Monday, 31 December 2012

Sweet Nothings

Guest Post by Dr. Anonymous.

Yet another woman brutalized, and now dead.

We sit, we watch, we listen, drink our collective chai, heave a sigh of relief that it wasn’t someone we knew and pass a few words of commiserations.

Our inner voice of outrage rises and falls.

We return to our daily lives, counting our blessings, and buying extra coconuts for the next religious ritual to protect ourselves from a world that grows more evil and indifferent day by day.

As a recent song by a famous western singer goes, “I am living on such sweet nothing”.

India is a country that has had privilege and misfortune of multiple rulers and invaders, a rich ancient history and proud cultural traditions, that despite the upheavals of time has managed to absorb and march on with the beat of modernity.

Long renowned as being the biggest democracy and the largest country of secular governing, Indians till this day swell with pride and wipe a tear at the memories of their homeland. It has been a bittersweet journey however, for in its quest to reach the highest academic and technological feats India has forgotten its girls.

As a Australian of Indian origins I was surprised on a recent visit to India to see the same TV slogans and advertisements still playing, the same scenes from the intermissions of childhood cartoons. The two poor farmers meeting on a dusty road, one taking his girl child to school, the other to his farm, the time old misogynist of an ancient land making dialogue with the wisdom of a young father who hopes his daughter will learn and live in a better world.

More than twenty years have passed since. That one little girl from that rural area has now attended school, she has now grown up, finished her secondary education, she is now studying in a local tertiary University, graduating and then moving to a larger metropolis where she begins working as a young professional.

Perfect isn’t it?

Look a little closer; she is scarred physically and mentally by over a decade of abuse. It has been inflicted at the hands of peers, family friends, seniors, and those in positions of authority. They range from the time of her education beginning in primary school in the playgrounds to the after hours tuitions with the local ascetic academic who deploys his carnal desires on innocent bodies.

She is uncomfortable, ashamed, and naïve. She learns early these are things she cannot discuss with those close to her, as she has seen what happened to those that did.

As she matures her resolve increases, she meets peers in similar situations who have taken to defensive measures such as carrying sharp pins whilst travelling on public transport, to turning around and walking away as a strange male masturbates in front of her in public.

At University she has a greater sense of achievement, she has overcome many adversities and has become the first in her family to attend tertiary education, her family are proud and anxious for her future as she makes her way in the new world. She graduates with good marks, she begins to work in a respectable institution.

Her days however are not free of harassment, whether buying her groceries, or applying for a driving license, she is heckled, groped, and openly propositioned at every turn. She tells herself she is strong and shows unbelievable focus, after all she tells herself, all the girls are in the same boat and are making it through somehow.

One day however this girl will stand up, she will go from being defensive onto the offensive, she may stand up to an abusive partner, she may even bite a sexual predator, because she knows that these acts are wrong and she can tolerate it no more.

The tragedy is, she will most likely pay for it with her life.

This is but a small snap shot of the lives of millions of women in India, a scenario knitted together but not unique from the lives of many women I know. Despite the advent of democracy, secularism, and free education, the struggle to empower and improve the life of a female foetus is, if anything, disappearing.

Foeticide, sexual assaults, domestic violence, mutilations, torture, revenge and honour killings are still occurring at embarrassing rates. Embarrassing to the citizens of a country who despite nuclear reactors and seats on the UN, cannot guarantee that the next girl child on a dusty rural road will not suffer an avoidable disability or worse death, at the hands of a society that does not value her.

These issues however, should not just be an embarrassment to India, but to our global collective conscience. To all of us who participate within a globalised economy, and particularly to those who operate in the jurisdictions of global law enforcement and legislation that were created to police human rights.

The Geneva Convention and bill of human rights exists in India, as does the rule of the law. However the justice system has evolved into a monstrous glacier that crushes the victims as it grows larger fed by the rivers of corruption that are flowing in every layer of its foundation.

Cases of brutal sexual assaults that have been awaiting hearings for over two decades are no longer anomaly, but a common theme that is repeated in every state of the country. A country where women, be they child or adult, are promptly dumped on the outskirts of society as soon as it is revealed they have been assaulted. A society that worships the lotus feet of the virgin like goddess who are betrothed to virile and often violent gods, whose arbitrary actions often leave the female forms on earth to suffer penance.

Where is the justice for these women? They have not only endured the torture of assaults but also have the ongoing brutalization that the legal and social masses inflict on them. Is it any wonder that so many families believe that foeticide to be a kinder alternative? Better to have lost a girl infant early then to nourish her with your love only to lose her body and soul to the hands of a violent beast?

Feminists scholars and academics in developed nations have failed to comprehend the extent of the tragedy that is unfolding in not only India, but also the entire Asian diaspora. This is especially in the cases where women’s rights in third world and developing countries is concerned.

The rise and rise of political correctness has created a defensive shield within which many academics are herded, as they focus on the minute details and fine tuning of women’s issues, literally within their own backyard. Furthermore there is also a notorious increase in conscious ignorance of the significant chasm that now exists between the basic human rights enjoyed by women in the developed world in comparison to their more oppressed sisters.

The very fact that there is such discomfort within academic circles to even discuss issues such as clothing restrictions as a form of oppression and policing of women’s bodies is a point in itself. By self censoring to such a significant degree that even free speech and discussion is curtailed, feminism has returned to its turtle shell, back to its own roots, and is now busy analyzing its own difficulties.

These difficulties are surprising to discover in their banality, and at the same time shocking. Feminism in the west is facing a significant backlash from younger generations who are embracing“sexual freedom” and “freedom of expression and lifestyle” as an anti-feminist stance. There is not only gross misinformation within the current popular culture of what feminism stands for, but also a significant disenchantment within its own ranks.

There is talk of stagnation, of irrerelevance, of extremism, and of course of disempowerment. As western feminist routinely take stock of their achievements with analysis of countless statistics they have begun to lose sight of the looming tsunami crashing on the shores of their global sisters.



Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The Silent Feminism


The brutal sexual assault on the 23 year old physiotherapist in one of the posh areas of Delhi has left many of us traumatised and speechless. The assault left her abdomen severely damaged and she has had her entire intestines surgically removed. Social media is rife with comments and updates. For a change, even some Indian men have come forward to reflect on their upbringing and the roots of patriarchy while media has been relentlessly pursuing this case, reporting all the protests and anger in Delhi and the latest developments. From my Australian home, I have seen the major news outlets in Australia cover this horrific news and yet have noted, with disappointment, the silence of my Western feminist colleagues and friends on this issue (please see Note [1]). I have not seen any international petitions generated from this site condemning this act of brutality and the Indian government’s failure to protect its women citizens. I have not seen debates in the social/media in which Western feminists have said much. Those who are quick to condemn their governments who kill women and children in drone attacks in Afghanistan or Pakistan, or who are quick to point out that Western policies have endangered lives of civilians in many parts of the world, find no words to speak out against violence that women in the Global South face repeatedly and everyday. Violence against women that is routinely normalised in certain cultures, in certain societies, in certain countries, and violence that cannot be traced to Western militarism or Western foreign policy does not find easy critics. That would not be politically correct nor would it reflect commitment to anti-racism, perhaps.

