 35 Seconds Advertisement That Debunks ‘Traditional’ Gender Roles
The moment we saw this video, we fell in love with it. Havell’s set the much needed precedent for how advertisements should be made. This 35 second video does three very important things: Breaks the stereotype around how women are and should be treated, questions the way we look at the idea of arranged marriages and tells us how women should really be portrayed in advertisements. A big hat-tip to Havell’s for putting this together. This one topped the charts at YKA with over 1.3 million views.
Putting A Man In A Woman’s Spot. If This Video Doesn’t Make You Cringe I Don’t Know What Will
This was another monumental video for two reasons: It smashes patriarchy in the best possible (and much needed) way, and it started a conversation around how men treat women. 2014 was the year when many of the conversations around gender, feminism and rights started up on YKA in full flow, and all of it were community driven. This video added a unique perspective on how men look at the fight for equality, and scored over 600K views from our community.
“It Was On Our Wedding Night That My Husband Broke The News To Me”
As the year came to an end, Oxfam India and Youth Ki Awaaz got together to participate in the ‘16 Days of Activism‘ from Nov 25th to Dec 10th, by highlighting stories of 16 women who faced violence at home. This story, a part of the 16 days advocacy, was shared thousands of times and read by nearly half a million people. We knew that the compelling stories from the 16 days had an impact when young people from across the country started sharing their own stories of violence that they had experienced, and wanted to talk about it openly.
How Arranged Marriages Push Our ‘Great Indian Morals’ To The Backseat
Arranged marriages are deeply rooted in the Indian culture, but what goes in the minds of people who do get married through this system is less talked about. YKA writer Elisha Mittal shared her personal opinion on YKA, which sparked a conversation and got people talking more and more about arranged marriages in India, the attaches stereotypes and the pressure that both men and women face.
WATCH: The Reality Of The Qatar FIFA World Cup Of 2022 Will Horrify You
2014 was also the year of the FIFA World Cup. While FIFA is known to be a controversial non-profit (see John Oliver’s satire on FIFA) most of the media conversations restricted themselves to the game. What wasn’t talked about was the fact that by the 2022 FIFA World Cup, 4000 migrant workers in Qatar might have died due to inhumane working conditions and human rights violations.
How Times Of India Told Deepika Padukone That She Was “Asking For It”
This needs no introduction. The Times of India’s Bombay Times edition first went on to objectify Deepika Padukone, and then defended themselves by suggesting that she was ‘asking for it’. This rebuttal by Dhruv Arora is not to be missed.
This Powerful Performance By Kalki Koechlin Is A Refreshing Look At Disability And Sexuality
Here is a film showcasing the coming of age journey of a young explicable girl, with cerebral palsy, played by our very own “Girl in Yellow Boots”, Kalki Koechlin. This movie goes on to talk about sexuality and disability and how it connects back to the journey of the protagonist in discovering herself – an important topic that does not find its way in the mainstream conversations, but forms a very important part of sexual and reproductive rights for all.
Arnab Goswami And Rahul Gandhi’s Interview’s Dramatic Reconstruction Is Hilarious
Remember that interview of Rahul Gandhi by Arnab Goswami? Well now replace Arnab with Cyrus Brocha, and Rahul Gandhi with well… Cyrus Brocha. Need we say more?
Dear Shenaz Treasurywala, “A Collective Thirst For Blood” Isn’t The Solution, “It’s Our Shame Too”
Just last month, actor Shenaz Treasurywala came out with an open letter addressed to some of the most influential male celebrities, business tycoons and politicians, asking them to take a stand against violence against women. However, that letter went on to suggest violence as a solution to the problem. Guneet Kaur felt that it was important to address the fact that “a collective thirst for blood” is not the solution. In fact, it represents the same violent culture that violence against women stems from.
I Was Molested In The Delhi Metro, And Here”s Why I Refused To Suffer In Silence
Coming out and talking about the kind of violence one faces in their life takes courage. This piece by Megha Vishwanath needs no description. What it did was very important. After her post, tens of other young women started talking about the violence they faced and took the conversation mainstream.
1991 Census 2011 Census
Chandigarh 899/1000 Chandigarh 880/1000
Delhi NCR 915/1000 Delhi NCR 871/1000
Haryana 879/1000 Haryana 834/1000
Punjab 975/1000 Punjab 846/1000
India 945/1000 India 914/1000
This is not a GPA scorecard.
This represents the number of girls between the ages of 0-6 per thousand males in four of the most economically forward states and union territories of the country, compared to the national average according to the 1991 and 2001 Censuses respectively.
The decade that followed the liberalization of the economy in 1991, oversaw massive overhaul in the way India was perceived in terms of its economic power. Industries prospered, G.D.P. increased by leaps and bounds, trade deficit became more manageable and we progressed tirelessly towards becoming an economic super power.
It was also the decade saw an alarmingly massive decline in sex ratio, especially between children from ages between 0-6.
So what caused such a steep decline in a rapid developing country when the ratio should have increased and improved in the other direction?
The answer lies in a paper published in 1975 by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS) announcing a scientific breakthrough of amniocentesis, which could determine the sex of the foetus. The deeply ingrained patriarchal preference of ‘the prodigal son’ entrenched in our societal roots coupled with a desire to make a quick buck by some doctors resulted in numerous clinics springing up for gender biased sex selection.
Innocuous advertisements were used to lure parents to find out the sex of the foetus with taglines such as “Pay 5,000 now save 5 lakh later” bearing testimony to the fact that preferring a son will save them from dowry 20 odd years down the line. Though, print ads for sex determination and selection have been banned, the internet has opened more doors for such advertisers. In fact, a search for the words ‘sex selection’ on Google would throw up upwards of 50 sponsored links for the same. It is as recently as earlier this month that the Supreme Court has stated that an effort has to be made to ensure sites like Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation do not show advertisements that are in violation of the law prohibiting gender biased sex selection.
This, for lack of a better word, has grown into an industry by medical professionals to a valuation of a whooping Rs.1,000 crore.
To combat this unscrupulous greed fueled patriarchy driven practice, the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques [Regulation and Prevention of Misuse] (PNDT) Act was enacted in 1994.
The main purpose of this Act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic techniques.
The Act, however, lacked the necessary teeth to do serious damage to this grossly unethical practice. Newer and better methods of pre natal sex determination and even methods of pre conception and during conception were developed. These methods provided the practitioners with the necessary loophole to carry on their practice with consummate ease.
