OPINION: I saw Padmaavat and YOU SHOULD TOO!



Poster by Sanjay Leela Bhansali Production House

Leaving my undying fondness, admiration, and respect for the GENIUS that is Ranveer Singh aside, Padmaavat is a cinematic marvel! Sanjay Leela Bhansali has mastered the ability to create HISTORICAL FICTION films like Bajirao Mastani (2015) and now Padmaavat with grandeur and finesse. For those who are unaware of the story: Padmaavat is an epic period drama about the 13th century Rajput Queen of Mewar (currently in south-central Rajasthan, India), Padmavati. The story – as shown in this film – revolves around the Turko-Afghan ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, Alauddin Khilji, who orchestrated the siege of Chittor Fort in Mewar in order to capture the Kingdom’s beautiful Queen. His desire was also motivated by an exiled Brahmin (originally from Mewar), who informed Khilji that his wealth and success would multiply by many-folds should he go after the Queen. Padmavati, whose not only beauty, but also astute wit and valour was unparalleled, leaves Alauddin’s desire to conqueror her a fantasy.

Over the last few months, people have taken to the streets to spawn protests – many of which have turned rabid and violent – against the content of this film without even seeing it. The debacle was brought to the forefront by the domestic and international media that highlighted the assault of creator, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the destruction of the sets by mobs to the Karni Sena, a political party in the state of Rajasthan, inciting violence by threatening to harm the actors of the film – Deepika Padukone – last seen as Serena in Vin Diesel’s XXX: The Return of Xander Cage – who plays Queen Padmavati and Ranveer Singh, who adorns the role of Sultan Alauddin, for distorting history, playing with public sentiments and besmirching the honour and valour of the beloved Queen and Rajput community by suggesting a romance between her and Khilji, who was infatuated with her beauty, which  – mind you – was NOT the case here.

The announcement of the film also raised many questions: Was Padmavati (known as Queen Padmini in history) real or a figment of the original writer, Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s imagination? If she was not real, were the sentiments of the Indian public really hurt and by extension were the protests warranted? I cannot say, but as an ardent advocate of the Arts, I will say this: The Arts, whether it is through storytelling, theatre, art, dance, and music or mainstream cinema plays a pivotal role in our society – not only in India, but worldwide. In actuality, the Arts is that one medium that can puncture holes in walls of ignorance; it can foster empathy and understanding for the “other” by building bridges into worlds and cultures unknown or unheard of. In Aligarh (2015), I vicariously experienced the plight of members of the LGBTQ+ community in India. It got me thinking what section 377, which criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature”, would mean for them. In Margarita with a Straw (2014), Kalki Koechlin’s character Laila, an aspiring writer, who happens to be a teenager with cerebral palsy taught me that the way the world is oriented and the mentality of the people that live in it can make a differently-abled person feel “disabled”.

The Arts is also vexing, as it is liberating. Films like Padman (2018) and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017) can be used as efficient tools to educate individuals from all walks of life about pressing social issues like the taboo on menstruation, lack of access to sanitary pads and easy access to lavatories for women, which are universal issues and not just specific to India alone. On the other hand, would this mean that every film should be regarded by the audience as a social manifesto? In my humble opinion, no. Coming back to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat – those who have seen the film would have hopefully noticed the disclaimer shown at the beginning of the film. One of the elements the disclaimer cites, in words big and bold, is that this film does NOT claim to be an accurate depiction of historical events. Had the makers claimed it to be and the final product failed to do so, we would be having a different conversation. The Arts also provide an escape from life’s daily grind through entertainment and, in my opinion, Padmaavat does just that – entertain. The acting by the cast – everyone from Deepika, Shahid, Ranveer, Jim, Anupriya, Aditi to the very last extra on set – was impeccable! I, as do many, thought Ranveer with his portrayal of Khilji stole the show. The cinematography and sets were picturesque and stellar – as is often the case with Sanjay’s movies in this genre. The dance and music numbers were delightful.

