Who are we to be horrified 

It scares me that we are worried about attacks on minorities in the U.S.A, when we overlook, or quickly forget attacks on our own dalits and Muslims. Because the life of one Rohith Vemulla is nothing compared to the lives of hundreds of soldiers isn’t it?
That we are worried about the loss of press freedom in that country, when we allow our politicians to choose their own sycophantic journalists as interviewers, or when we allow them not to speak about issues that are uncomfortable to them.
That we are worried about women’s rights in the U.S.A when we pick and choose the female victims to feel pity for, based on their caste, their dress, their profession.

 

And that we are so outraged about an authoritarian anti-establishment Islamophobe, when we let the same happen to us more than two years ago. That we are so horrified whom Americans chose to vote for, when many of us didn’t even bother voting. Because politicians are all the same, aren’t they?

You should have taken up science, Kanhaiya Kumar

It’s been more than a month since the JNU debate. And the left/right, black/white, hot/cold, new/old, rational/national debate has no end in sight.

What was essentially a student rally was seen as a dangerous attack on the nation’s safety (because that’s what extremists do: hold rallies and express their opinions). Kanhaiya Kumar was presented as Satan himself as he was arrested, and Arnab Goswami shrieked awake every nationalistic conscience with back-up vocals by banshee Nupur Sharma.

This event was a revelation in many ways. It showed that the nation will not tolerate any comments on its intolerance; the nation does not want to know what the dissidents think.

 

But most importantly, the nation revealed that it is not going to forgive a humanities student for not taking up science.

 

A 28-year-old PhD student in African studies who happens to be male is incomprehensible to the mainstream middle class sentiment. And if he’s studying in an institute which solely produces MNC executives (or the occasional terrible writer), our precious tax rupees are not worth it. Yes, all three of the Indian citizens who pay taxes felt this way. Twenty-eight is not an odd age for a PhD student. In fact, there’s no odd age for a PhD student. But then if it’s not the kind of doctor whose financial prowess is inevitable, and whom you can pester about that strange growth on your side, it means nothing.

 

Several people were infuriated that a 28-year-old man is still studying when his family earns Rs.3000 a month. Yes, if a boy coming from such austere conditions and a moral obligation to become financially successful doesn’t fall into the rat race to a comfortable lifestyle that supports capitalism, it surely must be infuriating.

 

Kanhaiya was even compared to Sundar Pichai in a post, which systematically proved how a privileged NRI who works for the biggest big brother finds it easier to love India than a financially dependent free-thinker.

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Even so, the highlight of this discussion was when Modi awkwardly touched it, as if it were a world leader. Well-meaning patriots wanted to know why a PM who never takes holidays from travelling, and who has constantly worked to make our 70% agrarian nation an industrialist paradise could be criticized. It’s almost as if his bizarre pop culture references in the U.S.A, brushing aside Zuckerberg for a photo-op, and back-hugging Hollande were in vain. A 15-year-old girl challenged Kanhaiya to an open debate. This confused bhakts, who did not understand the concept of arguing without death threats.

 

The nationalism argument extended to the army as well. Under normal conditions, admission to the Indian Army is tough. But due to numerous requests by the public whose last contact with the army was the movie ‘Border’, they’re now considering letting Kanhaiya Kumar in. As requested, he’s going to “go to border n fyt, den tok”.

 

He was arrested, detained and attacked. But, like a true politician, he used it to advance his persona and make a powerful (albeit logical) speech. This made his opponents start a wonderful social media trend hashtag: #MeAt28, where they celebrated their privilege and conformity.

 

Some say that people like Kanhaiya Kumar shouldn’t be given the freedom to say that there’s no space for dissent. I truly believe that he should have taken up science. He would never have had the chance to develop an eloquent stream of thought if he was crumbling under college, coaching classes, job-chasing and other virtues of our education system. So if you have an opinion that bursts the happy privileged bubble of the taxpayers, be prepared to be told by the nation how you are a terrorist who is also a liability (much like babies). Because you didn’t pay for your place in the world. Your opinion has already been paid for.

Women’s safety under the female leader

At the annual Women in the World Summit in New York in 2015, acclaimed journalist Barkha Dutt, speaking about Hillary Clinton’s bid for presidency, said that the debate about having a woman leader is not a conversation that we have in India anymore. “We had a woman leader decades ago”, she said (referring to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi). She quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and claiming that statistically the incidence of rape is much higher in the U.S. and UK.