It took the concern and a tough stand by several organisations and activists to make amends to the largely ineffective PNDT Act, which, after a prolonged battle, was finally amended into the current Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act.
Implementation of the Act, however, still remains a large problem. It is largely dependent on the political will of the ruling party. Not only is the machinery of implementation very weak in several states, but there also seems to be strong lobbying by the doctors to protect their fellow professionals. Several medical professionals still carry on with this unethical practice with impunity, knowing that little to no action would be taken against them.
It is imperative that this inhuman pursuit of gender biased sex selection is met head on. Stringent punishment has to be meted out to these callous, unethical mercenaries to deter other professionals from continuing. Gender sensitization is another important aspect that has to be worked on and mass awareness of the PCPNDT Act has to be imparted in the general populace.
Because 1900 registered cases (out of possible millions) with an abysmal conviction rate is not going to deter this corrupt industry.
By Zehra Kazmi:
Nightcrawler is a rare film, it’s bone-chilling yet pulsating. The film leaves you in shock, your heart still thumping long after the credits have started rolling.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, an articulate and driven young man who stumbles upon the profession of night crawling, where freelance videographers roam neon-lit Los Angeles streets in order to get up-close and graphic footage of crime scenes, vehicle collisions, and other violent tragedies to be sold to the highest bidding local news stations. The film is a comment on the culture of violence that pervades today’s media, in order to satiate the public’s sick need for sensationalism – to be disgusted, but fascinated enough to not look away.
Gyllenhaal is a powerful presence in the film. The handsome and well-built actor transforms himself to look wiry thin and pale. If you pay attention, you can notice the mannerisms he adopts which make Louis unforgettable; from the slight slouch of his shoulders to the bulging eyes and his clear, high voice. He wears these mannerisms like second skin, you forget that he was ever the Prince of Persia. He is unsettling, unnerving, creeps you out, and that is why he is so good. The sympathy you develop as a viewer towards Louis in the first few scenes of the film slowly turns into shock and horror. The hollow smile and the unnatural composure he maintains throughout is what hides a deep-seated and vicious hate for mankind. He is aided by an able cast of supporting actors which include Rene Russo, as Nina, a local news producer and Riz Ahmed as Rick, a homeless drifter desperately in need of a job. Rene Russo is especially impressive as Nina, whose tough-as-nails demeanour hides weariness and vulnerability. She is an especially complex character, bloodthirsty yet strangely dignified. Riz Ahmed is impressive as Rick, clueless and bewildered about the dangerous snare that lies ahead of him.
In his directorial debut, Dan Gilroy impresses with his confident handling of the film. His Los Angeles is eerie with its dimly-lit, vacant lanes and alarmingly regular criminal activity. There are blurred faces, grainy video grabs and a gritty, haunting vibe that marks Gilroy’s LA. Gilroy has also written the script and while it is definitely swift, the finale of the film comes as no real surprise considering how he had already been building up to it from the beginning. Despite that, the final arc of the film is brilliant. The last chase sequence involving the police cars and criminals, with Louis’s trademark cherry red sedan is so incredibly well executed and thrilling that I was holding on tightly to my seat. This, people, is how you do a car chase in the movies.
A very important theme of this film is the moral corruption of the media. The erosion of media ethics and the abandonment of basic human decency and sympathy in the mad rush to sensationalise is what Nightcrawler deals with. The implied question it raises is – “For whom?’’, and this is where it becomes uncomfortable. The media is consumed by the masses and like some demonic hound, it can sense our urge for graphic images of blood and exploitation, satiating it but also increasing it by feeding us with more and more gore. In a scene where Louis is spouting statistics, he talks about how news stations fill in maximum airtime with stories about crime and violence. The film can also be interpreted as a scathing critique of neo-liberalism, pointing out the amorality of Lou’s idea of success, unburdened by conscience.
Nightcrawler is a well-crafted and taut thriller. Watch it especially for Gyllenhaal’s brilliant performance and the uncomfortable but important questions it raises.
By Susmita Abani:
A sub continental wedding is always a breeding ground for the latest slanderous remarks and gossip. Just recently, for example, at my childhood friend’s colourful Haldi ceremony, I overheard a conversation I wished I hadn’t. A newly-wed acquaintance of mine keenly described to a friend the facial features she’d like her future daughter to have. While pointing at her fair complexion, she said “I want her to have my skin tone”, her eyes briefly glancing over my dusky face perhaps realising too late that I may take offence to such a statement. And I did. Not because I felt personally insulted, but because it always saddens me to hear others trumpet meaningless social constructs – such as the definition of beauty – as though they are a matter of fact.
It’s a topic that may seem overemphasised at times, occasionally referred to as a “non-issue”, possibly trivial in the face of the countless tragic events that circle our lives and fill the news each day. But nonetheless, I strongly feel that it’s imperative to keep it alive in the media, to reiterate to the many women and men in their vulnerable youthful years that a negative self esteem should not go ignored. I want to remind them that society’s measuring stick of beauty is grossly inadequate at determining their real worth.
In a recent TED Talks speech, Meaghan Ramsey, the Global Director of the Dove Self Esteem Project, highlighted the impacts of reduced confidence on an individual – particularly women – as well as on society. She rationalised that as young people increasingly become mentally preoccupied with their appearance and self deprecating thoughts, they are spending less time and attention on activities crucial to their personal development – such as sport, education, hobbies, their families and friends. Statistics drawn from Finland, USA and China show nearly one in three teenagers are disengaged from classroom discussions from fear of attracting attention to their appearance, while roughly 20% avoid attending school for the same reasons. A distorted perception of one’s body image results in higher absenteeism from work among women and also lower school test scores.
And of course, the psychological pressures of an image based world warrants a discussion of its own.
Thinspiration, pro-anorexia, thigh gap, finger trap test, six-pack, blonde bombshell, fair and lovely, double eyelids – these are but a few in a long and dangerous list of beauty criterion created by people to ensure consumers are forever trapped in the pursuit of products that promise to give them the perfect look. They help raise some onto a pedestal above others, inciting competition for a superficial happiness while directing focus away from becoming truly content.
