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Archive for January 15th, 2013

Repeat gang rape: Do Indian Women Need a Political Party?

Another gang rape in India, much less in the medias: Customs taking over women rights, child slavery, untouchable lowest class…

Is India really essentially a village? And because it is a village it is a woman’s ancient foe? The most ardent fan of the Indian village was Mohandas K. Gandhi, who said, probably with joy, “The soul of India lives in its villages.”

A few Indians would venture to claim that even the country’s apparent cities are overwhelmed by deep and enduring infestations of rural tradition and the fellowships of the conservatives who hold women in low esteem.
The Parliament and legislative assemblies are largely confederations of village headmen.

Do Indian Women Need a Political Party and are Indians ready to welcome it? Kind of Village-style association?

“This is pretty much as badass as imaginable–“The Gulabi gang (from Hindi gulabi, “pink”, transln. “pink gang”) is a group of women vigilantes and activists originally from Banda in Bundelkhand district, Uttar Pradesh, India, but reported to be active across North India as of 2010. It is named after the pink saris worn by its members.The gang was founded in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, a mother of five and former government health worker (and a former child bride), as a response to widespread domestic abuse and other violence against women.

Gulabis visit abusive husbands and beat them up with laathis (bamboo sticks) unless they stop abusing their wives.

In 2008, they stormed an electricity office in Banda district and forced officials to turn back the power they had cut in order to extract bribes.

They have also stopped child marriages and protested dowry and female illiteracy.”

Photo: "This is pretty much as badass as imaginable--</p><br />
<p>"The Gulabi gang (from Hindi gulabi, "pink", transln. "pink gang") is a group of women vigilantes and activists originally from Banda in Bundelkhand district, Uttar Pradesh, India, but reported to be active across North India as of 2010. It is named after the pink saris worn by its members.</p><br />
<p>The gang was founded in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, a mother<br /><br />
of five and former government health worker (and a former child bride), as a response to widespread domestic abuse and other violence against women. Gulabis visit abusive husbands and beat them up with laathis (bamboo sticks) unless they stop abusing their wives. In 2008, they stormed an electricity office in Banda district and forced officials to turn back the power they had cut in order to extract bribes. They have also stopped child marriages and protested dowry and female illiteracy."
MANU JOSEPH Published in NYT on Jan. 2, 2013  under “City Setting, but Village Mentalities”
“The village in India is at the heart of most of India’s social problems. The most factual analysis of the Indian village was from a man who could not stand Gandhi, the writer, B.R. Ambedkar.
B.R. Ambedkar is the primary author of the Indian Constitution and arguably the nation’s most underrated writer, and he who wrote more than 60 years ago, “The love of the intellectual Indian for the village community is of course infinite, if not pathetic. … What is a village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow mindedness and communalism?”

His view holds even today.

The Indian village is the most formidable preserve of caste hierarchies, and at the very bottom of its many social rungs is the woman. The city, for its part, attempts to dissolve everything that the village holds dear, especially its hierarchies, its “narrow mindedness” and its close scrutiny of women. All of India’s struggles for modernity have been about this — the battle of the idea of the city against the idea of the village.

The latest uprising in India is a part of this tired war, even though at first glance it appears to be a society’s outrage at the rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi.

On the night of Dec. 16, a 23-year-old student was raped and brutalized for nearly an hour in a moving bus in Delhi by six drunken men, and thrown out of the vehicle. She battled for her life for nearly two weeks before succumbing to complications arising from severe injuries. India reacted to the rape and eventually to her death in a profound way.

How it reacted became an accidental survey of the many psychological states of urban India, which included, inexorably, the city’s contempt for the village.

What happened to this young woman could have happened anywhere in the world, and such crimes have indeed occurred even in some of the most affluent nations. But nowhere else in the world did such an event set off an urban middle-class movement across several cities against the government. The protesters slammed the government for its failure to make Delhi and other Indian cities safe for women.

But, largely, the demonstrations were a lament of the city against a nation that has, going by the statements of politicians and policemen in the past, blamed attacks on women on the women’s own modernity.

The placards, which were mostly in English, of the women who marched in Delhi in protest, carried statements like these: “Just because I show my legs, it does not mean I will spread them for you,” “Don’t tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape,” and “My body, my right. My city, my right.”

In numerous television chat shows and articles, women accused the very core of India for their daily humiliations. The phrase “feudal structure” was used several times to describe a rural Indian society where men perceive rape as a way of showing a woman her place and how such men carry that perception with them when they migrate to the cities.

If the idea of a city, as evident in the world’s greatest cities, is the very opposite of the reality of an Indian village, if a city is supposed to be a liberal, broad-minded place that is a young woman’s best friend, then does India truly have even a single city?

Mumbai alone appears to come close, but it is today a decaying city run by rustics. Politicians and policemen whose morality seems chiefly to concern the sexual and drinking habits of unmarried women express their alarm now and then. In Mumbai’s bars, under an old law that until the past year was largely unenforced, you actually need a permit to consume alcohol.

And a portion of the city’s beautiful southern tip by the Arabian Sea has become an almost exclusive peninsula for fundamentalist vegetarians who have somehow ensured that it is hard for anyone to find meat or even eggs in their neighborhood.

Eight years ago, the hotelier Sanjay Narang told me that when he defied them and opened a nonvegetarian restaurant in the area, in the ground floor of a residential building, angry residents of the building stood in their balconies and spat on the patrons. He soon had to shut down.

As for the city’s reputation as being safe for women, according to several of its women, this is an exaggeration, or at best a relative virtue.

Why does India not have real cities? Because cities require a critical mass of liberal people, or at least its elite, to be somewhat independent — free of their cultural, familial and communal roots, whereas it is the nature of the average Indian to be dependent on a network of his own kind, to deepen his roots and marinate in too many value judgments about other people.

Manu Joseph is editor of the Indian newsweekly Open and author of the novel “The Illicit Happiness of Other People.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 3, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune.
 
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