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Islam, Gender Relations, and Women’s Agency Workshop – India contributions needed November 19, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : India , comments closed

Islam, Gender Relations, and Women’s Agency

A two-day international workshop exploring Islam, gender relations and women’s agency in terms of India–Indonesia connections and comparisons

17–18th December, 2015 (9am-5pm)

Room 1.04, HC Coombs Extension (Building 9), Australian National University

This workshop will investigate connections, comparisons and contrasts between Muslim cultures in India and Indonesia, with a particular focus on gender relations, family and personal law.  Keynote speakers will be Professor Emerita Pnina Werbner (Keele University, UK), Flavia Agnes (MAJLIS, India), and Nursyahbani Katjasungkana (LBH-APIK, Indonesia). (more…)

Overcoming gender discrimination in India April 2, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Rajiv Kumar

It is a bitter irony that International Women’s Day came right on the heels of the controversy about the government ban on a BBC documentary about the fatal 2012 gang rape of a young Indian woman known by the pseudonym ‘Nirbhaya’. The documentary has, as could be expected, raked up public emotions that feed on self-righteousness, jingoism and middle class pretensions. The public discussion that followed the government ban unfortunately distracts from the real issue. This was not the only, and will surely not be the last, case of maltreatment of women in India.

Every day there are thousands of Indian girls and women who are kidnapped, tortured and trafficked. Some are victims of honour killings ordered by khaps or fatwas, a punishment dealt on the basis of religious legal judgment. A large number of cases of domestic violence and marital rape routinely go unreported. Thousands of girls are trafficked across the border from neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh and forced into prostitution. As a society, Indians choose to not only ignore but also often connive in the perpetration of these crimes. In any case Indian society does not care to challenge the stereotype of ‘good women’ propagated by both Hindu and Muslim extremists, and fringe groups. Why then the hypocrisy when an ‘outsider’, like the BBC, shines a light on this issue?


Contradictory trends: crisis and expansion in television May 23, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Nalin Mehta

In early 2008, India’s Zee News broadcast a ‘special investigation’. With a loud, red banner labelling the inquiry an ‘exclusive’, the program made two claims: first, it professed to have found definitive proof that Ravana, the mythical villain of the Ramayana, had maintained an air force. And second, the program revealed that it had found a secret cave in Sri Lanka containing Ravana’s mummified body.

By way of proof, the channel offered an excited-looking reporter standing on a hill holding some local black soil. As he explained, the soil was black because the blast from Ravana’s aircraft had singed it. For the second claim, the channel specified that the mythical demon king’s mummy was exactly 17 feet long and it lay entombed in a mountain cave. Only, the intrepid reporter could not reach the supposed crypt because there were demons guarding their lord’s mummy.


‘People of righteousness’ march on for Sri Lanka June 26, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

A longer version first appeared here in Transcurrents

The war crimes accusations levelled against the Sri Lankan government at the moment are driven by a complex coalition of forces. In the vanguard are people of righteousness. Such a man is Gordon Weiss. His demeanour as he addresses television audiences is that of a crusader. The iconic picture of himself adopted in his very own website, benignly overseeing a mass of African children, reminds one of a missionary.

The advocates of human rights today are reminiscent of the nineteenth century missionaries in Asia who set out to save the poor benighted ‘natives’ and rid them of idol worship. The moral crusaders of today pursue a different agenda. They are secular fundamentalists marching forth to cleanse the world of “evil” in the form of carbon pollution, smoke inhalation, et cetera. However, like the missionaries of yesteryear, they adhere to an either/or evaluation of the worlds before them.

For Sri Lanka these people of righteousness present a clear picture: Eelam War IV was a brutal war involving atrocities from both sides in the conflict, government and LTTE. It was also ‘a war without witnesses’, a phrase parroted ad nauseam and repeated recently by Weiss in a high-profile ABC interview. This text is self-serving: it renders the spokespersons into the only honest witnesses.

Their witness includes statistics on ‘civilian’ deaths. This is not surprising. We are dwelling in an era captivated by the magical wand of statistics and the impression of precision generated by the imprint of number. So Gordon Weiss told us earlier that his computation of civilian deaths ranged from 15,000 to 40,000. Invariably this sound bite gets twisted in world reportage and is presented categorically in several outlets as ‘40,000’.


Uneasy neighbours August 28, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise , comments closed

Louise Merrington

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

In August last year the Chennai Centre for China Studies, a hawkish Indian foreign-policy think tank, published a copy of an article it clearly hoped would create a furore. Translated from a Chinese website, the article detailed how China could split India into ten or twenty ethnically based states by funding insurgents and supporting restive neighbours like Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. As expected, controversy ignited across India.

With their usual tendency to manufacture outrage, India’s voracious tabloids and twenty-four-hour television stations began baying for Chinese blood. And in a typical display of the Indian media’s tendency to eat their own, they also turned on the Hindu’s Beijing correspondent, Ananth Krishnan – one of only four Indian correspondents in China – when he dared to suggest that not everything on China’s internet can be associated with the Chinese government.

Coming on top of a series of low-level skirmishes on the India–China border, the controversy illustrated just how deep anti-China feeling still runs in large sections of Indian society. The roots of the hostility lie in the still-disputed border and a three-month conflict – nearly fifty years ago – that many people outside India have never heard of. As the furore showed, the relationship between the two countries might have evolved in many ways over the last six decades, but some things haven’t changed.


FEATURE ARTICLE: Curry bashing? A Racist Australian Underbelly and the Education Industry February 6, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : D'Costa, Bina, Features, India, South Asia - General , comments closed

Bina D’Costa

Nitin Garg had arrived in Australia from Jagraon, in the northern Indian state of Punjab, expecting a promising future. Three years later, as a permanent resident and with a postgraduate degree in Commerce he left for India in a body bag. By the time the next ‘breaking news’ occurs, his violent death will be forgotten. But for his mother, his 98 year old grandfather and his siblings, Nitin’s violent stabbing at West Footscray in Melbourne will be forever remembered with the tears of losing a loved one and the guilt for making the decision to send him to the West, which is assumed to be safer than India. Nitin and perhaps his whole family’s future relied on his endurance, even if dreadfully lonely, in an alien metropolis. The south-eastern state of Victoria, one of the most multicultural locations in the world, is where 21 year old Nitin died alone on 2 January 2010. Violent deaths and assaults like his stabbing, racially motivated or not, have consequences, not only in political terms but for personal lives. (more…)

Is the Indian media reading China right? September 9, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Venkatesan Vembu

In recent weeks, there’s been a perceptible escalation in tension between India and China, focused principally on a border dispute that has dragged on for decades. Media reports in both India and China have struck a shrill note (see here for a summary), which has effectively drowned out efforts by officials in both countries to lower the pitch.

The recent posting of an ‘essay’ on a Chinese-language website (original post inaccessible, but it has been replicated here), which outlined a strategy for China to ‘balkanise’ India, and the Indian media’s hysterical reaction to it only served to reinforce the enormous ‘trust deficit’ that exists between the two countries – and revealed that passions on both sides remain highly inflamed.

However provocative the ‘essay’ may have been, the over-the-top Indian media and popular response to it, without the faintest attempt at verifying the authenticity of the original post or the extent to which its message reflected official Chinese mindsets reveals a disquieting vacuum in Indian understanding of China.