Not long ago when Adele Wilde-Blavatsky wrote an article on why she abhors the burqa and thinks it is oppressive towards women in general, it irked many Western feminists and Muslim-feminists alike. An intense personal attack and slander followed in the social media and on the website where the article was published, accusing the author of simplifying the issue, of being a white middle class racist who could not look beyond her own privilege. How dare she have an opinion on an issue that she did not understand in her Islamophobic and racist mind? Following the backlash her article was withdrawn from the feminist wire website and a signature campaign was launched by Western feminists (mostly US based academics) to discredit her argument and point out its flaws. Instead of engaging the author in a respectful manner, feminists chose to censor what they perceived as an inappropriate attack on the Muslim community. Some of us who tried to argue for reason to prevail and debate to continue were hailed as ‘white supremacists’ in disguise. The argument was reduced to mere skin colour of its propounder. Silence and censorship became feminist tools.

The brutal rape in Delhi and for that matter series of rapes including of little girls as young as two years old, complete apathy of the government, the skewed sex ratio and unabated female foeticide and infanticide, high levels of domestic violence against women in India, none of this is significant enough for an international signature campaign or for any media release that can condemn this incident. I am convinced that news about this in the media must elicit predictable responses, of the bias and prejudices of the Western media that sensationalises any news about violence in ethnic communities and violence against women in the Global South. The ostrich approach helps, as I have written elsewhere.

Third wave feminism clearly suggested to us that the global sisterhood is a myth and the concerns of women in different parts of the world are different. More importantly, we were powerfully reminded that feminists in the Global North cannot speak for women in the South nor assume any emancipatory role to ‘liberate’ their sisters in the South. However, when (patriarchal) cultures, traditions become categories to defend rather than women, feminist commitment appears on rather shaky grounds, plagued by its own contradictions. One would have thought recognising ‘cultures’ as a category of oppression rather than something that must be preserved in the name of identity politics would come naturally to feminism. Not so these days, for, critics of culture are lampooned and chastised severely for being insensitive, ignorant and racist. When Egyptian feminist, Mona Eltahawy says something about the misogyny in the Middle East it seems to outrage feminists far and wide. Petitions, media articles, interviews, social media updates all work together to discredit her views without engaging her. The same feminists have nothing to say on specific cases of violence against women in the Global South for that would be racist. Interestingly they had no complaints when Robert Fisk argued along similar lines as Eltahawy. Bizarre logic, this.

Many of us (from the Global South) journeyed long and hard and embraced homelessness to make sense of our lives which would otherwise have been policed under strict patriarchal norms. Patriarchy would have denied us the most valuable and empowering tool we have today, education, with which we express ourselves and craft our own destinies. I live in Australia and earn my living here and yet I know that the gang rape survivor in Delhi could have been me or anyone I know. The banality of this crime is the reason why this case has touched a raw nerve for most of us, not the fact that the raped girl is from the middle class, as Arundhati Roy would have us believe. It finds resonance in the stories some of us have wilfully forgotten in our quest for a life of dignity and self-respect. It reminds us of our past world when the daily struggle was not about wages or getting an education but dealing with flashing penises and groping hands, violating our bodies with impunity. Hence, the anger, the rage at this brutal aggression on the woman who today battles for life in Delhi. Hence, the protests for justice not just for this one woman but many others who have to live under misogyny.

Abuse has been the ‘normal’ part of many of our lives, not an exception but the rule. I know I am not alone as I recall moments of abuse and assault from near ones and strangers. I am not alone as I recall the shame I was made to feel every time a man looked lecherously; I am not alone as I recall how I was made to hide my body and cover it in layers for it would attract undue attention; I am not alone as I recall lewd comments and masturbating men in the dark alleys of Delhi; I am not alone as I recall the nightmare of getting into a DTC or blue line bus in Delhi, being groped by a dozen hands; I am not alone as I recall avoiding the aisle seat in the bus for fear of a male crotch shoved at me or rubbing on my shoulders; and I am not alone as I recall being told several times by the conscience keepers of society that I should not ‘provoke’ bad behaviour in men. Buried deep in the subconscious mind are those moments of rage and agony, of complete helplessness when you complained and yelled while everyone around you thought it was good tamasha (entertainment). A million such indignities suffered daily, at home and in the public space, where there was neither security nor respect. Perhaps that is why homelessness comes easy to women, for ‘home’ we are told is

where we should feel secure.

This is not the first case of brutal rape in either India or South Asia. Rape as a political weapon to teach lessons to the ‘enemy’ has been very common. War time rape or rape of women in displacement/refugee camps has been seen in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Indian security forces have raped women in Kashmir and Northeast with impunity while women in poor villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been raped and exchanged to resolve clan/family disputes. Rape is also normalised in homes of the wealthy as a cultural weapon in the hands of patriarchy. Not to mention marital rape which doesn’t find any mention in public discourses. There are reports of one rape in every 20 minutes in India. Rape does not distinguish women of classes, creed, religion, region, race. It is targeted at specific gendered bodies of females. Arundhati Roy has argued that the recent Delhi rape protests are an eruption of the middle class. This is a crass, insensitive comment from a thinker from the left tradition which has always chastised middle class women for upholding a patriarchal morality. Roy is no different from those Western feminist colleagues I am addressing here who are silent or less outraged today because the rapists are not ‘white’ men or soldiers oppressing the poor female of colour.

Rape is what it is and succeeds in its impact because it is not considered a ‘crime’ but a matter of great shame for women. Rape is supposed to not just physically harm the woman but is also considered an act that destroys her ‘honour’ and that of her family/community. As long as such tags of honour and shame continue to be attached to women’s bodies, rape or any violence against women will not stop. The pain of the woman battling for her life in Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital reminds us of our pain too. It opens old wounds for many of us who experienced the indignity of assault and abuse on our bodies and chose to keep quiet, or fought in the midst of jeering crowds that loves a spirited woman or two for purposes of entertainment. Sometimes we gave up not because we didn’t believe in the fight but because we were too tired and we decided to choose our fights in life. Feminism’s ‘tool box’, as an esteemed colleague and mentor always mentions, is useful and has everything for every occasion. Perhaps, we began to choose our tools very carefully.

As a feminist then, I wonder at this silence that I can hear so loud. The lack of self-reflection among feminists is profound these days. The inability to empathise is astounding and the mimicry of the mainstream is becoming the norm than exception. We are obsessed as feminist academics and activists about where we publish, how we are seen, what we speak and where we stand, who notices us and who we speak for. We are concerned about whether what we say looks good on our CVs or in our public persona, whether we are on the side of the ‘progressives’, whether our politics looks good and popular. Saying unpopular things or taking radical positions is no longer fashionable or desirable. The comfort of the’ ivory tower’ from where we preach is good enough. Our job is done as soon as we have made the judgement of where we want to be seen/to belong. My disappointment grows by the day and I am not alone I know. Away from family and away from the troubling experiences, to tame my restless mind, I pursued education and learnt to ask questions of myself. I sought a home among like-minded colleagues and friends and in the moral/ethical framework of feminism, that would recognise differences and yet put women first; feminism that believed in debate and discourse and not a certain popular opinion as ‘progressive’; feminism that would not just think of diversity as tokenism but would truly strengthen its core foundations, above all feminism that would not just be an academic ‘ism’, but one which would stand for a better informed world and would open up terrains of knowledge, inquiry and experiences than fencing them.

That feminist ‘home’ has begun to look unfamiliar these days. Many of us agonise over the Delhi rape as it opens old wounds and we experience pain we had long supressed. It reminds us of how our own lives are as much a matter of chance given the patriarchal worlds we come from as it is of our hard work and opportunities that we embraced. The indifference of our feminist sisters and colleagues in times like these adds to that pain and grief. The silence of feminists is deafening, perhaps louder than the screams of every woman raped in every part of the world.

