Why do we need ‘Slut Walk’?

June 27th, 2011

Alright, alright. I know this one is going to make sound like a big prude. I’m just about getting ready to be labelled a holier-than-thou cow. But I’ve grown up on a diet of legends such as Mother Teresa, Matangani Hazra, Rani Laxmibai, Razia Sultan, Annie Besant, Sarojini Naidu and a whole lot of other women who did this country proud. I learnt about them in textbooks and comic strips, and marvelled at their achievements in movies, plays, puppet shows.
 
Which is why, I got really peeved when a friend called me up and announced excitedly that she was taking part in what I can only put down as an insanely mindless protest march — the Slut Walk.
 
The concept originated in Canada in reponse to a police officer’s suggestion in April this year, that women wearing provocative clothing were more likely to get molested or raped. The cop in question categorically advised women to ‘avoid dressing like sluts’, hence the term.
 
The Slut Walk has gained popularity in North America and Europe, although marches are also being India, Brazil, New Zealand and South Korea.
 
I am particularly upset with the way some Indian women have taken to emulating the West at the drop of a hat. I am not sure the so-called protests with achieve anything apart from generating television TRPs and big moolah for the organisers. And, of course, some cheap and possibly unwanted publicity for the participants.
 
If the objective of the march is to stir the collective conscience of the Delhi Police or the rapists/molesters for that matter, the participants are barking up the wrong tree. In any case, many of them, like my friend, seem to be in it only because it is fashionable to do so.
 
As a society, we seem to have missed the whole point. Rapes are on the rise simply because the rate of convictions is phenomenally low. What we really need is very strong anti-rape laws supported by an equally strong justice-delivery mechanism.
 
You wouldn’t ever see men do anything so stupid as a Slut Walk, would you?  When was the last time you saw a male cheerleader in any sport? Yet men still rule the world and will continue calling the shots as long as we women insist on showing ourselves in such poor light. Why do you think advertisements on Axe, Zatak or any other male grooming products end up showing women in such repugnant manner? 
 
Back in the 1960s and 1970s the so-called radical feminists ruined the image of womanhood with the famous ‘Burn the Bra’ campaign. The event marginalised feminism and silenced some of the more meaningful voices who would have otherwise fought a tough war. It trivializes the social-footing of a woman.
 
How on earth can we stop as hideous a crime as rape by holding such protest marches? On the contrary, such protests completely defeat the very purpose for which they were designed. Stop this nonsense in the name of ‘women empowerment’.

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We are all corrupt

June 21st, 2011

Remember that comedy of the 1980s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron? While it evoked a great deal of laughter, there was a not-so-subtle message in  it as well — the very people we invest our faith in can be the ones who let us down badly. In the movie, that role of the so-called custodian of morality who succumbed to the lure of money was very ably portrayed by the late Bhakti Barve.

Fast-forward to the present times. I just couldn’t contain my amusement while simultaneously feeling sorry for what has become of our country. Like everyone else, I too want corruption to be eliminated from society once and for all. The question is, who is to be the torchbearer in the war against graft. Godmen or so-called Gandhians?  I am not convinced.

The Lok Pal Bill entails creation of an ombudsman who would, if Anna Hazare and his ilk have their way, have the power to question the Prime Minister of the country. And that ombudsman would be an academician, a scholar, a professor, just about anyone who commands respect in society. But there is a small problem here — who is to guarantee that newly-appointed keeper of the is himself corruption-free and has always done things legally?

It was different under British rule. At that time, we were up against a foreign power and there was a common thread called nationality that bonded people together and sacrifice their lives for the nation. Today we are fighting our own. And we don’t really know who the enemy is.

I have a bigger issue here: Aren’t we ourselves the enemy? If we are truly concerned about eliminating corruption and poverty, we could start by discouraging such practices individually. We could, for instance, contribute in our own little way by not bribing the passport officer to obtain the document or join an illegal driving school that promises to issue a valid driving license even before you learn how to hold the steering wheel.

