Category Archives: public sphere

Kya aap White ribbon mein shraddha aur imaan rakhte hain?

Do you have faith in the White ribbon?

White Ribbon


Feminist, blogger and activist Anasuya Sengupta, in an essay called ‘Fundamentalisms of the Progressive wrote,

‘One of our campaigns was to wear a white ribbon for peace (the White Ribbon Campaign for Peace, India) – we used it both as a symbol and as a talking point, to begin conversations about violence of all kinds, including what we call ‘communalism’ in India (the rousing of hatred against particular communities). Initially, some of our friends scoffed at us, and wondered what an insignificant white ribbon could do, to change attitudes and animosities.

But the interesting thing was that there were so many people – both young and not so young – who were unable to be political in the same way as they saw ‘activists’; they felt this meant standing at street corners with banners, or going on rallies, or shouting slogans against the government. They found this too ‘political’ (in their understanding of the term), and yet they were deeply disturbed at the kinds of violence being perpetrated in the name of religion.

So for these people, wearing a ribbon was the beginning of a series of conversations they had with others, which began other processes of change, at least in terms of breaking the silence around violence.

And because it was something everyone could do – and have conversations at whatever level of politics and ideology each was comfortable with – it wasn’t intimidating in any way, and yet gave a sense of belonging to a community against violence, and speaking up for peace.’


Do you believe in pluralism and justice?

Are you Secular, liberal, free thinking?

Do you believe that all religion has in its essence ways of leading a soulful, integrated and fulfilled life?

Do you believe that religious extremism has done us no good?

Say No to religious bigotry.

White Ribbon

Wear a White Ribbon today.

The hopeless and the hopeful.OSSW’07 Day 5

day 5

The hopeful: But this is a good start. If we can have this every year or twice in a year, we can get some people thinking about the idea and maybe this will catch on, who knows.

So let us give it a try, eh? (Sounds good for me)

The hopeless: Borders have been drawn in blood. Mighty presumptuous or stupidly naive of us to ask for a ‘United India’. One should think of peaceful co-existence, rather than dominate and swallow the neighbour under the thinly veiled pretext of ‘Unity’.

The One State Solution Week was created in order so that voices from Bangladesh,India and Pakistan could share common concerns about a shared history of violence, religious intolerance and colonialisation, in the hope that strong peace keeping ties between the three ‘nations’ will make a stronger lobby for peace and security in the world at large.

The idea is to draw from a pool of writings and and create a platform where these voices can come together, in the form of a web-site or a wikipedia entry.The writings need to be about what you, with your locusts stand I feel about the idea.If you can draw from historical, political, literary or artistic discourses, or better still create your own artistic material, then it would be great.

For non-bloggers:Send your write-ups (original and not longer than 1500 words).Send them in at

For bloggers: Blog your thoughts.Please keep them original, concise and crisp.Tag them OSSW’07 so that your post will be traceable.

How tight are your boundaries?

‘God is not a square .God is Cross.’, ‘Parmeshvar ke sirf chaar kone nahin hain’.

14th August 2007.

A performance as part of the workshop, ‘To draw a Line’, a marathon dedicated to Nasreen Mohammedi and Bhupen Khakkar at the Faculty of Fine Art, MS University, Baroda.


It isn’t so hard to find inspiration in Baroda. The past few months have been tight with debate, dissent and its dissolution.

This was a performance that surfaced at Vivan Sundaram’s strategic reclamation of democratic art space at the eve of the 6oth year of Indian Independence.

A confluence of diverse notions of poesis , this performance, is for me an assertion of my body, as a Muslim woman with all its markedness, within the parameters of institution, nation and godhead.The effort is to shoulder the project of embracing, recasting and reclaiming all of them.

Enveloping my insider/outsider position within each fractal of this moment and space, between stretching and slouching, this work spans the betrayal and anger of God, woman, man (as exemplified by Christ) and democracy in today’s Gujarat.

This work comes from a self that is moving within a cube, one set by the trauma, gravity and despondency of the aftermath of genocide, both on one community and other communities. Emerging from the paradigm set by this workshop, the performance is a siege of the mundane normalcy of the university space to articulate voices far beyond its (current) scope: the shadow-lines of rape mapped on the tryst of exploited women’s bodies starting to realise ‘freedom’.

In terms of type-scape and struggle with form therefore, the self morphs itself into varying positions to grapple with movement. And the release is , in this case in breaking the cube, and ironically, in an act of prayer after.

The workshop was dedicated to Nasreen Mohammedi and Bhupen Khakkar , artists who enriched and nurtured this institution and Indian art, each with their own trajectories of identity.

And as art historian Santosh reiterated again, for each one of us, it’s about time someone drew a line.

So, says the macrocosm, God is not a Square. Stop being so linear.

——————————————————————– ====

*Special Thanks to Vivan Sundaram.

*Photos and video are in the pipeline.

Freedom of Expression

From among the opinions that were not given audience.

This was a response I wrote to the following conversation between Arnab Chaterjee and Inder Salim, about a post by Arnab Chaterjee about the public, the personal and the private on the Sarai Reader List. It was rejected because the mail ‘had a suspicious header’.


I don’t know if you will excuse my saying so in public, but I think that your work is brutally brutally(brutally, brutally) insensitive and inert.

It takes a lot of indifference to make a comment like this. But I hope you will think about it.

And the reasons why I refrain from being polite are

It does’nt take a fascist to change the world. It takes a realist. In adopting a stern ideological position you want to be heard. I have things to say. And I cannot wait until fortune(whatever that is) drops my way. It means that from where you are, you want, desperately to articulate what you feel.

It only takes an extremely masculine, privileged position to be as insensitive and culturally sterile as your research is.

While for some the personal, public, and private may be constructs that the likes of Habermas figured out, for some it’s a loss. Of an entire history.

While for some all that is going on needs to be looked at through the eyes of (who, why?) theorists, for some people like me (and this is personal), it’s a complete lacoona of understanding about how to participate. So when the debates are played out on some abstract notion of Freedom of Expression (what?), for some other people it’s the freedom to breathe that is at stake. The freedom to be.To imagine.

And terrorism.

Tell you what I think terrorism is, terrorism is not being allowed to behave how you want to.

Not being allowed to articulate your view point. I think terrorism is when you’re expected to conform to everyone’s ideas.

Terrorism is stifling difference. Terrorism is when you want to scream but are stifled because you are’nt allowed to stand out in everyone’s confused pot pourri of consumption. That’s what terrorism is.

Terrorism is expecting everyone to listen when you talk, when you dole out judgments.

Being excluded.

Terrorism is expecting someone to subscribe to what your idea of radical or modern or noteworthy.

I refuse to participate.

I refuse to comment.

I don’t want to have anything to do with your public sphere.

Go on, ask me why I’m so despondent.

Post Script 2: And what I think is a response, one that will take me a while(or a practice) to counter is here. I have always thought Kushwant Singh to be a deplorably bad joker on matters concerning women.Try reading ‘The Company of Women’. No further comments.