Tag Archive for Kavita Krishnan

Delhi CM Kejriwal’s message makes a mockery of the spirit of International Women’s Day

Kejriwal-women's-day-message

By Kavita Krishnan

On International Women’s Day, the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s has chosen not to give a message of solidarity to the women’s movement fighting for justice, equality and freedom for women. Instead he has chosen to give a paternalistic message that reinforces the stereotypes of women in family roles, supportive and nurturing of men.

Mr Kejriwal cited the role of his wife and mother in running the house and supporting him while he fought against corruption. This sounds ominously like ‘Men will lead, women will run the house and support men who lead’. Is it because he sees this as the only fit role for women that he has no women in his Cabinet and his party’s PAC (Political Affairs Committee)?

Mr Kejriwal praises ‘how women fulfill responsibilities honestly without making any fuss.’ But Mr Kejriwal, you haven’t been listening. The thousands of Delhi women, with their sisters across India and in the world, HAVE in fact been ‘making a fuss’ about the gendered division of labour and at having to fulfill familial roles as if that is ‘women’s work’ alone!

By praising women for not making a fuss about this, you have insulted the legacy of International Women’s Day, the day commemorating a century of ‘fuss’ and fight by women!

You praise women for their ‘rock solid tolerance’, Mr Kejriwal. Tolerance of what? Is International Women’s Day an occasion to praise women for ‘tolerating’ injustice, inequality, and lack of freedom?

You chose the Women’s Day as an occasion to give a message to men. But why a message of ‘safety’? Why not tell men on this day to share the roles of housework and childcare and cooking equally with women? Why not tell men to respect and defend the freedom of women inside their own homes? If you just tell men to ‘make Delhi safe for women’, that won’t change the reality, which is that men take away the freedom of women in their own homes in the name of keeping the women safe!

You chose to reinforce the patriarchal idea that men should respect women outside the home as a show of respect for their own sisters, mothers etc. But women deserve respect even if they do not fit the roles of ‘sister, mother, and wife’. it is because men feel entitled to control the lives of and expect services from their wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, that men also feel entitled to sexually harass and rape women.

It’s risky simply to be a woman at all!

Uber-Taxi-rape

Kavita Krishnan argues that in the wake of the recent Uber taxi rape in the capital, blaming the survivor of an act of violence has become another brick in the wall of ‘protective’ boundaries that imprison women rather than open up safe spaces

As it usually happens after a much-publicized rape case, there is a flood of attempts to rationalize ‘victim blaming’ i.e. suggesting that the victim also bears some responsibility for the assault since she took unnecessary risks. I am seeing a lot of this commonsensical rationalization of victim blaming as ‘precautions’ on my twitter timeline.

A Congress leader on TV the other day baldly said that the woman herself should not have been drunk and sleepy in the cab. And this self same logic – garden-variety victim blaming – has been repeated in more sophisticated ways by many, including by some who call themselves feminists.

The list of precautions that can, supposedly, keep us safe from rape, are pretty long, endlessly long, in fact.

We should not be drunk in cabs, or fall asleep in cabs. (This implies, of course, that we women should not party at all, or should not drink at parties – since driving while drunk is a risk we all know can kill us and others).

Feminists are being accused of preaching recklessness to women, thereby rendering them vulnerable in a world which is deeply violent and unsafe. The NCW Chairperson, in a similar vein, said recently, that autonomy or ‘aggression’ on part of women in India could render them unsafe and at risk. Sheila Dixit had called the journalist Soumya Vishwanathan (who was murdered) ‘adventurous’ for being out late at night.

Well, what else? It’s risky to go to school, of course, since teachers might molest you there. It’s risky to enter a lift with your boss, since he might molest you. It’s risky to meet an ex-Supreme Court judge in his hotel room for work, since he might molest you. It’s risky to be drunk at a party at a friend’s or colleague’s place and spend the night there instead of taking a cab home, since one might get raped by the friend or colleague.

It’s risky to be a bar dancer or a sex worker – since your work is inherently ‘risky’ and so you can’t expect or demand safety.

It’s risky simply to be a woman at all, anywhere at all, be it at home or at work or on the streets….

The tragic thing is, ALL women, barring none, take precautions, weigh risks, are ‘careful’. Most rape survivors agonise over what they could have done differently to avoid that horror. What is disturbing, though, is the smug way in which rape victims are being lectured about ‘precautions’. Precautions, no matter how many we take, can never keep us entirely safe. And no matter how many precautions you took, if you’re raped, there will always be people to tell you a long list of things YOU could have done differently so as NOT to have been raped.

Remember, this common-sensical concern for safety is what is voiced when women are told by their parents not to choose who they befriend, sleep with, love and marry. “We’ll make the decision for you since you might make a mistake” is what is said. If one’s ‘love’ marriage breaks down, parents sometimes say, “This would not have happened if you had listened to us and not married this guy in the first place.”

What I say is, you can either live your parents’ mistakes, or your own. And surely, one’s own mistakes are infinitely more productive, teaching us, if nothing else, to take responsibility.

Many of the rationalisers of good old-fashioned victim blaming are saying ‘men take precautions too, we teach our boys safety norms too’ and so on.

However, ‘adventurous’ when used for men, is a positive word, has always been. A man I know is very protective of his wife and won’t let her travel anywhere, even in their own city, without a rigorous set of precautions and limits set by him. The same man takes a yearly holiday, all alone, wandering in wild mountainous terrain. Lone travel is a badge of honour for a man.

Drunken men are objects of affectionate celebration in movies. People I love very much have always been concerned about my safety when I travel, which is a lot. Loved ones often tell me, with fear in their heart, not to take an auto from a railway station at 4 am, not to take a walk up a mountainside in Dharmashala, not to travel in an unreserved compartment, not to react or argue if ogled at or molested, not to rush to the rescue if I see someone being beaten up by a mob on the street. I understand, even sympathise with their fears. I feel such fears myself for those I love. But I cannot – cannot – afford to be ruled by those fears. If I did, mine would be a life devoid of the experiences that make me, me.