But here is the reality: After having watched the film (which is an imperative if you wish to pass an opinion or judgment), if you felt differently to what I mentioned earlier – that is okay. The Arts is a subjective medium. Reputable film critics like Anupama Chopra and Sucharita Tyagi – both a part of Film Companion Reviews – may not necessarily like the same films or novels or cuisines, for example. Anupama may be crazy behind Indian street food, while Sucharita may have an affinity for Italian and that, folks, is okay also. What you take from the film may not be what your friend or family member sitting beside you gathers from the visual because, generally, individuals are influenced differently by their shared beliefs, values, and personal experiences. What is NOT okay is inciting violence against and/or violating individuals who are just doing their jobs! What is NOT okay is passing unsubstantiated claims without watching the film!

We live in a simple, yet complex era – iPads, Samsung phones, Youtube, Social Media, SIRI at complete disposal! At the click of a button, we can connect with someone that lives over 10,000 miles away, but we may not know how our neighbour is really doing. We have access to news or rather, news has access to us 24/7, which was not the case 2 decades ago. For this reason, our minds are active around the clock, constantly under siege by information of all sorts. We are consumers. We consume media every chance we get. This can be a bit unsettling! We are passionate beings, yes! The majority of us may pride ourselves on being opinionated. We may even pride ourselves on being patriotic. Our sentiments and opinions, heavily armed by our beliefs and values, may influence our decisions, but it is important to realize that our actions (as do our words) come with a set of consequences that not only affect us at an individual level, but also a local, national and global level. Hence, we, as consumers, need to learn to consume media responsibly. We need to have difficult conversations that will explore what that even means in today’s day and age. We need to avoid being passive participants and actively filter information whether it comes from news apps, political speeches, school textbooks, mainstream blockbuster movies or even from conversations with our near and dear ones and use it wisely. The rules of this game are still vague, but I know that the vast majority of us are doing the best we can with what we know, but we, as a people, need to continue to do better.

I believe a film like Padmaavat deserves great reception from domestic and international audiences. The fiasco that happened before, during and after the release of the movie could have been (and can still be) avoided. To excessively censure films and art, in general, is akin to placing a muzzle on freedom of speech and expression. This has been happening too frequently adding films like Udta Punjab (2016) and Lipstick Under My Burka (2017) to a gradually increasing list of names. If you do not want to watch the film, you have the right not to, but to censure content to change the product or to release unsubstantiated claims may be deja vu of George Orwell’s classic 1984.


Facebook: The Dawn of the Technological Era

Facebook is a form of post modernistic ‘realist art,’ created originally with the intention of maintaining and celebrating relationships with family and friends that are not in immediate contact. Since its creation, Facebook has become one of the most renowned social networking sites of our generation. With over 750 million users last cited in 2011, Facebook can be considered the third most populated ‘virtual’ country after China and India. With a consistent increase in active users on Facebook, resistance by the audience towards the site itself is limited. Nonetheless, audience resistance is vaguely existent more so towards the content exhibited on the site. Facebook is presently tagged as “popular culture,” as it is eminent with today’s generation. However, there are significant limits for these arguments.

