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Mainstream, VOL L, No 16, April 7, 2012

Gutsy Women who Stand Out

Friday 13 April 2012, by Humra Quraishi

Are you finally over with all those picnics, tea parties and seminar sessions on the so-called International Women’s Day? Are you through with those supposed who’s who—those VVIP spouses, indulging in those frilly tamasha events on that day and on those so many other days of the year?

Now sit back and ponder. And with that feel somewhat ashamed of the insensitivity hovering around, blinding us from seeing and sensing women with grit. Aren’t we being plain silly in bypassing the actual gutsy women who stand out, who question and query, who take on the brute force of the state and those offshoots unleashed by it. Mind you, these women use no force, none of those terror tactics, nor those violent ways that the state machinery unleashes on them. On the contrary these women are equipped by an undying determination, unmoving focus, to fight on… Of course, there would be hundreds of such brave women right across this country, but there is little focus on them, because they do not live under the media spotlight.

Let me try focusing on Parveena Ahangar, the Srinagar-based woman who is heading the APDP—Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons. She sits determined to fight on till the very end with that grit. It’s an ongoing fight for her, right from 1990, when her school-going son, Javed, was picked by the security agencies from her home in Srinagar’s Batmaloo locality and taken for interrogation. Javed never returned and there’s no official news/update of his whereabouts. But till date this mother is awaiting his return. Perhaps, living every single moment in that hope. Today she is heading and leading this longest ongoing non-violent movement of parents, whose children have been dragged for interrogation by the various security agencies and never got back. Officially thrown in the ‘disappeared persons’ slot but the truth lies beyond… in all probability these young men couldn’t take the very strain of the brutal interrogation tactics… And though hund-reds of families sit semi-ruined, coping with the trauma, Ahangar is one of those women who are not giving up the battle. As she says, “All these years we have been living in sorrow... my husband fell ill because of the trauma, and gave up working … I keep unwell, so ill that I cannot close my eyes the entire night… we have exhausted all our resources in trying to locate Javed in the various jails of this country, appealed to every possible government authority, to politicians across party lines but there have been just disappointments… I’m not giving up and will fight till I’m alive …hundreds of parents are joining our organi-sation, looking for their sons who have been picked up by security agencies.”

And, then, there’s Irom Sharmila who is protes-ting against brutalities in the North-East by this ongoing fast she’s imposed on herself. Slowly perishing, so that there could be some dent in the brutalities unleashed by the state against her people.

Moving on. Also, standing out is Bilquis of Gujarat, who was repeatedly raped during the Gujarat pogrom but this woman did manage to survive. No, not just physically but with that undying spirit. To live and narrate the hellish realities she had to face and with that bring to the fore the horrifying face of the Right-wing goons. And here let me also add that perhaps Bilquis’ husband, Yakub Rasool, played an extremely positive role—for the man not just stood by his absolutely traumatised wife and children but also helped her recover her confidence and get over those scars. In fact, I fail to understand why on earth we don’t recognise the grit of such women!

And along with these women, there is this group of women from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, who are bringing out a community newspaper, Khabar Lahariya. Backed by a Delhi-based NGO ‘Nirantar’, these women are reaching out to far-flung rural locales And though they face tremendous hurdles from the village level mafia groups, they seem a bunch of gutsy, determined women—letting nothing come in the way of their reaching out with the very latest khabar/news.
Of course, there’d be hundreds of brave women —brave in the actual sense of the term—but the unfortunate aspect is that only those sitting or, say, occupying the top rungs are exposed to the media glare. And the very hollowness hovering around them is pathetic. Those mundane speeches, those routine assurances, those stale sentences seem so meaningless, so very shallow …

On Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi’s Arrest

JOURNALISTS and activists who have known Delhi-based journalist and DD Urdu newsreader Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi are aghast by his arrest by the Delhi Police, for his alleged involve-ment in the Israeli diplomat assassination attempt case. No, they can’t believe that Kazmi could have been involved in that terror attack. On the con-trary, his colleagues are certain he is being framed by the Indian authorities/establishment who seem under pressure from the American and Israeli lobbies at work here. In fact, by arresting a senior and well-respected journalist like Kazmi what message does the Indian Government wants to relay—perhaps, that the American and Israeli agencies have a definite hold on our police machi-nery and with that their dictates do matter! After all, not to overlook the very basic fact that soon after that attack on the Israeli diplomat’s car, there came in news inputs of tips provided by Israeli agencies. And even before a formal investigation could take off Israeli sources blamed Iran for that attack. More along the lines of the set situation here in our country, where for even a cracker burst a bunch of Muslim boys are invariably picked up and thrown in those detention or interrogation centres.

Getting back to Kazmi’s arrest, the obvious needs to be answered—was he targeted because of his Muslim name and surname or that he had worked for an Iranian news agency or that he had known several Iranians and others from the Middle East? Several other connected queries and counter-queries are doing the rounds here—given Israel’s clear intent to condemn and implicate Iran as the source of the attack. So should the police have go by those leads? Why wasn’t this attack handled by the National Investigative Agency?

It’s pathetic how the situation lies so twisted and biased. The Indian Government’s tilt towards the US-Israel lobbies lies more than exposed. The very natural offshoot that haunts is this—was this hapless journalist targeted because of the politics at work and the obvious pressures on this government?

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