A life stripped of risk, rigorously regimented by fear, is hardly a ‘life’ in any sense of the term… Not to mention that much of that fear is not just a fear of physical violence, but a fear of loss of respectability, a loss of ‘character’. The latter is a fear men seldom have to feel – it is women’s preserve, and lurks unsaid behind the ‘safety’ regimentation imposed on us by parents, spouses, boyfriends, aunts…

Think about it. Had my parents done what ‘sensible people’ advised them to, I would not have been sent far from home to college. While at college in Mumbai, I would never have taken the risk of walking on curfew restricted, deserted streets with a woman friend, watching the effects of communal violence first hand. I would never have traveled in unreserved compartments – where I have, on occasion, been pawed by army men and felt great fear, but on countless other occasions, experienced the generosity and humanity of random strangers. I would never have attended political meetings during Lok Sabha elections in the city of Banaras, where ‘sensible’ friends had advised me not to go for fear of violence breaking out. I would never have participated in political protests which resulted in me being arrested and jailed.

So, now, when loved ones advise precautions, I listen, lovingly. But I refuse to be ruled by THEIR perception of risk and their fears and curfews set by them. I gauge risk myself, weigh them, and take calculated risks while taking responsibility for MY OWN actions.

Taking responsibility for the risks we take, does not mean that then the State, the police and so on are let off the hook. It does NOT mean accepting responsibility for being raped. (I say this because there are many who will say that though they’re not justifying the rapist’s actions, the woman, rather than the State, bears a share of responsibility.)

The State has a responsibility to imagining and putting in place infrastructure and systems that minimize risks and expand women’s freedoms. Safe, accountable public transport systems are crucial among these. And in case an assault does happen, prompt and accountable police response is as crucial. The State cannot hold women – or in fact any citizens – responsible for ‘their own safety’. It’s simple – it’s the Government’s job to ensure that women should have access to roads, metros, buses, taxis, rickshaws, and toilets – all services that should be safe and accountable.

Of course women could be raped at home too. But that does not mean that we fail to hold a taxi company or a school responsible for ignoring prior complaints against someone and failing to vet their drivers or teachers! And above all, we cannot fail to hold the Govt responsible for failing to regulate taxi services and schools to ensure basic safety norms!

The question we have to be asking Governments is: “What are your plans to ensure that every woman has access to safe, affordable transport with last mile connectivity, 24/7?” Asking women ‘Why were you drunk/asleep/out late at night/dressed skimpily etc etc” is simply a very effective way to avoid making the State accountable.

I am uneasy with women-driven taxis or karate classes and so on being propagated as a solution. Sure, we need women, lots of women, to invade every masculine fortress, and this includes transport of all kinds. I rejoice in women driving cabs’ and buses and tractors. But I do not want the State and various smug busybodies telling women who are raped in a cab, “Why didn’t you take a woman-driven cab? You were careless and so you got raped.”

I know from personal experience that learning martial arts well enough to use it the way you see in films, is not possible for most people! I don’t want women who get molested being told, ‘”It’s your fault, why were you so wimpy that you didn’t learn martial arts?”

I’ll end with a long quote from Why Loiter that puts it all better than I ever could:
“We would like the right to choose to be able to go out at anytime of the day or night or to choose to stay in. In some ways benevolent paternal protection is simple—it lays down the boundaries and all one has to do is skilfully negotiate them. Losing this protection, however conditional, will mean that one is compelled to take decisions and make choices whose outcomes we might have little control over. However, freedom from protection will also mean freedom, not from the male gaze or the threat of physical assault, but from having to consistently manufacture respectability in order to be worthy of protection. The right to risk is unconditional. The right to risk knows no temporality, no codes of conduct and needs no symbolic markers to define ones worthiness. The right to risk chooses freedom over restrictions and seeks freedom from restrictions.

We acknowledge explicitly that with freedom comes responsibility. The demand for the unconditional right to take risks in lieu of protection places the responsibility squarely on women. Our desire then is to replace the un-chosen risk to reputation and the unwanted risk of loss of respectability with a chosen risk of engaging city spaces on our own terms. Yes, there is street harassment, and yes, there is violence against both women and men. The fear of violence in public space is legitimate and cannot be merely wished away. At no point are we ignoring or even minimizing the violence, both sexual and non-sexual, that might potentially take place in the public and lead to physical as well as psychological trauma. Even as we ask for women’s right to engage risk in public space, we do not disregard the responsibility of the state and its mechanisms of law and order in dealing with public violence. Instead, we suggest that they deal very firmly with the aggressors of that violence and not tie up the victims of violence in endless blame games, inane dress codes, and relentless moral policing. The woman who seeks the simple pleasure of a walk by the seaside at night is in no way responsible for an attack against her.

In another world, this would not be a risk, but given that it is a risk in Mumbai, and in several other Indian cities, the least one can expect is unequivocal justice if one is assaulted. The least one can expect is that the assailant be punished without collateral emotional damage to the victim. The least one can expect is to not be held responsible for that violence. The least one can expect is an acknowledgement of one’s right to walk on the beach, stroll on the waterfront, laze in the park without question.

At the same time, however, we also need to recognize another kind of risk: that of loss of opportunity to engage city spaces and the loss of the experience of public spaces should women choose not to access public space more than minimally. By choosing not to access public space without purpose, women not only accept the gendered boundaries of public space, but actually reinforce them. This renders women forever outsiders to public space; always commuters, never possessors of public space.

The right to risk is not merely abstract. From the perspective of the city, it must be mirrored in the provision of infrastructure. While the decision to take certain risks must be chosen, risks must not be thrust upon women by inadequate or miserly planning.

