Thursday, August 30, 2007

Television in rural areas have had an effect on latrine building and fan usage

Kyunki, there’s a world out there Mahima Kaul
Home > Edits & Columns > indian express: Thursday, August 30, 2007
It may not be fashionable to say it, but the Hindi soap operas — Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, for instance — actually might be doing us some good. Now if you are like me and flip through channels, hear overly dramatic music and change — don’t. Cable TV might be succeeding where government policy didn’t. Changing the way Indian women see their world.
How exactly does that happen? First off, this isn’t new. Back in the days when the public service broadcaster — Doordarshan (DD) — was launched, one of the guiding thoughts behind it was that the media can actually be used as a tool for development. It’s a simple premise. The visual image leaves a lasting imprint in our minds. And especially for those who cannot read, television is an effective tool for communication. Wilbur Schramm, author of Mass Media and National Development, was the proponent of this — what we now term ‘development communication’. Instead of the government forcing changes in lifestyle, the population would become aware of a need that was not satisfied by their present behaviour. And then they would borrow behaviour that would come closer to meeting those needs. And so based on soaps in Latin America, Hum Log was the first Indian soap to try out this concept, with a good measure of success.
Post-liberalisation, TV channels have been flourishing. Some 112 million households in India own a television. Of those, 61 per cent have cable or satellite service, according to the National Readership Studies Council, 2006. And the casual observer may think that the role of educating through entertainment has been relegated to DD alone. To its credit, DD is living up to its mandate. Health shows like Kalyani, and their positive effects on rural populations, have been documented by external agencies. And now, it appears, cable TV is not too far behind.
A new study by Robert Jensen of Brown University and Emily Oster of the University of Chicago has revealed that cable TV has had a distinctively helpful effect on women in rural India. Among their findings, conducted over a three-year period in five states (Bihar, Goa, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Delhi), is that gender attitudes have been positively affected. Women don’t think their husband beating them is as acceptable now, son preference has gone down, female school enrolment has gone up, and birth spacing has increased. Now, there may be other factors contributing to these changes, no doubt, but one thing is for certain. Soap operas are changing the way women see their role in society and in families, and TV has a part to play in it. And changing expectations is the first step to changing reality.
Examples. When Tulsi (of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) finds out her son raped a woman, she sides with the victim. In the end, she shoots her son. It may be a tad dramatic (we are talking about a soap opera, after all), but she stands up for what is right. In Saloni Ka Safar, a girl’s complexion is symbolic of the Indian bias against dark skin.
You are allowed to raise your eyebrow at this point. Really, you say, are those overdressed women in the prime-time Hindi soap opera world are changing rural India? Yes. And you know why? Because, for the majority of the country, television is the window to the world. And while the city folk may want to ape the lavish lifestyles of their on-screen heroes — some people partly blame the big fat Indian wedding phenomenon on these serials — rural women admire their independence.
Think about it. At their basest levels, studies have shown that exposure to television in rural areas have had an effect on latrine building and fan usage. And even more amazing is a mother welcoming a girl child because she learnt on television that she too can grow up to be a powerful, independent woman. And that education is key, so she sends her daughter to school with her brothers.
But what is it about chiffon-clad city women in particular that appeals? Because underneath the make-up and diamonds, the problems are common. Rich yes, but the women of Indian soaps are deeply traditional. Some work, but many are full-time homemakers. The problems — inner wheelings and dealings of joint families — strike a chord. They go to the temple, hold havans, they even observe Karva Chauth. And millions all over the country cheer them on as they fight for a place of respect within the family.
That’s just it. A click of a button and they take a walk around the world to ease their troubled minds.

Friday, August 24, 2007

One may find equality in spiritual realm and inequality in material world or social world

Against Brahminical Tradition: A Philosophical view of Dalit critique of Modernity
Dr. P. Kesava Kumar Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The essence of the fundamental beliefs which form the core of Hinduism was identified, reexamined and reinterpreted. The social reformers Raja Ramohan Roy, Dayananda Saraswati, Vidya Sagar, and Vivekananda identified as contemporary Indian philosophers in philosophy text books are classic example.[2]The intellectuals of the Indian renaissance to resist the hegemony of the colonialism interpreted the past for their immediate demands. The rise of national consciousness coincided with the revival of interest in Indian philosophy.
