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That girl in the woods

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That girl in the woods

Why it happened, we ask. How could they do it to her? People in the hills are not supposed to behave like that. They were monsters, high on their manhood fuelled by liquid courage and perhaps other things.

She was innocent, and what bad could she have done to them to invite this horror in her life. She just wanted to go to school like others. I assume that actions of these men have unintentionally put the future of many girl students in the area and beyond at risk, especially the ones who are not privileged enough to study in Shimla or other towns.

The girl’s parents, who are not in the position to arrange for a safe environment in which their children could study, will suffer the most. This applies strictly to rural areas where students are required to take long walk through isolated woods to reach school and back to home.

Of course, in this girl’s case, she had to walk through the prying and judgmental eyes of several men and women in village, predators worse than what are encountered in woods.

Not only in India, but women throughout the world face similar circumstances in which their mobility is a daily struggle with a risk rape, death, mutilation, acid attack, sexual harassment and so on.

Half of the Indian population, and perhaps many regions of the world, knows what it means when it gets dark. This particular insecurity where your mobility is constrained by your gender is perhaps relatively less relevant to the male population. So, now we know why males have advantages over females in terms of education, employment, and many other fields.

On the other hand, being a woman is scary, honestly. Women are more courageous than any man can ever be. They have to keep several aspects in their mind, so many things to consider apart from the regular jobs which along with normal things. For females, it’s much more challenging to keep up with male counterparts in this world of men. What else it could be since this trend works with the rhythms of male anatomy.

Does the society have any kind of sensitivity towards female body apart from granting here maternity leave?

The former only carries stigma, and is looked down upon by the society. I read the victim girl was a regular student, and had been rewarded for her sincerity.

I wish that day she had missed the school, but I am not sure these predators would have spared her another day. She was all but a game to them, and they were on a desperate hunt. They had planned it like good hunters do. Was there a way she could have saved herself from these predators? Maybe yes, maybe not!

Then why are we angry and sad when her fate, in one way or the other, on that day or another, was destined to be doomed. The odds were always against her since birth. Maybe, we, as human beings, are too hopeful, and we want the underdog to win. Maybe we see ourselves, our vulnerabilities in the underdogs. Maybe, it is our own reflection which strives to come up against all odds.

Just like a part of us that perceive things from victim girl’s perspective – striving hard, going to school, carrying an ambition, carrying hope, there is a part of us which is the predators’.

We do not acknowledge it, we have repressed it deep in our conscience, but we are one of them.

It is us as individuals, and as society that does swarm upon on women like monsters, and hunting them by exploiting their vulnerabilities. They took turns to rape her. They were aware if the pain was going through, but still they went on and on, and enjoying it. They beat her as she screamed, breaking her bones as she resisted and went mad with pain. They choked her to death for yelling for help, screaming out of suffering of being raped, beaten, bitten and maimed.

How dare she behave like a human being, react to pain, cry out in agony knowing she is on the verge of death.

She was just an object throughout the entire act, before it, and after it: an object of lust, an object of sexual gratification, an object for projecting one’s rage and anger, an object that dare not resist or fight back, and an object that cannot decide for its own.

She was an object on whom they could make declaration of the male superiority and all that patriarchy could ever be. Her death is an open declaration of a patriarchal society. We are angry because that is what we as a society are.

We see ourselves in those men, but our righteous and hopeful part is in a conflict with this perception. This part of us refuses to equate ourselves with those men, those lowly men who did that to that innocent.

Our mind cannot come to terms with it. It says we cannot be so mean and lowly, it cannot be us, we are not violent, we do not prey on weak, we are not patriarchal, or we do not objectify. Yet, as a society and those individuals, we share same traits. It is sad but true.

We are angry because it is us. This incident has only brought into public domain what we already know in private life and inside our heads, but still live in denial, waiting for the next incident, and so on.

Thus far social and physical violence against women in upper Shimla area was a private affair. It was something well known but unspoken like everywhere. But this incident has questioned the ‘Devbhumi superiority syndrome’ that afflicts us all.

