Equal Access Education Between Men and Women view by chairman harshavardhan reddy of Aura Group

Equal access to men and women

Harshavardhan Reddy Chairman Aura Group Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles on blogs Below is one such Readers are welcome to comment

Equal Access Education between Men and Women

India, the second most populous country in the whole world, has a total population of 1,220,800,359 million people, of which 587.236.392 million are females between 0 years and 65 years and over, according to a July 2013 estimate provided by the CIA World Factbook.

Even though it is not a poor country anymore – the 4th most developed economy in the world, with a GDP of $4.761 trillion in 2012, education is still a long term challenge in India, especially for young girls and women. A 2009 Indian government report shows that the drop-out school rate was of 25% and includes girls and also poor and disabled children.

Although women’s education is as important as men’s education, girls are being banned from school by their families because of the attacks and the sexual assaults the girls are victims of. Being afraid that these attacks will affect a girl’s honor, the family prefers to drop her out of school.

Official numbers reveal the level of women’s education in India. School life expectancy for Indian girls, from primary to tertiary education, is of 10 years, while for boys is of 11 years. Studies also show that unemployment rate for young females between ages 15-24 is of 11.5%, while for young boys between same ages is of 9.8%.

The literacy rate for Indian people between ages 15 and over is of 61%. By sex, 73% of the Indian men can read and write, while 47% of the women are able to do these basic things. Nevertheless, a 2006 estimate brings out into open that mother’s mean age at first birth is 19.9 years, whereas a 2013 estimate unveils that every woman has 2.55 children.

Why is so hard for an Indian girl and or woman to go to school and complete her education? The answer is somewhere between a dozen of reasons: because most of the people in India think that women are chattels or property and because the government says girls should be educated but does too little in order to support them.

Another reason is that women in India are not united and very few stand up for what they believe in. Last but not least, because the fathers of these girls don’t care enough for their children so they rise up. In conclusion, because of the patriarchal mindsets that rules India.

Sita Anantha Raman, an Indian Professor Emeritus at Santa Clara University, in San Francisco, California, believes that the difference between men and women in India is even deeper. She maintains that Indian women who completed their education and work side by side with men receive less income for the same job. On the other hand, she is confident in the women power movement in India and in the NGO’s that support and demand greater and sustained support for equal access education between men and women.

HVR also know as Harshavardhan Reddy from Delhi supports this cause of equality thru Aura Education Group

Why has it become normal to dehumanize women in India?

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such. Readers are welcome to comment.

Why has it become normal to dehumanize women in India?

By

Two years ago, on New Year’s Eve, a girl was molested on the streets of Delhi in front of a crowd. The video went viral—as did the spectacle of a mob of men falling upon the woman and the police thrashing the rabid mob with lathis (batons) like a pack of dogs.

While anger against the molesters was rampant, what struck me was the idea that a group of men can act on a whim to sexually assault a woman on a busy road with no one, apparently, having a problem with it. The police fished the trembling girl out of the mass of bodies, sheltering her with their own bodies and swinging their batons to drive away the men circling around, still intent on her.

A December night in Delhi. She was wearing clothes that covered her whole body.

Schoolboys in Mumbai pose for a picture in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape. (Tash McCarroll)

A few months later, a similar incident played out in the northeastern city of Guwahati, in which a reporter actually called in a camera team to shoot the attack but did not intervene to save the girl. All the while he was recording the violence with his phone.

Another incident in Mangalore saw a birthday party in a private farmhouse encroached on by members of a right-wing group called the Hindu Jagaran Vedike, accompanied by local media (who alerted the police). The owners of the farmhouse had allegedly stopped paying money to the right-wing group and the attack was seen as retaliation. The assailants thrashed the boys, slapped a girl, and tried to force them to perform sexual acts on camera. A girl jumped from the first floor to escape the mob but was caught and stripped by the thugs.

To me, these group actions are more alarming than your garden-variety rapes and molestations because there seems to be no hesitation to be witnessed by peers while performing such crimes. The idea that a crime can be proposed—and that a group of people will take up the idea and act on it—signifies deep fractures in gender relations in Indian society. There is a certain contempt for women, a certain dehumanization that allows for this to become an acceptable action.

Inflicting harm on another person is not easy. Each of us sees ourselves as ideal. No person wants to be a criminal, an inflictor of injustice. No person is comfortable seeing himself or herself as the cause of another’s pain. For these actions to be possible, the victim must be somehow rendered “fair game”—deserving of the punishment meted out to “teach her a lesson.” Or the victim must be an object so completely dehumanized that the question of her having feelings does not matter.

Somehow, we are turning into a society in which there is a growing consensus among men that sexual assault is acceptable—those who “normally” respect women sometimes start to find reasons to make exceptions for some of them, e.g., those who are out late at night, those who seemed to be “asking for it.”

There is a collective inability to sustain an unambiguous message that a woman who refuses sexual contact must be inviolable.

Also, the feminists are right and wrong. This may not be desire, but it is fun.

Somehow, we have people who see rape as fun—a team bonding game for the “sexually potent male club.” This is why you have police talking about rape victims overreacting to “a little fun” that resulted from them provoking their rapists. They do not seem unfamiliar with the idea of a group of men having “fun” with a woman they pick up. This is how women get accused of provoking men by “flaunting their sexuality,” and men simply “misunderstanding.” “Wares advertised,” but deal reneged on. How common is this?

