THURSDAYS OF FIRE, FRIDAYS OF STEELby HUMRA QURAISHI June 10 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 33 secs
Humra Quraishi views the human rights violations that are piling up and asks how the leaders in the future will heal people from the hurt this regime has caused.
It is clear why women hesitate to lodge formal complaints against their tormentors, even if they are subjected to sexual exploitation and harassment of the worst kinds. The situation gets compounded if the culprit belongs to a place of privilege and power.
W I’m writing this in the backdrop of the ongoing situation of Olympic medal winning wrestlers who have accused the chief of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of abusing them repeatedly. They have been protesting for months now, and instead of getting the justice they deserve, the issue has taken a political turn because the predator is a powerful minister in the union government.
What if these wrestlers were not of international repute and just ordinary nondescript citizens? Can we imagine what their fate would be? Either, all their accusations would have been bypassed, or they’d be silenced by threat and bullying.
What’s going on in these times is the question? In the times when the propaganda machine of the government is proclaiming that India is looking ahead, that we will soon become the third largest economy in the world, making grand announcements that we are heading towards an ‘atmanirbhar Bharat’, and ironically, in the times of ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’? Where are all the women ministers and parliamentarians? What happened to the lofty speeches they’ve made of their commitment to women safety?
Nothing could be bigger as an eye-opener than the case of these top notch wrestlers who are demanding justice, protesting at Jantar Mantar for over 40 days, and yet not being heard! If this level of apathy, insensitivity and ruthlessness can be faced by Olympians, then the most marginalised and excluded women of India have no other option but to surrender to abuse and sexual harassment.
Hopelessness sets in when one is watches the government ignore justice and human rights issues and brazenly at that! Last month, on the 25th of May, AAP leader and former minister of the state of Delhi, Satyendra Jain, collapsed in the bathroom of Tihar Jail, “due to dizziness’. This is the second time Jain fell in the bathroom during his imprisonment. Jain was arrested last summer by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a money laundering case.
Several questions come up: What are the prevailing jail conditions, not in one particular prison but across the country? What if Jain wasn’t a senior AAP leader and a former minister, then would the news of him collapsing come to the fore? What are the prevailing conditions for the prisoners’ well-being and upkeep? How do we get to know the physical and mental health of those lodged behind those high walls? Why should prisoners be deprived of the facilities; not to be overlooked, either, is the fact that a large percentage are under-trials, so technically innocent. And, even if they are convicted they should not be treated in such inhuman ways.
It breaks my heart to read journalist Betwa Sharma’s piece, in the online portal Article 14. She writes: Today marks 1,000 days since political activist Umar Khalid, who holds a doctoral degree from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), was jailed in the Delhi riots conspiracy case on 13 September 2020. Khalid, 35, is among 18 people, including students and activists, who have been accused of using protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, between December 2019 to February 2020, as a front to plan chakka jams (roadblocks), instigate communal riots, “bringing the government of India” to its knees, and stop the nationwide rollout of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Delhi riots conspiracy case (first information report - FIR 59) is one of the 751 FIRs filed concerning the communal violence in northeast Delhi between 23 February 2020 to 25 February 2020. Fifty-three people were killed in the riots, two-thirds of them Muslim. Of the 18 people accused of planning the riots, 16 are Muslim. The Delhi Police have filed chargesheets against those accused under four sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, 25 sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, two sections of the Prevention of Damage of Public Property Act, 1984 and two sections of the Arms Act, 1959.
The development of a country is judged on the basis of how its government treats the women, children and the young, and also how it treats its prisoners. We seem to be lagging…what with rapists, molesters, killers and hate speech givers, roaming free and many who are innocent, spending most years of their lives, imprisoned.
We don’t bother to focus on the plight and the helplessness of the refugee-seekers, too, even though their numbers are on the rise and so are their struggles. These are tough challenging times for them, as governments are hardening their stand and NGOs are left with shrinking resources. It’s important for the youth of today to be informed of all that is happening with their countrymen and women. With the mainstream media captured and turned into propaganda vehicles for the most powerful today, it’s difficult for them to know the truth.
There are times I feel helpless and don’t know what I should do, other than write, because the human rights violations are multiplying at such a fast pace that no matter which government comes to power in 2024, when the right-wing forces are defeated, fact is that it’ll have a massive task ahead. How are the opposition leaders going to heal the country? The hurt caused by the callousness of this regime over the last nine years is humongous.
I want to end this week’s column with a verse of SAHANA AHMED, titled ‘Dear Sister’, from the Amity Peace Poems (Hawakal Publishers):
‘Dear Sister/Beyond/the ways of my sun,/the germs in my veins,/the brass in my claims,/my purdah, my mane/I am you too./The wounds of my walls,/the tombs of my lanes,/the thrones of my queens,/my mehfils, my reins/are your home too.//Thursdays of fire,/Fridays of steel,/yearnings of yakshas/and foreskins of djinns/are your shame too./Remember/When we meet next,/Look in the eye/Ask me/Who bore you?/And I will unstitch my heart/and show you new ways/to etch your mother’s name.’