Infrastructure is central to access. The state and the city’s role in the provision of infrastructure like public transport, public toilets and good lighting are integral to the success of the larger claim to public space. Public space, then, does not mean empty space devoid of infrastructure and facilities, but a space that is thoughtfully designed with the intention of maximizing access. Not just functional spaces like train compartments, bus stops and toilets, but also spaces of pleasure like parks and seaside promenades are significant to creating accessible cities. For it is in these spaces that the joy of being in and belonging to the city is shared and communicated.

While we must lobby for an infrastructure that will make it possible for us take risks as citizens, at the same time, the demand for infrastructure that reduces risks should not provide the grounds to indict those who choose to take other kinds of risks not dependent on infrastructure. The presence of well-lit streets in the city should not mean that women found in dark corners should be deemed unrespectable or blamed if they are attacked.

Choosing to take risks in public space undermines a sexist structure where women’s virtue is prized over their desires or agency. Choosing risks foregrounds pleasure, making what is clearly a feminist claim to the city.”

Extract from Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade, New Delhi: Penguin, 2011

Kavita Krishnan is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)

Remembering Geeta Das

Geeta-Das

All India Progressive Women’s Association’s (AIPWA) honorary president Comrade Geeta Das passed away on 24th October at the age of 78

By Kavita Krishnan

I first met her when I was a student in the 1990s. A small, feisty, lively woman, who moved busily, like a bird. A face full of warmth and feeling. And speaking to her, I never felt the distance of age between us. For me, a JNU student, she felt like a kindred spirit, whose sensibilities matched mine and that of so many women much younger than her.

She was born in 1936, on 15th September, in Faridpur district of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Her education was disrupted after Class VIII. Years later, after her marriage, she felt a burning determination to educate herself further and stand on her own feet. She completed her matriculation (Class X) and passed her teacher’s training (for primary school teaching), with a gold medal. She then worked as a school teacher.

Many members of her family were leftist activists. She felt deeply against injustices, and for the rights of the oppressed. From 1967 onwards, she was passionately involved in the Naxalbari movement, helping to pass messages between comrades who were underground. Since then, she remained a committed activist of the Communist Party of India (Marxist /Leninst).

She was among the founding leaders of the Progressive Women’s Association (PWA) and the founding President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) when it was formed in 1994.

I especially miss Geeta Di in the times we’re in, when Hindutva fundamentalists are resurgent and are openly attacking women’s freedoms. With what energy Geeta Di did battle with those self-declared custodians of ‘Indian culture’ and ‘Indian women’!

Geeta Das confronting the Puri Shankaracharya in 1994 in Kolkata, after he stopped a woman scholar from reciting from the Vedas, declaring that women were forbidden to recite the Vedas

Geeta Das confronting the Puri Shankaracharya in 1994 in Kolkata, after he stopped a woman scholar Arundhati Roychoudhury from reciting from the Vedas, declaring that women were forbidden to recite the Vedas

One memorable occasion was when she along with other activists confronted the Puri Shankaracharya in 1994 in Kolkata, when he stopped a woman scholar Arundhati Roychoudhury from reciting from the Vedas, declaring that women were forbidden to recite the Vedas. (This was the same Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati who just a few days ago said Dalits should not be allowed to enter temples.) Geeta Di, then President of the West Bengal PWA, along with the Secretary Chaitali Sen, stormed a press conference of the Shankaracharya and heckled him, forcing him to drop his posture of paternalism and expose his true, menacing colours! Geeta Di’s courage in storming a room full of the Shankaracharya’s own cohorts, to assert women’s rights, is an inspiring memory.

Age did not stall or stale Geeta Di’s fighting spirit, even as her body became increasingly frail. She also served on the CPI(ML)’s Control Commission.

I recall the last time I heard her speak in public – at the AIPWA West Bengal Conference in 2010. She spoke about the situation of under-paid and over-worked working women, and peasant women resisting land grab in the State. She said, ‘Some say I am a feminist. Well, I am, indeed, a feminist! Shouldn’t we all be, as long as injustice against women remains a reality?’

Geeta Di, your courage in your own life, your spirited presence in women’s movements and the Left movement, will always inspire us. I hope there will always be a bit of you, alive and fighting, in all of us!

Kavita Krishnan is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)

Delhi Police files chargesheet against 2012 anti-rape protesters

Anti-rape-protest-India

Activists chargesheeted for anti-rape protest at former Delhi CM’s house, against the gang rape and death of a young woman in 2012

By Team FI
Women, students and youth activists of various organizations have demanded that the charge-sheet filed by Delhi police against them for protesting the December 16, 2014 Delhi gang-rape of a paramedic, be withdrawn. Those charge-sheeted include Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Anmol Rattan from Delhi University, and Om Prasad from JNU, both activists from All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Aslam Khan of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA).

The Delhi Police has filed charge-sheets against activists for their participation in a protest held on 19 December, 2012, at Sheila Dixit’s house.

The organizations issued a press release in protest of the charge-sheet, demanding immediate withdrawal of the case against all the anti-rape protestors. It also questioned the rationale behind the action. “The BJP, at that time, had attacked the Congress Govt and the Delhi Police for its brutality to anti-rape protesters. Why, now, is the Delhi Police under the BJP Govt filing charge-sheets against the same protesters now?” the press release quoted the activists.

The organizations suspect the timing of the action is keeping in mind the upcoming elections in Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University where the AISA is “a major contender.”

“We shall continue to protest with thousands of others and demand the right of women, as well as of everyone, including men and women from Dalit, Muslim and other marginalized identities, to be free and adventurous, as we did on 19 December. If this Government and the Delhi Police holds that this as a crime deserving our arrest, so be it,” the activists have declared according to the press release.