[1] I want to acknowledge here that there is a dominant Western feminist discourse that is anti-imperialist and rooted in the left tradition. There have been diversity of views on feminist methods to be deployed but the emergence of the hegemonic Western feminism is a point to be noted. My problem with this hegemonic Western feminism is that it places all other categories: race, class, culture, religion etc. before gender and has also stopped looking for hyphenated categories in the process. More importantly, this Western feminism ‘others’ women of the Global South by selectively addressing issues only linked to Western governments and patriarchal practices. There is a fierce ‘marking of territory’ in which the dominant concern relates to the questions of whose arguments are more authentic because of how they are positioned.

Women’s bodies and (en) gendered political violence in South Asia

The feminist axiom that ‘personal is political’ comes to mind while studying cases of political violence that include terrorism, armed insurgencies and communal riots. Women are part of the political violence landscape in three significant ways: as victims and survivors, as perpetrators; and as cultural bearers of ethnic, religious and national identities. In a short piece like this it is not possible to engage all questions around women, gender and political violence. I would like to focus on two important aspects – women and girls whose bodies continue to serve as battle ground and whose complex experiences of violence are reduced to ‘bare life’ stories of victimhood where women are further disempowered and kept away from peace processes and conflict resolution.

This piece is being written in the backdrop of the terrifying ordeal of the Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousufzai, from Swat who was shot by Taliban militants for praising the American ‘enemy’ and of propagating ‘secular’ values by advocating education for girls. Bizarre accusations, one would think. Malala recovers miraculously in the quiet surroundings of a hospital in the UK while her ordeal bears testimony to the fact that all militant projects and political violence are waging a ‘war on women’. A fourteen year old, school-going, teenage girl becomes a ‘threat’ to a militant group’s (Tehrik-e-Taliban in this case) ideology and their masculinity that is usually validated by erasing women out of public spaces, by issuing religious diktats of violence against women and by bombing and killing girls in schools and women in market places and shrines. Not long before this case a 14 year old girl affected by down’s syndrome, Rimsha Masih, was perceived as threat by extremists and fundamentalists. She was accused of burning pages of the Koran and charged under the notorious blasphemy laws in Pakistan. She was subsequently acquitted of the charges after an Imam was accused of falsely planting burnt Koran pages into the pile of papers she had burnt. Her life continues to be threatened and a normal childhood is denied to her.

There are many Malalas and Rimshas in the world today. Militant groups in Afghanistan perpetrate violence and abuse against women with ease, despite aid dollars pouring in and government pledges to fight terrorism and extremism. Extremist groups in Pakistan target women and girls (Muslims and non-Muslims) indiscriminately. The situation is no different in India, where Maoist women cadres are targeted by their own comrades who rape and abuse them. The state does no better when security forces kill ‘Maoist’ women and carry them like animals for barbeque. The rape and torture of women in custody is also common (Soni Sori’s case is a brutal reminder here) and dehumanising women who are considered as the ‘other’ is the norm. In Sri Lanka, former women cadres of the LTTE have not been spared either, as they are abused, raped and marginalised while the government propaganda machinery talks about its benevolent rehabilitation efforts. It is, therefore, not without significance that large numbers of women continue to be soft targets in acts of political violence (by state and non-state actors) and this factor needs to be exposed and highlighted consistently.

The fallout of this violence against women is their absence in formal peace talks and conflict resolution processes. This is based on the widely held belief that men participate in armed resistance and thus ‘sacrifice’ their lives and freedom for their ethnic, political or religious group. Women, on the other hand, perform multiple roles in wars and political violence, including as armed guerrilla fighters, militants and support systems. However, their experiences are only documented in public memory as ‘worst sufferers and victims’. Lack of social and political recognition of their participation in armed resistance (for example in Kashmir, Sri Lanka etc.)* has resulted in their exclusion from all peace talks. The message from such situations is that stakeholders in peace must have served and sacrificed in the war and it is usually men who are recognised in their war roles. Increasingly, feminist scholarship and activism has challenged this notion of what women ‘do’ in wars and articulated that women’s voices are critical in not just engendering and sustaining a conflict but also in its resolution.

There is another aspect to this exclusion of women in resolutions of political violence and conflict. ‘Peace’ deals are waged on women’s bodies as we witnessed in the case of the Nizam- e -Adl resolution negotiated between the Taliban and the Government of Pakistan in February 2009. Under the “peace for Sharia” deal the Taliban agreed to stop its armed campaign in the Swat region and surrender its arms in exchange for the legal enforcement of the Sharia laws. Sharia courts would interpret civil rights according to Islamic strictures and women would be veiled and pushed into a life of invisibility, violence and abuse. This deal subsequently collapsed because the Taliban refused to disarm but it highlighted how wars – and also peace – are waged on women’s bodies. In many parts of Afghanistan, women and girls continue to be exchanged as part of the practice of baad or informal conflict resolution. The violence against women continues even if there are policies and laws to prevent it.

As someone who studies political violence and insurgent wars, I conclude with the conviction that political violence has deep implications on the personal lives of people and is particularly played out on women’s bodies. Feminist discourses, in recent times, have been increasingly divided over the universal application of human rights, gender equality and respect for local cultures and traditions (this debate did not end with the Shah Bano case in India!). We would be doing great disservice to our own feminist activism and scholarship if we argue that violence against women is acceptable in any culture and tradition. Political violence thrives on ideologies that ‘other’ women and justify violence against them. The way forward lies not just in exposing these cultures of violence but in articulating our fundamental feminist commitment that critiques and questions traditions and cultural and religious practices that marginalise women and inflict violence on them. I am always reminded of the poet Sahir Ludhianvi’s powerful words;

Zulm ki baat hi kya, zulm ki auqaat hi kya
Zulm bas zulm hai, aaghaaz se anjaam talak

(What is about oppression? What is with its impression?
Oppression is, all of it, but oppression. From beginning to end.)

For further references on these and related topics see the following.
  • Alison, Miranda (2004), “Women as Agents of Political Violence: Gendering Security,” Security Dialogue, 35, 447–463
  • Moser, Caroline and Fiona Clark, eds. (2001), Victims, Perpetrators or Actors? Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence (New York: Zed Books)
  • Parashar, Swati (2011) “Gender, Jihad, and Jingoism: Women as Perpetrators, Planners, and Patrons of Militancy in Kashmir”, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 34: 4, 295 — 317

Violence, Migrant Women and the Ostrich Approach

Published in Asian Currents (Dec. 2012)

Joumanah El Matrah is the Executive Director of the Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights. In her article, Misrepresenting Migrant Violence, carried by the ABC on its website on the 29th of October, 2012, she argued how cases of violence against women were being represented in the Australian media as cultural problems in migrant communities or as ‘spectacular’ violence happening in some distant non Western locations. She cited feminist theorising around violence to talk about the exotic/erotic nature of violence and pointed out how media reports in Australia often seem to convey that, “violence and oppression are core to minority migrant cultures. It is something they import with them when they migrate and it is their dirty little secret they keep as they settle into Australia.”

As someone who teaches feminist international relations and researches on global patterns of political violence, I have bad news for the author. I do not necessarily bring up my own ethnic/migrant positionality (of Indian origin) in my writings but in this case it might add that due authenticity to my arguments that many feminists are more concerned about than the strength of the argument itself. And finally, as someone who has been a witness to the suffering of a friend exposed to domestic violence by her ethnic migrant partner, I would like to argue that being an apologist of one culture or another and speaking from our perceived moral high ground from where we preach ‘human rights’ of minorities and migrants is not going to help the situation much.

