Monday, December 31, 2012

Identity Unpurified

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The victim of Delhi assault is no more. Last night she breathed her last in a hospital in Singapore. It was rare that the prime minister and UPA chairperson received the body at the airport. The history is changing these days and in these time people’s pressure is visible on the government and they are showing some sensitivities though the police in Delhi was forcing her parents to take the body to their home town in Balia for cremation. And finally the she was cremated silently and secretly with in hours after reaching Delhi. Maybe, the government knew that if the cremation was not done immediately, it could spark further violence and tension.

This incident has brought us many facts of life. That India still lives in the Dark Age which has no respect for women and our political class does not have ideas of how to deal with a changing nation which is young and want its answer at the earliest. The bureaucracy and politics drag on an issue till its die as they wait for the patience of the people to die and let the issue submerged in the din. Many feel that people do not remember things and hence politicians reap benefit of this ‘forgetfulness’ of people but things are changing now and it would be difficult for them to ignore these issues. And let me clear, it is not the issue of Delhi or Mumbai. It is not the issue confined to one particular caste as many of the comments on social networking sites have been bringing issues of people who suffer and ‘we’ have not spoken on that. Some brought the issue of ‘Dalit’ and many other things. Yes, it is well known fact that people do not speak on everything and those who are bringing the other issues to compare do not speak but some time an incident ‘provoke’ and ‘compel’ us to think and ponder over as what went wrong. The Delhi incident in real sense has forced the entire country to think. May be at least at the governance level, some understanding will help us secure our public spaces for women. As a society we need to do more and not just ask for better laws but we ourselves would have to change and the beginning must be made from the way we nurture our children. Nobody, know the caste of the girl and the protests are not happening because the girl is from this caste or that community. Yes, it is happening because the streets of Delhi are not safe for women and Delhi women have equal right to protest as women anywhere. Political parties will use it but there are certain issues which are not easy to be used by them. And this is one of that. Ofcourse, the media will only go where there is an event and what could be a better place than a protest at India gate or Raiseena Hills.

Yes, from ‘dented and painted’ thoughts of Abhijit Mukherjee, son of an illustrated father to another public person from West Bengal whose absolutely denigrating comment on Mamta Benerjee are thoughts from ‘enlightened’ Bengal. How can a Hindutva votary left out so he wrote a letter to Chief Secretary in Rajasthan asking him to stop wearing of skirts by the girls in the schools and colleges. A woman ‘intellectual’ in Madhya Pradesh shamed everyone who was present in the seminar on ‘women’s Empowerment’ when she decried the girl suggesting that she should not have resisted so that her life would have been saved. Yes, the common reference in these conditions is why should a girl ‘travel’ in the night but this time, she was travelling with her male ‘friend’. Some also brought the story of her ‘link’ with one of the accused. The question is why should you rape and kill a person who disagree with you and does not want to be part of your ‘fanciful’ ‘possessive’ world. Why can’t we allow peaceful parting even if such thing happening because a large number of cases in India are because men become possessive of the women and do not even want her to talk to others. The times are changing and to think of a girl who will wait for her husband in the evening when he return home from ‘work’ and get ‘hugged’ or ‘kissed’ are remote when both the partners work for survival and better life style.

Now the girl is no more and everyone is giving her a different name. You are praying for a ‘brave heart’ but why don’t we reveal her identity. One can understand that it is a complicated social problem when the revealing of the name of the victim isolates her further but that is the crux. When will we take on the society? We protest against the government for changing laws but we are not really keen for a social change. We want to protect these customs and rituals given to us by age old retched system where a girl loses everything if she is touched. My question is simple from those moralist like Sushma Swaraj who said that the girl would be ‘jinda lash’ whether there is need to change our social mental framework or not? Yes, in life, this brave girl fought and wanted to live. Yes, good that we protected her identity but why? It is simply because; we wished to keep her safe from future isolation in society. Today, when the girl is no more we refuse to reveal her identity and just justify the Sushma Swaraj perception about a woman. Our women will have to oppose and reject this nation. Rape will happen as it is the last resort of the powerful people to rein in on the helpless to dehumanize them. A rapist must be shamed and get maximum punishment but what about the victim. The entire focus on the ‘rape’ debate is around the ‘accused’ because that is where we expect the government to act but what about our own self? Don’t we need to change as a society? Why are no questions asked from this brahmanical disorder where women are an ‘object’? Will we object to being ‘favicol’ or ‘munni badanaam huee’? Will we object to those denigrating advertisement which sale ‘beauty’ product and define how women should look and grow? Is there not a pressure on women being isolated?

Various media associations and unions have send guidelines about the reporting of girl’s funeral and her ‘privacy’ being ‘respected’. At the time when the entire country has moaned her and called her ‘India’s daughter’, prayed for life, she is no more. The country must know her struggle and her valiant fight. She must get her legitimate due, an acknowledgement from the government and society. Why do we strengthen those stereotypes which makes a rape victim ‘jinda laash’. This brave heart is a role model for others and hence we cannot kill her identity just because she was raped. It is time; we honor her struggle, her fight for dignity and self-respect. Will it not be the greatest irony that a woman who has inspired the entire nation from her spirited fight for life is allowed to die unknown and her whole heroic struggle goes in vein because we are unable to challenge our patriarchical structure? It will be sad if we continue to reinforce those ‘values’ which kills a woman’s identity on being violated and make her ‘walking corps’. It is time to wake up and assert that a woman cannot be allowed to die whether alive or in death just because she has been violated. If we are unable to come up against such notion then I would only say that natural justice has happened to this girl as it would have been difficult for her to survive in this society which would have been killing her daily. We have only legitimized and justified those values and beliefs which believe that a woman become ‘walking corps’ if violated and has no life. Can we call our self a civilized society and a nation when we are still sticking to these prejudices?

How long will we kill the dignity of woman who faces such ignominy after being violated? The girl who fell to these brutal rapists has been named as ‘Damini’, ‘Nirbhaya’ and ‘Amanat’ but lost her identity with that mishap of her life which was not her fault. There are hundreds of other women living such life in absolutely miserable isolation and die every moment of their life. Will this incident or its outcome ensure that they too live a life of dignity and honor? Will they be able to walk with their head high where none ask those questions that kill them every now and then? India you need a complete overhaul and not just a few laws to look a society which respect women and give her dignity and self-respect. Let us moan the death of this brave girl but the best tribute to her will be when we will allow her ‘original’ name to be out so that people learn to live with it and tell their children particularly daughters that being violated is not end of life as it is not she who should be ashamed of but the person who violate a woman. It is sad that the girl who fought valiantly for her dignity is allowed to die unknown and unnamed. It means as a society we do not want to change as we only want governance system to be changed but not ourselves. I wish the sooner this society is demolished the better for the world of humanity. No humanity could be built on this hypocrite society which victimize the victims and refuse to change despite so much of pains and traumas it has brought in our lives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Indian renaissance

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

It is good for the people to come to the street and raise their voice in solidarity with an affected person and therefore the protest to make our public places safer for women must have support from all. The political system in India has become so much corrupted that the best thing the politicians have become expert in are to look these issues through an identity prism and therefore discredit the entire issue which concern us all. It is true that the middle class upper caste citizenry of the country is reacting on this issue because it is the target at the moment but it is also a reality that our public places are highly unsafe for women and that is the duty of the government to ensure that she can use that space without feeling insecure and unsafe.

I do not believe that these protests are unwarranted but media definitely over reacted on the issue and inflamed the passion. After a big failure of Anna’s movement, media is again trying to create chaos by legitimizing everything in the name of ‘sentiments’ and ‘feelings’ of the people. Street protests are essential to wake the political class as well as to clean the conscience of the society but that would not be possible without a formidable ideological understanding of our social system which has justified rape and violence against women from time immemorial. In the absence of the ideological clarity, these street protests against ‘rapists’ is the result of a feeling that the ‘criminal’ do not come from us. India lives in communitarian society where family and blood relations are focused on and therefore right and wrongs are always based on ‘politics’ of our society and which community are from.

There are numerous celebrity ‘rapists’ in Delhi’s Tihar Jail and they are honorable citizens there. Their families have defended them. Many of them are former senior police officers and interestingly their wives publically defended them and fought their cases. We can assume that a village woman is helpless and hence do not dare to speak against her husband as the social pressure is tremendous and at the end it is the woman who is blamed for everything. Every rapist or molester of a woman is definitely a son, a brother, a husband, a father and a father in law too. How many times do we see a public rebuking of such people by their sisters, daughters, wives and daughter in laws? Can these female relatives of ‘rapist’ ever disown them and demand public trial? That is the most important aspect in India where we have failed. Secondly, it is also important that street trial will brutalize the already brutal society and only strengthen the moralists like Shri Ram Sene, Bajrang Dal, Shivsena or their Muslim counterparts and the result would be an absolute control over private space of the individuals.

Many of the film stars as well as politicians have jumped in the bandwagon of this ‘leaderless’ protest suggesting the ‘rapists’ must be hanged, publically butchered and what not. The direction of the entire debate would only gladden the heart of the Taliban mindset among us who want women to be ‘protected’ and advise her to understand her ‘limits’. While in a civilized society, we do not need policing at all the level as more police only mean less security and more fear. Do we want policing at every nook and corner when even a brother and sister or two lovers are blackmailed by the beat constable? Do we want to be poked and questioned everything about our personal lives? Yes, such debate on violence against women actually reinforces the parochial belief that a woman is not safe and must accompany her family persons. This will always make the lives of millions of those youngsters who travel together and stay at one place. The moralists would then blackmail them whether they are ‘married’ or not. Such situation already exist in different parts of the country where hotel have turned into blackmailing youths particularly young couples who run away from their homes and want to get married. Every hotel would then turn a khapist and extort as much money as possible as the fear of ‘getting exposed’ make them succumb to such blackmailing or leads to violence and even suicide.

