Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

India Has Killed 10 Million Girls in 20 Years

December 23, 2006

India Has Killed 10 Million Girls in 20 Years

By PALASH KUMAR

Dec. 15, 2006 — Ten million girls have been killed by their parents in India in the past 20 years, either before they were born or immediately after, a government minister said on Thursday, describing it as a “national crisis”.

A UNICEF report released this week said 7,000 fewer girls are born in the country every day than the global average would suggest, largely because female foetuses are aborted after sex determination tests but also through murder of new borns.

“It’s shocking figures and we are in a national crisis if you ask me,” Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury told Reuters.

Girls are seen as liabilities by many Indians, especially because of the banned but rampant practice of dowry, where the bride’s parents pay cash and goods to the groom’s family.

Men are also seen as bread-winners while social prejudices deny women opportunities for education and jobs.

“Today, we have the odd distinction of having lost 10 million girl children in the past 20 years,” Chowdhury told a seminar in Delhi University.

“Who has killed these girl children? Their own parents.” In some states, the minister said, newborn girls have been killed by pouring sand or tobacco juice into their nostrils.

“The minute the child is born and she opens her mouth to cry, they put sand into her mouth and her nostrils so she chokes and dies,” Chowdhury said, referring to cases in the western desert state of Rajasthan.

“They bury infants into pots alive and bury the pots. They put tobacco into her mouth. They hang them upside down like a bunch of flowers to dry,” she said.

“We have more passion for tigers of this country. We have people fighting for stray dogs on the road. But you have a whole society that ruthlessly hunts down girl children.”

According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio was 933 girls to 1,000 boys, while in the worst-affected northern state of Punjab, it was 798 girls to 1,000 boys.

The ratio has fallen since 1991, due to the availability of ultrasound sex-determination tests.

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Interview with Ajitha : Daughter of late Com Mandakini Narayanan

December 17, 2006

This Interview was done wayback in 1999
by Rediff.com

‘Everybody in Wynad knew Varghese was brutally murdered by the police after torture’

The Naxalite movement, which stormed Kerala in the 1950s and ’60s, withered away by the end of the ’70s, sending most of the people involved into oblivion. A few, however, have managed to keep their revolutionary ardour alive and work to improve society. One such is Ajitha.

After her release from prison in 1977 after a nine-year incarceration, Ajitha tried to play the role of conventional housewife for a while, marrying and giving birth to a child. Until 1988, when a conference of women’s organisations in Bombay stirred her into action again and she founded an organisation called ‘Bodhana’ (Awareness), based in Kozhikode (Calicut).

At that time, however, the women’s movement was in its infancy in Kerala and Bodhana died a premature death after the fourth conference of women’s organisations in Calicut. Ajitha then set up another organisation called ‘Anweshi’ (Searcher) in 1993, which she says has grown out of its infancy and now commands attention.

Anweshi came into the limelight with the exposure of the sensational Calicut sex scandal involving several top politicians and influential public figures. It has goaded the police machinery into action, though the politicians have so far managed to evade the net.

Ajitha, however, is not one to give in easily. After an agitation yielded no result, she moved the Supreme Court to get the politicians, including Indian Union Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty, arrested.

Ajitha worked briefly with the Janadipatya Samrakshana Samiti (Committee to Save Democracy), founded by former Communist Party of India-Marxist leader K R Gouri ‘Amma’. But she soon found that she could not adjust with the ways of the veteran politician and parted company.

In an exclusive interview with D Jose and Shiny Jacob, the doughty fighter dwelt on her past, present and future struggles. Excerpts:


The Rediff Interview/Ajitha

How did you come into the Naxal movement?

My father Kuthikod Narayanan and mother Mandakini were revolutionary workers. Naturally, their activity influenced me greatly. By the time I reached the pre-degree stage [class XII], I could not stop reacting against the injustices taking place around me.

I found study a major hindrance to my plans. So I dropped out of college in the second year and joined the Naxals. What followed was a life of adventure, moving from one place to another with various missions. Ultimately I landed in the hands of the police and remained in prison for nine years.

When I came out of jail, the movement had faded away. Though the revolutionary spirit that guided me into the movement was still alive, the circumstances were no longer conducive to revive the movement. So, like my colleagues, I chose to remain content with a mundane life. I married Yakoob, who had worked with us, and looked after my only daughter Gargi, who is now doing her pre-degree.

What were your main tasks in the movement?

My initial task was to prepare materials for educating the rank and file. I used to translate and distribute almost all the materials we used to get from China. We also formed a study group called ‘Nangal’ (We), which was very popular in the Fifties.

The Naxalbari uprising of 1967 was a real eye-opener to the Naxalites in Kerala. We were shocked to learn that the Marxist-led government in West Bengal opened fire on farmers who took up weapons for their rights.

Kerala was also under Marxist rule then. The incident taught us that the Communists were ready to sacrifice their ideals for power. This led to a lot of resentment in our rank and file against the Marxists. We decided to strengthen our force and formed a co-ordination committee and started a magazine called Idathupaksham (The Left) from Ernakulam and prepared ourselves for revolutionary actions like the Naxalbari incident.

The year 1968 turned out to be a milestone in our movement. It was in September-October 1968 that we decided to take up arms against the perpetrators of injustice. Our target was the Madras Special Police camp set up at Pulpally to deal with the farmers who were agitating against the attempt by the forest and Pulpally Dewaswom authorities to evict nearly 7,000 farmers who had settled down in a forest area and have been engaged in cultivation for years. As no political party was prepared to come to the aid of the toiling farmers, we decided to intervene. We formed an action group under Varghese, who was subsequently shot down by the police.

