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Disability, Language, and Empowerment: Dorodi Sharma

February 3, 2016

This is a guest post by DORODI SHARMA

In 2009, as a writer for a disability news portal I got a note back with one of my stories from the director of the organisation. “Suffering from disability”, I had written about someone. The note said “I have been a wheelchair user since the age of 15, and trust me I am not suffering.” Over the years, the first document I shared with new employees of the disability rights organisation I worked for in Delhi was a document on ‘disability etiquette’ that outlined not just terminologies but also the acceptable ways of interacting with people with disabilities. Yes, even in the 21st century we need to coach people on ‘interacting’ with a section of humanity. The discourse on importance of language has taken a new meaning when recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi called people with disabilities ‘divyang’ or people with divine abilities. The reaction to this has been outrage, to shaking of heads, to complete indifference. But it is important to talk about language when it comes to disability because it reeks of charity and reflects the patronizing attitude that prevents people with disabilities in India from getting their due.

Let us be very clear, disability is part of human diversity. Disability is as normal or abnormal as being a man, woman, gay, lesbian, person of colour, or any other variation of being human for that matter. Why then do we look at disability as something that needs to be ‘overcome’? With the proliferation of social media, we are now faced with innumerable ‘inspiration porn’ posts. Yes, inspiration porn. As described by Stella Young, Australian journalist, comedian, and activist – inspiration porn is objectifying people with disabilities for the benefit of non-disabled people. Young said the purpose of these images is to inspire people, to motivate them, so that they can look at them and think “Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person.” Precisely for that reason, people living with a disability are tired (and angry) of all the euphemistic terminologies used about them. No, they are not specially-abled, or differently abled, or ‘divyang’ for that matter. They are persons with disabilities and disability is a crucial part of their identity, just like one’s gender, race, or nationality.

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Missing the Forest for Trees – Caste System’s Shadow on Rohith’s Suicide : Sanjay Kumar

February 3, 2016

Guest Post by Sanjay Kumar

(Photo Courtesy : Prokerala.com)

Mainstream politics over Rohith Vemula’s suicide is becoming hot and ugly. Although whisper campaigns against Rothith’s dalit identity were on since his suicide, the BJP’s central leadership had been relatively quiet after HRD minister’s rather shrieky ‘appeal’ to not play caste politics over his suicide. However, now it seems daggers are out. The party in power, whose two ministers are accused of creating conditions leading to Rohith’s suicide, has decided that Rohith’s non-dalit status is the dog it is going to beat to counter its anti-dalit image. Rohith’s mother is a Mala, a Scheduled Caste, who lives seperately from his father, a backward caste Vaddera. He got an SC certificate on the basis of showing that he grew up in his mother’s Mala household. BJP’s strategy may look petty, but it is based on the age-old great Hindu tradition which can not contenance any violation of the privileges of the patrilineal system. After all, marital rape does enjoy legal sanction in India to this day. Read more…

Why is the World Ignoring Palestine’s ‘Third Intifada’? Shubhda Chaudhary

February 2, 2016

Guest post by SHUBHDA CHAUDHARY

Already ravaged by two political Intifadas in the past, Palestine is now undergoing a third ‘leaderless Intifada’ in West Bank and Gaza. In fact, there is disagreement over whether a leader is even needed. In a striking paradox, several names are being considered for the leadership that does not exist: Jerusalem Intifada, Mass Intifada, Revolutionary Wave and Third Intifada.

Third Palestinian Intifada - On its way or Already Arrived? image courtesy Alwaght

Third Palestinian Intifada – On its way or Already Arrived? image courtesy Alwaght

revolutionary woman intifada streetby Quadraro, image courtesy Deviant Art.

‘revolutionary woman intifada street’ by Quadraro, image courtesy Deviant Art.

As West Asia is too gripped in sectarian conflict and the rise of ISIS, this emerging trend is going unnoticed. But the violence is already cementing the layers of distrust that Palestinians harbor against Jews, with calcifying hatred.