Here is the full text of the statement issued by AIPWA, AISA and RYA:
The Delhi Police has informed activists of AISA, RYA and AIPWA, including AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan, AISA activists Anmol Rattan of DU and Om Prasad of JNU, and RYA activist Aslam Khan that a charge-sheet has been filed against them for their participation in a protest on December 19th 2012 against the December 16th rape, at Sheila Dixit’s house.

This protest action had been one of the key protests that galvanized more protests all over Delhi and the country. At this protest, the Delhi Police had used water cannons for the first time against the anti-rape protesters. Also, a speech made by AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan at that protest, went viral with thousands of people across the country feeling that it reflected their own sentiments. Over 57,615 people till date viewed the YouTube video of the speech, that asserted women’s right to be “adventurous”, rejected curbs on women’s freedom in the name of “protection”, and demanded that Governments protect women’s right to “fearless freedom.” The speech had been spontaneously translated into many Indian languages as well as English, and shared. In many ways, that protest, and the speech made at that protest, came to symbolize, for people in India and all over the world, the spirit of the anti-rape protests in Delhi.

Police brutality, high-handedness and harassment against protesters were notorious at the time – even the Justice Verma Committee commented on it.

It is highly unlikely that leading December 2012 anti-rape protesters would have been charge-sheeted by the Delhi Police more than a year later, without a political green-signal from above. The Delhi Police falls under the Union Home Ministry. Why are the charge-sheets being filed against key AISA organisers in DU and JNU, days before DUSU and JNUSU polls where AISA is a major contender?

The BJP, at that time, had attacked the Congress Govt and the Delhi Police for its brutality to anti-rape protesters. Why, now, is the Delhi Police under the BJP Govt filing charge-sheets against the same protesters now?

Clearly, the Modi regime, like the Manmohan Singh regime before it, holds protesters, especially those who speak of women’s freedom, to be criminals.

Just as the anti-rape protesters anticipated way back in December 2012, ‘protection’ for women from ‘love jehad’ and ‘rape’ has quickly come to mean moral policing and restrictions on freedom. Even as this charge-sheet is filed against people agitating for women’s freedom, Sangeet Som, the BJP MLA who incited mobs in Muzaffarnagar, has again called for a ‘mahapanchayat’ – this time against ‘love jehad’. Leaders of such mahapanchayats are the same khaps that kill daughters and their lovers – in the name of ‘honour.’ Now, in the name of the ‘love jehad’ bogey, they will legitimize harassment of inter-community couples, and justify family/community/khap surveillance on adult women. Recently, the Gujarat police issued posters asking parents to maintain surveillance on their daughters’ mobile phones. For such reactionary and patriarchal politics, the very idea of ‘women’s freedom’ and the freedom of young women and men to love each other without fear is dangerous.

The AISA, AIPWA and RYA demand that the case against all protesters in the anti-rape agitation of 2012-13, including its own activists, be withdrawn immediately.

The charge-sheeted activists declared, “We and thousands of others will continue to protest and demand the right of women, as well as of everyone, including men and women from Dalit, Muslim and other marginalized identities, to be free and adventurous, as we did on December 19th. If this Government and the Delhi Police holds that this is a crime deserving our arrest, so be it.”

Meena Tiwari, General Secretary, AIPWA
Sucheta De, President, All India Students’ Association, AISA
Ravi Rai, General Secretary, Revolutionary Youth Association, RYA

India of my dream

women-India

Activist Kavita Krishnan visualizes the India of her dream, one that she shares with those who struggle to transform the country

We revolutionaries, who seek to transform society, spend a lot of time re-imagining the world we live in. That does not mean we live in a fool’s paradise. It means that we dream dreams that can be achieved.

We don’t wish on a star. Our wishes, we know, won’t be granted by any gods. The beauty of our dreams lies in the fact that they’re made up of human imagination and human will, and can be shaped and brought to life by human will.

When our imaginations are cramped, our realities too are likely to be the same. When an idea comes to life in our imagination, it is the first step towards bringing it to life in our real world.

We aren’t solitary dreamers. We don’t dream our dreams isolated from others. Our dreams are not a private indulgence or a private solace. These dreams are born in the collective minds of fellow fighters. We dream together, as we fight struggles together. And when others are able to see and share our dreams, the dreams acquire a life beyond our own personal lives. And imagining dreams take courage. The system survives, not only by jailing or killing revolutionaries – but by killing our dreams. ‘Sabse khatarnak hota hai sapnon ka mar jana,’ said Paash (Most dangerous of all is the death of our dreams.)
Today, I will attempt to share some of those many dreams with you, the reader.

In my imagination, I see an India where a woman can roam free – free of the labels of‘wife’, ‘mother’, ‘daughter’, ‘beautiful’, ‘ugly’, ‘goddess’, ‘slut’… Where every child she bears is legitimate, and none seeks to know or prove who the father is. Where every woman is valued irrespective of her ability of choice to bear a child

An India where caring, nurturing, bringing up children, is not assigned as ‘women’s work’. Instead, all around us we are able to see men and women, who change diapers, bathe, feed and clothe children, and feel that mingled feeling of love and pain that being a parent involves.

An India where the birth of a baby is celebrated without worrying about the sex of the child. An India where girls who play sports are not humiliated and accused of being ‘male’, and boys who dance or cook are not taunted for being ‘effeminate.’ An India where brothers no longer feel entitled to hold sisters in ‘bandhan’ in the name of ‘raksha’ – and sisters no longer feel obliged to give brothers a right to control their lives. An India where the love of brothers and sisters is expressed as solidarity with each others’ dreams, as respect and support for each others’ decisions.

An India where it is unknown for the women to have to worry about ‘what people will think’ – about her clothes, the colour of her skin, who she chooses to love, and what she chooses to do with her life.

An India where love – between people of any community or any sex – will not be a crime.