After travelling for days, we reached the MSP camp at Pulpally and executed the wireless operator and the sub-inspector who was in charge of the camp. Later we attacked the houses of two landlords and distributed the food grains stocked there to the tribals.

The failure of the Telicherry operation under my father and the death of one of our leaders in a bomb explosion demoralised us. Subsequently, many left the movement. We persisted despite lack of food for several days. But I was caught by the police and landed in jail by the end of 1968.

What was the role of women in the Naxal movement?

I am no more a member of the Naxal movement. But I can say with pride that the experience I gained in the movement has stood me in good stead to fight for women’s liberation.

The women were always in an inferior position in the movement. I was highly disturbed by the loss of opportunities on account of being a woman. The men either showed a protective approach towards women or treated them as a sexual commodity. They considered the support the revolutionaries got from their wives and mothers as their duty. They did not realise that these innocent women had to suffer a lot because of their actions. The police and the authorities constantly harassed them. They also failed to appreciate our intellectual capacities and human feelings. Marriage was prohibited for revolutionaries as the party felt it hinders freedom. Later, however, the party allowed marriages approved by it. If anybody fell in love with those who did not like the party, it acted like a feudal lord.

How were you attracted to the feminist movement?

I had questioned the discriminatory approach towards women while working as a Naxalite. This naturally crystallised into feminist feelings within me. The 1988 conference of women’s organisations encouraged me to plunge into a full-time feminist activist. The women’s movement in Kerala was in its infant stage then. I gave shape to Bodhana and it entered society with the agitation against the murder of Kunhibi. We also dealt with several other dowry death cases and organised an agitation for reopening the Mavoor factory.

Why did you scrap Bodhana and form Anweshi?

Bodhana was guided by a kind of romantic ideal. Anweshi is more or less down to earth. We started studying and investigating issues and then organising agitations. It was a transformation from radical feminism to socialistic feminism.

When we implement certain ideals there are bound to be pitfalls. In the process of correction we come up with new movements and organisations. We are seeing the disappearance of several women’s organisations in the course of time. The main reason for the weakness of women’s organisations is the lack of political awareness among women. Society maintains a silence towards the burning issues of women. We confront many hardships in the process of stirring up society.

In the early days, the Left movement dragged away many women activists working in independent organisations. I think the confederation of Streevedi that we have formed by bringing together more than 40 women’s organisations in the state is a strong network. I firmly believe this will be able to function effectively.

Why did you join the Janadipatya Samrakshana Samiti?

I joined the JSS with the firm assurance that it will fight for the tribals, women, and other less privileged classes. But Gowri Amma could not break away from the power politics in which she had got entangled for years. She tried to save IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty from the Kozhikode sex racket.

What about the political forum formed by the former Naxalites?

I did not join the organisation as I thought the role of being an ex-Naxalite is not any qualification. If you evaluate their work, it can be easily seen that they could not make any impact in Kerala society.

How do you evaluate your organisation’s success in the Kozhikode sex scandal?

Several top people, including a former minister, are involved in the racket. As they are influential people the police investigation did not take the natural course. We had approached the high court against this. Unfortunately, the high court rejected our petition. This forced us to move the Supreme Court and I am hopeful [of a favourable verdict].

This is not to say that I am fully satisfied. A democratic government will have to be accountable. Let the Communist government be accountable to the women in Kerala at least. We have sufficient evidence to show that Mr Kunhalikutty was involved in the racket.

How do you view the revelation made by a police constable that Varghese was shot by the police and not killed in an encounter as claimed?

Everybody in Wynad knew Varghese was brutally murdered by the police after torture. But I consider the truth revealed by the police constable as a significant act. The constable, Mr Ramachandran Nair, has not told the full truth. It is probably to show that he had no direct role in the act. But I take his revelation in positive spirit. I feel it involves the violation of the human rights and a judicial inquiry is a must.

What is your view on the controversy surrounding Deepa Mehta’s film Fire?

Deepa Mehta has criticised an upper-caste Hindu structure. The opposition to the film from certain fundamentalists is unfortunate. I don’t think lesbianism is the issue against which they are agitated. Their ire is against the attack on the Hindu structure. This should be fought tooth and nail. Otherwise it will invite other dangers.

Related Posts

‘Before I am killed, give me a signal so I can shout a slogan’ –
The last wish of a Braveheart Naxalite warrior


The Legacy of Ajitha: Unearthing a Subaltern Indian Revolutionary and Political Prisoner

From the EPW Archives – Andhra Pradesh: Women’s Rights and Naxalite Groups( Maoists )

October 22, 2006

From this week onwards I am going to reproduce one article from the Economic and
Political Weekly Archives everytime I make a post.
Most of these articles will be more than a year old and may be outdated
by new developments that have taken place in the last one year.

Economic & Political Weekly Commentary
November 6, 2004


Andhra Pradesh: Women’s Rights and Naxalite Groups

For over two decades, the feminist critique of revolutionary left movements in Andhra Pradesh has questioned the lack of visibility for gender concerns on the party agenda. The recent meeting and exchange of views between women’s groups and parties on the radical left, however, provided cause for optimism on feminist politics and its impact on revolutionary movements.
Vasanth Kannabiran, Volga, Kalpana Kannabiran

The meeting between women’s groups and the CPI (Maoist) and CPI (Janashakti) on October 19, 2004 provided reason for optimism on the question of feminist politics and its impact on revolutionary movements. A week before the talks commenced, Ratnamala, former president of AP Civil Liberties Committee and a founding member of Stree Shakti Sanghatana in the early 1980s published an article in Telugu in Vaartha on October 9 where she raised the issue of lack of visibility for gender concerns within the party agenda.

