SACW | 6 Dec. 2003
aiindex at mnet.fr
Fri Dec 5 20:50:01 CST 2003
SOUTH ASIA CITIZENS WIRE | 6 December, 2003
[This issue of the dispatch is dedicated to the memory of Professor
Hamza Alavi, the well known Pakistan radical intellectual who died on
December 1, 2003 in Karachi. In the recent years he was deeply
concerned with the dangerous rise of fundamentalism(s). ; Professor
Alavi was also a subscriber to the SACW list for a long period and i
would for long cherish the informal correspondence with him ...H.K]
 Pakistan: Professor Hamza Alavi Dies
+ web memorial call for obituaries, letters...
+ News reports from Pakistan
 India: [Join the Citizens March for Secularism in Delhi ]
- Justice for Harmony march - Insaf ke Bina Aman Nahin (Aman Ekta Manch, Delhi)
- Films, poetry, songs against communalism (Anhad, Delhi)
 India: RSS Volunteer to Desecrate Gandhi (I.K.Shukla)
 India: [Re the Hindu right victory in elections] What Went Wrong?
 India: Ethnic riots for jobs: Interview with Lalit Deshpande
 India Book review: Challenging Caste and Gender Ideologies (Veena Poonacha)
 Invitation to the Delhi Social Forum (8 December 2003)
Professor Hamza Alavi one of the subcontinents best known Marxist
IN MEMORY OF HAMZA ALAVI
Reports, Tributes and obituaries
[A small independent web memorial web page has been set up in his
memory. It contains reports some from the Pakistan press . . .
Scholars and non scholars, people on the left (also those left out by
the left) citizens from the subcontinent or where ever are invited to
send obituaries, letters, memories etc. for addition on this page.
Please send your messages to -> <aiindex at mnet.fr>]
o o o o
[News reports from Pakistan]
Dawn, December 2, 2003
KARACHI: Hamza Alavi - a social scientist-cum-political activist
KARACHI, Dec 1: Hamza Alavi, who died on Monday, aged
82, led a very active intellectual life. He became
famous in the academia when he wrote an article in the
newly-founded The Socialist Register in which he
propounded the thesis that middle peasants were
initially most militant elements of the peasantry and
could therefore be a powerful ally of the proletariat
movement in the countryside. Through this hypothesis
he reversed the sequence suggested in the Marxist
His thesis labelled as Alavi-Wolf thesis (since it was
reiterated by Eric Wolf four years later) is still
alive and refuses to die, as through it he had made a
distinction between the Marxist theory and the
His strength lay in going to the practicalities of
things, and when he got interested in peasantry as a
youngman, he left a coveted State Bank job to take up
farming in Tanzania where he lived among peasants.
Later, a serious illness took him to London where he
had time for reflection and changed his career.
That is how a social scientist-cum-political activist
was born. For 10 years he remained involved in
political activism in London: writing, lecturing and
holding seminars in universities. For five years he
edited Pakistan Today in which various issues were
analyzed from the Left's perspective and obviously it
was anathema to the Pakistani establishment. The
journal was circulated secretively in the country.
His curriculum vitae makes an impressive reading: from
the post of research officer in the Reserve Bank of
India in 1945 to readership in the University of
Manchester and the post-retirement life in Karachi
What is most significant about Mr Alavi is that his
research is not the kind that is conducted in the
air-conditioned seminar rooms and libraries.
Accompanied by his wife, he went and lived for 15
months in a Sahiwal (Punjab) village in 1968-69 to do
an anthropological field study. In 1981, he returned
to the same village to do a follow-up on the changes
that had taken place over the years.
His field-oriented research, to which he applied his
theoretical knowledge of anthropology and sociology,
made his papers full of insightful knowledge and
information on Pakistani society.
It seems intriguing that while abroad he was
acknowledged as a distinguished anthropologist whose
ideas had influenced a large number of social
scientists, and he was acclaimed as a foremost
theoretical thinker in South Asia; back home, his
views were anathema to the establishment which found
it difficult to swallow ideas that criticized foreign
aid, spoke of the emergence of military-bureaucratic
oligarchy which tries to mediate between the imperial
powers and landlords and the native bourgeoisie.
He had been studying the Holy Quran to understand the
rise of fundamentalism which concerned him deeply. He
thought rational intervention was necessary as there
was a pluralist view of Islam as had been advocated by
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who had said that religion should
remain a private matter.
He had founded a number of organizations in his early
life like the Pakistan Youth League, which was a broad
liberal social forum, the Pakistan Socialist Society
and after Ayub Khan's coup, he set up a committee for
the Restoration of Democracy in Pakistan. He also
formed The Forum, Pakistan Welfare Association, etc.
Mr Alavi wrote a large number of research papers. His
writings are so diverse that it is difficult to
identify his area of specialization. Some of the
subjects of his papers were the class structure;
nature of colonial and post-colonial economies;
relations between colonial, post-colonial and
metropolitan elites; role of military and bureaucracy;
changing production relations and mode of production
and kinship in the political economy, etc.