There is a need to have sensible debate on the issue which does not confine to rape as it is just one of the forms of violence against women. It would make mockery of freedom of individual and their choices as even consensual sex between two adults might be termed as ‘rape’ by the moralists as man-woman relationship would be under the constant scrutiny of these ‘street’ moralists who would not treat ‘honored’ killing as equal to rape? Have our moralist demanded same treatment for all those who kill their wives, sisters, daughters in the name of honor? Why do the honored killings in Harayana or even near Delhi does not attract that much of passion and anger among our citizens in the country? Why does a girl goes into depression when feel betrayed by her boyfriend or when the relationship is broken? It is the fear of being isolated with prospectus of marriages getting dim afterwards and that is the ‘sexual’ ‘purity’ of woman which has been legitimized by social norms and religious texts.

The parents of the girls and boys who decide to live on their own try to thwart their marriage all the way. In most of the cases, if a girl ‘disappear’ with her ‘lover’, the parents file complaint of ‘abduction’ and rape against the boy? All these acts have potential to be misused very similarly like dowry laws if there is no clarity and proper discussion on the issue. In the absence of a sensible trial every male lover would potentially be treated as a ‘rapist’ and might face either life imprisonment or death penalty. It would come handy for all those particularly the right wingers who are against inter-caste marriages and particularly on the issue where the two lovers hail from different religions. At the moment, all are crying loudly as most of the ‘rapists’ are not our neighbors or not among ‘us’. In the din of street hanging, a certain Madhur Bhandarkar would not have got justice from the Supreme Court when he faced charges of ‘rape’.

It is important that to demarcate two issues rape and women’s freedom about her body from each other. Yes, the government must ensure that public places must be made safer for women and public transport system must be secured fully and completely. But then unless the society changes its attitude which comes from the religious texts and traditions which worship women’s ‘virginity’ must change. There is a need to demystify the whole issue of ‘sex’ due to which there is so much of ‘passion’. Kiran Bedi would not be able to answer why ‘policemen’ rape women in Police Thanas and that women still feel unsafe and insecure in lodging police complains because of the tremendous social pressure. It is the social pressure which forces a woman to live her life in ignominy after being violated and no government can help in that unless voices are raised. We must understand that women leaders in India have not challenge the notion of brahmanical patriarchy of which they are the product. Very few of them actually came from the struggle which women are engaged in it and most of them are ‘daughters, daughter in laws, wives, etc. of political families in India and have rarely raised any issue women’s right in our parliament and assemblies. This is the biggest tragedy that Indian subcontinents where we had women leaders as prime ministers, leader of opposition but have not dared to challenge the patriarchical customs in our society as most of them piously followed the religious norms. Most of these women leaders followed strict social norms covering their heads with duppatta and using all the symbols of women in our religious society. They reinforce the value that a woman is not complete without man. Sushma Swaraj may address to the galleries of the street protest most of those who hail from the upper caste Hindu background but she has always reinforced those patriarchical values which resulted in the degradation of our women and made them just depended on their men. How many of our women leaders are ready to speak against organized violence against women? Will Sushmaji speak against Devdasi system which is a divinely organized prostitution used by a particular caste against another caste? Will we ask for public hanging of those Brahmins who even today practice Devdasi system? Will we ask for public hanging of all those culprits who violated Muslim women in the name of religion in various communal riots including in the aftermath of Babari demolition, and in 2002 Gujarat massacre. Will we ask for hanging of the Khap Panchayat leaders who openly ask for killing of young lovers? Will we ever ask for hanging of police officers who have raped Aadivasi women in Baster just because they were asking for their right? Is rape justified when the police and army do on women who are raising voice for their rights in different tribal regions, north East, Kashmir and elsewhere? Will we stand up that a crime is a crime and must be condemned?

Indian state is primarily a Manuwadi state, a great counterpart of their Islamic state where women are just symbols and have to work with in their limit and have to work for strengthening the patriarchy and that is the reason why our women leaders are more patriarchical and brahmanical then their male counterparts. After-all, women too have castes; they too have prejudices and their heart to melt according to their caste and identity. Let us acknowledge this fact.

If we have to hang the people for violence against women then we will not have enough hangmen to do that. South Delhi’s own record in female feticide is well known which has the lowest sex ratio in the country. The domestic violence cases do not come out for the fear of exposing the family. We are still protecting the family inside whose four walls a huge number of women are not safe, not just physically but sexually too. That is why, I said we need a renaissance to change the mindset more than merely changing a few laws and hanging some of them who we feel are wrong. A large number of moralists would get hanged if we are on rush to hang people for ‘rape’. Let there be a sincere and sensible discussion including fast tracking these issues, formation of special courts in the entire country. Delhi is the reflection of our society and my hype the cases here but ignored the huge number of cases elsewhere. The good point is that whatever negativity these protests have, they have actually forced people to come to the street and raise their voice. The government will have to be on toes in future with these unorganized and leaderless people’s protests in future which may sometime be used by rightwing political forces.

A fight for women’s right will never succeed unless we strive for a secular democratic society. It is this very reason that Dr Ambedkar on 25th December 1927, with thousands of his supporters burnt Manu Smriti which he termed as the constitution of caste Hindus which violate basic principle of equality, liberty and fraternity. He argued that it justified violence against women and Dalits. It had different sets of punishment for one kind of crime. The people who violated the hapless girl and brutally assaulted her in the moving bus are the children of Manusmriti and look down upon every woman as object. They would not allow a woman to keep her head high and would repress them violently when they realize they cannot argue. The children of Manu do not argue but suppress all the argument, free voices with extreme violence and justify their acts in the name of traditions and customs. A 21st century India cannot progress on these repressive ideals of Manu and hence it is time we burnt the same Manusmriti from our heart and minds which Ambedkar did so many years ago in his effort to make India a humanist society. It is time to humanize India.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Electoral verdict defeats democracy in Gujarat

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The election results in Gujarat are out now and Narendra Damodar Bhai Modi has comfortably returned to power in the state for the third consecutive times though he could not increase the number of seats held by him last time proving all the pollsters absolutely wrong who had predicted a massive victory for him. Immediately after the verdict, a triumphant Modi spoke in Hindi to his ‘national’ audience who are now roaring for his ‘role’ in the national politics. Modi as well as BJP or NDA have a right to project him as the leader of their party and contest elections under his leadership as they have done in Gujarat but there is no need for reading too much into his ‘Hat-trick’ as there are political leaders in India who have got much bigger mandate than Modi and ruled their states for years including Jyoti Basu in West Bengal or CPM as a party. Many of the states like Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh, and Delhi have governments of Congresss Party for second to three consecutive years hence nothing to boast about his victory.

Ofcourse, he won the elections and his ‘tricks’ must be acknowledged simply because the opposition in Gujarat has not taken on Modi head on and simply fell in to the trap that he laid for them. Elections are not just using the social media or television channels but also reaching the masses and managing them to the polling booths. The opponents of Modi failed to do so as most of them actually hail from the same school of thoughts though wearing different cloths of political parties at the moment. Shankar Singh Vaghela and Keshu Bhai Patel do not have anything different in perception and ideology to Narendra Modi and hence they could not attract the voters towards them. It happened because the opponents have the same caste and power base quintessentially anti dalit, anti Muslim and anti OBCs. How would you ensure that these sections have fair representation without giving them tickets and strengthening their political leadership?

But there is a fact also in terms of Modi’s popularity which is on diminishing end now. He won 127 seats in 2002, 117 in 2007 and 115 in 2012. Also it is important to see that even 127 is not the best achievments for any political party in Gujarat as Congress did cross that number several times and the highest it got under Madhav Singh Solanki in 1980 to 141. So, a Modi wave would have decimated the Congress but it has a fairly substantial presence in Gujarat despite all odds and communalization process of the Gujarati society. The voting percentage in Gujarat increased this time massively to the extent of 25% from the previous polls in 2007 but the percentage of BJP increased to about 2% from 47% last time to 49% this time. Congress too has a marginal increase in their vote share while others got a heavy 13.5%. It indicate that the new voters have not really shown their preference for Modi so the hype being built about him is nothing but a propaganda unleashed by Modi himself to increase his ‘acceptability’ in the ‘market’ which is already enamored by his ‘developmental’ work in Gujarat.

There is no need to see Gujarat state as a ‘developmental module’ as Modi’s promoters are the builders and Hindutva clergy whose sole agenda is India’s ‘secular’ constitution. It also needs to be seen why the aadivasi dominated regions did not vote for Modi overwhelmingly like the ‘middle classs-upper caste’ dominated seats in rest of Gujarat. If we want to see ‘development’ of Gujarat, it is important to ask where do aadivasis in Gujarat stand for and what have they got in these years.

Gujarat’s ‘developmental model’ was being projected by people but the fact is that at the end of the day Modi returned to his favorite ‘Mia’ Ahmed Patel and his anti-Pakistan rhetoric like the issue of Sir Creek. Shockingly, BJP fielded ‘Muslim’ leaders to defend Narendra Modi and his tasteless jibes against his opponents. Modi has always projected him as the ‘voice’ of 6 crore Gujaratis and now after this victory his ‘followers’ are making him ‘larger’ than life so that he could be used for 2014 general elections.

There is no doubt that Narendra Modi has won elections. Nothing is shocking to us that there are many tainted people who have charges against them in his team including former home minister Amit Shah but any one for the cause of Hindutva can do anything without facing any charge-sheet. The state of India actually will welcome these Hindu fundamentalists as heroes. Very few of them have got into their required destinations otherwise it pays well to raise the Hindu sentiments. ‘Experts’ are now saying that Muslims have voted for Modi and perhaps that is the victory of his ‘sadbhavna’ mission that out of 19 constituencies where Muslim presence was sizable the BJP has secured 12 and the rest went to Congress Party, though it is the dark fact of Gujarat politics that BJP did not give ticket to a single Muslim during the elections. When asked about it, the party simply said that they look for ‘win-ability’ of the candidate and would serve the Muslims well as it does not believe in ‘appeasing’ them.