If only we had realised how our gender biased and perverse gods and demigods had behaved historically and mythologically. If only we had questioned those gods and goddesses in terms of their attitudes towards women.

Rape is a mentality which afflicts our society; we just do not acknowledge it. Our day to day attitudes towards women and the impact of violence in lives of women is a case in point.

Wherever in the world such mindset exists, rape and violence against women will exist. No matter who does it, but all of us as society are responsible for it.

It is not an individual act, but is a societal act cutting across regions, faiths, etc. The language of rape is universal, and it is easily understood. The tools of violence against socially perceived weak gender are universal. Symptoms of rape and violence are present in societies where we see daily objectification of women.

The reification of lust through gestures, body language and dress is already there in our social psyche. Social stigma, social shame, and moral policing are all indicators of a dysfunctional society, which is just an incident away from violence against women, where the only thing which remains to be seen is who and when – by whom is not important.

I wish she could have survived to live another day, but then again how could she?

We make noise, we shout, we condemn, and we want perpetrators to die and suffer in hell. We are willing to kill them ourselves given the opportunity, thinking it will make a difference but sadly a societal effort will be required to prevent the next incident.

Shutting girls inside homes, putting restrain on their mobility, accompanying them to their schools implying they are weak will never solve the problem, but only reinforce the old ideas and conventions of patriarchy.

Changing the social idea of a woman will help, otherwise it can happen to anyone, anywhere, by anyone, and like always fault will be of everyone. It is a common notion that since patriarchy is about male superiority and dominance, only males are to blame. But sadly this is not true. Women equally carry patriarchy or perhaps are more lethal in spreading it because being women themselves they make it more acceptable to others.

Women have to reclaim the public space for themselves. They have to lead this battle against patriarchy with assistance of likeminded in society. They have to resist every aspect of violence like that girl in the woods did; rebelling against death. Win or lose but the battle has to be fought at all fronts starting with the idea of family itself.

By Vipul

Disclaimer: Views expressed in the article are entirely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinion of Himachal Watcher

Public Opinion

Why I am resigning from BJP: A data analyst

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Shivam Shankar Singh quite bjp

Political discourse is at it’s lowest point in the country, at least in my lifetime. The partisanship bias is unbelievable and people continue to support their side no matter what the evidence, there is no remorse even when they’re proved to have been spreading fake news. This is something that everyone — the parties and the voters/supporters are to be blamed for.

BJP has done a great job at spreading some specific messages with incredibly effective propaganda, and these messages are the primary reason that I can’t support the party anymore. But before we get into any of that, I’d like everyone to understand that no party is totally bad, and no party is totally good. All governments have done some good and messed up on some fronts. This government is no different.

The Good:

1. Road construction is faster than it was earlier. There has been a change in the methodology of counting road length, but even factoring that in it seems to be faster.

2. Electricity connection increased 

All villages electrified and people getting electricity for more hours. (Congress did electrify over 5 lakh villages and Modi ji finished the job by connecting the last 18k so, you can weigh the achievement as you like. Similarly, the number of hours people get electricity has increased ever since independence, but it might be a larger increase during BJP).

3. Upper-level corruption is reduced 

No huge cases at the ministerial level as of now (but the same was true of UPA I :/ ). Lower level seems to be about the same with increased amounts, no one seems to be able to control the thanedar, patwari et al.

4. The Swachh Bharat Mission is a definite success

More toilets built than before and Swachhta is something embedded in people’s minds now.

5. UJJWALA Yojana is a great initiative

How many people buy the second cylinder remains to be seen. The first one and a stove were free, but now people need to pay for it. The cost of cylinders has almost doubled since the government took over and now one costs more than Rs. 800.

6. Connectivity for the North East has undoubtedly increased

 More trains, roads, flights and most importantly — the region is now discussed in the mainstream news channels.

7. Law and order is reportedly better than it was under regional parties.

Feel free to add achievements you can think of in the comments below, also achievements necessarily have caveats, failures are absolute!