Dawn, December 2, 2003
In the death of Hamza Alavi, the country has lost an
eminent intellectual. Starved of minds which think
independently and rationally, our society - and
establishment - has not really appreciated the men of
scholarship who have refused to toe the conventional
line. Hence not surprisingly, Hamza Alavi spent most
of his active professional life in universities
abroad, mainly Manchester and Sussex. vBy training an
economist and sociologist, he made a profound
contribution to socio-political and economic thinking
by applying his deep and comprehensive knowledge of
Marxian theory to contemporary developments in
Pakistan. He won international recognition for his
thesis on peasant revolution.
In Pakistan, his ideas on feudalism, nationhood, the
salariat (a term he coined), the freedom movement, the
role of the bureaucracy and army in politics provided
considerable food for thought to rationally-minded
Hamza Alavi will be remembered not just for his
scholarship but also for his activism and concern for
the state of Pakistani society which seems to be
driven by retrograde forces. Not an arm-chair scholar,
Alavi went and lived in a village in Punjab for 15
months to do field research on the biradari system.
While in England, he launched the committee for the
restoration of democracy (directed against Ayub Khan)
and mobilized Pakistanis to create awareness against
dictatorship. He edited Pakistan Today, which analyzed
problems from the Left's perspective and was
distributed clandestinely in Pakistan.
In England he became a founder-member of CARD
(Campaign against Racial Discrimination), a
multiracial organization formed to fight the rising
tide of racism. Even in his retirement in Karachi he
continued to be active in espousing the causes close
to his heart.
Ill-health and infirmity notwithstanding, he was a
much sought-after speaker at seminars and for
interviews because he had something meaningful to say.
He would also show up at protest demonstrations to
identify himself with democracy, peace and
non-violence. He will be missed sorely for he was one
of the few remaining voices of sanity and reason in
o o o
December 3, 2003
KARACHI: Hamza Alavi's death condoled
KARACHI, Dec 2: The Irteqa Institute of Social Sciences, Progressive
Writers Association and Awami Adbi Anjuman in a joint resolution
expressed profound grief at the demise of noted intellectual and a
social scientist of great eminence, Dr Hamza Alavi on Monday.
A patron of Irteqa, since the decade of 80s in the last century, Prof
Alavi was equally generous in extending his support and patronage to
other progressive organizations in the city.
In a country lagging behind in the area of education and social
development, the soft spoken professor had always been a guide to all
such bodies, which were working hard to infuse enlightenment and the
spirit of tolerance in society.
Prof Alavi's researches in anthropology, sociology, and particularly
in the Afro-Asian societies added immense knowledge to the human
society, treasured by the academia in the universities the world over.
A democrat to the core, he was the founder of many democratic bodies
and forums in the country and also abroad. The Pakistan Youth League,
Pakistan Socialist Society and Pakistan Welfare Association, to note
Dr Hamza Alavi's death is a great loss to all of us and will always
be felt by the people in Pakistan and many other countries. - HA
o o o
The Daily Times, 3 December 2003
Hamza Alavi: greatness we rebuffed
Hamza Alavi, who died in Karachi Monday, was known as a leftwing
intellectual to most of us. But in truth he was a rational
philosopher in the tradition of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who thought that
Pakistan as a Muslim state could survive only if it read its
Scripture rationally and interpreted it pluralistically. Mr Alavi
therefore was a great supporter of the Quaid-e-Azam and wrote about
him in his characteristic investigative manner, only to put off the
religious establishment in Pakistan. His last great work was a series
of articles on the impractical interpretation of the Quranic edict on
interest (riba) by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. (Pakistan couldn't
implement it.) Ever the man of reason, he demonstrated once again how
a religious state may hurt itself by being literalist.
From the Bohra community in Karachi, Mr Alavi in fact belonged to the
world. That's how he was saved from the ostracism of a narrow-minded
society of restricted vision. While he was farming in Tanzania, he
advanced the Marxist method of analysis by empirically identifying
the mid-level farmer as the link to the urban proletariat. He came to
Pakistan in 1968 and studied the 'biradiri' system in the local
electoral process in a district of the Punjab. That study remains a
classic to this day. If he hadn't declined in health in recent years
he could have been in the vanguard of the anti-capitalist movement
whose importance we all recognise as we approach the year 2005 under
the WTO. *
Justice for Harmony march - Insaf ke Bina Aman Nahin
Please join in large numbers in the protest march organized by Aman
Ekta Manch to mark the 11th anniversary of the demolition of the
Babri Masjid. The theme for the march is "Justice for Harmony" (Insaf
ke Bina Aman Nahin) - to highlight the need to bring to book the
perpetrators of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the pogrom in
Gujarat in 2002. All organizations are welcome to join with their
banners and posters.
The march will start at 4.00 pm on December 6th, Saturday, at Mandi
House circle (Safdar Hashmi Marg) we will march towards India Gate,
where we will conclude with a cultural programme. All cultural
groups, singers, plays, are welcome to bring their performances. The
programme would be more easily manageable if each performance could
be limited to not more than 20 minutes each.
