Archive for June 12, 2013

Now Modi trains his guns on Harsh Mander

Harsh Mander

Narendra Modi’s accusations against noted human rights activist Harsh Mander condemned as being an attempt to distort facts and spread hate

By Team FI

Human rights activists and individuals issued a statement today condemning the verbal attack unleashed by controversial Hindu right wing politician Narendra Modi on social activist Harsh Mander.

The statement signed by eminent activists including Medha Patkar, Shabnam Hashmi and Kavita Srivastava accused the Gujarat Chief Minister for trying to “belittle Mander’s work, raising doubts about him and villifying his name in public.”

Harsh Mander, an ardent opponent of capital punishment, is a well known social activist and writer. He heads Aman Biradari which works for communal harmony and runs residential homes for some 4000 homeless children across India.

Modi, whose rule saw the 2002 Gujarat carnage which killed over 2500 people mostly belonging to the minority community, accused Mander of being a Maoist sympathizer last week. The verbal attack from one of Indian’s most divisive right wing politician began when a care giver at one of 45 institutions run by Aman Biradari – Padma – was arrested for having links with Maoists (banned members of radical left groups). Harsh Mander in his letter to the press last week had expressed his organisation’s innocence, stating that the organisation was not aware of the “true identity” of Padma and they chose to hire her as she was a dedicated worker and she hailed from a poor family. She was employed as a manager at one of their institutions in Hyderabad.

Activists allege that the news of the woman’s arrest is being twisted and used by Narendra Modi to brand Harsh Mander, who has consistently voiced his outrage against Gujarat violence, as a Maoist sympathizer.

Publishing here is the copy of the petition;

Statement condemning the Targeting and Vilification of Harsh Mander by Narendra Modi

New Delhi,12th, June, 2013

With great pride we would like to put on record that the work of our colleague and friend Harsh Mander, for the last several years, both inside the Government as a civil servant, as well as outside the Government as a policy maker, researcher and activist has been, that of promoting in the most ethical way, non-violent ways of ensuring justice to survivors of violence due to their gender, class, caste, religious group, ethnicity or nationality. The most prominent violence which Harsh’s work has highlighted has been the one committed on the vulnerable by both the State and Society due to their invisibility, whether they be the homeless, the destitute, the old or street people.

It is shocking that the “aspirant PM” Narendra Modi has been targeting Harsh for the last week calling him a Maoist. Thus trying to belittle his work, raising doubts about him and villifying his name in public. This targeting of individuals and organisations and vilifying them is not new, earlier too he had spewed venom against Syeda Hammed, Teesta Setalvad and Shabnam Hashmi amongst the several and now the new whipping boys are Harsh Mander and Dr. Binayak Sen.

The hiring of Padma, a single poor woman, estranged from her husband, as a care giver in one of the 45 Institutions for street and abandoned children run by Aman Biradari, is being twisted and used by Modi to prove that Harsh is a Maoist sympathizer. The latest spin that Harsh Mander is in any way involved with the Maoists and that he may have had anything to do at all with the abduction of Vineel Krishna, the then District Collector of Malkangiri is patently false, concocted and the figment of a very perverted imagination.

This absolutely absurd claim and false connection being made by Modi only exposes his brand of politics which is seeped, in his parent organisation the RSS from where Mr. Modi has learnt to distort facts and spread hate. His anger against Harsh also clearly goes back to the latter’s work in Gujarat struggling over ten years to ensure justice to those affected by the 2002 communal genocide. It may be recalled that Harsh had left the prestigious civil services in 2002 and plunged himself in Gujarat and other parts of India in order to quell communal fire from spreading and working towards justice and rehabilitation of the survivors.

It goes without saying that this vilification of Harsh for partisan electoral politics be stopped. It is vital for all to understand that the perils of allowing such politics to take centre stage where democratic rights of people are attacked, impacting their right to work as they choose, and amounts to an attack on the very basis of our country’s plural existence. We hope that such politics will not be promoted by political parties and the media so that people can continue to work freely for public good.

