Showing posts with label Activist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Activist. Show all posts

Remembering Kamla Bhasin, Indian Feminist Activist, Poet, Author, And Social Scientist.







Kamla Bhasin, a well-known feminist activist, died in the early hours of Saturday (25th of September 2021) after a long battle with cancer. She was 75 years old at the time. 



Bhasin, who was born in 1946 in the hamlet of Shahidanwaali in Punjab (now Pakistan), was known for her ability to speak to a room full of "anybodys" - diplomats, television viewers, feminists, and children, to name a few. 

The underlying theme, which she tailored to the audience, was always one of gender equality. 

After four years with a rural non-governmental organization named Seva Mandir in Udaipur, Bhasin joined the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1976, where she worked until 2002. 


Sangat, a South Asian Feminist Network, was founded in 2004 by Bhasin and fellow feminists Abha Bhaiya, Runu Chakravarty, Gauri Choudhury, Sheba Chhacchi, Manjari Dingwaney, and Joginder Panghaal, with the assistance of Delhi-based feminist resource organization Jagori. 




Bhasin was involved in major feminist battles in the nation throughout the 1980s and 1990s, from rallies against dowry killings to demonstrations that led to reforms in the way rape and sexual assault were punished. 


She also helped to the cause by writing feminism, patriarchy, and violence pamphlets that were translated into various languages and served as the foundation for Women's Studies in a number of organizations. 

In the last decade, she has also been connected with Eve Ensler's One Billion Rising campaign to eliminate violence against women. 

Bhasin's FAO work brought her all across South Asia, where she met other female activists and formed lasting connections. 


Bhasin and other feminists from the Global South made a major contribution to the feminist movement by expanding its reach beyond national borders, ensuring that the movement also attacked the military-nationalist complex, which they saw as part of patriarchal oppression. 

Bhasin initially visited Pakistan after Partition in 1983, at the request of the Pakistani Family Planning Association, to assist them organize their work on women's empowerment. 

She met renowned feminist lawyer Asma Jahangir (who died in 2018) and other Women's Action Forum activists. 

During the 1980s, Bhasin and Nighat Said Khan from Pakistan, among others, assisted women from both countries in forging connections: they met for workshops, discussed relevant issues and protest strategies that drove the feminist movement in both countries, and, most importantly, they exchanged and re-wrote songs that were frequently sung during these protests. 

Kamla was a pioneer in the women's movement not just in India but also in South Asia. 

She had an incredible capacity to convey the most difficult topics, such as patriarchy, feminism, masculinity, peace, nonviolence, and development from the perspective of women, via rhyme, music, poetry, images, and texts. 



"She worked across generations, and she inspired a lot of young feminists all across South Asia,” said Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of the People's Union of Civil Liberties in Rajasthan, headquartered in Jaipur. 

Bhasin's talent to versify and narrate stories helped her establish and sustain relationships across boundaries. 

She quickly established a name as a songwriter and creator of children's rhymes. 

Bhasin's feminism was activism in action; the manner in which it was carried out was equally important: women had to meet, speak, sing, and laugh with one another; the transformation, she once told this writer, had to take place on the inside. 

“Tod tod kay bandhanon ko dekho bahnain aati hain...Ayengi, zulm mitaengi (breaking the shackles that hold them back, behold, the ladies have risen...)” is one of Bhasin's songs from the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

They'll be the ones to put an end to oppression)” — was inspired by popular Punjabi folklore and quickly became a fixture at most feminist events. 




Bhasin also brought shouts from feminist demonstrations on the other side of the border. 



She remembered learning the phrase "Meri behane maange Azaadi" from Pakistani feminists in an interview with the Hindustan Times in 2018. 

She subsequently claimed she invented the words. 

“The phrases would vary a lot depending on what we were demonstrating against, whether it was caste inequality, tribal injustice, or violence against women,” Bhasin added. 

Bhasin's rhymes challenged gender stereotypes and norms, including the well-known Dhammak Dham, a children's book published by UNICEF, and the poem "Kyunki mein ladki hun mujhe padhna hai/Padhne ki mujhe manahi hai so padhna hai (It's because I'm a girl, I want to study/ It's because I'm not meant to study Jagori adapted the rhymes to music and marketed them as audio cassettes and, subsequently, CDs. 