Fact is that in Australia the level of violence faced by migrant women (from South Asia, Middle East and Africa) is much higher than domestic violence faced by white Australian women. A careful study of the Anti-Violence Orders sought by migrant women will reveal a dismal picture. The cultural factor becomes even more significant because many of these women are unable to seek help even when laws are in place to protect them. In many cases, as even the author agrees, the governments and law enforcement turn a blind eye to abuses faced by migrant women. In the high profile case of the Indian Sikh couple which made news recently in Victoria, the woman had sought AVO against her husband who repeatedly committed breaches but the police failed to act on her complaints.

The author contradicts herself as she advocates specific policies targeted at protecting migrant women from abusive partners. That is ofcourse pertinent but cannot happen unless it is acknowledged in the first place that these women face unprecedented levels of violence coming from cultures in which beating/bashing women is a commonplace offence. Violence against women is not taken seriously by their families or by the law enforcement in their ‘home’ countries. Many migrant women are vulnerable, first time foreign travellers who have no support systems in place and carry with them their cultural baggage in which speaking out against their partners/husbands is not an acceptable, approved course of action. In the case of my friend, a highly educated medical professional, the violence came from a husband who thought intimidation and abuse was the ‘normal’ thing to do. Violence does not discriminate. It targets the professional and the home-maker alike and those who speak against it, like the Sikh woman Sargun Ragi, they pay the price with their lives.

Turning a blind eye to crimes being committed within migrant communities is not going to help the cause of human rights or gender equality. Respecting minority cultures cannot imply living in denial and ignoring (dis)honour killings, emotional and physical abuse, domestic violence, female foeticide and genital mutilation practiced within certain communities all in the name of one culture or another. Female foeticide in Australia is practised by migrant women from Middle East and South Asia. Ultrasound doctors are approached by families to determine the sex of the foetus and organise the medical termination of pregnancy of female foetuses. Similar cases of foeticide and declining sex ratio of girls born to women of Indian origin has been noted in a recent study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal. We cannot pretend that “cultures” have nothing to do with these cases. All other cases of violence the author mentions about non-Western women; beheadings, gang rapes, acid throwing, public executions and stonings are all unfortunately true and the cultural relativism argument cannot obfuscate the reality, irrespective of what one chooses/wishes to read in the Western media or not.

The author dismisses the Western media portrayal of Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai’s shooting by the Taliban and of the brutal murder of a young Afghani girl who refused to be coerced into sex work as cases of ‘spectacular’ violence. As someone associated with a Centre for Women’s Rights, she should know better. These cases are neither spectacular nor exceptional. Many girls and women in conflict zones in Pakistan and Afghanistan are subjected to violence of this kind at a daily level. Reporting on these events does not imply that there should be a disclaimer published everytime that “violence happens in Western societies too!’. Recognising violence among ethnic communities does not mean denying the violence against women in Western societies. These cases got the media attention they deserved because of the resistance these girls put up against the diktats of their own culture, tradition. The author, instead, could have worried more about why a ridiculous film on the Prophet Mohammed (not even seen by many people) made by an racist bigot, caused so much protest world-wide that also spiralled into violence, while not much was heard when a teenage girl (guilty of wanting education!) was shot by the Taliban all in the name of religion. If the shooting of one girl, the brutal murder of another is not worthy enough for people to galvanise a protest against their own societies and cultures, it is a more worrying trend surely?

Yes, certainly migrant women are entitled to citizenship, residency rights and protection against violence under the Australian law. But adopting the ostrich approach and having the head buried in the sand is not going to help the situation. What is so fundamentally radical about claiming that cultures, traditions and religions can be violent towards women? My appeal to the author and others who may think like her: let us decide who we want to protect and defend….women or cultures?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ajmal Kasab’s Execution: Why there is no reason to celebrate

Paper No. 5306 Dated 22-Nov-2012

Guest Column: Swati Parashar

When the tragedy of 26/11 unfolded in 2008, the trauma was felt far and wide. I was a PhD student in the UK and, far away from home, I shared the grief with millions of Indians as we wondered why Mumbai deserved the gory blood bath. The Chabad house hostages were tortured before being killed by the ten men from Pakistan, to avenge what was happening to the Palestinians. Travellers at Shivaji terminus, those enjoying dinner or an innocent cup of coffee at café Leopold and those at the Taj hotel had their lives extinguished in a matter of hours because in the bloodthirsty play written and directed by the Lashkar-e-Toiba based in Pakistan, these people had to ‘perform’ the enemy. A young engineering graduate from my hometown Ranchi, who was to get married in a few days, was killed in the shooting at café Leopold. He was the only child of his parents who were left grieving. The commando operation to save Mumbai from the attackers lasted three traumatising days (telecast live on Indian and world media) in which police officers and a commando officer were also killed and the intelligence failure laid bare for public scrutiny. A lone terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was captured and nine others were killed in the operation.

Yesterday (21st November 2012) that lone captured terrorist, the face of the Mumbai attacks was sent to the gallows in Pune’s Yerwada jail, in a secretly planned mission. This was the outcome of investigations and trials that have lasted four years and even though frenzied reactions and emotional responses have been reported in the media and social networking websites, we must surely all know that there is nothing to celebrate. Not only because of the moral foundations of this argument that celebrating the death of any person cannot have a place in a civilised society. While that maybe a good argument to consider, war and political violence have become a way of life and we have all developed a voyeuristic taste for the dead and gore. Remember the long queues with men, women and children wanting to have a last view of the dead Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi and how the videos of his killing went viral? Remember the demands that the US show the bloodied body of Osama bin Laden, in the absence of which spam videos circulated extensively? We seem to have normalised violence and brutality to such an extent that we are unable to find meanings and contexts. In this case Kasab’s hanging raises more questions than it answers. It certainly has not brought about that closure that we so desperately seek, especially for the families of those who lost their lives.

I had written earlier that the commando operations during the attack left us speechless as we tried to come to terms with the fact that two or three terrorists at any given time can keep 100 or more elite NSG commandos engaged in a fierce gun battle for three days. The intelligence failure on India’s part was of mammoth proportions and though the government claims to have provided a number of dossiers to Pakistan, it has not been able to adequately convince us about how this planned brutality went undetected despite the huge intelligence network and security apparatus. The unease is paramount because we know this attack would not have been possible without the involvement of local people and yet, barring the usual rhetoric of blaming Pakistan entirely, we heard nothing from our government about its own failures or about how it intended to establish Pakistan’s culpability. Moreover, Pakistan continues to publicly declare that India has not been able to provide credible evidence against Hafiz Saeed, the LeT founder who masterminded and motivated these young men to wage the war on India.