Facebook has expanded and improvised tremendously since it opened its doors to the members of the public, enabling the growth of an extensively diverse population to communicate with relations that live abroad via an online chat forum, encouraging the elimination of all geographic boundaries at no cost to the user. This has since then unlocked avenues for global communication, thus encouraging global connectivity to a large extent. Once Facebook memberships were made accessible to the public, the value of the company shot up dramatically from US$15 billion in 2007 to US$89.2 billion in 2011 becoming one of the most profitable companies, falling second to Google. With the growing number of users on Facebook around the globe, socio-economic boundaries have been blurred to a large extent. This was possible through ‘media oligopoly,’ wherein users have been made aware of global updates through ‘liking’ different society and economy related pages designed on the site by different profit and non-profit organizations. However, Marshal McLuhan espoused that even though Facebook’s improvisations aims to improve ‘global consciousness’ by allowing users to interact amongst one another, the site shall not be successful in creating or maintaining the ‘utopian idea’ of the ‘global village’ online. Contrastingly, Kirthiga Reddy, Head of Office of Facebook in India, intends to alter the Facebook culture in India to enhance social utility within the country by increasing connectivity. Reddy states, “Facebook touches lives in fundamental ways,” this as a result has allowed the site to become the richest database for people’s interests and tastes. This has had a huge impact in driving the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Reddy also argues that securing the correct culture is important, as that is what influences people’s decisions. Through Facebook, Reddy aims to ‘foster the next generation of women leaders in India; driving children’s causes, access to education; and making an impact at a national level.’ This has reinterpreted “popular culture” by creating, what Jenkins describes as, “pop cosmopolitan,” where applications on Facebook have enabled ‘transcultural flows of pop culture to inspire new forms of global consciousness.’

Today, Facebook has evolved into an online cultural industry. Active users on Facebook have transformed into, what Adorno and Horkheimer believe to be “cultural dupes.” They define cultural dupes to be ‘passive recipients’ within the cultural industry, as they are prone to consuming cultural products rather than producing their own. On the contrary, Facebook has provided a platform for its users to innovate and advertise their thoughts and ideas to a far more diverse market of 750 million users around the globe. This has, to a large extent, blurred the boundaries between the producer and the consumer, creating what Alvin Toffler claims to be a “prosumer”. The site enables its users to engage in activities that encourage “immaterial labour,” a new concept of labour that allows other users to understand the cultural history of a particular commodity or service. This style of labour fosters ‘relationships and ultimately life itself.’ It creates a dual-purpose environment, allowing users to not only enjoy the applications provided by the site, during their leisure time, but also for work purposes. However, Adorno and Horkheimer describe this type of environment as an ‘amusement under late capitalism that would simply prolong work,’ triggering an adverse affect to the creator of the product.

Consumption of material goods and services through Facebook is a significant part of human sociability, as it develops individual identity, which is heavily influenced by societal structure. Similar to an offline environment, individuals in an online environment such as Facebook, have certain behavioural patterns and habits that distinguish the way they consume particular products and services. This is a ‘bona fide expression of self in and on society.’ The way active users on Facebook tend to utilise the applications the site has to offer testifies “subcultural resistance” towards the dominant social norms that are, at times, dictated by the capitalist economy, simply suggesting that the actions displayed by users in an online environment is a mere reflection of what occurs offline. Facebook, at present, has changed the definition of consumption, ‘it is not restricted to shopping and the movement of purchase, but rather it is a result of human production.’ Douglas and Isherwood argue that such practices encourage discrimination as it is influenced primarily by the ‘vistas’ and ‘hierarchies’ within offline environments. Similarly, the Marxist Theory suggests that ‘consumption is the most obvious evidence of inequality under capitalism.’ This reiterates the idea that Facebook could not be successful in creating or maintaining the ‘utopian idea’ of the ‘global village’ online because our contemporary modern societies don’t exist in an idealistic way.