After the desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other sacred Islamic sites in various parts of the occupied Palestine by Israelis, Palestinians have been pouring out on the streets. The retaliatory attacks by Palestinians have claimed the lives of seven Israelis while leaving a number of them injured. It should be noted that the average age of demonstrators and people responsible for stabbing and running over people is less than 20 years old. They were born after the Oslo Accord between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel in 1993 and 1995. They are just coming of age, and it’s hard for them to see any future but a bleak one. Read more…

In solidarity with Rohith Vemula: Concerned students and faculty at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta

February 2, 2016

Open letter to the President of India from Concerned students and faculty at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta.

To

The President of India

Subject: An urgent appeal to address discrimination and political interference in academic institutions in the wake of the death of RohithVemula.

We, a group of students and faculty of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta,expressour grief over the loss of the precious life of RohithVemula, a Dalit research scholar, at the University of Hyderabad.The events that transpired in the particular case were indeed tragic, with allegedinfringement of freedom of expression, caste discrimination and partisan interference by the higher State apparatus. This event is symptomatic of the larger malaise of failure of our institutions to provide a climate where students, irrespective of their social backgrounds, could find a way to excel. To create such a climate would require synchronised efforts in the parts of the State, the educational institutions and the society at large. Read more…

A test of dignity and democracy

February 2, 2016

Today, as the Supreme Court hears the curative petition on Section 377, it has an opportunity to remember its promise to be the last resort of the oppressed, to let dignity be the domain of all.

In 2015, a student at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru was blackmailed and threatened with being publicly outed for being gay. When he refused to pay extortion money, the private letters turned into notices pinned on noticeboards on campus. The words were sharp, relentless and inhumane: “I think it’s completely shameful, bad, immoral and disgusting. You should go kill yourself. Why do you think it’s illegal to be gay in India?”

Evading prejudice

For many queer people, this moment is familiar. It is one that many of us have faced or live in a constant fear of facing. In some ways, it is the latter that is worse. We live our lives anticipating prejudice. Even before it comes, we are constantly censoring, moving, and shaping our lives to evade it or, if we can’t, to survive it. Those of us who have the privilege of privacy scan rooms to find allies, weigh what to tell our doctors, measure out information in our offices, and seek safe spaces. Those without this privilege face a much more direct battle to be who they are: an unrelenting and legitimised public violence that falls on working class bodies in our streets, police stations and public spaces. The law is not the only force behind this violence, but it is an important one. “Why do you think,” the blackmailer asks, “it’s illegal to be gay in India?” When petitioners in the Naz Foundation case argued that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code played an important part in shrouding our lives in criminality and of legitimising violence, this letter was one of many that we wrote against in our heads. Read more…

Paranoia and Procedure – Everyday Life within a University Labyrinth, Circa 2016: Prasanta Chakravarty

February 2, 2016

This is a guest post by PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY

“The nature of peoples is first crude, then severe, then benign, then delicate, finally dissolute.”

–Giambattista Vico
The past congeals in savoir faire or habit, conserved as an ethos, in the corridors of the Arts Faculty at Delhi University. We all remember what is happening, while it is happening; watching ourselves as live spectators of our own actions. Wherefore such a sense of centripetal actuality? How this despotic pathology of inevitability in a place which was supposed to be the harbinger of a future? But the future arrives as a gyre, a loop. Read more…

Operation Ekalavya : Jhandewala, New Delhi, Rohith Vemula’s Birthday, 30th January 2016

February 2, 2016

Dear young friends who went to Jhandewala on Rohith Vemula’s birthday,

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And all those who were there in spirit, in Delhi, Hyderabad and elsewhere. I am writing to you because I think you might have all taken things much further than anyone can quite imagine or understand at present.

I am writing to you, for today and for tomorrow, so that every time in the future that young people gather to celebrate their friend Rohith’s birthday, we might all begin to have a different kind of conversation. So that the boundaries between mourning and celebration, between anger and joy may always remain blurred enough for us to know what to do next, each time.

Since you had a close encounter with the police and their colleagues in the RSS on Rohith’s birthday, I want to spend a little time thinking about them with you. Bear with me. I sincerely hope we will not have to bear with them for much longer.

Read more…

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