Indian Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid, brags in the media that his government has upheld the ‘rule of law’ while Maharashtra Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chavan propounds the virtues of Indian democracy and judicial system where Kasab was given a fair trial unlike what the US did to Osama bin Laden. The enthusiasm that justice has been served is absolutely misplaced because in 4 years since the dastardly attacks, what the government has to show is the hanging of one lone foot-soldier while the masterminds still remain protected and free in Pakistan. Atleast the US got the mastermind in bin Laden. Failure to build an international consensus and use public diplomacy to put pressure on Pakistan to respond to the dossiers is regrettable. That, the Congress party facing a no confidence motion in parliament in the winter session beginning today is going to gain political mileage out of this execution is not a surprise. Congress has traditionally always followed the path of appeasement, even if it is appeasing the opposition to stay in power. There are many other cases over which Kasab’s execution was given precedence. The timing of Kasab’s hanging definitely raises questions about its political nature and advantage to the government.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, then Foreign Minister of Pakistan (whose fortunes have changed dramatically since) in a press conference, after the Mumbai attacks brazenly denied Pakistan’s role. He said, ‘Pakistan is a responsible neighbour and a responsible nation’. That ‘responsible nation’ not only denied that Kasab was its citizen initially till media investigations left no doubt, but also steadfastly refused to deliver on the evidence provided. This is despite the fact that Pakistani officials at every opportunity repeat like a mantra, "We are also victims of terrorism". Ajmal Kasab and thousand others like him are doomed in the choices they are forced to make as a heady concoction of poverty and jihadi ideology provides them with a sense of only ‘purpose’ in a rapidly deteriorating state. Not a single day seems to pass without news about militant attacks in Pakistan. While the government seems helpless the opposition is too busy blaming the American drones for every problem faced by the country. According to Pakistani media reports, police in Peshawar defused a suicide bomb vest on a 13 year old boy on November 20th, 2012. The boy said that he was forced to carry out the attack on a fuel station. On November 21st, 2012 two Shia Imambarahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi were attacked by suicide bombers and a number of people have been killed and injured.

The control of the madrasas and education that fans fundamentalism has only increased in a state that never tires of projecting itself as a victim of terrorism. There seems to be a never ending supply of the young who value death over life. The hanging of one Kasab will produce many others and there is no doubt that a new plan is being hatched somewhere for another war in which the Kasabs and those they kill are mere sacrificial lambs. These young men deserve a life of dignity and not violent death and gallows. Not taking action against masterminds and supporting the jihadi mindset in the name of freedom struggle in Kashmir or elsewhere makes Pakistan absolutely culpable in the murder of these men. Kasab apparently begged for mercy according to Indian media reports. That mercy has to come from Pakistan for thousands of Kasabs recruited by the JUD/LeT and other militant groups whose only ideology is to kill. It is justified to feel enraged at those who sent him, trained him and who continue to enjoy freedom and political protection in Pakistan. Kasab was only a foot-soldier who died because Hafiz Saeed wanted it. Justice has not been served.

Ajmal Amir Kasab’s execution also comes at a time when India voted against the UN General Assembly resolution banning death penalty earlier this week. India was among the 39 countries that voted against the draft resolution arguing that every nation had the "sovereign right" to determine its own legal system. India’s capital punishment is reserved for the 'rarest of the rare' cases and the Mumbai attacks certainly fit the category. Many peaceniks and left activists have argued that the President of India failed to show mercy, for mercy is reserved for the unpardonable of crimes. I have not resolved that conflict about capital punishment and would not condemn either side. It is reflective of these times when not only has death become a daily occurrence and a matter of celebration but that life has become invaluable, and life is privileged like never before. We avail of every moral, ethical, cultural, political framework and technological/scientific tool to prolong life and bask in its experiences. When you brutally terminate not one but 166 lives who have not directly harmed you in any way, justice according to many, may seem possible only when you forfeit your right to life. K. Unnikrishnan, father of NSG commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan who was slain in the Mumbai attack, has said that Kasab‘s execution is not a matter to “rejoice over,” but a “legal necessity.”

In his confessions, the videos of which are available on youtube, Kasab talked about his poverty and the promises of a life of fame, dignity and money that drew him to jihad. He appeared neither well versed with his religion nor was able to use religious vocabulary to justify his actions. Yes, he made the choices he did and it is true that not everyone who is poor takes to terrorism. In that Ajmal Amir Kasab was prepared for the end he met, even if it came 4 years later than he expected. For those rejoicing, actor Ashish Chowdhry’s words, whose sister and brother-in-law were killed in the Mumbai attack, might offer a moment of introspection. "Why should I rejoice Kasab's death? I will rejoice when little innocent children will stop being taught to kill in the name of god and religion; In these four years of awaiting and looking upon Kasab's sentence, I can bet lakhs of new Kasab's were born. Problem lies there. Rejoice when that stops." Kasab’s story will soon be forgotten in bigger rejoicing over the India-Pakistan cricket match series to be played in December this year.

With the rest of India I grieved much over the Mumbai attacks as over other acts of violence. Justice cannot be selective and if there are questions being raised about riots, killings in India that have gone unpunished, despite evidence available, they are important questions. With Kasab being hanged we have satisfied revenge, but not justice. Rejoicing will look humane and legitimate only when all masterminds and perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks are brought to justice but also those who have killed elsewhere in India, in the name of religion and ideology.

Dr. Swati Parashar is a lecturer in International Studies at the Faculty of Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. Her research, publications and teaching focus on terrorism and security studies; feminist international relations; and women, gender and political violence. She can be contacted at

Monday, 18 June 2012

Letter to a 'secular' friend

Dear 'secular' friend

I have been debating about religion most intensely with a variety of people recently including you. Casteist and Religious Hindus, Secular Muslims, Religious Islamists, Agnostic Hindus, Believing Christians, Agnostic Buddhists, Atheists, Spiritualists have all had something interesting to say and I have learnt a lot. I am not sure where I can categorise you. You are an atheist always preaching to me the harmful effects of Hinduism and the benevolence of Buddhism. Does that make you a Buddhist-atheist or atheist-Buddhist? You know best. I finally had time today to give words to my overwhelming feelings of despair whenever we have argued. I am not hoping to ‘convert’ you to my ideas. Merely hoping that you will see reason in my anxiety and that you will spend some time thinking about your own positions. I do that very often. I am never ashamed to admit that I could be wrong and unlike you I am not fixated on an ‘ism’ (in your case secular-ism) that only fences the terrain of thought than opening up spaces for critical enquiry. For me nothing is so sacred that it cannot be critiqued. For you, your secularism seems to be.

As you are aware, I visit the Helensburgh Hindu Temple in Sydney sometimes and also visited the Buddhist Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong recently. In India, have found myself fascinated by the Sufi dargahs and was lucky enough to visit Ajmer Sharif once. Hazrat Nizamuddin's shrine was a regular place of visit in Delhi. Have paid obeisance at the Golden temple in Amritsar, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, at the Sai darbar in Shirdi, at various historical Churches in Europe/Australia etc. I went to a Catholic school and my first academic job was in Catholic Ireland. I have admired the Yogoda teachings of Paramhansa Yoganand and his prayer to 'saints of all religions'. I have tried (unsuccessfully so far) to understand the vision of Swami Vivekananda and the divine consciousness of his Guru, Shri Ramakrishna. Meerabai and Kabir mess up my understanding of the world and what it offers. Guru Gobind Singh’s letter to God (mitre piyare nu), move me to tears as does Allama Iqbal’s shiqwa, jawab-e-shiqwa. However, my own relationship (or not) with the divine is not what I want to write about today but about the notion of 'secularism' that some people, including you, espouse that must actually privilege one religious belief over the other and must necessarily involve ridiculing one faith over others.

Let me start with the assumption that as a feminist, there is no doubt in my mind that ALL religions are rooted in patriarchal traditions and the deities, prophets, holy books, scriptures, rituals are deeply gendered. But this assumption alone cannot wish away the debate about religion and its importance in people’s lives. By religion, let me clarify, I mean its manifestation in popular culture and in ‘everyday’ life. In South Asia, it doesn't matter if you are a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, you cannot be secular without also being religious and might I add, you cannot be truly religious, without being secular. Very often religious traditions, loosely defined, decide something as intimate as your diet, your expressions of grief or celebration. You have always taken pains to explain to me that Hinduism was the root of all problems in India, as caste was an issue that came with it. Perhaps. But it is also not irrelevant that I know many religious Hindus who do not believe in their caste, whose families have a long tradition of inter-caste/inter religious marriages and who are simply not obsessed with the idea of their surnames and the privileges (or not) it brings. I also know of Hindus who have struggled at a personal level to fight the inhumanity of caste practices. They may or may not choose to call themselves Hindus and that is not so relevant. That caste is not a Hindu idea of racial superiority alone, was also easily demonstrated in an encounter with a very well-known public figure in Kashmir whose first remark to me, when we met, was that he was a true "Qureshi". Not to mention that many Churches in India have had issues with allowing ‘dalit’ Christians from entering their premises. I am happy to elaborate further if you think it necessary. Your intelligent mind knows what I am talking about here. Exclusions are part of every society and the struggle for equality and dignity cannot be the struggle against Hinduism, I am afraid.