It is absolutely essential that our youngsters have access to voices of reason in the media; reminding them that society’s obsession with idolising beauty is based on fleeting fads that change with time. We must draw attention to the stories of those who’ve shown incredible strength, carried out meaningful work and made lasting impressions on the society despite their appearance. The essence of a whole person can never be defined by a single attribute, and it’s vital that our children develop a filter against any claim that suggests otherwise. And I write this with the hope that one day every child will be equipped with the consciousness to achieve peace with their entirety through every situation in life.
More on Meaghan Ramsay’s speech here.
5 minutes into our phone conversation, Babloo Loitongbam, Executive Director of the organization – Human Rights Alert, based out of Manipur, says emphatically, “AFSPA has to go!”
On this December 25 and 26, excavations underway for the construction of a new market complex at the former site of Tombisana High School in the heart of Imphal, unearthed sinister findings.
8 human skulls.
Babloo Loitongbam is not surprised.
“There was a paramilitary base camp on that site for about 30 years. Besides, a dreaded interrogation cell which was allegedly used for torture too, lies barely half a kilometre away from the site. It doesn’t take rocket science to infer the truth.” Manipur, like Kashmir, has been subjected to the draconian AFSPA for over 5 decades. It bore the brunt of insurgency and counter-insurgency operations and like Kashmir, it has had its fair share of ‘disappeared people.’ “The Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared’s Association was established by grieving families whose kith and kin had vanished without a trace. There have been thousands of cases of fake encounters especially between the 1980s and 1999, and while most of the army men receive gallantry medals for these, the bereaved have to undergo the harrowing and traumatising time of finding out what actually happened to them.”
However, the genial soft-spokenHuman Rights activist been working tirelessly to make sure the search for truth doesn’t go in vain. Says Babloo, “We at Human Rights Alerts have clubbed together over 1500 cases of disappeared people with the Supreme Court, currently pending judgement. What we want is a fair impartial probe to be set up to find out what happened to the disappeared, so that their families can know the truth, which they deserve to know. And we definitely want the guilty to be punished.”
On being quizzed about comparisons with Kashmir and the attention of the mainstream media, Babloo candidly replies, “Mainstream media has largely ignored the North-East, but hopefully the ‘Looking East’ program would give us some much needed attention. Also, Kashmir is much more of a geo-political issue – Pakistan is involved, so is China to a lesser extent, there is an infiltration problem. Manipur doesn’t have those kind of problems. They are relatively much simpler.”
He goes on to stress the role of the army, on how it ideally should be, vis-à-vis how it is currently. “The role of the army should be taking care of the law and order situation, keeping the Constitutional rights of the citizens in mind. Citizens of the country in the North-East, particularly Manipur, do not get to exercise their full Constitutional rights, living in constant fear of the camouflage-clad getting away with whatever they want to.”
Irom Sharmila comes up invariably and Babloo has a rather interesting take on it. “I spoke to Shri Gaikhangam, the Home Minister for the state on this issue and presented him with two scenarios. First, let Irom be the way she is. She will eventually perish in a few years and there will be a massive backlash when that happens. You will perhaps be able to contain it. Maybe it will take a week, maybe a month. But you will be able to contain it. There is no doubt about that. The feeling of dissent in the general populace, however, will not die down. Second, think of scenario where the Prime Minister of the country offers Irom her first glass of orange juice, making her break her fast and promising to take care of the matter. Think of the political capital it will generate and the good press it will make for the state and the North-East in general.”
An afterthought and a chuckle later he adds, “Someone has to get the Prime minister to do that though. Someone has to bell the cat!”
His optimism is almost infectious and it surprises me. When I ask him about it, he replies, “There have been a lot of bad things that have happened, but being pessimistic about them is only going to foster hopelessness which never helped anyone. We must have the audacity to hope! And there is reason to hope. Given a recent Supreme Court directive about the accountability of encounters, the number of fake encounters has drastically gone down from 500 in 2008 to 2 in 2013 and none so far till the end of the year.”
He also reserves his faith in the committee set up to review AFSPA. “Retired General Raghavan and members of the committee have publicly denounced the Act. Hopefully in the future, when they come out with their findings, action can actually be taken to repeal the Act or at least modify it so that it doesn’t affect the basic rights of a citizen.”
Anger and suppressed rage does lie somewhere, deep seated, inside the extremely polite Babloo Loitongbam when the subject of Thangjam Manorama comes up. “Those bloody army men raped her and killed her and instead of being punished, they are being awarded gallantry awards?! They are supposed to protect us, not prey on us. According to UN conventions, in a conflict zone, every army personnel is supposed to have a humanitarian obligation to leave the innocents unharmed. These men are drunk on the power that AFSPA has assigned them!”
Despite the anger, Babloo remains cautiously optimistic about the future. “Hopefully, with all the democratic procedure being followed in the judicial process, justice will be delivered and an independent probe can be launched to look into the issue and the guilty will be brought to bear the full brunt of the laws that apply to their offences.”
I thank him for his time and candidness as we end the call. And I sit there and take it all in.
The anger and rage displayed for those few seconds by Babloo Loitongbam is the state of mind of nearly every person residing in the North-East, living under the shadow of that barbaric Act, day in – day out. The North-East has been shunned from the attention of the mainland for over a lifetime now, and though many may not know, AFSPA was imposed in Manipur years before it was in Kashmir. Such constant barbarism over decades has served to extinguish hope from the minds of the people and turn them into extremely cynical humans.
One sentence on the recording of the call, however, challenges the futility of my thoughts.
“We must have the audacity to hope!”
By Zehra Kazmi:
One in three men don’t allow their partner to wear certain clothes and one in five agree with the statement, “When my wife/partner wears things to make herself look beautiful, I think she may be trying to attract other men.”
66 percent agree that they have more say than their partner on important decisions that affect them and only 15 percent said that “my wife expects me to ask her approval for big decisions in the home.”
60 per cent men accepted that they were violent towards their partners.
These statistics from a study titled ‘Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India’ published by ICRW and UNFPA, also found that more than three-fourths of men expected their partners to agree if they wanted to have sex.
Such is the situation in India today. Ideas of control, violence and protection colour men’s attitudes towards women. Many forms of patriarchal violence are not even recognized as being so by women, because often they are accepted as a standard part of masculine behaviour in Indian society. Ideas of masculinity are linked to carrying forward the family lineage. The son is the inheritor of wealth, the bread-earner and his marriage adds one more labour to help with the housework. He is the custodian of patriarchal values. Daughters are often not preferred by fathers because the parents have to pay for their weddings, dowries and due to their eventual severing of ties from their natal homes. This leads to son preference among parents. “Son preference” a custom rooted in gender inequality views the “continuity of the male line” as a matter of particular importance.
