Tag Archive for right-wing nationalism

Sex workers express solidarity with JNU students, demand Azadi from `Goddess’ Durga


Veshya Anyay Mutki Parishad writes to Jawaharlal Nehru University students expressing solidarity with their fight against right-wing orchestrated violence and intimidation

Dear Students of JNU,
Salute! Jai Bhim! Laal salam! We will win this war against sedition! March 3rd, International Sex workers Rights Day, Zindabad!

We write from the sex worker’s rights movement to hail your struggle and to add to the discourse you have sparked. We would like to discuss why using the term sex worker in the alleged pamphlet in JNU on Mahishasura Martydom Day is a concept fraught with the Whore Stigma. The use of the politically correct sex worker instead of the commonly used `prostitute’ does not take away from the fact that it is used to depict an insalubrious deed. The use of this term has only led to more misunderstandings of the term itself.

Sex worker is the term used by the sex worker’s rights movement in order to claim dignity to the work adults do consensually by providing sexual services for money. The sex workers use this term to give dignity to those that exchange sexual services for money but the use here is to supposedly strip the `goddess’ in this instance, of any dignity. The term since then has taken a life of its own. From a politically correct term it is now being used to describe anti-nationals, anti-goddesses even anti- patriarchy! But the thinly veiled contempt for the sex worker is huge in every utterance, from the Hindu Goddess Durga to the `anti-national’ women students in JNU.

It was brought to the nation on Februrary 24, 2016 when an alleged pamphlet issued in JNU to mark Mahishasura Martydom Day, October 2014 was produced in Parliament by Minister for Education Ms. Smriti Irani stating that it contained offensive material regarding the “Durga Puja”— “where a fair skinned beautiful goddess Durga is depicted brutally killing a dark-skinned native called “Mahishasura, a brave self-respecting leader, tricked into marriage by Aryans. They hired a sex worker called Durga, who enticed Mahishasura into marriage and killed him after nine nights of honeymooning, during sleep.” The pamphlet was issued on “Mahishasura Martyrdom Day” observed by scheduled tribe, scheduled caste, other backward caste and minority students of JNU.

The minister asked for forgiveness from her god to even utter the words as printed in the pamphlet. The use of the politically correct term sex worker and the use of the words like enticed and honeymoon to depict sexual exchange are the reason for the chocked anger of Ms. Irani. Would it have been better for the pamphlet not to have used the term sex worker? Because I cannot see what else the minister could have to ask forgiveness for, a fair skinned woman enticing Mahishasur and killing him is a well-accepted concept among the tribals, whether the woman was Durga is unclear.

Earlier on February 13th Jawahar Yadav, former Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister of Haryana In his tweet, Yadav wrote “For the girls who are protesting in JNU, I only have one thing to say that prostitutes who sell their body are better than them because they atleast don’t sell their country”.

Almost after two hours, Yadav wrote a clarification and deleted his previous tweet. In the clarification he said: “No girl has been compared to any prostitute in my previous tweet. Instead I meant that the girls who are forced to enter prostitution are rather better than the girls who were protesting in JNU and raising anti-India slogans, Pakistan Zindabad slogans. The daughters and sisters who are forced to sell their body are better than the girls who were demanding the freedom of Kashmir and Kerala and shouting that their fight will continue till India is destroyed.”

To continue this saga, on 27th February Devdutt Patnaik has written a piece on `How patriarchy makes ‘sex worker’ a term of abuse’ where he explains that, The Goddess as a free woman discomforts many, who cannot bear to see any female, divine or otherwise, in positions of power. His analysis however is very far away from this misleading headline in the Daily O. Devdutt’s simplistic analysis cannot move away from its moral frame of the single woman who has to satisfy `the unsavoury yearnings of men’. Mr. Patnaik also falls into the same trap of having a very interesting analysis but not addressing why the term sex work cannot be used interchangeably with the stigmatising concept of the `prostitute’.

Then on February 29th there is the headline, ‘Threatened and termed a sex worker after Mahishashura debate’: Asianet News editor Sindhu to TNM. Now we move from the alleged JNU pamphlet to the discussion on the Mahishasura Martydom day and all hell breaks loose. The anchor is threatened with life and also called a sex worker.

The mobile number of Sindhu Sooryakumar, the Chief Coordinating Editor of Asianet News, was circulated on WhatsApp allegedly by activists of right wing groups offended by a TV programme where members of Congress, BJP and Left parties debated whether celebrating Mahishasura, a common custom among certain tribes in India, is enough to accuse students of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University of “anti-national” activities.

