In The Name Of Honour

April 28, 2011 at 9:15 PMApr (Activism, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

“I’m so happy, I feel really pleased. I hope that those who humiliated me will be punished. I will await the verdict at Supreme Court, which will deliver justice here on earth.” (28 June 2005)

“I often say that if the justice of men doesn’t punish those who did ‘that’ to me, God will take care of it sooner or later. But I would like that justice be given to me officially. In front of the entire world…” (October 2005)

“I did not receive justice today; hence I have left my fate in the hand of God.” (21 April 2011)

It was on 28 June 2005 that the Supreme Court of Islamabad agreed to reopen the case of Mukhtar Bibi who by then had been transformed as Mukhtaran Mai. It was a ray of hope for her after the disheartening verdict of the Lahore High Court on the 3rd of March in the very same year. Mukhtaran was hopeful that the Supreme Court would deliver justice to her here on earth. But the tone of her optimism slightly changes when she is narrating her story to Marie-Therese Cuny in October of the same year. Probably, while re-living, as and when she is narrating, the journey for justice, some element of skepticism has seeped in. Not surprising because “There is a certain fatigue in chasing the idea of justice.” But after six years there is only silence in the words of Mukhataran Mai.

Silence of silenced? In the year 2002 Mukhtaran was a lady of lesser words. But one unfortunate night did make her speak. Not speak just for herself but for many like her. This power of speech was passed on to many, who saw hope in her and who saw a ‘Mai’- respected big sister in her. Today is it only Mukhtaran who has been silenced? Or is it also all those who got their strength and voice with the help of Mukhataran Mai?

Around a dozen of women would visit Mukhtaran on a daily basis to seek help from her to fight for justice for themselves. They all saw hope in the fight of Mukhtaran. Today when Mukhtaran herself has “lost faith in legal system” what is the state of those who saw hope in her? All these women would sleep on the floor with Mukhtaran at her place, during their visit. Today will they all be buried? They all slept on the floor because Mukhataran had given the only bed in her room to the Prinicipal of the school which she runs. In the year 2005 when the accused were released from the jail following the verdict by the Lahore High Court, the scene in the school run by Mukhataran has changed. Fear was in the air. Now again, the Supreme Court verdict will affect the running of the school. Many young girls now will go back to silence and many, who will not attend school, will not even get an idea that girls too have a voice.

The idea of a school came to Mukhtaran Mai when a lady minister came to her small village to offer a cheque of half a million to her. Mukhtaran who by then had seen the ugliest sides of the ‘human’ world feared that the cheque was a trap. She crumpled it and dropped it on the floor before saying, “I don’t need this,” and spontaneously said, “I don’t need a cheque I need a School.” The minister asked “A school?” to which Mukhtaran answered, “Yes, a school for the girls in my village. We don’t have one.” The Minister agreed but insisted that Mukhataran received the cheque to meet the lawyer expences. Mukhtaran received it and by the end of the year 2002 Mukhtaran Mai, an illiterate, was running a school. The State helped a bit, there were foreign funds for the School. But that wasn’t sufficient. Mukhataran Mai soled some ornaments and started rearing goats and sheeps to meet the needs of the school.

The request for the school though came spontaneously it came out of experience. Bitter experience. The experience of having been made to sign on a blank sheet of paper by the police and of having been interrupted by a police while she giving her testimony to the district prefect. The police had said, “Let me explain it to you! She doesn’t know how to say things.” Though Mukhtaran had decided to fight, fight legally, she had realized that her illiteracy was a hurdle in her path. This she had realized and its out of this realization that the demand/ request for a school came up.

It was not easy to bring kids to the school for Mukhtaran Mai. Doors were not slammed on her face when she went to every house requesting the fathers to send their daughter to the school. Mukhtaran would be explaining it to her that the girls are made for the house and not for studies.

In the village of Meerwala in southern Punjab of Pakistan, where Mukhtaran Mai lives, are actually made for the house. Mukhtaran is an example, who was made to ask for forgiveness on behalf of her family to the Mastois (a dominant caste intolerant of Gujars, a caste to which Mukhtaran belongs which is belived to be lower in status relatively) for a false allegation made against her brother Shakur (then aged 12) saying he had raped a Mastoi girl named Salma (then aged 20). To balance the act, Mukhtaran who was a divorced lady then was asked to go to the Mastois and ask for forgiveness. This was decided by the jirga. This was decided as an ‘honour justice.’ But the Mastois gang raped Mukhtaran, when she went to their area to ask for forgiveness, in the presence of the villagers on that unfortunate night of 22 June 2002, in the name of ‘honour justice.’