Total prohibition was the only demand on the revolutionary agenda, she said, that women had achieved through a historic struggle, but she went on to ask, ‘Is the women’s question limited only to prohibition?’ Revolutionary perspectives, according to Ratnamala define our society as neo-colonial and semi feudal only, whereas they ought to speak of it as being defined in terms of patriarchy, caste, class, religion and class.

Discussing the indicators of women’s status in Indian society today, she placed 12 issues that she felt needed the parties’ attention for mobilisation: Equal wages; mobile crèches and crèches in neighbourhoods; rehabilitation of sex workers; working women’s hostels and student hostels in the districts; shelters for women at the district level; prohibition; implementation of the

Supreme Court judgment on sexual harassment at the workplace; media portrayal of women; identity cards and ESI for domestic workers; prohibition of amniocentesis.

Around the same time, Jayaprabha, a feminist poet published a satire in Andhra Jyothy, “Does War1 Mean Only Men’s War?” (October 4, 2004). Both these articles in fact reflected the feminist critique of revolutionary left movements in AP over the past two decades and more.

The issues raised in the meeting appear to have generated a demand for further dialogue from women comrades in the party. With the first phase of peace talks coming to an end, the party following Ratnamala’s initiative, sent out invitations to women’s groups, activists and writers for a dialogue on women’s issues. Many women at short notice turned up at the venue well prepared with a barrage of questions and doubts. Groups like Chaitanya Mahila Samakhya, Progressive Organisation for Women, Stree Shakti, All India Praja Pratighatana and other individuals, writers, activists and journalists attended the meeting.

On arrival we were welcomed by three unarmed women guerrillas of the People’s Guerrilla Liberation Army (PGLF) in their early twenties. The two banners on the stage declared ‘no revolution without women’ and “there can be no women’s liberation without the liberation of the working class”.2 Everyone was given literature, including a red book, which stated the CPI (Maoist) position on the women’s question. It is worthwhile at this point to mention key areas of concern in the little red book.

The first chapter speaks of the social system and the origin of patriarchy, stating, interestingly that while socialist feminists locate patriarchy in the superstructure, the party believe that patriarchy is at the base and must be destroyed to achieve an equitable social order. The second chapter speaks of the economic system, of which the first section deals with housework, and the rest with women’s role in social production, the role of family and marriage in women’s oppression.

The third chapter looks at culture and the perpetuation of discrimination against women through education, media, religion and religious fundamentalism, caste, and goes on to speak of the role of law, motherhood, the position of single women, the issue of sexual orientation, etc. The fourth chapter speaks of politics, beginning with an analysis of violence against women, and then goes on to delineate various trends in feminist politics today. While the document itself merits a detailed discussion and dialogue with the party leadership and cadre, just the diversity of issues that it attempts to grapple with and the prioritisation of issues speaks volumes about the influence of feminist discourse in Andhra.

As feminists who have engaged critically with revolutionary politics and writing in the state on the one hand and have been actively involved in human rights advocacy on the other, we went to the meeting with a written statement voicing our concerns on the relationship between revolutionary praxis and women’s lives/feminism.

Open Letter to Revolutionary Parties 3

The discussions today with women’s groups come at the end of twenty-five years of incessant efforts at democratisation by women within parties and groups outside concerned about the position of women within political structures. This marks a watershed in the demand by women to be recognised as citizens and the demand for treatment as agents in the creation of new and radical political structures. We sincerely welcome your effort to understand women political concerns particularly relating to equal citizenship.

While governance is something that is immediately relevant in the public realm of the state and civil society, it also proliferates to the other niches of civil society and politics, the same basic principles governing all realms. And representation is critical to effective governance. While it is generally true that leadership is drawn in movements and the state from the middle classes, the movement towards a radicalisation of the polity inevitably involves the gradual and increasing delegation of power and authority to those classes whose interests must be represented in order to eliminate oppression. For us as women, this immediately raises our central concern.

Why is there no significant representation of women in the upper echelons of your political structure and leadership? If the number of women in leadership reflects a corresponding disproportion in membership, our question is, what is it about the questions you are raising or the manner that these questions are being articulated that does not draw women in significant numbers. If there is a parity of membership among women and men, why is it that women are unable to rise to the position of intellectual and political leaders of the movement?

We have been raising the concerns stated here for two decades now, as is evident from our writing and work over this entire period. Even when the Concerned Citizens’ Committee was set up four years ago, we asked why it was that there was only one woman on the committee at that time who dropped out very soon, when in fact there were so many in the state who had an active interest in various aspects of this issue.

When the talks were fixed and all sides chose their representatives, none thought of inviting women to be part of deliberations that by your own admission affected thousands of women who lived in remote areas and were victims of the conflict. Yet after the peace process commenced, we were asked by one of the mediators what women’s groups were doing in the peace process.

We would also like to state that as women we have an active interest in processes of democratisation, and secularisation of civil society. We believe that women’s survival rests on the complete abatement of conflict and the elimination of all forms of conservatism and orthodoxy. Gujarat 2002 is a stark reminder of the grave assaults that women must bear in situations of conflict and moral policing. And this has more to do with patriarchal ideologies than to do with any specific religious ideology.