An important aspect of exhibiting masculine strength in Indian society is exercising control over a sexual partner. This power is often in the form of control of lifestyle choices of women. Masculinity as a set of attributes, behaviours and roles, is generally associated with boys and men. Traits associated with masculinity vary depending on location and context, and are influenced by a variety of social and cultural factors. India’s increasing rate of crimes against women and commonly prevalent gender discrimination raises a lot of questions about what it is in our society that drives men to commit such acts and why some women give it their tacit approval.
The research shows that men who tend to exercise more control on their partners, also prefer having sons. Nearly half the people interviewed during the research were unaware that finding out the sex of the foetus was unlawful and criminally punishable. Half of those in the scope of the study aware of the law, believed that the most important reason behind this practice being outlawed is only so that there are enough girls available as partners for men. Gender biased sex selection within their own families is not what is so abhorrent to them, but the problem of not having enough brides for sons is what bothers them. The full recognition of girls as human beings is still absent from our society.
I am delighted to hear that you’re moving in as the newest tenant in our Earth building, and will be with us for the next 365 days!
I haven’t met you yet, but since I’ve spent so much time with your older brothers, I feel like I more or less know you. So I am going to write to you like I would write to your brother 2014, but I won’t use a few terms that he loves so much, such as “yolo” and “twerk” – which I really do hope do not belong to your vocabulary. I wanted to write this letter to let you know the situation here, so that once you get here, you’ll be prepared. Of course we will throw a huge party for you. Every single floor of our building will have the best decorations and entertainment just to celebrate your arrival. I must tell you, however, do not be fooled by the welcoming party, things are not always what they seem here.
Your older brother, 2014, was pretty awesome to me and will be hard to top as tenant. As soon as he moved in, we shared so many incredible adventures. I graduated from Uni, started my Masters, and so much more! He was super nice to almost all the other neighbours in the building as well. The Germans got a wonderful summer surprise: a new trophy to put on their sports shelves. They won the Football building coup. It’s a pretty big thing! Latvia joined the Euro group on the “Europe” floor; and Russia hosted the Winter Olympics, which perhaps was not so great for Russia, but Norway, Sweden and other tenants absolutely loved it! Your brother was also very active on other floors though; you should see what he did on the “America” floor of the building… He helped the NASA group to send a robot on another building of which we do not know much about. The red building not so far from ours – Mars.
It was an exciting year. Your brother really brought and helped us achieve so many things! It will be hard to see him leaving. But he is taking some friends along, and I am more than sure that he will be in excellent company. Robin Williams and Joan Rivers will make him laugh so much, and Joe Cocker will make the finest music to entertain the discussions between him and his friends Maya Angelou, Ariel Sharon and so many others.
But not everything he brought was good, and this is why I am writing to you. I won’t write a grocery list (even though it would be great if you could bring some food for the poorer people in our building), but a list of things that we all need in our building. And since you will be the newest tenant, it would be nice if you could bring some things with you when you arrive, or at least fix some problems that your older brother has created over his stay with us.
Your brother let in some new tenants. They like to call their group ISIS (or ISIL). I don’t like them very much; they express their ideas in the wrong way, and spread fear among their neighbours and do unspeakable acts. Talking about unspeakable acts, there are too many of those that happen on a daily basis here. Too many wars and too few people who do something to stop them. People with no home, who go around the building looking for a place. Kids that lose their mothers during childbirth due to poor hygiene conditions. People that die of hunger… Life is not easy on every floor. Some floors are great, they have everything, but some apartments on some floors do not have access to clean water, or food. While your brother was here, many girls around the building did not have an easy life, sadly. On the Africa floor, in the Nigeria wing, too many young girls went missing. Not to mention the unspeakable acts that so many girls (and not just them) from all over the building had to endure: kidnapping, genital mutilation, rapes, murders…
Dear 2015, I do not want to scare you with this letter. I just want to let you know that there is a lot of work to do in the next 365 days, and I really do wish that you can help us all to make our building better. Every year, as soon as one of your older brothers move in, we say: “this time we are going to fix all the problems!”, but somehow, we never manage to do so. Or if we do manage to solve some problems, some new ones come up… I know, you are not a superhero, but once you move in, please do help us. Help us remember that we should all try to do something to make our building better, that all our small actions do matter.
I do have another request, once you move in and you go visiting all parts of the building, could you please remember to bring everyone some hope, patience, good will and a little luck? We could all use some of those.
I can’t wait to meet you!
See you on the 1st of January,
Slavoj Žižek, while delivering a lecture at Institute for sociology and philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, explains how SS head Heinrich Himmler used The Bhagavad Gita’s meanings to justify killings, without any moral remorse. “You need this type of a vision to enable you to do the horrors”, Zizek says. The Nazi soldiers carried out genocides, killed women and children, and committed unimaginable horrors, the problem was – how to enable the soldiers to do this ‘without becoming beasts’. In Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna has doubts while in the battlefield – ‘Do I have the right? thousands will die’, and Lord Krishna convinces him of the legitimacy of the violence he was to inflict. He explains how material realities are just appearances, true reality is the reality of your self (aatma) – “What you can destroy ‘deserves to perish’. Don’t get involved”. Zizek sees this as a good totalitarian propaganda when it’s difficult to carry out such violence. Himmler’s argument to convince soldiers suffering from pangs of conscience and ethical doubt was that – ‘most people could do great things for the country, even lay down their lives, but a true hero is the one who is ready to lose his soul for the country, to do horrible things for it. The true greatness is to elevate yourself above this temptation of ‘ordinary humanity’, true ethical greatness is when for a higher cause, you are ready to act beyond good and evil’.
It is all too relatable in the present context as we see a renewed popularity in totalitarian and fascist worldviews, be it in the form of Hindutva or Islamic fundamentalism (Islamic State et al) etc. Watch the video for yourselves and drop a comment telling us what you feel. In case you are interested in reading more about this, here’s an informative article on the same.