When Mukhtaran was asked to go ask for forgiveness she was not aware as to what was the crime committed by her brother and she did not even know that the Mastois had planned to gang-rape her. It was only in the following days after her rape that she overheard the story of Shakur and Salma. She also overheard things like she herself was responsible for what had happened to her. This was because there was a rumor in the village that the Mastois demanded for the marriage of Shakur and Salma and asked to get Mukhataran married to one of their caste members. The rumor said Mukhtaran refused to this offer and hence was gang-raped. This refusal of offer, in the minds of the people, made Mukhataran “deserve” what she got.

Thanks to a local reporter who reported this “daily” news which not only made national but also international media take up the matter making it an issue of international importance and bringing international support for Mukhtaran Mai. The initial success at the special court in Dera Ghazi Khan (31 August 2002) was followed by injustice at the Lahore High Court and now at the Supreme Court. Both the courts said “lack of evidence.” There is a need for four eyewitnesses for a rape to be proved!!! “I wanted justice… I was fighting not only for myself, but also for every women scorned or abandoned by a law that requires four male eyewitnesses to prove a rape,” said Mukhtaran Mai after the verdict of Lahore High Court.

Now Mukhtaran Mai says she has lost her faith in legal system. Understandable. “There is a certain fatigue in chasing the idea of justice.” She leaves it to the God. When young, she was always told by her mother, “Mukhtaran watch out. God sees everything that you do.” Wasn’t God- if any- watching what was being done to her on 22 June 2002? Wasn’t God watching what was being done to her after that unfortunate night? If God saw it all and yet is silent then, I ask, what is the difference between the God that Mukhtaran believes and the legal system of Pakistan? On that unfortunate night Mukhtaran while walking to the Mastoi area, to ask for forgiveness, had carried the holy Koran with her, holding it tight to her chest.

It was only after four days after the gang-rape that Mukhataran Mai cried. She says that was the second time in her life that she cried. The first time was at the age of ten when a chick, by mistake, dashed into the fire over which she was cooking chapattis. Though she had thrown water on the fire, it was too late. Mukhatarn cried because she felt it was her fault for she was late in throwing water. In an accidental tragedy Mukhtaran saw the role she could have played to save a life and felt guilty for she failed to perform that role, though she made an attempt.

Will the legal system of Pakistan ever feel guilty for not having performed its role? What is the role that we all can play, now, to ensure justice for Mukhtaran Mai?

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The Dashavatara Costumes

April 21, 2011 at 9:15 AMApr (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

“For the cultural parade they are doing Dashavatara,” said Deepu. The University fest Utsav was only few days away and the fest would be opened with the cultural parade.

When I asked Deepu who and all were playing the Dashavatara and who was playing which Avataara I found out that the name of Buddha was missing and was replaced by Balram. I thought it was by mistake and said, “Balarama is not an avatar, in the mythology. It is Matsya, Koorma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vaamana, Parashuraam, Raama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.” Deepu listened to me patiently and said, “But in Kerala Buddha does not appear in the Dashavatara and it is Balaram who appears.” I went mute for I did not know what was the belief in Kerala and also because I had never even heard this variation/ version.

On seeing the expression on face, Deepu told me that the previous day Kavita Ma’am and he had gone to Bhasha costumes in Udupi to get costumes for the cultural parade. Bhasha is a popular name in and around Udupi for his costumes. Though Bhasha is no more, his children are still running the show. When Deepu and Kavita ma’am said they needed costumes for cultural parade where they were performing Dashavatara and quickly Bhasha was taking out all the costumes of Dashavatara. As he was taking out the costumes while conversing with Deepu and Kavita ma’am he has figured out that in the Dashavatara intended to play by their team had Balarama as an avatar and not Buddha. Deepu said, “The moment he got to know that our Dashavatara had Balarama and not Buddha he said that he will not give us the costumes.”

I was told, by Deepu, that Bhasha junior got angry on listening to this unheard version of Dashavatara and thought tampering with the belief was an insult and hence said “I will not give you the costumes if you are performing Balarama in Dashavatara.” Bhasha junior also took out some posters of Dashavatara and explained it to Deepu and Kavita ma’am that the Dashavatara has Buddha and not Balarama. “He was just not willing to give us the costume if we showed Balarama as one of the Dashavatar ,” said Deepu.

Bhasha junior, a Muslim, not just knew the Dashavatara but also felt that tampering with it is an insult. Moreover he was ready to lose a customer but not be a partisan in an action which to him was not right. This happens in the heart of Udupi, a temple town in coastal Karnataka where the communal forces have successfully made Muslims an ‘Outsider’ in the eyes of the majority of the Hindus.