Facebook has become an eminent part of today’s generation, influencing how their identities are built and how their behaviours are controlled through various forms of “social capital.” Bourdieu and Wacquant define social capital as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.” Research has shown that almost half of the American population has created an account on Facebook and that university students on average spend approximately half an hour on Facebook every day. Active users on Facebook, this predominantly applies to today’s youth, whom interact with other users, including friends, family and neighbours, on a daily basis tend to have adverse effects upon their psychological well-being, such as their self-esteem/self-worth, confidence and their satisfaction with life. Students become highly susceptible towards the content posted on the site by other users. Messages and comments announced on Facebook have the tendency to be highly persuasive as they come from within the student’s social network, thus impacting the way students behave in an online environment. Are such persuasions giving rise to subcultural frictions within an online environment? Negative racial attitudes have advanced due to ‘victim messages’ and ‘superiority-based messages.’ Although victim messages are relatively easier to digest in an online environment, they still encourage ‘viewing one’s group as victimized, which ultimately leads to feelings of anger and fear towards out-groups’ and ‘a strong desire to strengthen the in-group.’ This exhibits that resistance is more so towards the material delivered on the site by users who are unable to fathom Facebook’s diverse platform due to the restrictions contained within the social norms of their offline environments. In reality, there are imaginary divisions, such as the notion of East and West, on social networking sites like Facebook such divisions are non-existent, hence, it becomes harder to comply with offline cultural regulations. ‘Online culture has been considered as a knowledge system formed by constellations of shared practices, expectations, and structures that members choose to follow with the help of networked computer technology.’ Within a users immediate offline environment, exposure to new cultural practices is rare; this may either complement or even differ from existing practices. For example, a study conducted on the Cultural Differences between an American (Facebook) and a Chinese (Renren) social networking site showed that Renren users were more involved in benevolent in-group sharing than that if they had participated on Facebook. This exhibits that culturally strict offline communities, e.g. Chinese students, are relatively more reserved online in comparison to other offline communities, e.g. American students. However, there are exceptions. Similar to the offline culture, the online culture may influence users to ‘internalize cultural values and/or practice the shared in-group norms.’ Some questions that arise from this is ‘how do individuals adapt to different cultures online? Will experience in multiple online cultures improve individuals’ cultural competence offline?’

Picture From: under30ceo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/mark-zuckerberg-032613.jpg

Picture From: under30ceo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/mark-zuckerberg-032613.jpg

Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook with the intention that ‘everybody could share everything,’ however, his vision of a “transparent society” seemed to be ‘highly naïve’. The Facebook Private Policy states, “[f]or content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (‘IP content’), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook” (Facebook, 2010). This verifies that all content posted onto Facebook by the users, such as ‘demographic data, behaviour, usage and photographs,’ becomes the property of Facebook. The Facebook Corporation may then reproduce this content for profit. However, other online users can also reproduce this content for illegitimate purposes. Most often, active Facebook users take uninformed risks; this has led commentators to believe that ‘Facebook will lead to an increasingly high number of identity thefts.’ A research conducted by Sophos (an international security company) discovered that ‘41% of Facebook users will divulge personal information – such as email, date of birth and phone number – to complete strangers.’ This can cause an increase in identity theft and black-mailing along with an increased surveillance by employers and ex-partners. As a result, active Facebook users lose their claim to a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy.’ In the 2010 documentary starred by Nev Schulman, Catfish, spoke about a woman who created a false identity, on a social networking website, in the hopes of luring other users into romantic relationships. This kind of deceit most often occurs for money. Facebook can also be thought of as a modern representation of the ‘Panopticon’ model as it can be portrayed as a ‘perfect disciplinary apparatus’ that enable people to self-regulate within the presence of some form of authority. Nevertheless, for some form of action to be taken towards crimes like identity theft, online racial attacking and online stalking, the crime has to be reported by users multiple times till it is addressed.

The purpose of Facebook has changed dramatically, since the time of its creation, causing its culture to constantly evolve. This has enabled the company to have substantial profit in a short duration of time. However, at the same time, it has reinterpreted the meaning of “popular culture” online. The idea that Facebook is a virtual ‘Panopticon’ model that enables users to self-regulate, to a large extent, is untrue as most users tend to manipulate and exploit other users for their own personal gain by exceeding the boundaries permitted by the site. These kinds of behaviors are often a sign of resistance, which is a reflection of our offline environment. Hence, it is true, that the site shall not be successful in creating or maintaining the ‘utopian idea’ of the ‘global village’ in an online environment as the social norms within our offline environment is less than ideal.