The nationalist intellectuals happen to be elites of the Brahminical class and reflected from their own social imagination in constructing the Indian philosophy. 'In their search for internal principle of unity to the past, religion was given a foundational position by both orthodox and reformist Brahmin intellectuals'[3]. This can be seen in torch bearers of modern India like Rajarammohan Roy, Dayananda Saraswati, Sri Aurobindo, Tagore, Vivekananda, Tilak, Gandhi, Radhakrishnan etc[4]. The hindu nationalists started the tradition of dressing up the spirit centred metaphysics of orthodox Hinduism in modern scientific clothes[5]. As Radhakrishnan argues that Indian wisdom is needed today not only to rejuvenate the Indian nation but to reorient the entire human race’.[6] P. T. Raju offered that ‘the East can impart the spiritual basis to the west. The future of mankind depends on conciliation and synthesis.[7]’ There are many writers engaged in this project by saying cultural synthesis of east and west or of dialogue of India with west’. The Oriental Scholars like Max Muller, Duessen, Schopenhauer too fascinated by it. They promoted or over-exaggerated Indian irrationalism and mysticism.
The modern hindu intellectuals are very much aware of the social contradictions of the Indian society, but they never attempted seriously to change the society. They responded to the situation indirectly in such a way that it does not effect their socially privileged position. To conceal the contradictions of the Indian society, the renaissance and nationalist intellectuals were clever enough to invent a new language that works well[8]. One may find equality in spiritual realm and inequality in material world or social world. It promises equality in other world by negating affairs of this world or by projecting it as māya. The grand philosophies constructed on this line, ultimately helps in maintaining the status quo and hegemony of brahminism...Posted by kesav at 10:28 PM I am a dedicated teacher and Researcher who thinks continuosly for the self respect of Dalits and other marginalised communities. View my complete profile

Children belong to a special category of citizens because they cannot protect their own rights

Opinion - Between progress and reluctance Krishna Kumar The Hindu Friday, Aug 24, 2007 Any agenda for educational reform must start by recognising that children belong to a special category of citizens because they cannot protect their own rights. There is no alternative to evolving a child-centred system of governance.
Kusum Nair’s classic, Blossoms in the Dust, which was first published in 1961, provides a benchmark for judging India’s progress. The book describes her travels and conversations with villagers across many regions of India. Her conclusion about the prospects of development in rural India was that modern means of production alone will not succeed unless there is a change in values and attitudes. Her major advice to planners was that they must recognise the sharp diversity of values and perceptions that prevails between and within different regions. Apparently, she hoped that education would play a big role in bringing about social change. This expectation was shared by several social scientists and commentators of the 1960s.
Perceived as a panacea for many familiar ills, education was itself in dire need of reform. Its colonial character had exacerbated the very malaise that it was supposed to cure. For instance, the stigma attached to manual work was at the heart of caste and gender-based hierarchies. The spread of education has undoubtedly helped to develop fissures in these hierarchies, but the outcomes of this significant change are unevenly distributed. Between caste and gender, the latter provides far more visible and pervasive evidence of change than does the former. Educational and employment opportunities have changed the lives of millions of women along lines that had already surfaced in the late colonial period. Women’s autonomy and lack of fear have become increasingly more manifest in our public life, but there is an irony in this. From the early decades of the 20th century onwards, educated women started to face a rough time in seeking social acceptance. Their personal and emotional experiences got tougher as their levels of educational attainment increased. The reason was that while education opened up a new world to women, it failed to socialise men into a new, corresponding mould. Men’s expectations from women remained unchanged, and hence women’s emancipation evoked conflict, aggression, even violence. Looking around, we can witness this state of affairs daily. Searching for the causes responsible for this lopsided impact of education, we would soon realise that what education teaches, its curriculum, has failed to keep pace with the requirements of sensitising society to new realities. On the front of caste, education didn’t even try to change the values reinforcing the caste system. An assumption prevailed that the bonds of caste would on their own, somewhat magically, loosen up as a result of literacy and success in examination.