***

The Delhi gang rape caught the nation’s imagination, but the horror for me was the Mumbai gang rape of a photojournalist, in which she was one of a series of women who had been gang raped in that location. Women who hadn’t filed complaints. Gang rapes that were discovered from the confessions of the rapists. Rag-pickers and other street women who “don’t matter”—one imagines they did not expect much from the law. There was an utter casualness—a kind of loose gang rape group with no particular closeness, level of trust, or sense of loyalty between the men.

Police searched for the rapists, so the young man helped them find them. People he had raped with on other occasions. One has to wonder how the police knew who to ask as well. Were these “boys having fun” that the police were aware of and knew to ask if someone complained? On top of all this, the mother of one of the rapists helped her son evade the police.

But these acts still consist of strangers as perpetrators. Another gang rape in Indore a couple of years ago was actually the first sort of double gang rape I’d heard of. A girl was lured to a farmhouse by her boyfriend. She went there with a cousin. Both girls were gang raped by the boyfriend’s friends. Three of the boys were politically connected. A group of passers-by discovered the gang rape in progress and, instead of rescuing the girls, they joined in.

So coming now to the “hot news” these days…

On December 23, a 16-year-old girl in eastern Kolkata died of burn injuries that the police initially tried to pass off as a suicide attempt. In October, a young man she knew vaguely told her that her father had asked her to come from her home to a nearby shop. Instead, she was abducted, blindfolded, taken to a home, gang raped, and dumped in a field. The next day, when her father took her to the police station to file a complaint, the same rapists assaulted her father, kidnapped her again, and gang-raped her again, this time dumping her near the railway tracks.

After facing intimidation to withdraw the case, scant police protection, and finally being assaulted and set on fire, she lost her battle to live. She was pregnant when she died.

The response of the state is something we have come to expect from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government. In a state where any bad news is called a Maoist/Communist conspiracy, this girl had the misfortune of having a father who actually belonged to a union dominated by Communist Party of India (Marxist). When the CPI(M) declared that they would carry the body in a procession for cremation as a mark of protest, the state-controlled police abducted the body and tried to cremate it themselves to prevent the protest. But they were unable to cremate it without a death certificate, which the father refused to surrender to the police. This resulted in a huge political row. Finally, seemingly on the order of “higher ups,” the police returned the body to the family.

While this rape didn’t make too many waves at that time (taxi driver’s daughter—who cares?), another double gang rape in the southeastern city of Pudducherry did. On Christmas Eve, a girl visiting her friend in Pudducherry went to meet her boyfriend. Three men abducted her outside his residence. One of them raped her.

When she escaped and made it back to her friend and boyfriend that evening, she was attacked again by another, supposedly unrelated group of seven men and raped by six of them. The boyfriend is himself under suspicion in the case, though he did not rape her. The victim has said she did not know any of her rapists. Two policemen were suspended for refusing to file a case for such a complaint.

A.M.H. Nazeem, a politician for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, which claims to fight for social justice for Dravidian people, characterized this horror story as “prostitution.” Not surprising, considering that the main man accused in the case is a close aide of Nazeem—and that most of those arrested are DMK cadre.

***

Women’s rights have no inherent value of their own in India. Some incidents grab attention for the shock value, and for media, rape continues to be sex, and sells if the star cast or storyline or political implication has potential.

“Sex” still sells.

On the other hand, the country’s women are living under a permanent shadow of potential violence against them, where the first person to be blamed for their devastation is likely to be them. A girl cannot speak of simple street harassment at home because the first advice she gets will likely be to stay home and play it safe. Support, too, may not succeed. Many men get attacked—knives seem to be a favorite—for protecting women.

Endless stories of police disinterest and politicians’ misogyny perpetuate a certain perception of okayness about a little “men will be men” behavior with women who “provoke” by existing. Impunity may be decreasing but the social stigma continues to belong to women. There continues to be little deterrent to men who may start some “man talk” about how a woman is asking for it that draws likeminded participants and snowballs till a group consensus forms for a crime. We continue to see self-confessed serial rapist God-men as victims of a political conspiracy to malign them.

Evaluating women as objects continues to be hip, as witnessed by the ongoing bewilderment of singer Palash Sen over feminist anger when he asked a college crowd if there were beautiful girls in their college. The crowd roared back “No!” Sen genuinely does not see what the issue is in recommending that parents of beautiful girls send them to an engineering college so that the intelligent men there have some visual relief. He may have the misfortune of being crass in the spotlight, but he’s hardly alone in the complete inability to see women beyond their utility to men.

It is a pervasive dehumanization that is spreading. At a casual level, it patronizes women. At another intensity, it savages them.

The inability to see women as actual humans is increasing—it no longer remains something that can be explained as orthodox misogyny. Much of the dehumanization is modern. It will also grow as women break through barriers previously imprisoning them, triggering a reflex backlash in an attempt to bring them under control as well as prevent them from sharing credibility as equals.