Remembering The Great War: Terror in the Trenches

Picture From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/07/magazine_faces_of_battle/img/3.jpg

The mass warfare exerted during the First World War is documented as the epitome of medical, psychological and technological innovation at the cost of tumultuous bloodshed. During this time, the combatants underwent excessive mental trauma as a result of the conditions in which they were made to live in. The degree to which their treatment was performed depended heavily upon the attitude of not only the doctors, but also the military and the government, as a result not only affecting the soldiers, but also the entire nation.

The soldiers that participated in the Great War were familiar of the physical dangers that came along side combat and trench warfare, however most of them were oblivious to the mental effects that are spawned during a state of war. Shell shock was one such psychological disorder that originated during the time of war. This disorder primarily aroused as a result of the shell blasts and ‘intense artillery battles that were fought along the muddy trenches causing neurotic cracks to appear in otherwise mentally stable soldiers’. Furthermore, the burden of having to survive under filthy and inhumane circumstances (blood and fecal matter besieged the trenches during World War One) in the trenches coupled with the soldier’s inability to obtain adequate rest dehumanized them, not so much in the ‘mechanical’ or ‘industrialized’ sense as much as its ‘primitive’ features. As a consequence, life in the trenches was demarcated, thus redefining not only the physical, but also the mental boundaries for the men living in it. Soldiers were made to witness their fellow comrades being mutilated and in worse cases, slaughtered causing them to undergo severe shock. Those that later survived the horrors of The Great War were plagued with survivor’s guilt syndrome. As a result of the exposure to such traumatising events, the mind and the body is unable to work cohesively, therefore, restricting a soldier’s ability to fight effectively, whether it is in the offensive or defensive, thus influencing the army’s dexterity to defeat the enemy in battle.

Shell shock drastically diminished the will power in a soldier causing him to descend into a state of depression, consequently, influencing him to resort to self-medication. W. H. R. Rivers, a notable British neurologist and psychiatrist, asserted that it was a natural tendency for soldiers that suffered from shell shock to apply a technique called ‘repression’, wherein they would ‘thrust aside the painful memories of war as if they were avoiding a dangerous or horrible event’ altogether. The soldiers strongly believed that all the distressing memories of war would cease to exist if they applied this method, enabling their mind and body to function normally. However, this treatment did exactly the opposite. The symptoms of shell shock were triggered and exacerbated when the soldier was placed in a situation even remotely similar to that of the war. Rivers claimed that ‘repression may take an active part in the maintenance of war neurosis,’ directly affecting the morale of a soldier. The men at war also were able to vent out their frustrations and fears by writing poems and memoirs enabling them to better cope with their trauma through artistic expression without being accused of being effeminate. The third, and most common, technique soldiers ultimately resorted to self-inflicting wounds by shooting themselves in either their hand or foot. The purpose of this was to escape from the trauma caused by excessive violence during wartime. However, according to the military, this was regarded as a grave offense. The punishment for this offense was death – ‘cowardice shooting’.

Military norms had established a relationship between cowardice and shell shock. The term ‘coward’ was often used to describe the men who were incapable of hiding their fears while at the front, despite their attempts to do so. Exhibiting fear, especially during war, was regarded as a sign of ‘mental and moral infirmity and “pathologised” as a potential symptom of psychological instability’. Fear was primarily aggravated by ‘immobility,’ as opposed to intensive combat, as long hours in the trenches, particularly under bombardment, gave men a chance to ponder over their future. Fear was regarded as the principal reason for both cowardice and shell shock. Hence, at the time, the military had claimed cowardice to essentially be a ‘failure of character’. According to certain military ideologies, the men participating in The Great War were to regard it as an ‘invigorating male experience’ that would revive and even ‘re-masculinize’ them (a man’s virility, along with his patriotism, could only be vindicated by his ability to control his emotions by suppressing the need to express fear or distress. A man who fell victim to shell shock was regarded as feminine, as he was not in complete control of his emotions), while simultaneously reconstructing a deteriorating society. Soldiers were obligated by the military to reinstate their masculinity by abiding by ‘old male codes of honour and military virtues such as personal courage and heroism, but the war laid courage, heroism, honour and masculinity to waste’. Interestingly enough, the 2nd September 1922 issue of ‘The Times’ professed that the ‘members of the shell shock committee had failed to clearly define cowardice’, therefore, it could never have been identified whether those who were subjected to ‘cowardice shooting’ were genuinely a victim of shell shock or not.