Neglecting teacher training has further compounded the losses incurred on account of indifferently induced, or entirely absent, curricular changes. Teachers constitute the most important factor in determining the quality of children’s experience at school. Today, millions of children born to illiterate parents are expected to attend school, yielding the exciting potential to nurture a thoughtful and tolerant society of the kind the Constitution envisions. Yet hardly any State is in a position to realise this potential because the welfare and training of teachers have been ignored everywhere. Instead of moving forward, in this sector we have actually regressed. School teachers had played an important role in the national movement, both as individuals and as a professional group. Far from treating them as a national resource for deeper social churning, independent India treated them as a faceless mass of literate workers. The Chattopadhyaya Commission appointed by Indira Gandhi in 1983 noted that “today the average teacher’s perception of his role and responsibility is far too limited and is concerned with his own immediate tasks.” The Commission felt that the teacher must “actively and feelingly associate himself, as an essential and responsible partner, in the great tasks which face the nation.” This recommendation failed to save the school teacher’s status as it declined rapidly over the decade of the 1990s, and continues to do so today. The profession has lost all attraction for the young, due to which only those who fail to materialise all other aspirations accept teaching as a last resort.
A great opportunity was lost when the Constituent Assembly failed to mobilise consensus on making elementary education a fundamental right of every child. That mistake was corrected a few years ago when the Constitution was amended. However, necessary follow-up steps to make the amendment meaningful have not been taken. Given the sad condition of the infrastructure of education in most States (most accurately reflected in the sad physical and academic condition of most State Councils of Educational Research and Training and District Institutes of Education and Trainings), there seems little alternative to Centre-led reforms and a bill passed by Parliament. Those who oppose this assert that the responsibility to pass the necessary legislation and to provide resources lies with the States. Historically, the vague division of educational responsibilities between the Centre and the States has harmed India’s children since colonial days. The lone instrument of Centre-State dialogue on education, namely the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), has no executive authority or powers. As far as our elementary school children are concerned, India continues to be reluctant to own them. The case of pre-school children is worse, for they are not even nominally covered in the constitutional amendment. Even as our rural masses now face the worst ever-crisis of survival, which the Magsaysay award winner P. Sainath has amply described in his regular writings in The Hindu, the wrangling over the bill on right to elementary education and the hesitation to allocate adequate resources for it casts a tragic shadow over the remarkable economic growth rate we have achieved six decades after Independence.
Any agenda for educational reform must start by recognising that children belong to a special category of citizens because they cannot protect their own rights. Children must be warmly hugged by the state in respect of all their needs, namely health and nutrition, safety, security, and education. Significant reforms in governance are required to ensure that the efforts to be made by different departments come together. This is not easy, but there is no alternative to evolving a child-centred system of governance so that India stops wasting its huge human resource potential on account of malnutrition, illiteracy, and child abuse. With widespread low haemoglobin levels and frequent illness, especially among girls, India cannot compete with its neighbours like China and Japan, let alone the Europeans and the Americans. For greater focus and efficiency in the delivery of child-related services, the entrenched Centre-State impasse must be overcome. While no one can deny the Centre’s role in setting policy goals and providing funds for systemic reform, we can hardly overlook the lack of rigour and accountability in the States’ response to policy directions. One glaring evidence is that 40 years after the Kothari Commission wrote its laudable report, even the pattern of stages it recommended has not been implemented in all the States. Adoption of the National Curriculum Framework, 2005, though it has the approval of CABE and has been implemented by CBSE, presents a similar story.
State-level issues of educational governance are ignored by the national media as well as by civil society groups. A vast number of systemic problems simply never get resolved. Territorial disputes between SCERTs and Boards, the isolation of SCERTs and DIETs from universities, and the multiplicity of structures (e.g. the existence of more than one Board in Tamil Nadu) are illustrative instances of the kind of long-standing problems that keep the system stymied. Even small decisions require a mountain of pressure. Consider, for instance, the eligibility of Delhi University’s B.El.Ed. (Bachelor of Elementary Education) degree-holders for the salary scale of a ‘trained graduate teacher’ (TGT). This is the least that Delhi Government could do for a world-class programme of teacher education. Almost a decade has passed since the first batch of remarkable teachers came out of this programme, but the modest honour of a TGT grade still eludes them. Why? Because the word ‘elementary’ has no operative value in the lexicon of scales. If you teach up to Class V, you get the primary teacher’s measly salary; you get a TGT scale if you are qualified to teach up to Class X, not if you stop at Class VIII where the Constitution defines the end of elementary education. Apparently, the Constitution can guide the nation but has little value for those who decide salary scales. (Professor Krishna Kumar is Director of the National Council of Education Research and Training.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lilla believes that there is something called "the West." Worse, he thinks that within this alleged "West" there is a "We"

Mon, Aug 20, 2007 3:48pm EST ... and I saw my devil. And I saw my deep blue sea ...
