SACW - 15 Jan 2013 | Pakistan: Anti shia, Anti Education & Health / Pakistan-India: War-mongers on a high / Sri Lanka: impeachment / India: violent masculinity ; Eve Ensler interview / Banning Nuclear weapons
- South Asia Citizens Wire - 15 January 2013 - No. 2766
1. Pakistan's anti-Shia militants (M Ilyas Khan)
2. Pakistan’s war on polio workers (Afiya Shehrbano)
3. Pakistan: Education Fights Militants and Military (Ashfaq Yusufzai)
4. Concerned Indians and Pakistanis Condemn Exchange of Fire and Killings on Line of Control (LoC)
- War-mongers and hate brigade should not be allowed to derail the peace process (Kashmir Times, Edit)
- Kashmir civil society on both sides appeals for LoC truce
- India-Pak Flag Meeting Fails To Ease Border Tension (Ahmed Ali Fayyaz)
- India-Pakistan PING-PONG (Amit Baruah)
- India’s media fuel outrage over soldier’s beheading, but real story may be more complex (Simon Denyer)
- Two Indian newspapers have suggested the army may have provoked recent fatal clashes in the disputed Kashmir region.
- “Humse Bada Nahi Dekha” (There Aren’t Bigger Fools Than Us): Pakistani and India Bands Jointly Sing Against The Bomb
5. NDTV: In conversation with Eve Ensler
6. Pakistan: Kudos for banning asbestos (Gopal Krishna)
7. Bangladesh: Re-thinking communalism (Swadhin Sen)
8. Sri Lanka: CHRI and SLC Statement on the Impeachment of the Chief Justice
9. Sri Lanka: Teachers Union demands halt to soldiers’ teaching at schools
10. India: Bhagwat ka Bharat [Letter to the big chief of RSS] (Javed Anand)
11. India: We are caught between extremes of traditional and western perspectives on women (Sudhir Kakar)
12. Let’s call it hate speech (Arundhati Katju)
13. India: Masculinity is the real culprit (Praful Bidwai)
14. India: The Nirbhaya rape and ‘bare branches’ (Kanti Bajpai)
15. India: Pondy solution to rape: Hide girls under overcoats (Bosco Dominique)
16. Selected posts Communalism Watch
- The Forgotten Carnage of Bhagalpur (Warisha Farasat)
- Book Excerpt: Cosmic Love and Human Empathy: Swami Vivekananda's Restatement of Religion (Jyotirmaya Sharma)
- Maharashtra: Communal Violence in Akot - A pre-planned conspiracy
17. India- Bangladesh: Legalize cattle smuggling on Bangladesh border: BSF chief (Deeptiman Tiwary)
18. Books and Reviews:
(i) Between Ashes and Hope - Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism
(ii) The Pakistan Project: A Feminist Perspective on Nation & Identity by Rubina Saigol
(iii) Hanif Kureishi’s story, ‘This Door is Shut’
(iv) Book Review: The Story of an Era by Ashutosh Potdar
19. Standing on the threshold: banning nuclear weapons (Rebecca Johnson)
20. Turkey's science state council halts publication of evolution books
1. FORMIDABLE POWER OF PAKISTAN'S ANTI-SHIA MILITANTS
by M Ilyas Khan
BBC News Asia, 12 January 2013
Wednesday's bombings of a Shia Muslim neighbourhood in the Pakistani city of Quetta that killed almost 100 people is a grim reminder of the power of sectarian militants to act as the arbiters of peace - and war - in this country.
Since 2004-05, they have steadily spread their wings in south western Balochistan province, where the ethnic Hazara community of Shia Muslims has been their main target.
Figures released by the Balochistan government place the number of Shias killed in the province between 2008 and 2012 at 758. Members of the Hazara community say the figure is much higher.
The hatred these Sunni militant groups bear towards Shia Muslims is fundamentally theological although the groups' origins date back to the late 1970s, the time of neighbouring Iran's Shia revolution.
The historic split between Sunni and Shia originate in a dispute soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over which of his four companions should lead the Muslim community.
The group which has claimed responsibility for the blast, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was born out of another group called Sipah-e-Sahaba, whose name literally translates as "Soldiers of the Companions of the Prophet".
So their anti-Shia agenda is there in the very origins and name of this group. But over the last few years there has been a dramatic escalation on attacks against Shia Muslims around Pakistan, with some activists naming 2012 as the worst year in living memory for Shia killings.
The key to the increasing power of these groups to wreak havoc on Shias is not just their ideological fervour, but also their ability to set up militant training camps - and Pakistan's complex political environment.
Balochistan training camps
The bombing reflects the extent to which the Pakistani policy of using Islamic militancy as a foreign policy tool has, in the course of three decades, compromised its ability to clean up its house.
The geographical spread of these outfits today is unprecedented in terms of both their striking capability and their ability to paralyse life in areas of their influence.
In December, activists for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is now banned, closed down Karachi, a city of more than 15 million people, when one of their leaders was injured in a gun attack blamed on a rival sect.
Credible reports from the region say the group has also set up several residential and training camps in the remote Mastung area of Balochistan, from where they have been attacking buses carrying Shia pilgrims to holy sites in Iran.
A couple of very large arms dumps uncovered by the police in Quetta in recent months indicate that they have copious supplies of arms, ammunition and explosives, and the tactics they use during attacks show them to be highly trained.
But sectarian militants also have vast influence in the north-western tribal region of Pakistan, where some analysts believe they form the backbone of the Pakistani Taliban group, Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Not many people know that some top TTP leaders - such as the late head of the suicide training squad, Qari Hussain, and the TTP's current spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan - were all members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Punjab at one time or another before they became part of the TTP.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its affiliated groups also provide crucial technical and manpower support to other major groups in the tribal region, such as the Haqqani network and other groups.
With this kind of spread and influence, can the sectarian militants be defeated at all?
Most analysts believe the state is far more powerful than the entire Pakistani militant network, but at the moment it lacks the will to pull the ground from under them.
There are various reasons for this.
In Punjab province, which is the breeding ground of sectarian militants, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its parent organisation, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, have a strong electoral presence due mainly to the state patronage they enjoyed during the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf.
All the major political parties in the province depend on this vote bloc in many areas of central and southern Punjab to win parliamentary seats.
Therefore, any kind of a crackdown on these groups would run contrary to their interests, especially when elections are approaching.
The country's powerful military establishment also has an ambivalent attitude towards these groups. Even as cadres of these groups are clearly seen as an enemy because they work with the Taliban, they serve several other major interests.
Useful in a crisis
In Balochistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its affiliates have helped dilute the impact of an armed nationalist separatist movement by diverting international attention to the issue of targeting Shias.
Elements in the military establishment have also felt a need to use the street protest power of these groups as a second line of defence at times of international crises.