Democracy is not just a feeling of inclusion of minorities and marginalized in the power structure but also their participation through representation. It is here that Gujarat has miserably failed to provide us a model. If India were to go on Gujarat way then the country would lose everything that it has achieved in the past 65 years. How can a community, 14% of India’s population go without representation in our Parliament? If that be, will it ever call itself a representative parliament? Where are Muslims in Gujarat Assembly who constitute 9% population of the State? Only 2 members of Muslim community have won and their presence would be more symbolic than their ability to do anything inside the assembly where proponents of Hindu Rastra would be in an overwhelming majority. A party which wants to return to power at the Centre does not have enough people from the Muslim community to contest elections and it continue to call its policy as against ‘appeasement’. Is rightful participation in power structure is ‘appeasement’.

Gujarat’s poll results have again shown us the need for genuine poll reforms and shift to Proportionate Electoral System with effective check and balances so that even the most marginalized communities are represented in our system. If the parties are allowed to win seats on the basis of their poll percentage, BJP would have got only 88 Seats out of 182 as their poll percentage was just 49%. Similarly, Congress with its 39% votes would have got 70 seats, 10 more than what they have got. The biggest beneficiary of it would have been Keshu Bhai’s Gujarat Vikas Party who got 13% of total vote polled with 2 seats at the moment would have got around 24 seats. A proportionate system is the most genuine method of converting people’s mandate into seat gains. It would have then forced the parties to give 9% representation to Muslims during elections which meant that they could have got at least 17 seats to contest if not won. Gujarat has a bad track record of Muslim representation and except in 1985 when it had 7 members from Muslim community in the legistlative Assembly and later in 2007 when there were 5 Muslim members, the situation by and large remain the same. Congress Party has not really taken care of them. In fact, when the Congress was ruling Gujarat, even the number did confine to 1 or 2 in the assembly. For Modi and his party communalism or Hindutva is essential as they know well Muslims would not vote for them but the Congress remain more dangerous in this front as it actually wanted to benefit from the helplessness of Muslims. If Modi has not given tickets to enough number of Muslims, that is the stated politics of BJP but what stopped Congress from doing so. It is sad that Muslims have to pay a price for creation of Pakistan and during every election the ‘appeasement’ issue is raised.

India’s second majority cannot be allowed to languish in isolation as the non-representation of the community in power structure will only strengthen the hands of those who believe India essentially a Hindu Rashtra in ‘secular’ garb. The Gujarat elections have broken those myths and in the din of Moditva we are ignoring the harsh realities and dark side of our democratic structure. Modi have used Hindutva card with middle class Hindu voters for his own purpose. BJP has used that in the past in various state elections but due to growing assertion and proximity of the Pasmanda Muslims with Dalits and OBCs, the Hindutva March is halted so far.

Unfortunately, Hindutva always worked on the growing cultural gaps between different communities and it is easier for them to use these cultural gaps against Muslims by continuously raking up non relevant issues and pushing them to further marginalization. The current electoral system is always helpful to powerful corporate groups who used these contradictions for their own purposes. Gujarat cannot be a model for rest of the country. It will be a blunder if such dictatorial model is imposed on the country in the name of democracy. We cannot ignore the fact that Hitler came to power in the name of German ‘nationalism’ and destroyed humanity. Germany opted for the proportionate electorate system after that and made enough check and balances so that the Fascist forces are not able to come to power by exploiting the ‘communal nationalistic’ ‘sentiments’ of the people. India needs to prepare itself for future, a country where democracy is inclusive and widely representative and where victory of one party does not result in isolation and marginalisation of a particular community. It is also important that the judicial process of providing people justice who are victim of the Gujarat state and its highhandedness and absolutely communal approach in the aftermath of 2002 riots engineered by the protégé of Hindutva. Though India is a much complex country yet it is important that the secular agenda with inclusive democracy is well placed before political parties claiming to be secular so that fascist demagogues never get a chance to even think of being at the helm of affair of Indian nation. Gujarat has given us an opportunity to think of an electoral system which could be inclusive and ensure each sections of our society is represented in our power structure. That is the only option for India today to save it from Fascist onslaught through democracy when each community would have a fair share in our assemblies and Parliament.

A truly democratic society would never allow certain sections as marginalized and isolated which Muslims in Gujarat today are reduced to. Election results are nothing but popular sentiments of the people and in the First Past the Post System ( FPTP) these results are basically manipulated easily particularly when the religious identity becomes a tool to unite all the others against them. Gujarat society has unfortunately made these elections into Muslims verses others and hence their marginalization is further. No political party could challenge that idea of Muslims and that is where we say the democracy has been defeated in Gujarat. Let India does not turn into Gujarat and the only condition for that would be for political parties to focus on what makes them different than Modi, Moditva and Hindutva. If the political parties want to play second fiddle to political Hindutva then there is no need to have so many political parties, Modi can provide us that model better. Unfortunate situation in Gujarat may be a boon for those who want to replicate it elsewhere and have made their presence stronger. Elections are made to strengthen democracy but our electoral system is responsible for the defeat of democracy and unless the trend is arrested, it would damage India’s future as a democratic society which is already facing lot of challenges from the fundamentalists and communal forces without a real counter from the parties claiming to be secular and those who believe in inclusive politics.

No time to play politics on rapes but introspect

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

After the brutal rape incident in Delhi the political leaders particularly that of the BJP are up in arms against the government and law and order agencies for their failure to protect the victim. Numerous debates are there on TV and newspapers and it look as if India will change today only. Media has again become ‘preaching’ and people are in the street against it. Politicians from all parties have condemned it and protest continues at different parts of the country including Delhi. Many people say, Delhi has become rape capital of India as it is the most unsafe place in India. BJP and many like them want capital punishment while those who oppose death penalty seek chemical castration. Strange but some of them are seeking implementation of Sharia laws like Saudi Arabia. Our imaginations know no bound and hence all kind of fictitious arguments are coming because we have TV cameras. The protests are great and must be introspective in nature and not really in seeking response from the politicians or a particularly political party. It is important if we debate the entire issue in the perspective and not just an isolated incident which was absolutely brutal and horrible to even think off. There is no doubt that our law enforcing agencies must be made accountable and more humane but if the society is sick, it would be absolutely wrong to seek answer for a societal problem hence safety measures are good and must be placed to make ‘Delhi’ as a great capital of the world but how will Delhi or India grow as a ‘civilisation’ which we boast so much.

The violence against women is part of our civilization. Daily our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers face violence at home, work place, in schools and colleges, in forests, at the streets. The awkward male gaze is not really part of civilization but definitely a product of stupid and idiotic Hindi films where the hero or villain look straight into the eyes of the heroine and often he ‘succeed’ in convincing her. That is the learning message of Bollywood that you peep into the eyes of woman and get there. Whether our film stars agree or not, it is their films which are providing tricks to do things. The obsession with films and the lives of film stars results in being like them. The problem with our media is that they want to enjoy that too and speak against the violence in terms of physical violence and visible violence. Everything is fine if these cases are not reported and to hide the dirty face of our social structure, the entire blame is on the administrative apparatus.

My issue is the same. Indian media and its intellectual class have become bankrupt when they convert the debate into an administrative one without introspecting as what ails our civilization. Do we think there are no rapes in Saudi Arabia after Sharia laws are implemented? Do we want to live in a place where going together and even consented adults are charge sheeted and consensual sex is also treated as rape. The problem is that as a society, we are fast becoming more media centric and our protests disappear once media is not there. Instead of looking into the fault lines, we continue to promote the idea of ‘law and order’ and it is being promoted by BJP and other parties for their own sake. It serves two purposes. One is to blame everything on the administration so that a political capital may be build up over that and secondly never question our own social system which produces such situation. Will ever Sushma Swaraj and her colleagues ever concede to the fact that our civilization has basic flaws and we need to mature and become more gender sensitive? Where will you police when cases of incest are sharply increasing in our homes? You blame Delhi but that is because an incident here becomes ‘national’ but what about numerous other places where women go and cases are never registered. Which place in India is safe for women to do things at their own without a male escort?

We need to ask questions to ourselves how we treat our women, our daughters and we will find the answer of the corrupted civilization. When so many people come to the street and speak, the only thing that is that the government will take action. We all are crying against the culprits because they do not belong to us but the fact is all the culprits belong to us as a society. All these people must have sisters, mothers, wives and others and still they do it. Most of our men are protective of their female wards when they travel together and at home. They would be strict with them but when they go out they behave exactly the opposite. So, as a society, we treat issues on personal basis and not really as a violation of rights of a collective. Hence, whenever these cases happen, our people will cry but most of the places their families support them. Some will concede that there was a mistake but not beyond that.

Let us admit the fact that there is a problem in our grooming our children. We start discriminating with a girl child from day one. We divide her work. WE send her brother to market and she is given the charge of family. She has to be simple, ‘gori’ and ‘presentable’ when somebody come to ‘see’ her. Her father performs ‘Kanyadaan’. Is ‘seeing’ and ‘daan’ not convert her into an object? But then those who are the champion of ‘Indian culture’ will not speak? Yes, I never believe in comparing two wrong things but the moral high ground of Hindutva is not acceptable at all. Today, Narendra Modi is returning to power in Gujarat but can we forget the scars of 2002 when the Hindutva lunatics even tore open the fetus of a pregnant woman who happened to be Muslim and killed her with that. Do we know what our forces have done in Kashmir and north East with the women there. I am not generalizing but the fact is rape is a tool in the hands of patriarchical society to kill the spirit of a human being. It will always be a tool as long as women’s life is linked to the ‘purity’ of her ‘body’. Purity exist in mind and just as someone violate does not make her impure and therefore it is important we develop that spirit but those who conceptualized the concept of ‘purity’ will never ever dare to change their social laws.