This constant reference to sex work and women in sex work in particular is made to stigmatise and put down the woman it is describing. It is used to depict sleaze, disgust, distaste and revulsion. Mere use of the politically correct term has not taken away the whore stigma attached to the term `prostitute’ if it is used to divide women into the `good and the bad’.

The sex worker rights movement would like to bring to your notice the fact that it is therandi [whore] stigma that pushes sex workers outside the rights framework, effectively cutting them off from privileges and rights supposedly accorded to all citizens irrespective of what they do for a living. Stigmatization, which has its roots in the standards set by patriarchal morality, is experienced as the major factor that prevent sexworkers from accessing their rights. In the real world of sex workers, the lives of women in sex work are particularly held hostage. Stigmatization impacts the lives of women in more ways than one. Some of the rights denied due to discrimination are: freedom from physical and mental abuse; the right to education and information; health care, housing; social security and welfare services to name but a few.

We also demand Azadi!

Azadi from discrimination, azadi from the violence of a judgemental attitude, azadi from the multiplicity of injustice meted out to sex works, Azadi from the loose use of the politically correct but deeply stigmatised use of the term sex worker.Sex workers demand Azadi from `Goddess’ Durga

In solidarity,
Shabana Khazi, Durga Pujari, Kiran Deshmukh, Chanda Vazane, Neelawa Siddereddy, Suvarna Ingalgave, Meenakshi Kamble, Raosaheb More, Sudhir Patil, Aarthi Pai, Meena Saraswathi Seshu.

Veshya Anyay Mutki Parishad

Muskan [ TG and Male sex workers]


March 8 statement: Nationalism enslaves women


Your borders and boundaries will not stop the international solidarity and collectivisation of women, our imaginations dance wild like stardust, like the magic spells of witches

By Pinjra Tod

An Adivasi school-teacher and human rights activist, Soni Sori was brutally attacked by a group of men last Sunday, her face blacked with grease. Soni now lies in a hospital in Delhi, her face mutilated and swollen, unable to open her eyes, but amazingly relentless and fearless about continuing her struggle against the atrocities perpetrated by the Indian state and mullti-national corporations against her people, the Adivasis of Bastar and Chattisgarh and their lands, rivers, forests and songs. In 2011, Soni had been arrested on charges of being a ‘Maoist’ by the Chattisgarh police and labelled an ‘anti-national’ under a host of fabricated cases.

While in custody, Soni was subjected to brutal torture and assault. In a powerful letter addressed to the nation from jail, she had enquired in anger and desperation, “…by giving me current, by stripping me naked, or by brutally assaulting me – inserting stones in my rectum – will the problem of Naxalism end? Why so many atrocities on women? I want to know from all countrymen” The officer who led the torture on her, Ankit Garg, was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry award.in 2012 for his ‘valour’, ‘courage’ and ‘self-sacrifice’ in service of the ‘nation’, in service of ‘Bharat mata’.

Soni Sori’s case is not an ‘exception’ or an ‘aberration’. Kawasi Hidme, an Adivasi from Bastar, once again charged as a ‘Naxal’, was repeatedly tortured and abused in custody, sent from one jail to another, after the policemen in a station had ‘satisfied’ themselves ‘enough’. This continued for seven years, as the ‘valiant’ actions of the protectors of the ‘nation’ led to Kawasi’s body ejecting her uterus one day. Bleeding profusely in unbearable pain, she pushed it back the first time and attempted to cut it off with a blade borrowed from another inmate the next time.

Kawasi’s story came to light when Soni met her during her own time in jail. Hundreds of Sonis and Hidmes languish in prisons across the country. The women of Konan Poshpora, who were raped with impunity by soldiers of the Fourth Raj Rifles, the most senior rifle regiment of the Indian Army, more than 25 years back still await justice from the courts of law. The powerful protest of the Manipuri women who stripped naked defying the indefinite curfew imposed in Imphal, screaming “Indian Army rape us, kill us, take our flesh” after the rape and heinous murder of Thangjam Manorama, continues to disrupt our national pride from the ‘margins’ of this nation. The thousands of women who were raped during Partition, scream from the past, about the violence on women’s bodies that constitutes the very moment of inception of India as an ‘independent’ nation. This violence has been enacted over and over again in numerous moments across the history of this post-colonial nation, be it Emergency, the 1984 riots, the Godhra killings, the Gujarat riots, Operation Green Hunt, Kandhamal and Muzzafarnagar riots.

In a context of frenzy where everyone, from the right to the left, joins a race to assert who is the ‘true nationalist’ of them all, Soni’s blackened face, Manorama’s bullet-ridden dead body, Kawasi’s ejected uterus, begs us to ask the question: can the nation, any nation really ever belong to women? What is this nation built and held together (intergated?) by the rape and torture of women? Does the control, surveillance and violence on women’s lives, bodies and desires underlie the very core of what comes to constitute nationalism and the nation? Are masculine and patriarchal notions inherent to the imagination and construction of the nation?

