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By Harshmeet Singh
Kerala’s Kochi seems like a changed city nowadays. While some choose to call it vandalism and illegal, others are in awe of it. The walls in the Fort Kochi region have been filled with splendid graffiti artwork by an unknown artist (or a group of artists) that goes by the name of ‘Guess Who’. Experts can’t help but see the popular UK graffiti artist Banksy as an inspiration for the artists carrying out these works.
Long seen as an art form used to protest against the set world order, graffiti has slowly come of age in terms of the designs and creativity the artists have to offer. A number of European nations have dedicated specific walls to the graffiti artists to carry out their art, hoping that they would adhere to the boundaries. But considering the free spirit attitude of graffiti artists, it isn’t a surprise that many of them dare to choose the elite neighbourhoods and leave a colourful impression. ‘Anonymity’ of the artists is perhaps the only rule of graffiti art which adds to its intrigue.
One of the first graffiti artists in India, Daku’s works majorly comprise of writing his symbolic name in different fonts. He is in fact the first such artist to use Devnagari script in his work. According to him, more than protesting against any establishment, his works are a protest against the established lettering and typography used by the usual painters. He calls himself a part of the International graffiti artists’ collective known as 156. He has often teamed up with another graffiti artist who goes by the name ‘Bond’. Their graffiti works can be seen at a number of walls in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, Ansal Plaza and Hauz Khas.
One of their ‘official assignments’ included an invitation to the TechFest 2011, organized by IIT Mumbai. “People are quite bewildered by the fact that we are doing this for ourselves and don’t get paid for it. I do it because there is nothing in the city when it comes to street art. If my artwork can make someone stop and think what is it, why is it here, my job is done”, he chuckles.
JNU – the hub of India’s graffiti art
A walk around the campus would convince you that JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) is certainly one of the most vibrant educational institutes in the country. With the hostel and departmental walls filled with different graffiti, creativity reaches its pinnacle in the JNU campus. Unlike some other graffiti arts in the country, the wall works at JNU speak the language of protests. These graffiti works raise trivial issues ranging from the Israel – Palestine conflict and gender inequality to Naxalism and price rise. Coming from one of the most politically active student campuses in the country, such strong expressions don’t surprise many people. The University has earmarked certain spaces in the campus where the students can put up their handmade posters and engage in a dialogue.
Delhi street art festival 2015
The St+art Foundation India is bringing together 12 national and International artists in the ongoing Delhi street art festival 2015. Scheduled to run till March 31st, the festival would see the artists working together for murals, exhibitions and taking workshops and talks about their art. The list of participating artists includes India’s Daku, Anpu, P.C.O and Yantr.
The international artists that would be in the scene include Spain’s Okuda, Japan’s Lady Aiko, USA’s Axel Void, Paulo Ito from Brazil, Germnay’s Clemens Behr, Portugal’s Samina and Rukkit from Bangkok. Hanif Kureshi, St+art India Foundation’s Creative Director said that “There will be eight special projects in collaboration with different government bodies such as MCD, NDMC, PWD, Department of Women and Child Development and DUSIB with focus on themes like the Swacch Bharat Campaign, Women Empowerment, Traditions & Transitions, Recycling, Pollution and Urbanisation. From permanent murals to temporary installations, flyover pillars, underpasses, night shelters, gardens and government buildings will undergo amazing transformations. We are looking forward to engaging local communities and general audiences in these special projects“.
Delhi – India’s graffiti capital too?
Over the past 5 to 6 years, Delhi’s walls have started speaking a different language. Getting rid of the disgusting paan stains, many walls now carry impressive and colourful art forms. A big city and huge population is an ideal set up for the graffiti artists and street painters and love to work in the night hours and transform a boring wall into a speaking masterpiece with a few hours of the dark night. ‘Art should be out in the open for everyone to see’ is the driving principle behind most of these artists, majority of who start when they are into their teens.
Viewed as vandalism and a menace in the European countries, graffiti is illegal in a number of countries. But fortunately, acceptance of this art form is on the rise in the Indian metros. This growing acceptance is also a sign of the coming of age of Indian street art form from ‘gadhe ke poot, itthe naa moot’ to more sophisticated versions which are pleasing to the eye and mind.
"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
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Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.