Last year, these groups formed a major part of the movement launched by an alliance of Jihadist religious forces, the Defence of Pakistan Council, to put pressure on the Pakistani civilian rulers not to reopen the Nato supply routes through Pakistan.
In addition, these groups have provided both political and military support to Pakistani objectives against India in the disputed region of Kashmir.
As things stand, the Afghan endgame, in which the Pakistanis are fishing for a major role, is yet to play out to the finish, and the border with India in Kashmir is far from stable.
So while the destructive potential of these groups is not lost on anyone in Pakistan, they have not outlived their utility quite yet.
And if they continue to prove their anti-Shia credentials day after day, they will not have lost their utility for the Sunni-Wahabi sheikhdoms of the Middle East as well, from where they receive the bulk of their funding.
2. PAKISTAN’S WAR ON POLIO WORKERS
by Afiya Shehrbano
When Pakistan’s feminists and activists protest against abuses by the Taliban, some critics make misguided appeals to context.
3. PAKISTAN: EDUCATION FIGHTS MILITANTS AND MILITARY
by Ashfaq Yusufzai
Families in the militancy-stricken FATA, a hotbed of violence, blame the Pakistan military and the Taliban in equal measure for reducing the education system here to rubble.
4. INDIANS AND PAKISTANIS CONDEMN EXCHANGE OF FIRE AND KILLINGS ON LINE OF CONTROL (LOC)
9 January 2013
We, the undersigned Indians & Pakistanis, are deeply disturbed with the recent exchange of firings and killing of two Indian and one Pakistani soldier across the Line of Control (LoC). The incidence as reported is highly deplorable and no sane person or society can accept such unwarranted and gruesome incidences. The said incidences have a potential to derail the ongoing peace process that has shown remarkable progress in recent times in easing the visa regime, improving trade relations and securing many other confidence building measures that hold great promise for both the countries.
We are happy that the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries have spoken to each other after the incidents. We urge that suitable mechanisms must be evolved and implemented immediately to ensure that the concerned authorities on both sides are in constant touch to avert recurrence of any such incidence rather than meet after some damage is done.
We sincerely appeal to both the countries to take action against those responsible and see such incidences do not occur in the future. Such incidences will only help war mongers and enemies of peace when the need of the hour for both sides is to take the peace process forward. We are confident that such dastardly incidences will not affect the dialogue as it has to be uninterrupted and uninterruptible till we secure complete friendship and peace between our two countries. The two sides should also resume normal trade across the LoC and enhance people to people contacts by easing the Visa regime further.
Admiral L. Ramdas - Former Chief of Indian Navy, Ali Baug
Mahesh Bhat - Film Maker- Mumbai
Lalita Ramdas - Former Chair, Green Peace International - Ali Baug
Jatin Desai - Peace Activist and Journalist, Mumbai
Dr. Mazher Hussain - Director, COVA, Hyderabad
Dr. Amrita Chhacchi - Academic, Delhi
Ramesh Pimple - People’s Media Initiative, Mumbai
Sheeba Chhacchi- Artist, Delhi
Varsha Rajan Berry - SAHR, Mumbai
Dr. Sandeep Panday - Asha Ashram, Lucknow
Ramesh Yadav - Folklore Institute, Amritsar
Sanjay Nahar - Sarhad, Pune
Karamat Ali, Labour Rights Activist, (PILER) Karachi
Dr. A. H. Hayyar, peace activist, President Pakistan Peace Coalition, Lahore
B. M. Kutty, Secretary General of Pakistan Peace Coalition, Karachi
I. A. Rahman, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Lahore
Dr. Kaiser Bengali, Senior economist, Karachi
Dr. Tipu Sultan, Pakistan Medical Association, Karachi
Sheema Kermani, Tahrik-e-Niswan, Karachi
Muqtada Mansoor Khan political analyst, Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences, Karachi
Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed, academician and peace activist, Karachi
Mehnaz Rehman, women rights activist, Karachi
Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairperson, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Karachi
Iqbal Alavi, peace activist, Karachi
Zulfiqar Halepoto, peace and human rights activist, Hyderabad
Sauleha Ather, women rights and peace activist, Karachi
Farooq Tariq, peace activist and labour leader, Lahore
Javed Qazi, Forum for Secular Pakistan, Karachi
o o o
Kashmir Times, 13 January 2013
LET SANITY AND REASON PREVAIL
War-mongers and hate brigade should not be allowed to derail the peace process
Happily, amidst cacophony of revenge and saber rattling in the wake of the most unfortunate and condemnable incidents along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir the powerful voices of sanity and reason are asserting for maintaining the decade-old ceasefire, which has paid rich peace dividends and brought relief to the people living on both sides of the dividing line. While the hate brigade and the war-mongers are baying for blood and hysterically shouting for reversing the peace process, without realizing the consequences of any such moves, the peace-loving people in the country in general and Jammu and Kashmir in particular have stood up to frustrate the designs of chauvinists and enemies of peace. Though the entire population of the sub-continent has suffered due to the prolonged conflict and armed confrontation between the two neighbouring countries the brunt of such enmity has been borne by the hapless people of Jammu and Kashmir. The people living in the borders areas have in particular been the victims of brinkmanship, having been frequently uprooted from their hearths and homes, several of them killed, injured and maimed, and a large number of families divided across the LoC. The ceasefire in 2003 which was preserved so far, despite few violations by both sides, had brought much relief to the people living in the border areas besides paving way for pursuing the dialogue process between the two warring countries. The peace process, despite frequent disruption and its slow pace, had brought hopes in the lives of millions of people in the two countries.
While the people in Jammu and Kashmir, with the exception of a handful of hawks and jingoists, have stood up against any move for disturbing the ceasefire and reversing the dialogue process two powerful voices of sanity and reason have come from the State chief minister Omar Abdullah and leader of the main opposition party, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, both of whom have warned against any kind of brinkmanship. The PDP leader has rightly described the ceasefire as mother of all confidence building measures stressing to preserve and strengthen it by removing all irritants and moving fast on the road to peace, the chief minister has emphasized that the ceasefire must continue because its violation adversely affects the population of Jammu and Kashmir. There is near unanimity in the State on the question of preserving the ceasefire and pursuing the dialogue process with greater speed for ushering into a new era of peace and prosperity in the region. Similarly the call by the people of Poonch, who had faced the consequences of armed conflict between the two countries since 1947 and naturally fear any resumption of such confrontation, have come up strongly against any kind of brinkmanship, urging both India and Pakistan to assert against the hawks and enemies of peace. In a statement 12 prominent citizens representing the cross-sections of the civil society have urged the two countries to preserve ceasefire both in letter and spirit. They urged both the governments to restore trade and travel across the LoC and preserve ceasefire so that the people of border areas could live in their houses and localities near the LoC with a sense of peace and security in conducive atmosphere.
