Azadi for only few ?

She is the new sensation in Indian film industry. Her debut film was a grand success. She played a major role in Hindi film Dangal as a young wrestler. The film was an adaptation of real life story of two sisters who won laurels for the nation in international competitions and that of their father, the coach.

But instead of praises and bouquets Zaira Wasim is receiving abuse from many in her own state. This is because she comes from Kashmir and the misogynist Islamist mindset prevalent in many there cannot tolerate a girl acting in films and becoming a star. More over for the Islamist freedom fighters colluding with Indian film Industry is like becoming a traitor. Her meeting with the Chief minister made it worse for her.

Credit : Disney films

Credit : Disney films

Zaira Wasim, the girl who portrays the now famous character of younger Geeta Phogat in the wrestling bioipic ‘Dangal’, is now embroiled in the controversy for meeting Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) chief minster (CM) Mehbooba Mufti.

Despite the warm exchange of greetings, the 16-year old Kashmiri’s meeting the CM has attracted the attention of trolls all over social media. This has forced the 16-year-old to apologise on social media, with a clarification that she did not want “anyone to follow in my foot steps or even consider me as a role model”.

In an FB post, Zaira publicly apologized to all those who were offended by her meeting with the CM. She takes an emotional tone saying, “I hope people still remember that I’m a just a 16-year-old girl and I hope you treat me accordingly.”

The abuse began a few months ago, soon after images began to appear on Facebook of 16-year-old Kashmiri actor Zaira Wasim with her hair trimmed, as she prepared for a role as a young wrestler in the Aamir Khan starrer Dangal. Internet trolls in the conservative Kashmir valley, where Islamic militants in the early 1990s forced cinema halls to shut, questioned the teenager’s moral character for acting in a hit film.

The trolling grew stronger on late Saturday evening, after pictures were released of the teenaged actress meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who described her as a “Kashmiri role model”.

“Cursed girl”, declared one Instagram user from the Valley. Added another, “Payi se trath” – may you get hit by lightning.

Hoping to calm down the abusers, Wasim on Monday posted a public “confession/apology”, as she described it, on Facebook, copying a screenshot to Instagram. “…I want everyone, especially the young, to know that there are real role models out there whether they be in this time or history.” she wrote. “To even consider me as a role model would be disgracing them and their disgrace would be our disgrace.”

However, this only fuelled the controversy, as her message was picked up by news websites and television channels.

Within hours, Wasim deleted her post and issued another message asking the media not to “blow this out of proportion”. She wrote: “Regarding my last post, I have no idea why this has become such a big issue. I just wanted to make sure that I did not hurt anyone’s feelings and all of a sudden it has been turned into national news.” Shortly after, this message was deleted, too.

To many young Kashmiris, the abuse heaped upon Wasim is a reminder of the campaign in 2013 against a girl band named Pragash. The three Class 10 students – vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid – had to disband their group after a string of online abuse and eventually a fatwa issued against them by the state’s grand mufti. While the girls apologised, no action was taken against their abusers.

Credit : NDTV

Credit : NDTV

Arshia Malik , the Kashmir based writer  remember her younger days in Kashmir and illustrates how infusion of Islamist ideology strengthened patriachal beliefs.

I was privileged enough to belong to what would be termed a fairly liberal family in the sense that they believed in the education of daughters and promoted studiousness and personal libraries. But yes, there were lines drawn on certain habits and lifestyles even though 1990 was far away yet. I must have disturbed my cousins a lot. My tomboyish manners and fearless attitude, what I call my ” Dilliwajaen’ (belonging to Delhi) view must have been a pain in their neck and in hindsight I amusingly see their Kashmiri ”kaekgi” (sarcasm) as pathetic attempts to break me knowing I lived life on my own terms.
So wearing skirts as a sports uniform for my school basketball team, prancing around in jeans/trousers, hobknobbing with boy cousins flying kites, and playing cricket and later discussing everything political and religious was at best tolerated with seething lips, gnashing teeth and clenched fists by the elders. But come 1990 and the burqa diktat by militant organizations enforced through acid attacks, my extended family got a license to further subdue my spirit they had not been able to break.