Our collective focus tends to be on police or security features or political insensitivity or judicial lapses, but the fact is that this issue has already grown beyond the ability of any of these institutions to prevent—the idea that a woman can be entertainment, can be further exploited to punish, and once violated is soiled, whether she likes it or not. In other words, “do what you will as long as no one objects” is already here, couched with excuses, preying on the fringes where no one pays attention to the plight of women “who don’t matter” for class, caste, or religion. Any punishments that take place happen out of the sightlines of society and serve no deterrent.

This is a tinderbox waiting to explode. Radical social interventions are needed urgently before things reach a point where the state simply cannot do anything about it and it becomes a “reality” to be accepted.

Do men want to be “treated like men?”

Harshavardhan Reddy Chairman Aura Group Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such. Readers are welcome to comment.

 

Do men want to be “treated like men?”

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I have a few more thoughts on Don Miller’s post about whether women want to be treated equally or like men. Firstly, about what inspired the post:

I read an interesting article the other day about a lesbian couple who decided to go straight. How? One of them got a sex change.

Sigh. No. Transitioning one’s public presentation to be inline with one’s gender isn’t changing one’s gender. It’s definitely not changing one’s sexuality. Couples do not decide to “go straight.” This is not how it works.

The continued insistence of some people that transitioning happens on some sort of a whim – like, “Oh, I think I’ll become some other gender now!” – is very revealing of a failure to empathize and identify with trans people as equal fellow human beings.

Would you up and change your gender for kicks tomorrow? Is your gender that easily shrugged off and swapped out? For most people the answer is no. More to the point, it’s the exact opposite of what (in my experience) trans people say about transition: it’s not changinggender, but rather living publicly as and/or being recognized as they gender(s) they are.

Whether or not one chooses to learn about or acknowledge the biological reality of transgenderism as part of the spectrum of human diversity, it’s basic respect to refer to someone by the name they request to be called by. Yet Miller continues to call the trans man he’s writing about “she” and a “woman” throughout the article.

This isn’t really that complicated; insisting on calling someone by a label or name that they don’t claim themselves is something we do to hurt or poke fun at other people, or when we don’t consider them deserving of basic courtesy. In this case, Miller shows complete disregard for and and indifference (dare I say contempt) for the couple he’s writing about, especially the trans man.

Fascinating enough as it is, the part of the article that peaked my interest was that [the trans man in the article] didn’t much like the world of men. [He] liked being a man, but [he] no longer liked the way the world treated [him]. [He] said men don’t compliment each other, they don’t encourage each other, and when they shake hands, they grab each other firmly and look each other in the eye without smiling. It’s like they don’t know how to get along, [he] said. (I have long believed that women are, socially, higher developed or designed than men in some ways. They seem to understand the true language of humanity, that somehow validating a person’s identity is paramount.)

Oh? Validating a person’s identity, like respecting that they just might know what gender they are better than you do?

I couldn’t help but laugh as I read the article. I actually like the way men interact. As a man, I find it more direct and to the point. I find it annoying to always have to think about how people feel about things. But that’s not what I’m getting at.

Witness the logical contortions! They are impressive in their flexibility and contradictory nature. Women are “higher developed” and recognize how validating a person’s identity is important! But men are more direct and to the point and it’s such a nuisance to have to think about yucky feelings!

I’ve written before about how this idea of women as more evolved emotionally or somehow elevated above men in this abstract, romanticized fashion is really a roundabout way of reasserting male superiority. Miller does it again.

The idea that there’s some secret men’s club where we are all for each other and waging a war on women is simply false. As a rule, men are not nice or kind to each other…I don’t know a single man who isn’t more kind to women than they are to men. Men are tough with each other and much more likely to fight with each other than they are to fight with a woman.

Oh, so much one could say. I guess Miller lives in some alternate America where 1/4 of women *aren’t* raped (mostly by men), and 1/4 of women *haven’t* experienced domestic violence (usually from men). I guess he lives in an America where white male politicians aren’t falling all over themselves to decide which kinds of rape victims deserve reproductive health services, and colluding to deny these same services to pretty much anyone with a uterus.

But let’s say we live in this other world where patriarchal male violence against women and girls and other gendered oppression isn’t an issue. Let’s say that’s the case. Miller’s blithe assertion about how unkind men are to each other raises a question that he seems unwilling to consider: Do all men want to be “treated like men?”

This is the real question raised by the article Miller read. And honestly, I think a big part of the knee-jerk hostility many cis people show towards trans people is that we’re frightened by what the alternative requires. Relating to trans people as full and equal human beings means we have to reexamine everything we’re taught to take for granted about gender. A lot of people find that very threatening.

So instead of considering whether this trans man has something to offer in challenging the idea that masculinity is “naturally” brusque and unfeeling, Miller denies this man’s masculinity altogether, insisting that he’s a “woman,” and perverting his story and observations about how cisgender men are socialized into an example of how “women” want to be treated “like women.”

I confess I’ve long believed the soul is gender neutral. What I mean is, our bodies and minds, our biology and biochemistry may be gender inclined (or mixed, and common sense have proven) but our souls are of the same, non-gendered orientation…I think of our souls as eternal while our bodies replaceable. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were no gender in heaven.