The hawks in politics, media, bureaucracy and security establishments are raising their ante for derailing the peace process, violating the ceasefire and even calling for renewing armed confrontation. These voices of lunatic revenge and war must be silenced by the political leadership in both the countries. The tension on the Line of Control must be localized and the issue resolved by having flag meetings without any further delay. The tension should in no case be allowed to escalate. The voices of sanity and reason must prevail over the jarring shouts of revenge, tit for tat and war. The answer to such voices is to strengthen ceasefire, preserve it both in letter and spirity, evolve more CBMs for creating a climate for peace and pursue the ongoing dialogue process with greater vigour and peace.
o o o
J&K CIVIL SOCIETY ON BOTH SIDES APPEALS FOR LOC TRUCE
KT NEWS SERVICE
JAMMU, Jan 14: The people of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) have called upon the political leadership in New Delhi and Islamabad to initiate action to begin immediate dialogue for a more long term end to these ongoing tensions to restore the sanctity of the ceasefire that has been in place since 2003 by replacing strategic insecurities of the two militaries with mutual trust and co-operation.
This appeal has been made in a petition to be sent to both the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari by around 50 members of the civil society from both parts of J&K. The appeal will be sent to the heads of the two countries after collection of more signatures.
In the initiative representing the collective voice of all peace loving people from both parts of the state, both the leaders were urged to impress upon their respective militaries to immediately desist from this continuum of shelling and firing incidents.
The signatories deplored the war rhetoric and attempts by political or religious groups for symbolism of Kashmir to justify war mongering and hatred.
“At the same time, we call for an immediate end to the hostilities on the Line of Control,” it was stated in the petition.
It was maintained in the petition that the people of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control, had been observing with great concern the escalation of tensions at the LoC that had been building up gradually since June 2012 and had suddenly taken an ugly turn since the first week of January, 2013.
“We express grave concern at the loss of lives of the soldiers and any casualties to civilians on both the sides. At the same time, we are also concerned about the safety and security of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the people living at the borders, who are directly hit by sporadic incidents of shelling and firing. These repeated violations of the ceasefire that has been in place as part of an agreement between India and Pakistan since 2003 have been adversely affecting the lives of the people at the borders,” the signatories said.
They added that besides, these also had the potential dangers of reversing the gains of this biggest Confidence Building Measure that enabled and facilitated interactions, howsoever symbolic, between the two sides of the divided state, provided security and a conducive atmosphere for much needed development for the people living at the borders.
“Besides, these tensions threaten the very framework of peace for which 10 year long ceasefire at the LoC has been a great bulwark, even though the pace of peace process has been so far tardy and does not fully engages with the people of this state. We fear that if these tensions at the borders are allowed to prolong, they will compromise the goodwill that has been built and reverse the peace dividends,” they apprehended.
The signatories feared that this would cause massive sufferings to the people of not just the border areas, but eventually of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, on both sides. Besides, they would provide a greater space to extremist, hawkish and fanatic elements as well as empower the war mongers on both sides.
“They also have the potential of ushering the whole region into a new cold war destroying hopes of long term peace and economic stability and hamper SAARC-wide integration. We deplore the war rhetoric and attempts by political or religious groups for symbolism of Kashmir to justify war mongering and hatred. At the same time, we call for an immediate end to the hostilities on the Line of Control,” they appealed in the petition.
Signatories to the petition included Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, Murtaza Shibli, Abdul Majid Zargar, Tajamul Hussain, Nusrat Andrabi, Suraiya Kamal, Arif Kamal, Tariq Masud, Ershad Mahmud, Najma Khan, Salman Anees Soz, Arjimand Hussain, Sameer Bhat, Akshay Azad, Asmat Ashai, Shafat N. Ahmad, Rekha Chowdhary, Badri Raina, Rahmat Kamal, Ellora Puri, Ved Bhasin, Nyla Ali Khan, Hameedah Nayeem, Shaheen Akhtar, Prabodh Jamwal, Gulam Jeelani, Gazalla Amin, Ishaq Kullar, Danish Khan, Anamika Mujoo Girotte, Motilal Raina, Dr Waleed Rasool, Altaf Hussain, Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, Dr Naseema Jogezai, Manmeet Bali Nag, Bashir Ahmad Dar, Gowhar Geelani, Jamshed Naqvi, Pyare Shivpuri, Shujaat Bukhari, Dr Javid Iqbal, Narjees Nawab, Javed Naqi, Shuchismita, Shefali Manhas and Pawan Bali.
INDIA-PAK FLAG MEETING FAILS TO EASE BORDER TENSION
by Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
by Amit Baruah
INDIA’S MEDIA FUEL OUTRAGE OVER SOLDIER’S BEHEADING, BUT REAL STORY MAY BE MORE COMPLEX
by Simon Denyer
TWO INDIAN NEWSPAPERS HAVE SUGGESTED THE ARMY MAY HAVE PROVOKED RECENT FATAL CLASHES IN THE DISPUTED KASHMIR REGION.
“HUMSE BADA NAHI DEKHA” (THERE AREN’T BIGGER FOOLS THAN US)
Pakistani and India Bands Jointly Sing Against The Bomb
5. NDTV: IN CONVERSATION WITH EVE ENSLER
6. PAKISTAN: KUDOS FOR BANNING ASBESTOS (GOPAL KRISHNA)
The Daily Times - 7 January 2013
Letters to the Editor
Sir: This is with reference to the news report, ‘NA body decides to recommend ban on asbestos’ (Daily Times, January 1, 2013). I wish to congratulate the honourable members of the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development for having recommended a complete ban on the import and use of carcinogenic mineral fibre ‘asbestos’ in Pakistan.
I submit that this recommendation paves the way for an asbestos-free South Asia. I wish to request you for a copy of the report that has recommended a ban on asbestos so that I can share it with the concerned parliamentary committees in India.
I submit that in India, the Supreme Court has directed the government of India to incorporate the June 2006 resolution of the International Labor Organisation in its order dated January 21, 2012. The resolution seeks elimination of asbestos in all forms. In pursuance of the same, the Union Labour Ministry has set up an Advisory Committee to incorporate the resolution in the rules and regulations. As of now, mining of asbestos is technically banned in India. The trade in asbestos dust and fibres is also banned. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has recommended to phase out of all kinds of asbestos with safer alternatives. The National Human Rights Commission is also examining a complaint against asbestos-related diseases wherein it has issued notices to all the State governments and the concerned central ministries. Kerala State Human Rights Commission has banned the use of asbestos in schools. In Bihar, villagers are fighting against asbestos plants and have managed to stop two such plants so far. On December 24, 2012, the Chairman Bihar Legislative Council announced that he will get asbestos roofs from his residence removed because such carcinogenic fibres pose a threat to health.
