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A kiss for your thoughts, University of Hyderabad: Anu K Antony, Mohan K Pillai, Sinjini Bhattacharya and Vaikhari Aryat

November 17, 2014

Guest Post by ANU K ANTONY, MOHAN K PILLAI, SINJINI BHATTACHARYA, VAIKHARI ARYAT 

HYD

The protest meeting organised by the students of the University of Hyderabad on the university campus

‘That is knowledge which liberates’, proudly proclaims the crest of University of Hyderabad, a prominent central university in our country. A University space has been traditionally seen as the vanguard of socio-cultural critique and change. Universities pride themselves in upholding the values of freedom of thought, expression and debate. And yet, the reaction of the administration of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) to a recent event, in an otherwise liberal-tolerant and progressive-leaning campus, leaves much space for thought.

On November 2nd, a group of students organised an event on campus in solidarity with the much discussed “Kiss of Love” protest in Kerala. Titled “UoH Against Moral Policing”, the on-campus event, publicised solely on online social media, was supposed to create a space to discuss issues surrounding moral policing and the chain of Kerala incidents, bring out narratives of moral policing, talk about morality and Indian culture, and recite poetry. Also planned was a symbolic act of kissing on a chart paper, with the slogan “Our lips don’t char”. However, some ABVP and BJYM activists, with the aim of saving the students and the Indian culture from Western “immorality”, barged into campus and tried to attack the student protesters. The Telangana Police and campus security, who had failed to stop the intruders, did later succeed in cordoning them off from the protesting crowd, while insisting that the students call off the protest and disperse.

Unaccustomed to Police chauvinism and empowered enough to insist on their rights, the students managed to continue with their planned activities, although once in a while some right-wing activists managed to break ranks and tried to incite violence. The campus community however showed great restraint and continued protesting peacefully.  In response to such moral policing inside campus, the 250-plus students spontaneously started hugging and kissing each other, before dispersing.  Read more…

Debating Muslim Law after Shah Bano – the Model Nikahnama Initiative: A Suneetha

November 17, 2014

Guest Post by A SUNEETHA continuing the discussion on Uniform Civil Code on Kafila.

In popular imagination Muslim women’s unequal position in marriage is symbolized by cases such as Shah Bano or Imrana. It is understood this is the result of the religion-based Muslim personal law and the rigid control of women by the community in general and ulema in particular. Not many are aware that the same religion-based marriage law also offers tools for changing Muslim women’s position in marriage. In the last ten years, an ordinary document that every Muslim couple signs at the time of marriage – nikahnama or marriage contract – has assumed such a role. It has been innovatively used to initiate discussions and push for changes in the community’s thinking about the Muslim women’s position in marriage. In these efforts, a large number of “religious” and “non-religious” Muslim groups got into a conversation and set off a consensus-building process on the issue of a Muslim woman’s “entitlements”.

This discussion assumes importance in the context of the ongoing debate on UCC.  The debate on the UCC entered a new phase when, unhappy with the removal of Muslim women from the ambit of S 125 Crpc that guarantees all divorced women a minimum maintenance and the promulgation of a separate provision for divorced Muslim women called Muslim Women’s Maintenance Act 1986, many women’s groups renewed their demand for a UCC in 1990. Such a Code, it was hoped, would bring marital equality to women of all religions. When the Bharatiya Janata Party hijacked this demand to castigate Muslim men, (as if Hindu men were free of misogynist and patriarchal behaviour), such a hope was irretrievably lost. In the post-Babri Masjid demolition period, when there were pogroms against the Muslim communities, such a law would have found it impossible to garner support from the Muslims, especially if it were made by the BJP dominated Parliament. As anyone familiar with law knows, a consensus is important for law-making so that it is accepted and followed. But the changed situation of unparalleled parliamentary dominance of BJP brings newer challenges to all those working on issues of gender justice in all communities.

Muslim women were caught in this unenviable position since the 1990s – of having to address their own situation - under-age marriages, non-payment of mehr, arbitrary talaq, cruelty in marriage, maintenance after talaq, multiple marriages of men, resistance to women’s employment etc. while taking care that the Muslim men are not vilified further. Read more…

Concerns on proposed meetings of Intellectual Property Owners Association with IPAB and the Delhi High Court: Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab

November 17, 2014

The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab was launched in November 2012 and has been endorsed by over 200 Indian and global patient associations, cancer survivors, health movements, women’s rights activists and eminent jurists.

Kalyani Menon-Sen, Leena Menghaney and KM Gopakumar from this campaign express serious concerns about  the intent and purpose of the “Innovation Dialog” being organised in India from November 16-22, 2014 by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA).

To: Hon’ble Justice Mr. H.L. Dattu (Hon’ble Chief Justice of India); Hon’ble Justice Smt. G. Rohini, (Chief Justice, Delhi High Court); Hon’ble Justice K.N. Basha (Chair, Intellectual Property Appellate Board)

Dear Hon’ble Justice Dattu, Hon’ble Justice Rohini and Hon’ble Justice K.N. Basha,

We write to you on behalf of the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, a network of treatment activists, patients and public interest lawyers committed to making the breast cancer drug – trastuzumab – affordable in India. We have closely followed the misuse of patent rights and more recently the vexatious litigation of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd in India to maintain control over the market for the life-saving drug (trastuzumab), thus blocking access to treatment for thousands of women with HER2+ breast cancer.

This letter is to express our grave concern about the intent and purpose of the “Innovation Dialog” being organised in India from November 16-22, 2014 by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA).