“When I think back on my thirty-plus years in the women's movement, Kamla's songs come to me first. These songs made me angry against patriarchy and happy to be a sister. Kamla's music defied categorization. They had nothing to do with victimization or agency. There were songs that were furious, sorrowful, funny, and passionate. They demonstrated that we were not alone and that change could be achieved. Kamla was a true ‘zinda dil,'” queer feminist activist Jaya Sharma remarked. 

Bhasin's appearance on Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate, where she spoke about the need for a paradigm shift in understanding rape – not as the victim's loss of honor, but the perpetrator's – was as significant as her ground-breaking speech at the Beijing Women's Conference in 1995: both received standing ovations. 


From the back seats, she could quietly applaud a heated gathering of India-Pakistan peace campaigners. 

However, determining her nationality would be challenging. 

When she was sick, she could use her wheelchair to mark the end of a hard night for the ladies of the area by reciting stirring poetry. 

She would, however, immediately explain. 

The trip was anti-patriarchy, not anti-men. 

Kamla Bhasin, who died on Saturday at the age of 75 after a brief battle with illness, is best known for grafting a phrase originally used by Pakistani women opposing Gen Ziaul Haq's tyranny on the Indian political system: the universal and unqualified demand for Azadi, or freedom. 

According to one account of the slogan's voyage to India, Bhasin, then in her forties, drew attention to herself during a Women's Studies Conference at Kolkata's Jadavpur University by beating a small drum and chanting a phrase. 


While surrounded by other women, ‘Azadi' stands up against patriarchy. 

Kamla Bhasin was inspired by the chant and created her own poetry based on its fundamental essence. 

“I know a lot of patriarchal, anti-women ladies, and I know a lot of guys who have spent their whole lives fighting for women's rights. Feminism is an idea, not a biological phenomenon.” 

What started as a feminist rallying cry was quickly applied to the struggles of laborers, dalits, and adivasis, among others. 

She delivered the now-famous words at a campaign to abolish violence against women called "One Billion Rising from South Asia."

 “For self-expression — Azadi/for celebration — Azadi... from patriarchy — Azadi/from hierarchy — Azadi/from unending violence — Azadi/from hopeless silence — Azadi...” 


Kamla Bhasin started working full-time on her feminist network Sangat after leaving her position at the United Nations in the 1970s. 

Bhasin was given a sad funeral in Delhi's Lodhi electric cremation, and tributes came in from all across South Asia. 

Prashant Bhu­shan, a prominent human rights lawyer, stated, "She was not just a women's rights fighter, but also a philanthropist who established and helped establish several excellent public interest organizations like Jagori in HP and School for Democracy in Rajasthan." “She will be sorely missed.” 




Books, Writings as well as other Scholarly works 


She authored books and pamphlets about patriarchy and gender that have been translated into almost 30 languages. 




       

       

 



Many NGOs now utilize them to assist people understand gender problems. 


Her book, Feminism & Its Relevance in South Asia, which she co-authored with Bindia Thapar and was originally published in 2005, was reprinted in 2013 and now has a Hindi edition (Hasna Toh Sangharsho Mein Bhi Zaroori Hai). 

Borders & Boundaries: Women in India's Partition, Understanding Gender, and What Is Patriarchy? are some of her other notable works. 

She envisioned a feminist movement that transcended class, borders, and other binary social divides in her writings and politics. 

She was a key figure in South Asia's One Billion Rising campaign

She traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal, to kick off the 2017 edition of the movement. 

She read her renowned Azadi poem to great applause and audience involvement at a One Billion Rising event in New Delhi in 2013. 




Ideologies



She spoke out against capitalism's role as a patriarchal actor in the objectification of women's bodies. 


Her hatred of capitalism, on the other hand, sprang from a far more fundamental political position. 

She said that the contemporary family's nature is founded on the idea of ownership. 

"It all began with the creation of private property. 

People wanted to leave a legacy, but since there were no families, males had no idea who their children were. 

Only women were recognized as moms. 

That's when patriarchy arrived," she said. 

Furthermore, she said that contemporary neoliberal capitalism, with its grotesque numbers such as the pornography and cosmetics industries, each worth billions of dollars, reduces women to their bodies. 

Furthermore, these sectors encourage women to be dehumanized, which adds to a culture of violence and abuse. 

"So what's the harm in rapping or touching you once you're a body?" Kamla inquires. 

She criticizes capitalism as a system in which everything is for sale and profits take precedence over individuals. 

"India needs a cultural revolution," Bhasin remarked.



She hated the fact that women in South Asia are enslaved by a plethora of societal traditions and beliefs that support and uphold patriarchy. 