The Bad:

It takes decades and centuries to build systems and nations, the biggest failure I see in BJP is that it has destroyed some great things on very flimsy grounds.

Electoral Bonds 

It basically legalizes corruption and allows corporate & foreign powers to just buy our political parties. The bonds are anonymous so if a corporate says I’ll give you an electoral bond of 1,000 crores if you pass this specific policy, there will be no prosecution. There just is no way to establish quid pro quo with an anonymous instrument. This also explains how corruption is reduced at the Ministerial level — it isn’t per file/order, it is now like the US — at the policy level.

Planning Commission Reports

This used to be a major source for data. They audited government schemes and stated how things are going. With that gone, there just is no choice but to believe whatever data the government gives you (CAG audits come out after a long time!). NITI Aayog doesn’t have this mandate and is basically a think tank and PR agency. Plan/Non-Plan distinction could be removed without removing this!

Misuse of CBI and ED

It is being used for political purposes as far as I can see, but even if it isn’t the fear that these institutions will be unleashed on them if they speak up against anything Modi/Shah related is real. This is enough to kill dissent, an integral component of democracy.

Failure to investigate Kalikho Pul’s suicide note, Judge Loya’s death, Sohrabuddin murder, the defense of an MLA accused of Rape who’s relative is accused of killing the girl’s father and FIR wasn’t registered for over a year..!

Demonetization 

It failed, but worse is BJP’s inability to accept that it failed. All propaganda of it cutting terror funding, reducing cash, eliminating corruption is just absurd. It also killed off businesses.

GST Implementation 

Implemented in a hurry and harmed business. Complicated structure, multiple rates on different items, complex filing… Hopefully, it’ll stabilize in time, but it did cause harm. Failure to acknowledge that from BJP is extremely arrogant.

The messed up foreign policy with pure grandstanding 

China has a port in Sri Lanka, huge interests in Bangladesh and Pakistan — we’re surrounded, the failure in Maldives (Indian workers not getting visas anymore because of India’s foreign policy debacle) while Modi Ji goes out to foreign countries and keeps saying Indians had no respect in the world before 2014 and now they’re supremely respected (This is nonsense. Indian respect in foreign countries was a direct result of our growing economy and IT sector, it hasn’t improved an ounce because of Modi. Might even have declined due to beef based lynchings, threats to journalists etc.)

Failure of schemes and failure to acknowledge/course correct 

Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, Make In India, Skill Development, Fasal Bima (look at reimbursements — the government is lining the pockets of insurance companies). Failure to acknowledge unemployment and farmers crisis — calling every real issue an opposition stunt.

The high prices of Petrol and Diesel 

Modi Ji and all BJP ministers + supporters criticized Congress for it heavily and now all of them justify the high prices even though crude is cheaper than it was then! Just unacceptable.

Failure to engage with the most important basic issues 

Education and Healthcare. There is just nothing on education which is the nation’s biggest failure. Quality of government schools has deteriorated over the decades (ASER reports) and no action. They did nothing on Healthcare for 4 years, then Ayushman Bharat was announced — that scheme scares me more than nothing being done. Insurance schemes have a terrible track record and this is going the US route, which is a terrible destination for healthcare (watch Sicko by Michael Moore)!

You can add some and subtract some based on personal understanding of the issue, but this is my assessment. The Electoral Bonds thing is huge and hopefully, the SC will strike it down! Every government has some failures and some bad decisions though, the bigger issue I have is more on morals than anything else.

The Ugly:

The real negative of this government is how it has affected the national discourse with a well-considered strategy. This isn’t a failure, it’s the plan.

It has discredited the media, so now every criticism is brushed off as a journalist who didn’t get paid by BJP or is on the payrolls of Congress. I know several journalists for whom the allegation can’t be true, but more importantly, no one ever addresses the accusation or complaint — they just attack the person raising the issue and ignore the issue itself.

It has peddled a narrative that nothing happened in India in 70 years.