To know more about what I think of this story, follow me on twitter at @Akhil1490
By Vijay Anand:
The media reports that Airtel, the (not-so-friendly) giant who planned to roll out additional charges on VoIP (Skype/Viber) calls, made via already paid Data Plans has rolled back. It’s good news, but the battle is just half-won.
India has a history of battles half won. Take the case of Kashmir, the case with Pakistan, the case of China, we somehow retreat when we sight success and the enemy recedes for the time being, arms and comes back and takes away half of our spoils and will end up being a thorn in our flesh for generations to come. Net neutrality is not a war we need to fight for the time being, it is a fundamental policy that we need to have in place to ensure that innovation is now thwarted and that India stands a chance to play its game in the global economy that is blooming.
The case of operators not wanting to be just a dumb pipe but wanting to charge more for content that flows through them has taken many avatars. This is not their first, and this will not be their last. But as a consumer, and among those who are building the ecosystem to ensure future of technology in country, we need to put the last nail on this coffin. Once and for all!
There were a couple of incidents that popped up while this issue raged. TRAI Chairman made a claim that Net Neutrality was not their concern. What is happening in the US – on a very similar battle – is that the FCC is relooking at Net Neutrality and trying to frame the policy around the same, however those who are dictating the terms are from the same lobby who are trying to get it appealed. You can understand the irony in that. The wolves can’t guard the sheep, let alone if they are allowed to dictate the terms on, if the wolves can eat the sheep or not. We know how skewed the rules on that would be. We aren’t sheep. They need to get that message clear.
The spectrum upon which operators operate, are a public good. When it was licensed to them, it is us as citizens who have given them the right to operate on it, and make a profit, but as citizens we have the right to retaliate when they use what is rightfully ours, and are licensed, against us to fuel greed (not sustainability).
TRAI is going to put together a policy framework towards Net Neutrality and we have to ensure that we have a say in it. This cannot be a battle half-won. It has to be done right, so that for the near foreseeable future we don’t have to fight this battle over and over and over again. We do not want the equivalent of internet terrorists backed by greedy incumbents who jeopardize the freedom and openness of the web.
We are going to shift our focus on TRAI, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Keep the fight on. We need to end this right, not half-way.
I am collecting social signatures to send TRAI a message on Dec 30th, 2014. Please show your support and sign here.
Note: This article was originally published here.
Not long back, the media was abuzz with celebratory analysis and reports on the ‘100 days of government’. What is the significance of all this hype about ‘100 days’? How close are we to the promised ‘acche din’? P. Sainath, delivering the Alladi Memorial lecture at the University of Hyderabad, demolishes all claims of development with staggering figures of what happens in rural India in 100 days. Watch for yourselves!
To know more about what I think of this story, follow me on twitter at @Akhil1490
By Kirrat Sachdeva:
Curiosity gets the best of us and so does all the subsequent guesswork! While the internet and your family can give you lists of signs and symptoms to ponder over whether you are expecting a boy or girl, or what the ideal family composition should be- it is another thing altogether to exercise your choice over the guesswork and all its probability.
In India, exercising this choice results in the loss of 6 lakh girls every year. A son is seen as breadwinner, heir and head of the family: features that reinforce the strong preference for sons. Misuse of technology has paved way for millions to make their preference a reality.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was enacted in 1994 to counter the practice of gender biased sex selection and worsening trends in the child sex ratio. However, according to government data, over 1900 cases have been registered under this Act in the country but the conviction rates are extremely poor. As cheap and portable ultrasound machines find their way into the remotest parts of the country, the reflection of this preference cannot be ignored in these numbers:
By Soumya Raj:
North Korea called US President Obama a monkey. They were so scared of this movie that they compared the president of one of the most influential nations to a backward primate. Amidst all the hullabaloo surrounding the much polemical movie, The Interview, one would expect it to live up to at least half its hype, but it doesn’t. The Interview is nothing fresh or fiery at all. Pretty daring, one might say, but not at all as controversial as we expected it to be.
To start with, let us tackle the misunderstanding that the movie was “banned”. The release of the movie was withheld because of several threats. This just added fuel to fire, and attracted more attention to the movie than it actually could have garnered otherwise. Another reason was the film’s subject – the very delicate relationship between the US and North Korea. The Interview seems to have benefited a great deal from this “Streisand effect”.
David Skylark (James Franco) and Seth Rogen (Aaron Rapoport) run a popular interview show full of Page 3, mostly irrelevant gossip. On discovering Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) to be a closet fan of many things American, including Katy Perry and David Skylark’s sensationalist show, Skylark Tonight, they manage to land in an interview with him as an attempt to report “serious” news for a change, to hold their ground as worthy journalists. Their plans change a bit when the CIA comes knocking at the door, recruiting them in a conspiracy to assassinate the North Korean dictator.
James Franco, Seth Rogen and Randall Park are brilliant in their performances. Randall Park as Kim Jong-Un is hilarious. The chemistry between the protagonist and the antagonist is way more intriguing than between him and his dutiful sidekick, Aaron. Also, things that should absolutely not be taken seriously are – Kim Jong-Un doesn’t have a butthole, Eminem is gay, and the US is running a propaganda to assassinate Kim Jong-Un. The direction is wonderful. What the movie is not, however, is serious. People who go in expecting it to be a politically nuanced movie will be disappointed, and how! Don’t expect it to be politically prim or scandalous. What the movie is, is a parody of the US hegemony and the North Korean dictatorship, and the relationship between the two of them as well. The movie is an all-out entertainer and will engage you in some of the loudest laughs you’ll have this year. You may realize that within the witty to-and-fro are a few kernels of truth, and heartfelt moments, too. And grossly offensive content for Kim Jong-Un. ( while I do believe he has nothing to be that offended about if he actually saw all the memes about him floating around online.)
It is every bit a Seth Rogen entertainer. IMDB gave The Interview a 9.2 on 10 anticipation rating, almost as much as The Godfather. While The Godfather continues to be a cult classic, I doubt The Interview will be as impressionable. It doesn’t imprint itself on the viewer’s minds, but does tickle your funny bone. So, go for the promising hoots and laughs this cinematographic satire provides. And more than anything, go for the adequately interesting and humorous chemistry between James Franco and Randall Park. You will not be let down.
By Devanik Saha:
The death of more than 75 people, largely tribal migrants, in Congress-ruled Assam this week, brought the focus on India’s forgotten insurgencies and terrorists in the north-east and made one clear point: Assam is now the deadliest of 29 Indian states when it comes to terrorism.
