Need to reform personal laws – With a caution on Uniform Civil Code — May 25, 2017

Need to reform personal laws – With a caution on Uniform Civil Code

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What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty to reform our social system which is full of inequalities, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights.

– Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar,
Constitution Assembly debate

70 years after independence, we are not yet out of the grip of conservatism and orthodoxy. Why we have to fight the conservatives is because conservatism always favours the strong. The powerful remain powerful, while the oppressed continue to be oppressed. As our founding fathers wanted, we need to make India – a society of equals. India will continue to be a land of rich and varied cultural and religious heritage. But that can be no reason why our fellow citizens should be deprived of liberty and equality. This is why personal laws in India, currently based on religious codes, should be reformed in a gender just manner. However, not all change is reform. The BJP government’s adamant rhetoric on imposing an uniform civil code in the disguise of reform raises apprehension.

Great causes and little menB2ZwYAiIMAA663Z often go ill together!

– Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

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Towards gender equality -An Introspection – 2 — March 14, 2017

Towards gender equality -An Introspection – 2

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“We have began to raise our daughters more like sons… (But how is it equality if) few have courage to raise our sons more like daughters!” – Gjoria Steinam

In this issue we would like to take a look at more delicate issues of gender. Important issues of gender and sexual liberty are often comfortably brushed aside as “not so important” or “elitist struggles” by conservationalists. However this is just a way of saying, “You  cannot ask for so much equality”. But we stand for complete liberation of humanity. So every aspect of gender equality is equally important to us.

We would like to talk about:

  • How patriarchy stabilizes caste system
  • My Husband My Rapist – Marital Rape in India
  •  The transgender question
  • Section 377 – An Imperial law policing minds
  • Media as a pillar of patriarchy
  •  The need for Gender Sensitization and the Role of CASH-GSU

How patriarchy stabilizes caste system:

Status of women in India cannot be studied unless we understand the social process that shapes them. There have always been extremely rich and powerful women in India. But what women can never win in India is the control over their body – their sexuality. When a woman’s sexuality is controlled and policed, she get into eternal subjugation. Thus it is important to move beyond the economic question and look at the causes and effects of such sexual control. This can be done by looking into our supposedly early literatures. Because they have shaped the society in one’s favour and other’s pain and it still continues to. Mahabharatha says, “There is nothing else that is more sinful than women. Verily, women, are the root of all faults. Women, even when possessed of husbands having fame and wealth, of handsome features and completely obedient to them, are prepared to disregard them if they get the opportunity. They never take into consideration the age of the person they are prepared to favour. Ugly or handsome, if only the person happens to belong to the opposite sex, women are ready to enjoy his companionship. The destroyer, the deity of wind, death, the nether legions (the vast army of lower world), the sharpness of the razor, virulent poison, the snake, and Fire–all these exist in a state of union in women.” (The Mahabharatha, Book 13: Anusasana Parva (Book of instructions): Section XXXVIII translated by K. M. Ganguli). It further says, “All men, in this world, are seen to attach themselves to women, overcome by the illusion that is created by the divine being. Similarly, women too are seen to attach themselves to men. While men take pleasure in women and sport with them, women, it seems, are engaged in deceiving men.” (Book 13: Section XXXIX) At the time of creation the original Manu allocated to women the habit of lying, sitting around and an indiscriminate love of ornaments, anger, meanness, treachery, and bad conduct [Manu, IX 17]. Why do these scripts fear women and their sexuality this much? Nothing would explain this better than Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna presents his real worry about the war. “With the destruction  of dynasty, the eternal family tradition is vanquished and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligion. When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krsna, the women of the family become polluted, and form the degradation of womanhood, comes unwanted progeny. By the evil deeds of those who destroy the family tradition and thus give rise to unwanted children, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.” (Chapter 1: 39-44, Bhagavad Gita, translated by Prabhupada) So, why they want to control women’s sexuality is to preserve the true religion – the varna dharma – the caste system. Because women, just by being themselves, can demolish the caste structure and make it meaningless. But, just to quote and interpret religious texts will not be enough. What is more important is to study the present structure. Still, Hindu fundamentalists attack beauty contests, propagate ‘the love jihad’ campaign, get furious at valentine’s day or simplistic events like Kiss of love, Why can’t religious fundamentalists accept love? Why religious forces oppose beauty contests are entirely different from the reasons why feminists oppose them. Feminists oppose beauty contests as they commodify a woman’s body – her skin, her thighs, her nails, her hair – everything is marketed. Why upper caste Hindu fundamentalists attack beauty contests is because, ‘a woman’s body is their community’s honour and they wont allow them to expose it’. Thus, still the community sees a caste’s honour in the “purity” of their women’s sexuality. When the right wing terms a day of expression and celebration of love as a ‘cultural war on India’, there is little left for us to interpret. A woman who exercises her emotional right to love is seen as a disgrace to their caste pride. They fear the subversive potential of love to shatter the social structure. Thus it is very obvious that, irrespective of the historic basis, weakening one institution of caste or patriarchy definitely shakes the other. To preserve the artificial structure of varna and caste, things as natural as love and desire are demonized by the super-artificial ‘GODS’ and scriptures. We request the readers to challenge both patriarchy and caste system at the same time by winning your control over your desire and sexuality.

DO YOU KNOW WHY WOMEN MENSTRUATE?

