I’m an Army girl, I’m a Muslim, I know what patriotism is: But today I’m afraid, because #IamJNU

Standard

This post was removed from Firsptost after alleged rape threats to the writer. I am republishing here as I believe the writer should get an opportunity to express her views. After all, if an Army officer’s daughter doesn’t have the freedom to speak her mind then who does?Capture

 

Since 9 February, the lives of students of JNU have not been normal. Every night when I go to sleep, I tell myself it gets worse before it gets better. Soon, everything will be normal. For hours, I rest my head on the pillow with no sleep. In the darkness and stillness of the night, my pillow takes in everything – my anxiety, my pain, my tears and my humour. You can’t pick it up: It’s heavy with emotions and feelings.

Since that fateful Tuesday, my pillow has been taking in a lot of my burdens. I am afraid that my pillow will soon ask me to rest my head on a stone instead. I tell my pillow, assuring myself, Kanhaiya Kumar will be released, Umar Khalid and other students – slapped with false charges of sedition – will be fine too. And JNU’s image will be back to what it was. But I have a deep fear. My own friends from outside JNU (who have come here, had tea/food at the dhabas here) are being hostile towards me, never mind the general public’s reaction to this. I recall what Hannah Arendt once said reminiscing about her generation’s tame acquiescence in fascism – “what disturbed us was not the behaviour of our enemies, but of our friends.”

Here is a message for everyone and especially my friends who are spouting venom against me, calling me anti-national because I am a JNU student, calling me a terrorist and asking me to go to Pakistan because I am a Muslim, calling me over the phone and abusing me because they think I am just a feeble woman (Where is your love for Bharat Mata now?). I want to say to you, “Why don’t you get a life that is worth living?” The life of a human and not of a slave. You are nothing but a slave to an idea of a nation that you yourself are making exclusionary, communal and violent.

Before I give you ideas about nations and nationalism, let me share a few things. You ask me if I know the plight of an Army man, as if you know (your misplaced sense of nationalism makes you invoke the Army to prove nationalism all the time, how cute!). And unlike, you I do know the plight of an Army man. You conveniently forget about the women and children of the Army personnel. My father served in the armed forces, he was posted at places you wouldn’t have even have heard of. We lived without him in the family for years; all we had were his letters. So yes, I know the plight! Also, ask yourself who sends the army to these posts.

You tell me it is shocking that an Army officer’s daughter is a communist (even though I am not, but it’s alright). I have a message for you. My father was posted in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s – one of the most turbulent times in the history of Kashmir. His name was second on the hit-list of the militants. But this has not made me full of hatred towards the Kashmiris. It has not poisoned my mind. I don’t dehumanise Kashmiris.

Please don’t even lecture me on army life. I know what army life is (every time we had to move from one place to another with his posting, leaving our lives behind) and I know when to stand against injustice.

The times in which we are living are horrible; people are ready to kill just because someone shouted ‘Bharat ke tukde honge hazaar‘. Is Bharat so feeble that it will break because of some sloganeering? (I don’t even want to talk about how Hindustan became Bharat). Bertolt Brecht wrote “In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes there will also be singing. About the dark times.” We, at JNU, are singing about the dark times in which we are currently living.

When your freedom is curtailed, what else will you do?

When dissenting voices are smothered, what else will you do?

We, at JNU, are revolting against fascist forces by having cultural events, by holding talks, classes/lectures on ‘nation and nationalism’. We are revolting peacefully, non-violently, we come with flowers to our marches. And you call us anti-nationals? We don’t need lectures on nationalism from the killers of Mahatma Gandhi. They killed Gandhi then, they killed Rohith now. The RSS-BJP is mounting an open attack on the democratic and constitutional rights of the people.

Now that the case against Kanhaiya is falling apart, the government is finding another scapegoat, Umar Khalid. He was one of the organisers of the event that day, the day which changed the lives of the students of JNU – whether political or apolitical. What a beautiful name the organisers had given to the event – ‘A Country Without a Post Office’, after one of Agha Shahid Ali’s brilliant works, which relates to a time in the 1990ss when no letters were delivered to Kashmir for seven months or more.

There was no way for people to communicate with one another.

Umar Khalid questioned what it means to take a human life by keeping this history of Kashmir in mind. He only voiced the thoughts of thousands of Kashmiris. If, for this, he is tagged as anti-national, then shame on this country to not look at the death penalty critically. The PDP has declared Afzal Guru a martyr – with whom the BJP is making an alliance. What should we call this? Love jihad?

