Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whose Honor Is It Any Way?

To be young and in love has proved to be fatal for many in parts of north India. The increasingly bigoted society refuses to accept violation of its rigid code of decorum, when it comes to women. While surfing net on the issue I come across tons of data full of horrors and bestiality of egocentric societies.

It makes head hang in shame and is utterly nauseating:

· Central to the theme of honor and violence is the subordinate position of girls and women in all castes and communities.

· A woman's chastity is the "honor" of the community

· The acts of violence include public lynching of couples, murder of either the man or the woman concerned, murder made to appear as suicide, public beatings, humiliation, blackening of the face, forcing couples or their families to eat excreta or drink urine, forced incarceration, social boycotts and the levying of fines.

· One reason for the increased visibility of such crimes is the trend of more and more girls joining educational institutions, meeting others from different backgrounds and castes and establishing relationships beyond the confines of caste and community. Such individuals, both boys and girls, are being targeted so that none dares to breach the barriers of castes and communities.

· Caste panchayats have come to play an increasingly important role in Haryana and elsewhere, especially in situations where political patronage also exists.

· Honor killing is a long prevalent problem of egocentric society

Honor Killings in Irving, USA:

The sisters, 17-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Amina Said, were killed on New Year's Day by their father them because they were dating non-Muslim boys and acting too Western.

Honor Killing in Denmark:

The Dark Ages come to Denmark in broad daylight, as a Pakistani man murders his sister in a public street. Calmly and methodically, big brother stoops over his little sister while shooting one projectile after the other into her. Her spouse, affected by several shots to the abdomen, can only look on helplessly, while his wife is executed by her own family.

Horrific Incident in Pakistan:-

Ghazala was set on fire by her brother in Joharabad, Punjab province, on 6 January 1999. According to reports, she was murdered because her family suspected she was having an 'illicit' relationship with a neighbor. Her burned and naked body reportedly lay unattended on the street for two hours as nobody wanted to have anything to do with it. Ghazala was burned to death in the name of honor. Hundreds of other women and girls suffer a similar fate every year amid general public support and little or no action by the authorities. In fact, there is every sign that the number of honor killings is on the rise as the perception of what constitutes honor -- and what damages it -- widens, and as more murders take on the guise of honor killings on the correct assumption that they are rarely punished.

Indian Scenario:
The largest number of cases have occurred in northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh - most of the incidents reported at the convention took place in these three States.

Significantly, in the majority of cases it is the economically and socially dominant castes that organize, instigate and abet such acts of retribution.

“Honor-killings", which are widespread in economically advanced States of Haryana and Punjab, accounting for 10 per cent of all honor killings in the country. It is not surprising that no such category of crime exists in government records. In fact, there is refusal even to recognize this phenomenon. is an example. Perpetrated under the garb of saving the "honor" of the community, caste or family, such incidents occur often as the State governments are not keen to take action.


Poonam was bundled into a waiting jeep on Thursday night and thrown into the Rajasthan canal by her father and six other male members of her Jat family because she wouldn't let go of Mukhram, a young Dalit boy. But the feisty 19-year-old survived drowning, in what would probably have been the umpteenth honor killing in Haryana, to fight back and charge her relatives with attempted murder. But only did she swam to safety, battling her way to the bank of the canal near Tibbi, a settlement on the Rajasthan border, but also approached the police to demand justice. Confirming Poonam's story, SHO Anil Kumar said, "On Friday, a case was registered against the seven accused under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 364 (abduction with intention to kill) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. All of them are absconding and we are looking for them."

On September 22, members of the Gujjar community in Rajasthan’s Dausa district called a ‘maha panchayat’ to protest the arrest of the killers of a young Gujjar girl who had been murdered, allegedly, to protect her family’s ‘honour’. Fifteen-year-old Neelam’s father, uncle and grandfather are alleged to have murdered the teenager to avenge the slight to their honour by the girl’s elopement with a dalit boy. The Gujjars belong to the category ‘other backward castes’, which is higher in the country’s caste hierarchy than the Bairwa caste to which her dalit husband belonged. Although members of Neelam’s family reportedly confessed, during police interrogation, that it had been an ‘honour killing’, the community panchayat says they will launch an agitation against the arrests. Indeed, in the teenager’s village of Shahadpur there is widespread condemnation of the arrests and anger against women’s right groups that have protested against the girl’s killing.