Nevertheless, the issue is still important because we are talking about a framework within which to dignify or indignify a fellow human being, which has enormous and eternal consequences for the soul. [emphasis mine]

Hey Donald Miller: THIS MAKES NO SENSE. Souls are genderless and there’s no gender in heaven, but if you treat someone like the “wrong” gender (by Donald Miller’s definitions, not by the person’s own statement of who they are and what they want), this has ENORMOUS ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES.

Say what?

Funny enough this sounds a lot like Joshua Harris’s teaching that wives should be totally cool with submitting to their husbands in everything on earth because they have the comfort of knowing there’s no gender in heaven.

Do you want to be treated like men in every area of your life? And if not, is it confusing for you to want to be treated more kindly and tenderly in a social area, but more straight-forwardly in the sense of economic and cultural equality?

Let me be more pointed: As women, do you want for men to say you’re beautiful? Because if we treat you like men, we will never say you’re beautiful. We don’t really care. And we won’t make you feel small or special or precious, either. We won’t protect you because, quite frankly, you need to protect yourself or you’re a wimp. Do you really want us to treat you like men? [Emphasis mine]

Good lord, the condescension! Again, note how Miller claims this is all about honoring the dignity of women and treating women kindly and our more highly developed emotional intelligence or whatever, at the same time that he’s presenting attributes and behavior he associates with masculinity as superior.

Kindness and tenderness are contrasted to being straight-forward, direct, and to the point (and apparently it’s somehow confusing for the ladies to be at the receiving end of both kindess and directness). Straight-forward” is pretty clearly a euphemism for “practical” and “rational” – attributes Miller sees as belonging to men. Wanting to be seen as beautiful or to feel special isn’t “straight-forward.” A man who can’t protect himself is a wimp, but a woman who can’t do it is just a woman.

Don Miller can believe this if he wants. But don’t try and play it off in mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy fashion as “respecting” or dignifying women. It’s straight up male chauvinism and there’s no way around it. Just be direct and to the point about it, OK?

But the other thing is – what makes Miller think all men don’t want to be told they’re beautiful? Including by other men? Do men never feel the need for protection? Do all men embrace or benefit from the idea that any man who can’t protect himself is a “wimp?”

Contrary to popular misconception, gender justice activists have had quite a lot to say about how patriarchal masculinity hurts men – how it makes men more vulnerable to certain kinds of violence, how it damages men’s health and wellbeing by encouraging them to ignore or suppress pain and other signs of illness, how it limits the range of men’s emotional expression in ways that damage their emotional, mental, and physical health and the strength and health of their intimate relationships.

The question isn’t whether women want to be treated “like men” (where the definition is what Miller and other white patriarchalists think “like men” means). The question is whether being treated like men – being expected to behave “like a man” – is even good for men.

Miller also seems unaware of the reality that there are cultures – even quite patriarchal ones – where it’s completely normal for men to hold hands, kiss, cry together. Maybe Miller is confusing being a white Western cis dude for the universal experience of all men? It wouldn’t be the first time.

Take Action Daily Beast Should Apologize for Dismissing Prison Rape

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy, Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such. Readers are welcome to comment.

Take Action: Daily Beast Should Apologize for Dismissing Prison Rape

This post was written by Prison Culture and originally published at the Prison Culture blog. Thanks to Prison Culture for letting me post it here.


Update: At 6 p.m. (central), the Daily Beast issued a response to their original Op-Ed. You can read that response HERE.

In terms of responding to the requests made below: 1. The Daily Beast will not remove the column from its site. Here’s how they responded to that demand:

The column that sparked all the outrage will remain online, although in its edited form. “There’s no such thing as ‘removing’ anything from the Internet. Anyone who wants to find the story can find it, whether we remove it or not,” Depke said. “And I also don’t want readers to think that we are trying to cover something up. We made a mistake, and we’re acknowledging it in the most transparent way we can.”

2. The Daily Beast has not issued any specific apologies to Chelsea Manning or to survivors of prison rape. Below is as close to an apology as was offered:

Does The Daily Beast regret publishing the piece? “Yes.” Depke said. “It was an error, plain and simple, and I’m personally sorry about it.”

3. There was no specific promise to publish a fact based article about prison rape (especially as it affects trans people).

[In addition to all that Prison Culture pointed out, I would add:

4) A “personal” sorry from a Daily Beast Editor is not the same thing as an apology from the Daily Beast.

5) The Daily Beast also neglected to identify which editor(s) allowed this article to run and then decided to quietly cover their tracks and lie to their readers.

6) They have not made any statement as to how they plan to make sure such a horrific lapse in editorial judgment doesn’t happen again.]

We leave it up to you to decide if you are satisfied with the Daily Beast’s response to this incident.

Yesterday, the Daily Beast published a vile and harmful column about Chelsea Manning and prison rape. [Major trigger warning for transphobia, homophobia, rape apologism, and blaming of queer and trans prisoners who are survivors of prison rape. – G]

After many expressed outrage at the victim-blaming and rape apologia, the Daily Beast first issued a vague editor’s note and then began to surreptitiously edit the content of the column. You can now read their edited column here. [Again, trigger warning.]

For the Daily Beast to have published this fact-free, victim-blaming, and harmful piece is unconscionable. The fact that the column has not been removed from their site and an apology issued to Chelsea Manning and victims of prison rape is wrong and unacceptable.