"Patriarchy is often justified using religion as a shield. 

When you ask a question, you will be answered, "yeh toh hamara sanskar hai, riwaaj hai (This is our culture, our customs)." In a 2013 interview with The Hindu, she said, "And when this is done, it implies reasoning has finished and believe has crept in." She questioned the legitimacy and history of common words, as well as patriarchal notions in language. 

The Hindi term swami, which is often used for a partner, for example, connotes 'lord' or 'owner,' as does the word 'husband,' which has its origins in animal husbandry. 

She declared all of these practices to be in violation of India's constitution, which guarantees every woman the right to equality and a decent existence. 



Feminist theory perspectives 


Feminism is not a western idea, according to Bhasin. 


She emphasized that Indian feminism is rooted in the country's own trials and tragedies. 

She said that she did not become a feminist by reading other feminists, but rather as part of a broader natural progression from being a development worker to becoming a feminist development worker. 

She said that it is a common occurrence. 

"People are not pleased with feminism, and even if I name it XYZ, they will still be opposed," she remarked when asked what she had to say about the assumption that the word feminism antagonizes a lot of people. 

It's because they're bothered by the idea that we desire freedom and equality, and there are a lot of individuals, conventions, and traditions that oppose women's liberation.” 

While she acknowledged that theory and action must work together for change to occur, she also believes that feminist theory is critical. 

Social scientists, feminists, and academics were often consulted and collaborated with in her seminars. 

They may be characterized as a union of action and philosophy. 

Feminism, she insisted, is not a battle between men and women. 

She described the conflict as a battle between two philosophies. 

One that empowers males and elevates them, and the other that promotes equality. 



Bhasin is survived by four siblings, including former Rajasthan lawmaker Bina Kak, as well as a disabled son, Jeet. 

Meeto Bhasin Malik, her only child, committed suicide in 2006. 

Bhasin's funeral was conducted at the Lodi Road crematorium in New Delhi on September 25.




You may also want to read more about India here.




Remembering Gail Omvedt - American Born Indian Author, Sociologist And Human Rights Activist








Gail Omvedt (2nd of August 1941 – 25th August 2021) was an Indian sociologist and human rights activist who was born in the United States. 






She was a prolific writer who authored many books about India's anti-caste movement, Dalit politics, and women's issues. 







  • Omvedt was active in anti-caste and Dalit movements, as well as environmental, farmers', and women's movements, particularly among rural women. 
  • Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The Non-Brahman Movement in Western India, - was the title of Omvedt's dissertation. 










  • Numerous books and essays on class, caste, and gender problems are among Omvedt's scholarly writings. 
  • She worked as a consultant for FAO, UNDP, and NOVIB, as well as a Dr Ambedkar Chair Professor at NISWASS in Orissa, a professor of sociology at the University of Pune, and an Asian guest professor at Copenhagen's Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. 
  • She was the research director of the Krantivir Trust and a senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. 








Gail Omvedt was born in Minneapolis and received her bachelor's and master's degrees in sociology from Carleton College and UC Berkeley, respectively. 


  • She has been a citizen of India since 1983. 
  • She and her husband, Bharat Patankar, resided in Kasegaon, Maharashtra, with their mother-in-law, Indumati Patankar, and relatives. 
  • She worked as a consultant sociologist on gender, environment, and rural development for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Oxfam Novib (NOVIB), and other organizations in the years leading up to her death. 
  • She worked as a consultant for UN agencies and NGOs, as well as a Professor of Sociology at the University of Pune, an Asian Guest Professor at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in Copenhagen, and a Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. 
  • She worked as a Visiting Professor and Coordinator at the University of Pune's School of Social Justice, as well as a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla. 
  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Chair of Social Change and Development at IGNOU has Gail Omvedt as a previous Chair Professor. 





At the age of 80, Omvedt passed away in August, 2021. She is survived by her husband Dr. Bharat Patankar, daughter Prachi, son in law Tejaswi and grand daughter Nia who are settled in the United States.




  • In India, Omvedt worked with social movements such as the Dalit and anti-caste movements, environmental movements, farmers' movements, and particularly rural women. 
  • Shramik Mukti Dal, Stri Mukti Sangarsh Chalval, which works on problems of abandoned women in the Sangli and Satara regions of southern Maharashtra, and the Shetkari Mahila Aghadi, which focuses on issues of women's land rights and political power, were both active in her community. 