The RTI Act has been around for a while. How many people you know have used it for genuine purposes? And how many genuine people really know how to file an RTI application? A colleague from Mumbai tells me he took a dip-stick and asked 10 fellow journalists knew how to file an application. Surprise, surprise… just one of the ten respondents knew, and that too because her father had literally made a hobby out of using the RTI as a weapon.

Call me a die-hard cynic, but I figure it will be the same with Lok Pal. There will be give-and-take, and while there will be celebrations galore once the PM comes under the ambit of the Lok Pal — IF at all he comes under its ambit — elimination of corrruption will remain a pipe dream if the ombudsman does another Bhakti Barve on us. Another question here. How will the ombudsman be chosen — and by whom?

***

This one is for you Babaji? If you were truly serious about your mission, you could have made your point by fasting in Haridwar itself. You had the media at your command, surely your campaign wouldnt have gone unnoticed. But since you decided a Chalo Dilli would be more effective, all you had to do was to court arrest when the cops came to Ramlila Grounds. Your running away from there and donning the garb of a woman only displays a lack of conviction in your crusade. Jai Ho.

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Wake up India, before it’s too late

April 21st, 2011

Give crores to cricketers, let several Arunimas suffer … So what?

Indians have long been blamed for being complacent about every act of malpractice and corruption that is so rampant in this country. A wise man once told me Indians are like fishes and corruption is like water. Just as a fish cannot avoid water, Indians cannot avoid corruption. Agreed! But the tragedy today is that most Indians have become utterly shameless while certain sections, especially the youth, believe in half truths and feel they know everything, equipped as they are with a few mindless social networking sites.

I, like most other fellow citizens of my country, also cheered when India won the World Cup and I agree they played well. But wait a second. Is this not what players are supposed to do? Players played a game, I repeat, A GAME well. Fine. Cheer for them! Encourage them! Pat them on their backs! But how dare we offer pots of money, bungalows, free airlines and railway passes to them who are already filthy rich and live an opulent lifestyle.

On other hand, when national-level volleyball player Arunima Sinha is thrown out of a running train by robbers and loses her leg, the government finds it has suddenly run out of cash. While the High Court has ordered the UP Government and the Railways to pay a mere Rs 5 lakh each to Arunima, there was little else in consolation from our so-called political leaders and other organisations. So a total Rs 10 lakh for Arunima compared with Rs 5 crore, Rs 10 crore and villas to Dhoni, Sehwag, Kohli and the likes.

And why only Arunima? This is a country which ranks 67th in global hunger index, in which 37 per cent of the population still lives below the poverty line and which is home to world’s most underweight children. What are we doing? Where are we going as a country? This is a country where millions still go to bed half fed. How dare we offer crores to cricketers or shamelessly show them being auctioned on prime TV channels, while slotting a programme on poor farmers only on DD National, which hardly anyone watches.

Last week millions thronged to support Gandhian Anna Hazare who was surrounded by people who do nothing for the society. The same rush of support could be seen in social networking sites as well. But these same people are never seen when a six-year-old gets killed by his employer or a woman gets raped and killed by some stranger? How many of us do not offer bribes to agents, clerks to get our passports, driver’s license, tickets made? Can we stop all that forever?

It is easy to preach but we should truly wake up in terms of being a true human and practice it…

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Uncle Sam on the job yet again

March 21st, 2011

“For God’s sake leave us alone,” screamed a 40-something burqa-clad woman in Benghazi against the attack launched by allied forces against ‘tyrant’ Muammar Gaddafi. Ever since civilians in Libya declared war against their leader for 42 years, the port city of Benghazi – Libya’s second largest city has become a household name across the world. However, the place could well turn out a new playground for President Obama, who was longing for such an opportunity to come his way with the help of which he can now finally show Americans that he is the quintessential US President and not the one who would bring “change”.

As massive fighter jets took off Saturday night for Libya, the world watched in awe that Uncle Sam was back again on the job it knows best – to intervene in other’s affairs not because their hearts bleed for poor Libyans but because the smell of oil is too strong to resist.