We have attached a poster (English) that you can print out, photocopy
and put up wherever you want.
Please mobilise widely.
Aman Ekta Manch
o o o
Please join Us at 6 pm
December 6, 2003
Anhad, 4 Windsor Place, New Delhi
Film: Passengers by Akanksha Joshi and Nooh Nizami- on Gujarat
Poetry Recitation: Gauhar Raza
Movement Songs : Vagish Jha and all of us together
4.00-5.30 we will be joining the Aman Ekta March, the programme at
Anhad would begin at 6 pm sharp
05 Dec 2003
RSS Volunteer to Desecrate Gandhi
It is a screaming insult to the memory of Gandhi that Gandhi Smriti
and Darshan Samiti, Delhi, invited a RSS volunteer to inaugurate the
Global Convention on Peace and Nonviolence slated for Jan31 and Feb1,
2004, in Delhi. It is shocking in the extreme that GSDS chose to be
so insensitive and grossly blind to history and so egregiously
contemptuous of civility.
How could a spiritual and ideological soulmate of the assassin Godse
be invited to this convention on peace and nonviolence? And that to
How could a collaborator of the British and a pledged advocate of
violent liquidation of minorities, Muslims in particular, be invited
to this function?
How could Atom Bomb Vajpayee be invited to a function touted to be on
global peace and nonviolence? GSDS forgot what Gandhi said about the
It is Atal's Darshan and Smriti of his association that GSDS seems
more solicitous of than the Darshan or Smriti of Gandhi which RSS has
done its meanest most to destroy and denigrate.
And, it seems, GSDS begged him, the RSS votary of violent extirpation
of minorities, to inaugurate the Convention, seemingly because it
could not find a Gandhian anywhere in the world, or it dreamed that
Vajpayee had abandoned the fascistic RSS and mutated into a sworn
The GSDS is free to fantasize, and regress into infantile imbecility,
but it certainly is not licensed to have the memory of Gandhi sullied
and seared by the RSS man who did all he could for his Hindu Rashtra
cult to have Gandhi wiped off Indian history and psyche and dumped in
blood and fire as in Gujarat.
GSDS seems irreversibly amnesiac otherwise it should have remembered
that RSS rulers dealt a death blow to Gandhi Institute in Varanasi.
Not only it buried Gandhi there, it also battered its prime
benefactor, JP Narayan, so closely associated with it for decades.
Is it for these criminal and barbaric tendencies, reeking of fascism
and totalitarian terrorism, that GSDS chose to honour Vajpayee under
the cover of the Convention?
GSDS should, in view of this, change its name.
If it did not beg him to favor it with his presence, how come he
"kindly agreed to inaugurate"? Why did it beg a communal fascist to
"honor" Gandhi, a seasoned sectarian-exclusivist like Vajpayee to
"inaugurate" a pluralist-secular democrat like Gandhi?
He should have been, instead, turned down for this honor, if HE had
dared beg the GSDS, or if those close to him had begged the GSDS for
this blatant blasphemy and savage sacrilege?
GSDS owes an immediate and unreserved apology to Gandhians, to the
nation at large, as to the international community of Gandhi
devotees, to have perpetrated this ignominy so brutally, and at such
a time as this, when the world is rocked by violence, and India is
shaken to its roots by the criminals in saffron, rampaging and
stalking all over, torching and demolishing all that was dear to
Gandhi more than his own life. END.
['re the Assembly elections victory by the Hindu right' E-mail,
posting by the well known progressive Indian sociologist, on foil.org
reproduced here in the interest of public debate, 5 December 2003 ]
o o o
WHAT WENT WRONG?
I am devastated by the election results. I was expecting a loss in
MP because the BJP/RSS has been growing there for some time and
clearly targeting Digvijay Singh (see Sudarshan's speech on
Vijayadashmi) but I did not expect the losses in Rajasthan and
Three good CMs lost. Digvijay Singh, tho a Thakur, has stood for
Dalits and the protection of religious minorities; people in
government service have been banned from being members of RSS in MP.
He is the most hated politician of the RSS. His so-called "soft
Hindutva" was at the level of rhetoric -- itself not desirable, but
he has never said a word against Muslims (as for instance Antony did
in Kerala). Gehlot, a Mali, is new in politics and has made some
mistakes (for instance reservations for the economically backward
among the threadwalas is a travesty of the whole idea of affirmative
action) but many friends consider him a leader with potential.
Jogi, a Christian "tribal" has also been a target of very dirty
attacks. Though Hindutva forces have claimed he got a false
certificate, I am told he comes from a Satnami family and while most
Satnamis were Dalit (SC) some adivasis also joined it; such was
Jogi's family. Why did the Congress lose? Anti-incumbncy and
general disillusionment with politicians, along with the failure of
Congress to present a clear political vision are important.