No, do not turn to your text books. Real Hindus do not believe in pseudoscience. The real answer is in Srimad Bhagavatham (6.9.4 – 6.9.9). Indira killed Vishwarupa for cheating the demigods by offering oblations on behalf of the demons. Thus he beheaded (the three heads of) Vishwarupa. He later regretted it knowing that Vishwarupa was a Brahmana – Brahma hatya (Killing a Brahmin) being the most sinful crime. Though Indra was powerful enough to neutralize the sins for killing a Brahmin, he accepted the burden of the sins with folded hands and later distributed it (!) among Earth, water, trees and women. For each 1/4th of the sin of killing a Brahmin, we find deserts on the surface of earth, visible sap flowing from trees, bubbles and foam in water. In return for Lord Indira’s benediction that they would be able to enjoy lusty desires continuously, even during pregnancy for as long as sex is not injurious to the embryo, women accepted one fourth of the sinful reactions because women as a class are highly lusty and their lust are never satisfied. As a result of those reactions, women manifest the signs of menstruation every month. Because of bearing these sins, women are considered untouchables during their menstrual period and are forbidden from taking part in rituals as they would get polluted. These descriptions are as quoted in Srimad Bhagavatham, translated by Prabhupada. This is why we say we have to question beliefs, faiths and rituals before accepting them, because they have an innate background of sexism and discrimination in them.

“IS CASTE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR DAUGHTER?”  – “YES!”
One of the biggest shames of Tamil Nadu, the land of Periyar and the Dravidian movement, is honour killings. If you wonder what actually is honour killing, it is best explained by the facebook post of TS Arunkumar Villupuram, self-proclaimed advocate in Tamil Nadu. “Don’t worry if you have committed an honour killing. Come to me and see that you are saved. There is no crime called honour killing. The killing is a punishment for having violated honour. Parents have the right to punish the killing of honour.” Yes, Parents killing their sons and daughters for marrying outside caste and disturbing their caste honour, is honour killing. Does this even happen? 81 honour killings have been reported in Tamil Nadu in the last three years with zero cases ending up with conviction. But Arunkumar was only one of the hundreds of accounts which congratulated the killers of Sankar, a Dalit man who married Kausalya from ‘upper-caste’. “Is caste more important than your daughter’s life, I asked a father whose daughter had been killed”, says Kathir, founder of Evidence, an NGO documenting atrocities against Dalits. “Yes, he replied. Caste is more important than God, because caste is what makes God.” That is exactly what we say (without G caps). Ramdoss, leader of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, a Vanniyar-based political party, walked out of a press conference when asked to respond to Sankar’s killing. PMK activists are known to have mobilized against Dalits in the wake of love affairs between Vanniyars and Dalits. The AIADMK and DMK, both dominant parties, are silent on the issue. But in spite of overwhelming evidence, the state government remains in denial. In 2012, Tamil Nadu was one of a handful of states who didn’t send details of honour killing cases to the Supreme Court. “The dominant political (vote-bank) and social status of the castes concerned – usually Vanniyars, Gounders and Thevars – is the main reason for the persistence and the official denial of these deaths,” says Prabhakar, an activist. Youngsters of TN known to step up during times of crisis, have remained disturbingly silent regarding this insane trend.

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Towards Gender equality – An Introspection – 1 — October 16, 2016

Towards Gender equality – An Introspection – 1

Though it believed that the student community this day is very forward and unorthodoxed, what is still lacking is proper understanding of gender. Even they seem to be largely male chauvinistic. Gender stereotyping is rarely questioned. Gender issues are seldom discussed. Patriarchy is casually dealt with. Importance of gender sensitization is rarely felt. It is not true that only men oppress women. Men and women as a society have accepted patriarchy as their way of life. Men and women are so comfortable with the system that they don’t really want this to change, however inconsistent with morality the system is. As torch bearers of the next generation, we simply cannot let this happen. As
advocates of equality and justice, we should at least start our march towards gender equality. That is what we have tried with this issue.

Do not trust men. It would be moon-shine for men to grant you equality. If you want it, fight for it!

– Periyar

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As this is a diverse and a very important topic, we have planned of dealing with this by parts in two issues. In this issue of Echo, we have covered the following topics:

-> Male chauvinism and the crux of feminism
-> What do our textbooks say?
-> Declining sex ratio and sex selective abortion
-> Online harassment
-> Marriage as an institution
-> Women’s reservation bill
-> Periyar Feminism
-> Religion and patriarchy

Male chauvinism and the crux of feminism

India is the largest democracy, yet the fourth most dangerous country for women who account to 52% of its population (Thomson Reuters 2011). Only Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan were rated as more dangerous than India, and India was even listed one place higher than Somalia.
Though it looks as if we have improved over the years, women are still held inferior. Dowry, a symbolization of viewing women as a liability to family, is still widely prevalent. Chastity and virtue of women are still viewed as pillar of our culture. Proper health care and education, especially higher education is still a far cry for most of the women. The increasing violence against women is not only a law and order problem. What is a bigger problem is the male chauvinistic attitude which our youth have inherited as such as a centuries old tradition. It is beyond question that women in India have a depressed status. But, the youth today aren’t even ready to accept it. The Times of India reported last year that a study had found that 57% of Indian men between the ages of 17 and 25 thought that beating one’s wife was acceptable in certain circumstances. What was even more disturbing was that 53% of women in the same age group also thought that light beatings were acceptable. Another recent study by the International Men and Gender Equality Survey reported that more than 65% of Indian men believed that women should tolerate violence to keep the family together and that women sometimes deserved to be beaten. Meanwhile a UN Population Fund report claimed that up to 70% of married women in India aged 15 to 49 have at some point been victims of beatings or coerced sex. The fact that so many deem violence of any kind, including domestic, to be acceptable is very disturbing and sadly revealing of how many people view women’s rights in India.
In “FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYBODY”, Bell Hooks explains that most men find it difficult to be patriarchs. Most men are disturbed by hatred and fear of women, by male violence against women, even the men who perpetuate this violence. But they fear letting go of the benefits. They are not certain what will happen to the world they know most intimately if patriarchy changes. So they find it easier to passively support male domination even when they know in their minds and hearts that it is wrong.
This is where feminism gains significance. Simply put, Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Patriarchy is a form of institutional sexism. It is the responsibility of each one of us as well as the government to encourage feminism. As individuals, we should do our part to shake the roots of patriarchy and passionately appeal to the rest of mankind the notions of feminism. Individual efforts alone will not suffice. Similar thoughts have to be reflected by institutions, especially the government. There should be billboards; ads in magazines; ads on buses, subways, trains; television commercials spreading the word, letting the world know more about feminism. We are not there yet. But this is what we must do to share feminism, to let the movement into everyone’s mind and heart.
Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction. Imagine living in a world where we can all be who we are, a world of peace and possibility.