A woman is not complete without man and Sushma knows it well as she wear all those symbols which the Sangh Parivar and other brahmanical minds feel are symbol of ‘woman’s’ love for her ‘husband’ but people like me feel that they are an abject surrender of women’s individuality to men. The status of men and women can be found in our marriages and death ceremonies where women are absolutely told what is their status? The death of husband is followed by rituals and if you see those rituals, you would like to blast them if you have a heart but you accept them as part of culture. How the sindoor and the bindi are removed, how bangles are broken and how she is put in white saree is happening even today. Please do not think that they happen elsewhere but very much in our families. These brutal social norms need to be challenged all together. When a brother rapes or a father has incestuous relationship with daughter, we can see the level of society that we are in and it need a complete over haul. It does need a social revolution.

The best thing about Delhi is despite all criticism that the women and girls have not succumbed to these violence. Instead they have spoken against it. It has not changed the way they want to live life. In fact it is embolden them to raise their voice. The girl who is violated need our unconditional support and we need to salute her spirit. We hope she will survive and will become a role model for rest of the world and it is only possible when we all introspect and not treat this issue to score a few political points. Our social system has been brutal and oppressive and these things have been there for years but now they are getting exposed and it is time we change ourselves otherwise as a civilization we are perished. No amount of policing will help us recover that loss which our social values have imposed on us and hence if India want to look a civilized nation, it must change from today and it is not possible without its girls and women feel safe, secured and honored at home as well as work place. It is time our public transport system is strengthened and each citizen of the country is gender sensitized only then we would ensure that there is no repetition of such horrendous crime.

The symptoms of a perverse society

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The incident of rape in a moving bus in the posh South Delhi Zone has jolted the nation. The young girl who was travelling along with her friend was brutally assaulted and thrown naked on the road by the criminals. The Parliament spoke on it and our politicians along with many film stars ‘expressed’ ‘concern’ about the law and order situation in Delhi. Some want CCTV cameras everywhere while other wants commandos in the bus so that the goons can be tracked easily. Panelists on TV were giving different medicines including giving more power to police, high conviction rate in the fast track courts. Political leaders like Sushma Swaraj suggest that Death Penalty is the only answer for the rapists but the problem is they will continue to ignore the fact that a large number of people today are honorable member of various political parties despite various charges against them and would go to gallows if we admit Sushmaji’s suggestions. The problem is not whether there is death penalty or not, the issue is much larger. Shamefully, our politicians want to address the issue from other way round that if there is death penalty there will be lesser crime but we have all laws and the crime still continues. In many places in Uttarakhand, there were no police station and there was no crime. The crime only started after police station came into being in those regions hence the issue of violence against the marginalized including women is a much larger issue than mere law and order. Those who are diagnosing the disease wrongfully cannot really provide the answer to the issue.

Actually, though Delhi tops in the chart of violence against women yet the conviction rate in Delhi is much higher than rest of the country but then our point of discussion here is not just law and order but to understand what ails our society and why such brutal incidents are increasing day by day. Yesterday, Jaya Bachchan said that it is shame that this country where ‘women’ were treated as ‘goddesses’, such incidents are happening. And this argument holds true for all those who consider this issue related to law and order. Ofcourse, we need a strong law and order machinery but is it possible to police everything. We are already fighting against increasing policing in our private domain including web world. Aadhar card was being opposed because activist felt it is an intrusion in our private lives. The police checks are everywhere and even when they check at the airports and at metros, many feel they intrude in our private domain. Now, at the airport, at the metro, our private items become part of public display and a police man can check our bag and ask why I am taking a ‘wine bottle’ or anything else. In India more policing will only trouble you because it is bound to be misused. Haven’t we seen policemen blackmailing young couples in the park by threatening them to expose and take to their parents? In the name of protection they will always claim us to follow their diktats. There is no denying the fact that we need an efficient and modern looking police force with least political intervention but that possibility should only be made when the police force shed its own caste and religious bias. A few days back, I mentioned why our laws will fail because our mindset is still primitive where women is an object, to be seen, used, protected and promoted accordingly.

The objectification of women has further justified the thoughts of those who challenge her self-respect as most of them only would like women to see dancing as per their fancied world which is part of Hindi cinemas item culture. Is not it a duty of our media and our films to attempt make women much beyond ‘Item Number’. Our media debate on them and has given them respectability where women have to provide men sexual satisfaction. How and why have we given these rubbish respectability. Why do we think that women are ‘item number’ where men just jeer at every step of her in the films whether it is a Hindi, Malayali, Telugu or Bhojpuri films, women are made just as ‘sex tool’ or beauty without brain. The film fraternity always claim that it shows that truth shall prevail but the fact is the way ‘rape’ is romanticized in the Hindi films, it only strengthen those who want to replicate these things in the street with the firm belief that they can easily get away with. Once you start dodging the law, you feel everyday it would be the same but more important in these cases is not law, it is society. Rape is a form of revenge that if law will take care of me then you won’t remain the same for every.

Sushma Swaraj said that the girl become ‘jinda lash’ after the incident. I want to ask Sushmaji as why should a woman who is victimized become a ‘jinda laash’. In the heart, Sushma famous for invoking the ‘emotional’ quotient during her campaign against Sonia’s prime ministership that she would shave her head and live like a widow. Actually, when we re-emphasize these values of ‘jinda lash’, we justify them. This is the most potent weapon for misogynists against women that they violate her and killer her permanently as her social isolation is complete. In this case, this girl who is fighting for her life was travelling along with her friend who tried to protect her. While it is futile to speak about personal relationship, it will be a great day in India if despite such cases, the boy can promise the girl that he stand with her. At the end of the day, if our society stand with the people of such violence rather looking down upon them, will be the greatest victory of woman and humanity all together. The problem is that you will hang the perpetrator of the crime but that is not going to help the women who are victim of the assault? It is important to see how our system responds to issue. is the most important?

The case history of the Delhi thing is clear. The criminals who committed this crime could not tolerate the response from the girl. They felt offended that she was defending her friend. They asked him as why he was travelling with her in night. I know parents who have daughters will always be worried about as why should their daughter travel in Delhi after 7 pm. It is a worried sign as you cannot really trust anyone. The situation has come that we have reached to a situation where it is difficult to believe in any one and that is the collapse of the situation. As a society, we have failed to grow. We have other work but a society with feudal tendencies cannot grow and will never accept women with their head high. The issue here is that the feudal system cannot allow woman to answer back and hence in that situation the culprit know it well that even if he goes to jail, he will come out after some time as there are hundreds of counselors who can advise him how to escape the law but what happen to girl afterwards. She is dead as the society is unable to accept it. And all this is related to the concept of ‘purity’ of girls before marriage. It is this brutal fact which is used as a tool against women all the time, in war, in communal riots, in family animosity and in love that if I am unable to get you, I shall not allow you to live your life in comfort.

This country shamelessly speaks of great culture but it is just vulgarity. The grave fact is that we are a society which hates women. We pretend of respecting her but it is only possible if she is within her ‘lakshman rekha’ otherwise, we decide to teach her a lesson. Can India really call itself a civilized nation with so many ailments where girls are unwanted? If such incidents happen, who will want a girl child particularly when the families feel that girls are not safe in our cities, they will be killed for want of dowry. How does India as a nation respond to such situations which have become order of the day? Will our men and women now take up pledge that they will not further victimize the victim and honor her or the purity thing will continue to haunt us?

Let the law take its course but more than hanging the criminals, it is the issue of the woman who suffers enormous mental trauma and become socially disabled. It is time, that we respect all those women who resisted violence against them and honor them. It is time to make the victim feel part of life and the most important support for them can be her parents, friends, partners and schools. It is not a big world but if all these select people themselves are with the victim, her life will be back. And definitely, it would be great and reassuring for the girl if the boy who accompanied her and tried to protect her can say that he still love her and will be there with her thick and thin. India needs a renaissance, a mental change. As a society we have failed to grow as we violate everyone who is a threat to status quo, whether it is a woman or millions of those who are victims of caste system. Any careful scrutiny of our social system would prove how brutal and uncivilized we are? It is this country which is pretending to go to 21st century with a primitive social structure? Our political system may be democratic and secular but our society is still ruled by the Manismriti. Our policemen follow Manusmriti more than the constitution of India and hence it is time to educate every one and reemphasize on our constitutional values. Let those who are shedding tears accept it. How many of the film stars who are weeping today can say that they won’t accept a leading role where women is shown as brainless beauty and where we will have an item number. The day we glamorized and legitimized them, we legitimized violence against women too.

We cannot cry all the time as we need answers to these issues which haunt us every now and then and it is only possible when these victims will have no fear of social isolation after the accident they have in life. It is time, when the society thinks beyond mere policing of everything. A civilized society does not require police everywhere. The fact is that the government can provide policing but that would not change the society. Many times, the policemen are engaged in such acts hence it is a much bigger issue than mere policing. It is beyond that we accept that women are not just ‘item numbers’ but can contribute to our society equally if not more. Let us jolt this society more so it collapse and build a system based on equality, liberty and fraternity and it would be only be possible when the preamble of our constitution become heart of our people so that no girl is afraid of venturing out of her home in night and nobody is bothered as where she went, with whom and why? The only condition for an inclusive society is that our political system will have to provide rule of law to the people and the people need to embrace modern democratic values in life.

Aadivasis in Bundelkhand seek Justice

Kol’s struggle for their Identity in Uttar-Pradesh

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

There are hundreds of communities in India particularly those who are indigienous but have become victim of our political system. Kol is an aadivasi community but the governments in Uttar Pradesh have not considered it fit to give them the recognition of an aadivasi community under Scheduled Tribe category. This demand for identity has long been raised by the community in Bundelkhand but the governments so far have remained mute.