According to Just Detention International, an organization that addresses the issue of prison rape, “every year roughly 200,000 adults and children in U.S. detention are sexually abused. In most cases, the perpetrators are corrections staff — officials whose very job it is to keep inmates safe” They have collected countless prison rape survivor testimonies that belie the reality and scope of this problem.

We ask everyone to take action to tell the Daily Beast to:

1. Remove the column from its website. 2. To apologize the Chelsea Manning and her family. 3. To apologize to the survivors of prison rape. 4. To solicit and publish a new article/column to illuminate the real scope and impact of prison rape.

 

Please TAKE ACTION TODAY and let the Daily Beast know that we will not stand for this type of harmful polemic about such an important issue.

What Child Exploitation Looks Like

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy, Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such. Readers are welcome to comment.

What Child Exploitation Looks Like

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Image is of a black teen sitting in front of a row of lockers. He's holding a lock in his left hand, and his left elbow is resting on his left knee. His other hand is on his head and covering his face. One of the lockers behind him is open, with a bag and another item lying on the floor in front of it.

Content note/major trigger warning: exploitation of transgender youth (an adult manipulating a minor into exposing his genitalia and then describing it in detail).

Cristan Williams has a post about a truly horrifying case of a journalist – a cisgender woman – using her platform and access as a reporter to exploit and objectify transgender youth. The details are stomach-turning:

much older adult, who was famous in the eyes of a kid, talked the minor into exposing themselves to the adult. The adult then took a good long look – long enough to memorize the details of the kid’s genitals. The adult then wrote a news article featuring the explicit details of what the underage kid’s genitals looked like. While this might elicit a strident response from folks who care about things like the age of consent, the use of power, corrosion and exploitation, nobody seems to care in this case.

Yes, a minor was talked into exposing themselves to an adult but here’s the rub: the kid was trans. The reporter was doing a story on dangerous underground body modifications using silicone injections (called “pumping”) which kills people. The resulting story was gritty and was pushed into the lurid territory when the reporter went into explicit detail, recounting what the minor’s genitalia looked like. – Name the Problem, Cristan Williams

Please read all of Cristan Williams’ post about this, which goes into more detail about the piece, Brownworth and PGN’s response to criticisms of the piece, and the “bloated sense of [cisgender] privilege” behind cis people’s assumptions that we have a right to know what trans people’s bodies – even children’s bodies – look like.

 

I would like to believe it goes without saying that there’s no journalistic rationale for reporting about a specific child’s genitalia and that this is really disturbing child exploitation. But as Williams writes, the privacy and protection we supposedly take as the given right of youth are often ignored in the name of “telling a story” or satisfying entitled curiosity when the children involved are transgender.

Victoria Brownworth, the journalist in question, claims that this portion of her story was justified because the youth she wrote about “wanted [to] show off their bodies” and “wanted their story told.” She claims it felt “creepy/wrong” but it’s what the subjects of the piece “wanted.” But Brownworth was the one who asked this child if she could look at his genitalia.

Frankly, it would have been voyeuristic and wrong for Brownworth to ask even if it were a fellow adult – reflective of telling cis obsessions with the genitals of trans people. To ask it of a child and think it’s justified in the name of journalism is so breathtakingly wrong I hardly know how to articulate it. Shouldn’t an adult – not a medical provider or anyone who has any earthly business looking at a stranger’s body in this way – know better than to ask a child this?

As Williams writes, pretending this was entirely voluntary ignores the power dynamics involved in a professional white cisgender woman asking a young trans person something like this. And reading between the lines of the article, it seems highly likely that this boy was Black, and poor or lower middle class.

Yes, the article is from five years ago. That’s even more alarming. For 5 years, this piece existed on the Philadephia Gay News site (and before that: Brownworth included the details she did, knowing they were probably about a minor, and that an editor let it run). For 5 years, it didn’t raise enough red flags to be pulled. The publication has now removed the piece from their site – a tacit admission that running it in the first place was wrong.

In search of the modern Hindu

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy, Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such which would make your 2014 a happier one. Readers are welcome to comment.

In search of the modern Hindu

By Sagarika Ghose

 

Its time to liberate Hinduism from politics

“I was born Hindu, and I am a nationalist. So you can call me a Hindu nationalist.” So said Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s social media armies calls themselves “proud Hindus” and “unapologetic Hindus.” Your humble columnist has the dubious honour of coining the phrase “Internet Hindus”. Author Salman Rushdie has said he finds the rise of Hindu intolerance in India at the moment just as worrying as the rise of Islamic intolerance.

There is large scale Hindu-isation of popular culture, as seen in the best selling novels by Amish on the life of Shiva, the hit TV serial Mahadev, the thronging temples, the high decibel festivals, export quality Hinduism in the form of yoga gurus and wellness spas. From the ritualistic to the lifestyle statement, to the faith of million at the Kumbh, to the cultural nationalism of the Hindu Right, Hinduism today expresses itself in a myriad ways as it has done through the ages.