Jammu and Kashmir has seen the most people killed in relation to terrorism between 2005 to 2014—5597, according to data taken in part from South Asia Terrorism Portal, a resource from the Institute of Conflict Management headed by ex-IPS officer KPS Gill.
However, the state has also witnessed a drastic fall in violence over the last two years, allowing a record voter turnout of 65% in recent state elections. (The fall in terrorism-related violence in J&K has been covered by Indiaspend in an earlier report here.)
Over the last two years, 413 people—civilians, security forces and terrorists—died in Assam, compared with 374 in J&K and 240 in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh.
The massacres carried out by terrorists of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland also focused attention on the continuing unrest in Assam, a state with a patchwork of ethnic groups, from Bangladeshi migrants, local Hindus, Muslim and Christians, local tribes and migrant tribes of the kind who were gunned down this week.
Therefore, in 2014, internal insurgencies presented a greater threat to India’s integrity and peace rather than external terrorism. Given that terrorism-related violence in J&K has come down significantly and resulted in a great voter turnout, we should focus on reducing and eliminating internal insurgencies. And Assam has been increasingly turning dangerous over the years.
Maoist violence also continues unabated and is spread across 15 states in India and has resulted in the deaths of at least 6,632 policemen and paramilitary forces since 2005.
As the chart below shows, casualties in J&K have declined significantly over the years, but terrorism has worsened in the North-East and states where left-wing Naxal terrorists operate.
The data below shows that Assam continues to be the most dangerous state in the North-East as well as India. Tripura and Mizoram are the safest.
Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand with 2,201 and 1,317 deaths continue to be the most affected by Maoist violence. Although there are fewer casualties in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra, the Maoist insurgency is widespread in these states.
All data as of December 21, 2014, except for Assam, which has been updated to reflect the latest massacre.
About the author: The author is Data Editor at the website The Political Indian.
This article was originally published by IndiaSpend.
By Jai Prakash Ojha:
Dear Mulayam Singh ji,
The Saifai Mahotsav has already begun. You have rightly argued that there is nothing wrong in organizing the festival as it provides an opportunity to the rural people to enjoy music and dance. It provides glimpses into the rural culture and serves as a reminder to the people of the unparalleled heights attained by this ancestral village of Mulayam Singh in the field of arts, culture and crafts during the Mughal rule. But then, there are many people who believe that the Saifai extravaganza is held to showcase the political hegemony of the Yadav clan in this western part of Uttar Pradesh.
Though the budget approved for this year celebrations is just 1 crore, considering the kind of attendances that are likely to take place, no sane person is going to believe that this paltry amount will serve the purpose. Despite the focus on good governance and development, it is a pity that a major chunk of the political top brass of the Samajwadi Party and high ranking state bureaucrats will be supervising the Mahotsav affairs, oblivious of the pressing concerns of the common citizenry. Just rewind your memory. Wasn’t the last edition of the festival marred by the Muzzaffarnagar incident? The hapless people and children shivered in intense cold in the camps without basic amenities with the death toll around 60. The camps were set up to provide relief to victims of Muzzaffarnagar riots who had fled away from their homes. It was akin to the Roman emperor Nero playing the fiddle when Rome burnt. But then, there was no democracy in Rome at that time. For any publicly elected leader, insensitivity to the electorate is a crime and that too, when the electorate is suffering.
Mulayam ji, your secular credentials nosedived at that time resulting in the decimation of your party at the hands of a resurgent BJP in the Lok Sabha Elections 2014. It was inexplicable for a party to suffer such electoral reverses which was in power at the state. The Hindutva has resurfaced once again in the state, things are not looking so bright for your party and it will be better if you devote attention to governance in the state. Isn’t it a fact that the state has witnessed sharp polarization on religious lines and witnessed a conflagration in communal incidents? Who can turn a blind eye to acrimonious conversions taking place under your nose? The minorities are petrified. Too much harping on ‘love jihad’ on the part of the Hindu right-wing has already vitiated the atmosphere with your own ministers getting into a verbal duel with the saffron camp. Law and order continues to be a problem with your supporters and leaders riding the Mandal horse to trample down the dalit aspirations. There is another bad news for you. The AIMIM is planning to contest elections in UP in the 2017 Assembly Elections and calling your love for minorities as a mere façade and eye wash. If that happens, even a mere 2-3 percentage dent in your Muslim vote bank, would jeopardize your political career.
You are one of the leading socialist leaders of our country and a worthy disciple of Lohia. You have espoused the cause of the backwards and the marginalized. To hold such a gala event with huge expenditure in a state where around 30 percent of the population is below the poverty line and more than 40 percent of the children are malnourished is simply atrocious for any democratically elected leader. The Human Development Indices are abysmally low and education and healthcare have not reached the masses properly.
Well, for the moment; I wish you all the best for the Saifai extravaganza. May your political health remain intact?!
By Rohan Seth:
Had Niccolò Machiavelli been alive today, he would have felt vindicated after watching Ugly. ‘Men are ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers’ – Anurag Kashyap deserves to be anointed as ‘Prince’ for his uncompromising, unfettered look into the ugly side of human nature. It will leave you shattered – clutching for thoughts, words and vacant spaces to ponder over the nakedness of the spectacle that just unfolded.
What happens when a 10 year old Kali goes missing? Do all the stakeholders – her parents, their extended friends, the police, the apparent abductors and the city, in a fitting manner, start adopting measures to bring her back home safely? Or is there something terribly rotten in intentions; in the evil cityscape which might derail the finding of innocent Kali altogether.
The police are led into a mire of red herrings and dead ends as they continue to search and torture the usual suspects for clues. Nowhere in the film are you sure of the motives of any of the characters, except you cringe at the hopelessness of the state they find themselves in – the depressed alcoholic housewife, Shalini, the stoical police officer, Shoumik, the ageing struggling actor, Rahul or the unscrupulous casting director, Chaitanya. The gloom, the desolation of souls, will haunt you and leave you jittery in the body.
Through continued police investigation and surveillance, the movie takes you through the filth and grime of Mumbai and child trafficking. There is Kashyap-esque comedy in tragedy too, through the police banter and the idiosyncratic humans that exit and enter the devastated landscape.