Kol aadivasis resides in the forests of Bundelkhand regions of the states of Uttar-Pradesh & Madhya Pradesh. The districts like Sonbhadra, Mirjapur, Chitrakoot, Satna and Reeva. In all these adjacent districts Kols can cross over and have family relations yet the tragic divisions created by the authorities haunt them. The government of Madhya Pradesh acknowledge them as scheduled tribe and hence they are entitled to get all the facilities in that state which a tribal should get particularly rights over minor forest produce as well as access to forest. In Uttar-Pradesh, in the absence of this, the forest department has become the biggest violator of their forest rights. They cannot get dry wood to sale in the market. Neem, Anwala, Mahua, Bamboo and many other forest produce cannot be planted or used without permission from forest authorities. Thousands of hectares of land given to landless Kol people under the land redistribution programme by the government’s revenue department, has been rejected by the forest authorities. In fact, they refuse to accept the entitlement given by the revenue department which resulted in a dangerous situation. The successive governments have not taken note of it and it is continuing and one of the biggest reasons of harassment of Kols. It need to be noted as how can one department reject the valid papers given by other department and if they have dispute over the said land, then the department should resolve those issues and not the people. Why should people be made scapegoat and pay price for no fault of them.

Forest Right Act 2006 came into being with great hope but these hopes are dashed by the bullying tactics of forest department which refuses to accept the claims of the Kols in Uttar-Pradesh for land. Actually, in the entire Uttar-Pradesh, the process of Forest Right Act being implemented is highly skeptical and dismissive of the claims. Under the Act, other forest dwelling communities who are not scheduled Tribe will have to furnish proof of presence in the forest of 75 years. If you are recognized as tribal then this burden of proof of 75 years residence is not required. Now, this has actually divided the forest dwelling communities and resulted in internal division among them in many places as many forest dwellers who have been staying for years have not got any land from the forest department.
The clause is dangerous as at least the authorities should have focused things in the aftermath of India’s independence. How can you ask for proof of 75 years when technically the modern Indian state has not came into being that time. It was an attempt to displace the people and divide them and create anarchy. In India, many of the communities have become victims of the bureaucratic negligence and pay price for it. We
harp too much on technicalities that we forget the reasoning and relations of community with the forest.

The Kols in Uttar-Pradesh are victim of that 75 year clause in the Forest Rights Act 2006. They are a tribal community but not recognized as tribal and hence have to furnish proof of 75 year residence. Now the government must give us explanation as what were the mean of proof 75 years ago. The people even 30 years back did not have anything as proof. The voter ID cards and other cards are recent phenomena. The other important fact is the virtual absence of state in these regions. It never tried to go there and hence there were no Primary Health Centers, no schools for children, no ration shops, and no electricity supply. When the essential things have not been provided to tribal in their regions then what kind of proof the forest dwelling communities could provide to the government. Even the Panchayats were defunct before the ‘historic’ 73rd and 74th amendments came into being. Hence, it is hypocrisy to seek the proof of residence for 75 years.

The forest officials have been making money out of these regions. It is the tribal who have protected our forest resources as forest water and land is their life and it is impossible to alienate them from the nature. The simplicity of tribal has been considered as ‘foolishness’ by our political class which treated them not even a vote bank like others as they were scattered in the forest and did not demand much except the right over minor forest produce and access to forest. A large part of their habitats have now been declared as ‘Sanctuary’ resulting in their displacement and threat to existence. Suddenly, their own land has become stranger to them. A land which they groomed and lived their whole life is being snatched from them.

It is not ironical that when Parliament was passing the Reservation in Promotion bill, Kols were demanding for their status as tribal in Uttar-Pradesh. The local MP of Samajwadi Party came to express his support to the cause but shocked everyone saying that if Kols are declared as tribal, they would lose their political rights particularly the seats which are reserved for them under Scheduled Caste category. He then asked that they should also demand for political reservation. It is not paradoxical for Samajwadi Party or politicians to play this game because if the seat is reserved for tribal then the honorable member representing the constituency would lose their chances and they actually visualize it much before others. The identity of Kol as tribal cannot be made handicapped just because they would not have a Lok Sabha MP. Once they are declared as tribal, thousands of people who are not getting land under the Forest Right Act will get the land. Moreover, they will get access to forest produce which is more important for them at the moment then a representative MP seat. Once, they are acknowledged as scheduled tribe, the government will have to arrange the political reservation for them in the region. And nobody has stopped Uttar-Pradesh government in doing so if it really sympathize with the Kols but it cannot befool people that tribal status would make them lose their political rights.

Our Political system is manipulative and I have written that so many time. Many of these most marginalized communities have rarely got representation in our state assemblies and parliament. The non-representation of our indigenous people and their representative in our decision making bodies has resulted in their complete marginalization. It is equally important for our political class to think and make special amendments to people’s representation act to enable the representative of diverse tribal communities in our highest decision making bodies so that their issues are raised in Parliament and assemblies and they get a fair deal.

Tribal have felt betrayed by the current developmental process. When companies are coming to forest, reaping benefit and destroying them, our authorities have little time to ensure that those who build forest and protected our resources should also be looked after. We have enough lands to handover to the companies who destroy our nature and environment but no commitment to honor our indigenous communities who groomed our forests and protected them.

Kols are a very peace loving tribe of Central India and they demand justice from the government. Their patience should not be seen as weakness as there are forces which can use this disenchantment with law in future. It is wake up call for the government to act and ensure justice to Kols in Uttar-Pradesh. It will be shameful if we continue to allow their resources handed over to others while making them landless and homeless. We must acknowledge their great contribution to protect our vital forest zones and use their commitment and convictions to strengthen the forest further so that each one of them live life in dignity and self-respect without being hounded by the petty forest officials. It is time both the Uttar-Pradesh government and Central government to sit together and ponder over this issue by granting Kols a tribal status so that they can enjoy the benefits of forest rights act in Uttar-Pradesh.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Muslim Dalits in Jammu & Kashmir

Caste, Religion And Untouchability
14 Dec 2012 By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Ashaq Ali Wattal hails from a community which has the sole ‘right’ to clean the toilets in Jammu and Kashmir. Hailing from Doda, Wattal moans at the continuous negligence by the state government and its authorities towards the community of manual scavengers in Jammu and Kashmir. His father was a manual scavenger working with municipality but now has left the work and does bamboo work.

Ashaq has passed 10th standard and does electric work in his town. He was in Delhi to speak about his people and the discrimination they face in their daily life. According to Wattal, nobody wants to keep relations with them though there is no discrimination in the mosque during the Namaz. Despite, living in a Muslim-majority Kashmir, it is strange that those who talk about nondiscrimination in Islam never ever thought that this issue needs immediate attention. Why has there been no movement among the Muslims to fight for the rights of the Muslim Dalits. A continuous denial will not work in this regard.

Wattal says that his father used to work part-time in the municipality and could not even get Rs 1,000/- a month when he retired from his job. He says his maternal aunt Misha Begum has been working with a government hospital for over 40 years and her daily routine is from early morning till afternoon yet at the moment she gets just Rs 700/- per month. The problem with most of the Wattals is that they are forced to this work as there is no other opportunity available for them. The payments are below the norm, as the maximum for part time work as sweeper still fetches Rs 200/- per month in the government sector, and about Rs 300-Rs 500/- per month in private.

It is strange that the Jammu and Kashmir government has no policy for these people. After much persuasion they are placed among the Scheduled Caste category and yet when the question of reservation comes, they never get any opportunity in the government. And therefore despite a huge population of about several lakhs, it would be a rare site to see a Wattal community person outside their traditional occupation.

Ashaq has three sons and he is determined to educate them. In fact two of them are in the University. The fight for social justice and dignity continues. Shahid Hussain had difficult time. He used to work as sweeper but never accepted his defeat. He passed his 10th standard and got a job in a Nationalized Bank. With his determination he completed his graduation and is now working as an office assistant in the bank. For him, it was difficult but he was able to get it. There is no reservation for them he says; the pain reflects in his eyes as he narrates the story of struggle of his family.

According to a report submitted to the Supreme Court by Safai Karmchari Andolan, there are 7.94 lakhs open latrines in the country and apart from Uttar-Pradesh and Tamilnadu, Jammu & Kashmir is one of the biggest violators in this regard, where 1,78,330 households need manual scavenging but the latest figures from J& K government suggest that out of total 1,60,804 Households in the rural areas over 1,49,492 depend on manual scavenging which shows the status of ‘development’ in Kashmir. Out of total 5,17,168 urban households, 17,768 houses are dependent on manual scavenging.

According to reports, Shopian, Kupwara, Bandipur, Srinagar, Kulgaum, Anantnag, Ganderbal and Pulwama have very large number of dry latrines which need manual scavengers to clean them. And as Ashaq Wattal says, all of them who are engaged in the manual scavenging task are Muslims. This exposes the hypocrisy of those so called Jehadis, who talk so much about fighting against others and place an ‘Islamic state’ but never really bother about the conditions of the Muslims Dalits. Why has such a large population not got any legal right from the government of India?

It is sad that the elimination of manual scavenging practices bill has not yet come in the parliament. Political parties can get consensus on everything which they want to get through but when the question of dignity of the manual scavenging communities comes, they remain suspect as they never cared for that.

Today, if the bill is passed and makes the rehabilitation part of the process including alternative job reservation for them, how are the Muslim manual scavengers going to be benefitted from that? Secondly, whether the act would be implemented in Kashmir or not as it has always a problem that all central acts have to be separately developed in Kashmir? What will the J&K government propose to eliminate this crime against humanity? Will it rehabilitate the people and provide them alternative employment? Most importantly, what do the ‘thekedars’ of Islam say on this issue? All those who suggest we have a better alternative in religion must answer these questions.

Dalits remained Dalits in most of the religions though unlike Brahminical system, the other religions opened a little window for them in terms of their worshipping pattern. They can go to mosque without being discriminated against, but the same is not true about Christian Dalits who face discrimination from the upper caste Christians even in churches.

If the Centre is making a law against elimination of manual scavenging practices or even if a law is enacted for reservation in Promotion, the Muslim and Christian dalits would not be able to get any benefit of the reservation. It violates the basic principle of equality; it is important that benefits of reservation or rehabilitation must incorporate all the Dalits in diverse communities. The issue of Dalit identity and their discrimination became the tool for religious propagandists too who wish to fight it on the basis of their ‘religious’ beliefs and provide ‘liberation’ theology for it.

