Saturday, September 24, 2005

Terrorism In Orissa

Via BBC comes report of yet another disgusting outrage against women, this time in Orissa.

Six women in a village in the eastern state of Orissa were dragged by their hair, beaten and paraded naked by a group of upper caste men.

They were attacked because the men in their families had refused to wash the feet of upper caste wedding guests.

There is a caste dynamic here, which the story correctly notes, but equally as important is the gender dynamic.

These incidents are happening far too frequently for comfort. Or perhaps, they are being reported more than they've been in the past. Whatever it is, we now know that India is rotting inside.

If 6 people had been lynched by those from another faith, millions of Indians would be seen protesting against the savagery. When 6 women are humiliated by those from another community, we note the outrage as a law & order matter or a sensationalist headline, then move on.

We can't move on. We can't continue having this in India and still write about our nation with words of pride. Our nation is nothing -- its name is mud -- if we cannot rise up as a people and stamp out this kind of nonsense that goes on everyday in our midst.

Too many of us, who live in big cities far-removed from these fundamental struggles, have left it to our pathetic and criminally impotent Governments to salve our surely bothered conscience on such issues. In other words, we rationalize our personal silence and inaction by hoping that Government action will bail us out. Why is this different from people with a poverty of spirit who hope that Government action will bail them out of their wretchedness?

Please, please, please let's treat this incident as if it were a terrorist attack -- which it is. Let's please make a much bigger deal of this than merely a one day story merits. Please, every blogger with conscience, call on everyone you can reach to protest in any manner possible. India must know that Indians are in anguish when other Indians are in terror. If we don't do this, who will?

zaraa is mulk ke rahabaron ko bulaao
ye kuuche ye galiyaan ye manzar dikhaao
jinhen naaz hai hind par unako laao
jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahaan hain
kahaan hain, kahaan hain, kahaan hain?

Sahir Ludhianvi rings just as true in this context.

link courtesy: ITRANS Song Book (ISB)


doubtinggaurav said...


Rightly put.
We can't remain indifferent or rely on dysfunctional state.


Primary Red said...


Hopefully, other bloggers too will pick up this story and give it a volume it would otherwise never reach.

Best regards.

Harini Calamur said...

i have posted something quite similar on a flurry of articles on violence against women in the last couple of days.
it is quite scary.
terrorism is such an apt word.
dalit women are possibly the worst off - having to cope with both gender and caste violence.

Kamesh said...

I must say that you cannöt be more right. Caste system is a major peril to our society and every one should be educated on this.


Primary Red said...


Hopefully other bloggers will join us in really amplifying this issue.

Best regards.

sanjay said...

As usual, BBC has misreported the events & the blogger has not done any independent research.

Deccan Herald reports that, per the local custom, barbers are hired by the bride's family for the ceremonial washing of feet of the groom's side i.e. of the baraatis. The barbers are contracted i.e. paid good money to do a certain job.

Apparently, some of the barbers refused to honour this contract during the actual event i.e. precisely at the time of execution of the contract. These same barbers could have refused to this earlier but they didn't for reasons not clear. Perhaps, an ambush was in the offing.

In any case, this last minute refusal was seen as a mark of direct & deliberate disrespect towards the bride, the groom etc.

I would never take the BBC at face value, particuarly when it comes to news about India.

Duraiswamy said...

I would disagree with Sanjay (with respect). While the BBC, or for that matter, the mainstream English language media in India sensationalizes issues in an often shoddy journalism, this incident in Orissa is one of concern.

Regardless of whether the barbers had lived up to their terms of the contract or not, the "upper castes" had no right to humiliate and dishonor the women.

There appears to be a crisis of jurisprudence in India where such cases are not addressed in a swift manner. It is an institutional shortcoming that needs remedy, if India is to progress. One of India's neighbors has had a horrific record on gender issues. Should such incidents continue unaddressed, India would be no different!

sanjay said...

Duraiswamy: with all due respect, what is there of so much "concern" that outsiders like BBC need to get involved? If laws have been broken, the local police will handle it. In India, when there is a disagreement between two communities, there is a high probability that one will have a higher sub-jati status than the other. A caste angle can be found each time two people even raise their voices. Let us not jump to conclusions.

The ground reality is that the claims of sexual improprieties have already been rejected by the local authorities & they have filed no charges whatsoever. This is despite the fact that several NGOs (foreign funded, with deep pockets & with ties to foreign media) are deeply involved on the side of the barbers.

As far as the "crisis of jurisprudence" in india is concerned, let us not foorget that the vast majority of cases in the indian courts are land disputes. Azim Premji noted that 90% of rural farmland in India is under some dispute. A remnant of the British raj.

As bloggers, it is up to us to expose biased reporting in the mainstream press. If all we're going to do is jump on the mainstream bandwagon, what is the need for a blog, an alternative voice? We might as well just subscribe to BBC.


Primary Red said...

Sorry, Sanjay, you are dead wrong on this one. Deccan Herald too has reported essentially the same facts; our choice of linking to BBC does not negate the essential story.

It's easy to beat on BBC in an attempt to distract from the core allegations. It's easy to say police haven't filed charges to say the terrorism did not occur. By so doing, however, you are doing a profound injustice to the victims in this case.

As our post explicitly noted, we were concerned about the gender dynamic here. That such garbage happens in India is not a BBC fabrication; we happen to be Indians and know first-hand some of these dynamics. We do not need you to tell us what we should or should not believe about our own country. To give you the benefit of the doubt on sincerity, surely you were jesting when you offered the police not having filed a report as an argument that the incident never happened -- because if you weren't, you either have no idea how our police operates in rural India, or you couldn't care less about the victim women here.