The assertion of majoritarian Hindu identity dominates the political space. In the cultural space celebration of festivals have become a tad too consumerist. We need to ask ourselves who exactly can call himself or herself the 21st century Hindu? Does Hinduism today permit any complex interrogation by those born Hindu? Is simply an RSS-style assertion of “national identity” taking the place of a realistic appraisal of what Hinduism means, what is should mean, in the modern era? After all, traditions are best kept alive if revitalised anew for newer generations. Apart from the politics, at an individual level, it seems as if we are still in search of the 21st century Hindu.

Books, articles, paintings, interviews on Hindu themes are inevitably met by vociferous attacks from the Hindu Right seeking to “protect” Hinduism. But is this continual protest, actually preventing Hinduism from being popularised, from being thrown open to newer younger audiences? The repeated attacks and persecution of writer and scholar Wendy Doniger is a case in point. Historian Ramachandra Guha who recently wrote on the need to revive the reformist spirit of Hinduism was similarly denounced on the net as the “anti Hindu” ravings of the Macaulayputras.

Apart from the politics of Hindu assertion, surely there is a need to evolve a charter of the modern Hindu, for whom pride in his faith and traditions can co-exist with the needs of a modern multi-faith democratic society.

Today there are protests by Hindu outfits against western culture, against art exhibitions, against films, plays, books and authors. Given this culture of    incessant protest and outrage, few of us Hindus stop to actually think whether the religion of our birth has simply been reduced to a banner of protest against Islam, against westernisation, and against so-called pseudo-secularism. Why are many of those who declare they are Hindu perpetually offended?

Today, Hindus may carry out pujas and pilgrimages with a vengeance, but how many of us actually examine what our religious beliefs actually are? Do festivals centred exclusively around male relatives need to be questioned? Do hymns like the Purusa-sukta embody social hierarchy? Individual spiritual leaders may provide welfare, solace as well as knowledge of yoga. But on an intellectual level, on caste, meaning of rituals, what gods exemplify, what temples stand for, what mantras mean, there is so little intelligent examination, exploration or even curiosity.

Should Sabarimala allow women? Do the teachings of Hinduism carry within them an imperative to interrogate caste? Does the dialogue of Gargi and Yajnavalkya show how we must question pre-conceived notions? How do we interpret the killing of Meghnad in the Ramayana from the viewpoint of morality? How can the relationship of Ram and Sita be interpreted in a modern context? What are the environmental lessons to be drawn from the notion of the pilgrimage? Should a pilgrimage become raucous mass tourism? Or is pilgrimage about hardship, solitude and a retreat from the world?

The multi-layered Ramayana story has hardly been examined in a modern light, or been allowed to be explored in films and theatre again because of the fear of the Hindutvavaadis. The persona of Ravana may have been adopted by the Dravida movement, the persona of Ram may have become an article of faith as well as politics, but how can Ram and Ravana talk to a modern citizen? What does Hinduism say about love, ambition, family?

Caught between unthinking ritualism, western style exoticisation and the culture of often violent political protest, an exciting wealth of wisdom contained in Hinduism’s legends lies untouched, prohibited by political gate-keepers and the culture police from being enlivened and re-interpreted for a new generation. How enriched our popular culture would be if Bollywood was free to mine the stories of Bhim or Sita for a modern young audience. Will the Hindu Right ever permit a Ramayana equivalent of Jesus Christ Superstar?

Tragically, even a scholarly work like Ramanujan’s essay Three Hundred Ramayanas was attacked by outfits seeking to “protect” Hindu culture. The modern Hindu is denied the freedom to re-interpret and interrogate his religion because of fear.

As a journalist in Delhi, I report daily on Hindu nationalists and Hindutva politicians. But reporting from Sabarimala, Jagannath Yatra, Kumbh mela and Kalighat temple, I find that the avalanche of legends, practices, shrines, stories totally dwarf the politics played in their name.

Its time to try and liberate Hinduism from politics, identity and perpetual protest, and delve instead into its plurality of doctrines, stories and dilemmas. There’s no reason why explorations in Hinduism should not be a serious input into modern debates on caste, environment, sexuality and gender rights. To give Hinduism new life, the modern Hindu should resist simply remaining a political Hindu.

India is changing and it’s in the positive direction

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy, Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such which would make your 2014 a happier one. Readers are welcome to comment.

 

India is changing and it’s in the positive direction

Rajdeep Sardesai

 

A year can be almost an eternity in a country like India: last December, there was a sense of doom and gloom around us. Angry citizens had taken to the streets in protest against the gangrape of the Delhi braveheart; the political class had lost credibility in a series of scams; the economy appeared to be on a downward spiral; and yes, even the Indian cricket team had just suffered a home loss to England.

A year later, we don’t quite smell roses in December, but there is a distinct change in the air. The same politicians who had fought to prevent the Lokpal bill from being passed have now united to push the anti-corruption legislation through. A new political party has, in fact, shown it is possible to ‘sweep’ to power with a unique political model that is designed to break the traditional party system. A strong anti-rape law is in place which has given the Indian woman a sense of genuine empowerment. Inflation may still be hurting, but there are signs that the economy may be on a gradual path to recovery. A plentiful monsoon has ensured that the granaries are full and the Sensex has touched new highs. And yes, even the Indian cricket team is competing with the best in the world at home and overseas.

