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Mainstream, VOL LV No 10 New Delhi February 25, 2017

Countdown for International Women’s Day

Monday 27 February 2017, by Humra Quraishi


Countdown for the International Women’s Day has begun. Nah, no lessening of rapes and molestations and trafficking! It’s just that the political speeches are more than laced with concern for women’s ‘safety’ and, of course, gaudy receptions planned for the Day—March 8th.

Reserving a ‘day’ for women seems rather absurd and more along the synthetic strain. Why just one day...why not all days of the year or years! And why only for women ...why not for men!

The stark truth is that none of the political and bureaucratic who’s who gives a damn to whether the human being is left alive or dumped in one of those dying slots. And the so-called celebration days are fitted more to distract, make an ass of the hapless!

In those earlier years I did attend a couple of the Women’s Day ‘celebrations’ but found them to be so bogus that it was impossible to sit through... And then, when I began reading the socio-economic realities facing our men and women I made it a point not to attend even one of these hyped events.

Dismal facts on not just the roti-kapdaa-makaan front, but also on the sexual exploitation front. If young girls are raped, young boys are sodomised. If older women are molested, older men are seduced. If a bunch of human forms is trafficked it’s a mixed lot—women and children and even teenaged boys. If the jailed population is subjected to torture, it affects all prisoners— men and women.

It’s a different matter altogether that none of the political rulers and their aides want to peep into those hell-holes, where a large percentage of our population sits languishing. Needless for me to add that this jailed lot is left at the mercy of the jail staff headed by the jailors. And after reading several books authored by former prisoners, all that I can say is that the jail conditions are hellish, yet we sit so unbothered. Yes, even on Women’s Day—besides sending a box of sweets for the inmates, there’s no furthering of concern.

A country’s development (actual and factual development and not along farce formats!) can be judged by the condition of its jailed population and also by that of its women and children and the minority communities. And seeing the condition of all these groups, we are lagging far behind. Still stuck in those dark ages.

Harsh Mander’s Latest Book

Harsh Mander’s latest book is Stories of Suffering, Oppression and Resistance (Speaking Tiger).

Harsh Mander is one of those bureaucrats who resigned from the Indian Administrative Service soon after the Gujarat pogrom in 2002 and took to writing on Gujarat’s communally surcharged atmosphere and the plight of the minority population. He wrote extensively and continues to do so, focusing on the survivors of that pogrom and the havoc they go through, day after day ...His latest book, Fatal Accidents of Birth: Stories of Suffering, Oppression and Resistance, has just hit the stands. In this book, Mander focuses on seventeen stories of women and men—“who simply because they were born poor, or of a particular gender, or into a certain caste or religion, fell prey to the many atrocities and indignities endemic to contem-porary India. Some resisted, survived and soldier on. Some did not.”

These are hitting stories. Each one of them portraying how the very governance and the political lot manning it can ruthlessly trample upon human lives. Space constraints come in the way, so unable to quote extensively. Let me quote from one of these 17 stories. Titled, ’Life Among the Graves’, it focuses on a pogrom survivor of Gujarat. To quote from it, “It was a dusty, scorching day in Ahmedabad in the harrowing summer of 2002 when I first met Khalid Noor Mohammad ...When Khalid spoke to me about the seventyfive years of his life, it was as though its significant landmarks were all major communal riots. He spoke of them the way other people talk of life-events—births, deaths, weddings. The Partition riots of 1947 in which he lost his father, the Ahmedabad riots of 1969 which broke a long interlude of peace, the Jagananth riots of 1985, the sectarian violence that followed in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and now the carnage of 2002... ‘I have seen many riots,’ Khalid said, ‘and each time we have moved on. But this hullad was completely different. My body may still have some strength, but this riot has just broken my spirit. Earlier, they killed our men and attacked our homes and shops. But women and children were mostly spared. Never before this merciless burning of our people, even of infants and small children. Never before this mass rape and humiliation of our women. Never before have so many of us been rendered completely homeless.’”

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