Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Wednesday, 23 March 2016
Monday, 1 February 2016
15 June 2007. After testifying before court that they had married in conformity with the law, Manoj and Babli, a couple whose marriage was not accepted by their village’s Khap Panchayat, asked for police protection as they decided to move to Chandigarh. The same day saw police officers assigned to protect them stranding them midway, their relatives kidnapping them and feeding Babli with pesticide while choking Manoj to death. And the only mistake they did was they loved each other.
We were not a society which believed in murder as a resort to any evil. We were not a society which believed in differences among people. And we were most certainly not a society which discriminated between men and women. Consider Swayamvar, the ceremonious and sacrosanct act of a bride choosing her apt groom. It was perhaps one of the earliest rituals practiced in our country, one whose prevalence was seen in epic works such as Ramayana and Mahabharata which dates back to the era before Christ. The mere conduct of providing freedom for a bride to choose the person with whom she should live out her life was considered a genuine priority back then. But those quintessential practices have rather worn out as time passed. Today, when 21st century India is in a path of economic catapults, the freedom of Indian women remains vague.
Withdrawing from our traditions of granting freedom to women we are now drawing veils of darkness over them, the most savage example being those of honor killing. Honor killing is certainly the most stirring and deeply disturbing form of violence practiced in contemporary society. The term broadly deals with the murder of a family member who is considered to have brought dishonor to the family. Even though the definition gives a certain scope of both men and women being victims of violence, as the case of Manoj and Babli shows, it is a genuine matter of concern that it is mostly women who fall into the ambit of this crime.
HISTORY OF HONOR KILLINGS
The historical depth of honor killing goes back to ancient Rome where men had complete control by law and custom to check and control the activities of women and children in their family. Many a times the lives of women and children were at the discretion of male members of the family and instances abound of them utilizing these stray powers. Chinese, Aztecs and Incas empires also resorted to killing as a punishment for adultery. An Amnesty International statement on the historical context of honor killings was drafted quite vehemently:
‘The mere perception that a woman has contravened the code of sexual behavior damages honor. The regime of honor is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honor by attacking the woman.’
CURRENT INDIAN SCENARIO
Even though medieval Indian history was rather devoid of honor killings, we now witness a scenario wherein one out of five cases of honor killings reported worldwide is from India and most of the victims are indeed women.
What happened to our previous notions of regarding women with respect? Are we deteriorating as a society in how we look at our female half? These questions will loom ever more as cases of honor killing keeps coming up. Currently we see it showing no definitive differentiation between rural and urban India as cases are being reported extensively from cities like Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow. Southern India which seemed rather bereft of such cases is now repeatedly showing that it is very much culpable to honor killings while Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are found to be in the forefront of this shameful crime. In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honor killings among some ethnic groups in North India whose activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honor killings in rural areas of the North. Yet the picture is in no way perfect which was visible with the Supreme Court of India demanding responses about honor killing prevention from the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in June 2010 as instances of violence became frequent. The same year saw the government planning to introduce a deterrent bill against the same but as of now nobody has any idea how the bill was muted down. To arrive at any clear solutions we first need to understand some basic features of this crime.
PATRIARCHY, MALE CHAUVINISM AND DOGMAS
Looking at the history of killings carried out to uphold family honor in India, we clearly see an intrinsic patriarchy which hides itself ever so well within the crime. It is an unspecified rule in most families that the responsibility to preserve honor entirely lies within the hands of women, and men is free of any such burden. Our daughters and sisters are threatened with force and moral suasion to choose a ‘right’ life partner, and any deviation she makes for her love finds herself in dark prisms of adultery. Clearly, honor killings follows suite of male chauvinism which is nurtured generation after generation in our country.
Another interesting fact is that most cases clearly arise due to caste differences (inter and intra caste relationships) and other cultural and religious dogmas. Recent cases have clearly shown there is no respite of caste related violence and Ambedkarian notion of ‘veritable chamber of horrors’ still parasitically holds onto our society. From a casual matrimonial advertisement inviting caste specific proposals to killing a kin who married from another caste, the distance may be extreme but the core is the same.
It is also frightening to think of the authority and the misuse of that authority by institutions like Khap panchayats which contributes to the continuance of discriminatory rituals, most of which are enforced violently. A rough evaluation shows that half of the cases of honor killings happen through the order of such illegal bodies which holds a certain moral command over villages of the North.
The time for us has come and gone to have a drastic revolutionary movement against these evils, but our demographics and vote bank politics continues to keep us in the dark.
Clearly caste related issues and patriarchy forms the base for honor killings through which almost 1000 victims are being claimed every year from India. The path ahead is difficult and long, but we must move on. A four point principle should be rolled into action by government and society alike which includes:
Change in Mentality specifically within ourselves and society as a whole. We should de-link the notion of associating honor with sexuality. For this on a personal level, developing a certain empathy and understanding would serve us good while transmitting the same on a societal level requires some effort. It poses a very good opportunity for the young generation to assume command over the issue and lead the way for others to follow.
