Monday, July 17, 2017

In the Age of Indiscriminate Violence - an Open Letter

This past Saturday, I was on my way to a workshop 'In My Name - Open Letters in the Park' organized by the Fearless Collective, when I became a witness to an incident of violence and joined others in resisting it. Unlikely coincidence or a sign of our times? I feel that this incident can best be described through the Open Letter I wrote later at the workshop.

                                                                                                        15th July, 2017

Open letter to the lawyers who thrashed a motorist at Cubbon Park this morning

Dear Advocates,

I don't know you and you don't know me. Our paths crossed coincidentally this morning when I entered Cubbon Park at the Hudson Circle gate (near the High Court) on my way to a meetup. A policeman was arguing with a motorist who had left his car in a wrong spot. You were outraged at the motorist's language and yelled at him – he yelled back. The argument quickly escalated into violence and you started raining blows on him. One of you kept hitting the motorist on his head with your helmet. The ladies in his car got out screaming and begged you to stop. Bystanders, the policeman and park security guards tried to intervene. I also stepped in when you refused to back down.

A shameful national policy

A post from Facebook dated June 20th. I had posted this after a man was beaten to death in Rajasthan for protesting photos being taken of the women in his family defecating in public. Jan Swasthya Abhiyan's press release on the incident can be found here .

The 'naming and shaming' tactics being used in Swatch Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) are taking Indian polity to a new low. Whistling at defecating women is now common. Recently, when activists went to meet the District Magistrate in Sitapur to ask her to help protect their village from submergence (by the Sharada river) this monsoon, she asked them what they were doing to help SBA. Any and all tactics, including murder, are being used to bring down open defecation.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On cattle protection and protein deprivation

While preparing for a larger survey this February in Sitapur, we were recording background information as well as the weights of all members of 20 families in Madhubana, an active sangathan village. Prakash, a senior Saathi, was in charge of this task. He came by later looking a bit upset – 'कोई मेहरूआ ४० किलो से ऊपर हो तो बताना' translating roughly to 'Do let me know if you find any woman weighing more than 40 kg?'.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dreams and pragmatism in rural UP

I've been wondering what I can say about the Uttar Pradesh elections and YA's ascension. Given the amount of time I have spent there recently (almost 2 months during the election and results period), I should have some insights to share, right? Maybe I should just recount my experiences on one day in late February...

A colleague and I were at the bus stand, bound for a village about 40 km from Sitapur city. With the SP-introduced Lohia buses, services to villages had improved but there were very few buses available during the election period. So we were relieved to see a rickety bus headed to Mishrikh, an intermediate point. The bus was almost full when we were asked to step out so that it could be cleaned. Grumbling, we did. A man standing nearby started off - “When Modi comes to power in UP, such things won't happen. He will kick all the workers into shape – they will not be able to get away with this indiscipline.” The people around him nodded their heads or made sounds of agreement.

Monday, August 29, 2016

'Left Out' - a short film on denial of health rights in Karnataka

Over the past few years, I've helped organize meetings and consultations, produced reports and participated in research studies which documented various forms of denial of health rights in India, mainly Karnataka. Recently, while documenting cases for a planned public hearing with the National Human Rights Commission (which was later cancelled), I had the opportunity to collaborate in a project to video-document some testimonies. Thanks to Dipti Desai's persistence, these testimonies have been compiled into a short film 'Left out', which is available on YouTube here.
The stories are from across Karnataka and reveal how hard it continues to be to access health care and to pay for it...