However, I do not think the socalled "developmental" issues (roads,
electricity etc) are as significant as most commentators are saying
now. Both parties are at present more or less alike on these. These
have perhaps been made a talking point but if they were so important
why did Gehlot lose? He was the one being praised for having done a
good job on development. True, the Congress should learn to speak in
a clear voice with a vision on these issues, but that is a different
Three additional factors have to be noted.
One is the continual dominance of upper castes, mainly brahmans, in
the bureaucracy. There was a report about bureaucrats "guiding"
villagers in using the new voting machines in Rajasthan. this may
have happened in many places. In MP we found that after Lyndoh had
said that Digvijay Singh could not forgive electricity bills for
farmers, almost immediately people got bills, large bills. Was this
Second is a simple technical factor, that of election mobilization.
What is called in the US "getting out the vote.: RSS is good at that
sort of thing and they undoubtedly worked during this election. I
don't think Congress has the cadre now to do this.
And third, as for the left and progressive forces who have had such
cadre, they have been worse than useless in these elections. Here I
am most disappointed. The CPI/CPM have little real base and cadre
left in these states. The nonparliamentary, anti-parliamentary left
has had a negative effect by reducing Congress votes in the adivasi
areas where it has some strength. (If I am wrong about this please
inform me). Even more, the "ultrarevolutionary" idea that nothing
can be gained from parliamentary politics has spread far and wide and
has affected so many activists of NGOs and other organizations (NBA,
Ekalavya, NAPM connected groups and all the Adivasi Kisan Sanghathans
floating around in MP) that most have simply remained silent,
bemoaning the growth of RSS and sitting at home, or in some cases
trying to float third parties which objectively aid the BJP by
cutting Congress votes. People like Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy
might have had some influence in these states,but they have been
silent, silent silent.
Their politics has becoe one of fighting globalization and the market
economy and "neoliberalism" etc. while ignoring brahmanism/fascism in
their own land. I don't think fighting dams and development (this
isanyway not a Marxist position) and helping Hindutva should be
acceptable to us any longer.
with metta and salutes,
Volume 20 - Issue 25, December 06 - 19, 2003
A question of uneven development
Interview with Lalit Deshpande.
Professor Lalit Deshpande, former Director of the Department of
Economics, University of Mumbai and currently a visiting honorary
professor at the Institute for Human Development, New Delhi, has had
a distinguished academic career. He is an executive committee member
of the Indian Society of Labour Economics. He has held numerous
positions in the Indian government - chairman of the Committee on
Labour Statistics, member of the Rest of Maharashtra Statutory
Development Board and member of the Services Board of Reserve Bank of
India, and so on. He has done research studies on labour market
behaviour for the International Labour Organisation and the World
Bank and has published books on Indian labour with a specific focus
on the extent of labour flexibility in India. Deshpande spoke to Lyla
Bavadam on the related issues of unemployment, labour and regional
inequalities. Excerpts from the interview:
What would be the best way to tackle the recurring problem of Sena
activists turning violent with the `sons-of-the-soil' slogan?
One way for the Railways to tackle the Sena is to make transparent
all the facts and figures. What are the facts before us? We have been
told that there were 2,000 posts and eight lakh applications. That is
all that the public knows and since the Railways has not said
anything about it we have to take the Sena's word about these
details. This is the worst thing. Since there is no other
information, people lap up whatever they receive and are convinced
that an injustice is being done to them. When information is
restricted, there is no transparency and ultimately there is a
violent outburst. Modern India has to give out facts - palatable or
unpalatable. Then people would understand the issue. In the absence
of this there is a clientele waiting to buy whatever is being sold.
The Railways' employment policy is not known. The Shiv Sena says the
jobs that were available were for khalasis [unskilled labourers]. The
Shiv Sena asks: "Is there a shortage of unskilled labour in
Maharashtra that it has to be brought in from other States?" They
emphasise that they are referring to all those who are domiciled here
and not to Marathi-speaking people. The Railways should counter this
by providing information. How many people from Maharashtra applied
for these jobs? How many failed, how many passed?
Then there is the other issue. I read that these jobs were not
advertised in the Marathi language papers. True or false? Fears need
to be allayed about the general policies of recruitment. All these
questions are very legitimate and all debates are useless unless you
know the facts. As an average Indian I do not know what is happening.
It is essential that people know what is happening so that those who
are making public causes of issues cannot misuse opportunities to
further their own aims.
A bit of background is essential to understanding the issue. To the
man on the street it is about jobs, but there is more to it than
meets the eye. The Railways has not been contributing to the general
tax revenue as it was doing earlier. It is in a dilemma too. If it
starts operations in a profitable State it will make money, but the
basic mandate of the Railways is to provide infrastructure to
backward areas so as to raise the development levels. No doubt it
will initially make losses but after that it will make profits.
Are you referring to taking a stand on regional inequalities?