This is patently false and the mentality is harmful to the nation. This government spent over Rs. 4,000 crore of our taxpayer money on advertisements and now that will become the trend. Do small works and huge branding. He isn’t the first one to build roads — some of the best roads I’ve traveled on were pet projects of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. India became an IT powerhouse from the 90s. It is easy to measure past performance and berate past leaders based on the circumstances of today, just one example of that:

Why did Congress not build toilets in 70 years?

They couldn’t even do something so basic. This argument sounds logical and I believed it too, until I started reading India’s history. When we gained independence in 1947 we were an extremely poor country, we didn’t have the resources for even basic infrastructure and no capital. To counteract this PM Nehru went down the socialist path and created PSU’s. We had no capacity to build steel, so with the help of Russians the Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC), Ranchi was set up that made machines to make steel in India — without this we would have no steel, and consequently no infrastructure.

That was the agenda — basic industries and infra. We had frequent droughts (aakaal), every 2–3 years and a large number of people starved to death. The priority was to feed the people, toilets were a luxury no one cared for. The Green Revolution happened and the food shortages disappeared by the 1990s — now we have a surplus problem. The toilet situation is exactly like people asking 25 years from now why Modi couldn’t make all houses in India air conditioned. That seems like a luxury today, toilets were also a luxury at some point of time. Maybe things could have happened sooner, maybe 10–15 years ago, but nothing happened in 70 years is a horrible lie to peddle.

3. The spread and reliance on Fake News

There is some anti-BJP fake news too, but the pro-BJP and anti-opposition fake news outstrips that by miles in number and in reach. Some of it is supporters, but a lot of it comes from the party. It is often hateful and polarizing, which makes it even worse. The online news portals backed by this government are damaging society more than we know.

4. Hindu Khatre Mein Hain

They’ve ingrained it into the minds of people that Hindus and Hinduism are in danger, and that Modi is the only option to save ourselves. In reality Hindus have been living the same lives much before this government and nothing has changed except people’s mindset. Were we Hindus in danger in 2007? At least I didn’t hear about it everyday and I see no improvement in the condition of Hindus, just more fear mongering and hatred.

5. Speak against the government and you’re anti-National and more recently, anti-Hindu

Legitimate criticism of the government is shut up with this labeling. Prove your nationalism, sing Vande Mataram everywhere (even though BJP leaders don’t know the words themselves, they’ll force you to sing it!). I’m a proud nationalist and my nationalism won’t allow me to let anyone force me to showcase it! I will sing the national anthem and national song with pride when the occasion calls for it, or when I feel like it, but I won’t let anyone force me to sing it based on their whims!

6. Running news channels that are owned by BJP leaders who’s sole job is to debate Hindu-Muslim, National-Antinational, India-Pakistan and derail the public discourse from issues and logic into polarizing emotions. You all know exactly which ones, and you all even know the debaters who’re being rewarded for spewing the vilest propaganda.

7. The polarization

 The message of development is gone. BJP’s strategy for the next election is polarization and inciting pseudo-nationalism. Modi ji has basically said it himself in speeches — Jinnah; Nehru; Congress leaders didn’t meet Bhagat Singh in jail (fake news from the PM himself!); INC leaders met leaders in Pakistan to defeat Modi in Gujarat; Yogi ji’s speech on how Maharana Pratap was greater than Akbar; JNU students are anti-national they’ll #TukdeTukdeChurChur India — this is all propaganda constructed for a very specific purpose — polarize and win elections — it isn’t the stuff I want to be hearing from my leaders and I refuse to follow anyone who is willing to let the nation burn in riots for political gain.

These are just some of the instances of how BJP is pushing the national discourse in a dark corner. This isn’t something I signed up for and it totally isn’t something I can support. That is why I am resigning from BJP.

PS: I supported BJP since 2013 because Narendra Modi Ji seemed like a ray of hope for India and I believed in his message of development — that message and the hope are now both gone. The negatives of this Narendra Modi and Amit Shah government now outweigh the positives for me, but that is a decision that every voter needs to make individually. Just know that history and reality are complicated. Buying into simplistic propaganda and espousing cult-like unquestioning faith are the worst thing you can do — it is against the interests of democracy and of this nation.