The ghastly memories of 2003 were rushing to my mind when President Obama called Gaddafi “a tyrant who is killing his own people” in a similar fashion and accent that George W Bush used to describe Saddam Hussein in order to justify his attacks on Iraq. It has never been civilian or human rights that fuels American fighter jets but oil and only oil to swell its reserves. The US strategic petroleum reserve currently stands at 727 million barrels and the Obama administration is under severe pressure from the Congress to tap its reserves to stabilise prices.

Gaddafi has lost the nasty game he was playing and sooner or later he would face the inevitable. And just as people there took up arms against their leaders without any intervention from the US, the UK and France, they would have destroyed their dictators also and would have chosen their own leader. But now, with US intervention, not only will these people lose, they would become puppets in the hands of so-called Western democratic despots.

It was Mr Obama only who had said during his ever-aggressive election campaign that it was due to his predecessor’s faulty foreign policy that US was facing adverse impacts in its Af-Pak policy. Then what’s happened now? Mr Bush must now be laughing his heart out. And once again the US has proved that it can never change. The world is once again watching with muted response as global giants’ rampage the world again while others pay a heavy price.

And it would be foolish to think that the reason why suddenly the Arab leaders have joined hands with the allied forces is because they want democracy or they are proponents of human rights and dignity. Rather this is an extremely clever way of crushing the spirit of democracy that is sweeping the Arab world recently. This can be clearly seen in the way voices of democracy and freedom are getting choked in Bahrain.

Hope Mr Obama is quite aware of the fact that whether it is North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or Libya… US will only win hatred and NATO troops will bleed to death while terrorism raises its ugly head once again. Only this time they will be fiercer and bloodier!

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Of pharaohs and mummies

February 7th, 2011

“I have killed the pharaoh”, shouted 27-year old Khalid Islambouli after shooting the then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat 37 times in October 1981, shocking the entire world and shaking the Arab Muslim world for the first time. Today similar angst and pent-up mood can be seen in the beautiful streets of Cairo, where millions have become hungry for democracy. But the most important question at this moment is: Will there really be democracy in Egypt if and when President Hosni Mubarak steps down?

It is not easy to answer this question through any kind of analysis and parenthesis. The so-called ‘orderly transition’ is bound to get translated into huge paradigm shifts changing the axis of geopolitics completely. According to some, this could well be yet another attempt towards strengthening of ‘Islamisation’ and is about religion while some truly believe that this massive upheaval by the common Egyptian people who took to the streets for more than two weeks now demanding for a democratic set-up in their country.

The irony is, even though Egyptian society is deeply divided between rich and poor, the protest was started by Gucci-clad women that later got swelled with the participation of common man.

The protests were led by young Egyptian boys and girls, who want to desperately see a change in their lifetime for a better future, have finally come out of the Sphinx-like silence. And leading this young brigade was an elderly ElBaradei whose claim to instant fame was finding the WMDs or Weapons of Mass Destruction in Saddam’s Iraq, which is now the world’s most favourite battlefield besides, Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the WMDs could never be unearthed even though Saddam was most ruthlessly executed. Nevertheless, ElBaradei, who was then the director general of International Atomic Energy Agency, was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Not to mention, he has spent a large portion of his life outside Egypt.

So how exactly will tomorrow’s Egypt shape-up? Mubarak has clearly stated to Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, who was the only reporter to interview him during this turmoil that he would not flee as that is not his style and he would die on Egyptian soil. Just a little reminder here Egypt’s soil had been much fertile to give birth to some of the most dreadful names of the world such as Ayman al-Zawahiri – the leader of Al-Qaeda and Mohamed Atta, one the main masterminds behind the September 11, 2001 attack of the World Trade Centre.

Is the coming in of Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian mainstream politics a good sign after a prolonged ban? Did Egyptians really want this? Well, Mubarak’s resignation is also not the only solution. Egypt needs to adopt a proper constitution that would define all roles clearly with a proper mechanism. A constitution that should be adopted quickly. And quickly because neither the Egyptians nor the world can afford to let forces of religious fundamentalism creep in.  Remember, Israel is watching…

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