Omvedt was critical of Hinduism's holy texts (or what she referred to as "brahminism") for promoting a caste-based society, according to her. 




  • Omvedt criticized the Hindu practice of venerating the Vedas as sacred, in addition to criticizing their seeming support for the caste system. 
  • She expressed her views on the Rigveda in an open letter to then-BJP President Bangaru Laxman, which was published in The Hindu: The Vedas, particularly the Rg Veda, are magnificent literature. 

  • I can only speak from translations, but I'm happy the prohibition on women and shudras reading them has been lifted, and that excellent translations by women and shudras themselves are now accessible. 

    • But to treat them as though they were holy? Check them out for yourself. 
    • The majority of the songs are aimed at achieving victory in battle, cattle rustling, and love-making, among other things. 

  • They celebrate conquest; hymns about Indra and Vrtra sound suspiciously as if the Aryans were responsible for destroying dams built by the Indus valley people; despite archeologists' claims that there is no evidence of direct destruction by "Aryan invasion," the Rg Veda reveals enmity between the Aryans and those they called dasyus, panis, and the like. 






Despite the prevalence of caste-based discrimination, Omvedt claims that Hindutva organizations promote an ethnic definition of Hinduism based on location, lineage, and history in order to build unity across different castes. 



Omvedt agreed with Dalit activists who said during the World Conference Against Racism that caste discrimination is akin to racism in that disadvantaged groups are seen as "biologically inferior and socially harmful." 





  • She has called the United States a "racist country" and advocated for affirmative action; however, she has compared American affirmative action policies favorably to those of India, saying, "It is a sad commentary on the state of Indian industrialists' social consciousness that such discussions have begun in an organized way in the United States before they have been thought of in India itself." 
  • In terms of perceptions of "group performance" in the United States and India, Omvedt wrote: "Whereas the debate in the United States assumes an overall equal distribution of capacity among social groups, in India the assumption appears to be that the unequal showing of different caste groups on examinations, in education, and so on is a result of actual different capacities." She has backed large-dam projects and GMO crops on occasion.








Omvedt's academic writing includes numerous books and articles on class, caste and gender issues, most notably:



  • Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The NonBrahman Movement in Maharashtra (Scientific Socialist Education Trust, 1966)
  • We Shall Smash This Prison: Indian Women in Struggle (1979)
  • "We Will Smash This Prison!.: Indian Women in Struggle " (Zed, 1980)
  • "Violence Against Women: New Movements And New Theories In India" (Kali for Women, 1991)
  • Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements in India (M.E. Sharpe, 1993)
  • Gender and Technology: Emerging Asian Visions (1994)
  • Dalits And The Democratic Revolution: Dr. Ambedkar And The Dalit Movement In Colonial India (Sage India, 1994)

  • Dalit Visions: the Anticaste movement and Indian Cultural Identity (Orient Longman, 1995)
  • Growing Up Untouchable: A Dalit Autobiography (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000)
  • Buddhism in India : Challenging Brahmanism and Caste (SageIndia, 2003
  • "Ambedkar: Towards an Enlightened India " (Penguin, 2005)
  • Seeking Begumpura: The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals (New Delhi, Navayana, 2009)
  • "Understanding Caste: From Buddha To Ambedkar And Beyond" (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2011)
  • Songs of Tukoba with Bharat Patankar she has published (translations) (Manohar, 2012)
  • Jotirao Phule and the Ideology of Social Revolution in India.







Awards And Recognition:



  • Matoshree Bhimabai Ambedkar Award (2012)
  • BA received Magna Cum Laude, with Distinction in Senior Comprehensive Examinations
  • PhD qualifying examinations passed with Distinction
  • Honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, 1964–65
  • Fulbright Fellowship as Tutor in English in India, June 1963-March 1964
  • University of California Graduate Fellowships, 1964–65, 1965–66
  • American Institute of Indian Studies, Junior Fellowship for PhD research in India on “The NonBrahman Movement in Maharashtra,” January–December 1971
  • American Association of University Women, Fellowship for research on “Women’s Movement in India,” January–December 1975
  • Savitribai Phule Puraskar, Padmashri Kavivarya Narayan Surve Sarvajanik Vacanalay, Nashik, 2002
  • Dr. Ambedkar Chetna Award, Manavwadi Rachna Manch Punjab, August 2003
  • ABP Majha Sanman Purskar, 2012
  • Vitthal Ramji Shinde Award, April 2015






You may also want to read more about Hinduism here.

Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.