Yes, there needs to be a principle of distribution. Larger shares of
the development budget should be earmarked for States with low
incomes. So, if we do not want Biharis to come here then we should be
prepared to give Bihar a larger share of the development budget. Or
we should provide employment to Biharis regardless of where they are
Maharashtra is among the fastest growing States. The annual rate of
growth here is 6 per cent as compared to 3 per cent in Bihar. Since
the levels of poverty and unemployment are higher in Bihar, it is
natural for Biharis to migrate in search of jobs. If a State is
mismanaged, as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are believed to be, then what
is the Centre doing to make them perform? A situation is bound to
come when other States will grudge the behaviours of the
non-performing States. Our Constitution does not have any provisions
for punishment for bad performances by States.
Bal Thackeray says that he is not against Biharis per se but against
all people who take away unskilled jobs from local people. He says
that all States, and not just Maharashta, should reserve unskilled
jobs for local people and this would significantly reduce
(Laughs) Take the Railways again, for example. If no investment is
made by the Railways in Bihar then how can unskilled Biharis apply
for jobs in Bihar? This is a serious responsibility of the public
sector. It has to make investments, especially in backward areas,
otherwise how will there be employment for the people of those areas?
Do we have any idea of the extent of unemployment? How would you
define an unemployed person?
An unemployed person is not just a person who does not have a job. In
developed countries the jobless get unemployment insurance.
Therefore, the person is unemployed but yet has an income. Not so in
India. So in India how do we measure unemployment? Take the example
of a cobbler who sits on the footpath in his stall. He would come in
the category of self-employed, but consider his earnings. He may get
one customer or 10 customers a day. There has to be a minimum income
per day to consider a person as employed.
Therefore, income measure is the best measure to judge
employment/unemployment. These are also the reasons why it is
difficult to get accurate figures of the unemployed. One can get
numbers from employment exchanges but it is still not accurate.
People who are looking for a better job, though they already have
one, people who want to hold more than one jobs - all these people
register with the exchange.
In cultural and demographic terms, is there any indication of an
increase in the number of unemployed Maharashtrians in the State?
Likewise, is there any indication of a trend in which more numbers of
the so-called `outsiders' are getting employed in the State? There is
a general belief that migrants come in and corner particular jobs.
Since employment and unemployment issues are not clearly defined,
there are no definitive answers to this. However, one thing is true.
Migrants find jobs easily because they will work for anyone and any
wage. Look at some of the jobs in the city. Most of the rag-pickers
are from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, most of the ship-breaking
jobs are done by migrants. No Maharashtrian will do these jobs unless
they are from very poor regions like Solapur. It is not correct to
say that these people are cornering the jobs in these industries. It
is just that no one else is willing to do them. This is a universal
fact. A migrant is also usually a single mouth to feed - himself -
since he leaves his family in the village.
There is another reason for this belief that migrants corner certain
jobs. People from Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have local
skills that are transmitted from father to son. For instance, diamond
cutters, carpenters, polishwallahs and gawlis [milkmen]. Take the
example of gawlis. They are mainly from western Uttar Pradesh, which
is an area of many rivers and hence milch animals do well there.
Gawlis are a traditional occupation there. Maharashtra, especially
the interiors, is a dry area, so the profession of gawli is not so
common. So when the Uttar Pradesh gawlis came here they filled a
natural niche. Because these people have traditional skills it gives
the impression that they are taking over a profession.
How about the non-skilled areas? For instance, jobs like taxi
drivers, lift men, security guards. There is a popular perception
that these are dominated by people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
One of the possible explanations is that migrant populations work
much harder. At one time, vegetable markets were dominated by
Maharashtrians, but that percentage has decreased. The migrant
workers get up at 2 a.m. and begin the business of getting in fresh
produce. Another reason is that Maharashtrians have not been broadly
noted for their entrepreneurial spirit. They have more of a service
nature, at least among the middle classes.
Are there any statistics that you can give to show the flow of
migrants into Mumbai?
One very telling figure is from the 1961 Census, which says that 40
per cent of migrants to Mumbai came from the rest of Maharashtra.
However, more recent figures from the 1981-1991 Census show that the
share of Gujarati migrants has dropped. From 16 per cent in 1961 it
has come down to 12 per cent in 1991. For Uttar Pradesh-Bihar, the
inflow into Mumbai has gone up from 12 per cent in 1961 to 20 per
cent in 1991. You must remember that when the Census is taken if
someone is born outside the State he is considered a migrant even if
he has been living away from his place of birth for several years.
What was the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine's track record
in providing employment when they were in power in Maharashtra? Sena
leader Raj Thackeray had expressed concern about unemployed youth and
had even started a sort of employment bureau.
In the totality of population in the State, it becomes difficult to
claim success or failure. No figures will directly show you whether
more Maharashtrians got employment though this can be inferred from
Do you think the violence was an expression of the Sena's
`sons-of-the-soil' policy or is there something more to it?
Let me put it this way. You need an issue to come to prominence in a
State. Once you come to power your ambition looks to other States and
you alter your ideas. From the cause of the Marathi manus to Hindutva
to the Muslim vote, it is all the language of convenience. Professor
Kaushik Basu, who used to be with the Delhi School of Economics,
spoke of the hierarchy of ideologies and beliefs. He says that your
basic ideology may conflict with your lesser ideologies. Each person
has to come to terms with this. The basic ideology of the Shiv Sena
is to promote the interests of the Marathi-speaking population, but
their ambition is to go to the Hindi-speaking States now, especially
since they have partnered with the BJP.