All ideological apparatuses predicated on an understanding of the subordinate status of women during periods of crisis exhibit a range of unanticipated and uncontrollable assaults on women. And these assaults and threats of assaults are viewed even by visionaries and leaders as part of larger cultural questions that cannot have immediate remedies and not as the simple derogation of the life and security of person of women which must be handed over to the due process of law. We hope therefore that in engaging in this dialogue, we are beginning to work towards a transparent, democratic public space that will fulfil the promise of true equality for women.

The questions we have raised in the past have often been dismissed as diversionary and bourgeois. What are these questions?

– Why are women confined to marginal roles in struggles? Even where they wield arms, responsibilities for caring and providing reproductive labour is still that of women. While we have information that there has been some change with men also sharing in the cooking and fetching of food, the sexual division of labour has not significantly altered. And this is visible in the fact that women are completely absent from any accounts of intellectual creativity or agency in the struggle and consequently in the leadership as is evident from the composition of the front face of the parties.

– What is the exact nature of the part played by women in the struggle, and how has this participation been theorised by the party?

– Women’s questions are generally dismissed as devoid of ideology and political perspective. Yet, it is our belief that a political perspective that is not nuanced by an understanding of gender as a structural and ideological fact is a seriously flawed perspective.

– By not taking questions raised by women seriously and by not dealing with those questions both at the ideological and programmatic levels, by dismissing women’s questions as trivial and ‘personal’, there is an active disempowerment of women as a class within the movement.

– While parties are willing to examine power relationships between classes, castes and the state, the more fundamental and ubiquitous power relationship between men and women never enters the account. This serves to mask the power that men wield over women and guarantees immunity especially to perpetrators of violence against women both within the party and outside.

The control of sexuality, which is the cornerstone of patriarchy operates not only in feudal neo-colonialist societies, but also in semi-feudal patriarchal revolutionary attitudes. The inherent belief that female sexuality must be controlled to maintain social order is responsible for the multi-layered oppression of women, which revolutions have been totally unable to eradicate. This results in forced marriages, the belief in the inevitability of marriage for women, abduction of minor girls for marriage and sexual harassment of women. Sexual harassment includes accusations of sexual and moral-ethical misconduct when women refuse to conform or when they ask questions related to democratic governance within parties.

At a more pernicious level, this internal ideology of male domination gets projected onto grass roots work, with similar solutions being implemented outside. Witness accounts of the marriages of rapists to victims as the solution to rape.

We strongly recommend that the terms ‘veeramatha’ and ‘veerapatni’ be expunged from revolutionary vocabulary, as they are extremely sexist terms. The glorification of motherhood masks the active denial of entitlements and equal citizenship in practice, while idealising sacrifice, service and unquestioning surrender to sons. This glorification of motherhood is a mirror image of the simultaneous worship of the mother goddess and the debasement of women in reality. This mystification of reproductive labour serves to keep women in chains.

Finally the collapsing of all issues of women’s rights into liquor and prohibition reflects a blindness to the much larger, much more pervasive violence against women. In order to address the issue we must begin to understand it. This effort is particularly important because the climate is now conducive for revolutionary parties to mobilise and work with mass organisations. We hope that this will mark the beginning of the process to write women into public discourse in more meaningful and far-reaching – truly revolutionary – ways.

The Revolutionary Position

The party leadership, Ramakrishna, Sudhakar and Ganesh from CPI (Maoist) and Amar and Riyaz from CPI (Janashakti), personally met each participant and sought detailed introductions, before going on to state their respective party positions on the women’s question. The position as delineated both in the individual statements and as a response to the discussion that followed may be simply stated as follows:

Although there has been a significant increase in the number of women coming into the movement, and also a significant increase in women’s leadership at the mandal and district level, the situation still left much to be desired. The spokesperson for the Maoist group, Ramakrishna was candid in his observation that the internal structure of the party was bound to reflect a patriarchal orientation as the cadre is drawn from different sections of society and draw from their knowledge and consciousness from those backgrounds.

However, since the process of change is continuous and dynamic, transformation cannot be seen as a one-time measure. Since it is easier to gain political authority than it is to eliminate patriarchy, the revolutionary route will make more deep-rooted change easier. While there was a feeling that women writers and activists who had written on this issue had done so without factual information and irresponsibly, there was simultaneously an undisguised concern about the persistence of patriarchy within the party.

The question was an ideological one. The problems women face are ideological, but yet there are ‘practical problems’ in women’s situation arising from ‘natural factors’ (‘prakrutiparamaiyna ibbandulu’) that constrained women’s full, efficient and equal participation in party leadership. A possible reason, it was suggested, was the failure of women’s movements to provide support to women within the party in terms that enabled them to destroy patriarchy within the parties.

Even in mass mobilisation, Janashakti, for instance, was able to address questions related to labour without difficulty, but found itself unable to address patriarchal oppression effectively. Further, during times of extreme state repression, several issues are pushed back to deal with immediate contingencies.

The concerted opposition to patriarchy is part of a larger democratic process. Given the encrustation of patriarchy within party structures and personal lives within the party, women a decade ago organised themselves separately and apart from the men, primarily as supports rather than as independent agents. The year 1995 witnessed the beginning of more open discussion on the fact that the family ideology governed gender relations within party and on the need to bring personal issues out into the open. The People’s War Group in that year undertook a ‘diddubaatu karyakramam’4 (rectification programme) to bring about awareness on issues of patriarchy and to eliminate it. The demand for this programme came from women comrades. Although as a result of this campaign, the number of women coming into the party today is higher than the number of men, women are not yet able to transcend the limitations of family ideology.