2013 – a year which we thought would go down as annus horribilis – hasn’t been so bad after all. And the good news is that 2014 may be even better. Even given the penchant for hyperbole in the media, there is a sense that we are heading for a watershed election next year. Narendra Modi may have set the terms of the discourse with his macho nationalism, but even the original Hindutva hero is learning that India cannot be won by an exclusivist agenda. Which is why the original saffron slogan “Jo Hindu heet kee baat karega wahi desh pe raj karega” is now replaced by a more universal “Vote for India” appeal. Modi knows he has to re-invent himself, discard the baggage of the 2002 riots and make himself more acceptable to a plural, diverse India to win power. That he is making the effort to transform himself from a sangh parivar posterboy to an ambassador of good governance is itself a positive sign.

Rahul Gandhi too, is changing. A year ago, he remained cloistered behind the forbidding walls of Lutyens Delhi. Now, he is beginning to peep out of the shadows of silence and elite privilege. We still haven’t seen or heard enough of him, but the very fact that he is now willing to take public positions on a range of issues from the Lokpal Bill to Article 377 is a step in the right direction. It maybe too late to save the Congress from electoral defeat or from scoring self-goals like the recent rejection of the Adarsh committee report, but at least the Congress’s heir apparent is beginning to realise that politics is more than just occasionally rolling up your sleeves. Again, it’s a positive sign.

Then, there is the Arvind Kejriwal factor which has crept into the national mindspace in the last 12 months. We can dismiss the Aam Admi party as a Delhi phenomenon, criticise its populist rhetoric, but the truth is, it has awakened dormant social forces and reminded us that there is more to politics than the brazen use of money and muscle power. At the recent CNN-IBN Indian of the Year awards, a cleaner at the Taj hotel came to me with only one request: he wanted a photograph with Kejriwal. I asked him why. His answer: “Sir, woh hamari baat karta hai.” We don’t know whether he will succeed in power, but by taking up the challenge of running Delhi with Congress support, Kejriwal too is slowly realising that excessive self-righteousness needs to give way to the politics of pragmatism. Dare I say, it’s again a positive sign.

While politics throws up these positive signals, so is civil society. The candelight vigils are giving way to more meaningful attempts at social change. Activists are now working to influence policy, engaging with the system rather than rejecting it. Whether it be the right to education, the debate over sexual harassment laws at the workplace or gay rights, the need for a cleaner environment or for better healthcare, there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is space for a healthy dialogue that seeks to break away from stated positions. That even without any street rage, the government has chosen to review the regressive Article 377 judgement is in itself proof that conventional walls are breaking down.

An activist Supreme Court may have crossed the lakshman rekha at times, but has often played an important role in nudging the system to change. A good example is the judicial intervention in electoral laws that now prevent convicted MPs from contesting elections. Even the media, for all the stage-managed noise and misplaced hysteria, has played its part in holding those in lofty positions accountable. As the Tehelka case shows, we now have zero tolerance for the misdemeanours of our own fraternity.

This is not to suggest that we live in a completely new India. Every now and then, the old order creeps through. There are still enough sleazebag politicians and crony capitalists, corrupted judges and compromised media who will continue to preserve their self-interests and perpetuate an unequal society. And yet, every time you are pushed to the edge of despair, the sunshine of hope filters through.

Last week, we did a story on riot-affected Muzaffarnagar victims living in sub-human conditions in so-called ‘relief’ camps. Within hours of airing the story, several people, Hindus and Muslims, rang up with offers of help. The generosity of spirit was truly overwhelming, and suggested that compassion and tolerance will always triumph over those who thrive on hate and prejudice.

‘2 States’ – A movie every budding author connects to

 

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy, Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such which would make your 2014 a happier one. Readers are welcome to comment.

‘2 States’ – A movie every budding author connects to

Rishabh Madhavendra Pratap

Writers are all same, says a newspaper correspondent who covers books section of a daily in New Delhi. I had my own reservations on this statement. People writing different stories on different walks of life cannot be similar but then I watched a movie that backed the statement of my journalist friend.

The latest Bollywood release ‘2 States’, yet another Hindi movie based on Chetan Bhagat’s fiction novel with same name, made me realise that writer, to be specific, the modern day paper back romantic fiction writers, are actually same. They belong to a similar mindset and face similar situations at the start of their journey.

In an almost houseful multiplex everyone was enjoying the movie and I was sitting silently reliving those moments that I lived when I decided to become a writer. Not only the situations but even dialogues taken by Krish, the protagonist played by Arjun Kapoor, were similar.

“Aaah writer banega, Jhola taang kar ghumega bas…” A dialogue from Krish’s aunt when he puts up the idea of being an author to his family left me awestruck. I faced a similar situation, actually the same words from my father when I came up with the idea to leave engineering and take up writing as my career.

The part of the movie where Krish is writing his book and the whole of his room is full of papers with rough draft written on it was similar to my room when I was writing my first novel.

When Krish tells psychiatrist the book is his new trouble, I could feel myself sitting on that couch holding the draft of my book disheartened by the rejections of publishers.

To audience the movie was a delight but to me and many budding authors like me, the movie portrayed my own story on the screen.

Yes, I am a Hindu and I’m no different from a Muslim sitting next to me

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy, Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such which would make your 2014 a happier one. Readers are welcome to comment.