So back to what you, dear ‘secular’ friend have to say about Hinduism. You always argue in the end that conversion out of Hinduism is essential to end caste based discrimination. Really, is it that simple? I was born into a Hindu family and do not think I have fully understood even a miniscule percentage of the paradoxes of one of the world's oldest religion. I have questioned many patriarchal practices of this religion, even at the cost of some valuable relationships. Critique has come very naturally perhaps in a polytheistic faith where there have been multiple gods and goddesses and a variety of traditions often contradictory in nature. Hence accepting any one version of Hinduism, including that which suggests that caste violence is its ONLY reality is out of the question. (Please do not jump to conclusion that I am suggesting that caste violence is not rooted in Hindu traditions. Far from it. Hinduism is as patriarchal, feudal and exclusive as any other faith in this world). But if the right wing version of Hinduism and its dominant narrative of Ram janambhoomi was/is unacceptable to me, your narrative I reject.) Ram was not the presiding deity in my grandmother’s little temple and in Mithila, we pay attention to Sita’s story anyways. I grew up in a strong ‘Shakt’ tradition where the Goddesses were invoked and worshipped, but in a highly patriarchal social system that had otherwise little value for girls or women. That is how complicated ones relationship with religion and popular culture can be.

The inspiration for several art forms, music, dance, literature, paintings….Hinduism has evolved into a melting pot of culture, traditions (good and harmful). Surely a lot of this cannot be serving a communal agenda alone? Did you know that all great non Hindu artists (and I actually believe that artists are not rooted in any one religious tradition but since you insist on using labels freely) invoke Goddess Saraswati in their music? Did you also know that Pandit Jasraj invokes "meherban Allah" like no Mullah I have ever heard? Does your conversion logic also include doing away with every Hindu cultural symbolism anywhere? What does conversion mean anyway? Worshipping a different external God, believing in a different prophet, practising a different set of rituals, saying different set of prayers perhaps in a different language? I doubt you need to be reminded that this can never solve the problem of discriminatory practices that have evolved over a period of time. You want to make me believe one set of gods and prophets are better than the others. I say, they are all the same. Every religion can either be that benign source of inspiration and creativity or can destroy people and peace equally.

Dear 'secular' friend, just as all Islam is NOT fundamentalism/terrorism, all Hinduism is NOT communalism and Buddhism is NOT all equality, as you keep reminding me every time we have a conversation. This is weird because you are an atheist and any organised religion should be a problem for you. Might I remind you that Buddha himself was a patriarchal figure who had to be convinced to allow women into the sangha but not without several conditions that he imposed. Do I need to remind you of the consequences of political Buddhism in Sri Lanka? I often invoke this example in my classroom to make students think beyond ‘political Islam’ (which is a favourite topic everywhere these days!) As my wise mother whose long time wish has been to visit Bodh Gaya, once sagaciously remarked, "I don't understand this saint called Buddha. If I had the option to leave my family and become enlightened, I would have certainly been a success....but your father wouldn't have it that way." I laughed but my mother still wants to visit Bodh Gaya, to pay homage to the spirituality within her than to Buddha himself. She is not deluded into thinking that Buddha will solve all her problems. Your secularism, on the contrary, makes you delusional on many fronts.

Dear 'secular' friend, I love to hear MS Subbalakshmi singing praises of Lord Vishnu (yes a patriarchal God who has his consort at his feet!). I love Rafi sa'ab's divine voice calling out for "Hari darshan" or asking Krishna to fulfil his promise in the Gita when he sings “badi der bhayi Nandlala”, or reminding with all serenity, “sukh ke sab saathi, dukh mein na koi”. I feel emotional hearing Yesudas sing praises of Krishna as Lord Ayyapan (did you know that the temple in Kerala that plays his devotional songs would not still in 2012, allow him to enter the premises because he is a non Hindu?). I feel much moved everytime I play Mukesh's rendition of the Ramcharitmanas or Pandit Chhannulal Mishra narrating "Kevat Samvad" from Tulsidas' masterpiece where the boat rower (kevat) reminds Lord Ram that they belong to the same caste and hence he can't charge the Lord any fee for taking him across. He takes people across the earthly waters, and his Lord Ram across the cosmic waters and he wants the Lord to be true to a caste friend and not make him pay at the shores of the vast cosmic ocean which he must cross in his spiritual journey.

Dear 'secular' friend, I am very tired of your fanatic secularism, which has a very narrow understanding of religion. What bothers me is that you hail my knowledge of Sufi songs, my understanding of ‘other’ religions (as you see it) but make it a point to remind me every time that anything remotely 'Hindu' just uncritically becomes communal, casteist, gendered, feudal, homophobic and everything else you want it to be. As an Indian yourself (I assume you do not want to be reminded of the significance of your Hindu name?) I am amazed at your understanding and level of discourse. Please allow some self-reflection, some real tolerance to prevail and your prejudices to dissolve. It can be really liberating.

This is not meant to be a 'defence of Hinduism' article. No one knows my relationship with Hinduism's patriarchal legacy better than yourself and the prices I have paid for it. Religion is a very complex matter, my friend and in this techno-material age easy categories are not helpful. Easy labels are alienating people, breeding intolerance. Islamophobia is a reality as you and I truly believe in and we have seen the pernicious politics behind it. You are contributing to what I call 'Hinduphobia'. Why not instead, promote better understanding of faiths and practices than continuously churn out half informed ideas in the name of secularism? Fear mongering about religions in these deeply troubled times is not progressive politics of tolerance and critique. Let me conclude with a note of caution. You and your cohorts are empowering the Hindu right wing fanatics whose main argument has always been that those who malign Hinduism have never tried to understand it.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Flags, Flutter and Foul

Yesterday was marked as Australia Day. Australian flags were brought out everywhere as children waved them and cars and buildings flaunted them. If that wasn't enough the beaches were flooded with flag bikinis and briefs and even slippers (much to the horror of some Indians who would go to the courts if they saw their national flag on a chappal!:)) It seemed like a big occasion celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm. But what exactly was being celebrated? Australia Day is not about autonomy or constitutional empowerment or sovereignty. It marks a day when the first fleet from Britain landed in Sydney and this island of aboriginal people was claimed as British territory, with British sovereignty firmly entrenched. What followed the landing of the fleet was annihilation of the aboriginal people slowly and steadily over a 100 years. Many enlightened Australians (like one of my colleagues said the other day) mark this as Invasion Day. There is nothing to celebrate, is there? While it is true that subsequent generations cannot be held accountable for what their ancesstors did, surely a more sensitive understanding of history would imply atleast a recognition of any nation's embarrassing moments? Public apologies would be nice and communities can come together to officially remember the ills/evils of the past, children can be educated about their history and public debate can be held. Remembering a troubled past can be cathartic and a country can feel proud that they have moved on.