End Note: Not far from Bhasha’s shop is Krishna Temple where all the hand-made metal works used within the temple are manufactured by Muslims. Very near to the temple is the Pejawara Mutt where resides the seer Vishweshateertha who involved himself in the Ram Janma Bhoomi movement which led to the demolition of Babri Masjid.

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Notes From/ About A ‘Revolution’

April 11, 2011 at 9:15 PMApr (Activism, Cinema, Friends, Letter, Media, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life)

I said, “I express my solidaity with Anna Hazare. But it makes me uncomfortable to notice that the 10 year fast of Irom Sharmila doesn’t get the same kind of support and attention.” Anand replied, “This is the Jessica Lal crowd.” That said it all.

Not to say that justice for Jessica Lal is not important. It is. But it is sad that there is no such mass support and demand for ‘Justice for Manorama’ and ‘Justice for Priyanka Bhotmange’. But when it is for Jessica Lal, it wakes up the entire middle class. Similarly there was something ‘middle-class’ about the support that Anna Hazare got for the movement against corrpution. Corruption, is the preoccupation and an enemy, in daily conversations, of the middle-class. So a campaign and movement against corruption automatically gains immense support from the middle-class. Yes, justice for Jessica Lal was also important and fight against corruption is also important.

I feel that when the fight is against politicians we happily extended our support and show solidarity. Because the enemies are the politicians. But when the enemy is the state, we would not even let the matter register in our minds. Because there is identification of the self with the state. So what is called as national interest becomes more important, however absurd it is and however inhumane it is to our fellow humans and fellow countrymen. So, obviously there is no mass support for Irom or Binayak Sen but there is a ‘revolutionary’ support for Anna Hazare.

Because it is important and becuase it has attracted majority of the middle class, our media- which according to me is a national shame- went on to portray the Anna Hazare fast as a revolution. By the body language of the tv anchors, by the force of their language and by the time alloted to the coverage of the Anna Hazare fast, it did appear like a revolution. As Manu Joesph points out, in his article i the open magazine, there was a lot of media friendly performances and spectacle in the fast, which was giving a lot of ‘visuals’ for the television media. But the media, to the best of my knowledge, did not go to analyse the Janlokpal bill nor tell us what was the difference between Anna and Aruna Roy. The slightly unudemocratic nature of the selction of Ombudsmen was not highlighted nor questioned by the mainstream media. Thanks to the article and analyses by Shuddhabrat Sentgupto in Kafila website which showed this to us.

All the media kept doing was give the middle-class people a feeling that there was some revolution was happening of which they were also a part by sending sms and giving missed calls. Giving missed calls? Yes. This happned when i was having tea with a couple of friends discussing the candle light march that was to take place that evening. Another friend comes to me and asks me to note a number. I asked whose number was it. He asked me to note the number and give a missed call to that particular number. When asked what the matter was, he said: If you give a missed call your protest against corruption and your support for Anna Hazare will be registered. My jaws dropped. Missed call protest was something which i had never heard of or thought of in my wildest nightmares. But may be as a friend argued it becomes important at times to show our strength in numbers. But what the missed call protest reflected to me was a lack of imagination in the protest and in the movement.

The candle light march that evening was highly energetic, i must say. It was organized by the students of a University town. I did go for the march with a few friends. There was anger, there was enery and there was strength in the march. But it appeared to me that the march was more like a reaction and not an action. Sorry, for i am a born cynic and skeptic. Yes, it was more like a reaction and not an action. As i marched i went on making connections between the middle-class nature of the movement the involvement of the youngsters who by now are charged up in a patriotic mood because of the world cup victory and the kind of hollowness and lack of imagination in the protest which is more of a reaction and not an action.

Seeing the students hold the plucards and crying slogans i was reminded of a smiliar mood in the air of the same town few years ago, when i had seen many students- getting trained to be doctors- preapring posters against reservation. Once the images of those days flashed before my eyes, i asked myself if the same crown would join together if anyone called for a candlelight march demanding for reservation? I knew the answer. One of our impoatant poets Meena Kandasamy had rightly asked the question on the day Anna Hazare was to start his fast. Would Anna fast for the equalitry of dalits and will the people of this nation support him for that adn would the media give similar coverage, had asked Meena. Responding to Meena i had mailed her a report from The Hindu on 71 adviasis starting a hunger strike in a jail in Orissa on the day Anna Hazare was to start his fast. Why dint the media speak about the hunger strike of 71 adivasis?