You all have your own decisions to make as the elections approach. Best of luck with that. My only hope is that we can all live and work harmoniously together — and contribute towards making a better, stronger, poverty-free and developed India, no matter what party or ideology we support. Always remember that there are good people on both sides, the voter needs to support them and they need to support each other even when they are in different parties.

By Shivam Shankar Singh – The author is a former-data analytics for the BJP’s poll campaigns.

Disclaimer: The blog has been re-published with permission of the author and without much editing. The opinion expressed in it does not necessarily reflect Himachal Watcher’s point of view.

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Public Opinion

HP Polls 2017: Shimla Urban may decide flow of wind

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Candidates for Shimla Urban seat in hp polls 2017

Harish is his limited area from Sanjauli to Mall Road. Whereas Harbhajan Singh Bhajji has a considerable clout in all areas of the constituency,

Shimla:
The elections to the Legislative Assembly of Himachal Pradesh are inching closer with each passing day and it’s only two days for the fate of all political parties to be sealed in the electronic voting machines.

In this elections, Shimla Urban is a seat that none of the political parties – be it Congress or BJP would like to lose. The major fight remains between Suresh Bhardwaj of BJP and Harbhajan Singh Bhajji of Congress.

Just wait, let me correct as there are two more faces that are influential and will be vying for the seat on November 9, 2017: Sanjay Chauhan and Harish Janartha. However, what impact would they have on the political calculations for this most coveted assembly seat remains to be seen.

As Suresh Bhardwaj is struggling hard with the anti-incumbency factor owing to demonetization and GST implementation, Harbhajan Singh Bhajji can score higher here.

Suresh Bhardwaj is the sitting MLA and aims to win Shimla Urban third time in a row. He has already defeated Harbhajan Singh Bhajji in 1990 elections.

Whereas Harbhajan Singh Bhajji, who had represented Shimla Urban two times, wouldn’t leave anything on fate to prove his metal and make the most out of the opportunity.

As already said, two more candidates are in the fray who have a considerable chunk of the vote bank, but are marred by their own undoing.

Whereas, Sanjay Chauhan’s term as the mayor of Shimla MC was engulfed with major issues like the water shortage, jaundice and garbage collection problem, Harish Janartha is expelled from the party and is questioned for not being loyal to the party that included him in the government even when he lost the last election.

Besides this, what confines Harish is his limited area from Sanjauli to Mall Road. Whereas Harbhajan Singh Bhajji has a considerable clout in all areas of the constituency, which could be a determining factor.

By Vinod Sharma

Disclaimer: Views expressed in the article are entirely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinion of Himachal Watcher

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Public Opinion

Whose Development Is It, Anyway?

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developmental hidtory of himachal

The development that the people of the state know of has eschewed exploitation and annihilation at almost every level with the final consequence being the destruction of Himachal ecology.

This article is an effort to explore the many meanings which have sedimented around the key motif of Himachal Pradesh Assembly Election – the development.

It highlights the ignorance of the local and lived histories of the development entailed in the developmental discourse by the Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party and reiterated by the commercial mass media.

Himachal will go to polls on November 9, 2017. As the state gears up with massive rallies and prospective designs, one finds a key motif being reiterated throughout development.

No wonder that has been so and it would remain. What strikes out however, is the discursive and rhetorical unity that the politicians and mass media reporting share.

When Modi centralizes development as the main poll plank and his party implies the corrupt Congress government in the state by their ‘Hisaab Maange Himachal’ campaign, the constituency watch segments in the Tribune highlight how Prem Kumar Dhumal had laid the foundation stone for a water channel but no single brick was added during the Congress regime.

The problem between the big talk of the political elites, media that corroborates with them for stories of developmental projects, national parties and national interests is that the people, their lived experiences and the locality is ignored.

It is precisely with this concern that this article is written. The article tries to juxtapose the idea of development articulated by the politicians during the Himachal Pradesh election 2017 and reiterated by the mass media as against the local historical experience of development in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

If one goes beyond the binaries of Cong/BJP and development/under-development which is upheld in their political action and the columns of the news articles reporting on the H.P. elections, one sees a unified notion of ‘development’.