Hi. Siva Vaidhyanathan here...I am a big fan of Lilla's work over the years. That's why I am a bit worried about his forthcoming book, The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West. I have only read the excerpt that ran in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday. But I see already that the book builds on one of the gravest misunderstandings about global cultural history.
Lilla believes that there is something called "the West." Worse, he thinks that within this alleged "West" there is a "We" that conforms to the core tenets of textbook history: "We" were once burdened by superstitions and irrationalities until somehow "we" became enlightened.
Now, I think the enlightenment is a great thing. And I keep waiting for it to show up and triumph here in the United States. I just don't see how one can claim that what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derides as "liberalism and Western-style democracy" has dominated anywhere for any significant period of time. Heck, this country had a functional democracy (with almost all adult citizens enfranchised and the state generally reflecting the will of the electorate) for a very brief period of time: either from 1965 through 2000 (Voting Rights Act through Bush's unelected takeover) or 1971 through 2000 (starting with the adoption of the 26th Amendment).
Any construction of an intelligible and enlightened "West" must elide all of those messy contradictions within it: Nazism, Francoism (Catholic royalism), Stalinism, radical Serbian nationalism, Jerry Falwell, etc. But mostly, it must ignore the diversity of thought and practice among real people who inhabit "the West." And it must ignore the omnipresence of materialism, secularism, consumerism, rationalism, and even atheism as major traditions in places that could not easily be described as "Western" such as India, Iran, and China.
Basically, East is West. Yet England ain't Ireland ain't Scotland ain't Finland ain't Haiti. There is too much diversity among neighbors for there to be binarity among hemispheres. We willfully misunderstand the world by bifurcating it, as if the entire population of humanity were the subject of some hastily written David Brooks column.
The biggest problem with Lilla's argument is that he assumes that what he calls "political theology" somehow ceased to be a political force in "the West" some time after World War II.
I, for one, am not "puzzled" by cries of theological radicalism from Iran or Saudi Arabia. I have heard them in this country for years. Spend some time in any conservative Baptist church in Texas and you will here the code words, if not the outright proclamations, of political theology. This is not just theologically infused politics like one hears from Barack Obama or Jimmy Carter. This is hard-core millenarianism. And like it or not, it is perhaps the most powerful strain of political thought in the United States today. Catholic versions of it play a role in "Western" places like Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and Mexico. As recently as the multiple campaigns of William Jennings Bryan, political theology dominated the rhetoric of the Democratic Party. And, of course, it is the chosen lens through which George W. Bush views the world. That's why Ahmadinejad reached out to him with a letter. He knew that Bush would "get it."
I don't mean to undermine the claims of political liberalism and liberal theology, both of which have had profound effects from Vienna to Vancouver. But I cringe at claims that immersion in such ideologies somehow blinded us to the limits and weaknesses of their historical influences.
Now, to be fair, Lilla acknowledges the revival of political theology in the West. But he links it most strongly to the growing presence of Islam in Europe.
Look, Islam is not some strange and different thing. To those of us raised outside the three major monotheistic religions of the world, all three pretty much demand the same things from their adherents and predict the same things for pagans, kafir, or whatever you want to call us.
The best way to examine the influence of political theology is to acknowledge its common power within radical Islam, radical Christianity, and radical Judaism. It's there. It killed 3,000 New Yorkers in 2001. But it also blew up a bunch of abortion clinics in the 1990s and assassinated Yitzak Rabin. (Update: There was an attempted bombing in April of an abortion clinic in Austin, Texas. So it's not just the 1990s.)
Enlightenment, or the ability to raise one's political consciousness beyond the provincialism of whatever religious text drives your decisions, is a recent and fragile thing, as Lilla explains very well in his article. But it ain't just a French, German, English, and American thing. A fuller examination of this global struggle would acknowledge that Iran is just as thrown by the recent (1979) emergence of political theology as we are. Persian culture has deep traditions of tolerance and rationalism -- what we would recognize as liberalism. And India was once ruled by enlightened despots like Ashoka and Akbar. India practically invented religious tolerance (although you would not know that to look at it today).