I wish to request you to initiate the process of making South Asia asbestos-free at the next SAARC meeting so that future generations are saved from incurable lung cancer-like diseases caused by asbestos fibres.
I appreciate the role of the Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment (CIWCE), which has reportedly stated: “There is no doubt that exposure to asbestos fibres through air is linked with mesothelioma (a form of lung cancer).” But I wish to disagree with him when the CIWCE director makes exceptions for products and usage with very low possibility of human exposure and marked benefits of the use of asbestos.
I wish to suggest that at Gadani Beach, 50 kilometres northwest of Karachi where ship-breaking happens, the asbestos exposure of the workers merits serious attention because an official study has shown that 16 percent of the workers in India’s ship-breaking yard at Alang Beach in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, are exposed to asbestos fibres. The situation at Gadani Beach is no different.
I will eagerly wait to hear what compensation regime is set up for the legal heirs of workers who lost their lives due to asbestos exposure and those who are suffering from asbestos-related diseases. There is a need to create a database of asbestos victims and asbestos-laden buildings as a first step. On behalf of the Toxics Watch Alliance (TWA) and Global Ban Asbestos Movement, I wish to assure any information-related help required in ensuring that the government of Pakistan accepts these recommendations and takes the lead in making South Asia asbestos-free.
Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
7. BANGLADESH: RE-THINKING COMMUNALISM
by Swadhin Sen
Given that we forget many things, given that we, at the same time, remember many things, that we beat our breasts to remember many things, it is urgent that we reflect sociologically, on what is remembered and what is forgotten, on how processes of remembering and forgetting occur. This leads me to ask, how do we make sense of the 2012 communal violence? How will we remember it? It is important to point out that state has already embarked on the task of forgetting. And therefore, it is most important, nay urgent, that we re-think, that we counter-think, the issue of communalism, writes Swadhin Sen
8. SRI LANKA: CHRI AND SLC STATEMENT ON THE IMPEACHMENT OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE
We note with grave concern that the Sri Lankan Parliament has decided to remove the Chief Justice of the country through a Parliamentary Select Committee, in contravention of a Constitutional determination by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court.
9. SRI LANKA: TEACHERS UNION DEMANDS HALT TO SOLDIERS’ TEACHING AT SCHOOLS
Sri Lanka Mirror - 04 January 2013
[Ceylon Teachers Union] CTU demands halt to soldiers’ teaching Sinhala to north
The CTU has demanded an immediate halt to the posting of military officers to teach the Sinhala language at schools in Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Thunukkai.
In a statement, its secretary Joseph Stalin says only teachers appointed in accordance with the Sri Lanka Teachers Service constitution should teach at schools.
Instead of recruiting teachers appropriately, the posting of military officers to these schools to teach the Sinhala language will further distance the northern schools system from civilian administration, he warns.
It is also against the Sri Lanka Teachers Service constitution to give teaching responsibilities to persons who have no experience or the required discipline as teachers, the CTU secretary points out.
10. INDIA: BHAGWAT KA BHARAT [LETTER TO THE BIG CHIEF OF RSS]
by Javed Anand
Respected Bhagwat Ji, First you said that rapes and gangrapes happen in India, not Bharat, because the former has embraced Western ideas and abandoned Indian values. You’ve spoken again now, to put women in their proper place: serving their husbands in their marital homes. Some people think you’ve put your foot (make it plural) in your mouth. But I say, right on, keep talking. Young India, the middle class especially, is listening. And I am sure you’ll be hearing from them soon. Meanwhile, permit me to point out that your views are pretty close to many voices from the Muslim world: from the Taliban in Pakistan to the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it’s time votaries of Hindutva and champions of Islamic fundamentalism came together in a new coalition of the culturally constipated: “Us vs the West”.
11. INDIA: WE ARE CAUGHT BETWEEN EXTREMES OF TRADITIONAL AND WESTERN PERSPECTIVES ON WOMEN
by Sudhir Kakar
Is a woman a person in the imagination of most Indian men, especially in the imagination that flows under the surface of consciousness? My answer is only a qualified 'yes'.
In a society that has traditionally defined a person through her relationships rather than her individuality, a woman is certainly a person when she is a mother, a daughter, a sister or a wife. Any woman who does not fit into these mental categories is a female, a 'stree', who, in the notorious public pronouncement of a former president of India, Zail Singh, 'bhog ki cheez hai' (is an object of enjoyment). Stripped of relational categories and just as an individual, a woman is not a person but an object, a body for male enjoyment.
12. INDIA: LET’S CALL IT HATE SPEECH
by Arundhati Katju
The debate over whether to ban Honey Singh’s music has been wrongly characterised in terms of obscenity and censorship. The real issue is of recognising hate speech, and addressing a legal framework that does not view women as full citizens.
13. INDIA: MASCULINITY IS THE REAL CULPRIT
by Praful Bidwai
Punishing rape, even gangrape, with death will not deter the crime, whose roots lie in masculinity and male aggression, which is built into the culture of patriarchal violence.
14. INDIA: THE NIRBHAYA RAPE AND ‘BARE BRANCHES’
by Kanti Bajpai
One consequence of female denigration is the terribly skewed sex or gender ratio. India has one of the worst records in the world in this respect. Indeed, South Asia along with China has the most dismal record - worse than the western countries, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa.
15. INDIA: PONDY SOLUTION TO RAPE: HIDE GIRLS UNDER OVERCOATS
by Bosco Dominique
(The Times of India, Jan 6, 2013)
PUDUCHERRY: The Puducherry government thinks covering up women will protect them from sexual predators and is leaning towards a purdah system. In a regressive move, the territorial administration on Saturday proposed redesigning school uniforms to make it mandatory for girl students to wear overcoats, the oppressive tropical heat notwithstanding. The government is also preparing to ban cell phones in schools.
The decision was taken at a meeting of education department officials chaired by school education minister T Thiagarajan on Saturday following widespread protests in the Union territory over the kidnap and rape of a Class 12 girl by a bus conductor and an engineering student on New Year's day.
"The meeting resolved to introduce overcoats for girl students, operate special buses for them and ban mobile phones in schools. Our government is committed to ensuring safety of women, particularly girl students," Thiagarajan told TOI.
The decision drew flak from women's forums and human rights activists. All India Democratic Women's Association general secretary Sudha Sundararaman said, "It is shocking to note that the Puducherry government is unaware that dress has nothing to do with the crime. It is trivializing the issue without addressing the problem. The government must take steps to ensure safety of women and girls. Providing overcoats is not an answer. By evolving a dress code, the government has made women answerable and accountable for the crime," she said.