The attacks by the state are efforts to sharpen the communal polarisation in the country. They also want to divert people’s attention from the growing burdens being imposed upon them by the total failure of this NDA-led Narendra Modi government on all fronts.

As a JNU student, as a Muslim, and as an Indian I am in deep turmoil; I am trying to understand what exactly this idea of a nation that has excluded me, is. What is this idea where I don’t have the right to speak my mind freely? What is this idea of nation where I am scared to even get out of my home?

I remember studying that Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had visualised the Indian nation as emerging from the combination of various religions and cultures. Therefore, based on this, the post-colonial state had adopted a multicultural policy framework. This led India to develop a form of secularism that engaged deeply with religion so as to use it for various socio-cultural rights. For example, official status was given to various indigenous languages, autonomy extended to certain states and preferential policies formulated in favour of lower castes and tribal groups.

Currently in power, the BJP is promoting Hindu hegemony. Certain groups and corporations of political influence may not pay heed to minority marginalisation and their worsening situation but continue with corporate-led imbalances of economic growth that are damaging democratic citizenship. This frightens me. As P Sainath in his talk the other day at JNU said, this regime is worst of all because it not only is communal, but is market fundamentalist in its character. To which I will add that it has no reverence for human life.

The unprecedented unity shown by the students from across the world has emboldened this struggle against the current fascist state. On Saturday, we had a few workers from Honda to address the gathering at JNU. From their accounts, one could understand that they want to ruthlessly control and repress the large mass of those who labour under hopeless horrendous conditions. They are hunting students and workers at the same time, and this calls for ‘workers and students of the world (to) unite’ against the fascist state. It is most shocking that people are not finding the various acts of violence repulsive.

Where is your humanity? I hope the people who have been pulled into this vortex of violence – people who are ready to kill in the name of the nation – find their humanity soon. Like Rabindranath Tagore said, “Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”

In the end, we at JNU have only one thing to say to the fascist State that you must look into the mirror. You will see an ugly face that hides all kinds of prejudices (religious, caste, class, gender, ethnic). You are in a ‘state’ of intolerance and hate that comes from your arrogance and complete lack of empathy for the others in the ‘State’. However, “oppression is your privilege, and struggle is our right.”

We will stand in solidarity and continue our struggle till we win. After all, at the end of the tunnel there is light.

Bollywood Romance redefined

Standard

The ameer-gareeb class divide, the curious case of a love triangle and an age long family rivalry, Bollywood’s romance has been flirting with one of these plots since ages. Stereotyped but successful. Not just these plots have entertained us as an audience but they have inspired us. Whether it be DDLJ’s Raj whose love gives him courage or the devastated Devdas who drowns himself into self condemnation, be it Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s Anjali who finds love in her best friend but is unable to express or the iconoclast Bobby who breaks societal shackles for her love, we all have one character we identify with in our romantic lives. We tried to be them.

But times have changed it seems.

The time has taken a flip turn.

Now we don’t have to be them. They are more of us. The exuberant outspoken and babbling Geet from Jab We Met, the confused goal oriented practical Jai from Love Aaj Kal and (sadly) the clammed up Veera from Highway borrow traits from our lives rather than lending to us. The plot has changed too. It breaks the stereotype of romantic scripts. Depiction of love has changed with it. It is more modern and subtle, yet sublime. We don’t see hammy assertion of love and melodramatic display of separation anymore (I am not talking about Aashiqui 2). This change, which is so unbecoming of a Bollywood movie, is magical. And this Magic casts out from the wand of one man who in my ordinary wisdom is the new King of Romance in Indian Film Industry- Imtiaz Ali. Image

A star studded audience drawing caste, an extravagant foreign location, an out of the blue song sequence in mustard field, an unrelenting father and dialogues deifying love, his film has nothing which a bollywood romantic film must have (except good music). Yet this eccentric looking director who could have been a scientist if not a filmmaker (for his looks) quite emphatically stimulates your emotions when he tells a story.

Coming from a school of thought which believes in sensibility in cinema (like Anurag Kashyap) his characters are both commonplace and unique at the same time (Jordan in Rockstar) and his idea of love is casual rather than exceedingly formal. The emotions are intertwined with dilemma and are thus realistic and his expression is colloquial than poetic. The humor is organic not punchy and the story in all is innervating.