We have heard a lot about the contradiction that plays out when the sanghi brigade threaten ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ with sexual abuse alongside exhaltations to ‘Bharat Mata’

However, a more crucial question that we need ask is: Why is India a mother, why is Bharat a Mata, why? Why this engendering of the nation? Does the imagery of the nation entrap women into pinjras where we are reduced to biological reproducers of its members (‘sons’); limited to ‘mothers’/'wives’/'sisters’ in need of protection; contained into cultural signifiers who are the markers and reproducers of cultural boundaries/differences; idolised into figures whose bravery is realised through self-sacrifice/erasure? In this gendered construction of the nation, the lives and experiences of Dalit, Adivasi and working class women are invisibalised, frowned upon and even, criminalised. As we critique the nationalist project of Hindutva, we need to interrogate if there can really be a truly inclusive nationalism or if the nation functions on creating an excluded ‘other’ vs-a-vis whom difference is established?

The violence of the nation on women does not lie only in so-called ‘exceptional’ incidents, it is enacted in the ‘everyday’, in the ‘mundane’, most often in our most initimate spaces and relations, in very insidious ways, beginning from our families and continuing to universities, workplaces and the society. The burden of the nation is a daily reality for every woman, manifesting in diverse forms in the numerous regulations and restrictions that bind and cage her, in the policing of her autonomy and freedom that she has to negotiate and resist, and even internalise, everyday.

How many times have our families told us that we have been corrupted by ‘Western’ ideals when we have argued with them for our most basic rights, be it the right to venture out at night or the right to study/work as a woman or the right to love the one we desire (the list is endless)? When the Justice Verma Committee set up after the Jyoti Singh rape case had recommended criminalising marital rape, a parliamentary standing committee, headed by Venkaiah Naidu, dismissed the recommendation, claiming that if marital rape is brought under law, the very edifice of the great Indian family system will come crumbling down. Basically what this asserts is that marital rape is a necessity for the ‘Indian’ family and the institution of marriage to survive. We have all heard of the horror tales of shaming and humiliation from women who have approached the courts seeking justice against sexual violence, as they were tried and interrogated for not adhering to the ideal of what marks the ‘good’ Indian woman.

Haryana CM’s ex-OSD, Jwahar Yadav statement, “For the girls who are protesting in JNU, I only have one thing to say that prostitutes who sell their body are better than them because they atleast don’t sell their country”, leads us directly into the patriarchy and brahminism that lie at the very heart of nationalism, trapping us into binaries of the ‘good’ vs the ‘bad’ woman, of the ‘anti-national/Maoist’ vs nationalist woman, the respectable woman vs the women on the streets, the good student vs the ‘ungrateful daughter’. A woman who is a sex-worker whose labour disrupts the premises of Brahminical morality and family ‘values’, is to be shamed.

An autonomous woman who thinks, who questions, who resists, who fights is a grave ‘national threat’ to this nation, especially so if you are an Adivasi or a Dalit or a Muslim or a working class woman who is speaking aloud. Such women defy the masculine and patriarchal script of nationalism produced by upper-caste men (dating back to the early nineteenth century!), that has been premised on silencing of women’s voices and experiences and entraping them in a swirl of pinjras of domesticity and alienation.

Pinjra Tod is an autonomous collective effort to ensure secure, affordable and not gender-discriminatory accommodation for women students across Delhi

Sisters, why should the Hindu right get to speak in our names?


Don’t let the Hindu right speak in our names! Calling all Matas, Mummas, Mummys, Nanis, Dadis, Buas, Maasis, Mausis, Behenas, Khalas, Phuppis et all

By Aarti Sethi

Main Bharat Ki Behena
Ab Sun le Mera Kehna
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Behena
“Suraksha” Main Nahin Rehena
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mata
Samajh Nahin Aata?
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mata
Tu Mujhe Kya Sikhata?
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Kehti Hun Bari Bari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Khud Leti Zimmedari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Kisi Aur Ki Kar Tarafdari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nani
I’m talking to you Smriti Irani
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nani
Irani Tu Badi Pareshani
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mummy
Smriti Don’t Get Chummy
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Khala
Rajnath Tu Ganda Nala
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Chachi
Irani tu Gand Machati
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mausi
Irani Don’t Get Saucy
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Bua
Desh se Mat Khel Jua
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Dadi
Band Karo Ye Barbadi!
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Bijli
Beta Kya Hai Teri Khujli?
I Stand With JNU