Stricter laws against those who practice such atrocities should be brought out as soon as possible. The Honor Killing deterrent Bill should be brought for discussion in the Parliament. It is also important that illegal authorities like Khap panchayats is brought within the ambit of this law.
Casteism should be broken down gradually. Caste related crimes should be clearly identified and tackled specifically. There is a developing trend that most caste based killings are classified as mere acts of murder and is not treated through Prevention of Atrocities Act. Identification of crimes and stringent classification of crimes should be made by the judiciary so that every crime receives its specified punishment.
Spreading awareness on the same through public funding will go a long way in a society which at times fails to judge by itself on what is right and what is wrong. No action of violence is ever justified, and it is important that such a message reaches every last person of our country.
The Constitution of India, in all its Nehruvian idealism and Ambedkarite vision, provides life and liberty as a fundamental right. This automatically asserts the fact that under the rule of the land, no person is given any specific command at any point of time to claim another person’s life. For once it is just a matter of looking back over the years and drawing inspiration from ceremonies like Swayamvar which granted a certain liberty to women. The onus is in every one of us, as responsible citizens of a culturally diverse country seeking unity and harmony, to uphold the liberal outlook of our visionary leaders and to eliminate outwardly nefarious acts like honor killing.
Monday, 14 December 2015
Thursday, 5 November 2015
First of all let me say that I respect you as a human being and would not want to use violence or hate speech to raise my point. In fact I am not even beginning to think it would make a difference; you can shout, throw ink, deport to Pakistan or for that matter any country, assault or even kill a person but you could do nothing to his ideology. With that opening sentence I am sure half of you would call me everything you've been calling people and would move onto your own business, but somewhere down the line if you'd think about it again I want you to read this.
Now, I am not claiming that hatred is part of a single community in today's society nor am I claiming it to be practiced by a single political party. Hatred settles in everyone of our minds at some point, even I would have had inclinations to hate people like you at times and may still have it. After all we are human beings, but what we do with hatred makes all the difference, which is why I am raising this point today of thinking naked.
Now thinking naked may create conflicts upon your utopic and visionary society. I am still asking you to go back to your nudity at the time of your birth. Perhaps no other state defines a human being more than birth. I do not know you for now, I do not know from where you maybe reading this or what your ideologies maybe, I do not know which God you believe in or which country's flag you associate with nor am I aware of your political stance but I am pretty much sure you, like me, like every other human being was born naked covered with nothing but dark red blood with no particular associations with any differences we discussed so far. So let me make this very clear, WE WERE ALL MORE SIMILAR THAN DIFFERENT AT THE TIME OF OUR BIRTH! So where did this notion of differences come? Why am I as an Indian forced to regard a Pakistani as different, let alone consider him/her as my enemy?
For that we need to understand these man-made differences. Let us start with religion first. I am not aware of any religion until today which its founders used as a tool to separate people. Religion was primarily intended as a lifestyle, perhaps tilting more towards moral grounds, It took dramatic misinterpretations and centuries of hatred to reach the current state of affairs when you have birth certificates issued with your religion, meaning it is no longer the aspired choice or lifestyle. So when we begin to think naked we would understand that our birth to parents of a particular religion should not be the criteria for our religion, and that our nakedness reflect our stance on everything going around for that moment.
Moving onto boundaries, I want to wrap it with a quick and precise point. For this I want you to adopt a certain scientific temper, I want you to become aware of our Earth, which is among 8 other planets in our solar system, the system being one among many in our galaxy, the galaxy itself being just an average one with no exceptional features among an infinite space. If you are aware of this fact you realize that the Earth is a tiny speck floating in space which is filled to its brim with vacuum. Now how insignificant it is to divide that speck with imaginary lines? I am sorry such a division exists, let alone it being a reason to wage wars!
As we see when we begin to think naked, when we begin to understand who we are and our significance (or rather our negligible existence), we begin to dilute our hatred with knowledge. When we think naked we are not our bank balance, we are not our cold memories, we are not divided on what we eat and what we speak! We human beings are an advanced species of living things. We are what we are because of our capability to think. Perhaps all the hatred residing inside you may not have been there in the first place or could have been wiped out if you just took a moment to think. And our problems begin exactly because we fail to think on our own!
So my dear comrades, my dear brothers and sisters. Next time you feel hatred growing inside you, I may ask you to think naked, think freely. Because we are all born naked, and the blood with which we were wrapped in and which flows through our veins still is the darkest red whatever we believe in!
A Naked Thinker :)
Sunday, 1 November 2015
12 midnight. I am in an enraging conflict as to what allured me into the sphere of her charm. Was it the way she arranged her hair with a careless braid, much like my mother? Or was it my thoughts, my memories of my mother adding up with her profoundly captivating beauty? Maybe it is that vigorous yearning, not the kind you have for your mother, rather for a well paid whore waiting for you to devour her.