Instead of any of this, we end up celebrating occasions that we never even think about or care to find out more. Australia Day, becomes a flag waving, beach and barbeque day, bereft of any public debate about its real significance to the thousands of aboriginal people, who continue to languish, whose death rates are appallingly high, who remain in unlawful detentions and whose living conditions are worse than many third world inhabitants. I would love to do a survey to find out what majority of Australian youth think about this day anyways and what history they are taught. I am not making this point only in reference to Australia. Every nation has brutal histories that it should rethink how it marks. In South Asia, wouldn't it be nice if we had Pakistanis marking Bangladesh invasion day, India marking communal riots day (Godhara and Gujarat), Sri Lankan state officially remembering the anti Tamil riots of 1984. Real reconciliation with brutal histories can begin only when the brutality is recognised and not when nations continue to live in denial.

Australia Day celebrations in Canberra were marred by aboriginal protestors who targetted a gathering where PM Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbot were present. Gillard and Abbot were shown on TV, being shoved into a car by the PM's security and then driven off. The PM lost her shoe and was dragged to the car by security officials who were ensuring the protestors didn't get to her. She later said she was fine and it was sad that the event was disrupted. My first thoughts were that it was not funny to see the PM being 'protected' by her security men who dragged her and shoved her into the car. Is this the training the Aussie security has to protect their public figures from mob violence? It was utterly ridiculous. My next question was, if it was Tony Abbot, would he come to Julia's rescue as she came to his? (wink). Afterall the protestors were targetting him and not the PM. And thirdly, again I wondered why the pseudo event was so important to the PM than actually addressing the gathered aboriginal people or mark the day with some gesture of reconciliation. There was a message in it though for shoe throwing individuals everywhere in the world. In this case, the protestors got her shoe instead!! The PM's rescue has made media headlines worldwide and the story of how celebrations on Australia Day were marred has caused flutter in many circles, with people referring to it as the day of shame. Lajja, really? 'Shame' is when a few aboriginal protestors disrupt the official party of the PM? ah well...

This country has a great cricketing heritage but yesterday was a day of foul play, it seems. The match between India and Australia, being played at the Adelaide Oval, had the brightest moment ever for Indian cricket fans this summer when young Virat Kohli hit a brilliant century...majestic and thoroughbred. But the onfield tactics were dominated by sledging by both sides. Ofcourse, the Aussie cricketers are masters of that art, piling verbal abuses at any opposition, racist, sexist and all that. They hunt in packs. So if one guy has a bit of chat with the opposition, the rest gather and cheer him on as if its an achievement. We saw this yesterday with Nathan Lyon clapping away when Warner, Cowan were having a go at Kohli. Disgusting. And when Kohli and Sharma decided to return their verbal volleys, that elderly gent, Ricky Ponting decided to play Ban Ki Moon and intervened by dragging Kohli away and reminding him that if he said anything, he would get into trouble. Such has been the story that Aussies have gotten away with any kind of verbal sledge while any team that has tried to compete in that category has had to face music. So Andrew Symmonds being called a monkey was a national outrage in Australia (hypocrisy?), and when Bhajji got away with it (if at all?) they termed it BCCI bullying. They dish out the choicest of ridicule and abuses to opponents and when get sledged in return, cry outrage and BCCI bullying. For those of us who hate the BCCI, that's one good thing it seems to have done...established itself as the bully! So, Ponting intervened and instead of counselling his guys, he was offering advise to Kohli. As we say in Hindi: hazaar (in his case not nau sau) choohe khake billi haj ko chali. (after devouring 1000 rats, the cat's on a pilgrimage). ha ha.

I would not condone the sledging tactics deployed by the younger generation of Indian players even if they merely return the verbal compliments of their opponents. But cricket is a game between bat and ball and it is a very intelligent game. Australians' mental disintegration or sledging or banter that they proudly claim as part of the game is utterly ridiculous and disgusting and ICC should come down heavily on any kind of on field chit chat by anyone. Moreover, everyone knows Australian's sledge more when they are frustrated. The message: if you can't bat or bowl well, or the opposition is walking away with the advantage, sledge. Fair game? They have been pretty quiet all summer coz they have been winning but yesterday when things started looking good for Kohli, the sledge contest began. If we can't win fairly, sledging is fine! We should then have matches where no cricket is played and 11 players from each team can participate in a game of abuses to see which team is more offensive. Imagine, spectators paying for a game where abusing the opponent is integral to winning. Aussie way?

Australian criketers do not stop sledging even once they retire. The legendary fast bowler, Rodney Hogg yesterday decided to win the sledge contest by tweeting slur on Muslims. He wrote, "Just put out my aussie flag for Australia Day but I wasn't sure if it would offend Muslims . . . So I wrote 'Allah is a shit' on it to make sure,". He apologised later and said this was Aussie bad humour. Fantastic, say anything shit and then say its bad humour. Humour must take the toll here. Hogg is a public figure and surely he didn't write anything that he didn't mean? He wasn't using twitter for the first time and ofcourse what he wrote came to his bigotted, lunatic mind. He isn't the first Australian cricketer to do this either. Remember Dean Jones, calling South African Muslim batsman Hashim Amla, a terrorist in a live cricket commentary? He apologised later to Amla by saying something like, "Sorry mate, that wasn't supposed to come out on telly." Meaning clearly that he wasn't sorry for what he said, only sorry that so many people knew! I wonder why Indian Muslims do not get agitated at this racist moron, hired by Indian TV channels to talk about cricket as Prof. Dino. His sight doesn't offend people, and Salman Rushdie's does? Sometimes, one must concede, people don't think, they simply act. Thankfully true revolutions happen only when people think through their actions.

So, Mr. Hogg, "corporate speaker, legendary fast bowler, cricket commentator, author, respected public figure, perhaps always a bigot, racist creep etc. etc." has apologised. Media reported his tweet as upsetting 'Muslims'. Really? Shouldn't all of Australia have been shamed by this, outraged by this offensive tweet? The PM felt sad when the Australia day function was disrupted. Maybe she should feel worse that a public figure tweeted this. As for media that is portraying yesterdays aboriginal protest fiasco in Canberra as national shame, they should declare Mr. Hogg a national disgrace who has shamed the evolving multicultural identity and ethos of this country. Hogg's autobiography is titled: The Whole Hogg: Inside the mind of a lunatic fast bowler. I cannot recall getting insights about just how lunatic his mind is!

Meanwhile, it is the fourth day at Adelaide Oval and looks unlikely, India will save this match. Dismal summer and disppointing times for Indian cricket fans. Will rant about this again, but for now, Saurav Ganguly is annoying me. Such a petty, petty man who is venting his jealousy and frustration at the trio. Ofcourse they should be criticised, but Ganguly's agenda is singular, to target Dravid, VVS and Sachin and keep ranting about how useless they are. Dada, your ouster was painful to you when these guys are still playing and we understand/empathise but please maintain some dignity. Ah, do you have any left after pleading with IPL franchisees to hire you at any cost? You were more often than not, a liability, as a fielder and as a as a commentator. You were the kind of captain who is the first to abandon a sinking ship. Wriddhiman Saha is a good batsman with lots to prove, and he isn't the 'best' wicketkeeper in India, only because he comes from Bengal! Dada, please have your maachh-bhaat and relax. You have served Indian cricket well, but your opinions are sad...atleast mask your personal vendetta. Sunil Gavaskar, among several others, is also criticizing the team but he has more insight and I guess authority?