This flow of thoughts stopped me from signing the letter to the President, which was read out once the march had reached the quadrangle of the college. As the students who participated in the march were signing the letter, the music player started functioning. The song from the film Yuva was being played. I was expecting the songs of Rang De Basanthi to follow because the film Rang De Basanthi would have suited the reaction like protest. But RDB songs was not played as a boy came running and announced, “The bill has been passed.” There was screaming and shouting to celebrate the so called victory without asking “How could the bill get passed?” It appeared like a farce.

Farce was not just the solidarity march in other parts of the nation. But the performance at jantar mantar itself was a farce, with people like Baba Ramdev coming into the pciture. And not to forget to mention the bollywood stars. If the solidarity march played Yuva songs the main spot of action- Jantar Mantar- played songs from Lagaan (as shown in the news channels). Was there a lack of songs of protest and movement songs that one had to play the songs from films which by themselves are quite regressive in nature? And why were people like Baba ramdev encouraged? Not to say they have no right to protest or participate but Anna Hazare should have given some thought to the politics of identification, i believe. But sad, he not only encouraged people like Baba Ramdev and also praised more sickening people like Narendra Modi, once the so called victory was achieved. Anna, dont you realise that in the will to fight against one evil, you are taking the support and thus strengthening bigger evils?

The last nail on the coffin for the already disllusioned people about this movement was the breaking of the fast with Pepsi-Nimbooz!!! As i saw the footage of this on youtube i was reminded of what a friend told me the previous evening. My friend told me that she had overheard people talking in her office about a PR agency being hired for this anti corruption campaign/ movement. There were all reasons to believe it. But i did not want to believe as easily as clapping my hands. I asked my friend to collect more information and let me. But looking at the entire performance of this movement, i think i know what i will get to hear from my friend.

As the images of Pepsi-Nimbooz, Baba Ramdev’s presence, Modi being appreciated all flashed before my eyes one of the slogans that the students in the University town cried echoes in my ears- “Anna nahi yeh aandhi hai. Desh ka doosra Gandhi hai.” There was a poverty of imagination, lack of understanding, historical knowledge and memory in the slogan.

There is energy of the youth, there is fighting of corruption, there is revolution- reaction more than action, there is media, there is also a sense of victory. “How does it feel?”- an imaginary tv reporter asks me. I say, “it feels like walking out of a movie theater after watching yet another Rang De Basanthi.”

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Not Bleeding Blue But Feeling Blue

April 1, 2011 at 9:15 AMApr (Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

No cracker was burst. No screaming and shouting was heard. I was having ice-cream with a friend in Bangalore. A message from a cousin on my phone informed me that India had won against Australia. I was happy. Very happy, in fact. Knowing the Autralian cricket history in the recent past anyone would be happy to know that India defeated Australia.

Once i reach home i log on to facebook, which is my new source of news with views- which also has a running commentary of cricket matches from different sources. Yes, as expected there was celebrating the victory of India over Australia but more than that there was an excitement- vulguar excitement i can say- about the match to follow i.e. the India-Pakistan match in the semi-finals.

It was still better on that day, i believe. From the next day it appeared like nobody even remembered the victory over Australia but were just looking forward to the India-Pakistan match, which gained more imporatnce than the world cup finals. Status messages on facebooks turned to be only slogans. Be it cheering for India or against Pakistan, all had either some vulgarity attached to it or clear references made to non-sports issues to be more precise political and ideological issues. A close reading would give an anti-Pakistan message and make the hatred for Pakistan more and more clear.

A friend wrote something like, “Pakistan, apply oil to your asses we are going to hit you hard.” Another wrote something like, “Two years back few Pakistanis couldn’t be stopped from entering Mumbai, now the onus is on 11 Indians to stop some from doing so .” Not to say there was no anger displayed against Australia. There were some like “It is victory over the Aussie arrognace.” There were friends who had jokes on Australia too. Like, “Today Pointing is renamed as Disappointing.” But it did not get as vulgar as it got with the Indo-Pak match. Plus, the anger expressed towards Australian team had references made to instances and examples from within the game of Cricket. But when it came to Pakistan references were being made to the issues and examples outside the game of Cricket. But what is the connection between 26/11 and 30/3? What is the connection between Kashmir and Mohali? To ask such questions is just to make way for questions being raised about your own patriotism.

When India played against England no Indian said, “They colonized us. Let us give it back.” When India played against Australia no Indian said, “They attacked our people who went there to study.” But when India played against Pakistan almost every Indian said, “They attacked Mumbai” or “They are after our Kashmir” and hence “Let us kick their ass”.