What do our textbooks say?

For a great majority of school going children school text books are the only accessible and affordable resource for education. Thus these textbooks are of paramount importance in education. School text books and curriculum influence gender r1-occupationsoles of students immensely.
In Tamil Nadu text books, among the 31 occupations mentioned, nursing and teaching are the only paid work done by women other than a woman selling sweets. Among the twelve teachers shown in the text books, ten are women but the only Head Master is interestingly a man. There are also gender stereotyped games and activities associated with girls like hopping, skipping, hop scotch etc. depicted in these text books. Boys are shown in activities that include more physical activity, team work and higher level of competition like foot ball, cricket, hockey etc. The books also reinforce gender specific teams, instead of promoting healthy inter-gender interaction. Women were almost always portrayed as wives and mothers. And in almost every story intended to be humorous, the butt of the joke is a female. By portraying girls who wish to see moon during day time and girls who don’t know Sunday is a holiday, school text books still carries negative statements like ‘women are illogical’.
“Father goes to work to earn money, mother washes, cooks, and does the household work…” – this kind of stereotype is reinforced in page 25 of IV standard text book.

This is not just the case of Tamil Nadu.

Text books of West Bengal has 50 pictures of males (96 percent) vs. 2 of females (4 percent). One is shown carrying a pitcher of water from a pond; the other is picking tea. Not a single woman is depicted in the chapter about “Main Ways of Earning a Living.”
A Moral Science guide in Karnataka states that a woman should put up with her husband’s violence in the hope of happiness during her son’s time. The Kerala report on gender bias in textbooks criticizes the use of “Man” to include women and the fact that men far outnumber women in visuals. The social issues underlying women’s inequality are not adequately explained.

Women in Rajasthan textbooks are invariably shown wearing traditional clothes, their heads demurely covered, faces expressionless. In Savio texts, girls are usually shown as sweet, pink-cheeked, and wearing cute frocks. In Atal Dhruv (Rajasthan, Class 3), the king’s two wives are key characters. The story plays out the tension between ‘good’ mother-and-son, and ‘bad’ mother-and-son. The ‘good’ woman is shown as submissive, silent, innocent and homely, while the ‘bad’ woman is manipulative and worldly-wise.
Comparison with the books of organizations linked to the RSS is salutary. There are no Dalits or contemporary women among the “great Indians” whose biographies are published by Rashtrothana Publications linked to the RSS.

Thoughts that women are economically less productive, women are illogical, women have to be submissive and that this is a ‘man’s world’ are being repeatedly emphasized through textbooks. To check this hideous rashness is important if we have to influence the current gender roles. Continue reading

Caste based reservation system: Misconceptions, clarification and inevitability — July 20, 2016

Caste based reservation system: Misconceptions, clarification and inevitability

Let the political reformers run to any direction they like, they will find that in the making of the constitution, they cannot ignore the problem arising out of prevailing social order.
                                                                       Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of caste (Ch.II)

While major educational institutions across the nation has started voicing out their concern for the oppressed, we see strong retaliation by the state and the majoritarian classes born out of fear and communal hatred. CUTN rapidly evolving into a premier university, most students still appear to have dangerous misconceptions, the dogma of reverse discrimination and lack of understanding on Dalit lives arising out of a hatred generated through the reservation system. Echo addresses these prevailing misconceptions before it is too late.

How we cover the issue:

  • The reality of Dalit life in India.
  • Reservation- misconceptions, clarifications and inevitability.
  • Annihilation of caste
  • References for further reading

The reality of Dalit life in India

“Know Truth as Truth and Untruth as Untruth” ~Buddha

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Many people have a convenient view that untouchability and caste discrimination is a thing of the past. But after seven decades of independence, caste stands as a bitter reality and a severe obstacle against prosperity and progress.

Turn in any direction, caste is that monster that crosses your path. You cannot have political reform, you cannot have economic reform, unless you kill this monster.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of caste(Ch.III)

Crimes against Dalits: According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there is a crime committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes.

  • 13 Dalits are murdered each week.
  • 5 Dalit homes are burned each week.
  • 6 Dalit people are kidnapped or abducted each week
  • 21 Dalit women are raped each week.

The NCRB data is based upon complaints filed which is obviously much less than the actual number, especially in cases like that of rape. Dalits are prevented from entering the police station in 27.6% of rural villages. Yet NCRB reports that 2233 Dalit women were raped in 2014 alone. Mere imagination of the real number is bewildering. The most disturbing fact is that crimes against Dalits rose 19% in 2014, while the official conviction rate for Dalit atrocity cases was just 28% in 2014 (5.3% in 2006), along with a rise in intensity of the crime as well.                                           .
Contemporary evidence of untouchability: The cruelty of casteism is multidimensional. Crime and atrocities are just visible markers. Denial of basic rights, amenities and human dignity, even after 68 years of independence, is a testimony of the deep roots of casteism that prevails in every nook and corner of the country.

Evils of casteism go beyond untouchability too. According to the goverment’s Millenium Development Goals report, 75% of SC/ST households still do not have access to safe sanitation facilities. Only 17.16% Dalit households have more than 2 rooms in their home (Census 2011).

Political inequality: “The political equality in respect of Dalits is compromised in various ways. The exercise of the right to vote without fear or favour is widely frustrated both by untouchability  and exertion of dominance. The absence of public buildings to serve as a polling booth near the cluster of Dalits prevents this option being exercised on a large-scale, even where the local officials are motivated to provide such a booth. Dalit votes are frequently ‘captured’ en masse. Both discrimination and dominance affect the exercise of the right to contest elections, which severely circumscribes Dalit freedom. Threatening Dalit aspirants not to contest the election, forcing them to withdraw their candidature if they file their nomination, and assaulting them and their supporters if they persist in their political assertion, are quite common.” (Quoted as in “Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas” — Report of an Expert Group to Planning Commission, April 2008.)