So what does the Sena do so as not to embarrass the BJP in the Hindi
belt? That is their conflict right now. Full employment can only be
assured if there is denial of Fundamental Rights of others, that is,
Article 19 which guarantees freedom of movement. This is a political
decision to be made and that is where the compromises in ideology are
A very common complaint by locals against migrants is that of
integration. Even citizens who do not support the Sena's extreme
views say that migrants do not integrate and, in fact, impose their
culture on the older, more established culture.
`They don't integrate', `their habits are dirty'... these are the
common prejudices that locals all over the world have against first
generation migrants. I was talking to an Uttar Pradesh rickshawallah
the other day and he was expressing his opinion about Biharis. He was
talking about his neighbour who is a Bihari and who he says does not
save any money to send back to his family. From this he came to the
conclusion that Biharis are immoral and selfish people and that is
why others do not like them.
I thought to myself that when he first came here he must have been
looked down upon by others for similar things, but he has forgotten
that. Our minds are prejudiced. I remember reading a letter in a
Marathi paper some years ago in which a woman reader said Biharis and
people from Uttar Pradesh are dirty and spit paan. Now paan is more
of a north Indian habit, but what about the fact that Maharashtrians
eat tobacco and spit that? The basic idea seems to be that we can
spit but others cannot.
The other prejudiced accusation against migrants is that they tend to
band together. A migrant is looking for security, so he will
naturally stay with his own people for the sake of familiarity and
convenience. This has happened in New York, in London... Just about
everywhere. We have to remember that integration is a slow process.
You now have Punjabi and Gujarati families taking out Ganesha idols
for immersion. It is not a part of their original culture, but some
families have been here so long that it has become part of their
Or take the matter of the local language. In Mumbai you can get away
with Bambaiya Hindi so many migrants do not feel the need to learn
Marathi, but a great many still do. And if they send their children
to school then they will learn Marathi because it is the second
In Amsterdam the migrants from Surinam, particularly women, are very
reluctant to mix with the local people. So local volunteer groups
formed clubs, which were initially only for women, and they used to
go out on picnics, hold Dutch classes. Integration is a two-way
process. You cannot put the responsibility entirely on the migrants.
If we want them to integrate, then the question we have to ask
ourselves is this: What are we doing to help them to achieve this?
The Economic and Political Weekly
November 29, 2003
Challenging Caste and Gender Ideologies
De-Eroticising Assault: Essays on Modesty, Honour and Power, by
Kalpana Kannabiran and Vasanth Kannabiran; Stree, Kolkata 2002; pp
267 (with index), price Rs 500.
Written in the last decade of the 20th century, these essays reflect
the agonising concerns of the women's movement when confronted with
the dramatic changes of the period: For the era had witnessed the
restructuring of the prevailing socio-economic structures - a process
that was marked with greater state repressions, economic inequalities
and ideological conservatism. The globalisation of the world economy
and the entry of foreign capital into the country had created an
illusion of prosperity for the middle classes; this unfortunately was
achieved on the suffering of many who were dispossessed because of
the current development policies or rendered unemployed by the
closure of many factories and small manufacturing units. Exacerbating
the economic hardships of the people was the growing communal
tensions fostered by Right-winged ideologies and political agendas.
These developments had serious implications for women. The rising
cost of living and the shrinking employment markets were increasing
women's economic burdens, at the same time encoded ideas of gender
identities within the fundamentalist discourse were pushing women
back into their homes.
Capturing the complexity and the dilemmas of the times, the essays
give us insights into the theory and praxis of the women's movement
from the south. Located in Andhra Pradesh - a state with a long
history of radical politics - the essays delineate feminist politics
through the experiences of those were in the forefront of the
struggle. The introspective, first essay 'Looking at Ourselves: Stree
Shakti Sanghatana' (pp 25-54), does not merely record the history of
the organisation but goes on to explore the processes that shaped the
consciousness of its members and re-defined their life course. In
this sense, the essay is deeply autobiographical and represents an
attempt made by the authors to theorise on their lives. It thus
provides fresh insights into the trajectories of the women's
movement. Stree Shakti Sanghatana (SSS) was formed after the
emergency was lifted in 1977, when a group of 15 women came together
in order to express their political concerns. Set against the
backdrop of the radical politics in Andhra Pradesh, the essay
describes the political moorings of the founder members of the SSS as
radical and historically rooted in Telengana, a region known for its
economic/cultural marginalisation and its tense relationship to the
other parts of the state. All the founding members of the group had
close connections with the Left politics.
Modes of Violence
Written over a period of time, the essays point to the evolution of
thought of the two writers Kalpana and Vasanth. Nevertheless, despite
the time lag, the essays develop as a cohesive whole to indicate the
central concerns of feminist politics. Focusing on sexuality, rape,
sexual harassment and domestic violence, the essays point out to the
ways in which women are silenced through the use of violence.