In Muzaffarnagar district in western Uttar Pradesh, at least 13 honor killings occurred within nine months in 2003. In 2002, while 10 such killings were reported, 35 couples were declared missing. Data for such incidents are seldom available and they would mostly be classified under the category of general crimes. Moreover, most of such cases go unreported and, even when reported, often first information reports [2] are not filed and post-mortems are not conducted.

Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, mostly committed by male family members predominantly against female [relatives] , who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by individuals within her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband, or (allegedly) committing adultery .The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a specific way to "dishonor" her family, is sufficient to trigger an attack.[1]

For example, honor killings can sometimes target those who choose boyfriends, lovers or spouses outside of their family's ethnic and/or religious community. Some women who adopt the customs (or religion) of an outside group, may also be more likely to be victims. Furthermore, in certain cultures a raped single woman will garner no bride price if she marries, and thus be considered "worthless" to the family. There is some evidence that homosexuality can also be grounds for honor killing by relatives. Several cases have been suspected but not confirmed. There is also a documented case of a gay Jordanian man who was shot (but not fatally) by his brother.

Many hold the practice to be self-contradictory, since an honor killing is sometimes justified by its participants or supporters, as an attempt to uphold the morals of a religion or a code, which at the same time generally forbids killing as morally wrong.

Countries that allow men to kill female relatives in flagrante delicto (but without premeditation) include:

Syria, Morocco, Haiti and Turkey: Recently Turkey changed its laws concerning honor killings. Persons found guilty of this crime are sentenced to life in prison.

In two Latin American countries: Similar laws were struck down over the past two decades: according to human rights lawyer Julie Mertus "in Brazil, until 1991 wife killings were considered to be noncriminal 'honor killings'; in just one year, nearly eight hundred husbands killed their wives. Similarly, in Colombia, until 1980, a husband legally could kill his wife for committing adultery."

Countries where honor killing is not legal but is frequently ignored in practice include Indian and Pakistan.


Horrors of The Diwali Night

Two teen aged girls were attached by machetes, axes and stones as soon as they got down from a car on Diwali night.

Still unconscious and alive they were set on fire and burned by group of villagers including their own fathers.

Later their burned out bodies were dumped in cremation ground to fuzz the killings.

And what about their mothers…did they have any say in the matter?

They might have been equally enraged to kill them too….we do not know for sure …but seems like a plausible scenario.

And what were their crimes?

Crime number one..they were girls…born in great India…

Crime two they had been too lucky to escaped death as unburned and born child and lived….

Crime three they went to meet boys…

Is this real dusty India we are so proud off?

The scene could have been depressingly similar in so called urban India…

It happened in Kaluvas village about 3 Km from Bhiwani, Haryana, but could have happened in any village of rich Haryana, Punjab and in poor UP too. As rest of village was lost in cacophony of bursting fire crackers and festivities, some determined men seething with coiling knots of anger awaited in darkness. For them their age old concept of honor was supreme and they killed to save it. The horrendous crime might have gone unnoticed but for one tormenting perpetuator.

Just one more incident of honor killing does not shock us Indians and the fat bellied, rosy cheeked police too sat on it.

How could they have felt and acted differently, seeped in same milieu and weight of biases?

The SP claimed to have received no complain at all.

What else can be expected?

But that repenting perpetuator, a sure out cast now, did spill the beans and the crime come to light after about two weeks of that horrible night.

The Theatre of Tragic Comedies

It was indeed heartening to know that the forthcoming Ravindra Manch Theatre Festival will pay a decent fee of 30000 rupees to the performing groups. It was also assumed that the organizing committee would formulate certain criterion for selection of plays and do the difficult task of taking most of the people along. The majority of the members of the committee are experienced and yet they have failed miserably. When asked how they arrived at decisions with in less than half an hour, they have strange defenses.

