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By Nithin Sridhar
Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy group on human rights has just released its ‘World Report 2016’ assessing the human rights conditions prevalent across the globe in the year 2015. The report analyses human rights conditions in various countries on wide range of parameters.
Yet, even a cursory look at its assessment of India reveals its biasness and one-sided reporting. While it has rightly highlighted few issues like lack of Police reforms in India, or the regressive law against homosexuals, it completely loses its sense of balance when dealing with issues of free speech, communal violence, etc. Further, its coverage of India appears to be completely motivated, especially when it makes irresponsible remarks like ‘India was a weak proponent of human rights at the UN in 2015.’Its criticism of Modi-led BJP government clearly goes overboard as well! The whole report reads more like a propaganda pamphlet than an unbiased reporting.
Let’s take the issue of Church attacks that had surfaced in December 2014 and early 2015. Though, there was a huge outcry after the attacks with the media giving it a communal color, later investigations clearly revealed that they were cases of random thefts and vandalism and there was absolutely no communal motive behind them. (See Rupa Subramanya’s piece in Firstpost). Moreover, Delhi Police itself had rubbished the idea that Christians were being targeted. The data with the Delhi Police, further revealed that in 2014, around 206 temples, 30 gurdwaras, 14 mosques as against three churches that were targeted. Till mid-February, 2015, 14 temples, two mosques, four gurdwaras and one church were targeted by the thieves.
Thus, the so called ‘church attacks’ were clearly a case of random theft and vandalism, without any communal angle. Yet, the report of Human Rights Watch chose to write: “Churches were also attacked in several states in 2015, prompting fears of growing Hindu nationalist militancy under the BJP government.” This is clearly a case of distortion of facts with a clear agenda to defame Modi-led government and to create a false impression of religious intolerance. The Human Rights group needs to answer what Hindu militancy are they speaking about? Which Hindu outfits have taken up arms and have gone on a killing spree in India? Did India witness any large scale massacre of non-Hindus by any Hindu outfit? What is the basis of such assertions? More importantly, if Church attacks were indeed carried out by growing Hindu militancy, then why would they target Hindu temples and Sikh Gurudwaras?
It is obvious that the motive behind giving a communal color to Church vandalism was to discredit the whole Hindu movement by branding them as ‘militants’ and to discredit Modi-led BJP government that is trying hard to bring India on the path of progress.
On one hand, the report speaks about the growth of non-existing Hindu militancy, but at the same time conveniently ignores the presence of numerous jihadi terrorists, naxalite groups, and other militant separatist outfits that are active in India. They do not forget to highlight the importance of accountability of security forces deployed in areas like Kashmir, but ignore the human rights violations committed by Kashmiri militants.
The report rightly highlighted the few incidents in which Muslim men were killed over allegations of killing cows and consuming beef. But, here again, it forgets to include cases of killings where the victims were Hindus and the perpetrators were Muslims. Thus, no Sanju Rathod, no Prashanth Poojary finds any mention in the report. Further, the report is completely silent about sustained attacks on Hindus and Hindu temples by members of the Muslim community in West Bengal. According to a report prepared by Hindu Samhati, there have been 34 cases of Hindu persecution between March 2008 and January 2015. On January 29, 2015, for example, a mob of around 1000 Muslims ransacked Hindu shops and looted them in a place called Usthi in West Bengal. Yet, these attacks on Hindus finds no mention in the Human Rights Report.
It appears that Hindus, because of their being a majority in India, have lost any claims towards human rights in the eyes of International Human rights organizations. What else explains their step-motherly treatment towards Hindu? What explains their choice in dedicating an entire section to analyze the ‘treatment of minorities’ but not sparing even a few lines to write about human rights issues being faced by the Hindu majority?
The report does not stop at this. It further alleges that Indian government harassed various civil society organizations using Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), because they had criticized the politics of the government. It cites the government imposition of restrictions on Ford Foundation and Greenpeace and the suspension of Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust as examples of government harassment and intimidation of civil society members. But the fact is the imposition of restriction and cancellations of registrations were done because these organizations allegedly violated the terms of the FCRA.
Teesta, for example, has been charged with diversion and misuse of foreign funds received by her trust for educational and social purpose. Similar charges exist against other organizations as well. The report seems to suggest that NGO’s and members of civil society must be given a free reign irrespective of the corruption and other illegal activities they indulge in. Many of the NGO’s have for a long time indulged in various anti-national activities. Many like Ford Foundation have clear links with the CIA and has tried to intervene in the internal politics of India. (See Surajit Dasgupta’s two part piece in NitiCentral here and here). These organizations receive huge foreign funds under various pretexts and then use those funds for breaking India activities (See the book ‘NGOs Activists and Foreign Funds’). The Human Rights Watch report conveniently whitewashed all the illegal activities of the NGO’s that led to government action against them, and has instead chosen to portray government action as an infringement of freedom of civil society! In other words, Human Rights Watch appears to support, at least in principle, the breaking India activities that few of these NGO’s are involved in.
The report did not forget to mention the Award Wapsi brigade and how they protested against the silencing of dissent by the government. One wonders, if there was any real silencing of dissent, how did so many writers, filmmakers, etc. managed to return their awards and air their protests publicly? It is quite obvious that the whole discourse on intolerance were manufactured with ulterior motives and had no basis in reality. Yet, the report chose to highlight it, without even investigating the veracity of the claims made by the Award Wapsi brigade.
It is very evident from the report that it is nothing better than an atrocity literature against India, especially Hindus, that attempts to portray Hindu movements as ‘militancy’ and India as a country that perpetrates violence against minorities. This is not the first time that Human Rights Watch has been accused of shoddy work and showing clear biasness. There have been allegations of them being influenced by the US government policy and showing a clear bias in reporting on Latin America, Israel, Ethiopia, etc. They have been accused of ignoring anti-Semitic violence. To this, we must now add their ignoring of anti-Hindu violence and their clear bias in the treatment of India.
Irrespective of the intentions of the Human Rights Watch, their prejudices and preconceived notions about Hindus, and their shoddy work has ensured that their report has ended up as a mere atrocity literature that will be used by breaking India forces. (Photo: www.thetoc.gr)
"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.