The fact is the Brahminical practices of discrimination have penetrated deeply into other religions and beliefs also, and made them more ruthless in their attitude towards the Dalits. The condition of Dalits in the Muslim-dominated areas remains a matter of great shame and concern today as the movements for their ‘azadi’ has not reached inside the closed quarters where the Islamic zealots are ready to fight for everything in the name of their identity but have found little time to wage a war against untouchability and caste system. It is a totally different story that many people feel that religious conversion is the best bet to escape caste discrimination.

The manual scavenging communities must be rehabilitated without being discriminated on the basis of their religious identities as they do not merely exists in Jammu and Kashmir but elsewhere also including Uttar-Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh , Karnataka , Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu too. It is also important that the fight for the Pasmanda Muslims and their rights must begin at home too.

It is easier to suggest that there is liberation of Dalits in religion but at the end if we investigate their socio-cultural conditions, it is open secret that caste virus continues there too and the discrimination level remains the same. Just being proud because your religion allows them in Mosque and churches will not suffice for their survival and dignity. War against untouchability must transcend national, state, caste and religious boundaries.

It is time we all join hands against this crime against humanity to eliminate it completely from the planet. The Jammu and Kashmir government must come clean on it and take the issue of untouchability and manual scavenging on a wider scale. It is important that to eliminate manual scavenging the government must provide the eligible youths employment in the non-sanitary work and rehabilitate them completely.

Why have the Jehadis of Islam kept quiet on these issues even when it is a routine to see the Wattals in Kashmir work on such terms? They are always worried about Islam in danger; let them raise a Jehad against untouchability and manual scavenging in Kashmir. We will be with them in their fight for dignity of Manual scavengers in Jammu and Kashmir. We cannot leave our Kashmiri friends isolated and hence will definitely join their struggle for dignity and self-respect.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Nation Betrayed

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Twenty years have passed since the Hindu terrorists demolished Babari Masjid on 6th December 1992 at Ayodhya, the country has moved on gradually but the well planned assault on the Constitution of India by those who never have faith in its core values of secularism, democracy and multiculturalism continues unabated though in different forms.

It is time to revisit the tragic day and what happened and why the nation was betrayed and how the Indian state which crushes social movements remained mute to the organized crime of the Hindutva outfits in Ayodhya and elsewhere.
Lal Krishna Advani, the man, who BJP once looked as ‘prime ministerial’ candidate and its ‘statesman’, was on a Bharat yatra as he usual does and prior to that it was clearly decided in various meetings of the Sangh Parivar that enough wait has happened and it was time to take over. The country was witnessing sharp polarization with growing affinity between the Dalits and backward communities. A new alignment was building up with Pasmanda Muslims too joining the front and debating the benefits of the Mandal recommendation. It was a difficult task for the political parties representing the status quo to allow this to happen. It was possible through multiple tasking with the government undoing all that has happened in 1989-90 while the Sangh Parivar renewing its Ayodhya agenda.

Those of us who have followed up the Sangh and its hidden agenda know it well that Muslims are a direct target though the real targets are the most marginalized communities who are seeking their participation in power structure and here the upper elite in India is adamant to deny them this. The anti Mandal Commission protests were not just supported by the BJP but also clandestinely by the top brass of the congress Party.

Unfortunately, the soft Hindutva card played by Congress damaged the secular fabric of the country. It is well documented how Congress government did nothing when the idols of Ram were surreptitiously installed inside the Babari Mosque in 1949s by the Hindu fanatics. Despite Prime Minister Nehru’s letter to the then chief minister Govind Ballabh Pant, the state government did not bother to change the status. Instead, the mosque was locked as it was claimed by the Hindu fanatics that Lord Ram has taken avatar in Ayodhya. When the court had order the closure of the temple, it was Rajiv lead Congress in 1985-86 which used the card and got them unlocked. The promise was a Hindu rastra but the defeat in subsequent election and then rise of the Dalit OBCs created a common threat for the upper caste domain in India’s social political life. So, the Mandal commission report was opposed by most of the parties initially though they did not dare to speak against it openly that time but they started planning their strategies to break the strong alliance of the Dalits and OBCs.

In 1991, there was a regime change in Delhi and Congress came back to power with the help of outside support. In the throne of Delhi, there was a badshah famous for his inactions named as P.V.Narsimha Rao, who was leading a minority government of Congress Party at the centre, the first one outside the Nehru Gandhi clan. Rao grew up in Nizam’s regime and was influenced with Sangh Parivar in anti- Muslim sentiments. Rao discomfort with growing dalit-OBC assertion forced him to be in ‘holy’ company of Sangh Parivar. India embraced so-called globalisation with Manmohan Singh leading the mantra when the government sector jobs were virtually closed and therefore the reservation which was provided to Dalits and later to OBCs too became null and void in his regime. No efforts were made to undo the historical wrongs. It was not for the unknown reasons that Rao send Atal Bihari Vajpayee to lead Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission meetings in Geneva where the government continued with its lies that untouchability and caste discrimination does not exists in India. Can anyone who knows India and its society believe that caste system has finished and there is untouchabilty in this country?

The Hindutva proponents were happy with Rao and he was sure that BJP and their allies would do nothing. Even when it was clear that the Hindu terrorists were ready to demolish the Babari Mosque, Rao was certain that nothing would happen. Even in the National Integration Council meet, Rao had clearly said that all his contingencies were ready to tackle any situation. Even the then chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh Kalyan Singh had promised to take action in any eventuality. The Sangh’s rabble rousers were active in their hate campaign and here is a government which did nothing to stop it. With its active anti Dalit anti OBC posturing, the Sangh Parivar, had become acceptable in the middle class Hindus. The media was reporting diligently and obediently. The Hindi newspapers became Hindu newspapers and news became opinion pieces of Rambhakts. Slogans like ‘bachcha bachcha ram ka, janmbhumi ke kaam ka’ reverberated in the air everywhere. Stories were created as how Muslims were cruel and were ‘raping’ and killing our women and men in Kashmir.
On December 6th, 1992 our government looked as a Hindu government. Rao had clearly betrayed the nation. He hobnobbed with the Hindutva terrorists and allowed the Babari Mosque to be dismantled. India saw its constitution being grounded in raze.

It was a shame, a horror and terror which the world witnessed on its TV channels. How the Hindutva goons beat up every one who was trying to take a picture of the historical tomb being pulled down. The country was in deep shock. A nation’s existence was in question. The rule of law was in question and above all, its constitution was challenged in open day light. The marauders of Manusmriti had informed the world openly and in unambiguous term that they want a ‘Hindu’ Rashtra in which only those would the citizens of this country who consider Lord Rama as their ‘ancestor’.

We have a right to correct the ‘historical wrong, the protagonists of Hindutva would cry. Yes, what are the historical wrong Mr Advani. Will you trace what is under the debris of Taj Mahal? Will we demolish Red Fort or even our Rastrapati Bhavan to find out what is there? How can we correct the historical wrong? Can the Dalits take revenge for all that is done to them in the three thousand years of history? Ayodhya has a Buddhist history and we have traced it including this so called Ram Temple itself. Will the Hindus return to Buddhists all the places of worship, all the Buddha Viharas which have been converted into temples everywhere including Bodha Gaya? Well, as a citizen of this country, I can only see, history cannot be corrected. We can only learn lessons from it.

As the Babri Mosque was raised to the ground in the broad day light our inactive prime minister was sitting in Delhi. Perhaps, he felt let the thing happen, we will see what could be done later. He came on the national TV and expressed his condolences for the demolition and blamed that the RSS betrayed him. He promised to build the Babari Mosque at the same place again so that the world could know that India stand by its people and will not tolerate this kind of terrorism. Yet, 20 years down the line, we need to find what has happened. Let us see what is the result of investigations and where do we stand?

I wish to add here an important thing. Many of my secular friends and there are many eminent who felt that Narsimha Rao was betrayed by the RSS and BJP as they had promised that nothing would happen. They did not like my attack on him and wanted me to believe that it is the BJP and its Hindutva hoodlums who need to be condemned but I remain convince that prime minister Narsimha Rao was part of the entire conspiracy as he did not take any action. We cannot exonerate a government which remains inefficient and inactive. Whatever abuse we hurl on Mulayam Singh Yadav or VP Singh, they saved the country in October 1990 when the Sangh and their conspirators wanted to demolish Babari Masjid. Mulayam was strict in UP that time and did not allow anything to happen here. V.P.Singh did not allow Lal Krishna Advani’s Rathyatra further from Bihar even when his government was voted out of power in Lok Sabha but then whenever such issues emerges before the nation, the prime minister has to take action even if his government goes. Narsimha Rao saved his government but the country was on the verge of the biggest crisis after independence.
BJP and Hindutva outfits grew up and came to power at the Centre. Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati were charge sheeted as they were there during the destruction of the Babari Mosque. They witnessed the goons razing the mosque. Uma Bharati and Joshi were overjoyed and hugged each other. CBI charged for criminal conspiracy yet today we do not know what happened in that case. Lal Krishna Advani presided over the same ministry which has charged sheeted him. Yesterday, Sushma Swaraj was joking at her opponent that CBI has become tool in the hands of the government but we want to ask a question as why has not a single case of communal riots resolved so far. How far has Indian state penalized the Hindu terror organizations who spread hatred, crime against minorities in India and yet come back to power?

The fact is that India’s state machinery has been thoroughly communalized and therefore all the Muslims who are engaged in ‘violence’ or ‘hatred’ are ‘terrorists’ while all the Dalits who ask question to state and disagree with its policies are Naxalites and all the aadivasis who fight for their rights are jailed for being ‘Maoists’. But how great our system is that all the upper caste upper elite Hindus who spread hatred, challenge our constitution and are engaged in communal riots, becomes ministers, chief ministers and even are projected as future prime ministers. And CBI and all our police and state administration will have to work with them. It is very easy to blame others but it is time we need to question Indian state’s commitment to secular cause. The secularism is symbolic here to support the brahmanical leadership of the country.