An India where the ugly hierarchy of castes is a forgotten thing of the past. Where the history of the struggles of the oppressed is recognized and celebrated, and the history of oppression is remembered – so as never to repeat it

An India where men do not fear women, citizens do not fear ‘foreigners’. An India that does not fear the fullest freedom of the Dalits, the adivasis, the people of Kashmir or Manipur or Nagaland. An India that is a free union of free people. Where ‘unity’ does not have to mean a regime of fear, or subservience achieved at gun point. An India that does not fear its neighbours – and that does not induce fear in its neighbours. An India that can be trusted to speak up against injustice anywhere in the world.

An India which will recognize the truth: that all value is created by the labour of workers. When workers – the mehnatkash – can ‘demand their rightful share from the world – not a field or a country, but the whole world.’ When we can put behind us the nightmare-India where a tiny few enjoy Antilla-like palaces and the vast majority has no homes; and awaken to a new India where every person can be sure of a home to call their own. Where education and health care of the best quality can be availed by every Indian as a right, rather than being a commodity to be bought by the rich.

An India where ‘justice’ won’t mean a hangman’s noose. Rather, where justice will mean that we as Indian people will have the courage and conscience to face and admit the truths about the violence done in our name, in our country’s name. Where the truth about the rapes and murders of Manorama, Neelofer and Asiya, the rapes of Kunan Poshpora, the mass graves of Kashmir, the little adivasi children killed by paramilitary forces during harvest festivals in Bastar, the cries of pain and humiliation arising from the torture chambers that are called ‘police lock-ups’ all over the country, can be acknowledged by all Indians. Where ‘national pride’ or ‘national security’ will not be equated with tolerance of these crimes against humanity. And where the acceptance of the truth can be foundation of dignity and democracy for India.

An India where ‘work’ does not mean back-breaking, mind-numbing toil that still leaves stomachs hungry. Where a ‘job’ does not come wedded to ‘joblessness.’ An India where people matter, not profits

An India where animals and humans do not need to fear each other and are not thrown into conflict with each other by a short-sighted and greedy economy. An India where the ‘environment’ – land, water, forests, air, flora and fauna – are not seen as ‘commodities’ to be ‘owned’ and ‘exploited’, but as a world we inherit and are duty-bound to enrich and pass on to future generations rather than allow a few greedy men to devour.

Our revolutionary dreams cannot be bounded by the confines of a country. Naturally, those dreams are dreamed for the entire world, not India alone. We dream of a world free of oppression, free of ownership. A world where the many thousands of peoples live in unity, where domination, occupation and war are things of the past. Where work is not inspired by the fear of hunger, where a ‘living’ does not have to be ‘earned’; where instead, human being work and play to express their humanity.

As I said before, there is no copyright on the dreams of revolutionaries. Where do the dreams of Bhagat Singh end and ours begin, after all? That is why, when I try to give my dreams the shape of words, I often find the words of poets and dreamers past come to my lips. So I’ll end with the immortal words from John Lennon’s anthem Imagine –

“You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be one.”

Kavita Krishnan is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA). This is the English translation of the article she wrote for Outlook Magazine’s Hindi publication

What do Tejpal supporters choose to see?

Tarun -Tejpal -rape -case

Feminists analyse flaws in the arguments made in support of Tarun Tejpal in media and social networks by those who have illegally watched sub judicial CCTV footage

By Team FI

Two well known feminists, Vrinda Grover and Kavita Krishnan have responded to an ongoing campaign in media and social networks that is seeking to malign the survivor in the Tarun Tejpal rape case.

Tarun Tejpal, who was the editor of Tehelka magazine, is alleged to have sexually assaulted his junior journalist in a lift in a Goa Hotel. The past few days have seen subtle and direct statements that seek support for Tejpal based on the CCTV footage of the survivor and Tejpal outside the lift. While senior journalists Manu Joseph and Seema Mustafa wrote articles dissecting the incident in favour of the accused, well known film maker Anurag Kashyap accused the survivor of not telling the truth – they all were basing their opinions on the CCTV footage they saw. The campaign coincides with a bail application made to the Supreme Court.

By Vrinda Grover
The CCTV footage has been shown to many carefully identified and selected persons in the media and influential and powerful persons, by family and close coterie of friends of Tarun Tejpal. This is in violation of the law and the order of the court. Yes, the family has a right to defend Tarun Tejpal, but not by committing unlawful and illegal acts.

The young woman journalist does not have a copy of the CCTV footage. Only the Prosecution and the defence have copies. I have not seen the CCTV footage. No one who has taken a public or private position asking for justice for the young woman journalist and asked for a fair trial, not prejudiced or overawed by the campaign conducted by Tarun Tejpal gang, has seen the CCTV footage. We are not supposed to see that footage because it reveals the identity of the woman journalist. That is the law. Can we leave some decisions to the court or do the English writing glitterati want to usurp the role of the Court, much like the khap panchayats.

Yes, we must debate issues and cases of public importance. I do not support a gag order of any kind. Not even the one imposed by the Delhi High Court in favour of the former Supreme Court Judge in the case of the law intern.

The entire campaign hinges on the ‘young woman’s character’, which when decoded means the same old thing, her past sexual relationships

On each occasion the friends and family of Tarun Tejpal have orchestrated a media campaign against the young woman journalist. Please note, the modern day, English speaking or rather writing, khap panchayats have ruled in favor of Tarun Tejpal on precisely the same grounds. The woman complainant appears ‘normal’, it must be consensual. Bingo!

What is the “reasonable conduct” of a survivor of rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment or sexual abuse? Jurisprudence in India will have to be engendered, to understand and comprehend this.