Violence is not limited to the physical use of force; it also
operates at both the material and normative levels in society to
maintain existing caste/gender hierarchies. The violation of even a
seemingly simple dress code by a lower caste woman could prove to be
potential tinderbox that could ignite a communal violence. A
stalemate occurred in Orissa between the kshatriyas and the dalits
because a dalit woman 'dressed up well' when she went to receive her
wages. A sexist remark by the landlord made all the dalit women
strike work. The tension between the two groups was finally mediated
through an agreement between the men in the two communities that the
women from both the communities would not step into each other's
terrain (59-60). What the incident also poignantly brings home is the
centrality of control over women to a group identity. This is
precisely the reason why women become targets of attack in times of
Discussing the use of gender based violence in inter-community
rivalries, in the essay, 'Caste and Gender: Understanding Dynamics of
Power and Violence' (pp 55-67), Kalpana and Vasanth argue that
insofar as masculinity is tied up to the degree of control men
(collectively and individually) exercise over women's sexuality,
women from the other group are violated during inter-community
conflicts. The aim of such violence is to demoralise the men from the
other group. This important understanding of the underlying reasons
for violence perpetrated by the upper castes against women from the
lower castes has emerged from the experiences of dalit women. The
National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW) in its draft declaration on
Gender and Racisim asserted:
Descent-based discrimination based on caste results in the violent
appropriation of and sexual control over dalit women by men of the
dominant castes, evident in the systematic rape of dalit women and
the perpetuation of forced prostitution in the name of religion
through the devadasi system (p 9).
Further deconstructing various incidents of caste-based violence,
they argue that there must be a distinction made between the violence
perpetrated by men from the dominant groups to maintain the
prevailing caste/gender domination and the violence that results from
the legitimate anger of the downtrodden against the oppressors. They
also point out that in understanding communal violence, it is also
necessary to recognise women's roles in perpetuating violence.
Failing to recognise that the intersecting ideologies of caste and
gender controls are also enacted in their own lives, the women from
the dominant groups often side with the men in their communities
against the other.
The next three essays namely, 'Outrageous Modesty, Outraged Honour'
(pp 68-95), 'Death for Rape?' (pp 96-103) and 'A Ravished Justice:
Half a Century of Judicial Discourse on Rape' (pp 104-69) concentrate
on the legal discourses on violence. The first of the three essays
show that the supreme court guidelines issued in its judgment on
Vishaka vs the State of Rajasthan has been framed from the standpoint
of the vulnerability of a dalit woman. It seeks to protect working
women from exploitation by the dominant castes and holds the state
government responsible for their safety. It also points out the
difficulty of getting the seriousness of the offense of sexual
harassment accepted by society. This is evident from the attitude of
politicians and bureaucrats to the complaint of sexual harassment
filed by Rupan Bajaj against the super cop K P S Gill. It was as if
the reputation of a fine officer was needlessly tarnished by a woman
because of a petty misdemeanour. If an upper class woman faces such
disbelief in getting her complaint taken seriously, what hope could
ordinary women have that their complaints would be heard?
The second of the three essays examines the current debate on whether
death penalty should be imposed in rape cases. Kalpana and Vasanth
discuss the legal framework for the imposition of death penalty.
Death penalty can only be imposed under Section 303 IPC. The sentence
is only awarded in the rarest of rare cases and at the discretion of
the judges. Given the difficulty of proving rape in a court of law,
it is unlikely that death penalty would be awarded in a rape trial.
The legal system in the country rests on the assumption of the
innocence of the accused until proved guilty. Pointing to the
difficulty of establishing criminal culpability of the accused,
especially when the victim is not a minor and there are no signs of
injuries on her body, they argue that the rate of conviction in rape
trials is extremely low. No doubt this concern for the presumption of
innocence has been set aside in rape cases in recent years. This is
consequent to amendments of the IPC following feminist protests to
the Supreme Court judgment in the Mathura rape case (Tukaram vs State
of Maharashtra, 1979 scc[Cr ]381).
The third essay by Kalpana Kannabiran investigates the legal
discourse on rape as enacted in the various judgments delivered in
India since independence. Pointing to contradictions in the
discourse, she says that although rape is legally described as a
crime, it is also a product of the internalised values of
hetro-sexuality in the larger society. Rape cases hinge on the notion
of a woman's consent; the prevailing socio-cultural norms on
sexuality, however, deny minors the right to consent and adult woman
not to consent. These ambiguities therefore are present in the legal
system to deny women justice. The essay goes on to show that the
victims of rape (contrary to the stereotyped image of a seductress
asking for it) could be a child or an adult woman from any age group.
Likewise the accused (who enjoys the benefit of doubt within the
legal framework) could be a teenager, an old man, a father, guardian,
uncle, brother, servant, neighbours, government officials, or even a
stranger. These rapists are not criminals; rather they are ordinary
citizens. This indicates that the crime of rape is committed within
the social norms defining heterosexuality.