Babari Masjid’s demolition exposed the myth of Hindu tolerance. All those who felt that Hinduism is tolerant got exposed though many still pretend to believe in ‘liberal’ Hinduism. The Hindu dharma is nothing but a castle of castes and the day castes disappear this dharma would collapse. That Babari Masjid was blown on the day when we remember our greatest icon who fought a valiant battle against the varnashram dharma and caste system, exposes the Hindutva grand design of bringing Dalits into their fold in the common agenda against Muslims.

It was reminded to us that Babari Masjid was symbol of our slavery and that Rama was born there. Myths cannot be converted into historical fact. In fact, research now proves that Ayodhya was Saket, a Buddhist place which the Brahmins actually converted into a Hindu place. My own interviews with many Sadhus and Mahants in Ayodhya prove that and they agreed to the point. However, that is not the subject matter of this article here. The point is not whether there exist a Ram Temple or not as no court can decide about that fact of mythology. The Hindutva protagonists cleverly made it a court case to decide about Rama’s birth. Actually, Ayodhya case is between those who intruded the Mosque and kept the idols of Ramlala inside it. It is not a case of where Rama was born which has now been made out. Can the courts really decide where Rama was born? Whether Rama was a real character or a fictitious one? And if he was a real character, even then why those people have been let without punishment who planted the idols there?

Through their mischievous campaign, Rama was imposed on people of India and we were told about his virtues. We refuse to accept his virtues. That man who killed Shambuka, a shudra for reciting Vaidik hymns and exiled his wife for no fault of her. How can he be our idol, as Ram Jethmalani rightly said a few months back? At the moment, the issues of existence of Rama or his virtues are not the concern but the concern of the secular ideals of the nation and how state remain committed to the constitution which guarantees each one of us right to our faith including right to not having faith. Ayodhya’s story is that of betrayal of our constitutional vision by the brahmanical political class which wants to use all the avenues and want a section of its people to be rulers while others to be subservient to them. It is the story of continuous failure of Indian state to provide justice to its second biggest majority, the Muslims. Can any country and society develop if over 14% of its population is pushed to marginalization and their identity is under regular assault from the rightwing nationalists who have no contribution for the building of this great country and none of them have ever been punished for their anti-national act of vilifying an entire community?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Tamilnadu's Party of Shame

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

In Tamilnadu, PMK, the party of Vanniyars is on a dangerous path as it want government to set up a commission to find why love marriages are happing between Vanniyars and Dalits. The Party also want to campaign against SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Can anyone imagine that such rhetoric’s are coming from a responsible political party in world’s largest democracy?

It is shocking and surprising to see P.M.K. party in Tamilnadu has come out in open against the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and want to get it amended as it feel that the Dalits are filing false charges against non Dalits. There may be some reality on these counts and it became a bone of contention in Uttar-Pradesh when Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kalyan Singh raised the banner of revolt against it and Mayawati herself had asked the government officials to verify each fact before file a case against the accused. Of course, Kalyan Singh said that he would immediately abrogate this article and many others also supported him. The SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is a bone of contention for all the non Dalits and non-tribal who violate their rights on daily basis and feeling constraint by the constitutional promulgation.

After the Dharmapuri incident, PMK party is unable to reconcile to the fact that police has taken action against the culprits. The party of Vanniyars, which claims to be the most backward community, has never tried to mend its ways and ally with the Dalits. It is tragic that after a meeting of his party colleagues, PMK leader came out openly against love marriages and claimed that they are happening because the Dalit boys are wearing Jeans, T-shirts and goggles. S.Ramdos, the president of PMK mentioned that Dalit boys lure the Vanniyar girls and get married to them deliberately to kill the caste consciousness of Vanniyars. According to him these so-called ‘love marriages’ never succeed because of caste differences and hence the Tamilnadu government must form a commission headed by a High Court to look into the matter of fake cases against Vanniyars.

Tamilnadu’s violence against Dalits have diverse pattern and particularly the powerful OBCs like Thewars and Vanniyars have lead from the front to hit at the Dalits. There are land relations too as most of the dalits are agricultural landless workers and any attempt to ask for fair wages is met with stronger violence. Untouchability is practiced strictly in many parts of the state and Dalit hamlets are quite isolated. The problem is that little efforts were made to bring the Dalits and other communities together as question of Dalit identity and self-respect get sidelined in the non-Brahmin self-respect movement or Periyar though he launched a historical movement in Vaikom for the temple entry of the Dalits.

Actually, what Ramdoss said reflect the political survival tactics of his party which had vanniyar domination. It is a fact that after Dharmapuri incident a number of Vanniyars have been arrested on charges of violence against Dalits and SC-ST act has been used as the Vanniyar caste group burnt about six villages of Dalits after the incident. As a political party, Ramdoss cannot afford to lose sight of the vast vote bank of his party and hence he has no other option but to turn more right wing and caste-iest when he demanded that SC-ST Act must be amended and that he would organize all other communities who are victim of it. Actually, the language and political overtures of Ramdoss are similar to that of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar-Pradesh who wants to capitalize the entire non-Dalit vote bank for his party in the coming elections and hence ridiculously opposing the quota for dalits as well as targeting them politically. Very little has been done to win them over. The dilemma of these parties comes from a strong sense of identity and self-respect among the Dalits who have refused to cow down to these threats.

Unfortunately, political compulsions as well as sticking to retrogressive old values in the name of tradition are hall mark of politics. There are very few people in Indian system who opposed these traditions openly and unambiguously and yet succeeded. One of them was Periyar who opposed the Justice movement to be a political party as it would amount to compromising ideology. Periyar was an absolutely radical reformer who stood with women’s right over her body and encouraged self-respect marriages. He condemned Hindu marriages as sale of the bride and wanted marriages be performed only once the boy and the girl have understood each other. It is rare that his movement got wider public acceptance and success.

One cannot expect anything radical from a street rabble rouser like S.Ramdoss who perhaps only wanted to highlight his caste issues. If he had ever thought that there is a wider Dalit Bahujan movement, he would not have spoken the language that he was speaking against the Dalits contemptuously as if the Dalit boys and girls cannot wear jeans and T-Shirt. These statements are not quoted out of context but Ramdoss has spoken them in his press conference and in front of TV cameras. Clearly, he was sending signal to his constituency of Vanniayars that he justify their demand as love marriages are happening because of the Dalit boys are now ‘asserting’ themselves. Actually, what Ramdoss said reflect the caste Hindu mindset related to Dalit assertion. They forget that the shudras fought their battle of identity on the very same basis when the Brahmins used to tell them that they do not deserve and have no capacity to run a government or an office. The PMK arguments are racist and caste-ist in nature and must be condemned. It reinstates the values that Dalits cannot and should not live with dignity, with their head high and that love marriages must be stopped. Actually, Ramdoss’s statement is a clear negation of Indian constitution which guarantees the individual’s right to choose their partners. The forefathers of our constitution did not hand over the individuals to their caste leaders to decide about their fates but to the individuals themselves.

While Periyar’s movement tried to build up an ideological ground against Brahmanism as he actually brought an alternative to the people in the form of ‘self-respect marriages’ and a greater social interaction among various sections of society. The movement became so powerful that it jolted the governments of the day and resulted in formation of ‘Justice Party’. However, Periyar was always believe that the social movements should remain beyond politics as a politician he would make compromises and would not be able to adjust with those compromises while social movements should remain powerful enough to make the government bend on its demands. His colleagues and comrades did not think that way and felt that way and came out of the Justice party to form DMK under legendary Anna Durrai and formed the government. There is no doubt that under Anna’s leadership Tamilnadu grew and propagated the ideals of social justice yet it got split later as ambitious clashed resulting in formation of All India Dravida Munnaitra Kadgam which was softer towards the upper caste and catered the Dalit votes too. In the aftermath, we have seen how both the Dravidian parties continued with their flirtation with Hindutva forces too resulting in dilution of their original philosophy and converting their parties into personal fiefdom and family companies like Congress Party.

P.M.K continue to remain isolated as it feels that it would gain strength from the community support. Unfortunately, there is no attempt by PMK to reconcile with the fact that the Dalits too have right to progress and that many of them have reached high. Is PMK worried about the fact that more and more Dalit boys and girls are getting educated and migrating to cities and are successful in their lives. Is it the fault of the boys only to ‘allure’ the girls? Can’t we leave this to two individuals who decide to get married? Why does PMK want that the choice of two individuals to decide about their partners be stopped? Is the PMK’s identity is only related to Vanniyars being higher than Dalits in the caste hierarchy?

Actually problem here is also with the girls who are ‘symbol’ of ‘community’ ‘pride’ and has to be won over. A vanniyar girl’s marriage to dalit boy is an ‘assault’ to the big ego of the Vanniyars who feel that Dalits cannot be equal to them. But in the larger context it is very similar to the Khap Panchayats in Haryana who are now feeling that love marriages are a threat to India and must be stopped. The reality is that it is the loosening of control over their community which is the biggest worry of such parties and leaders. The more and more our individuals decide about their marriages and choices, the lesser will be the control of these self-styled champion of community identity.

Hundreds of boys and girls from Dalits, backwards and even the so-called upper castes are marrying out of their choices and against all the odds. Love has never stopped even when hurdles were created for them. Political parties and social leaders must not get away with the ground realities these days. It is not the issue of boys and girls having their choices but growth of education which gives us senses to decide about our lives. The only way to stop the ‘love marriages’ is stop educating our children and allow them to live in their ‘khaps’ and not allow them to watch TV or read any books as the more they read and open up, the bigger will be their curiosity to know about lives of millions others who do not take permission to get married elsewhere. The writ of Indian constitution must run large over our villages and among our political parties who swear by the constitution and yet behave exactly the opposite of it. The social movements of those claiming to follow Periyar, Ambedakar and Phule should now take lead to penetrate among people once again warning them of the dangers of such caste mindset who are afraid of opening up and want to keep people subjugated forever.