The solution to the problem does not lie in the formalising of representation through reservations, as there is a difference in capabilities between women and men, women’s understanding and development is necessarily limited by their exclusion from the public domain prior to their entry into the movement, creating an ‘efficiency problem’. So the effort of the party would be to focus on the creation of leadership that would alter the character of the base within the party. “It is only when all other sites of oppression are eliminated that the family can be wiped out, and that would be the road to women’s liberation.” But, “it is easier to eliminate imperialism, and feudalism than to eliminate patriarchy”.

The Feminist Response

The discussion then grew very animated with each group firing questions at the leadership.

One point that was emphasised was the fact that it was because of a faith in the movement and a shared vision of a just social order that women were present at the meeting. The faith in revolutionary politics went hand in hand with the right to question and critique every flaw in the party’s programme or perspective. The glaring lack of women at leadership levels and their lack of visibility needed to be addressed.

The deaths of women leaders in encounters cannot account fully for the absence of women’s leadership. Then there were questions about the silence of women in the party that put them out of reach. There were also questions about how far feminist writing and criticism has influenced the party’s thinking. The women present pointed to the need to look at the institution of the family, what happened to women and children in the areas of conflict, particularly children born to cadre after they had joined the party, they pointed also to the need for diversity.

Also the centrality of land and exploitation of dalit women in the ‘devadasi system’ could be effectively addressed, women activists felt, by asking the government to allocate endowment lands to dalit women trapped in this system. The use of extremely demeaning images and language about women that either spoke of ‘barrenness’ or glorified motherhood by people as distinguished as the peoples’ poet Gaddar did tremendous disservice to women’s struggles for dignity and recognition.

Many women who had left the party were working with poor women and for the party to build alliances and working relationships with people and groups engaged in similar work would, it was felt, strengthen democratic processes generally. Women felt that they had plenty to contribute practically and intellectually and that this potential could be drawn upon by revolutionary parties.

But for this, the party had to be willing to engage with criticism on its treatment of various aspects of the women’s question. It was also pointed out the women’s movement could only provide impetus, support and intellectual tools to dismantle patriarchal biases within the party, but it cannot actually break the patriarchy within the party. Since the parties had repeatedly asserted in the course of the peace process that they would function within the constitutional framework, representation in terms of physical numbers at every level formed a intrinsic part of democratic structures.

And in a situation where there is a concentration of power and authority in a certain class, (in this case men), bringing about equal representation would mean that women could only assume leadership to the extent that men are willing to relinquish the authority already with them. The failure to do this would only mean an unequal struggle and further concentration of power in the hands of men.

If the parties were actually mobilising the masses on women’s issues as well, and if the resistance included a resistance to patriarchy, the rule of equal participation in governance must first be applied and achieved within the party before being applied outside, as it is only the actual application of the rule that would result in an understanding of it and a commitment to it. Finally the question of class, caste and patriarchy as interlinked systems of oppression, was yet to figure in revolutionary discourse, especially in revolutionary writing.

Unresolved Questions

A step back briefly into time by half a century and statements from the leaders of the Telangana Peasant Struggle with regard to their women comrades, seem identical to the present. It is as if the women’s question is on a treadmill rather than on a revolutionary track. And still, there is a distinct sense of a shift, a quiet attentiveness, modesty and careful reflection on the part of the leaders that is disarming, a willingness for a more involved, continuing debate, and an admission of failure to democratise male-female relations within and without.

The delineation of the party position was far from linear and unequivocal. There were disjunctures and gaps that reflected a struggle with ideas and received knowledge systems, as also a grappling with new, unfamiliar ideological frameworks that seemed to have answers and yet were cause for discomfort, if not hostility.

The fixing of ‘women’s natural constraints’ and its natural opposition to men’s ease in public domains, the generalising of ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ to mean knowledge from a male standpoint and the assumption of an unconstrained male experience as normal exposes an ignorance of the long-standing feminist critique of this separation.

There is also the more difficult question of the relationship between masculinity and the bearing of arms, which did not figure in the debate, but remains a critical feminist question, particularly relevant in this context because the impasse in the peace process was caused by their assertion that the weapons they carried were extensions of their bodies, the analogy between the farmer’s plough and the revolutionary’s gun being particularly problematic.

This inability to think through issues of gender in any far-reaching way is reflected in the prioritisation of the agenda for struggle as well, the critique of which has still not ruptured their traditional formula of women’s liberation only after the liberation of the working class. There is no engagement with the contradiction between admitting the resilience of patriarchy and pushing the most difficult struggle to the bitter end.

And finally, even while recognising the problem of inequality within, the firm denial of the need for mandatory sharing of leadership with women, positing instead a long term struggle with cultural questions, in philosophical rather than material terms, tends to blur the distinction between these and parliamentary parties on the issue of women’s representation in governance. But let us hope that this is only the beginning of a long awaited dialogue that will yield results sooner rather than later.

Notes

1 The reference is to People’s War, which in Andhra is often referred to as ‘War’.
2 The second banner, it appeared to us, was an unconscious inversion of the original Lenin quote ‘there can be no liberation for the working class unless women are completely liberated’.
3 This letter was given [in Telugu] to the leaders of the two parties at the commencement of the dialogue on October 19, 2004 by the authors.
4 ‘Diddubaatu’ is also the title of noted early 20th century Telugu writer-social reformer, Gurajada Appa Rao’s short story about a woman who reforms her husband.