Thiagarajan said the government will operate exclusive buses for girl students from the next academic year. He said the buses will have only women conductors. The number of buses to be introduced and the routes will be worked out shortly, he said. The education department has also proposed to set up flying squads to conduct periodic inspections at schools to monitor implementation of the ban on mobile phones.
Though she welcomed introduction of special buses for girl students, Sudha Sudararaman said segregation cannot solve the problem. "Women cannot be segregated forever. We need to launch campaigns to enlighten all sections of people on gender-sensitive issues. Women, who have equal right to public places, must not face violent attacks. The government must ensure stringent punishment for perpetrators," she said.
Human rights activist and former MLA D Ravikumar said such regressive measures will not prevent crimes against women. "Now fundamentalist forces are trying to restrict the freedom and mobility of women in the name of their own safety. These measures are aimed at blaming the victims," he said.
[. . .].
16. SELECTED POSTS COMMUNALISM WATCH
THE FORGOTTEN CARNAGE OF BHAGALPUR by Warisha Farasat
BOOK EXCERPT: COSMIC LOVE AND HUMAN EMPATHY: SWAMI VIVEKANANDA'S RESTATEMENT OF RELIGION (JYOTIRMAYA SHARMA)
MAHARASHTRA: COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN AKOT - A PRE-PLANNED CONSPIRACY
17. INDIA- BANGLADESH: LEGALIZE CATTLE SMUGGLING ON BANGLADESH BORDER: BSF CHIEF
By Deeptiman Tiwary
(The Times of India, Dec 1, 2012)
In a controversial suggestion, outgoing BSF chief U K Bansal has said that the menace of cattle smuggling on the India-Bangladesh border defies policing and might be best controlled by making the trade legal.
NEW DELHI: In a controversial suggestion, outgoing BSF chief U K Bansal has said that the menace of cattle smuggling on the India-Bangladesh border defies policing and might be best controlled by making the trade legal.
Cattle running mafias abound on the border, making smuggling bovines for meat a highly lucrative but violence-prone illegal business. Bansal seemed to endorse the view that the sheer scale of operations and the economic interests involved make policing a limited option.
Asked if the illegal cattle trade should be legalized given the economic realities in Bangladesh, Bansal said, "We all have to think about it seriously. It is not a problem that can be solved by policing." Bansal was speaking at BSF's annual press conference on Thursday.
Several Bangladeshis lose their lives smuggling cattle for a remuneration as low as Rs 500. While trying to stop them, BSF men put their lives at risk while reports of corruption have also surfaced.
The massive demand for meat feeding a Rs 2,000 crore industry in Bangladesh has made it difficult for forces to stop the smuggling. The proposal to make cattle trade legal, despite its apparent pragmatism, is sure to attract fire from groups advocating cow protection.
Legalizing the trade is a hot potato that the government is unlikely to consider, but it could throw open a discussion on a taboo subject that might yield results later.
The issue has been contentious, leading to a stand-off between India and Bangladesh at various bilateral meets where charges have been traded. Bangladesh has rarely accepted any illegality, including the large inflow of illegal immigrants into India.
The government has made efforts to bring down casualties of Bangladeshi nationals by introducing non-lethal weapons. But the move has hurt BSF as emboldened smugglers have started attacking force personnel.
In the past three years, while casualties of Bangladeshis on the border came down by over 60%, attacks on personnel of Border Security Force went up by over 100%.
According to government figures, in 2010, as many 32 suspected intruders were shot dead by BSF on the Indo-Bangladesh border while 64 men from the force were injured due to attacks from smugglers. Due to continued high fatalities of its nationals, Bangladesh had been pushing for softer approach towards border guarding from India.
Thus, in 2010, India had proposed and implemented use of non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and pump action guns by the BSF against suspected smugglers.
Bangladeshi fatalities came down to merely 11. However, injuries to BSF men jumped to 150. In 2012, the force has recorded six deaths of Bangladeshis and 100 injuries to its men on the border.
"The problem is that the sheer economics of the trade makes it unstoppable. Close to seven lakh cattle are smuggled every year, and this is only the data collected through arrest of smugglers. The industry is worth thousands of crores of rupees in Bangladesh," said a BSF officer who has served on the Indo-Bangla border.
One of the reasons India has never been able to come to an agreement with Bangladesh on resolving the problem is the latter does not consider it smuggling, calling it cattle trade. Bangladesh has even unofficially offered to help make arrangements so that cattle can be bought at the border without risking the lives of people on either side.
18. BOOKS & REVIEWS
(i) Between Ashes and Hope - Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism
75 Essays, 16 photographs, 288 Pages
Saydia Gulrukh, Jui Chakma, Farah Mehreen Ahmad, Dipayan Khisa, Tazreena Sajjad, Samari Chakma, Anu Muhammad, Jenneke Arens, Kirti Nishan Chakma, Sagheer Faiz, Naeem Mohaiemen, Den Doha Jolai Tripura, Abhoy Prakash Chakma, Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, Kajalie Shehreen Islam, Mangal Kumar Chakma, Jyoti Rahman, Audity Falguni, Zafar Sobhan, Pinaki Roy, Meghna Guhathakurta, Hana Shams Ahmed, Shahidul Alam, Khushi Kabir, Manosh Chowdhury, Ainun Nishat, Mahfuz Ullah, Saleem Samad, Pradanendu Bikash Chakma, Chandra Roy, Prashanta Tripura, Zobaida Nasreen, Masahiko Togawa, Farida C. Khan, Priscilla Raj, Sontosh Bikash Tripura, Bhumitra Chakma, Ashok Kumar Chakma, Shapan Adnan, Sudatta Bikash Tanchangya, Philip Gain, Devasish Roy, Ziauddin Choudhury, Air Commodore (retd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, Deepak Singh, Binota Moy Dhamai , Bina D’Costa, Amena Mohsin, Ilira Dewan, Mathura Bikash Tripura, Arshi Dewan Roy, Jagaran Chakma, Mong Shanoo Chowdhury, Chanchana Chakma, Sadeka Halim, Biplob Rahman, Ainoon Naher, Prashanta Tripura, Faruk Wasif, Rahnuma Ahmed, Pavel Partha, Shaktipada Tripura, Rupayan Dewan, Lelung Khumi, Aditya Kumar Dewan, Abhilash Tripura, Borendra Lal Tripura, Kabita Chakma, Glen Hill.
Shahidul Alam, Naeem Mohaiemen, Brian Palmer, Ittukgula (Shuvasish) Chakma, Wasfia Nazreen, Tanvir Murad Topu, Hana Shams Ahmed, Samari Chakma, Jannatul Mawa, Momena Jalil.