The scenario resembles a tragic comedy of errors.

The lord convener is rumored to have arrived in foggy stupor and fails to remember any thing worthwhile. But was aware enough to select a play written by him, already staged by his group espousing cause of revolution and perennial fight against million injustices across the world. The gentleman has made a name for slapping court cases against appointments with out well laid out criteria and those positions still lay vacant. The main reasons for these actions were personal animosities and ideological differences. It is strange to see him indulging in same pathetic practice he was supposed to be against in past. Not so long ago the place was supposed to be going to dogs by actions of the government. Suddenly he did an ideological summersault forgetting the old seething antagonism, joined the bandwagon and started to lord over decrepit Ravindra Manch. Having old friends at powerful positions does help indeed.

One member arrived late and promptly agreed with other members, sparing him of expected tedious deliberations.

Another worthy with ample foresight wisely chose to stay away from impending ugly controversies. Other two members agreed to stage own plays but were thankfully magnanimous enough to gift largess to two others. And Jaipur theatre got five plays out of seven, how that was justified is not clear.

It is sad to witness the shameful conduct of committee members selecting own plays. The fact that nobody differed on an inherently dishonest idea is a matter of greater shame.

Is this the professional theatre, we were so often belittled and mocked at for not having it?

Surprisingly the manager of Ravindra Manch did not make any efforts to stop such grave mistakes being committed and put some semblance of order. Instead she had reported to ask all members to include their own plays and that of an old man who just lobbied so hard. May be the personal friendship of the lord convener with high government officials come in her way. Just another officer appeasing higher ups and not taking a principled stand does not surprise any one now. These are the norms to be followed while waiting for the coveted posting.

The average tenure of the manager at Ravindra Manch is around six months and it has become notorious as a posting of convenience for various reasons. The historic anomaly has been brought to notice of higher ups repeatedly and so far no remedial action has been taken. When an officer if at all about to know the job, the anxiously expected transfer order takes one away from boring lack luster office with its thankless job of dealing with moody and some times agitated artists. It’s indeed a welcome good riddance after few months of recuperating rest.

There has been a sad precedence of members of Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Academy distributing awards between themselves. It was stopped by a court order and later related modifications were made in the guidelines.

For years there have been various attempts to get more governmental funds sanctioned for revival and greater appreciations of efforts involved in theatre productions. But now all that seems to go waste as we witness personal greed overriding larger concerns. The experienced people entrusted with this noble task have proved themselves to be insensitive towards the larger issues involved.

First of all why five plays have been selected from Jaipur alone and on what criterion? Theater groups from other cities should have been given more representation leading to greater interactions between performers along with distribution of funds in a larger way.

But such an exercise could have only been possible after formulation of well thought out objectives of the forthcoming festivals. And that is too much to be expected from people seeped in narrow vision.

Jaipur theatre has been afflicted by deep personal animosities and personality clashes for long. The tradition of meetings for critical assessment and valid criticism so important for fresh creative input are abhorred by most of the directors and actors. At the same time an utterly casual environment is allowed to breed patty differences and jealousies is a matter to be addressed by all involved.

There is a wide spread anger about the shameful spectacle being enacted and the matter seems to heading towards courts. The sorry episode will not bring any glory and the responsibility will rest with the "eminent professionals" at the helms of affairs.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Slandering the Dead

I sat through the latest telecast of “We The People” on NDTV and was amazed at we the people.

The program revolved around “Noida Double Murders”, Police investigations and Media responses to such a sensitive issue.

Few important points observed:

· What ever was discussed with so much of heat was off the mark and they terribly missed the central point.

· Police officers limited them selves to police procedures only.

· Star anchors stood their ground in defense of what great work they did and were noisier than the politicians they try to pacify unsuccessfully so often.

· What was not discussed was far more important than that they did.

· Why and how mindless TRP chasing has reduced them to depth of desperation to score over rivals?

· Why they harp on so much of sleaze to sell time?