Is it a coincidence that these articles appear at a juncture when a bail petition will be moved for Tarun Tejpal in the Supreme Court? I firmly believe that under-trials have a right to bail. However, the jails are overcrowded with an under-trial population that is disproportionately POOR. Where the accused persons can threaten witnesses, or tamper with evidence or use their position to cause prejudice to a fair trial, their liberty is constrained through denial of bail. We do not have a witness-victim protection mechanism that offers any real security to the complainants and so at times bail should be refused.

We live in a real world where power, influence and position, can and does manipulate and subvert and truth. It appears that at times these results can be achieved even when the person is in custody. Even as the law stands by, as a mere spectator, indifferent to its promise to protect the woman’s dignity.
Also to all my friends and fellow travelers who are secular activists, anti-communal campaigners and civil libertarians, I have not overnight become naive, nor have I succumbed to some victim’s story. I am thinking with the same clarity, mental agility, and political astuteness, with which i engage with the Ishrat Jahan case, or Soni Sori, or the Muzaffarnagar gang rapes. In my struggle against fascism, I do not prioritize rights or victims. At the core of my politics lies freedom of all, including women.

By Kavita Krishnan
Mr Anurag Kashyap,
You say “I have seen the CCTV footage too and none of what the girl says about Tarun Tejpal is true”…Who showed you the footage? I and most people haven’t seen the footage – rightly so, because legally we can’t. So is the footage being shown to selected individuals in the media, the film world?

Does the footage show what happened inside the lift? You cite Manu Joseph’s piece in Outlook. That piece, that so insidiously builds sympathy for Tejpal, says about the footage:”Nothing in the young woman’s body language indicates sexually potent conversation…They are not walking hand in hand, rather Tejpal is leading her and she is following him…they are separated by the whole width of the lift, which is about five feet. There is an unhappy tension between them as they walk out….Also there is not a moment in the footage that shows the young woman exhibiting anything resembling physical affection for Tejpal.”

How do I break this to you – rape survivors don’t behave like women in the Hindi films…They don’t rush out of lifts yelling Bachao

Yes, they act ‘normal’. Yes, they try to appear as though nothing happened. The more so when the violator is someone they know, trust, and who has power over them (is a family member, family friend, boss, teacher etc…), when the consequence of making the violation public might mean loss of a job, loss of cherished friendships, relationships.

No, raped women don’t usually use martial arts on their violators, they try to get the trusted person violating them, to stop, they hope the problem will go away, they agonise long and hard about the consequences before they complain. If the father of a friend rapes a woman, if a husband of a friend molests someone, the survivors worry about the impact of the incident on their friend, their friendship.

They hope, against hope that the person will apologise, and stop. And yes, in my experience, most survivors of gender violence forget or misremember small details – that’s because of the stark, traumatic impact of the LARGE detail of having been raped, of being told that to keep their job they must now subject to sex with the boss, the more so if the rapist is not a stranger but someone known and trusted.

Manu Joseph writes about the ‘fingertips’ sms that it could have been the words of a drunken man who thinks he’s flirting. Yes, arrogant rapists have been known to boast that the woman they raped enjoyed it.

Honey Singh’s songs tell us of that mindset quite eloquently. Did the footage as seen by Joseph suggest any flirtation on part of the woman?! No? Tejpal’s own letter admits the woman’s ‘clear reluctance’, and that he invoked his being her boss. He claims he withdrew the latter remark with a clear, cogent statement. If he wants us to believe that’s true, then he clearly wasn’t so drunk as to not recognise that she was unhappy and felt imposed upon. AFTER this exchange, how could anyone believe that a sms by Tejpal saying ‘fingertips’ is ‘flirting’?!

The many respondents on your post Mr Kashyap, who say ‘We know the complainant, impossible for her to be raped’ are displaying classic, textbook victim-blaming tactics. No, it’s not ‘impossible’ for ANY woman to be raped – her being modern, emancipated, strong (even learning martial arts) can’t be a guarantee that she won’t be raped – especially by someone she knows, trusts and who has power over her.

The good part here, Mr Kashyap, is that your macho image of ‘man who makes film to inspire women to take up martial arts to resist rape’ has been taken down – by you yourself. You now stand exposed as a common or garden variety misogynist who thinks it’s the complainant who is ‘the accused’ and who is on trial.

Tejpal manipulating public opinion to sway judge

Tarun-Tejpal

By asking to make the CCTV footage public, Tejpal hopes to sow suspicion about the complainant’s motive and her character

By Kavita Krishnan
Tarun Tejpal’s demand to make the CCTV footage public is, in fact, a call to the general public to be voyeurs, examine the woman (complainant), place her smile, her demeanour and her gait on trial, ready to declare her guilty if her conduct does not conform to the 70s Hindi film stereotype of the ‘raped woman’.

Tejpal wants the public (through media) to try and declare him innocent. He wants to use the media, including social media, to sow suspicion about the complainant’s motive and her character. A step towards this has already been taken by his friends who have sent mails with her photos asking – “Check out her pose! Is she traumatised? No! Is she happy? Yes!”

We, in the women’s movement, can only hope that the courts will not behave like the ‘court of public opinion’.

For, if a woman is brutalised, her bloodied body/corpse available as incontestable proof of her victimhood — in conformity with those Hindi movie images we just talked about — then a court MIGHT hand out the death sentence based on ‘public opinion’. I use the word ‘MIGHT’ because here too, for a Bhotmange or a Manorama or a Soni Sori, the brutalised body is no guarantee of public opinion or courts perceiving the heinousness of the crime.

In cases where the victim doesn’t have a brutalised body to display to gratify voyeurs — the ‘peanut-crunching crowd’ — the courts are again all too likely to mirror public opinion and declare that the woman doesn’t really look or behave ‘raped’ enough.