A Gujarati Muslim Woman’s Struggle for Justice

October 17, 2006

A Gujarati Muslim Woman’s Struggle for Justice

Naseem Mohammad Shekh is an activist working with
victims of the state -sponsored anti-Muslim carnage in
Gujarat in 2002, in which more than 3000 people were
killed. She is based in the Qasimabad Colony, near
Kalol in the Panchmahals district of Gujarat. Eleven
members of her own family, including her daughter and
husband, were slaughtered in this most large-scale
wave of anti-Muslim violence in India in recent times,
the victims of which are yet to get justice. Here she
narrates to Azim Sherwani the traumatic murder of her
family, her struggle for survival and her present
involvement in seeking to promote peace and communal
harmony in communally-polarised Gujarat.

I was born in a fairly well-off family. I grew up with
my grandparents and parents. My grandfather wanted me
to marry in the same village. So he found a boy of my
own village who was my cousin from my mother’s side.
He had done his secondary schooling but the economic
condition of his family was not very sound. I was 13
at that time and told my family that I would commit
suicide if they forced me to marry him but they did
so. Initially, I hated to live with my husband’s
family but my grandfather convinced me and emotionally
blackmailed me. I started supporting my husband by
helping him sell vegetables.

Once my husband had an offer of a government job but he was
asked to pay a hefty bribe. My parents were willing to pay
the bribe to help my husband have a better future but he
refused. He felt it was against his honor to borrow
from his in-laws to pay the bribe. He promised me a
good life with his hard labor. Because of our hard
work our business flourished and finally we had to
employ some local youths as helping hands in the
business.

On 27th February 2002, I had a gynecological
operation. I was in the nursing home. The next day my
husband told me about the burning of the train coach
in Godhra. I was frightened but he told me that
police had been deployed and that nothing untoward
would happen. He told the doctors to take care of me
and not to worry about the money, promising to be back
the next morning.

On 1st March a Hindu mob attacked the Muslim houses in
my village Dahlol. I intuitively did not want my
husband to go to the village but, owing to his
repeated insistence that the children were alone, I
could not stop him.

A Hindu customer of ours sheltered my husband and the children
in his house when the mob went on a rampage. He insisted on
sending our children to the hospital, which he thought to be
a safer place.My husband reluctantly agreed. My 13-year old
daughter stayed with her father. The Hindu customer
dropped my son Suhail at the nursing home. I was
worried. I wanted to know where my family was. He told
me not to worry. Very soon, he said, everybody would
join me, and he assured me that they were safe in his
house.

In the evening this Hindu man took my family with him,
telling them that he was arranging for safe passage
for them. He took them towards the river and on the
way started shouting that there were Muslims around.

This was a trap that he had laid. All at once, a Hindu
mob, armed with sharp weapons, surrounded my family
members. One of my nephews ran to save his life and
hid behind huge bushes. But the mob killed everybody
one by one. They begged for their life to be spared
but in vain.

My 13 year-old daughter was gang-raped and cut into pieces.
After killing everybody they
burnt their bodies. My nephew, who narrowly escaped,
was watching everything, shaking with fear. He fled
the place when the mob went back to the village. He
came to the main road, which connects Kalol, a town
with a substantial Muslim population.

The police found him, and asked him to remove his trousers
to see if he was a Muslim. They kicked him and abused him for being
a Muslim. He was thrown out of the police jeep. Upon
arriving Kalol he narrated the incident to our
relatives and family friends.

I was still in the hospital and was not told anything
by our relatives. The next day the mob came to the
hospital in search of me. The doctor told them that I
had been discharged and had left the hospital. After
this incident the doctor was afraid that the mob might
come again in search of me.

He provided a set of clothes normally worn by Hindu women
to hide my identity in case I was stopped on my way to a safer
place. After 15 days I was sent to a relief camp in
Qasimabad in an Army vehicle. When I reached the camp,
my sister and other people started crying. I wanted to
know about my husband, daughter and other family
members.

They told me that they were in a different relief camp.
I insisted that I want to speak to them.
One of my family friends phoned me, pretending that he
was my husband, but I could easily make out that it
was a different voice. I guessed that I lost
everything. My life was completely destroyed. My
brother-in-law started crying and revealed to me that
only thee members of our family of 11 had survived.

The atmosphere in the relief camp was depressing and
frustrating. I had lost everything but I had to live
for my son Suhail. We had to face so very many
problems. We could not go back home. My brother-in-law
wanted the compensation money to be deposited in his
name.

He thought I might take the money and get
married to someone else and might not take care of my
son. I convinced him that I would take care of my son
for he was everything to me now. In case I got married
again, I said, I would deposit the money in his
account.

I had so much pain in my heart and was worried that I
might go mad. I started volunteering in the camp. At
that time some women’s group and an NGO came to work
for the rehabilitation and access to justice for the
victims of the carnage. I joined them as a volunteer
initially.

There was a lot of opposition from some
conservative maulvis. They tried to force me not to go
out because I was a widow and I had to perform the
religious duty of being isolated from men for four
months. I told them categorically that I needed to
work for women like me who had lost everything in the
carnage. They needed my support. There was also some
opposition from some of my distant relatives.

It was really difficult to engage Hindus, Dalits and
Muslims in peace-building initiatives. There was
complete mistrust of and hatred for each other.
Muslims said that the Hindus had destroyed their life.