You may think you are defending India's image by jumping to its defense, but you are wrong (in fact, just as wrong as Musharraf is in his absurd attempts to defend his country's honor.)

Besides, if India's image needs defending against this aggressively pro-India blogger, then we are in a world of hurt. We don't know much about you but your views are quite similar to those of self-appointed India-defenders abroad who, alas, have even given up their Indian citizenship for "convenience" then presume to tell us how we (who deliberately & proudly keep our citizenship) should perceieve events in our own country. We need no certificates on patriotism from anybody.

If you want to defend India's image, you've got to join us in making clear to Indians that this kind of nonsense is not acceptable. Remember, favorable facts create favorable coverage in the media. You cannot overturn reality with clever rationalization for why it likely never happened or why its the fault of the foreigners.


Best respects.

sanjay said...

Primary Red: Just saying I'm wrong is unacceptable, you have to demonstrate it. Even one example from the BBC reconciled back to the Deccan Herald version shows how shallow is your claim.

Herald: local barbers are paid to touch the feet of baraatis as a sign of respect from the girl's side
BBC: barbers are forced to touch the feet of all upper caste folks during weddings

There is a world of difference between the two & the BBC version is designed to show compulsion, force against the barbers. If anything, it is the barbers who first accepted money & then refused to follow through with their job at the last moment. Seems like a clear case of provocation to me. The BBC was cunning enough to realize this & it is perhaps why they "modified" the story a bit.

Regardless of citizenship, nationality or other irrelevant points, we do no justice to anyone by sweeping facts such as these under the carpet. Of course, if crimes have been committed against women (or anyone else), then the perpetrators have to be caught, tried & punished by due process of law.

If you want to make real changes in India then you have to see things as they really are at the ground level, not as BBC wants you to see them.

Perhaps the key guiding principle of our culture is that one is free to practice one's customs, beliefs, superstitions (however wierd & silly it may appear to others) as long as you do not apply force, violence or compulsion against any other community or person. You have not yet demonstrated to me, from either version of this story, that force or compulsion was initially applied against the barbers to make them do something against their will.

Imo, one cannot claim to be putatively pro India & anti Indian culture at the same time.


Jaffna said...


I note and respect the patriotism you have. I sincerely do. I also profoundly suspect western journalism and that includes the BBC.

However, the core issue here is one of women's rights and due process of law. Both appear to be violated and are a point of deep concern.

India needs to progress. And it can only progress when 50% of its population are given the identical opportunity and status that the other 50% enjoys. This is a gender issue, not one of nationalism.

As for the BBC, let us create alternate spaces to gather accurate information across the globe, where the BBC and others of like hue would be irrelevant in ten years. That would be the happiest moment in my life.

Primary Red said...

Sanjay's response is regrettably absurd.

Notice he continues harping on the trivial details of what preceded the terrorist act -- in an attempt to rationalize it as a provocation. OK, if it was a provocation, we'd like Sanjay to tell us what action it provoked, and whether that action represents a high point of "Indian Culture" that he seeks to defend from us. Of course, he doesn't know since he wasn't there, but he leaps kneejerk into defending people who have committed the most vile act posssible -- defending them against us of all people. This would be ludicrously comic, if it weren't a serious outrage.

As for the issue of nationality, it is hardly irrelevant. No one who gave up his/her Indian citizenship for personal comfort dare ever tell an Indian what he/she may say or not. As foreigners of Indian origin, such people are welcome in India, but should never overstep their bounds. When they abandoned their passports, they abandoned a great deal more.

Finally, dogmatic defense of our outrageous caste practices that go on in the hinterland everyday (once again, on this, this eyewitness doesn't need anyone's certification on what he knows to be true), is inexplicable. Why is this any different than apologists across the Arab world trying to justify all manner of reprehensible conduct in the name of their culture?

Best regards.

sanjay said...

Jaffna: I respect your thoughtful & cool headed response but reject the notion of some sort of embedded patriotism in my posts since it leads too quickly to its opposite - traitor, sepoy etc. Imo, we need to get beyond western style dichotomies i.e. good vs evil, us vs them & move towards indian philosophy which encourages a joint search for truth. Pointing out factual errors in BBC reporting does not automatically mean disrespect for either the BBC or western journalism. It does mean that there is need for vigilance & an open mind.

You suggest that "the core issue here is one of women's rights and due process of law. Both appear to be violated and are a point of deep concern." How is this a women's rights issue? either a law has been violated or it has not. The reports I read indicate that FIRs were filed by foreign NGOs but the local police found no evidence or merit to actually make arrests. Who do we believe? the NGOs or the local police?


sanjay said...

Primary Red: Thanks for keeping the personal attacks & private emotions out of this discussion. It really helps the cause when people focus on issues, not on the colour of one's passport. Using emotive language like "terrorist", "vile act" based on little more than news reports indicates closure, finality, judgementalism, hostility & anger. Hardly a conducive milieu for free and open dialogue.

One point: Let us not go overboard on Indian citizenship. Ninety-nine percent of bullets fired on behalf of colonialists were by red-blooded Indians, while those who fought on behalf of freedom for Indians were NRIs like Gandhi, Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, Bose, bhikaji cama & numerous more.


libertarian said...

Aahhh ... to be free to disagree ... :-) - Sanjay, PR - you gotta love THAT at least


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