While having a woman leader during the 1960s may be considered progressive for those times, the Indian parliament is yet to pass the Women’s Reservation bill, which reserves 33% of the seats for female Members of Parliament. The bill has been a matter of debate for 18 long years. Currently, women MPs occupy a mere 66 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, or the lower house. The national average for legislative assemblies of all the states is a dismal 9%. India currently has four states with women chief ministers, but does their leadership necessarily amount to safer conditions for women?

 

Anandiben Patel

Even though the reported incidents of rape almost doubled in Gujarat from 2013 to 2014, Gujarat is considered one of the safest states for women according to a survey conducted by Tata Strategic Management Group.

A rape victim from Botad district who got pregnant asked for permission for an abortion from the Gujarat High Court, which was denied to her. She even met Anandiben in person, but ended up with a baby boy whom the High Court had urged her to “bravely give birth to”, and her rapist, who is still a free citizen. This court also denied permission to a 14-year-old girl raped by her doctor, who had to move the Supreme Court to abort the baby.

Patel has spoken about wanting to make women’s empowerment a priority for her state. Yet when it comes to such incidents she, much like her predecessor Modi, prefers keeping an undignified silence over the matter.

 

Vasundhara Raje

Rajasthan has the second highest number of women MLAs (14%). This state also records the second highest number of rape incidents. While the state has a history of greater incidence of violence against women, their first woman CM seems to have done little for betterment of this situation. Rapes of minors and women in Rajasthan have been as consistent as Raje’s silence over these cases.

 

Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee has several infamous statements about rape to her credit, the most peculiar one being that rapes are caused because of girls and boys interacting freely with each other. When a 70-year-old nun was gang raped in March 2015, Mamata handed the case over to the CBI, asking for quick action. However, approach to this crime seems ageist as it was she who, in 2013, dismissed that Late Suzzette Jordan (sometimes referred to as the Park Street rape victim), as a story that was “cooked up to malign the government”.

Jayalalitha

Tamil Nadu was the first state to have a female-staffed police station, first all-female police commando unit, and now the first women’s special-forces police battalion. Jayalalitha has personally vouched for the state as being safe for women. Dowry deaths and sexual assault on women have seen a steady decline during her regime, especially since 2010.

Jayalalitha was the first Tamil actress to appear in a skirt on screen in her former years as an actress. Even so, the state has had an ongoing problem of moral policing. Several colleges in the state have been known to enforce outdated dress codes and moralistic rules especially on female students in Chennai’s engineering college.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women leaders are as conducive, or as detrimental to female citizens as their male counterparts. Mamata Banerjee is inconsistent in response to sexual assault in her state, and Vasundhara Raje seems to have done little for the state which already had abysmal conditions for women’s rights. Even though Anandiben Patel and Jayalalitha have made certain strides in empowering women, they seem to suffer from the fatal flaw that most of our leaders seem to have: moral policing.

 

 

 

 

 

Where do bachelors live?

It’s fascinating how something as beloved as a male child turns into something so threatening to our society as an adult unmarried individual. More than having 24 hour electricity and water supply, a point of immense pride for the landlords is ‘no bachelors’. It seems to be a great achievement for landlords to have warded off the ominous presence of bachelors.
House rentals might be one of the few places where single women have it easier. Perhaps it’s because people think they may turn the house into a minor disaster area, having had no previous contact with chores, especially the ones related to the kitchen area. Perhaps it’s because they may turn the home into a drugs-alcohol-orgy sanctuary, because that’s what young people do. Besides, its much easier to judge and publicly shame the females. Maybe landlords are afraid bachelors may start a drug racket. Or worse, have a gay party. I mean, there are only that many gay parties the police can crash per night.
Being married seems to be the best quality that tenants can have. That makes sense, because proof of having gone through the several wedding ceremonies is a true mark of patience and tolerance. This is one of the reasons an organisation like ISIS cannot survive in India. All their members would give in to the Auntyji pressure group and get hitched.

Even though there are better ways to judge the character of a potential tenant (such as non-ironically retweeting Kamaal R Khan), we choose to pick bachelorhood as the guiding stone. But you can see how people may think bachelors are evil satanic beings. In fact, some of us only stopped judging Narendra Modi’s intentions after we found out about his secret wife. Him ignoring the existence of his wife made the common man identify with him more than any other politician.
It’s wonderful how our society has come up with a universal solution to all your problems: get married. Marriage may not solve anything, but at least you can pretend to laugh at the same husband-wife forwarded jokes like everyone else.