· Why they think nothing of slandering a teenager who is no longer in the world to defend her reputation?

· If police is clueless about today’s youth are they any wiser?

· Why did they so shamelessly show imaginary enactment of how the servant and the girl were found by the father, based solely on police lame investigation?

· If the police were clueless did they show they were any better?

· Some even showed imaginary graphics and thought nothing of it.

· Why their well-dressed smart anchors get so gleefully excited while telling about gruesome human tragedies of unfortunate people?

It’s distasteful and nauseating indeed to me and do hope to get reactions of learned people on these matters.

Bomb Blasts & Baazigars

7.30 PM, Jaipur:

First bomb planted by terrorist went of at 7.30 in terribly crowded streets of the Pinkcity and by 8.00 PM nine blasts have spilled blood of hundreds of innocent people.

About eighty people have died and above two hundred injured lay crying in hospitals.

8.00 PM, Kolkata

Cricket match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Dare Devils has began.

Kolkata Knight Rider’s owner Shahrukh was present. His team won the game and he danced at the victory of his team.

He had millions reasons to dance and no even one reason to show concerns for ordinary people who go mad to have a look at their idol.

Well the cricket match was planned long back and couldn’t have been cancelled.

That is reasonable but look at horrors of seeing cheers girls dancing in Kolkata as Jaipur lay bleeding. Some would say that cheer girls are paid to dance and they did their job.

Die-hard Shahrukh fans will opine that he is a very busy man and he couldn’t have known about the horrific events folding in distance Jaipur.

Now it looks increasingly impossible to look for such elusive sensitivities from our icons.

He perhaps was so terribly focused with his maniacal concentration looking forward to a win, he lost contact with others thing.

Like the modern day Arjun he focused all his energies on the cricket match.

In today’s connected world it unacceptable and unthinkable that he, his staff or his resourceful associates didn’t know of the horrific bomb blasts.

It’s horrendous to know that no body bothered to suggest to tone down the victory celebrations and display concerns of those dead and wounded as result of a terrorists attack.

At least it was expected that he could have avoided dancing at the end of match and have had mourned the terrible event in Jaipur.

Other Baazigars of 100 plus TV channels gleefully continued to beam glamorous advertisements and laughter show promos while continuously reporting the bomb blasts.

It seems that the media is the biggest gainer of natural and unnatural calamities befalling on helpless people.

Well we must by now know that these Bazigars don’t have any sensitivity left along with zero social responsibility.

And to talk about the concept of social responsibility of our icons is perhaps totally insane and useless as they have not heard and/or understood it.

Death Dance & Dog Fights

Hungry dogs fighting for food are a common sight, but why we only crib dogs alone?

What about so-called civilized human beings?

Dogs fight to survive and so do the human beings.

But there is a great difference perhaps between the two and we all know about that too.

Humans not only fight to live but to prosper, get and retain powerful positions

Deaths give great photo ops to our few powerful people who claim to be our leaders. But actually they are followers of diseased interpretations of so called public opinion.

Lip service is great national past time and that is used to shows that they care.

Do they really care?

Well they have to show up or news hounds will question them. Media propels them to descend on accident sites and hospitals.

They smell vote banks; they faithfully follow the blood trails and land up in strange locations. They are capable of landing up on sun if some hack tells them of good chunk of votes there.

Their hoodlums forcefully take over locations manned by feeble officials.

The faithful officials terribly fear political minions and hoodlums. Those minions and hoodlums might occupy ministerial births one day.

Huge crowds have besieged SMS hospital after blasts in Jaipur. The helpless and harassed friends and relatives of blast victims could be identified by their forlorn vacant looks.

Thousands of bystanders made things too difficult to manage.

Harassed hospital staffs were pushed around and sneered as the young noisy budding politicians assume control. They manned lifts and doors reserved for their beloved leaders. Common men suffered indignities and abuses. Injured waited for drugs and attendants forcibly held out side. What else could they do?

The hospital Superintendent was pushed away, he perhaps would never complain.