Even when courts appear to be ‘sensitive’ to women, there’s a catch. There is one landmark verdict of the Supreme Court which holds that a conviction can take place even on the ‘sole testimony’ of the complainant. However, what the verdict actually said was: “It is conceivable in Western society that a female may level a false accusation as regards sexual molestation against a male”. However, “A girl or a woman in the tradition bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred” and therefore isn’t likely to lie about rape! The detailed argument in this verdict has sickeningly sexist imaginings of why ‘Western’ women are likely to lie about rape

Not surprisingly, this notion of ‘chaste Indian woman’ versus ‘loose Westernised woman’ is what Tejpal’s defence is relying on. In his bail plea, lawyer quoted this verdict to argue that she could not be raped, the sex must be consensual because the complainant is “a liberated, emancipated modern woman”.

So, women can only HOPE — against hope — that courts will stand aloof from public opinion, and will deliver justice on merits of the case rather than on jaundiced notions about how raped Indian women are supposed to behave, as opposed to the loose, liberated, modern women…

Tejpal claims there’s no evidence against him, that the charges are flimsy. The charges are by no means flimsy as he suggests but rather, there’s an embarrassment of weighty facts — straight from Tejpal’s own words — enough to make this a very serious case.

Tejpal claimed in an email to his friends that the whole thing was “an incredibly fleeting, totally consensual encounter of less than a minute in a lift (of a two-storey building!)”. However, based on the CCTV footage, the charge sheet establishes that the lift took much longer than usual to make the two-storey climb, certainly much longer than the ‘less than a minute’ claimed by Tejpal.

This unwarranted time in the lift the first time and the footage of him taking her into the lift on a second occasion (a second encounter which Tejpal’s email to friends didn’t mention) is certainly grounds for invoking Sections 341 (wrongful restrain) and 342 (wrong confinement) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Moreover, his own ‘apology’ email established his admitting to invoking his status as her boss — though he claims to have retracted it. The very fact that he admits to invoking it to overcome what HE calls her ‘clear reluctance’, goes to show a strong basis for invoking 376(2) (f) (person in position of trust or authority over women commits rape on such women) and 376(2) (k) (rape of a woman by a person being in position of control or dominance over the woman) IPC.

And the testimony of several of the complainant’s colleagues that she told them immediately after the first episode that she was assaulted, and of course her own complaint that has remained stable and unchanged while Tejpal’s has mutated time and time again, are pretty strong grounds for invoking Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354-A (outrage modesty).

However, though these are undeniably strong grounds, the matter is sub-judice and it is for the court to pronounce him guilty or not.

Finally, Tejpal claims that his arrest is “an early sign of the inherent fascism of the right-wing that will target its detractors in the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is India is imbued with no tolerance for dissenters and critics, of whom I certainly am one.”

I know neither Mr. Tejpal nor the complainant personally. I know them both from their work as journalists and public intellectuals. And I can say: Mr Tejpal, you don’t have to be male and a senior editor to be a ‘dissenter and critic’ against communal politics. The complainant — a young journalist who has done courageous and forthright journalism — is no less a dissenter and a critic. And we, who stand up for her rights, are no less dissenters and critics.

Tejpal trivialises the anti-fascist struggle by trying to use it to demand impunity from accusations of rape. Being a dissenter and a critic doesn’t provide us with some kind of AFSPA-type shield to being prosecuted for rape.

Can we please keep the word ‘draconian’ confined to laws like AFSPA, MCOCA, sedition and so forth? The new rape law is NOT draconian

The new law very correctly expands the definition of rape and provides graded punishment for different types of sexual violence; and it very correctly states that consent cannot be presumed without a clear YES, ‘by word or gesture’ from the woman. These are not draconian provisions. Ten years, for the compound crimes Tejpal is accused of, is not necessarily excessive. It should jolt us that Tejpal’s friend can refer to what he is accused of as a ‘mere pass’. Even a ‘pass’ is now sexual harassment. And holding a woman against her will in a closed space, disrobing her and forcing your finger or tongue inside her private parts is not a ‘pass’ — and it’s downright scary that some can think of it as such.

The same pal of Tejpal’s said, chillingly, that if this is rape, 50% of editors and CEOs will be in jail for rape. Do editors and CEOs (Tejpal seems to think these are all male) really see it as their entitlement to do these things to their woman employees?! If so, it reminds me of the sense of entitlement that Bihar landlords used to expect, as their due, from Dalit woman workers in their fields in the 1980s. Those bosses who think women have to submit to such treatment must indeed be in jail.

I am willing to discuss, in a general context, the need to retain some discretion for the judge in sentencing, but I’ll do so in a context of concern for justice for women, so that courts should not be deterred from convictions and discretion should not move from the judges to the cops. And I’ll discuss these when we have some evidence that the new law is indeed acting against women’s interests in this regard. To use those concerns and debates of the women’s movement to paint Tejpal as a victim is abhorrent.

To those who accuse feminists of defending a draconian law to play ‘media darlings’, allow me to point out that the women’s movement has consistently — on the same media — articulated and defended the UNPOPULAR positions against draconian provisions of death penalty and lowering of the age of juvenility and raising the age of consent.

We have interrupted the media’s self-congratulatory narratives on Tejpal or Asaram to remind them of their own double standards on Manorama, Kunan Poshpora, Soni Sori, countless Bastar rapes, rape of Dalit women in Haryana and so on. The same activists who make use of a few minutes in the media to counter the insidious campaign of vilification that Tejpal and his pals are carrying out against the complainant, have also spoken — again in the face of abuse and hate speeches — against the hanging of Afzal Guru and the conviction of Shehzad in the Batla House case. We have made the women’s movement’s dissent and outrage heard against the custodial killing of the December 16 rape accused Ram Singh inside Tihar jail.

I am one of the handful of people who have, after carefully examining available evidence, rather than the feverish imaginings of a sexist media campaign, questioned the obnoxious, appalling Aarushi verdict, which was a ‘media trial’ if ever there was one. A secular friend, who today accuses me of participating in media trials of ‘secular’ men accused of rape, was only too happy to repeat the prejudiced misinformation peddled by the media in the Aarushi case, warning me to stick with public opinion rather than my own assessment and conscience in that case!