Assistant Editor & Translator
Hana Shams Ahmed
Farah Mehreen Ahmad
Drishtipat Writers' Collective
With Support from
Manusher Jonno Foundation
Price: BDT 350
All proceeds from sale of this book go to Moanaghor, a school for Pahari children in Rangamati
For Sale at
Omni Books (Dhanmondi & New Airport)
Bookworm (Old Airport)
Pathak Samabesh (Aziz Market)
Liberation War Museum (Segunbagicha)
UPL (Bishya Road)
Words n Pages (Gulshan)
Manusher Jonno Foundation office (Banani)
Research Initiatives Bangladesh/RIB office (Banani)
AIBS office (Dhanmondi)
[ . . .]
o o o
(ii) The Pakistan Project: A Feminist Perspective on Nation & Identity
by Rubina Saigol
Pakistan’s multiple, contradictory, fractured and fragile national identity relies on specific notions of masculinity and femininity, reinforced through an ideology of militarism and religious fundamentalism. The dissemination of this identity through state institutions, educational curricula, madrassas and, increasingly, through parts of civil society as analysed by the author, calls into question the very basis of a national identity predicated on religion and the subordination of women.
Saigol critically examines the unstable genealogy of this idea of Pakistan from Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and M.A Jinnah to Zia ul-Haq, through a gendered lens thus exposing its many, often contradictory, premises and assumptions. She then discusses the complex layering of this idea as it has evolved over the last sixty years, whether insidiously through textbooks and laws, violently through the construction and persecution of ‘enemies of state’ or explicitly through the military’s claims of safeguarding national security. Saigol interrogates the successive mythical ‘ideas of Pakistan’ that have been deployed by the state, vested interests, civilian and military ruling elites and religious institutions in order to subvert democratic development, especially gender equality.
Rubina Saigol is currently an independent researcher based in Lahore. She has authored and edited several books and papers in English and Urdu on education, nationalism, the state, ethnicity, religious radicalism, terrorism, feminism and human rights for academic journals in India and internationally. Among her many published works are: Engendering the Nation-state; Aspects of Women and Development; Deconstructing Terrorism: Discourse and Death in Pakistan; and, Talibanisation of Pakistan: Myths and Realities.
Demy 8vo 368 pp. Rs. 650 Hb ISBN: 978-81-88965-21-2 All rights available
Women Unlimited, N-84, Panchshila Park, New Delhi - 110017, Tel: 011- 2649 6596/ 2649 6597
o o o
(iii) Hanif Kureishi’s story, ‘This Door is Shut’ appears in ‘Red: The Waterstones Anthology’
(RRP £10), available from www.waterstones.com
o o o
(iv) BOOK REVIEW: The Story of an Era
by Ashutosh Potdar
Kathryn Hansen. Stages of Life: Indian Theatre Autobiographies.
London Anthem Press, 2011. 392 pp. $99.00 (cloth), ISBN
Reviewed by Ashutosh Potdar (Independent Scholar)
Published on H-Asia (November, 2012)
Commissioned by Sumit Guha
The Story of an Era
With her new book, Stages of Life: Indian Theatre Autobiographies, an erudite scholar on Indian theater history, Kathryn Hansen attempts the recovery of little-known personal narratives from a fascinating historical period with different perspectives, and introduces them to the present-day reader. The book holds four autobiographies: Narayan Prasad Betab’s The Deeds of Betab, Radheshyam Kathavachak’s My Theatre Days, Jayshankar Sundari’s Some Blossoms, Some Tears, and Fida Husain’s Fifty Years in the Parsi Theatre. The autobiographies, translated into English from Hindi for the first time and complemented by the pictures of writers and the plays they wrote or acted in, mark the apex of the Parsi theater, covering the second half of the nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century, the “age of infectious song and story” (p. x).
An equally interesting portion of the book is Hansen’s insightful critical analysis of the “performative self” with reference to the four autobiographies. The four chapters of analysis provide a frame of reference to read the chosen texts in two ways. First, they present the broad outline of the history of the Parsi theater, its emergence, development, and intersection with other theater forms of the time. Second, as one of the chapters, “Theatrical Memoirs and The Archives of Autobiography,” suggests, Hansen investigates the autobiography as a source for writing cultural history. While tracing the history of the “self-referential texts” in India, Hansen reflects upon newer dramatic practices in various regional contexts and the emergence of theater as an institution in India through the lens of contemporary social and political movements. In addition, each autobiography is prefaced with instructive introductions. The scrupulously written introductions cover the writers’ personal histories, the stories behind writing their own stories, the translator’s work on different versions of the available source texts, and creation of the final texts to include in the book.
Of the four autobiographies, The Deeds of Betab, written in thirty-seven manzils (stages), is the story of Narayan Prasad Betab, who was born to a sweet-maker’s family four years after the commercial activities of the Parsi theater began in 1868.The moving prose of The Deeds of Betab brings to light one of the glorious eras in Indian theater when playwrights and their works were respected; they were offered a space or, to use today’s buzz word, “residencies” by theater companies to enable them to focus on writing. Indeed, playwrights like Betab responded to this “luxury” with honesty and ingenuity by revising the plays and getting “exhilarated by the work on the scene” (p. 76). Betab received an invitation from a theater company run by Jamadar Saheb when he was working with a printing press as a compositor. On the invitation, Jamadar “upped the salary to thirty rupees, agreement was reached, and to show his affection he dropped me at the railway station in his cart. The ox-cart, back then, was a sign of great wealth, even more prestigious than a motorcar today. The ride in Lalaji’s cart, the good wishes of my fellow employee, and the pomp of this farewell to poor Narayan--all lodged in my heart” (p. 76). Betab in his fascinating story narrates some of the zestful experiences in his life, as when the the company was prosecuted for producing a sensational play Qatl-e Nazir that left “the whole city abuzz” (p. 78). He was summoned and his writing examined. Interestingly, elucidating the nexus of art and society, Betab reveals that the company’s lawyer “worked pro bono, fighting the case in exchange for a free pass” (p. 78). It must be added that Kathryn Hansen finalized the translated texts after deleting some portion of them. For example, “poetic couplets and whole dialogues”and “dramatic examples” that gave the original text “performative flair” and “meta-textual comment” on Betab’s “reputation as a poet” have not been included in the translation (pp. 55-56). However, considering Betab’s contribution to the playwriting and screenwriting in the early days of theater and cinema respectively, the deleted part might have enhanced the flavor of Betab’s creative writing.