Vain Search for Justice
After pointing to the failure of the prevailing legal system in
ensuring justice for women, the authors indict the police for
manipulating the system in 'Desecrating Graves, Defiled Bodies,
Dispossessed Community' (pp 170-88). Deconstructing the official
position in the Rameeza Bee case, they point to the erasure of the
crime in official investigation process in order to exonerate the
accused policemen. The process of erasure also makes evident the ways
in which women's identities are constructed in society. Apart from
dividing women into good and bad women, the stereotyping of women
also occurs on the basis of their community identities. Women from
the minority communities are, in the process, denied their rights to
equal protection under the law.
The next essay, 'Crossing the Black Waters, Commemorating 150 years
of Indian Arrival in Trinidad' (pp 189-207) by Kalpana does not seem
to apparently fit into the mainframe of the book, for it focuses on
the Indian diaspora in Trinidad. The text, however, conforms to the
ideological positions of the author. By attempting to reconstruct the
history of the early Indian settlers in Trinidad, Kalpana points to
the insidious ways that the fundamentalist discourse from the mother
country shapes the contours of their collective memories.
Subsequently reflecting on women's political participation in 'A Hen
Crowing: Women and Political Power' (pp 208-41) Kalpana and Vasanth
raise questions about women's political participation and
consciousness. They point out that the prevailing dual gender
classification forecloses political space for those who do not fit
into the classification as seen in the story of Shabnam Mausi, a
eunuch: although elected to the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly
in 2000 as an independent candidate, Shabnam Mausi was denied a
ticket by the Congress Party. Subsequently reflecting on Lakshmi
Parvathi's political career in Andhra Pradesh, they point that a
woman with political ambitions has to conform to a predetermined
script of appropriate gender/upper class norms to survive in
politics. This construction of appropriate gender roles is also
deeply ingrained even in progressive groups like the UCCRI (ML)
groups. This, they suggest, is the reason why so many feminist groups
quit radical Left parties. The essay also discusses the nature of
women's political participation by describing the mass movement
spearheaded by women against the liquor policies of the state. A
lesson in an adult literacy primer triggered an apparently leaderless
movement in Andhra Pradesh against the state government in the early
1990s. The last part of the essay convincingly argue for affirmative
action for women in electoral politics.
In 'Sharing the Fish Head' (pp 242-61), Vasanth passionately
discusses the multi-layered dissemination strategies devised by
feminists. The essay begins by describing the growth and development
of feminist politics in the country since the 1970s. Subsequently
indicating some of the important milestones of the women's movement,
such as the entry of women's studies into the university system and
the establishment of the Indian Association of Women's Studies in the
first national conference of women's studies in Mumbai, it goes on to
examining some of the on-going ideological debates on mainstreaming
gender in development. The interest shown by international
development agencies on gender issues has resulted in the mushrooming
of gender training programmes. An examination of these programmes
suggests that the differences between them are both ideological and
theoretical. Vasanth defines programmes that seek to change
socio-political and economic underpinnings of gender inequities as
'women and empowerment programmes' and those that are undertaken with
moderate goals as 'women and equity programmes'. The conceptual
differences between these two kinds of programmes, however, needed to
be elaborated. Subsequently, this discussion on gender training veers
to the much-debated question within mass movements on the impact of
international funding on the civil structures in society. Suggesting
that the question is complex, Vasanth argues that the donor-driven
label need not necessarily undermine the merits of the training
programmes. While the aims of the programme may be influenced by the
ideology of the donor agency, it may equally be affected by the
ideology of the organisations undertaking the training programmes.
In conclusion, the book provides an insider's view of the growth of
feminist politics in India. One appreciates the passion and clarity
of their ideas as well as their commitment to feminist politics.
However, as the essays have been written over a period of time, one
wishes that the essays included brief notes on when each of them was
written so that readers could appreciate the evolution of feminist
ideas in India.
Delhi Social Forum
8 December 2003, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg
11.30 A.M. to 5.30 P.M.
Another World is Possible!
Another Asia is Possible!
Another Delhi is Possible!
Let's Build It!
As the clock moves towards the first one-day programme of the Delhi
Social Forum at Constitution Club in Delhi, we warmly invite you to
take part in dialogue and design a blueprint for building another
world and another Delhi - a just and shared world and city which
accord equality, dignity and rights to all its people.
Prabhat Patnaik Prabhash Joshi Gopal Guru
S P Shukla Namwar Singh Rajendra Yadav
Syeda Hamid Ali
Delhi, Deprivation and the World of Labour
Dalit and Dignity Forum
Child Rights and Globalisation
Media, Culture and Globalisation
Anil Mishra, Prakash Louis, Mukul Sharma, Vijay Pratap, Prabir
Purkayastha, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Rajni Tilak, Razia Ismail, Aditya
Contacts: Anil Mishra (22753885, 9818220556), Prakas Louis
(24694602, 24625015), Mukul Sharma (26854405, 26516695)
Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on matters of peace
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