I have also spoken AGAINST ‘potency tests’ for Asaram and Tejpal. I hold potency tests to be just as demeaning, unscientific and humiliating as a two-finger test for rape survivors.

What about bail for Tejpal? I believe bail is a right that all undertrials are entitled to. I, along with many others, have thanklessly struggled for bail for NOIDA workers, Maruti workers, held on far flimsier grounds. Soni Sori got bail after years of incarceration. Many of my own comrades languish in jail without bail on cooked-up charges relating to mass movements led by them.

In the case of those accused of heinous crimes, courts tend to deny bail irrespective of how flimsy the charges are. And this has nothing to do with the new rape law. It has been the case long before last year. Tejpal, therefore, cannot claim he’s being denied bail because of political vendetta or a ‘draconian’ law. Rather, if at all he gets bail, it will be because he has a posse of lawyers and he is viewed as ‘respectable’ and ‘respected’, unlike your average worker or slum-dweller or common man/woman accused. And if he gets bail, I would not oppose it.

The very phrases ‘media darlings’, ‘BBM-ing feminists’ and so on are redolent of rank sexism. We do the cause of democracy and secularism a grave injustice by resorting to this manner of campaign. Tejpal is entitled to a defence, surely. But we cannot allow the complainant to be subjected to a moralistic, voyeuristic pillory on the pretext of his defence. She is being put through hell, has had her mindspace and professional world turn from a zone of comfort and achievement into an ugly space of abuse and jeers, not because of her own actions but because she made the hard decision to complain about rape by her boss. This is the tough, painful world of rape survivors.

For those of us who ask why we activists cannot remain ‘neutral’, survivors and complainants get through this hell by relying on the support of the women’s movement. So, yes, we are not going to stop supporting rape complainants because the accused happens, on occasion, to be part of the secular or democratic camp. That’s because democracy includes women’s rights.

Tarun Tejpal’s Press Statement 18.2.2014:

“If conclusive proof was needed of the political vendetta that has been
unleashed against me, under the guise of a sexual molestation
investigation, it has been emphatically provided today. In a blatant
attempt at twisting and concealing the facts, the Goa police while
filing a 3000 page highly spurious charge sheet, has not presented or
handed over the most crucial piece of evidence in this case, the CCTV
footage of the incident

In my first and only press note of November 22nd 2013 I had urged,
“the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that
the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed”. I said this
at a time, from Delhi, when I had neither accessed nor seen the
footage. But since I was the man on the spot I knew the truth of what
had happened.

It is violative of due process, to not make all collected evidence
available to the accused at the time of filing the charge sheet. In
fact, receipt of the footage is what we have been impatiently waiting
for since the last three months. This duplicity is in keeping with the
sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued.

I have been in jail since November 30th simply because the goa police,
clearly acting under the orders of their political bosses, have
refused to release this crucial footage of the relevant days, 7th and
8th November. This entire case hinges on the 130 and 45 seconds (as
per the charge sheet) of contested time which can be brought to light
via the CCTV footage. The goa police know their fabricated case will
collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the
‘testimony’ of the alleged victim, on the basis of which the Goa
police filed it’s FIR under draconian provisions.

As it were, I viewed the relevant footage of both days whilst being
‘held’ in police custody and the footage clearly validates me. The
fact is most of the officers in the crime branch know there is no
case, and have said as much to me. Even so the IO has been pursuing an
agenda spelt out for her by her political masters, totally violating
the principle of police neutrality.

I’m afraid what we are witnessing here is an early sign of the
inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in
the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government
machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of
all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame
that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is
India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I
certainly am one.”

Activist gets rape threat while discussing anti-rape protest online

online rape threat

Activist abused and threatened with rape on Rediff.com live chat that was organised to discuss anti-rape protest

By Team FI

Social activist Kavita Krishnan has demanded a public apology from the website Rediff.com in regard to the degrading and violent messages addressed to her during a chat organised by the news portal. Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association, was contacted by Rediff.com to participate in a live chat on April 23, 2013, which invited participants to interact with an activist involved in the anti-rape protests.

The chat took place in her office from 2 pm to 3 pm when at one point, one of the participants with the handle RAPIST began to post offending and malicious threats. “In one ‘question’ he said, “Kavita tell women not to wear revealing clothes then we will not rape them.” The same man then posted another question several times: “Kavita tell me where I should come and rape you using condom.” Both questions were in block capitals and very visible,” said Krishnan.

Rediff.com’s Ganesh Nadar, responded at first saying that live chats cannot be screened. “This I know for a fact is not true since I have been in such chats with other media groups. Later Mr Nadar said that the man in the Rediff Mumbai office monitoring the chat failed to spot the ‘RAPIST’ because there were ‘so many questions.’ I find this difficult to believe since this was the only handle in capital letters and the questions were also in capitals. Yet, no one from Rediff did anything to screen such offensive questions, or to block someone with a handle of ‘RAPIST’ from the chat!” said Krishnan.

Krishnan has demanded a public apology from Rediff.com. “Condoning and allowing such intimidating behaviour against women keeps women out of the online space just as rape keeps women off the streets. I resent this intimidation, and in this instance, hold Rediff squarely responsible for failing to keep ‘RAPIST’ out of the chat,” accused Krishnan.

Krishnan has also asked Rediff.com file an FIR and help to investigate the identity of the offender. She was informed that Rediff has taken a screenshot of the chat and are filing an FIR with the screenshot being sent to cyber crime labs in Worli, Mumbai. Though she has not received the screenshot as yet, she informs that Rediff.com has posted the transcript of the chat with a “(non) apology of sorts.”