Men’s Rights in a Country like India

Men's Day4
Image Courtesy: MRA

Mahesh Shinde is an engineer from Pune, India, who works for a manufacturing company. He’s also the President of the Men’s Rights Association (M.R.A), a registered NGO working solely to protect the honour and dignity of men. This is just one of the many organisations worldwide that have taken up this particular cause. On International Men’s Day, (November 19), Let’s take a look into what Men’s Rights actually mean to these organisations. Here’s an interview with Mr. Shinde about the organisation, its goals and philosophy.

  • Tell me a little about Men’s Rights Association. How did you get involved with the NGO? How often does the group meet?

Men’s Rights Association (MRA) is an organization whose sole purpose is to fight for the elusive Men’s Rights. MRA is very revolutionary in its concepts.It has been listed in the Top 100 social organizations of Maharashtra.

We believe that men should not be made to suffer so that women can enjoy. Society should not be divided on the basis of gender. Men often tend to carry a lot of baggage due to societal pressure. They are thrust into the role of ‘provider and protector’.

Nowadays, there’s a trend to denounce men for all the problems of humanity. Indian media continuously portrays all men as the perpetrators of crime, and women as the perpetual victim. Such biased propaganda will have serious repercussions, some of which has already been seen.

In India, the suicide rate of men is much higher than that of women. (According to a report by the World Health Organization, 258,075 people committed suicide in India in 2012, with 99,977 women and 158,098 men taking their own lives). But society is apathetic to the suicides of men, whereas women’s suicides have received a lot of attention

Just because a few (less than 1%) men have power doesn’t means that we are a male-dominated society. What happens to the remaining 99%? And it is an open truth that most of these so-called Alpha males are hen-pecked, and end up dominating other men. It is stupid to call this as male dominance.

Below is some of the important work done by MRA

  • Provide free legal help and counseling to men in distress.
  • Create awareness about anti-male laws and attitude
  • Remove negativity against the male gender, and spread positive thoughts
  • Work towards reducing suicides of male.
  • Sensitize law making bodies about men’s issues.
  • Reduce violence against men.

MRA works in all spheres of life.

 

  • What do you think are the main reasons that the high rate of suicides among men goes ignored?

The suicides are ignored because society treats Men as disposable. Since society doesn’t consider Men as human beings, their suicides aren’t a serious matter for society.

 

  • What are your major demands?

We are fighting for gender equality. Our main demands are:

  • That both genders should be treated equally
  • There should be no prejudice against men
  • Treat men as humans

 

  • What kind of activities/events do you organize?

Our activities are divided into two major parts. One is helping men in distress. The other is to spread awareness, through various actions like writing campaign letters to higher authorities, RTI (Right to Information) application, police station visits to generate awareness of the law process, various awareness campaign and protests, celebrating Father’s Day, Men’s Day, etc. For the past one year we have been doing collective projects with other NGOs as well.

 

  • India has been ranked as the worst country amongst the G20 nations to be a woman. How do men’s rights figure into the scenario?

This is a canard which is used to subjugate men, and impose more inhuman conditions on men. This is a totally baseless and extremely flawed ranking. We dare those who publish such nonsense to come and have an open debate with us. We will tear their arguments to shreds.

 

  • Do you receive flak any flak regarding MRA?

Since our society is so biased against men, we are the subject of several jokes. If anyone fights for women’s rights, they are glorified, while those fighting for men’s rights are ridiculed.

 

  • Do you believe in equal treatment of both the genders?

Absolutely… And this is NOT happening, which is our main grouse.

 

  • What are your feelings about reservation for women in the parliament and other spheres?

They talk about equal rights, and then ask for reservation. This is robbery. Those asking for reservation for women, imply that women are incompetent.

 

  • What according to you are the major issues faced by men in India?

There are several. Men are trained to work hard, and what do they get in return? A man’s entire life goes in doing things for others. He has to work to provide for his wife, children, sisters. Society expects men to work for others.

 

  • Sexual abuse laws in India are often framed with terminology like ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’. Does the MRA deal with male victims of abuse? How can these laws be framed to be more inclusive regarding men?

Of course we do. In fact, in the last two years, we have seen an increase in such male victims of abuse. One of our demand is to make these laws gender neutral. Currently, male victims aren’t even considered by law.

 

  •  One of your demands is to eliminate false rape, dowry and other cases. Have you received many complaints about this? What are viable solutions to this problem? How does one differentiate between the legitimate cases and the fake ones?