They don’t make them like her any more: A tribute to Vina Mazumdar

vina mazumdar vina mazumdar

Poem recited at the memorial meeting for Vina Mazumdar, on 11th June, 2013 in New Delhi, organised by Centre for Women’s Development Studies

By Urvashi Butalia

They don’t make them like her any more
It’s a very particular kind of recipe
You’d need an enlightened father
You’d need a visionary mother
It would help if you had an educated book loving driver
You’d need friends scattered all over the world
They’d have to be doctors and feminists and academics and activists
You’d need a good dose of children
You’d have to have politics in the blood
A firm belief in democracy
You’d need universities that believe in teachers and teaching
A rare thing these days
You’d need international recognition
That women deserve to be counted
You’d need mentors at home
And well wishers abroad
You’d need a spirit of questioning
A liberal dose of rebellion
A belief in support
A commitment to institutions
You’d need to be curious and interested
Awesome and inspiring
You’d have to help new groups
Give support to new enterprises
You’d need to support the feminist endeavour
To provide space and step in to sort out their battles
You’d need friends who connived
And plotted and succeeded
You’d need to march in demonstrations
Learn you lessons from the poor
Focus on the town and the city
You’d need liberal doses of Old Monk
A loud voice to shout for Nandan
An ability to give dictation till 4 in the morning
Spiced by Old Monk and hot tea
To your poor long suffering fifth child (aka Nandan)
You’d need to fight for women’s studies
Begin the battle long before other had even begun to think of it
You’d need to produce a report that was just more than a report
You’d need to find a good name for it
Perhaps call it Towards Equality
And then work hard to do what most reports don’t do
Turn it into action, use it to further research
You’d need to keep the focus on the activist
And equally on the researcher
You’d need to extend your attention to the village
To learn from your sisters out there
You’d need grit, determination, braggadaccio, a loud voice
You’d need a friend called lotika di
Another called Neeraben
You’d need a clutch of feminists of all ages
your biological and political jamaat
Who were willing to be your students
Even though you’d never been their teacher
An endless supply of cigarettes
A battle with your publisher for delaying your memoirs
You’d need liberal doses of argument
A vast collection of saris
Some kaftans to be in with your grandchildren
Comrades in the movement
Whom you could rap on the knuckles from time to time
You’d need the honesty to say
Arre, you must stop me, I tend to meander
I’m getting old you know
Put all of this together
And you’d have a very potent brew
By another name it would be called Vinadi
Glasses on nose, cigarette in hand, tea on table, dictation at the ready
Come on, Vinadi, own up, we know you’re up there watching us
And we’ll raise a glass of Old Monk to you tonight
For we know
They don’t make them like you anymore.

With inputs from many feminists across India

10 best free software for your PC

Best free Software

By Team FI

As we often receive requests for tips about the kind of software one needs to install on their Windows PC, we decided to compile a list of 10 best free Windows software. We welcome your feedback about this list.

1. CC cleaner: One of the best free software, it cleans up unwanted stuff such as your temporary files, cookies etc and helps your system run faster and more efficiently. Use the default settings while running the CC cleaner. Download here.

2. VLC: By far the best free (open source) media player. Light-weight with a simple interface, it has good technical support and frequent updates. VLC can play nearly all kinds of video/audio files with subtitles. You could make this your default media player. Download here

3. Avira Antivirus: There is always a big debate on which free anti-virus software to choose – Avira or Avast. Of late Avast has been bombarded with complaints of creating false alarms, so we choose to stick with Avira. Besides, Avira is lighter than Avast. The only catch with Avira is the annoying upgrade pop up. Download here

Tip : Do not run two anti-virus programs at the same time as it could conflict with your system.

Tip: If you cannot start your windows PC due to some virus attack, start your PC in safe mode. Keep pressing F8 key as soon as you turn the power button on. Windows will start in safe mode and do a virus scan.

