Friday, March 14, 2014

London School of Economics meet alleges "fascistic project" is at work to target minority women in India

By Our Representative
A recent meeting at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) is learnt to have reached the conclusion that India, facing general elections, is “on the brink of a dangerous crossroads”, because, it felt, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, as representative of the “rightwing BJP” and allegedly “implicated” in the “massacres of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002”, has fair chances of winning.” The meeting was organised by UK’s Freedom without Fear Platform in collaboration with the LSE Gender Institute and South Asia Solidarity Group.
Seeking to analyse what this might mean to women, the meeting saw speakers suggest that the “picture which emerged was a deeply disturbing one, revealing a fascistic project which targets minority women for appalling violence while intensifying surveillance and control over all women.” It also means targeting “students and other young people for ‘moral policing’ while at the same time invoking the protection of Hindu women to justify violence against religious minorities and Dalits.”
Chaired by Kalpana Wilson, the meeting believed that “the attacks on minority women are not a side effect but central to the project of the Hindu right.” In Gujarat, Wilson pointed out, “human rights organisations clearly established that the massacres of Muslims in 2002 in which some 2000 people were killed, countless women raped and 20,000 displaced, were state-sponsored.” She added, “A leaked report by the British High Commission in India had noted at the time that the violence had 'all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing'.”
Quoting from the report, Wilson said, “far from being spontaneous the massacre was 'planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state government.'... and also 'that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister [Narendra Modi] remains in power’.”
Among the participants was Nishrin Jafri Hussain, whose father, MP Ahsan Jafri, was tortured and killed in the Gujarat violence, and whose mother Zakia has filed a petition against Narendra Modi accusing him of complicity in the riots. The internet journal Open Democracy (OD) of UK quoted her as telling the meeting that “she spoke about that period and about the unimaginable brutality perpetrated on the bodies of Muslim women.”
“Showing a series of photographs of those who had been murdered, with many gaps for those of whom no photos exist, she told the meeting about these women and their lives - those who had hoped to become doctors, those full of zest for life, young girls and older women, daughters, sisters, mothers and grandmothers who had been raped, mutilated and murdered - their bodies dumped in village wells and then taken in lorry loads for mass cremations. She spoke of women whose children had been killed before their eyes”, OD said.
Nishrin was quoted as saying that in the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad, where she grew up, every Muslim house had been burnt down in the 2002 massacres and every family had lost loved ones -- deep scars of these losses remain. Nothing has been done for those whose lives were destroyed. “She spoke about her father, an enormously popular MP, an intellectual and trade unionist, who had been against the ghettoisation of Muslims and was committed to living in a mixed Hindu and Muslim area”, OD said.
Anthropologist and human rights specialist Angana Chatterji spoke about her work in Odisha in the context of massacres of Christians, more generally about attacks on women during communal violence in India as a whole. She said, “Sexualised violence has been deployed on the women of ‘the other’ as vindication, and marked subaltern women's bodies in wars of direct and indirect conquest.” She told the meeting that “the most intensely conservative patriarchal ideologies are invoked in the context of this violence.”
Meena Kandasamy, a feminist Tamil novelist and poet who is herself a Dalit told the meeting that in Tamil Nadu, where the BJP is making inroads, fanatical Hindu upper caste groups are now using the same notions to justify violence against couples where the man is a Dalit and the woman a higher caste Hindu. “With the growing influence of the BJP in Tamil Nadu has come the rise of 'moral policing' too”, she said. “At the Vellore Institute of Technology, for example, students have been told that 'any physical contact except handshakes' will be punishable because it is 'against our Indian culture and value system'.”
The meeting criticized the British government's approach to Modi. “While in the wake of the 2002 genocide and the clear evidence and documentation of Modi’s role in coordinating and sponsoring it, the UK, EU and US were compelled to distance themselves from Modi. However, over the last two years the British government has been rehabilitating him. At a meeting with Modi in October 2012, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, commented that this was in 'the UK's national interests', meaning the interests of British business ( including arms dealers) in the vast Indian market.”

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