I looked at her with a fiery intent. One gaze, one pause of her eyes is all I would need now. One small twinkle in her eye, one deep breath she catches, holds and spreads over her numerous cells, would tell me of her inclinations. Right then, she walked towards me, smiling, and caressed my body with hers. A sudden inflaming desire took over me as I found myself following her. Wherever she leads me I shall be content as long as her braids disorient my vision and her assiduity motivates my actions!
12.01. No one stirred in the corridor. There was silence. She opened the door to the room and I was suddenly surrounded by a strange heat which choked me along with the smell of medicines and phenol. She smiled, probably understanding my discomfort and held my hand. I touched her braid, just to make myself sure of its physical existence. I untied it, slowly, carefully so that her hair would not tangle with each other.
When I say that time is flexible and obtains strange patterns of movement at strange times, many learned people would laugh and mock at my fatuity. But you could feel it now, can't you? You could feel these seconds settling heavily upon the glass of time, stirring slowly and slowly, as I untied her hair.
'Your hair' I say, 'It is so perfectly imperfect!'
I slide my hands over it. She turns and kiss my lips, I return it and envelop her within my hands. I see my watch at the other end ticking on. 12 hours 1 min 57 seconds. 58. 59.
12.02. My hands keep searching her body, but very little do I realise what it is for. Is it hunting for a long lost feeling of sensuality or is it just flexing my domination? Strangely, every second which pass with her lips locked into mine, I lose a bit of my innocent nostalgia. Rather a more powerful feeling of guilt passes through me along with the taste of her lipstick. The glorious days of love begone stares angrily at me. You should have been more mature, it says and painfully retires back. The thing with my thoughts have always been that it shifts in a matter of seconds. For now it maybe an overwhelming giant capable of consuming me immediately while at other times it assumes meager images and finds me benumbed. Whatever be the case, I ask it to stop its domination for now and shift back to reality.
30 seconds after 12.02, I find her mouth completely disappearing into mine. And I know then that what pulls me closer to her in this instant is merely an obligation rather than nostalgia or passion. Another act which I am obliged to make among many. Then, without forewarnings a numbness came. I watched as to how meaninglessly the second hand of my watch crawled to hit the lap break as I wished to go away from her.
12.03. My mobile phone rang, relieving me from her pull. She continued to come at me but I asked her sternly to wait. The voice at the other end was cracking with excitement.
'Where are you Anand? She is finally here!', Anita said.
I felt my heart going out of control. I felt the air being drained out of my lungs. Should get more air, it commanded at my system as it frantically breathed in. Seeing me disconnecting the phone, she came back in pursuit.
'Not now, I've got to go', I said.
'Why the hell!', she exclaimed unable to quench the anger.
'It is important', I say.
'Will you come back?', there was a familiar desperation in her voice.
'I don't think so', I said coldly as I walked away. I heard the door banging loudly behind, as all the swears she would have said was separated from me by that sorry piece of wood. I didn't even ask her name, I thought as I checked my watch. Time moves so fast at times.
12.04. I ran through the corridor and found the lift switched off. Steps here were rather steep for a hospital, I thought as I jumped 2 steps at a time. The wait, my wait, our wait is over. There were tears lining up patiently inside my eyes. 'Wait', I told them, 'Wait till I see her!'
I couldn't notice how many women passed me with braided hair, I didn't know how many of them resembled my mother or how many held that voluptuous twinkle. I was now content that my heart was beating wildly and that my thoughts were storming down from the clouds of my mind. The rain is perhaps what I always needed!
People would have found me strange, my shirt was half open and the color of her lips was only half hidden somewhere inside my mouth as I frantically ran to the operation theatre. Anita was waiting for me, her eyes filled with the same tears I am trying to fight back now.
'Where were you?' she asked me in a put up anger. Then she smiled and said, 'Look at her Anand, she looks exactly like our mother!'
I took her from Anita and felt myself to be captivated in that image, and how her little eyes opened softly to look at me and how it closed once it got the vision. I wished to say to her every little story I knew, and every long journey I've been on but for now everything can wait. And the life I created, my daughter, Naina's daughter, settled comfortably in the niche I created between my hands. I kissed her on the forehead and realized that I have never kissed anyone else with so deep a love! Tears dropped out of my eyes and fell silently on her little arms, while unheeding, she dreamt of all the beautiful and happy things that awaited her.
Even then, without anybody noticing, time did continue to move on. Seconds ticked. 58. 59... 5 minutes had passed after 12 that strange night.
Sunday, 18 October 2015
'Is this Mr. James' house? You have a courier!'
Now, like you, I had no clue as to who this James might be and what awaited him in the courier, but it was Christmas eve and there was this genuinely guilty temptation which forced me to nod in a confused but affirmative way.
'Sign here sir', the guy said who seemed rather tired and cold. I invited him over for coffee after work, an invitation most people tend to ignore or forget, whatever the better word maybe.