Reverse Discrimination: While such injustice is faced by Dalits, there is rise in number of people who believe in concept of reverse discrimination that Brahmins and other upper caste people face discrimination due to reservation. We could have ignored such an absurd concept if journals like Wall Street Journal had not echoed the same. WSJ says, “close to half of Brahmin households earn less than Rs. 4,000 a month.” But it ignores to consider the fact that 88% of Dalit population lives under Rs. 20 a day.  How many upper caste men have had their eyes gouged out for marrying outside their caste? How many higher caste basis have been torched and razed in land or other disputes? How many upper caste folk lose a limb or even their lives for daring to enter a temple? How many Brahmins or Thakurs get beaten up, even burnt alive, for drawing water from the village well? How many upper caste groups are forced to live on the outskirts of the village, locked into an eternal form of indigenous apartheid? Rajasthan saw an infamous rape case tossed out because in the judge’s view, an upper caste man was most unlikely to have raped a lower caste woman. Now that’s discrimination. Continue reading

A Look into contemporary media —

A Look into contemporary media

“Back in the pre-independence era, the tiny Indian media represented a gigantic social role. Today, the gigantic Indian media represents the narrowest social interest. Here’s the paradox.”

P Sainath, Senior journalist

Having carefully drafted possibly the most responsible constitution pillared upon the three estates, we still found the necessity for the fourth estate to check the three estates and believed the press to be the fourth estate. How successful has been the fourth estate? What are the challenges they face? Where have they betrayed us? We need a systematic analysis to know better. Echo presents all the sides of press and media as it is to the readers.

How we cover the issue:

  • What media has achieved in India?
  • How has Indian media failed in its duty?
  • Corporate interests of media
  • Challenges faced by media
  • Social media as saviour
  • The ideal journalist

Success of Indian media

Media’s success is not measured in terms of extraordinary statistics as in other business firms. Its success lies in how indispensable it has become; how it no longer just arms the elite, but even the common man. Few other industries have penetrated so deep into the society as media has. It has become mandatory for any political party to have a party magazine or at the least a twitter handle to communicate with the public and read the public. In this way, how media capitalised on the information revolution to emerge as the omnipotent. Is the real success story of Indian media. The indian media has tied a nation with plural perspectives and beliefs together, instead of the easier option to blow the nation apart. This is a sign of a highly civilised media. How the media fights politics, inclined judiciary and always keeps us informed is stupendous!

Where does press fail?

Indian press, though politically free have become slaves of profit.  This has not just reduced the quality of news, but has dangerously misinformed, misled the public and even crippled social harmony at times – thereby effectively doing all that it was supposed to prevent. We have to learn and educate ourselves about

  • how media has manipulated public opinion at times for personal, political and corporate interests;
  • biased interests on issues not based on principles but just based on their profitability;
  • how paid news is emerging as a great threat and we don’t even know it
  • how media is ruled by the corporate world and what we can expect from them
  • constant negligence of issues pertaining to the poor and oppressed

Manipulation of public opinion and interest:

Media the fulcrum of democracy, believes in one thing: A lie often repeated becomes true. This is why the media cares less to find and echo the public opinion. Rather, it imposes its opinion with vested benefits and claims it to be the national opinion.  It has conveniently chose not to understand and represent what the nation actually wants to know. Such manipulations are not be confused as lazy misrepresentations. Media has gone to the extent of producing fake pictures, doctored videos to substantiate their view-point. During the 2014 elections, the media single-handedly created and propagated the propaganda of the “BIG” Modi wave, which never really existed before. Many such times have media propelled a change of government – not always in public interest!

 The media bias:

Apart from manipulation and misinformation, media plays the dangerous game of bias based on the marketability of news. A study by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights found that more than 46% of Dalit women have suffered sexual harassment. Twenty-three percent have said they had been raped. But, we heard  only about ‘NIRBHAYA’ and that too media was outrageous on it. Why did media choose NIRBHAYA? When tribal leader and activist Soni Sori was attacked with acid-type corrosive ink, why did press unanimously decide to remain silent? When our HRD mSoni soriinister’s car ran over a bike and victim’s family claimed that she wasn’t even ready to help after the accident, why did media decide not to talk? When our home minister on constitution day said the words “socialist” and “secular” can be removed from the constitution, why didn’t media talk about it? Thus press chooses what we should know and what we needn’t and shouldn’t.

The corporate rule over media:

Today, the nature of integration of industry and media is so severe. From aviation to agriculture to mining to coal blocks to gas, there are at least 200 industries in the centre of media.

Let us look into the board of directors of india’s largest newspaper – Dainik Jaagran, which claims to have 53 million readers. It might be one of the largest newspapers in the planet. The board of directors of Dainik Jaagran consists of

  • the south asian chief of McDonald’s,
  • an irish man from the world association of newspapers, who does not know a single world in hindi,
  • two corporate tax layers
  • three real estate leaders

and not only Dainik Jaagran, in any big newspaper firm, it is impossible to find a journalist in its board of directors. This is probably the biggest glaring conflict of interests you will ever find in this nation. Continue reading