Therefore, when the complex stories where the protagonist,s inner self is the antagonist itself are so easily told by him with the help of engaging music and refreshing real locations they don’t actually leave an impact but stay with us and we have an aftertaste of his character’s experience on screen. This is why now, when we think of losing something we cherish we feel like missing a train. Truly he is changing the definition of love in Bollywood and in life (at least mine)

एक गुज़ारिश मेरी भी

Standard

ओ बूढ़े बाबा सुन लो
एक गुज़ारिश मेरी भी,
तोहफों Imageकी एक गठरी यहाँ ले आना
बाकी जाना चाहें कहीं भी

ये गाँव है तुम्हारे काम का,
मुज़फ़्फर नगर नाम का
यहाँ बड़े बूढ़े और बच्चे हैं,
खाये सियासी गच्चे हैं

उनको तुम थोड़ा फ़ुसला दो,
चेहरे पर मुस्कान खिला दो
कि उम्मीद यहाँ घुट न जाए,
यकीं खुदा से उठ न जाए

कुछ ऐसा जुगाड़ कर दो बाबा,
इनकी झोली भर दो बाबा

Apprehensions of a Heterosexual

Standard

Majority of us may be indifferent about the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Section 377 and re-criminalizing homosexuality because it does not affect us. Majority of us may be sorry for or have pity with 2.5 million LGBTs who are directly affected by the  decision

because it is totally unfortunate that they are how  they are. Majority of us  may think that the issue is just getting hyped by the media and its just ‘much ado about nothing’. But at the same time majority of us may be affected by lack of awareness.

Not that I am a gay right activist or something, nor I have done some research on this issue. I am just a commoner who is as averagely informed as somebody might be, it is just that there are few things with this whole issue which disturb me and which I discuss here below.

1. Racism: ‘In 1861 when America was fighting civil war on the issue of slavery, India was passing Section 377’, said Dr. Amartya Sen in an interview. Isn’t it ironical! Because what this decision of the Supreme Court has largely done is that it has reduced the whole issue to ‘us’ and ‘they’. Even as I consider this issue  affecting a wholesome ‘us’, there is a majority that does not think so. And the reason I am using the word ‘majority’ again and again is that the Supreme Court verdict has created a new minority. The people who are affected, now feel oppressed and unite to fight for their rights while most of us act like onlookers of their protest.And much to their woes, this new minority is not a potential vote bank which could attract immediate action from the law makers.

So India, which brags about ‘unity and diversity’ and where secularism is a major issue and whose constitution forbids any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, color, religion and sex, gets a new community classified on the basis of sexuality.

2. Human Rights: Those who are following the news debates and newspaper editorials on this issue regularly must have had enough of the Human Rights stuff on this. But my apprehension is quite different from what has been said so far and to understand that we need to have a basic knowledge of what section 377 actually is.

The Section 377 of IPC actually says, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

So, it actually does not mention homosexuality anywhere, but this section criminalizes homosexuals because it is considered to be an ‘unnatural act’. But for my reader’s kind knowledge I shall bring out that it is not the only unnatural act mentioned in the constitution. Actually any sexual act which is not a peno-vaginal penetration is an unnatural act. Hence oral sex and anal sex also come under the purview of this section.

Now, talking of human rights, I feel offended. Not because of the inanity of our constitution but because the depth to which our law can get into our private lives. It would be rather better to have a procedure of ‘court monitored sex’ than having such pervading laws.

3. Misuse of Law: We all know that there is hardly any law in India which rules out the possibility of it being misused. Talking about 377 of the IPC, I would like to cite an example to prove that it has the ability of being misused not just against homosexuals but also heterosexuals.

According to a Mumbai Mirror report- ‘About ten years ago, a women in her twenties and barely an year into marriage maintained a diary to keep a record of each time she had oral sex with her husband. Soon she filed for divorce on the grounds of cruelty.’

Hence Proved, I suppose!

4. Affect on the society:  Those who talk in favor of the Supreme Court decision talk about the India’s culture, its tradition and the adverse affect of homosexuality on the society. I have an inverse view point on this. I am more apprehensive about the affect this decision would have on the society.

Even if you suddenly criminalize 2.5 million people, they would not change their sexual orientation just because the law says so. They are going to stay as they are. So legally speaking they would stay criminals. Now these criminals are liable to be exploited by the police! And when such things happen to a person the most common outcome is that he stops believing in the system of law (unless he is a Gandhi of 21st century). And this I think is the actual threat to the Indian society, its culture and its tradition.

Imagine  2.5 million people rejected, ignored and mocked by the society, on the top of it exploited by law! Where would such anger and frustration vent out! Remember, “All oppression leads to war” some one has rightly said.