What will happen even if he gathered courage to do that?

A police officer on duty was roughened up; he will never say a word.

Hospital was thrown in to known chaotic frenzy but who bothered?

The great Indian political theatre must go on.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

In The Company of Strong Women

“Do you know Indra, why I have four cute sisters?’
She has once asked, it was a usual hot and humid afternoon. They were sitting in his room; the door was left wide open to make them visible to any passerby in the inner gallery. It was advised by Prerna and Indra found it to be very convenient and seemingly acceptable in the building.
It made some knotted souls uncomfortable and they gleefully whispered malicious gossip around. But adventurous Prerna was not perturbed at all and these meetings were held to discuss pressing matters. She could afford to be aloof of such silly concerns. His suggestion to hold such meetings in an aloof, usually deserted restaurant was mercilessly vetoed by her.
Indra couldn’t answer and stared blank at her rarely sad face.
‘Because in those days, they didn’t have that machine.’
‘Machine! What machine?’
‘Oh! You ignorant fool.’ She mocked surprise.
‘Yes.... I don’t have to cram irrelevant shit to pass ……those bloody exams.’
‘I know you love to hear that… want to see others defeated? You people are trained to make common people like me…. feel and think defeated.’
‘I just don’t want to know that. Is that clear, madam?’
Their raised voices attracted attention of an alert Shanno. She lifted the gaudy curtain to make herself visible in her usual finery. Sound of her anklets alerted them to lower their voices. She looked at them with smile and proceeded to hang a towel on the balcony railing. Taking her time, smoothing the wrinkles of the puffy cloth, turning it over many times, her numerous bangles making clinking noises, ears tuned and hungry for any exciting sound bytes. The gang of five was to visit her and watch some exciting film together and indulge in malicious gossip. She was excited by prospects of her tidbit’s being the juiciest. She was a generous host and ladies were addicted to her tasty pakoras and tea. Further her deaf mother in law was greatly envied by all visiting ladies. It gave them freedom to enjoy with video films, loud music and unhindered-uninhibited exchange of notes about vicious mother in laws and their wicked ways. She was envied too for her bulging purse, no kids to look after and a fawning husband. Every night Amma ji only looked forward to count wads of currency notes, brought home by Chouthu. After that she will put money in a hidden locker under her bed and sleep on it. It was rumored to hide a sizable booty in cash and she rarely left it unguarded. More over Shanno was the only house wife in the building to hold a separate bank account, generously funded by her indulgent rich father. It gave her immense standing in the gang. The bewildered gang members were astonished at tales of her premarital raunchy escapades with variety of lusty lovers. They sighed with envy and excitement as she shamelessly unfolded each episode with great explicit details. Some were repeated often on demand, and Shanno too loved to tell a juicy tale.

