Showing posts from March, 2016

Urvashi Sarkar interviews Activist Zakia Soman on the need to codify Muslim personal law

Even Parsis and Christians, whose family laws were already existing, amended their laws from time to time. The right to personal laws based on religion is a constitutional entitlement that all communities have. Muslims are the only community who have been denied their legal rights, thanks to the opposition of patriarchal forces who have stonewalled any change in the area of personal law, and the government’s informal alliance with them. The most affected have been Muslim women who have been discriminated against and denied justice. Justice B. Kemal Pasha, a sitting judge of the Kerala high court, was recently in the spotlight for  comments made at a seminar  in Kozhikode organised by the Punarjani Charitable Trust, a women lawyers collective, and Nisa, a progressive Muslim women’s forum. He called for the reform of Muslim personal law, spoke against dowry and asked rhetorically why a Muslim woman could not have four husbands. The last remark in particular generated a controversy a

Rochelle Pinto - Catholics should shrug off Hrithik Roshan's Pope joke and stop participating in the politics of hurt

the Catholic community in particular could refresh public culture with a display of its sturdy sense of humour by wishing Roshan better luck with his love life and moving on. Abraham Mathai, the president of an organisation called the Indian Christian Voice, has asked for an apology from Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan for allegedly hurting “the religious feelings and sentiments” of Christians. Earlier this week, Mathai’s lawyer sent the actor under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, after Roshan tweeted this message to emphasize his degrees of separation from the various women with whom he has been associated in the media. One could probably find more Pope jokes shared among Catholics in India than Roshan could ever think of. But if some in the community are greeting his remarks with indignation, it is because claiming equal opportunity hurt has become a way to establish political rights at a time when hyperbolic violent speech has changed the terms of public debate. Mo

Blake Smith - Cradle of democracy: When Pondicherry fought for the right to vote in 1789

As Pondicherry prepares for legislative assembly elections this spring, it brings to mind a neglected anniversary: over 225 years have passed since residents of this former French colony first sought the right to vote. Pondicherry is full of signs of France’s colonial presence, which lasted from 1674 to 1954. Streets named after French officials, monuments to Indians who fought for France in the First World War, and the accents of French tourists who lounge in cafés all show that the heritage lives on. But no monument acknowledges that Pondicherry was a cradle of Indian democracy, where Indians, facing off against an openly racist empire, first tried to participate in elections. In the summer of 1789, the power of the French king collapsed and democratically-elected local governments sprouted across the French empire, including in Pondicherry. The white inhabitants of the colony, numbering only a few hundred (less than 2% of its total population), elected their own town gove

Mrinal Pande - What the lives of the five virgins of the Ramayan and Mahabharat can teach us

Early every morning, millions of Indians may remember hearing family elders chanting the names of the panch kanyas or five virgins – Ahilya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari – from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Hindus believe that uttering the names of these five women every day can destroy the greatest of sins. I always wondered why some obvious names like Sita and Savitri and Arundhati were missing in this list of pure women? Also, how could married women be called kanyas or virgins? Finally, weren’t all of these women traumatised by unsolicited sexual abuse, or stigmatised by being wives of serial abusers of other women? Is there an unseen clue hidden behind invoking their names each morning? What are the stories the names carry with them? It was the great Sanskrit scholar Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade’s brilliant unfinished treatise on marriage in ancient India, based on the Mahabharata, which gave me some answers. Today, in common parlance, the word kanya means a

'Who was Bharat? Why are we calling him mata?' Watch this man ask a question that no one else is

Bharat and mata? Here's a pertinent question raised in the video above. “If Bharat is a man, why are you calling him mata?” asks the man as he drives a car. The unidentified man cites the story of Shakuntala and King Dushyant, whose son was named Bharat. In this story Bharat became a great king, and the country was named after him. “According to this story, Bharat was named Bharat after Dushyant and Shakuntala's son, which means that Bharat is a male name... How can you say Bharat mata ki jai, if Bharat is a man?” The questioner is relentless. “And if you try to prove a man to be a woman, then it won't remain either.”  The solution? “Let's not raise this issue. Let's not get into the gender identity of our nation. Everyone loves their nation and they want what's good for it.” See video

TAREK FATAH - Lahore slaughter born of virulent racism

Add Lahore as the latest entry to the list of cities to fall victim to jihadi terrorism. But there is an angle to this horrible act of carnage most have missed. My earliest memories of life in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, are of playing marbles with a boy my own age, before being yanked away from him. My aunts warned me never, ever to associate with that boy. When I asked why, they said: “Don’t you know he is a ‘choora’?”  (This refers to Punjabi Christians who removed human waste from the roof top toilets in the centuries-old buildings inside the old walled city of Lahore). Which brings us to the media reporting of the Lahore terrorist attack that would be incomplete without mention of the horrific racism and discrimination Punjabi Christians face at the hands of many within Pakistan’s Muslim communities — from secular liberal to orthodox, ultra-conservatives. Despite the fact the Punjabi Christian community is highly literate, dedicated to education and har

China saw a dramatic increase in wage arrears protests in run up to New Year // China on strike

The extent of China’s chronic wage arrears problem became clear in the run up to the Lunar New Year as workers all over the country staged protests in a bid to get paid before the 8 February holiday.  Between 1 December and 8 February,  CLB’s Strike Map  recorded 1,050 strikes and collective protests by workers, about 90 percent of which were related to the non-payment of wages. The highest concentration of unrest was in Guangdong, Henan, Shandong and Hebei, with multiple protests by construction workers occurring in several major cities such as Zhengzhou (23 incidents) and Chengdu (21 incidents). Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing all had 14 construction worker protests in this period. The construction industry, in which the non-payment of wages is an endemic and systematic problem, accounted for about 55 percent of all protests between 1 December and 8 February. Manufacturing accounted for 23 percent of the strikes and protests in the pre-New Year period and mining 5.6 percent

Bill Weir - Is marriage outdated in Iceland?

"What would a society look like without marriage?" The question popped into my brain after I stumbled across a list of countries with the most unwed mothers. With 40% of its babies born out of wedlock, America sits near the middle of the global pack in this category. Conservative Turkey brings up the rear with a scant 3%. And the nation at the top of the list? The world leader in single moms? Iceland. More than two-thirds of Icelandic babies -- 67% -- are born to parents who are not married. This might be a shameful distinction in many spots around the world. In the land of the Vikings, it is a point of pride. The island may have been settled by marauding brutes, but it is now the most feminist society on the planet, and with that one tantalizing fact, Sunday's episode of "The Wonder List" was born. With about 320,000 citizens, Iceland has fewer people than Tulsa, Oklahoma, and more glaciers, geysers and clean, fresh water than countries 10 times its si

Report of Fact Finding Team of Editors Guild of India on attacks on media in Bastar (Chhattisgarh)

Challenges to Journalism in Bastar A report by the Fact Finding Team of the Editors Guild of India The Team: Prakash Dubey, General Secretary Seema Chishti, Executive Committee member Vinod Verma,Executive Committee member Places of Travel: Jagdalpur, Bastar and Raipur Dates of Travel: March 13 to 15, 2016 Terms of reference: To verify and assess: Recent reports of the arrests of journalists in Chhattisgarh The threats and challenges  faced by journalists in the state The challenges to the profession of journalism Summary Bastar division of  Chhattisgarh state is fast becoming a conflict zone. There is a constant battle on between the security forces and the Maoists. Journalists, caught in the middle, are under attack by both the state and non-state actors. Several incidents have been reported over the past few months of attacks on journalists. At least two, according to the reports, were arrested and imprisoned and others threatened and int