Editorial – The political circus in TN — May 28, 2017

Editorial – The political circus in TN

When the SC pronounced the verdict of the disproportionate assets case, after 20 years of spirited legal struggle, justice had been delivered. The prime accused, former CM Jayalalitha and her associates including the present general secretary of the AIADMK Sasikala was adjudged guilty of misuse of office, disproportionate assets, criminal conspiracy and corruption. The SC held that Jaya and co. have involved in planned conspiracies to accumulate wealth to the extent that the public prosecutor Justice Acharya said, he considered writing a book on the methods of fraud adopted by Jaya to indulge in corruption and later dropped it, because he feared that would serve as a ‘Guide to corruption’ for years to follow. The public in Tamil Nadu celebrated the judgement by which Sasikala lost her right to contest in elections for ten years. An irony was that, even ADMK leaders from non – Sasikala faction celebrated this judgement explanatory of their political knowledge. The media in TN, also focussed this as a judgement against Sasikala, still justifying their glorification of Jaya as the personification of purity and sacrifice. We cannot but stress on the fact that the Tamil media is highly brahminical, thus biased and have lost any affinity to truth or justice. This distortion by the media is strongly condemnable. The SC verdict has established beyond reasonable doubt that Jaya was extensively corrupt and unjust to the people of TN who voted for her. It has indeed said that Jaya accommodated Sasikala with cold-blooded calculation to keep herself secure from any legal complications which may arise from their criminal activities. The media and the intelligentsia should stop glorifying a convicted criminal who was corrupt, dictatorial and cunning towards people. The civil society should reject any leader or party which claims this corrupt autocrat to be their idol. Photos of this convicted criminal should be removed from public offices as they can encourage corruption. The delayed justice which has changed the fate of TN is also deeply regretted.

திருவள்ளுவராண்டு 2078 — May 25, 2017

திருவள்ளுவராண்டு 2078

Tamil Bharathan

ஒருவாரமாக உலகமே விழாக்கோலம் பூண்டிருந்தது,

அமெரிக்க அதிபரின் வாழ்த்துகளோடு

இந்திய விவசாயிகளின் மகிழ்ச்சியோடு

கரைபுரண்டோடும் காவிரியோடு

கரையாத நாட்டுப்புறக் கலைஞர்களோடு

இந்த இரவை விடியலுக்காகக் ­­­கொண்டாடித் தீர்த்தனர் மக்கள்,

விடிந்தால் …

തളിര്‍ —

തളിര്‍

Aaryaprabhakaran

അരമുള്ള ഈർച്ചവാൾ ആ  മരമുത്തശ്ശന്‍റെ പരുപരുത്ത മേനിയിൽ രാകിയിട്ട് പോയപ്പഴേ എല്ലാവർക്കും കാര്യം പിടികിട്ടി. ആ ദിവസം എത്താറായി. മുത്തശ്ശനെ ഉലച്ചുകൊണ്ട് കിളിക്കൂട്ടം ഒന്ന് പിടഞ്ഞു. മർക്കട വീരന്മാർ എങ്ങോട്ടെന്നില്ലാതെ ശിഖരങ്ങളിൽ നിന്ന് മറ്റൊന്നിലേക്ക് ചാടിക്കൊണ്ടിരുന്നു. വേഴാമ്പൽ അപ്പോഴും ഒരു താപസിയെപ്പോലെ ചക്രവാള സീമയിലേക്ക് കണ്ണും നട്ടിരുന്നു. ഈർച്ചവാളിന്‍റെ മുറിക്കണ്ണില്‍ നിന്നും അശ്രു ബിന്ദുക്കൾ ഒഴുകിയിറങ്ങി. മുറിവുണക്കാൻ തനിക്കു സാധിക്കുമെങ്കിലും ചുരുങ്ങിയ ദിവസങ്ങൾക്കുള്ളിൽ ആ പാടുമായിക്കാൻ മാത്രം വേഗതയിൽ തന്‍റെ കോശങ്ങൾ ഇപ്പൊ വിഭജിക്കുന്നില്ലെന്ന സത്യം നന്നായിട്ടറിയുന്ന മുത്തശ്ശൻ മീനച്ചൂടിലെ കാറ്റിനോടെങ്കിലും എനിക്ക് ജയിക്കണമെന്ന വാശിയിൽ തലകുനിക്കാതെ, ശിഖരങ്ങൾ അനക്കി വായുദേവനെ വന്ദിച്ചു.

    അവസാനത്തെ സൂര്യ രശ്മിയും ഭൂമിയിൽ തട്ടി ഇരുട്ടിലലിഞ്ഞപ്പോഴേക്കും ആ കുടുംബം അവിടെ ഒന്നിച്ചു കൂടി. മുത്തശ്ശന്‍റെ എളിയിൽ പൊന്നോമനയെ പോലെ ആ അണ്ണാൻ കുഞ്ഞ് പതുങ്ങിയിരുന്നു. മറ്റൊരു താവളം തേടിയുള്ള യാത്രക്കായി എല്ലാവരും ഒരുങ്ങുമ്പോഴും അണ്ണാൻ കുഞ്ഞ് ഒന്നും മിണ്ടാതെ മുതുകിലെ മൂന്നു പാരമ്പര്യ രേഖകളും പേറി അവിടിരുന്നു.

    തന്നെ വരിഞ്ഞുമുറുക്കി കഷ്ണിക്കുന്ന ക്രൂര സ്വപ്നത്തിൽനിന്നും മുത്തശ്ശൻ തണുത്ത കാറ്റേറ്റ് ഞെട്ടി ഉണർന്നു. മീനച്ചൂടിലേക്ക് വീണ ആദ്യത്തെ മഴത്തുള്ളി വറചട്ടിയിലേക്ക് വീണ എണ്ണ തുള്ളിയെപ്പോലെ ആവിയായി. ആകാശത്തിന്‍റെ ആ അന്ത്യകൂദാശ തികഞ്ഞ ശാന്തതയോടെ ഏറ്റുവാങ്ങി ഭൂമിദേവിക്ക് അത്യന്തം ലോലതയോടെ കൈമാറി. കീഴിലുള്ള ഓരോ പുൽ നാമ്പും മഴതുള്ളികളെ ആർദ്രതയോടെ കൈമാറിയ മുത്തശ്ശനെ നന്ദിയോടെ വണങ്ങി. മാമ്പഴം പെറുക്കി പോകുന്ന ഓരോ കുരുന്നും സ്നേഹമുള്ള നോട്ടം കൈമാറി.