Yes, I am a Hindu and I’m no different from a Muslim sitting next to me

By Rishabh Madhavendra Pratap

When Lok Sabha elections are underway, political parties are leaving no stone unturned to assure their victory. Not only political parties but everyone including the media is cashing on the elections to the fullest.

Round the clock there is one or the another election story being aired on television channels and the one common thing in them is the mention of Hindus and Muslims. Say it a shame or an irony but yes in the 21st century we have leaders who talk about people on the basis of religion and community.

This morning I woke up and learnt that a VHP leader has ordered his supporters to evict Muslims from Hindu areas. If I am not mistaken we live in a democracy that follows a Constitution. And that very Constitution empowers us to live where ever we like to.

I am a Hindu studying in an University which is, as per law, a minority institution. Who else could have felt the alleged difference better than me? But with all my regards to the so called religious leaders of our motherland I defy their thoughts.

It’s been almost a year and I never felt being different from a Muslim boy or girl sitting next to me in my class. No one asked me my religion while sharing my lunchbox or peeping into my answer-sheet during examinations. We have enjoyed each other success and at the same time consoled faliures. To someone of my age it’s hardly a point to be Hindu or Muslim but what matters is peace and harmony in society.

When we talk about India Shining and India 2020, these statements are a slap on our progressive thoughts and ideas.

In a country with 125 crore people suffering from illiteracy, inflation and unemployment are religion, caste and social following the main issue, aren’t these so called lovers of Mother India supposed to think about the real time problems?

To be honest, we don’t want a Hindu or a Muslim but an Indian to prosper, kindly work on this.

India should embrace UN’s ambitious proposal to end poverty

Mr. Harshavardhan Reddy, Chairman, Aura Group, Delhi is actively involved with social media and frequently shares useful articles / blogs. Below is one such which would make your 2014 a happier one. Readers are welcome to comment.

India should embrace UN’s ambitious proposal to end poverty

 by Shailey Hingorani

 

The Indian growth story has recently been marred by episodes of great violence against children, by reports of children dying of malnutrition, by stories of children going to bed hungry. And yet, the Indian government has shied away from fully engaging in global conversations that will determine the direction of development policies and aid across the world and eventually development outcomes for Indian children.

A special panel of world leaders has just handed in their recommendations to the UN Secretary-General on the future of global sustainable development and they, too, believe this can be our reality. It has been a shared global vision of millions of children across the world and now this shared vision can be a reality, by 2030. In our generation, we can end extreme poverty; live in a world in which no child is born to die; ensure that every child lives a life free from violence and abuse and has quality health care, nutrition and learns in school.

The UN’s High-Level Panel, co-chaired by the presidents of Indonesia and Liberia, and the British Prime Minister, was first thought to have decided to take a cautious approach. In its many deliberations, the panel spoke about the challenges of a world that was very different from 2000, when the Millennium Declaration was signed. They spoke about the political difficulty of addressing the issue of inequality, and debated how realistic it was to aim to eliminate preventable child and maternal deaths. The present climate of weak multilateral cooperation added to the anxiety of civil society groups that were hoping for an ambitious agenda for change.

But they’ve done it. The panel has delivered a report that strikes a fine balance between ambition and pragmatism, offering up goals that will securely put the world on a more equitable and sustainable development path. The panel drew from its own experiences and has ensured that the benefits of growth are shared in both established and emerging economies, that the framework is universal with responsibilities for all countries.

India is often held up as an example of a country with a fast growing economy that has repeatedly failed to care for its poor and the most marginalised. It’s the country that houses one-third of the world’s poor; it shoulders the maximum number of child and maternal deaths; that has high levels of malnutrition and unmanageable levels of violence against women and children. This report challenges all governments, including that of India, to participate in a global effort to ensure that its people benefit from open, transparent and accountable governance.

It also makes it clear that equitable progress across different income and social groups needs to be tracked and that no goal will have been reached until all of these different groups have felt the benefits. In India, there’s ample evidence to suggest that some poorer sections have been even further marginalised by economic growth that has not been fully inclusive. States such as Gujarat and Maharashtra that have experienced greater rises in their net State Domestic Product than others like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa, have also experienced rapidly rising inequality. Economic growth has unfortunately been followed quite closely by rising inequalities that continue to be biggest challenge to development. The panel’s report has the potential to transform this current reality by requiring progress to be tracked specifically for the poorest and most marginalised groups. This potential of this aspect of the report to transform outcomes for those subject to discrimination and marginalisation shouldn’t be underestimated in the face of other bold statements in the report.

Even though the report has far-reaching implications for India and for other middle income countries, it’s not as strong as the civil society would have liked it to be in certain areas. We would have wanted a much clearer emphasis on universal service delivery, particularly universal and affordable health coverage, ensuring all children access to comprehensive social protection systems, a target to explicitly reduce income inequality and more emphasis on disaster risk reduction and preparedness, which will be so critical in the face of climate-related disasters which disproportionately affect those already living in poverty.

Nevertheless, an important global conversation is under way and India should pay heed to the panel’s proposals which could see the improvement in millions of peoples’ lives here in India and elsewhere. The countdown to the MDGs deadline is less than 1000 days away and India must decide on the goals which will guide us nationally and globally.

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