Not to say that such statements should have been made. But trying to look at how the idea of a nation gets closely connected with a sports team which is to be representing the nation. My former colleague and friend Sudipto wrote a beutiful note which reads:

“India does not lose when a 22-year-old Dalit youth sets himself on fire over a land dispute. India does not lose when a young mother and her infant are killed by her family less than 50 km from its IT capital for marrying a man from a lower caste. It is not India’s loss when 90 per cent of its media gets dominated by a community that makes up 3 per cent of its population. India does not lose when a bunch of gun totting hooligans, who call themselves commandoes, kill and rape its own people. It does not lose when a timid judge in the Karnataka High Court issues a stay in an open and shut case of corruption against the Chief Minister. But India WINS when 11 individuals employed by a private company win a cricket match”

It is sad that we, as a nation, identify ourselves with a bunch of players and not with many fellow human beings who are, most of the times, not even counted as a citizen of this country.

It was almost like an unooficial bundh declared on 30 March. I did watch the match. It was a good match, i thought even while i have my own doubts about it being fixed for the obvious reasons that the best batsmen gets five lifes in the same match, that too a crucial match, in terms of world cup, as it is a knock-out. But may be it can be argued the while playing under so much pressure they did quite a bit of mistakes. Any way, it was a watchable match, no doubt about it.

Many did ask the question as to why the Pakistan Prime Minister was invited. The objection, it appeared, like, was against mixing of politics and sports. But when even the most common of us was also mixing the two, i dont know how only the act of the PM becomes questionable. But it is true that the move of the GoI made the game take other colors than just of sports.

A news channel also showed the clippings of 1971 war footage while the match was going on. This was just an extnded show of the media which enjoyed the gap between the quarter final and the semi final just to bring in too much of patriotism in and thus build up the vulguar excitement for the match.

Once the match was over the whole of country celebrated like India had won the world cup itself. But no, this match was more important than that. A viewer of the match at Udupi Rajangana (a hall belonging to the Udupi temple where the matches are screened. An initative by the seers of Udupi) said, “We won against Pakistan, its enough. It is ok even if we lose against Sri Lanka now.”

The celebration in coastal Karnataka, of the victory of India over Pakistan, was very scary i must say. This part of the world, known for its communalism, had a lot of saffron flags being waved during the celebration of the semi-final victory. What is the saffron flag doing in the celebration of the victory of India, is not a question one should ask in costal Karnataka. It is a part of the collective subconscious that India is a Hindu country and hence the victory of India over Pakistan is a victory of Hinduism over Islam. From a note titled, “To Afridi, With Love“, written by a Pakistani, i understand that even in Pakistan it was viewed as a war of Muslims against the Hindus.

A report in a news channel showed a Muslim man whose car was smashed after the match in India. The man in his byte to the channel said, “I suuported India. But still they attacked my car. I dont know why.” As if no one would believe his words he shows, to the camera, his photo with the Indian bowler Shreeshant. What had he done? His only ‘mistake’ is that he is a Muslim?

I cant even undertand the photoshop knowledge displayed by many where a Pakistani player is falling to the photo of Sachin Tendulkar, who is in the get up of a Hindu- more specifically- Brahmin God. How do we understand this? 

A friend of mine shared her “new experience” with me saying how in her hostel many were supporting Pakistan, which she found strange. Another friend of mine also said the same and he felt offended by the fact that many were supporting Pakistan. In the Sabarmati hostel of JNU, the broadcasting of the match was stopped because some of the viewers were supporting Pakistan. Now, if one were to see the game as just another sports event without letting the idea of nation and patriotism seeping in, what is wrong if one supports the other team and not the team carrying the name of the country to which he or she belongs? As i make this statement i wonder if people would take it so offensively if i- or any other Indian- were to support South Africa or any other country for that matter?

I think many of us are just lying when we say that Criket is our religion. If it were to be our religion we would have loved the game and not displayed vulguar patriotism in the game. We wouldnt have brought religious aspect into the game.We wouldn’t have objections if someone supported Pakistan, IN THE GAME. We are also lying when we say that Cricket unites the nation. It also breaks the nation, even if symbolically in the form of breaking the glass of a car belonging to a Muslim. If Cricket were to be our religion, we would have enjoyed the Cricket as a game without letting geopolitics and other aspects govern our excitement about the sports.

To me it was not Pakistan which lost on the 30th of March at Mohali, but it was Cricket and this sports which lost the game over Jingoism and vulguar patriotism. And not to forget to mention it was also the defeat of an idea of India as a secular and democratic country. This can be seen also in the new slogan in circulation now calling the finals of world cup as a battle between Ram and Ravan.

There is a call, everywhere, to bleed blue. I cant bleed blue. But i feel blue, for cricket and for the idea of India.

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