4. 7-Zip: This hugely popular and light-weight software allows you compress or ‘zip’ up and of course unzip files and folders. There is also Pea Zip which is a good-looking alternative but 7- zip is lighter. Download here

5 BurnAware free CD/DVD Writer: Can’t afford the heavy duty NERO burning software? BurnAware is light and extremely user friendly. If you are unable to write CDs/DVDs with BurnAware, it means your installation was not successful. Uninstall and install it again. Some people prefer ImgBurn because of its advanced features. These software are however, slower than Nero. Download here

6. World web dictionary: The best free offline English dictionary/thesaurus. After downloading, it can be accessed by pressing control and right click on your mouse (default setting). You can change settings if you go to options. Download here

7. Light box Image editor: A great tool for basic photo editing – simple and user friendly. If you need advanced features, get GIMP, but it can be a bit confusing for beginners. If you intent take up photography as a profession, you will have to get Adobe Photoshop though. There is nothing that can compete with Photoshop! Download here

8. Unlocker: This software is the solution if you often get error messages like – cannot delete folder/ the file is currently in use etc – while trying to unplug your USB drive. (Mostly Window XP users face this issue). As the name suggests, unlocker unblocks your USB drive so that you can safely remove hardware. Download here

9. Dropbox: This is your online storage service. When you install Dropbox on your computer, it creates a Dropbox folder in My Documents and you can access this folder from any other computer which has Dropbox installed. You must have uninterrupted internet access and you must not forget your login details. However, it offers only 2 GB storage space. Dropbox is quite popular and has some 100 million users! Download here

There are other free storage services like Google Drive and Microsoft’s Sky Drive. Google offers 5 GB storage and Sky Drive offers 7 GB. We prefer Dropbox since it is an independent storage service and it specializes only in online storage. Besides Dropbox interface is simpler. If its 2 GB limit disappoints you, try Wuala by LaCie. They offer 5 GB space but with Wuala you can’t afford to forget your password as there is no password recovery.

Tip: Don’t use these services if your internet is limited. It would be best to carry your pen drive.

If you want to send large files online, try WeTransfer, DropSend (both 2 GB), File Dropper (5 GB) or Yousendit (1 GB).

10. Soluto: Nicknamed as anti-frustration software, this is basically a program that tells you how to speed up your system including the start-up. If your computer is taking too long to start up, download this program. The scanning starts as soon as you turn your system on. Once you are connected to the internet, click on the Soluto icon. It will take you to the Soluto online page where you can view your report. Follow the instructions. Before you disable some start up applications make sure your computer doesn’t require them to start. No need to keep this software on your system because it is annoying when the scanning starts every time you start your PC. You can run it once in a while. If you remove some start up applications using this tool, don’t disable /remove Solute immediately. Keep it for few days because by mistake if you have deleted some crucial start up application, you can restore them going to your solute online page. Download here

Warning: While installing free software, make sure you read the installation process carefully rather than clicking away the Next button during set-up. Some software install ad-supported tool bars on your browser and some change your browser settings. So make sure you install only the software not its associates.

Salutes to Vina Mazumdar, doyenne of women’s studies

Vina Mazumdar Obituary

Vina Mazumdar, veteran feminist and much loved pioneer of women’s studies movement in India passed away in New Delhi on 30 May 2013. She was 86

By Vibhuti Patel

With the passing away of Dr. Vina Mazumdar, fondly known as Vinadi, the Indian women’s movement has experienced an irreparable loss. Vinadi personified in her, a far sighted and strong willed thinker and a forceful speaker and convincing debater who had faith in ‘human goodness’.

Her intellectual prowess did not make her an ivory tower in her approach towards her colleagues and fellow travelers- academicians, policy makers, researchers and feminist activists. She always remained warm at heart, easy to approach, instantly building rapport, magnanimous in sharing her knowledge and institutional resources as director of Centre for Women’s Development Studies.