Hence the narratives that my generation grew up with – that Pakistan was the land of the pure, that Arabia was the epitome of ethics and human rights, that Muslims did not live dignified lives in India, that the Ummah has always been a peaceful, tolerant one and had spread through the benevolent Kings, the Sufi mystics and the power of reasoning, so on and so forth, are shattering on a daily basis now. Hence the ” Oppression Olympics” of Muslims that closet Islamists in the guise of scholars, academicians, media spokespersons of upright citizens of the community like to peddle do not hold water, and incidents like the Pragash controversy, the Zubin Mehta concert fiasco, the Literary Festival cancellation, and the recent Zaira Wasim trolling lay bare the actual extent of the damage that Kashmir’s psyche has undergone in 27 years.
It may seem like harmless trolling to many apologists but they can never imagine how real trolling on the streets of Srinagar and other districts can seem like and what exactly women undergo if they wear pants/trousers, ride a scooty, walk alone with uncovered hair, without escorts or even dream of joining the fashion and entertainment industry. Though because of awareness and an improvement in police-public relations and the stigma attached to a harassed woman, physical violence is minimal – a far cry from the acid attacks and knee-cappings of the 1990s, yet the verbal abuse, the harassment in workplaces and families once a woman becomes prominent should give a visual of why Zaira felt the need to put up those deleted posts in the first place.

Misogyny has no borders in South Asia. It would be dishonest to say that Afghanistan is the most dangerous place for women, or that Pakistan is now cracking down on Taliban forces who shoot school going girls in the head, or that New Delhi / Bangalore is becoming safer for women. But the first step is acknowledging the deep rot which has set in our society since extremist forces took over and long before when it was taboo to question regressiveness in a particular community or culture. Women in the movies or as singers and dancers especially from Muslim backgrounds were always looked down upon and frowned on as ” nautch-girls”. It hasn’t been that long ago when one of India’s talented actor Shabana Azmi was termed as a ” naachne-gaanewali” by the so-called well-wishes of the Indian Muslims – the mullahs.
If the UN proclaimed adage that countries will progress only if their women are empowered is to be taken seriously then we need to take a stand against this mindset that women should not be seen or heard. Do not let the token Liberalism of apologists or two-faced, dishonest community leaders who work for interfaith harmony with the unwritten rule of ”you-do-not-point-at-regressive-practices-in-my-religion-and-I-will-leave-yours-alone” rule fool you. Women need to be upheld according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not against some divine text, or centuries old, unconfirmed and heard sayings.
This is not just about women but men too. Patriarchy hurts men too and if future mothers are to bring up well-balanced, stable and respectful sons, then the mullah-politician-military nexus needs to be called out as well as the hypocrisy of the Right wing morality brigade and Left-wing postmodern moral relativism.

It seems those who are demanding Azadi (freedom) in Kashmir is not ready to allow azadi to women in their own society.

 

Persecuted Editor Dalvi launches her online news portal

Several months ago I had written a post carrying an appeal for financial support for an Urdu journalist, Shirin Dalvi, to start a new Urdu news website. Dalvi was dismissed from her job as editor of an Urdu newspaper and was forced to go hiding due to attacks on her by Islamic fundamentalists.

The fund-raising organised by Nirmukta and Milaap was a success and the targeted amount was soon raised.

Now Shirin Dalvi has launched her website.

Two years ago, Shireen Dalvi, ex-editor of the Lucknow-based Urdu newspaper Avadhnama’s Mumbai edition had to quit her job because she reprinted a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Prophet Mohammad after the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine. She is back now with an online portal which she claims has more progressive outlook as opposed to other Urdu publications.
The website launch of www.urdunewsexpress.com was held on Saturday in Bandra and was attended by Urdu journalists and social activists. “The website will focus on truth, news and opinions. The coverage will not be specific to one community,” said Dalvi who got to see one sided coverage from Urdu media during the Charlie Hebdo issue

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Draconian blasphemy laws haunts Pakistan

His father was shot dead by his Islamist bodyguard because he asked for amendments to draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan. Now Shaan Taseer is facing blasphemy charges. His “crime” was he asked for prayers for victims of the law.

To honour his father on his sixth death anniversary, the slain governor’s son, Shaan Taseer, posted a video on Facebook wherein he spoke about what his father taught him and called for equal rights for all Pakistanis, regardless of their faith.

“We live in a society which oppresses its weakest section and where no Ahmadi, Shia and Christian can live their lives according to their wishes,” he said.

He continued, “This year Pakistan will become 70 years old and this is the country which was constituted to safeguard the lives and interests of the Muslim minority of the South Asia.”

“Today, being a nation, let’s commit ourselves to treat every Pakistani equally whether they are Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi or Christian… One nation, one blood, one Pakistan… Pakistan for all… Long live Pakistan!” he concluded.

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Savitribai Phule – a pioneer Social Reformer

January 3 is the birth anniversary of the great 19th century Indian social reformer Savitribai Phule. She was born in 1831.

She is considered to be a pioneer in the field of education, especially education of women and oppressed castes/classes.

Belonging to a backward caste herself she was educated at her home by her husband, Jotirao Phule,  who himself was a great social reformer.