     “ഇനീം വൈകിക്കാൻ പറ്റില്ല! ഇടവപ്പാതി ഇങ്ങെത്തിയെന്നാ തോന്നണെ, രാഘവാ, ഇപ്പോതന്നെ നീ അതങ്ങു തീർത്തു കള” കാരണവർ പറഞ്ഞു തീർത്തിട്ടു പണ്ട് ഊഞ്ഞാലാടിയും കണ്ണാരം പൊത്തിയും കളിച്ചു തിമിർത്ത മാവിൻചോട്ടിൽ അവനുള്ള ഉപഹാരവുമായി രാഘവന്‍ കാത്തിരുന്നു. അമ്പതു മുഴം കയറ്! അപ്പോഴും കുഞ്ഞിലകൾ ഇളം കാറ്റിൽ ആടിക്കളിപ്പിച്ചു കാരണവരെ മുത്തശ്ശൻ തന്‍റെ തണലിലേക്ക് ചേർത്ത് നിർത്തി.

ഇടവപ്പാതി കഴിഞ്ഞു … കാറ്റിൽ വസന്തത്തിന്‍റെ ചേല് വന്നു… മണ്ണിൽ പൂക്കളുടെ ദൃശ്യമിഴിവു വന്നു… ആ മരക്കുറ്റിയിൽ പുത്തൻ നാമ്പുകളും! ഒരു വിജയിയെപ്പോലെ ആ പുതു നാമ്പ് സൂര്യനെ അഭിമുഖീകരിച്ചു നിന്നു. നാടൻ ഭാഷയിൽ പറഞ്ഞാൽ എന്നെ തോല്പിക്കാനാവില്ല മക്കളെ എന്ന് അത് ഓർമിപ്പിച്ചു. പ്രഭാതത്തിലെ സൂര്യന്‍റെ മഞ്ഞ രശ്മികൾ ആ നാമ്പിന് പുത്തൻ ഓജസ്സുനൽകി. അത് തലയുയർത്തി സൂര്യരശ്മികൾ ഏറ്റുവാങ്ങി, എല്ലാം നേരിടാനായി ശിരസ്സുയർത്തിത്തന്നെ!

Kaleidoscope – Maaveran Kittu —

Kaleidoscope – Maaveran Kittu

Ruthu CA

Maaveeran-Kittu-Movie-Stills-4

Once again, Suseenthran and Vishnu Vishal brings caste atrocities into narrative, this time with Maaveeran Kittu. Despite the lapses the movie has in creating an efficient drama, it still holds significance as it talks about the evils of the caste system in an undisguised form. While it has two of the ultimate weapons against casteism discussed – democracy and love, there  is an utter disregard for the revolutionary potential of the latter that breaks caste and class boundaries. There is a clumsy distance between fiction and reality in the film. Kittu, the ‘threat’ to upper caste men, is shown to have an agency for him almost everywhere else apart from the police station. What is more unreal is Chinnarasu’s plan in which Kittu is asked to get caught and beaten up by the police (read turn himself into a pawn) and the postman’s intervention because of which he is freed, perhaps the only instance when the SI does not want to take law into his own hands. But there are other significant depictions in the movie that should be discussed seriously- that of the issue of the public path, the irrationality of untouchability, the bureaucracy and police in lieu with the upper caste men, the naattaamai and the naattukoottam as the villain rather than one single person as is usual, and the timeline of the movie which helps the audience reflect how caste has clung on like moss. The most important of all such is Chinnarasu, who is the only remaining spokesperson for the downtrodden masses. While the naattukoottam wants him dead so as to end the lower caste people’s ‘arrogance’, he resolutely fights within the democratic framework. He educates his brethren that there is nobody to stand up for them, neither the government nor the leftist political parties, but themselves. He says, “We are not against everyone in power. We are against the very notion of power”. What also has to be appreciated is that Kittu’s sacrifice is not glorified. Rather the movie grieves that it takes an injustice of such magnitude for the oppressed voices to be heard. The reasonable success in the box office should make it as a precedent for better movies to emerge in the future – movies that talk not only about the spectacular incidents but also of the everyday discriminations of caste system which lingers as a plague in the society.

Gundamma – 5 —

Gundamma – 5

Sangami GS 

There she was, sitting on the verandah with her cat (who is so full of himself!). Her clothes were damp with detergents and sweat after a long day of work at home. It was that day of the month where her mom rushes early in the morning to the ration shop with all the bags and containers as all the other women. And she barely sees her dad these days, he leaves early and comes home late. The cat and aatha keeps her company other than her constantly tired hands. Whenever Gundamma finds a penny or two, she hides it under a rock near a huge banyan tree at the end of their street. It was her emergency piggy bank. She also uses them to get betel leaves for aatha. Anyway, that evening, there were lot of JCBs and trucks in her lane making it all noisy. She came to know that some company has bought a big chunk of land nearby from some farmers to put up a belt of solar panels. They have been clearing up the land and all the trees around for this and most of the people on her street didn’t actually know why they are putting this up! She was trying hard to explain it to aatha while she was munching on the leaves. She was kinda angry that she lost a whole lot of coins she saved to the solar panels. She saw a man coming towards her asking for some water. She gave him a bowl of water and asked him, “ why are you doing this?”. He wasn’t very much interested in answering her, he snorted back with, “ you get electricity! Now you can sit under the fan all day! Haha, dumb girl!”. He left. Anyway, she saw her mother coming back with bags half filled and helped her with it. She was panting and sweating with parched lips, asking for water as she came and sat beside the cat and sighed, “ it’s so hot outside! I carried the bags on my head for shade”. And she dozed off as the bags were lying under their broken fan.