Her charm was in her electrifying persona, an always smiling face conveying optimism, down to earth approach, ideological sharpness, story-telling with witty humour and the most important courage of conviction combined with honesty of purpose. This is what explained her commanding agenda setting power, whether she was in the decision making bodies of University Grants Commission (UGC), Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Planning Commission of India and several ministries or outside of them. She could galvanize students, teachers, researchers, women’s organizations, trade unionists, bureaucrats, politicians and law makers into action as she was one of the best ‘argumentative Indians’ produced by ‘women’s studies movement’.

Vinadi was very good at coining catchy terms such as ‘women’s studies movement’, ‘the Indian psyche defined by binary ‘Ma’ versus “Maal’ – the dichotomy that worships motherhood and dehumanizes/commodifies the rest of women

Her contemporaries – powerful men in the Universities, research institutions and ministries called her ‘bulldozer’ while women scholars and practitioners found her the most trustworthy friend and mentor.

I worked closely with Vinadi during 1981 for the Women’s Studies Conference hosted by SNDT Women’s University, in 1985 for preparation of ‘End of the Decade’ alternate country report on Status of Women in India, in 1986 for a panel discussion on ‘Ante Natal Sex Selective and Abortions of Female Foetus in India’ for World Sociological Conference and in 1988 for a multi-centric research project on ‘Child Care as an Essential Input for women’s Development’.

Vina Mazumdar  was a great champion of participatory action research. Photo courtesy : Zubaan Books

Vina Mazumdar was a great champion of participatory action research. Photo courtesy : Zubaan Books

Vina Mazumdar was born in 1927 and completed her schooling in Calcutta. She did her honours course from Benaras Hindu University as well as Ashutosh College, Calcutta University and completed D.Phil. from Oxford University. In 1960, Once again she enrolled as a research scholar at Oxford University and within 2 years was awarded D.Phil.

She taught political science at Patna University and Berhampur University for couple of years. After that she joined UGC. She made a mark in the UGC Secretariat as an energetic Officer. She was also selected as a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla.

In 1972, when the Indian government agreed to honour the UN mandate to prepare a status report on women, Vinadi was appointed as Member Secretary of Committee on the Status of Women in India. Her unique contribution while preparation of landmark report “Towards Equality” as a researcher and her analytical rigour to explain material and ideological conditions that determined women’s predicament in India made her the most sought after scholar-activist during 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the millennium era.

In 1974, When All India Institute of Medical Science began conducting a sample survey of amniocentesis to find out about foetal genetic conditions and easily managed to enroll 11000 pregnant women as volunteers for its research, the main interest of these volunteer pregnant women was to know sex of the foetus. Once the results were out, the women who were told that they were carrying female fetuses demanded abortion. When the young researcher of AIIMS shared this observation with Vinadi, she mobilised a women’s delegation to meet the health minister to stop abuse of amniocentesis for sex selective abortions.

During the International Women’s Year (1975), Vinadi was appointed as Director, Programme of Women’s Studies, ICSSR, for five years (1975-80). She was Founder-Director of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi from 1980 to 1991, and thereafter was Senior Fellow at CWDS and JP Naik National Fellow, ICSSR, for two years. From 1996-2013, Dr. Veena Mazumdar was the Chairperson, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. She was the heart and soul of Indian Association of Women’s Studies.

Vinadi’s writings provided road map for developmental initiatives. Her memoir, Memories of a Rolling Stone pulished by Zubaan Books in 2010 provides vivid description of her principles, programmes, and policy initiatives in collaboration with her team of ‘movers and shakers’.

Vinadi will remain with us with her insightful publications:
• Education & Social Change: Three Studies on Nineteenth Century India. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1972.
• Role of Rural Women in Development. University of Sussex. Institute of Development Studies. Allied Publishers, 1978.
• Symbols of Power: Studies on the Political Status of Women in India. Allied, 1979.
• Emergence of the Women’s Question in India and the Role of Women’s Studies. Centre for Women’s Development Studies, 1985.
• Peasant Women Organise for Empowerment: The Bankura Experiment. Centre for Women’s Development Studies. 1989.

Featured Photo: Vina Mazumdar while studying at Asutosh College, Calcutta – courtesy: Wikipedia