Watch it for its honest portrayal of the city – where effete deranged self serving sapiens are in a constant game of one-upmanship, where greed dictates all progress and development. It’s a stinking state of affairs and all the money and resources in the world will do no good for ‘true’ happiness and prosperity.
By Vijay Anand:
Violating the principles of net neutrality (that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication), Bharti Airtel has introduced differential pricing based on type of Mobile Internet usage, by charging consumers differently for using the Mobile Internet for services such as Skype and Viber, and differently for other types of Mobile Internet usage. Telecom Talk points us towards this change in Airtel’s terms and conditions for 3G services.
Back in the 70s when we were laying the telecom network in India, someone cheapened out. They laid the copper wires, but laid very poor quality copper – because we were a third world country at that point and telephones were a luxury. Years later when broadband came to the country, the same infrastructure became the bottleneck because the poor quality copper could not transmit more than 256kbps of data. The Govt had to make enormous investments in optic fibre to get internet access to most of the country.
Truth is, that infrastructure is still primitive. While countries like sweden and Hong Kong are talking about gigabit internet access, we are not able to go beyond 10 – 12Mbps. Airtel, in fact is the worst of them all, and is stuck at 8mbps for limited areas. Most of the locations are maxed out at 4mbps.
Wired connections are very expensive. And in a country where the population is very dense, installing of switches and constantly maintaining and upgrading them is a pain in the ass.
The future of broadband in this country is wireless. And how is it going to go wireless? It will most probably rely on 3G/4G and the future generations of mobile internet.
That’s why what Airtel is proposing is very dangerous. It means for the near forseeable future, and perhaps even into the generation of our children, they will control what we consume and how we consume. That is not acceptable. It makes it harder for service providers to enter into the market – you can see that even today, the middle east, thanks to its anarchy on throttling the internet has very little innovations and services built on top of it. You cannot build services without the operators blessing you.
This affects everything. App developers, Your television that is streaming content, your chrome box, your messaging apps, video conferencing (as if it wasn’t too darn expensive already), online gaming – and in the future who is to stop these operators from saying that in order for Uber to operate and run on top of their network, Uber needs to pay them, or they will shut them down? They can do that.
The last time the operators had that much control in the name of walled gardens – the people who actually built the service got a pie of less than 30% where the rest was taken by these operators. And we haven’t moved an inch further in mobile commerce, or mobile payments thanks to the politics each of them played against each other. The mobile industry grew in the blood of vendors. People like reliance were famous for saying publicly that they don’t pay vendors – but thats a whole different story. Thankfully, the mobile platform opened up and app stores liberated developers, service providers and connected them directly to the consumers cutting out the fat boss in between.
There are services we haven’t even thought of yet. Think of the world of the internet of things. Or the future where cars are connected and can talk to each other. Airtel is setting a precedent where each and every one of these service will get blocked, penalized and charged extra for.
You could be signing on, to take a free course on coursera, but will have to buy the educational package.
It is not upto them to decide what rides on the network, and charge for it. TRAI wont – or rather cant – do much on this, because the agreement with the operators are broadly set as “can monetize voice and messaging services” and whether its voice via their own switches or voice via VoIP, they believe it gives them the right.
Net Neutrality and Privacy are very binary debates. It’s a one way street – once you step in, there is no way to go back to a free and open internet, much of which has been the reason why the web thrives on innovation. As if India hasn’t been set back by annoying statutory regulations, do startups and the technology community and the consumer at large need to be throttled further?
Air your view and make it heard. #BoycottAirtel. Sign the petition at http://yka.be/147fARh and join the Twitter/Facebook action at http://thndr.it/1zp67wr
Vijay Anand is the Founder of The Startup Center. This post was originally published on his blog.
Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India and Former Supreme Court Judge on Friday (26 December, 2014) condemned gay marriage and rights in a Facebook post titled ‘Gay Relationships and Gay Marriages’. He cited Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Man and Superman’ and used his idea around “Force of Life” to hail reproductive heterosexuality as “natural” and dismiss homosexuality as “all humbug and nonsense”. However regressive the former judge’s views might sound to us, they hint at a deeper social malaise pertaining to how we bring up our children.
We do not teach children about gender and sexuality at school. Instead, we teach them moral science and the great Indian art of hypocrisy. We tell them that the end-all and be-all of education is to make doctors and engineers and other professionals out of them. We tell them success is determined by the position you occupy in the social ladder and the salary you earn. As a result, we have people like Markandey Katju who can make the most irrational, insensitive and irresponsible statement concerning gay marriage and women’s rights.
According to Mr. Katju, homosexuality is a “modern” phenomenon and must be ‘cured’ to give way to reproductive heterosexuality. In his opinion, at the heart of heterosexual bonding, companionship, love, lies procreative sex and the desire to keep the human race going. Therefore, he questions, “Will a gay relationship or marriage serve nature’s requirement of continuing the species?” The former judge also believes that the role of the woman in a heterosexual union is that of being a mother-homekeeper and the role of the man is that of the protector-giver.
Such essentialised views not only reflect on the utterly heterosexist mindset of a man holding such a powerful position as him, but also discredits what feminists have critiqued for so long. Nivedita Menon, in her book ‘Seeing Like A Feminist’, has beautifully pointed out that motherhood is as “natural” to a woman as it is to a man and that lactation can be induced in a man too! Queer theory has questioned binaries of gay-straight and pointed towards a sexual continuum. Though I hate telling people that homosexuality (or heterosexuality, for that matter) is “natural” and “not a disease”, the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 and the World Health Organization in 1992 did accept homosexuality as a ”normal” variant of human sexuality. That apart, if one reads the history of sexual practices acros the world, one realises that same-sex sexual practices have been there since times immemorial and that sexual identity-based categories are only an early 20th century invention of American-European psychologists and sexologists.
In the present context of India, where an utterly regressive, Victorian law like Section 377 vitiates the atmosphere for equal rights, thereby enabling people like Mr. Katju to spew hatred and prejudice against people who do not stick to the “norm”, one can only ask (as Nivedita Menon does): Is it natural to be normal? If yes, why would we need laws to maintain something natural? In other words, if heterosexuality was normal, why would we need Section 377 to curtail same-sex intimacy? It’s time we introduce gender and sexuality education in schools. Changed mindset is the need of the hour!