What kind of reconciliation, they asked, is possible?
But some people started appreciating our work. They
would tell me, ‘You lost everything in the carnage but
you still don’t hate Hindus. Rather, you try to engage
them. So, we should follow your path of trying to
promote peace and counter hatred’.

Today, I have no one in my life except Suhail. I am
sad but now I am a confident woman. I can relate to
and understand the problems of all other women,
Hindus, Dalits and Muslims.

Constant preaching of hatred against Muslims for
political purposes is the root cause of communal
violence in Gujarat. The Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa
Hindu Parishad are the main instigators of anti-Muslim
hatred in India and use any opportunity to instigate
violence against them.

During the mass violence against Muslims there were some
good Hindus who helped their Muslim neighbors in providing
shelter or safe passage. Unfortunately, however, in Gujarat
today the communal divide has increased. We need to work hard in
engaging youth, women, Dalits and Adivasis to mobilize
for communal harmony.

In fact, all religions teach tolerance and peace but
some people interpret religion with narrowness and to
generate hate against fellow human beings. At times I
ask myself that if the different religions were made
to serve humanity then why are people all over the
world killing each other in the name of religion?

I have devoted my life to the struggle against
communalism and for empowering women. This and the
hope for a better future of my son are my strength. I
want to educate my son and would like him to join
government service in Gujarat. There is so much pain
in my heart but I want to channelise it to prevent a
repeat of what happened in Gujarat in 2002.
===============================================

A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat , Report by the International Initiative for Justice (IIJ) ,December 2003

October 17, 2006

Posting it here for the archives

Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat
Report by the International Initiative for Justice (IIJ)

December 2003

Prologue

The violence that was unleashed against Muslim communities, and on women from the Muslim communities in particular, in the state of Gujarat, India from February 27, 2002, onwards was beyond description in its horror. Its efficacy in showing the worst effects of communalism combined with a thirst for political power is unmatched in the
post-independence Indian history.

What happened in Gujarat
Although it has been repeatedly suggested that the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra on 27 February 2002 triggered the violence against Muslims in Gujarat, much evidence reveals the planned nature of these attacks and casts doubts on the representation of events that occurred on 27th February. Reports show a systematic attempt to identify Muslims in various areas by singling out their homes and establishments much ahead of that date.

They also reveal that arms had been procured and distributed widely to the public as part of the plan to target the Muslim community. What happened on the 27th of February 2002 was but a pretext to carry out the carnage that was long planned, a flashpoint that facilitated it and gave it a rationale.

On 27th February 2002, there was an attack on a train carrying Hindu kar sevaks1 coming back from the demolished Babri Masjid site, where they had gone to volunteer their services for the building of a Ram temple. One of the train compartments was set on fire just outside Godhra, a station in Gujarat and 59 people (women and men) perished in the blaze.

The assailants were not known and the reason for the train attack was not very clear but by late evening there were statements from the Gujarat government and the Hindu right wing organisations that this was an attack on the kar sevaks who were travelling in large numbers in that train. Not only this, there were claims that this was the work of the local Muslim residents around the area where the attacks took place and there were also statements that there was an alleged hand of the Islamic terrorists from across the border – from Pakistan.

The cause for the attack and who was behind it is still not known clearly and although official investigations are still underway, these perhaps shall remain questions that may not be ever fully answered. What followed, however, was a full-scale attack on people from the Muslim communities across the length and breadth of the state.

There were thousands of armed mobs moving in towns and in villages spread over an area of hundreds of square kilometres. They were carrying similar weapons, they were carrying out destruction in the same manner and they were all shouting the same slogans. They were well aware of all the Muslim properties (they carried printed lists at times or the houses were appropriately
marked beforehand) – residential and business – in different towns and remote villages and they went about systematically attacking all of them.

They brutally killed many, they sexually assaulted and violated women and young girls, and they injured people in the most gruesome manner. All property was destroyed in ways that it could not be rebuilt. (See Annexure I for more details on the carnage before and after the burning of the train.)

In a matter of 72 hours – the time for which the administration did not act or was given strict instructions by the state government to not act – there were about 2000 people killed in the violence. Although the official figure is 762, about 2000 people were missing or killed according to unofficial estimates and around 113,000 people were living in relief camps while others who were displaced were living with relatives in Gujarat or outside.

The losses suffered by the Muslim community were estimated to be 38,000 million rupees – 1150 hotels burnt in Ahmedabad city alone, over 1000 trucks burnt, thus severely affecting the hotel and transport industry, which were businesses mainly run by Muslims. About 250 mosques and dargahs were destroyed as part of an attack on the community itself2.

The state was ravaged and its Muslim populations were displaced from lands they had inhabited for generations and made refugees in their own country. They lived in refugee camps set up by others who were able to withstand the attack.

The violence continued much after the first 72 hours and was further compounded by police violence against the Muslim community as well as by the complete indifference of the other state institutions in providing humanitarian and medical support, or compensation to the violence affected and the active hampering by the police of
efforts to register FIRs and other moves towards securing justice.

Read the full report —-> Here

Download the full report in PDF (197 pages) —>Here

Women and People’s War in Nepal by Hisila Yami( Comrade Parvati )

September 29, 2006

“Dear friends,

We are happily announcing the publication of the book People’s War and
Women’s Liberation in Nepal written by Hisila Yami (Comrade Parvati).

Total number of pages – 246 plus 15 coloured photos.

The price of the book is:

a) In India: Paper pack – Rs. 125.00 and
Hard Bound – Rs. 200.00

b) In other countries: Paper pack – $ 7.00 or equivalent and
Hard Bound – $ 10.00 or equivalent.
* For individual copies, we will bear the cost of mailing.

