Wednesday August 22, 2018

Dreadlocks: Finding a connection between Rastas and Sadhus

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By Archana Rao

What comes to your mind when one says ‘Dreadlocks?’ Bob Marley, Sadhus, marijuana, or chillum are the things that strike the mind instantaneously.

But there is more to it than what meets the eye. It took three years for French anthropologist Dr. Lina Ainouche to bring in and explain the history of dreadlocks and how the Jamaican Rastas and the Indian Sadhus share the unconventional fondness for this hairdo.

She spoke exclusively to NewsGram on her journey to make the documentary on Jamaican Rastas and the importance of dreadlocks.

Archana Rao: Linda, why did you choose to make a documentary on the life of Jamaican Rastas?

Dr. Linda: I have a few Rasta friends, and also having stayed in Jamaica for few years, I felt the need to tell the story of Rastafaris to the world. This is something that has never been shown. The Rasta movement began as slavery progressed in the early 20th century. Their culture was suppressed by brutal and stultifying European domination. Rastafari was an attempt to ensure the survival of African culture and an upfront anti-slavery, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist struggle.

Archana Rao: So how did you come across this uncanny relation between India and Jamaica?

Dr. Linda: I stayed in India in 2001 and studied Jainism for a couple of years in the country. So I am familiar with the Indian culture. During the research process for my documentary, I discovered the roots of similarities between Rastas and Hindus. It goes as far as cuisines, way of life, spirituality, and even the dreadlocks. Indian Sadhus also wear their hair in dreadlocks.

If we look at the history of the two countries, the British colonists ruled in Jamaica until 1962 and in India until 1947. Indian workers were brought to the island from 1845 to 1917. Both Afro-Jamaicans and Indians were kidnapped and sent to work on sugar and banana plantations throughout Jamaica where they created positive relationships through their common oppressive hardships. This is when the two cultures came close to each other.

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Archana Rao: How did dreadlocks became a part of the Rastafari movement?

Dr. Linda: During 1960’s, the Jamaican Rastas started wearing their hair in tangled locks and they grouped in a self-sustaining community near Kingston, the capital city popularly known as Pinnacle. The hairdo evolved as a way to express a more natural lifestyle and to go against the British establishment.

Archana Rao: So what does the documentary focus on?

Dr. Linda: I wanted to narrate the story of Rastafaris, their history, and the importance of dreadlocks in their cultures. The culture originated to stand tall as an anti-slavery and anti-suppressant movement.

Rastas were persecuted because of dreadlocks. It holds a great significance in their culture. Dreadlocks are a way of life, it is like a body art. It took us 3-4 years to complete the documentary. We did shooting in Jamaica, India, Paris, and New York with four different languages (French, Hindi, Jamaican Patois, and English) and four local crews.

Archana Rao: What all problems did you come across while shooting in India?

Dr. Linda: It wasn’t really tough shooting in India. People were more than happy to assist us with the shooting. The only problem we faced was the tough battle against mosquitoes.

Archana Rao: But dreadlocks are still considered a taboo in India, a style mostly carried by the Sadhus. It has not been widely accepted amongst the common crowd. Do you think this will change in near future?

Dr. Linda: In Jamaica, dreadlocks have become a common factor. Earlier Rastas were prosecuted due to dreadlocks by their own society. Now the scenario has completely changed. People have accepted it as a way of life. But I can’t say the same for India. Youngsters do sport dreadlocks but mundane beliefs still revolve around the hairstyle. The outlook of the society towards it needs to change. Maybe it will happen in another eight or ten years.

Archana Rao: So when are you planning to release the documentary in India?

Dr. Linda: We are in the phase of post-production of the documentary right now. We are trying to translate it in other languages such as Spanish and French. Maybe in 6-8 months we will release it in India as well.

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The Other Side of “Hindu Pakistan”

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province

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The-Other-Side-of-“Hindu-Pakistan”
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Sagarneel Sinha

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country. BJP didn’t let the opportunity go by launching a scathing attack on Tharoor and his party for insulting Hindus and Indian democracy, forcing the Congress party to distance itself from its own MP’s comment. Only one year is left for the next general elections and in a politically polarised environment such comments serve as masala for political battles where perception is an important factor among the electorates.

Actually, Tharoor, through his statement, is trying to convey that “India may become a
fundamentalist state just like its neighbour — Pakistan”. Tharoor is a shrewd politician and his remarks are mainly for political gains. The comments refer to our neighbour going to polls on 25 th of this month which has a long history of ignoring minorities where the state institutions serve as a tool for glorifying the religious majority bloc and ridiculing the minorities. This compelled me to ponder about the participation of the Hindus — the largest minority bloc of the country, in the upcoming polls.

There are total 37 reserved seats for minorities in Pakistan — 10 in the National Assembly
(Lower House), 4 in the Senate (Upper House) and 23 in various state legislatures — 9 in the Sindh assembly, 8 in Punjab and 3 each in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistani Hindus, like other minorities have the dual voting rights in principle. But the reality is they have no rights to vote for their own representatives as the seats are reserved — means the distribution of these seats are at the discretion of parties’ leadership. Practically speaking, these reserved seats are meant for political parties not for minorities. In case of general seats, it is almost impossible for a Hindu candidate to win until and unless supported by the mainstream parties of the country. The bitter truth is — the mainstream parties have always ignored the Hindus by hesitating to field them from general seats. In 2013, only one Hindu candidate — Mahesh Kumar from the Tharparkar district won from a general seat, also became the only minority candidate to make it to the National Assembly from a general seat. This time too, he is nominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — a major centre-left party of Pakistan. However, there are no other Hindu candidates for a general seat from the two other significant centre-right parties — former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s Tehreek-E-Insaf (PTI). Although, there is a Hindu candidate named Sanjay Berwani from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — a Karachi (capital of Sindh province) based secular centrist party of Pakistan.

Shashi_tharoor
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is
elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country.

The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures. It means that despite the state’s hostile policies, Hindus have been able to remain stable in a highly Islamist polarised society. 90% of the Hindu population of the country lives in the Sindh province. Hindu population in Umerkot,Tharparkar and Mirpur Khas districts of the Sindh province stands at 49%, 46% and 33% respectively — making them the only three substantial Hindu districts of the country. The three districts have 5 National Assembly and 13 Provincial seats. However, Hindus have never well represented from these seats.

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province. Many of them belong to the Schedule caste — the Dalit community. A recent report based on Pakistan Election Commission’s data says that out of 2.5 lakh women of Tharparkar district, around 2 lakh of them are not included in the electoral list — means that they are not entitled to vote for the upcoming general elections. All over the country, there are about 1.21 crore women voters who will not be able to vote in the elections. The reason is the lack of an identity card. Most of them are poor who are unable to pay the expenses required for an identity card. This has made difficult for independent Hindu Dalit candidates like Sunita Parmar and Tulsi Balani as most of their supporters will not be voting in the upcoming polls. In Tharparkar district, around 33% percent are the Hindu Dalits — brushed aside by the mainstream parties. The reserved seat candidates are based on party nominations, where mainly the upper caste Hindus are preferred. Radha Bheel, a first time contestant and the chairperson of Dalit Suhaag Tehreek (DST), a Dalit organisation, says that the fight is for the rights of the lower socio-economic class and scheduled castes. Sunita, Tulsi, Radha and the other independent Hindu candidates know
that the possibility of winning from the general seats is bleak but for them the contest is for their own identity — an identity never recognised by the political parties and the establishment of Pakistan.