In all this discussion, I forgot to mention about our very own Indian Republic Day, and the deshbhakti songs in full swing. Perhaps for another time. At the Adelaide Oval, the Indian guy who sang the national anthem, messed up his lines. That was bad omen methinks....:) Amar rahe humara gantantra. Atleast that's something to be proud of despite the dismal summer of cricket. :)

More soon...till then, hoton pe sachchai rehti hai, jahan dil mein safai rehti hai. Hum us desh ke wasi hain, jis desh mein ganga behti hai...:)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Lamentable Loss

The third test match between India and Australia ended at the WACA today. Just 2 and a half days of cricket and Indians are ground to dust. It seems to most of us that Team India is saving its worst for the last match at Adelaide because each performance is worse than the previous one. If you thought 191 at SCG was a pathetic first inning score, they made 161 at Perth. An innings defeat again at Perth and abject humiliation as the match did not even last 3 full days, thanks to dismal Indian batting in both innings.

One can argue that it was expected, but the scale of it is shocking. I am very sad indeed because I know this match has spelt doom for my favorite VVS Laxman. I know for sure, that he will be shown the door in the next match, making way for Rohit. A ray of hope comes as Dhoni is banned for the next match, thanks to his two over over rate in this one. Would the selectors make three changes for Adelaide? Saha will replace Dhoni as wicket-keeper and Vinay Kumar will have to give way to either Ashwin or Ojha. Will Rohit come in at the expense of VVS? Maybe, and it might be good to have a young player. I do not know how much of Rohit's test talent Ian Chapell has seen, but fact is he hasn't played any international test and his ODI record doesn't impress me either. We are often told IPL has brought several new talents in Indian cricket to the fore. I am sorry, I do not recognise any of the IPL talents as good enough to play tests, leave alone performing well in them. So Rohit is not my favorite cricketer. I must however say, that Kohli's attitute annoys me but he definitely showed promise today. Batted an entire session even though wickets kept tumbling at the other end. His shots are good, plays close to the body, leaves the unplayable balls, defends well and has a range of strokes. I think he is a 'lambi race ka ghoda'...He will do well.

So, there's much speculation about why India lost so badly. Dhoni said it was the batting because the bowlers did get 10 wickets in less than 2 sessions yesterday. yes, ofcourse the batting has been appalling. Lack of application. Gambhir, Sehwag, Laxman gifted their wickets, Tendulkar's was earned and Dravid was bowled again.It was sad to see Dravid struggling. His footwork and reflexes were definitely one of a 39 year old. The most anguish I felt was when Dhoni edged it in the slips. It was as if he had planned to. His captaincy is not any better than his batting. The way he rotated his bowlers and set up fielding somehow felt very fishy, almost as if BCCI had paid him to underperform, so that test cricket is decimated in India. Very unlike Dhoni and very fishy. So when he came armed with that famous captain cool grin for the post match press conference, you wanted to ask him to wipe it off. And now he must be relieved he will not captain India through the grand finale of humiliation at Adelaide.

The one thing that the Indian fans and media are not talking about is how the IPL has ruined test cricket. BCCI has already announced the IPL teams for the new season in the midst of this important international tour and there seems to be no outrage on this. IPL should have been for the retired players, but its become the main tournament for current and future players, run by the most corrupt BCCI that is minting money out of this. Imagine that BCCI officials have direct financial stakes in the IPL franchises. And, that odious Rajeev Shukla, BCCI VP will perhaps say that India losing is a good thing for Australian cricket! He said that about India losing 4 nil in England. Not only is he BCCI VP, and UPCB honorary secretary but have just discovered, he is a govt. nominee in the DDCA along with another parliamentarian, Navin Jindal. This man, whose rise to power has not been surprising given he is a political middle man, a creep of the highest order with friends in high places, he controls the cricket board. He strutts around making statements on Indian cricket and cricketers....which is a higher insult to the players than losing a match. Just looked at his website, this creep has his badges and passes as a BCCI official scanned and uploaded!!!! Check it out... In India, politicians and celebrities are so in love with themselves!

and how I feel about Sharad Pawar being ICC president? that will be a rant sesison for another time...Sharad Pawar? huh? In India to be a politician, you just need to be a creep. Many people including Gavaskar are saying that we need to relook at the pitches in India. BCCI is making billions and it's not such a tough job to get new pitches that help the fast bowlers...pitches that we see in SA, Australia. Is it so unreasonable to demand good grounds, good facilities for both players and spectators? If cricket is the only game we are remotely good at, to compete at the world level, how much do we spend on improving the level of skill in this sport? none! Can you imagine the schedule of these players, bullied by the BCCI to play IPL for two good months in the year? injuries are common and the technique never develops. Frankly those who like the game know, there is no fun watching sixes being hammered left and right. There is fun in watching a tough contest between bat and ball. Hostile bowling and batting that toughs it out. Remember Sachin's century in South Africa against Dale Steyn's darting/snaky spells in 2010? Thats the kind of test cricket that is superb.

and while we rant about Team India's dismal performance, I am not so sure the Aussies should be celebrating hard. Barring Warner and Cowan who were firing against an insipid attack, the rest of the team collapsed quickly. Ponting's dismissal was 3 times uglier than Dravid's as Yadav managed to remove his middle stump. ughhh. and the high point was Haddin's dismissal by Zaheer on some Aussie fan wrote on cricinfo... Haddin can't bat, can't keep and can't sledge! hahaha. Hussey, Marsh and Clarke himself looked very uncomfortable and did not make good scores. Aussie bowling is top class but their best scorerer in a test is a T 20 import, Dave Warner, they have some serious batting issues that they need to address without getting too euphoric about scoring runs against a poor Indian bowling side. They have had batting collapses of mammoth proportions in recent times, including 47 all out in SA. I cant even begin to imagine what Tremlett and Anderson would do to the likes of Warner and other struggling Aussie batsmen when they tour England. So while victory against any opposition is sweet, Aussies are far from being a world beating side. At this point England and South Africa have a more balanced team.

Well, I have to admit, it was disappointing today because at one point I thought an innings defeat would be avoided. Alas. I am not sure I want to follow Indian cricket anymore for a while and am eagerly waiting for the Pak-England series. Anyone who watches IPL or argues about its merits is a partner in crime, for decimating Indian test cricket. We shouldn't even feel good if we do well in the ODIs here. In 2008 we lost with dignity and Kumble's not every talented team fought hard after the MCG loss. Captain Cool Dhoni's experienced team has meekly surrendered to an inexperienced Aussie side. Its such a shame to go down without a fight. Thats not what cricket stands for. Its a sport thats all about character, courage and fortitude...there were days when batsmen like Gavaskar, Richards faced the fast bowling of Lillee, Walsh, Roberts etc without a helmet! Hard to imagine as it would take a lot of guts. The game has changed now and players have more protection, surely not because they can meekly surrender.

Cricketers are humans yes, but they are also professionals who are paid to perform their best. they are paid millions today and earn so much more through sponsorships, endorsements etc. It is not unfair for fans to expect that these professionals will give their best to the sport. The logic is simple, when you are paid to do the job, you must do it...or you are fired. The bonus is its a job they like, and a job they choose early in their lives. I pay more than 100 AUD for every day ticket to the ground and see my team go down like a pack of cards. I am happy to respect the players, but as a fan, I deserve respect too! Dravid talked about respecting the fan in his Bradman Oration before the start of the series and then forgot about it each time he went to bat.

So my final message for Team India. Please respect your fans and apply yourselves. Its not about winning or losing, but about how you approach the game. You guys have been shamelessly dismal....If they cannot salvage any pride at Adelaide, this team's test status should definitely be revoked!

more again disappointed, sad...and now sleepy!