The IPOA is a US-based group consisting of large corporations and law firms which has been aggressively lobbying on issues of intellectual property standards and enforcement in India and pushing a pro-corporate agenda. The biased and unbalanced position taken by the IPOA is especially troubling when it concerns medicines, where the use of intellectual property protections have restricted access to affordable treatment and blocked competition.
Read more…

The Class Politics of Blasphemy in Pakistan: Fatima Tassadiq

November 15, 2014

Guest Post by FATIMA TASSADIQ

The brutal murders of Shehzad and Shama, a Christian couple in the village of Kot Radha Kishan in Kasur district on 4th November, spawned predictable outrage in the press and social media. The rush of horror, the diagnoses and prescribed course of action against such violence involved the familiar paternalistic discourse of the ‘illiterate masses’ whose ‘ignorance’ evidently leaves them particularly vulnerable to the manipulation of the much maligned mullahs. Such a narrative serves the dual function of reducing religious violence to the faceless masses while at the same time reaffirming the educated urban upper class as the rightful custodian of Islam and Pakistan. This construction conveniently ignores the role played by the state and the elite in producing religious violence and feeds the class-based blind spots that exist in our understanding of what constitutes religious extremism.

Read more…

Whatever happened to the great debate? Ankita Anand

November 14, 2014

Guest Post by ANKITA ANAND

On 6 November 2014 BBC World invited three panellists from different sectors to debate on ‘A New India: Free, Fair and Prosperous’ as part of the World Economic Forum. Issues of content and objectivity apart, one still has high expectations of a group like BBC when it comes to setting high standards of form. But this ‘debate’ fell flat on its face on all counts.

No rules of the game

One would think that in a discussion like this all three panellists would bring in varied viewpoints due to their specialization in their individual sectors. However, if one wants to quote either the minister or the corporate voice in the debate, it would require constant rechecking to distinguish who said what. Of course businnesses and governments need not always be in conflict with each other. But this smooth overlapping can be dangerous if those who are to be at the receiving end of this coalition between corporate bodies and governing bodies get completely left out. So for all practical purposes, instead of having three distinct voices, the format of the session (to keep calling it a debate would be to perpetuate technical erroneousness) was two against one. The yesmanship resulting out of this format naturally dulled the sparkling energy any debate worth its salt should have. Read more…

Aligarh Muslim University women should not back down just because BJP has taken up their cause: Asiya Islam

November 14, 2014

ASIYA ISLAM argues on Scroll.in that AMU’s women students demanding library access have always been warned not to wash the institution’s dirty linen in public, for fear of providing fodder for Hindutva forces.

Things must have changed since I studied at Aligarh Muslim University for three years until 2009. This week, the vice chancellor of the university, Lieutenant General (retd) Zameeruddin Shah, justified the policy of not allowing undergraduate women to use the main Maulana Azad Library. If more women are allowed, the vice chancellor said, the number of men in the library would swell by at least four times. Somehow, I just do not remember hordes of studious men at AMU.

It is worth noting that the vice chancellor has only upheld a ban that has always existed and articulated his reasons for doing so. The issue is not new. It just seems to surface periodically – the media gets interested, makes a bit of noise, after some time it all dies down, and sadly nothing changes…

In this current political climate, we need to realise that inequalities are multifarious. But demands for gender equality do not compete with other social justice issues at hand – rather, they are complementary. We cannot excuse continued discrimination against women while asking for minority rights. Therefore, we should question the government’s and media’s sudden concern with gender equality in AMU (this is after all a deeply conservative government), but let us not discount the gravity of the library issue for women who study and work there.

Read the whole article here.

There is hatred in the air yet again: Preeti Chauhan

November 13, 2014

Guest Post by PREETI CHAUHAN on the recent communal tension in Noor e Illahi area of Delhi.

It was around 9 pm on Tuesday, November 11th, I was heading to my parents’ home to go with my sister for an interview the next morning, when my cellphone rang, my sister was asking me frantically where I was. I replied a bit anxiously but with irritation, ‘Kya hai? Pahunch jaaungi thodi der mein’. She said don’t come, turn back. I asked why, ‘yahan dange hone waale hain, saari dukaanein band ho rahin hain’, my sister replied. In those two-three seconds my heart skipped many beats, a strange fear about the safety of my family gripped me. I could for the first time feel what it is to live in fear of communal riots. I called up my close relatives who were out of home to ask where they are. There was such an uncertainty as to how will my sister go for the interview tomorrow? Would I be able to reach home tomorrow morning? Would my vehicle be attacked if I decide to go home now?

In those three- four minutes the world seemed to have taken a terrifying turn for me. Mundane, everyday things, everyday routes suddenly turned hostile and suspicious. I could feel the agony and fear so very close. Then there was a sudden burst of anger that I felt against the communal forces that are so hell bent on creating communal trouble everywhere in Delhi. I had not read the newspaper the whole day yesterday and hadn’t watched TV but just before I was leaving home my spouse told me that my native place is in the news and it was then that I had read about the communal tension and curfew in Noore-illahi. It’s the area, the vicinity of my childhood, adolescence and my adulthood too. It’s the area of the weekly bazaar for us, the Eid bazaar as well from which we had returned at 1 am at times. Noor Chicken is where Noor Jahan furniture once stood if I remember correctly; it belonged to the family of one of my classmates in school. I hear today that Noor Chicken’s owner and his son was badly beaten and the son is rumored to have succumbed to injuries. I shudder to think if he is my primary school classmate Shahnawaaz… Read more…

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