Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice."

When we look at what is happening in Burma or Pakistan or Bangladesh, the classic response of Indian liberals is that India is a democracy and we are not like them. However, we can no longer afford this complacency. The world's greatest paintings, sculptures, lofty epics are asphyxiated, as prudes and prigs, and state moralists often prescribe archetypes and proscribe contentions. One can trace a history of book bans in India, starting from Kiran Nagarkars’s play Bedtime stories, to Aubrey Menon’s Rama retold; a satirical look on Ramayana, to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Deepa Mehta's flick Fire was banned for showing a lesbian relationship which according to its opponents was against indian tradition and "distorts" indian culture. 

The banning ramanujam's essay - 300 Ramanayas - was justified by giving the argument that a student exposed to alternate ways of thinking will necessarily adopt them, instead of doing what is actually expected of students, which is to evaluate the information you are presented with.  If one can edit out inconvenient truths or inconvenient ways of seeing India's history from university syllabi, or ensure that there is silence around many subjects — a discussion of religion, a discussion of Shivaji's life or the lives of key players in the National Movement — we come one step closer to ensuring that it is only our narrow view of history and India that will gain ground. Its true that new ideas are often difficult to comprehend, and old convictions are hard to break down but one need to give ideas enough time for critical evaluation so that we can give credit to what we discern to be truth and discredit what we discern to be false.

If proponents of censorship cannot agree with the benefits associated with allowing diverse ideas to circulate freely, then we are presented with another dilemma: what authority would be allowed to determine which ideas are true and which are false? Human beings are not infallible and are apt to mistakenly view a false idea as truth or vice versa. In India the ban on the satanic verses was announced by its finance minister!! Who are they to decide what Indians may or may ot read. When Shiv Sena or Bajrang Dal or Vishwa Hindu Parishad attack MF Hussain's paintings or demand a ban on the film do they really have even a keen understanding of what the art is all about. How can they have the authority to decide the question for all mankind and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion because they are sure that it is false is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty.

I am not saying that censorship should be completely done away with. In the case of children below 18yrs it is required in some aspects. But at the same time it is also true that undeveloped capacities for logic and reason does not mean that their access to mature information should be denied. Instead they should receive guidance in how to properly interpret and evaluate the content of ideas presented to them. We need to believe in the capability and maturity of our new generation, who with their wide exposure in the global context will soon develop their own check-valves according to the needs of the day.

We claim to be living in an era of reforms. Yet, when it comes to questions of ‘morality’ or  ‘criticism’, we prefer status quo. We exhibit a mindset that is anything but reform-friendly, a mindset  that has stagnated through centuries in the swamp of colonized indoctrination. If we keep on censoring new ideas we will fail to develop as a society. It will jeopardize democracy by not allowing the public free access to knowledge, which is essential to preserving the liberty characteristic of a true democracy. . When educated masses burn temples and mosques, when these people start killing hindus, muslims, sikh in the name of religion, when they carry out murders in the name of girl child, how can you say that censorhip is will blot out circulation of false ideas and violence in society. We need to ask ourselves that are we responsible enough to make a true judgement?? Can we excercise true rsponsibility if given full freedom?? One must remember the fact that "censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion".

Monday, February 18, 2013

Women and New Nation State

Gender was a crucial lens through which colonial societies viewed their populations. Patriarchy worked in these societies in pragmatic and discursive forms, normalising certain cultural practices, social customs and ways of being as ‘true’ or ‘natural’. Women were twice colonised in their simultaneous experience of patriarchy and colonialism, doubly demoted to the obscure margins by patriarchal and imperial discourses and narratives that celebrated male- oriented values, such as bonding between men and reticent heroism, outdoor activities like battles, exploration and missionary activities, and the strong silent men who went to ‘take up the white man’s burden’ in barbaric, uncomfortable, steaming colonies.

The convergence of the contradictions and paradoxes of class, gender and race affiliations, created the ‘racialization of domestic space’ as well as ‘the domestication of colonial space’. Tropes such as gender, race, patriarchy, maternity, femininity, and domesticity were re-inscribed and reconstructed in the service of colonialism and modernity, and nations were frequently figured through the iconography of familial and domestic space. Within this space, women were represented as the atavistic and authentic body of national tradition; men, by contrast, represented the progressive agent of national modernity, embodying nationalism’s progressive or revolutionary principle of discontinuity.

In her essay ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, Gayatri Spivak (1987) posed a challenging question for scholars of gender and colonialism. She asked if the double eliding of native women by colonisation and patriarchy precludes their voices from ever being heard. If human subjectivity is inscribed like a palimpsest; written and re-written by ‘violently shuttling’ discourses of power and knowledge and from shifting positions and locations, then it is impossible to retrieve subaltern agency from the colonial archives since one cannot assume that the colonised person has autonomy and that the archive presents a transparent record of her/his agency. The issue of gender further complicates this task, as the colonial archive usually contains the stories of men: ‘As object of colonialist historiography and as subject of insurgency, the ideological construction of gender keeps the male dominant. If, in the context of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow’. However, Spivak does not imply that the engaged intellectual who wishes to highlight the oppression should therefore do nothing. Rather, she advocates the adoption of the Gramscian maxim, ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’, or the combination of a philosophical skepticism about recovering any subaltern agency with a political commitment to making visible the position of the marginalized: ‘The subaltern cannot speak. There is no virtue in global laundry lists with ‘woman’ as pious item. Representation has not withered away. The female intellectual as intellectual has a circumscribed task which she must not disown with a flourish’ (Spivak 1987, 308).

Ania Loomba in her book ‘Colonial Postcolonial’ says that under colonial regime, the image of nation or culture is often manifested as a female, which evokes both female power and female helplessness. Aurobindo writes ‘I know my country as Mother. I offer her my devotions, my worship. If a monster sits as upon her breast and prepares to suck her blood, what does her child do? Does he quietly sit down to his meal…or rush to rescue?’ Thus the image of nation as mother both assembles and undercuts female power.
Feminist and post colonialist theories share much common ground due to their examination of the voice, and the position of, the subaltern in society. Their critiques of, and struggles against, domination by the white male has led to their alignment and relevant discussions about their similar problems, affects and strategies. since the 1980s, there has emerged a divergent element to feminist postcolonial theory which has focused on the 'double colonization' that women colonized by both race and gender have suffered, leading to questions of  which should be dealt with first, the discrimination they have suffered for not being white or not being male. They share with colonized races and people an intimate experience of the politics of oppression and repression, and like them they have been forced to articulate their experiences in the language of oppressors. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013


A saree clad woman, applying bindi on her forehead,
singing tunes to herself, moves towards her mirror,
wondering if she looked beautiful,
"its the day of love", she said.

She blushed as her rosy cheeks sparkled,
and smelled of a rosy fragnance,
a thousand mile long her dimpled smile,
bore her love unheard and unsaid,

Her hazel eyes looked extraordinary, expressing the unexpressed,
her lips, bright red, told the untold;
she rose and walked towards the corridor,
stealthily, with her bosom pressed.

Anxiously standing, she watched 
other women looked their best too;
she wondered as pink and red sarees
walked around and gossiped about their fellow men.

She didn't expect roses to come her way,
yet she smiled, as the day brought some
extra earnings and make a living 
for herself and her child.

Lost in her thoughts, struck by a manly figure,
she promptly recomposed herself,
thus taking him in, and laid bare 
the bruises lying underneath.