Radheshyam Kathavachak’s autobiography, My Theatre Days, organized in six chapters, covers his life from childhood to old age, exhibiting his versatile personality of performing different roles. As a part of family tradition, Radheshyam gave recitals of the Ramayana and other devotional texts; while on contract with the Parsi theater company, he wrote plays; and as a screenwriter, he played an active role in the film industry. Radheshyam also started a publishing house that printed devotional literature. Writing about the lasting impact of his legacy, Hansen writes: “The Radheshyam Ramayan ... became one of the core texts utilized in the influential television serial directed by Ramanand Sagar in the 1980s. His legacy endures in regular productions of his plays at the National School of Drama and other urban venues, and in the continuing circulation of his devotional verses in the countryside. On a more sinister note, Radheshyam’s dramas contributed to the consolidation of Hindu nationalism, and some view him as a harbinger of the divisive Hindutva politics of recent decades” (pp. 103-104).
The autobiographies of the two actors, Jayshankar Prasad, a well-known female impersonator, and Fida Husain, are feasts for theater geeks. The self-portraits of these actors give details of salaries they were paid, the clothing they were provided by their theater companies, and the daily activities they had to follow, such as washing the cooking pots, sweeping the room, and doing the dishes, although someone like Jayshankar “hated this work” (p. 194). Unlike today, when an actor memorizes his/her own dialogue, attends rehearsals, and leaves after his/her role is rehearsed, in those days, an actor like Jayshankar “had to memorize every role, so that if one of them was absent another could play his part” (p. 204). Importantly, the firsthand narratives throw light on the preparation of an actor before the modern training system of “direction” evolved. Jayshankar records, “everything was left to the actor” and “the logic was never explained.” He adds, “I had to figure out the system of knowledge by myself. Thrown into the water you learn to swim; so were taught to move our limbs, but there was no opportunity to learn the science behind it” (p. 193).
Jayashankar Prasad and Fida Husain represent the high time in theater history when the emerging entertainment economy and new forms of publicity changed relations between audience and actors, and theater companies presented women onstage through female impersonators. Some of the most mesmerizing and valuable accounts in the actors’ autobiographies are of the male actor performing female roles. Jayshankar shares his first experience of female impersonation by wearing a choli and lahanga (a bodice and long skirt). As if talking to his own mirror image, Jayshankar says, “he was transformed into a woman, or rather into the artistic form that expresses the feminine sensibility. A beautiful young female revealed herself inside me. Her shapely, intoxicating youth sparkled. Her feminine charm radiated fragrance. She had an easy grace in her eyes, and in her gait was the glory of Gujarat. She was not a man, she was a woman. An image such as this was the one I saw in the mirror” (p. 210). This representation of a woman was always of a certain sophisticated class as reflected in her accessories, hairstyle, and clothing. As with the legendary actor Balgandharva of the Marathi theater, it is remembered in Some Blossoms, Some Tears, which recounts that “women in society imitated Sundari” (p. 209). The public adored Jayshankar and he too graciously entertained them as a female impersonator. However, one might find it frustrating to see that Jayshankar, like several other female impersonators of the time, found himself locked in playing a female role. Jayshankar reveals that he was “unable to carry off a masculine gait, and people hooted [him] off the stage” when he wanted to play the male part of Muzaffar in the play Haman (p. 193).
The final autobiographical account of another female impersonator, Fifty Years in the Parsi Theatre, covers the Parsi theater well after the downturn in Indian theater that followed the release of talking movies in the 1930s. Theatre scholar Pratibha Agarwal’s interview with Fida Husain, which was published as “an oral history,” has come to be known as Husain’s autobiography. Fida Husain’s “fragmented, circular, and digressive” story, filtered through the “elicitor and editor” in order to “trigger a version of self and history,” poses a few challenges (p. 254). First, it contests the authenticity of the written autobiography against the oral narrative of the interview in telling a story of self. Second, admittedly, while there is “the need to tell a story that works” (p. 254), the inclusion of a text, previously published under the authorship of Agarwal but now presented as an autobiography of Fida Husain, is problematic. Third, the text lacks the flow and intensity of the three other autobiographies, primarily because of Agarwal’s intervention (as the interviewer) into it, even though Hansen defends the interview format in her introduction to the text.
All the four autobiographers witnessed one of the critical and formative periods in India but, curiously, they do not seem to be going beyond the mera natak, mera ghar (my home, my theater) attitude, showing aloofness to the world outside their own and to the current happenings of the time. Jayshankar does refer to the visit by the heir to the British throne to India and the resulting riots between Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, and Parsis, and the reader comes to know that he had promised a Parsi family to save them in case of a crisis that in the end did not arise. Similarly, Fida Husain expresses, as Hansen points out in the final chapter, “no hint of sympathy with the political movement for Pakistan, nor does he mention whether he or his family ever considered whether they would remain in India or migrate at Partition” (p. 330).
Besides being indifferent, a prolific writer like Narayan Prasad Betab displays,vat times, insensitivity to gender roles, especially in his discussion of and also in his tone towards widow marriages, when he writes that he was “not in favor of women being given the freedom to marry again and again.” Further in this vein, Betab writes, “However, I think that when men are widowed, they too should remain widowers. Or at least if they are going to remarry, they should marry a widow, not a virgin” (p. 80). In connection to this, Hansen makes an important observation that “None of the other autobiographies, however, describes how it felt for a man to play a women’s role.” Against this background, possibly, Sita Devi, associated with the Moonlight Theatre, referred to in Fifty Years in the Parsi Theatre, might have been included in Stages of Life to get another view on female impersonation.
There is much documentation--a major portion compiled by Kathryn Hansen herself, about the Parsi theater in the nineteenth-century India. But there have been few efforts to analyze the Parsi theater in connection with theatrical expression in other languages. Hansen’s book enables the establishment of such connections and encourages an exchange of ideas between theatrical practices across different regions in India. Thus “these readings,” as Hansen expects, “provide no closure; they are meant rather to spark questions and encourage a range of responses” (p. xiii). In this context, it would be interesting to see, for example, how the Dongri Sangeet Natak Company, also known as the Bombay Royal Opera, established in 1881, became popular through its spectacular production of Indrasabha (1881), inspired by the Parsi theater. The Patankar Sangeet Mandali, known for its production of Vikram Shashikala (1891), was one of the earliest groups to have employed tunes from the contemporary Parsi theater in its performances. Thus, rightly, as Hansen observes, “the catchy music” and “tunes from the Parsi companies soon infiltrated the soundscapes.... The allure of the new mode was so great that by the turn of the century the Parsi theater had become a ubiquitous part of public culture across the subcontinent” (p. xi).Stages of Life: Indian Theatre Autobiographies should remain a source of inspiration for performing artists to contextualize their own practices and for scholars to build a critical discourse on the cultural story of an era.
Citation: Ashutosh Potdar. Review of Hansen, Kathryn, _Stages of Life: Indian Theatre Autobiographies_. H-Asia, H-Net Reviews. November, 2012.