The conflict between political theology and political liberalism is, as Lilla claims, the central conflict of our time. I would add that it is the central conflict of all time. And it ain't just Americans and Europeans who have to deal with it. The front lines of this struggle run through Jakarta, Bombay, Karachi, Cairo, and Lagos. That's where the real story is.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Political theology is highly adaptive and can present to even educated minds a more compelling vision of the future

The Politics of God By MARK LILLA The Times Magazine: August 19, 2007
After centuries of strife, the West has learned to separate religion and politics — to establish the legitimacy of its leaders without referring to divine command. There is little reason to expect that the rest of the world — the Islamic world in particular — will follow.
It is a world in which millions of people, particularly in the Muslim orbit, believe that God has revealed a law governing the whole of human affairs. This belief shapes the politics of important Muslim nations, and it also shapes the attitudes of vast numbers of believers who find themselves living in Western countries — and non-Western democracies like Turkey and Indonesia — founded on the alien principles of the Great Separation. These are the most significant points of friction, internationally and domestically. And we cannot really address them if we do not first recognize the intellectual chasm between us: although it is possible to translate Ahmadinejad’s letter to Bush from Farsi into English, its intellectual assumptions cannot be translated into those of the Great Separation. We can try to learn his language in order to create sensible policies, but agreement on basic principles won’t be possible. And we must learn to live with that.
Similarly, we must somehow find a way to accept the fact that, given the immigration policies Western nations have pursued over the last half-century, they now are hosts to millions of Muslims who have great difficulty fitting into societies that do not recognize any political claims based on their divine revelation. Like Orthodox Jewish law, the Muslim Shariah is meant to cover the whole of life, not some arbitrarily demarcated private sphere, and its legal system has few theological resources for establishing the independence of politics from detailed divine commands. It is an unfortunate situation, but we have made our bed, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Accommodation and mutual respect can help, as can clear rules governing areas of tension, like the status of women, parents’ rights over their children, speech offensive to religious sensibilities, speech inciting violence, standards of dress in public institutions and the like. Western countries have adopted different strategies for coping, some forbidding religious symbols like the head scarf in schools, others permitting them. But we need to recognize that coping is the order of the day, not defending high principle, and that our expectations should remain low. So long as a sizable population believes in the truth of a comprehensive political theology, its full reconciliation with modern liberal democracy cannot be expected.
VII. The Opposite Shore
This is not welcome news. For more than two centuries, promoters of modernization have taken it for granted that science, technology, urbanization and education would eventually “disenchant” the charmed world of believers, and that with time people would either abandon their traditional faiths or transform them in politically anodyne ways. They point to continental Europe, where belief in God has been in steady decline over the last 50 years, and suggest that, with time, Muslims everywhere will undergo a similar transformation. Those predictions may eventually prove right. But Europe’s rapid secularization is historically unique and, as we have just seen, relatively recent. Political theology is highly adaptive and can present to even educated minds a more compelling vision of the future than the prospect of secular modernity. It takes as little for a highly trained medical doctor to fashion a car bomb today as it took for advanced thinkers to fashion biblically inspired justifications of fascist and communist totalitarianism in Weimar Germany. When the urge to connect is strong, passions are high and fantasies are vivid, the trinkets of our modern lives are impotent amulets against political intoxication.
Realizing this, a number of Muslim thinkers around the world have taken to promoting a “liberal” Islam. What they mean is an Islam more adapted to the demands of modern life, kinder in its treatment of women and children, more tolerant of other faiths, more open to dissent. These are brave people who have often suffered for their efforts, in prison or exile, as did their predecessors in the 19th century, of which there were many. But now as then, their efforts have been swept away by deeper theological currents they cannot master and perhaps do not even understand. The history of Protestant and Jewish liberal theology reveals the problem: the more a biblical faith is trimmed to fit the demands of the moment, the fewer reasons it gives believers for holding on to that faith in troubled times, when self-appointed guardians of theological purity offer more radical hope. Worse still, when such a faith is used to bestow theological sanctification on a single form of political life — even an attractive one like liberal democracy — the more it will be seen as collaborating with injustice when that political system fails. The dynamics of political theology seem to dictate that when liberalizing reformers try to conform to the present, they inspire a countervailing and far more passionate longing for redemption in the messianic future. That is what happened in Weimar Germany and is happening again in contemporary Islam.