The Traveller’s Think Tank 5- Relics in the Attic —

The Traveller’s Think Tank 5- Relics in the Attic

Thejus Kartha

My taste in music is weird. Many people share the same opinion, but it just doesn’t appeal to me that way. This may be my narcissism talking, as I begin to realize that there is a strange pleasure in keeping my weird tastes intact and people writing me off as a non-conventional personality. I can take off my earphones now.
They call it the ‘writer’s block’. This utterly demotivating instance happens to me either when confronted with a magnitude of feelings and ideas that the grey matter in me refuses to cooperate to the heavy brute-force brain-racking that seems imminent, or when it is plain blank. Most people do talk about the block when they encounter the latter, which makes me feel that I tend to be lazy with respect to quality brain-time expenditure. The fact remains that I am scared- scared that I might hit the dumps if I start to go through my attic. The constituents of that are very intense, it is just like, “If I’d stare too long, I’d probably break down and cry.”
This is an inevitable part of life, I get to think countless times. Rummaging through the colonies of memories that expand as you go deeper, slowly splashing things back into great colour, and an instance later, it is as if yesterday came looking for its reunion with a long lost comrade. Stimulation that leads to such crevices in reality- I call it a crevice in reality as it may never happen again and is gone with the wind, leaving you with artifacts that end up in your mind space that, if gazed upon, takes you wondering and drowning you in fantasy- could be found in as simple as the playlist in your phone. I am not bothering to trouble the reader with the numbness I get to experience if I am left in front of an old cupboard of mine – because I am simply not capable of it. I may also go to the extent of warning those who hide their feelings in the most perfect of ways imaginable to them: Tread with extreme caution. It need not be the artifacts of war or tragedy that shake the entire foundations of the stories you try to darken out.
It takes me a while to get into Hyderabad. Thiruvarur has left a huge space, I try to fill it with words to make both ends meet. Words get wasted like drops in the ocean; crevices exist, large enough to drag me into it and make me meander. I try to make phone calls, and try to go looking for missing pieces. What do I know? It is a mistake I commit innumerable times, but never learn anything from. I can tell you that there is a certain pleasure to this pain that keeps me searching for more, like a frequent reveler who ran out of opium.
This writer’s block has me constricted well, and this has occurred as the editor contacted me a few days ago asking to ‘conjure something up’ for the next edition of Echo that was about to take off. For the traveller, this is quite comparable to the feeling of being chained up in a cell, and through the bars, he sees the roads he mastered, the people he smiled to, the hot sun he hitchhiked in, the roofs that sheltered him, the food that he ate, and what not. I dare not be explaining anymore, as I have reached my threshold again, and “If I’d stare too long, I’ll probably break down and cry”.
Keeping my cupboards and attics locked up, I have to muster more courage and venture into Hyderabad, or more precisely, Sangareddy. Mind you, IIT Hyderabad is far off from the city. This should make a good starting point. I really should start embracing this place. The dhaba nearby seems like a good place to start. The next time, I will have the block overcome.

Hydrocarbon: an unwise choice —

Hydrocarbon: an unwise choice

Shibi Nandan

It is almost for a month that the Tamil Nadu witnesses an uprise against extraction of hydrocarbon at Neduvasal in Pudukottai district. Youth and environmentalists have joined hands with the villagers and farmers of Neduvasal in this combat to save one of the fertile deltas of the state.
The project proposed consists of 31 sites for extracting hydrocarbon. This project will reduce India’s oil imports by 10% by 2022, as India imports 90% of its oil needs. As oil plays an influential role in global politics, reducing imports of oil and natural gas is a great boon. But can we do that at the cost of one of the fertile deltas of the country. The world is taking a turn towards sustainable and renewable energy. But India still is stuck in the conventional way of producing energy.
Moreover Tamil Nadu is been dumped with projects which cause huge damage the environment. Tamil Nadu has two nuclear power plants, and the people had struggle hard to chase the methane project away, and now comes the hydrocarbons project. The land acquisition method of the government as worse as a land mafia. The farmers are been pestered upon so often in order to get their land. In the land where exploratory well was dug by ONGC 2 kms away from Neduvasal has become barren. This has terrified the farmers of Neduvasal.
The government looks at Cauvery delta as an oil milching cow, they don’t look at how this delta feeds people and the mullions of people who live on the land and cultivate that.
Secrecy is still maintained in the method of extracting oil and natural gas from these lands, which is still terrifying because if methods like shale extraction is used it would damage water table of the land by polluting it. As these lands are located close to the shore, when oil is extracted there is more chance that sea water seeps in and makes the land and water saline. The cultivation in Neduvasal is completely dependant on bore wells.
We also witness centre’s indifference to the protest and state’s slow action. This shows how they are keen to implement the project no matter what are who is affected. The only solution in front of us right now is to protest.

An A grade cinema —

An A grade cinema

Shwetha Pramod

Lipstick under my burkha

A film has a great power of motivating our thoughts and actions than any other printed words or verbal piece of advice. In India, the film fraternity, one of the largest in the world, controls the dreams and hopes for thousands of audience for the past few decades, especially for the oppressed, discriminated and the marginalized who rely on cinema for a ray of hope. Our country still has discriminations based on gender, race, caste and status they belong to. The same continues with the CBFC in certifying movies, restricting our right to freedom of speech and expression.

Censor the board!