By Anwesha Dhar:
In October 1993, I was born in North Point Nursing Home, Calcutta. In August 2012, Farah told me that I was wasting my time trying to teach her and the rest of the girls of my class at the orphanage. In October 2012, a fifteen year old girl was shot in Pakistan for promoting education. Two years later, in October 2014, she was announced to have won the Nobel Prize for Peace. It is now December 2014, 2:30 AM, as I sit typing this story of triumph and defeat, struggle and courage that comes with it. It is part of an incredible story; the story of being a woman.
I was overwhelmed by the immense responsibility this story entails. How could I write this story? We know it – word by word. We know it all, we know the words – ‘liberty’, ‘violence’, ‘rape’, ‘shame’, ‘decent’, ’dowry’, ‘burden’, ‘feminism’. How can I ever describe how scary it is to be a woman, to be reduced to a lump of mass and being judged and ogled at everywhere I go? How can I ever describe how wonderful it is to be a woman, to not give up, of having the courage to face these eyes, to scream and fight? Every day is a story. Unsung stories of wonderful women. I find it most ironical that a woman who performs the most daring act of nature, of giving birth, should be subjected to choosing to give birth to only a son. In India, the practice of sex selection results in the loss of nearly 6 lakh girls every year.
What compels one to exercise such choice over the sex of their foetus? Is it fear? Is it shame? The answer is far more complex than that, perhaps more that I would be able to articulate.
When I was in my first year of college, someone asked me, “Anwesha, are you a feminist?” I replied with a curt, “No”. Later, I sat and thought about it. Why had I said no? I had this mind-map which placed feminism among the foul things in our society, one that must be subverted, condemned. However, I didn’t know why. It was sometime later that I realised what had happened. I was an educated girl, one who was raised by a single mother, who believed in equality between genders, who vociferously fought anyone who said something slanderous about the female sex. And yet, here I was, shying away from ‘feminism’. I saw a lot of people do it. I realised this was beyond me, it was something I was a part of. It was patriarchy.
When we live in a patriarchal society, we often internalise a lot of diseased values of the society without realising it – we internalise the male gaze. Fairness creams profit by showing confidence to be related to being fair in advertisements, especially for girls because fair girls are considered to be marriageable. Matrimonial ads read “Wanted: a fair, slim, medium height, homely, convent educated bride”. Television serials show women toiling away at home, clad in saris, taking care of everyone, drawing a rangoli or two. Any diversion from this is crime. The body metamorphoses into a monstrous entity. However, whether on this side of these ‘norms’ or that, we are never quite seen as human. Death becomes easy, elimination becomes justified.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act was devised in the early nineties with a view to curb gender biased sex selection. However, the aftermath remained as brutal as ever. A law can only do as much as try to stop things – it is for us to identify the malicious, insidious play of patriarchal forces in to the society, to de-condition, to purge ourselves from the many infected teachings of these forces that we have imbibed. We girls, we woman, are born to lead wonderful lives. We are wonderful. Dare we strip nature of such a powerful creation?
My university has always made me proud. Whether it was when hundreds of students protested against the molestation of a fellow female student inside the campus premises or when lakhs of people walked together in a protest rally even in heavy rain.
24th December is the fixed date for annual convocations in our university. But this year was different. I knew that thousands of students who have been demonstrating their protests day in and day out over the last few days would turn up for the convocation and yet refuse to accept their degree certificates from both the Governor and the Vice Chancellor to portray their resentment.
But what caught my attention and millions of others worldwide was a particular student who was announced the ‘best graduate’ and yet refused perhaps what would have been one of her significant academic achievements for life – the proud moment of being awarded her degree certificate and accolades in front all fellow ‘jadavpurians’ by the ‘honorable’ Governor.
I could not respect anyone beyond what I felt for her at that very moment. I was proud of my alma mater more than ever now.
Like any other teenager of my generation, I logged into facebook to express my gratitude, but what I discovered changed my overwhelming awe to something else: shock!
Fortunately or unfortunately, I have many of the so called ‘budding leaders’ in my friend list, and there were a range of memes and posters in a particular color with appraisals of the brave heart girl on their timelines but there was something different in them. They accredited and proclaimed the girl’s act to a particular students organization. I eventually came to know that the fellow student who made me so proud is actually a registered member of that very organization which happens to be one of the union office bearers.
This realization made me rethink what I saw and perceived. The association of the girl’s act with the students organization she is affiliated to changed my outlook of her ‘sacrifice’.
Students politics is a weird game. While thousands of hardworking students struggle to make their organizations a success and tirelessly spend sleepless nights in the campus, miss classes putting their careers at stake, walk in rallies and shout slogans, it is perhaps one or two who graduate from a cadre to a leader. The rest keep struggling. Some out of dedication and some out of ambitions, without realizing they are being used as pawns for the interests of others. Out of these ‘leaders’ in every campus, perhaps one or two finally manage to survive the rat race put up by rich NRIs and the politicians’ scions, to probably contest state level or national elections, while most perish.
While the rest of the students put their respective careers at stake for establishing the political careers of their so called ‘leaders’, they themselves barely care to build their own and remain ‘informally employed’ surviving on party funds throughout their lives and on basis of party donations received from the well to do.
Coming to my campus, the elections are approaching. Both the party in power and the opposition are secretly busy with their respective manifestos. Each desperately wants to malign the other in front of thousands of students by brainwashing them using their respective campaigns, and yes also through those copious “sitting” sessions.
‘Hokkolorob’ has been portrayed as an independent student movement, this is why it has attracted such a large support base. The sudden association of this brave girl’s act with party colors (literally) awakened the realization in my mind that it would also go on to form the fodder for the manifesto for every students organization which thousands of naively gullible students would be brainwashed into believing. In fact, some of the activists have already started accusing the other sides. The organization elected in the Union is sure to be blamed, as the incident of molestation took place during the fest they organized and perhaps their defense would be this brave act, or perhaps a mode of their propaganda.
We, the bulk of students, made the movement, which, finding its way utilitarianly into campus politics and certain factions for the interests of a few is parochial to the core. This is all I have to say.
FYI: I am neither a part of any strategy, nor campaigning on behalf of any of the organizations. Appalled is all I am. And neither is my intention to malign the girl (I have not even been vocal about her identity) in question nor her dignity and integrity. I am just reluctant to let my labor of missing every class, walking every rally and reciting every slogan turn into someone’s ‘winning strategy‘.
The author is a student of Jadavpur university.