This notion is disseminated and ignores the local historical experience with ‘development’.

Himachal Pradesh has almost 90% of its population living in the rural areas. Out if which, 62% are employed in agriculture or horticulture which is responsible for generation of 16% of the total G.S.D.P.

It is also the home to many scheduled communities like the Gaddis, Gujjars, Bhots, and Lahaulas etc.These aberrational figures.

However, it does not capture the local historical experience of development. Rather it is a consequence of it.

The local history has not been pleasant as the media and the political elites imply, almost being antithetical to all the fervor and enthusiasm with which these projects are announced.

The development that the people of the state know of has eschewed exploitation and annihilation at almost every level with the final consequence being the destruction of Himachal ecology.

A recent study by Himdhara concluded how the developmental activities in the state have adversely hit the river basins of Satluj, Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Yamuna.

However, this is not all. From the first stages till the last, development means struggles and problems for the people of the state.

The forceful eviction and anti-encroachment drives by the Congress government last year, the delayed implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 after a long drawn struggle, and the stunted rate of settling F.R.C.’s claims to lands remain in the local memory.

The late implementation was at the cost of diversion of lands for developmental projects against the interests of the locals.

In doing so, many provisions were bypassed. The Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd. had even appealed in the court saying,

The Gram Sabha is the deciding body/ authority to comply with the direction of the learned National Green Tribunal, Delhi but the Gram Sabha consists of unskilled local persons/ local residents.

On November 5, 2016, in a case where the N.G.T. had ordered the state government to comply and implement the F.R.A., 2006.

The locals were not only barred from their own homelands, but it also directly hit their livelihood and subsistence activities in the form of repression by the forest department by felling of trees, dismantling the houses and water/electricity connections along with inaccessibility to forest products.

In the local history, the denial of ancestral home and material basis of culture is one of the first meanings of development.

And that’s not all. With the construction of these projects comes the plight of unemployment. Companies prefer migrant workers in the construction of these projects as they are more skilled, less paid and have a lower tendency to unite and resist the unfair and exploitative terms.

Along with these migrant workers come further destruction of the natural habitat with clearing of forests and felling of trees. It leads to the detribalization in tribal areas.

As these projects go underway, some people find employment in the mines, factories and hydel project. However, the experience of unpaid labour, low wages, improper conditions of work and repression of resistance has further sedimented upon development.

Instances like the alleged murder of three workers during their struggle against the N.H.P.C. and Hindustan Construction Company in Chamba, Karcham-Wangtoo and Shongtong-Karcham also added up to the local experience which lead to construction of development as an anti-people agenda.

The image of the development in the local history is one which is informed by exploitation in the present and annihilation of the past.

The local historical conception of development is, thus, antithetical to the national conception of the development, which the companies and the politicians want to inject into the scene.

Here, the discursive and conceptual unity of the media and the political elites of the state in terms of their conception of ‘development’ is quite striking.

The promises of development by Cong and B.J.P. and the accusations against each other are something that the media has vowed to investigate with token representation of the locals only as corroborators.

They fit only as long as they can serve as the ‘proofs’ to the stories of development where the political elites are represented as the protagonists.

Reading the news articles ‘against the grain’ helps us in bringing out those voices in their own context. We will find many instances where the voices of the locals, their frustration against the Cong-B.J.P. governments, unifying them as two sides of the same coin, highlight the cronyism prevalent and have the full consciousness of their local historical conception of development.

In my opinion, what we need to do is the abandonment of the developmental discourse and a suspecting eye towards all who reiterate and reify the innocent and progressive idea of development as against the local history of development.

After all, our national movement was against a power which legitimized its exploitation on the basis of ‘civilizing mission, progress and development’!

By Yugank Mishra/A research associate at the Institute of Perception Studies, New Delhi and a research scholar pursuing M.Phil. in History from Ambedkar University, Delhi.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in the article are entirely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinion of Himachal Watcher

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