Picture of Sigmund Freud Picture From: https://jl10ll.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/freud.jpg

Doctors struggled to understand the role of war with regards to war neurosis; as a result they formulated several theories that could have been potential solutions for this conundrum. Majority of the doctors claimed such cases to be fraudulent. In an attempt to prevent wartime ‘malingering,’ (the idea that soldiers were pretending to be a victim of war neurosis, when in actuality they were just faking their symptoms) the military authorities proclaimed that doctors should view all cases of shell shock with suspicion; consequently ‘punishments were thinly disguised as treatments’. By providing treatments such as electric shocks doctors were able to single out the men that were bluffing. Similarly, Joseph Babinski, a French neurologist, claimed that shell shock developed from ‘false suggestions implanted in the minds of patients’ as opposed to ‘organic lesions,’ therefore it could not have affected the nervous system. Babinski claimed the appropriate form of treatment was for an ‘authoritarian doctor’ to make ‘strong counter suggestions’ in order for the shell shock symptoms to disappear. Paul Sollier, a French psychologist, considered shell shock to be a ‘psychological disturbance of the brain’ that could be cured by ‘awakening the brain from its somnolence while the patient is in isolation.’ Although Sollier’s premise was different to that of Babinski’s, he too endorsed the use of an authoritative attitude in order to ensure the quick recovery of a patient. Interestingly enough, several doctors were influenced by Ernest Dupré’s idea of “mythomaniac” personality types. He asserted that shell shock victims were essentially ‘wilful liars.’ Compulsive lying, in his opinion, was an inherited trait that is deeply embedded in the personalities of those types of men. In contrast to these theories, Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist, claimed that the foundations of war neurosis is located in ‘unconscious psychological conflicts.’ He asserted that shell shock was the product of ‘one’s ego protecting himself from both the physical dangers of war as well as the danger of psychological disintegration.’ Although this was a revolutionary idea, it was highly unpopular especially amongst the French doctors. Freud had argued that most neurotic men were merely ‘succumbing to the irresistible forces of their unconscious mind,’ for this reason treatment via the use of electrical shocks would not provide a permanent solution. French Doctors rejected Freud’s assessment primarily because it contested ‘malingering’, hence disregarding man’s ability to fake the symptoms.

However, providing treatment for the victims of shell shock meant that war neurosis was an acknowledged problem. There were institutions set up for shell shock patients ‘with programs of marching, indoor recreation, outdoor games and manual occupations’. Its purpose was to get the soldiers to relax and strengthen their bodies in order to return to the front later. Naturally, many men favoured these activities over fighting in the trenches causing the depots to become congested quickly. The drastic increase in shell shock patients was reducing manpower on the front; therefore treatment was the only way of rebuilding the troops.

Some regarded the First World War as an opportunity for the nation to overcome its perceived enervations by ‘culling the weak and degenerate,’ leaving only the strong to survive. Therefore, those who were weak and unmanly – the victims of shell shock – would be expelled from society, either by the means of war or ‘cowardice shooting,’ as an attempt to cleanse the nation from its ‘malingers.’ The Social Darwinism Theory claimed that nature, as well as societies, regulated according to survival of the fittest regime. The War Office Committee members in Britain did not operate any differently. They were mostly of the conservative cast from the middle and upper strata of the society. During the war, majority of them held influential positions in the government or military. They reflected the ideals of the eugenics movement and racial degeneration. It was anticipated that the nation would revive and flourish by expelling the so-called malingers, instead the war brought to light its hidden defects. Those who did not fall victim to the atrocities of war or the cowardice shooting were left physically and psychologically disabled. For this reason, their inability to work compelled them to remain unproductive members of society surviving, majority of the time, only on state pensions.  