Yes, we continuously receive complaints about false dowry, rape, etc. The viable solution to this problem is to modify these laws, to prevent misuse. In their present form, these laws are downright idiotic. No rational person can justify these wicked laws. If anyone reads the complaint itself, it is very clear, that it is false. And yet, complaints are being lodged because of biased laws, and the anti-male legal system.

 

  •  What might be the reasons that women lodge false rape and dowry complaints?

A primary reason is extortion. The complaints are filed to extract money from men. Otherwise, it may be to harass the husband/concerned man, harass his parents, siblings and other dear ones, humiliate him and destroy his mental peace; to push him towards suicide, or harm himself.

 

  • Can you provide some examples of the kind of complaints you receive?

With regards to dowry harassment, wives harassing their husbands for not listening to her absurd demands is quite a common complaint. The husband’s life becomes a living nightmare. The wife has a whole array of laws which she can misuse against the husband. The woman simply has to go to any police station/court and lodge complaint against her husband, and she has the upper hand. Even in cases where no complaints are lodged, mere threatening is good enough to harrass the husband. Many men take the extreme step of committing suicide because of the daily torture they face from their unscrupulous wives.
With regards to sexual harassment at workplaces, some women employees harass their male colleagues. Some women at senior posts want the men working under them to be their play-things. If the man resists, he faces further harrassment. Even with colleagues, men have faced harassment. In another case, a junior female employee filed harassment complaint against her boss, because she was asked to be more professional by him.

 

  • Do you think the new Modi government will bring about any changes for men’s rights?

No, we do not think so. However, we would like to have a dialogue with the government. We have petitioned previous governments, which didn’t pay heed to our demands. When we show factual data to the officials, all they do is accept that our demands are legitimate, but they do not have the courage and the political will power to act on it.

On Child Marriage

The Indian government trying to pass laws to improve women’s rights over the past few months was a lot like watching Phoebe in tap-dancing class, doing strange wavy motions and saying “I’m totally getting this!” This happened when the UPA was poked awake from its deep slumber by people protesting for women’s rights since December 2012.

One of the things they did was raise the age of consent to 18. And in the very same year, India refused to sign the UN resolution against child marriage, in spite of having the highest number of child marriages (24 million). 
In the dreamland of our leaders—where there are flowers and bunnies (rainbows aren’t acknowledged here)—children get married and wait till they are 18 so they can finally consummate the marriage. In this happy world, moral crusaders who slap boys and girls who come within arm distance of each other are allowed to roam around freely and kill youngsters for falling in love.
Not that one should have much faith in an organisation that lightly poked Sri Lanka once, condemns Israel from time to time, and is planning to hold auditions for Syria and Sudan. But for a nation who thought forming a Non-Alignment club was the cool thing to do, an acknowledgement of the grave child marriage problem doesn’t seem like a bad idea. 

 

The Great Indian Wedding Planners

There comes a time in every Indian kid’s life when the entire universe’s psychological balance depends on you getting married. And by the entire universe, I mean every person you know who is older or more married than you.The majority of these people happen to be components of a marriage that can only be termed as a civil agreement of minimum interaction and a mutual approval to dis each other humorously. They come from the misguided benevolence school of thought: after you get married, they will try to convince you that having children on purpose is actually a good idea. They are worried that all the ‘good’ ones will be gone soon. They are also highly critical of any stray unmarried trash and live-in relationships and homosexuality fall way outside their bubble.
Another category are those who have such a high level of confidence that it makes you wonder why. They have got life all figured out, and will approach you with pro-marriage arguments like how it is about companionship, families getting together (as if your own family isn’t overwhelming enough) and how you won’t be able to adjust to having a partner around later in life. They will also find potential partners for you to mate with and believe that they are doing god’s work by finding you a person of the same religion, caste, economic class who reminds you a lot of several of your cousins.
Some of them are people your age who are ‘madly in love’, and thrust their relationship in the face of everyone in real and virtual life. They believe that, like them, the purpose of your life is to get a certificate from the state that assures a lifetime of sulk and sex from one single person. They come from the ‘we want social approval’ club, and are often too blinded by the idea of a wedding to realize it comes with a marriage.

As for simpletons like me, our understanding of a marriage is limited to ‘spending your life with someone because YOU want to’, we clearly missed the turning point in life where others said goodbye to rationality and embraced what people have been doing for years without knowing why. Your youth is when you can really get to know yourself prior to making a lifelong commitment. Or realising whether you want to do that. That is, before it gets banned for  provoking individuality and other social evils.