Image credit - Dalit Vision

Image credit – Dalit Vision

In the social and educational history of India, Mahatma Jotirao Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule stand out as an extraordinary couple. They were engaged in a passionate struggle to build a movement for equality between men and women and for social justice. Recognising that knowledge is power and that the progress of women and Dalit-Bahujans was impossible without it, they dedicated their entire life to spreading education. The distinction of starting the first school for girls and the Native Library in the country goes to them. They started the Literacy Mission in India in 1854-55. In 1863, they started a home for the prevention of infanticide in their own house, for the safety of pregnant, exploited Brahman widows and to nurture these children. By establishing the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society for Truth Seeking), they initiated the practice of the Satyashodhak marriage ñ a marriage without dowry or a wedding at minimum cost. By throwing open the well in his house for ëuntouchablesí, Jotirao directly initiated a programme to oppose the caste system. Both Jotirao and Savitribai did not just stop at opposing child marriage; they also organised widow remarriages. They had no children of their own but they adopted a child of a Brahman widow, gave him medical education and arranged an inter-caste marriage for him. This couple did the historical work of building a holistic and integrated revolutionary cultural, social and educational movement of women-shudra and-atishudras of the country.

Here are few images from a graphic novel on Savitribai Phule called “Journey of a trail blazer”.

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Many Indians are unaware of this great reformer. Only recently she has appeared in history textbooks in schools. So it was pleasantly surprising to see Google producing a doodle today for her in India.

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I will end this post with a poem written by Savitribai.

The Plight of the Shudras

Haunted by ‘The Gods on Earth’,

For two thousand years,

The perpetual service of the Brahmins,

Became the plight of the Shudras.

Looking at their condition,

The heart screams its protest,

The mind blanks out,

Struggling to find a way out.

Education is the path,

For the Shudras to walk,

For education grants humanity

freeing one from an animal-like existence

 

 

Resolutions for a new year

I am a man of new year resolutions. Most of them remain as just ideas at the end of the year but being an optimist I keep on resolving again and again. So here am I starting again another new year with a bunch of resolutions.

One of the resolution is regarding this blog and it is to post regularly and also to post something every now and then which is of some value with effort and research. Hope I will be able to do that.

Wishing a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers.

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A reality check on Kashmir

This year, 2016, saw a resurgence of violence in Kashmir. It was expected with a Hindutva government in power in Delhi. But what is Kashmiris agitating for ?

This article by Shah Faezal, a Kashmiri civil servant and writer is asking the same question and comes up with a more realistic and rational answer.

The politics of hope is a dangerous thing because it can trap people into a flawed reading of history. That is exactly what happened to us. There was a cultural backdrop. We spoke with a cadence of Pashto; our faith was Arab; our mornings began with recitals from Sa’adi Shirazi; we ate in Turkish utensils; our bedtime stories had scenes from Shahnameh. It was easy to make us believe that one more nudge and history would witness a dramatic reversal; a transformative cataclysm — azadi — was just round the corner.
Expectedly, there came a time in Kashmir when bus conductors were asked to prepare route plans to markets across the border. Peshawari prayer rugs started appearing in homes, wrist watches were turned half an hour behind Delhi time, bridges were burnt, so the enemy couldn’t walk over to our side. Most importantly, all men and women whose loyalties were suspect were hung from elm trees. In a complete withdrawal from reality, people gathered around radio sets to listen to official announcements of freedom, reassuring one another that something was about to happen.

Mukhtar Khan / AP

Mukhtar Khan / AP

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Demonetisation woes and the muted reaction

Last Wednesday, S Raju, a farmer from Anantapur district, brought around two tonnes of tomatoes to Bowenpally market in Secunderabad but had to return home empty handed.

Raju said he spent nearly Rs 4 per kg to raise the tomato crop and it cost him another Rs 2 per kg to transport the produce to Secunderabad, more than 400 km from Anantapur.

But he was shocked when traders at Bowenpally offered not more than Rs 2 a kg for his crop.

Raju realised the price quoted was not sufficient even to meet the transportation cost, as he had to travel back to Anantapur.

Frustrated, he unloaded boxes of tomatoes and dumped them in the market yard, before cursing the traders and market authorities. Some vendors picked up tomatoes for free, while cattle feasted on the remaining dump.

“Apparently, he has come all the way to Hyderabad, because tomato prices came down drastically in Anantapur market,” Srinivas, a local commission agent, told the media.

Some distressed farmers threw their onion produce in front of stray cattle at the Neemuch market in December. (Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times)

Some distressed farmers threw their onion produce in front of stray cattle at the Neemuch market in December. (Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times)

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A new Indian calendar and an old German one

New year is around the corner and market is flooded with calendars. Indian government   has come out as usual with its official calendar.

The designers of the new ₹2,000 bill — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most memorable gift to the Indian economy this year — may not have delivered the most aesthetically pleasing work. But those working on the layout of the official government calendar for 2017 got the brief loud and clear.

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