TW: Rape Mention.
“We are all equal, some more than others!” -George Orwell.
Articles 19-22 (Right to Freedom) deal with the different aspects of personal liberty and the basic right of a citizen in a democracy. One can’t deny that after the 2014 general elections, there has been a palpable shift in the political, ideological, and social fabric of the country.
Do we really live in an ethos that is true to the tenets of the Constitution? I feel the following points are an adequate answer.
The Central Government’s revocation of Article 370 spurred a chain of events that are disturbing, to say the least. The complete shutdown of any kind of communication of Kashmir’s citizens with the outside world is an infringement of their fundamental rights which apparently doesn’t matter to chest-thumpers of hyper-nationalism.
With everything that has transpired in India in the recent past and the reaction of the footsoldiers of the ruling ideology, no one is spared the phenomenon termed ‘trolling’. Journalists, scholars, even bureaucrats, and policymakers, with years of experience in their fields, who do not sing a tune in praise of the government will be subjected to the worst of abuses. Heavens help you if you’re a woman, a Muslim, or Dalit, or queer.
In May 2017, the Ministry of Environment under the aegis of the BJP-led central government sought to bring a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes. This sparked a whole slew of controversies ever since, with vigilante groups beating up and lynching people, who (coincidentally?) belong to historically marginalised castes or Muslims, ‘suspected’ of this ‘crime’.
Sure, animal cruelty is a problem that needs to be addressed at a structural level, but that means closing down slaughterhouses that violate any kind of guidelines. Two years after Pehlu Khan was lynched to death based on ‘accusations’ of him smuggling cows, six of the nine were acquitted by an Alwar Court this week.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was of the opinion that inter-caste marriage was the best way to eliminate caste. Inter-caste marriages are still perceived as a threat to the ‘purity’ of the ‘upper-castes’. The violence around inter-caste marriage and the stark silence of the present ruling dispensation (and those before) is very telling. As per an Indian Express report, the Thakor community in Gujarat has ‘banned’ inter-caste marriage and, “If a Thakor girl falls in love with and marries a boy from another community, the family will have to pay a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh. If a Thakor boy marries a girl from another community, the fine is Rs 2 lakh.” Freedom of choice indeed!
‘Rape schedule’ is a theory that talks about how women have become conditioned to function within self-imposed curfews, to alter their behavior out of constant fear of sexual assault. Women, femme folx, basically anyone not a cis-gender man, constantly live under the fear of assault of any kind. As a cis-woman coming from a place of privilege, I know I have ways to subvert this ‘conditioned schedule’, but most folx do not have any fallback mechanism, other than panicked texts and calls to friends to check on them.
The lack of disability-friendly infrastructure is not something that has been considered ‘important’ enough to be considered by civic planners or by the government. For a person with any kind of physical impairment, getting around, using public transport, becomes something akin to an ordeal. Now club this point with the previous point. Femme folx with disabilities have been advocating for policies that are intersectional in all senses, but who’s really listening?
Moving to a new city, especially one so larger-than-life like Mumbai, seemed like such an exciting adventure. All dreams of creating a life for myself as a young student vanished right when I started looking for homes. “Single women not allowed” became a refrain I got used to. I came across instances of fellow students being denied housing by landlords because they were Muslims and the housing society comprised of ‘vegetarians’ which was code for Upper-caste Hindus.
This is a complex debate. On the one hand, the government’s ban on commercial surrogacy will prevent LGBTQIA+ folx from becoming parents in a way they might choose. On the other hand, this ban will address trafficking and forced surrogacies of women, mostly women from historically marginalised groups.