19. STANDING ON THE THRESHOLD: BANNING NUCLEAR WEAPONS
by Rebecca Johnson
(openDemocracy - 8 December 2012)
On the 25th anniversary of the first real disarmament agreement of the Cold War, Rebecca Johnson looks back at how the 'people to people' and 'women to women' peace campaigns helped to reframe Europe as our shared home rather than the divided and militarised Cold War blocs
Twenty-five years ago, on 8 December 1987, the Presidents of the United States and Soviet Union met in Washington to sign a breakthrough treaty to eliminate ground-launched US Cruise and Pershing missiles and Soviet SS20s from Europe. This was not just the usual kind of Cold War arms reduction meant to clear out some obsolete nukes and pave the way for new refinements. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was the first real disarmament agreement of the Cold War, resulting in the withdrawal and destruction of 2,000 landbased US and Soviet missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,000 miles. By 1992, all 96 state-of-the-art cruise missiles were removed from the US Airforce base at Greenham Common, Berkshire, as well as 16 that had just been sited at the Molesworth base near Cambridge.
The INF Treaty was finalised in conventional bilateral negotiations, but it reflected deeper political changes and ushered in a very different future than had seemed possible a few years earlier. Among the pressures that brought about this breakthrough disarmament agreement were two kinds of civil society action. Studies by US and Russian scientists that concluded that nuclear war would cause a global "nuclear winter" shocked President Gorbachev into taking the first step; while the US military was being undermined and demoralised by the innovative, persistent, and unquenchable protests of a new generation of women peace activists that grew out of the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp. Helping to reframe Europe as our shared home rather than the divided and militarised Cold War blocs, European Nuclear Disarmament (END), 'people to people' campaigns and the 'women to women' initiatives from Greenham and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) crisscrossed the Iron Curtain, journeying by foot, train and bus from Britain, West Germany, Sweden and elsewhere in Western Europe through the Baltic states or East Germany to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and on to Leningrad and Moscow.
The new thinking and people-based strategies in the resurgent European peace movement were epitomised by actions begun by a handful of women living in the open rain and mud in front of the main gate of the US Airforce Base at Greenham Common. On December 12, 1982, on the third anniversary of the NATO decision to bring the new US missiles into Europe in a "dual track" strategy that confronted the Soviet Union missiles with a "zero option", 35,000 women answered our call a to come to Greenham and "Embrace the Base".
Just before dawn on that bitterly cold, sleety Sunday I crawled out of the sagging black plastic "tent" that six of us called home after our own tents and caravans were evicted. Several hundred women from Scotland had arrived in the night and were standing with candles by the gate, gazing in at the nuclear base. Disgorged from hundreds of coaches, thousands of women encircled the whole base, covering its 9 mile perimeter fence with symbols of love - family photos, baby clothes and toys, pictures of the earth and the glories of nature, symbols of peace in Suffragette-coloured ribbons, personal mementos and witty, irreverant posters - and of fear, with strong "Ban the Bomb" messages and many graphic images of nuclear mushroom clouds and the victims from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and nuclear tests in the Pacific. Men who turned up were directed to Orange Gate at the Eastern end of the runway, where they could help run the creches, first aid, food and warm hospitality marquees catering for less mobile women and children.
For many women, "Embrace the Base" was the first time they had ever seen a nuclear base. On the buses back home, many women started plans to set up local Greenham groups. Some 6,000 stayed overnight for Monday's "Block the Base" in which we filled the roads and entrances with singing women and halted military traffic and construction work for a symbolic day. Though the Women's Peace Camp had started a year earlier, the mobilising of thousands of women to encircle and then blockade the base in December 1982 really put Greenham on the political map, with international attention and front page coverage in all the British dailies. Other actions followed in swift succession: film footage of 44 women "dancing on the silos" on New Year's day 1983 was transmitted round the world. Our Suffragette-inspired "rush" on parliament a couple of weeks later led to 70 women being penned up by police for hours after chaining ourselves to various railings and statues inside the Palace of Westminster, with Members of Parliament bringing tea, sandwiches and heartening speeches of support (though others called for us to be put on trial). Women dressed in black were arrrested for "dying in Downing Street" and blocking US Vice President Bush's car. Easter 1983 witnessed a human chain jointly organised with CND, linking Greenham with the UK nuclear bomb factories of Aldermaston and Burghfield along about 15 miles. When the second "Women's International Day for Disarmament" was coordinated by Greenham and 'Women for Life on Earth' on May 24, over a million women around the world responded with rallies, peace camps and actions at bases or local landmarks. We even fielded three candidates in the 1983 General Election (I stood against Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine in Henley). For the June 21 solstice we held a dragon-themed arts festival, and then celebrated July 4 with a week long blockade of all the USAF gates at Greenham, organised this time by Greenham women's groups in London, hundreds of whom took the week off work to sit in roads and stop military vehicles.
Halloween was celebrated by thousands of women who cut the Greenham fences and occupied the runway. And in November, coinciding with the court case taken by thirteen Greenham Women Against Cruise and two US Congressmen in the New York courts, women organised demonstrations at all 102 US bases in the British isles. On Greenham's side, feminist lawyer Jane Hickman and New York's Center for Constitutional Rights, while district attorney Rudy Giuliani (who later became NY's mayor) defended the US President and Joint Chiefs of Staff. We were seeking an injunction to prevent cruise being deployed. But by the time the case went back to Court, the first 16 cruise missiles had been flown into Greenham and installed in the silos that we had previously danced atop.
Though disappointed, no-one was surprised. Our legal initiatives and nonviolent direct action were intended to put the military and government authorities under pressure and focus public attention on this new generation of nuclear weapons, but we knew that unless we could change the political context, the US Airforce had the technology and power to fly the first cruise missiles over our heads. Michael Heseltine strategised with the US military, who were authorised to shoot protesters if we got too close to the weapons. In response, on December 13, 1983, 50,000 women again surrounded the Greenham base, while thousands of British and American military were deployed inside the perimeter, their own faces reflecting back at them from thousands of mirrors. The mood was much angrier as we pulled the fences down instead of decorating them. Anger can be necessary and empowering and still nonviolent, if channelled into opening common land and removing shackles and undertaken with care not to harm others.
That year ended with Greenham women getting into one of the sensitive military areas that Heseltine had told Parliament we could not reach. On December 27, three of us climbed up the air traffic control tower and suspended a 'peace on earth' banner from the top. After getting into the control room, we occupied it for five hours and read classified documents on base procedures in the event of accident or attack involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. These were all about saving the US military personnel, with nothing about warning local emergency services or helping the people living near the base.
From 1984 - and for the next few years - our challenge was to prevent cruise missile deployment being successful and to keep the feminist, anti-militarism of Greenham growing everywhere, no matter what was used to dislodge us: courts, evictions, imprisonment, vigilante and police violence. The road-based mobility of cruise missiles was their special feature, intended to 'mel<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)