After the landslide victory in 2014 Parliament election, the far-right, conservative NDA government made CBFC into a puppet body by appointing Pahlaj Nihalani, a film producer who has no experience in evaluating movies, selected only on the basis of producing pro-NaMo videos during the electoral campaign, as the Chairman, along with nine members of BJP-RSS links. Restructuring existing staffing pattern in Central and Regional boards is the first and foremost thing that has to be barred. At present, the Chairman is also involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of the films instead of being a guiding mechanism. Tyrannical!
Before I talk about some of the movies that were let down for its wonderful theme and presentation, let me pay a moment of silence to those movies that were murdered in the judging panel theatres of CBFC. Reasonable restrictions were practiced since the board’s formation but not all conclusions by the board make sense. As the filmmakers of the movie Udta Punjab were not ready to accept the 89 cuts recommended by the board, it was denied a certificate. But the favourable High Court verdict for the movie showed legally how conservative and narrow minded the censor board panel is, also indicating their irresponsibility.
With the recent issue of denying certification to Lipstick Under My Burkha for being a “lady-oriented” movie and the very recent Ka Bodyscpaes for “glorifying the subject of gay and homosexual relationship”, the board has once again proved that it doesn’t make any sense. The movie directed by Alankrita Shrivastava is being celebrated in foreign screens, winning awards in various categories while it is being refused at the nation, where the story revolves, with the lamest of the wrong reasons – “lady-oriented” “fantasy above life” “contentious sexual scenes” “audio pornography” “abusive words.” And if you think the movie is all about a particular community, you are wrong.
It is ridiculous to see the panel approving low-grade movies like MSG-The Messenger, which literally kills the effort and hard work of an art work by creative minds. I also read an article recently that the BJP Government of Haryana has encouraged MSG-2 by making it entertainment tax-free. Bravo! ‘Moonlight’ is widely acclaimed across the world, especially after winning as Academy award for Best Picture, but will be released after undergoing unnecessary cuts and replacements of words. Observing what happened to these movies, the government body is literally confining us to a certain “type” of movies, treating us as an immature citizen incapable of choosing what he or she needs. Surprisingly, those movies with beheading and bloodshed of battle field are graded U/A, where it would matter the children psychologically even if accompanied by their parents. Or let’s put it in this way, the board wants children to learn from unsuitable content for their age. Great.
Lights, Camera, Sleep!

The practice of playing with a few known alphabets like U (Universal), U/A, A and S grades right from the birth, by the board is boring and outdated. I think they were not aware about the progress the film industry has made, exploring the nuances of the society to find stories, while sleeping in “censor” theatre. The certification pattern must be made specific that will invite more audience of all age groups to watch a film they want. The silence of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting headed by Venkaiah Naidu shows the lack of political will in implementing the two-part report of Shyam Benegal Committee which was submitted on April and October 2016 respectively. The committee that consists of experienced members and actors of the film industry, in their report, underlines “CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity” with exceptions and “the applicant must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience”. The committee also mentioned about the updated specific grading pattern of cinemas.
I believe that there will be some words that could sound abusive to a large group of people. But there are instances were abusive words doesn’t sound so for it is so relevant to that part of the movie. Finding an easy solution for the issue by deleting a list of words like ‘bitch’, ‘motherfucker’, ‘son of a bitch’, evidently points out how lazy the board is. After all, we are capable of judging what is right and what is wrong. I wonder why they aren’t hearing the voice of the audience, by encouraging a representation from the society, who pay their time and tax too at theatres. The artistic and creative expression is being muted when there is replacement of a words.
I dream a dream when I enter the theatre along with people from all walks of life, to open my eyes to fairness in justice, equality, unbiased, no appeasement to big banners, no religious appraisal and uncut cinema, with popcorn.

Kaleidoscope – Aadaminte Vaariyellu — March 14, 2017

Kaleidoscope – Aadaminte Vaariyellu

Ruthu CA

Aadaminte Vaariyellu is a brilliant commentary on the social stigma faced by women in our society. The title itself is indicative of it- as though women are not something of their own but man’s. It is brilliant because it identifies women as a class. We have Alice, a rich “well-off” women, Vaasanthi a middle class bread winner and Ammini, who is abandoned by her kin.
As K. G. George narrates the tragedies that these women who adorn typical traditional roles assigned for them, he reveals the narrow and limited spaces that they enjoy in our utterly patriarchal society:
They are not free to travel and it is determined by factors other than their own (While Alice and Vaasanthi has to race against time and odds to reach back home before it is too dark, Ammini never ventures out at all). They do not have a say in the decisions that are made in the house, especially regarding money and their sexuality. Alice and Ammini are Maamachan Mothalali’s virtual slaves and Vaasanthi is subservient despite being sole the bread winner. Alice has often been pimped by her own husband for his material needs and turned into a bitter woman. She spends much of her time in front of the mirror (why?). Vaasanthi is molested by her own husband irrespective of the circumstances (He even jokes her illness as a craving for sex). Ammini is raped by Maamachan. The expression in her face when Maamachan approaches her reveals that she has no say nor choice. That she is silent in her reactions, even on the day after she was raped says enough and more about her freedom and rights. There is not much difference in the case of Alice and Vaasanthi either.
Almost everything about the movie seems to be purposeful. Much of it is shot where such exploitations take place- the kitchen, the bedroom, the common space in either houses where all three women are always pushed to the background. Nisha’s character is also intriguing as a young girl brought up under the system in neglect. Maamachan also remarks why he should spend on educating her as she has to be married off to someone. Vaasanthi’s workplace is another interesting depiction- a male dominated space where there are ill intentional remarks about the wife of an NRI who dresses fashionably and jokes about Vaasanthi’s tiredness as an obvious case of pregnancy.
All the women in the movie are living with just a ray of hope. For Alice it is Jose, a young architect she has fallen in love with. For Ammini, it is that of a marriage (huh!), that too only if Maamachan feels empathetic. For Vaasanthi, it is that someday soon, her husband will quit drinking (because that is what makes him bad). And soon enough, it fades. Jose washes off his hands, Ammini is raped by Maamachan and eventually ends up at a rescue home (from Alice’s words, she is lucky to be still alive. Perhaps something which her silent suffering bought her) and Vaasanthi resorts to insanity.
Dejected by all, Alice commits suicide. Vaasanthi’s doctor explains to her husband that her problem is only minimal, that a joined effort from his part with little compassion and care is all that she needs. Next, we see her taken into the asylum. But Ammini, who has lost everything, unlike Alice and Vaasanthi who have more to hold on to, from the very bottom manages to emancipate herself and those around her. Shown surrealistically, she responds to the drumbeats and liberates them in a revolutionary manner and breaks through the fourth wall. K. G. George signs off by saying that such a narration, even as prolific as this, won’t be able to encompass women. That this movie is only indicative and not all of it.