:p Love Marriage illegal, prostitution legal: SC

Standard
Supremely Bizarre Court of India

Supremely Bizarre Court of India

India  is just about to earn the sobriquet ‘country of Ironies’ . After Marital Rape has been justified in recent amendments while Gay Sex declared illegal by the Supreme Court, Faking news has now learnt that while hearing different petitions the apex court has declared Love Marriages illegal and ruled Human Trafficking as a non criminal act.

Much akin to the eccentricities of the Indian judicial system, these two new rulings have come as a shock to thousands of Indian citizens. But the apex court judges and the beneficiaries of these decisions have their reasons ready to rationalize the judgments.

“Love Marriage is against the age old traditions of all the religious communities and it was also unconstitutional during the times of Aurangzeb and Mohammad Bin Tughlaq, hence it should be illegal in the modern Indian society too’ said Mr. C Katana representing the khap panchayats which have filed the petition in SC against love marriages.

Whereas Kah Ke Lunga representing the Brothel Association of India who is the beneficiary of the verdict legalizing prostitution told us, “Its a milestone verdict. It will grow opportunities among the youth, increase India’s revenue and attract tourism. This would benefit the economy, the exports and the foreign currency reserve of our country.” On being asked whether he doesn’t find the flesh trade unethical? Mr. Lunga replied, “No its not unethical at all, it is just consensual sex two people have.”

 

 

 

Just Kidding :p

Who deserves self bashing more, we or the Media?

Standard

Image

Fiver years ago on this day, we sat in-front of our television sets watching live pictures of Mumbai under siege. The news channels and their reporters worked hard in the newsrooms and on field, even risked their lives to bring those pictures to our drawing rooms unaware of the fact that the same pictures were watched by people sitting in a war room in Pakistan, making strategies and passing orders after drawing information from what they saw.

But after the siege ended, we saw a series self bashing prime time debates in the media, much alike those we saw in some news channels yesterday after the CBI court’s verdict in the Aarushi murder case.Many believe our media is still immature and sensationalist. Some have even called an ailment and named it the Breaking News Syndrome. Some ask – When will the Indian media grow up? Whereas, I ask- Who really needs to grow, we or the media?

“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.” ~Oscar Wilde

I know it is an over-stated statement that ‘Media is just the reflection of the society’, and I do believe it is just partially true, for media is not ‘just’ the reflection of the society but also an emphatic opinion maker. I also believe that media just not includes the news channels and the news papers but every medium that helps in communication with the masses which includes social media, cinema, music etc. Now with that widened perspective let us reconsider the statement- ‘Media is a reflection of society’. Can we deny it is not?

The media has always walked with the society, since ancient times it has done that- reflected about the society. Remember the stone age cave drawings we read about in our history books? What purpose did it serve for the historians to read and decode them? It told them about the kind of society in those times. And do we remember the cinematic image of a drum-beater pronouncing the kings order in-front of the masses. It was the ‘media’ of those times which tells us that in that society a king was in control of the public opinion and opinion of the masses mattered least. And today, what does our media tells us about? Same, the kind of society we are living in.

So now, with this point of view if we look at the kind of stories that are flooded in the news channels we can easily deduce what kind of society we have ‘grown’ into. Do we have enlightening thoughts discussed in the media, or are our movies based on mind awakening philosophical quests? No they are not. Even if a few of them are, they are lost in obscurity. What does that tell us about ourselves? Simple, that we are not the kind of people interested in enlightening ideas. We like titillation of senses and that we are served. Our cinema is filled with violence and sex and so is the news. I would obviously not agree to the argument that this is what is happening all around all the time, of course these aren’t the only things happening in the society, there are better things taking place too. But we as society don’t take pleasure in them.

We as society also have a habit of outward thinking- of watching, hearing, feeling and speaking. Therefore the information or ideas we demand for are also such that they just satisfy our demands of watching, hearing, feeling and speaking. Honestly,how many of us spare ourselves some time for inward thinking? How many of us spend time imagining some thing, estimating ourselves, how many of us prefer common sense over the five senses?

It is simple economics of demand and supply. What we demand for, is given to us. What we don’t demand for becomes a commercial flop and vanishes. It is indeed a game of TRPs and Box Office collection. But it is not interminable. For the power to change lies with us, the media would change with us. Remember, not without us… because, since ages our media has walked with us, hand in hand. So the media which from the cave drawings have developed to a 24 hour HD news channel or a three dimensional cinema would also serve us intellectual content, when as a society we would demand for it.