The complacent liberalism and revolutionary messianism we’ve encountered are not the only theological options. There is another kind of transformation possible in biblical faiths, and that is the renewal of traditional political theology from within. If liberalizers are apologists for religion at the court of modern life, renovators stand firmly within their faith and reinterpret political theology so believers can adapt without feeling themselves to be apostates. Luther and Calvin were renovators in this sense, not liberalizers. They called Christians back to the fundamentals of their faith, but in a way that made it easier, not harder, to enjoy the fruits of temporal existence. They found theological reasons to reject the ideal of celibacy, and its frequent violation by priests, and thus returned the clergy to ordinary family life. They then found theological reasons to reject otherworldly monasticism and the all-too-worldly imperialism of Rome, offering biblical reasons that Christians should be loyal citizens of the state they live in. And they did this, not by speaking the apologetic language of toleration and progress, but by rewriting the language of Christian political theology and demanding that Christians be faithful to it.
Today, a few voices are calling for just this kind of renewal of Islamic political theology. Some, like Khaled Abou El Fadl, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, challenge the authority of today’s puritans, who make categorical judgments based on a literal reading of scattered Koranic verses. In Abou El Fadl’s view, traditional Islamic law can still be applied to present-day situations because it brings a subtle interpretation of the whole text to bear on particular problems in varied circumstances. Others, like the Swiss-born cleric and professor Tariq Ramadan, are public figures whose writings show Western Muslims that their political theology, properly interpreted, offers guidance for living with confidence in their faith and gaining acceptance in what he calls an alien “abode.” To read their works is to be reminded what a risky venture renewal is. It can invite believers to participate more fully and wisely in the political present, as the Protestant Reformation eventually did; it can also foster dreams of returning to a more primitive faith, through violence if necessary, as happened in the Wars of Religion.
Perhaps for this reason, Abou El Fadl and especially Ramadan have become objects of intense and sometimes harsh scrutiny by Western intellectuals. We prefer speaking with the Islamic liberalizers because they share our language: they accept the intellectual presuppositions of the Great Separation and simply want maximum room given for religious and cultural expression. They do not practice political theology. But the prospects of enduring political change through renewal are probably much greater than through liberalization. By speaking from within the community of the faithful, renovators give believers compelling theological reasons for accepting new ways as authentic reinterpretations of the faith. Figures like Abou El Fadl and Ramadan speak a strange tongue, even when promoting changes we find worthy; their reasons are not our reasons. But if we cannot expect mass conversion to the principles of the Great Separation — and we cannot — we had better learn to welcome transformations in Muslim political theology that ease coexistence. The best should not be the enemy of the good.
In the end, though, what happens on the opposite shore will not be up to us. We have little reason to expect societies in the grip of a powerful political theology to follow our unusual path, which was opened up by a unique crisis within Christian civilization. This does not mean that those societies necessarily lack the wherewithal to create a decent and workable political order; it does mean that they will have to find the theological resources within their own traditions to make it happen.
Our challenge is different. We have made a choice that is at once simpler and harder: we have chosen to limit our politics to protecting individuals from the worst harms they can inflict on one another, to securing fundamental liberties and providing for their basic welfare, while leaving their spiritual destinies in their own hands. We have wagered that it is wiser to beware the forces unleashed by the Bible’s messianic promise than to try exploiting them for the public good. We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by divine revelation. All we have is our own lucidity, which we must train on a world where faith still inflames the minds of men.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Mark Lilla is professor of the humanities at Columbia University. This essay is adapted from his book “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West,” which will be published next month.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

While the Indian Constitution outlawed untouchability and caste discrimination, it did not abolish caste itself

Opinion - Leader Page Articles The caste system — India’s apartheid?
Balakrishnan Rajagopal The Hindu Saturday, Aug 18, 2007
Having taken a principled stand in foreign policy against racial discrimination and apartheid, India should not hide behind a false sense of Third World sovereignty in discussing the real problems of how to effectively end caste discrimination in a complex society.
How to end caste discrimination against Dalits is a profound issue because its roots go to the structural importance of caste for the operation of Indian society and the economy itself. After decades of legislating to end caste discrimination, it is legitimate now to ask: can one end caste discrimination without ending caste itself? If so, what does that imply for policy making and law? Caste discrimination exists because people continue to believe in caste. Indian democracy is, paradoxically, a culprit. By encouraging the formation of democratic participation along the lines of identity, caste is, in fact, reinforced every time India goes to the polls.