Let India not become a hurdle in defending its youth who decide to live together because they loved. Let love does not become a dirty word to kill someone or show our superiority over others. Love transcends boundaries and even ideologies. These love marriages are not happening now but it happened for years. A fairly large number of our political leaders and opinion makers have challenged the status quo and married in other castes. All this do not happen with a planning but because they fell in love and love knows no caste and religion. The only thing is that while marriage is a personal affair and none is asking to boast who you married yet for the sake of principles each one of those who have gone for a self-arranged marriage must come out openly in support of such marriages. It is not a great principle that while you enjoyed the fruits of ‘love’ marriages while clearly ignoring the issue when the question of society comes. Yes, we have people who married to the girls and boys from the community they abuse day and night and yet when the question of taking a stand, they deviate and do not speak. The silence of such people is detrimental to the heath of a strong social movement for equality as envisioned by Dr Ambedkar and Periyar. PMK’s actions are a challenge to the idea of equality of people and sexes and must be countered with reaffirming out faith in our constitution and its framework of respecting individuals and their choices. PMK want caste identity for votes while anti caste leaders want caste identities to be completely abolished and annihilated and hope the anti-caste movement will gather strength from here and win over people with the idea that these identities are false and based on brahmanical concept of superiority of some castes over others. Vanniyars too are victim of caste system and hence to make them support the caste system is treacherous and must not be condoned.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Need For A Regulatory Body

By Vidya Bhushan RAWAT

Two Senior editors of Zee News Sudhir Chaudhury and Samir Ahluwalia have been arrested on a complaint filed by Naveen Jindal related to the sting operation conducted by the company in which the two editors were shown demanding 100 crores in the form of advertising from the Jindals in lieu of not broadcasting the story of Jindal’s Coal mining activities.

Now, it is clear that Naveen Jindal is one of the most influential political leaders at the moment with strong links in political parties. Even the opposition ruled states have done little to challenge his hegemony. In the CAG report on Coal Block Allocation, his company too figures. That inquiry must continue and coal block allocation need to be seen in that way; however at the moment Indian media has a serious crisis and that must be addressed before it becomes an incurable disease.

With the advent of commercialism in the media, advertisement became the biggest revenue generation exercise. In fact, in the past, the small and medium newspapers would always try to get advertisements from DAVP. Though still today, DAVP and various Ministries remain the biggest source of revenue, yet now, with the growth of market, media has become a huge industry. As the reach of television channels grew, the idea of making and unmaking of a leader and businessman also grew.

Media changed priorities to satisfy the need of the advertisers. The editorial positions were actually made secondary to marketing, and public relation officers became the de facto editors of the newspapers. The print media became more opinionated and clandestinely it is here that the PR companies are working in their best way. The thin line between news item and opinionated news item is blurred. News are planted and kept aside. The self-censorship in Indian media is an example of how they want to create fictions.

During the elections, news editors and journalists have their favorites and this is the best period for paid news. It is not for nothing that political leaders with huge resources are always in the positive side of the news. There is no doubt that the media takes sides, plants stories, makes villains/heroes and has side tracked its ethics. The advertisement control has resulted in decline of independence of editorial and edit page articles. Today, advertisers are being provided the edit space in the name of ‘columnists’. There is no doubt how newspapers arm twist the government when they have to gain advertisements and favors.

The electronic media in this way has become louder and more biased. When high salaries are to be earned and perks aplenty are at stake, no opinion will remain unbiased. And they are reflected the way news is ‘packaged’ and the anchors dramatize them during their presentation. A careful scrutiny of the electronic media will reflect more damaging undercurrent of absolute control of the corporate over it.

The way anti-corruption campaign was projected and abuses were allowed to be aired live to our bedrooms shows media in poor light of a blackmailer. Many of the channels get angry because the government does not give them advertisements while the ‘largest’ circulated Daily of the country has various other business works which are cleared through power of the media. Every newspaper owner is not just working in the media world but also has different industries and therefore media is used to promote their interests.

It is not that these things were not there in the past but it was not done so openly and atrociously as today. There were senior journalists who supported government policies and particular political parties and became member of parliaments and ministers. Definitely, that was not the healthy trend and the BJP, too, jumped into it and attracted a number of journalists into their think tank and rewarded them in the form of Rajya Sabha tickets and important portfolios on coming to power.

State as well as political patronage was always there with journalists but now the rule of the game has changed after the opening up of this sector and advertisers have replaced politician as the main patrons of the media and hence the new age journalists look down upon the political class and glamorize the ‘corporate’. It is nothing but the change of power equations with in the media which have forced them to look differently.

Media power is recognized by everyone and how they can influence policies. Sangh Parivar understood it and reaped a good harvest. The Congress is the original sinner that has awarded even mediocre reporters with important positions. In fact, the decline of the media is so high that those who could not even write an article properly are media badshahs today as they are known not for their writings and views but for their political-business connection.

Editors therefore become PR directors of their news organizations. Nobody asks a question as to where do they find money in such a short period to start a channel. Such out of proportion power of media makes them believe in their own world. ‘Whatever we create is the news’ and that has acceptability of the people.

Such arguments and thoughts are self-destructive. For those living on margin and with people’s perspective never believe that Indian media has credibility at all as media always serves the interest of power elite, industries and the government. Definitely it is the watch dog of the elite caste empire in India and will definitely cover extra mile to portray those thoughts that suit the caste mindset.

The Zee episode has brought in front of the people the naked dance of media. The channel is continuously airing how the government has been trying to gag the media. How it is an infringement on the ‘freedom of expression’ when the editors are discussing a ‘deal’ with the industrial house? It is charged that Naveen Jindal has a vast empire and is not clean and hence Zee must be given the benefit of doubt.

But, there are two different issues involved here. One is the media ethics and other the power of the corporate to trap you. If Jindal is incorrect or corrupted, his dealings should be investigated and taken to a logical conclusion. Media has a duty to report and do it fairly. But if media uses the corruption card to blackmail people then it is a sad day for its credibility. The reality is that in the Zee case the deal could not be stuck and hence got exposed, otherwise things are not that great inside the media world and it needs thorough overhauling to clean it.

Media houses have often opposed any kind of regulation from the government’s side. They feel it is an infringement to their freedom of expression and involves bullying tactics. But the fact is the biggest bully is the media itself and their hunger to fund their fat pay packages. Journalists today are doing multi-tasking. At one end they are reporting for their channel and newspapers, but on the other side they are also considered to be very ‘influential’.

Even a petty stinger is an ‘influential person. Many of the newspapers do not have circulation and definitely will never survive if they do not take illicit money from industries and therefore they become mouthpieces of their masters and carry scandalous reports. It is good that many senior editors have supported Press Council demand for regulation. There is nothing called ‘self-regulation’.

When the people of India can be regulated through various laws, how can media be above it? It is possible if media houses or owner of the media houses do not invest in any other business and there is an advertising policy whether government or private. If there is an advertising policy and advertisements are routed through an official regulator, perhaps this ‘maara-mari’ for funds will not be there.

The Zee editors violated their ethics as they were making a deal. It is clear from the conversation because even if Jindals were seeking ‘killing’ of the story, they should have aired it. But we know how media kills the story and I have myself given many stories but then they are not ‘politically’ useful. Media does not have time to report them. They sit on them and then preach us about TRPs and ‘quality of it’.

It is clear that these editors were working beyond their ethical duty of news-reporting, but I can bet Zee is not alone in doing this. There are host of other channels who cannot run their shows without close cooperation and engagement of political-business-mafias.

The growth of electronic media in the past 10 years is not just because we have become an information-savvy society, but because the corporate have realized that media could be used as a tool to blackmail political class as well as opponents. It is due to this expose that they fear a strong Press Council even when Justice Markandeya katju has clearly mentioned that the Council will have people from print and electronic media, as well as owners of the newspapers, yet none of them is ready for it.

But it is time India learnt a few lessons from the United Kingdom, where the government appointed a commission headed by Lord Justice Brian Leveson on corruption in media after expose of several newspapers on the issue of phone tapping of private individuals. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, ordered the Leveson Inquiry in July, 2011 after the phone tapping scandal broke out and Rupert Murdoch-owned, ‘The News of the World’, was categorically blamed for the interception of voice mail messages left on the cellphone of Milly Dowler, a British teenager who was abducted in 2002 and later found murdered. The report found that the News of the World lacked respect for individual privacy and dignity.

The nearly two thousand page report has categorically charged newspapers in the UK for violating an individual’s right and trivializing the stories. Brian has suggested to the government a national regulator for media so that they do not violate people’s right. He says, “The ball moves back into the politicians’ court.” Referring to what form new and tighter regulations should take, he added, “They must now decide who guards the guardians.”

The Brian report could be an interesting and eye opener to expose the murky world of close links among media, business and politicians, and this reality exist in all parts of the world. In the name of deregulation, the media was actually promoting business interests and creating false information and selective leakages. If the last one year episode of Indian media and its role is investigated, one is sure, many dirty reports will emerge.

In Britain, the prime minister has categorically declined for a national regulation law for media; it is definitely a fact that the British media is far ahead and absolutely much better than our media here which has sharp prejudices and no respect for regulations and laws of the land. Journalists here feel that they are above law and can make and unmake a government. It is time, that the media is regulated and tough laws are made so that not everything is defended in the name of ‘press freedom’.

Freedom of Expression is important tool but like internet the media should also be regulated. Let there be senior journalists, civil society activists, bloggers, lawyers, editors as part of that regulating body so that no one has any feeling of prejudice. It is high time that such a body is created so that the grievances are addressed on time and media does not become PR agency of anyone who helps increase their TRPs or fills their coffers with money.