Prerna silently went on looking at him.
“Ok. I am going...If you don’t want to listen.’ She hissed, her eyes betraying deep feeling of hurt.
‘I am sorry… if you felt that way?’
She turned her eyes away.
“It’s okay…what it is?’ Indra knew there was no escape and he will have to bear burden and listen to her.
'It’s is that sonograph machine……… they now use to detect…’
‘Detect what?’
‘Don’t you know?’
“No! I said I don’t know. Didn’t I?’
‘Sex of the child.’
Indra was silent. Didn’t know what to say and how to sooth her.
‘Oh that?’
She remained silent, her face clouded.
‘You look sad.’
‘Yes I am sad. But do you bother?’ Prerna didn’t look at him.
‘I am sorry.’
“Don’t be, please. Its ok’
Indra avoided her steely eyes.
‘I shudder to imagine, if they had that machine in those times my all sisters might have all been aborted… killed. Why only my sisters! I too might have been sucked out of the womb, bundled and disposed off or thrown some where to be eaten by hungry dogs.’
‘Please Prerna? Why you think of all this?’
She didn’t reply.
‘Lets change the subject…please.’
‘So you don’t want to listen. I am going.’ Prerna got up.
‘No. It’s not that. Please stay…. I mean. Please tell me... and ...unburden your self.’
He waited.
‘I feel bad Indra. ………Being a girl… really bad.’
‘Don’t say that…. And of all the girls you are saying this? I am surprised.’
‘Surprised? Are you…. why?’
Both were silent. It was getting unbearable.
‘Those girls may have been fortunate …they perhaps. Didn’t hear… and if they did… might have not felt as bad as I do. They don’t take these things … the way…. I do.’
‘Please calm down.’
‘ I heard all this... my self.’
‘What? Heard whom?
Prerna remained silence. Indra held her hand and made her sit near him.
Shanno watched them from her vantage position, engrossed in her urgent business of spreading the towel on the rusted railing with great deliberation and expertise, taking her time, craning her long neck to see the unfolding action.
‘Don’t tell me. You mean.... your parents?’
‘Yes.’ Her shaking voice betrayed her practiced self-control and dignified poise.
‘Oh my god...please hold yourself Prerna. You are too strong a girl to take such things to heart. May be they didn’t mean…what you have been thinking.’
‘No. They did exactly say.... just that. It was as clear as a crystal.’
A sense of heavy gloom and helplessness was slowly filling the space.
‘They were discussing the huge finances needed to marry off... all of us...and how unfortunate they are to have five girls…they.... never ever wanted. And how my father went on demanding more commission from contractors and finding more ways to make money for impending marriages involving huge expenses. They were loudly wondering what sin they might have committed to deserve five surely must have been a great sin.’
‘When was it?’ Indra asked cautiously.
Shanno tried hard to catch whispers, but the low voices assured her further of a rumored affair; a promising young woman officer falling for a handsome scoundrel. She sighed with envy, trying hard to decipher the focus of seemingly intensely private lover’s argument.
Her fertile brains raced to decipher meaning in girl’s tense bearings and boy’s alarmed position, and then it hit her surety and prospects she loved. She was sure to score in the ladies gang by divulging the piece of a hottest scoop.
‘It does not matter, when they said it. But the fact is that they did say such things.... and I was unfortunate enough to hear. I.... do.... try hard.... to forget. But those whispering, repenting and angry voices haunt me so often. Hit my self-esteem like a sludge hammer. It's more painful, when they tell me how wonderful they felt when Pintoo was born after five of us. They aborted three unfortunate unwanted girls. Though, I love Pintoo...but some times I see him in a strange way. I can't explain it... I mean...’
‘I know that, Prerna.’
‘So what, if you know?’
‘Please. For gods sake... I mean... I didn’t mean any thing... offending?’
‘I know that you don’t mean any thing.... you never do. You are just listening to what I am saying now, because you don’t have any options. Why should you bother about it...and. if really you do, I suspect its just an idea for you... a good plot... for a new lousy play? You don’t know how I am feeling. How helpless I am... when I go over.... those horrible utterances of my so called loving and caring parents, killers of three unborn babies.'

‘I am sure, she is pregnant.’
‘‘Who is pregnant?’
Shanno looked around at expectant friends. She presided over the afternoon meeting of the ladies in her cool bedroom. They had assembled after finishing the back breaking daily cores and feeding kids returned with heavy bags, fight torn cloths and a bad report card from various schools, befitting the economic standing of each household. Shanno was obviously free of such boring-daunting cores and has planned the news breaking ceremony with due deliberation and care. She has personally informed the gang members to not the miss the session. She gave hints of making an exciting discovery after the persistent investigation expected of her.
“Guess…who is fit to be pregnant?” Shanno winked.
“Well what about you?”
“Oh come on, not so early yaar. Let me have a little more fun, than I too will get in the lousy rut you all are so eager to push me in to.”
Ladies laughed and suggested various names. Shanno smiled and gleefully vetoed them all.
“ One more thing –she is still unmarried.”
A sudden hush fell on the assembled gang. Elder ladies looked at each other’s face to know the dreaded answer. The forty plus ladies of the gang were troubled with a great sense of anxiety to know the girl’s name fast. They were troubled by seemingly strange ways of their own teen-aged daughters.