For bulk orders (applicable for more than 25 copies):
a) 25% Discount;
b) Purchaser has to bear the mailing cost;
c) Only pre-paid orders will be accepted.

For further enquiries, please contact:
purvaiya_publication @ yahoo.co.in

With greetings,
M.Pal /26-09-06

WOMEN
AND
PEOPLE’S WAR IN NEPAL
By Hisila Yami (Comrade Parvati)

Contents

1. Ten Years Of People’s War And
The Question Of Women’s Liberation

2. Women’s Participation In People’s War In Nepal

3. The Question Of Women’s Leadership
In People’s War in Nepal

4. Women’s Participation In People’s Army

5. Women’s Position In The Party,
People’s Army And The New State

6. Ideological Synthesis And
The Question Of Women’s Liberation

7. Philosophy And
The Question Of Women’s Liberation

8. Interview To People’s March

9. Multidimensional Exploitation And
The Question Of Women’s Liberation

10. Rape: An Instrument Of
State Repression In Nepal

11. People’s War And The Question of Dalits

12. Nationality Question In Nepal

13. Experience Of People’s Power In Nepal

14. Women And The Democracy Movement

15. APPENDIX – 1

16. APPENDIX – 2

17. APPENDIX – 3″

To Be Or Not To Be, Taslima`s Plea For Indian Citizenship

September 18, 2006

To Be Or Not To Be, Taslima`s Plea For Indian Citizenship
Palash Biswas

(contact: c/o Mrs Arati Roy, Gostokanan, Sodepur, Kolkata-700110,
India. Phone:033-25659551r)

Taslima is silent on minority prosecution in Bangladesh since she
wrote Lajjaa. Lajja was the documentation of the circumstances in
which minorities live in Bangladesh and leave it. The exodus leads to
India always. The infinite refugee influx from the eastern border of
India never stopped and minority prosecution happens the main cause
of exodus from Bangladesh.

Self-exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin has once again sought
Indian citizenship, facing death threats from hard-line Islamic
groups in her homeland. News agencies quote Ms. Nasrin as saying that
she says her birth country, Bangladesh, has slammed the door on her.

The Indian news agency also quotes her as saying she would love to
live in India’s West Bengal state because that would help her in her
writings. She now lives in Kolkata with a residential visa extended
for one more year recently.

Government of India faced a quandary after Taslima Nasreen, the
controversial Bangladeshi author, asked repeatedely for Indian
citizenship. The plea was rejected in 2005. Thoughit is well known
that India stands for democratic freedom, freedom for minorities,
freedom from cast systems and above all freedom for women. And the
Indian intellegentia stands united with Taslima.

The feminist author fled Bangladesh in 1994 when Islamic extremists
threatened to kill her after she was quoted as saying the holy Koran
should be changed to give women more rights. After fleeing Bangladesh
in 1994, she primarily lived in Europe, collecting some awards for
artistic courage but little peace of mind.

Taslima is a Bangladeshi writer, born in 1962. She has published
poetry, essays, a syndicated newspaper column, and novels. She has
received awards in India and Bangladesh for her work. She sprang into
international consciousness when her novel, Shame, which depicts
Muslim persecution of Bangladesh’s Hindu minority, brought forth a
death threat from Islamic militants. She had to flee Bangladesh lived
in Sweden for some time, and now lives in France.

August 1999: The Bangladesh Government has banned the latest novel by
feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen on the grounds that its contents
might hurt the existing social system and religious sentiments of the
people.

All copies of the book in Bengali titled “Amar Meyebela” (My
Childhood Days) published last month in Calcutta have been seized.
Amar Meyebela is available online in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, for
those who read Bengali.

Taslima’s true struggle for the freedom and
adventures for the equal rights of women in Bangladesh did earn some
basic dignity and respect, for herself and for the women in Bengal,
in general. Ms. Nasrin has spoken out loud and clear in favor of
equal rights for women and has expressed opposition to the oppression
of non-Islamic minorities in Bangladesh society. She also mentioned
about the oppressive socio-cultural enviornment during her earlier
years.

This, of course, includes the Bengali women’s bitter
experience of sexual exploitation by the brute Pakistan Muslim
soldiers during 1971 Pakistani Islamic Civil War in East Bengal.

Besides Lajja, her other autobiographical works, “Amar Meyebela” (My
Childhood) and “Utala Hawa” (Torrid Wind) were also banned. Nasreen,
whose book “Ka” described her alleged affairs with a number of
prominent Bangladeshi figures, earlier said she would like to settle
down in the Indian state of West Bengal which adjoins Bangladesh and
shares the same Bengali language.

The Bangladesh government has claimed that herbooks contain anti-
Islam sentiments and statements that could destroy the religious
harmony of Bangladesh, if any such harmony really existed, except in
the form of brute Islamic repression of Hindu community.

Taslima Nasrin, thus, has been living in exile for more than 11 years.
Recently, the West Bengal Government in India also banned the sale,
distribution and collection of her book “Dwikhandito” in November
2003; (though the Communist West Bengal Government should not do
exactly the same that Islamic Bangladesh Government has done!).

However, the ban was soon lifted by the High Court in September 2004.
Her attempt to read an anti-war poem entitled “America” to a large
Bengali crowd at Madison Square Garden in NY, nevertheless, resulted
in her being booed off in 2005 by an Islamic Bengladeshi crowd.