The recent electoral gains of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh must be seen in the context of this double-edged nature of caste. It may be hard to imagine Indian society and state outside of the system of caste. Even Dalit Christians, Sikhs, and Muslims find that caste discrimination continues to exist after they have acquired different religious identities. Yet caste discrimination against Dalits, in all its forms, is a stain on the idea of a modern India, and needs to be eliminated effectively.
While the Indian Constitution outlawed untouchability and caste discrimination, it did not abolish caste itself. This was realised by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, who called for the ‘annihilation of caste’ itself. It may be time for the government and society to reorient themselves towards this goal and begin the process of ending India’s system of apartheid. (The writer is Ford International Associate Professor of Law and Development and Director, MIT Program on Human Rights and Justice. He is currently leading a collaborative effort between MIT and Navsarjan, a major Dalit NGO in Gujarat, on the elimination of manual scavenging.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rehana Sultana also tried to do the same thing, but she faded out

60 years of Indian independence and Indian female actors
Enkayaar, Bollywood Trade News Network
An innocuous comment of Lara Dutta while appearing in one of the episodes of Koffee with Karan sums up the path that the Indian female actors have traveled during the last sixty years of journey that cinema has undertaken in the country. She said that there is a whole change in approach about picking up the female actors, and glamorous actors are being considered for and roles are being built around their glamour quotient.
Were one to flag the film that really heralded the advent of glamorous female actors in a big way, and established as a norm, then DHOOM would stand out as the film to do so. Never before was the lead film actor shown displaying so much of skin with finesse and brutal confidence as it was done in DHOOM. There after it was the deluge. It was the dance of Tata Young who was shown serenading three hunks in one song that add an element of novelty to the approach towards glamour as it was shown in the Hindi films and after that there was no looking back.
In the earlier era, even just a decade ago, glamour was never associated like hand in glove with the female lead actor as it has become now. If there was to have the quotient of glamour that had to be associated with the female actor, then the easiest way out was to device a double role and one of the roles which would have the element of glamour for the female actor, would most of the times would be with the villains and would never find heroine herself. It was there in WOH KAUN THI, SHARMILEE, and many such films. Otherwise the oomph on the screen was the responsibility of the vamp be it Helen or Bindu. For a short interlude Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman took the mantle but the affirmed grip on the situation happened with the current crop of the present generation.
Could a heroine portraying a sati savitri image think about asking this from her male co-star, whether he was a virgin, as Preity Zinta did with arrogant confidence in DIL SE or the portrayal of an unwed mother that she did it in KYA KEHNA. There were earlier instances of unwed mothers as it happened in ARADHANA but the female actors were not brazen enough to utter a dialogue that they are having a baby out of the wedlock. So for the female actor, the escape route was founded through announcing to the world that the male and female actors had married and God was the witness. Never was there an acknowledgement earlier that the male colleague had deserted the female colleague.
KYA KEHNA brought this out emphatically and became a source of inspiration for many a women in the country to take the monumental decision of going ahead to bring babies out of the wedlock after being ditched. This film also hammered one more nail into the coffin that the films do not have a message that may give a new meaning to the norms of the society. KYA KEHNA is a milestone as it was the commercial cinema, which was talking about this fact. Art cinema had been doing it, but the wider outreach of commercial cinema made the message go across all over the country. This was manifesting from the fact that the film was accepted allover the same country, and it was a run away hit.
A significant flag on the progress of female actors was DHOOM:2, where the female actor AISHWARYA RAI had so much pride on her physique that she displayed the same with chutzpah, which was one of the first for the industry as a top notch actor was doing the same. It was owing to the glamour quotient of this kind and the ability to stand up to what one was convinced about made Neha Dhupia come back with a rebound to start vying for top slots, after making appearance in bold and glamorous films within a period of three years. This would not have been possible earlier at all; if one were to re-jig the memory the case of Rehana Sultana is an ample testimony to this fact. She also tried to do the same thing, but she faded out into obscurity in just a matter of time.
The icing on the cake on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary is the release of CHAK DE, which is a tribute to women hood and has been a success owing to its contribution towards the spirit of empowerment. More and more such films as they continue to hit the silver screen on a regular basis would give another milestone for the Indian film industry where it to be viewed from the perspective of contribution towards the cause of women of the country. Fifth Quarter Infomedia Pvt. Ltd.