Shell Shock was essentially a ‘bodily protest against the war’ to which the doctors did not have much understanding about. Majority of the treatments and theories that were devised was tainted by the idea that shell shock was not an organic injury, but instead a form of ‘malingering.’ The sudden incline in shell-shocked soldiers was reducing manpower on the battlefront; therefore treatment was the only way of rebuild the troops. It could be deemed that shell shock was unsuccessfully addressed by health professionals as the nation, post-war, was funding those who were once productive members of society.

BBC releases India’s Daughter on YouTube!

I have a few things to say about this…
1) With regards to the absurd things M. L. Sharma and A. P. Singh (the defense lawyers for the rapists) have said in this documentary just goes to show that anyone can become a lawyer in India these days. Even if an FIR was not launched, why didn’t the bar take swift action and take away their licenses? Not everyone in India agrees with their views and opinions, unfortunately there is a sector of society that does uphold such thinking.
2) The day men (like the ones mentioned above) change their mentality and learn to respect women is the day change will ensue within society. Lets face it, true progress will not come if you try to deliberately exclude or eliminate one half of the society.
3) By banning ‪#‎IndiasDaughter documentary in India, the Indian Government cannot prevent the public (national and international) from addressing the elephant(s) in the room. In fact, such a documentary should spark debate amongst the public and parliament as to what long term solutions should be constructed and implemented to further educate the masses and eradicate India’s so called “Rape Culture.” Additionally, for the Indian Government to be constantly banning media content in an attempt to prevent India from being “defamed” is completely contradictory to the democratic values the country’s constitution upholds.

And lastly..

4) Unfortunately, what got to the perpetrators was a poverty of ambition [as shown in the documentary]. The government and the people need to understand that poverty and inequality of opportunity, especially to receive quality education, should be addressed within our communities worldwide because that is the root of all evil. With a decrease in poverty levels and increase in citizens receiving quality education, woman’s security (amongst other things) are bound to improve. The issue being addressed at hand is in fact a global issue and not just India’s issue.


After much speculation, the highly controversial documentary, India’s Daughter, makes its way to the World Wide Web. Banned in India, the documentary focuses on the rape case of Jyoti Singh who was brutally beaten and raped in Delhi in 2012.

The documentary highlights the aftermath of the event as well as a one on one interview with assailant Mukesh Singh. While BBC was in high hopes of releasing the video on television for Women’s Day (March 8th), heavy protests against Mukesh Singh’s lack of remorse and despicable comments lead the the ban of the documentary in India.

Directed by Leslee Udwin, the film has now been made available on YouTube.

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“They dragged her to the road by her hair, tried to rip off her clothes and smiled at the cameras that filmed it all.” “He threw acid on her, aiming at her vagina and abdomen.” “Man who put ‘chastity lock on wife gets 10 years in jail.” “A 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern was beaten and gang-raped in a moving bus while travelling with her male friend.” The headlines are endless. News covering issues of sexual and physical abuse towards women in India have been highlighted on almost every national and international platform striking compelling debate. The Nirbhaya Rape Case that took place in the country’s capital was one of those many disasters that unleashed the storm. The public’s rage towards the whole ordeal was seen in the form of several protests with banners mentioning, ‘don’t tell me how to dress, tell them NOT to rape,’ the law was questioned and law enforcement, as well as the Members of Parliament, were interrogated with stringent leeway. With its steep rise in crimes against women, India has made it to the top of the charts as the “worst place to be a woman.”

The Indian society is known for its extensive diversity and strong cultural values. However, embedded in these traditions and values are key ideas that explicitly diminish the strength and purpose of a woman – Indian women in particular – thus significantly reshaping the idea of feminism in an Indian society. The ‘Mahabharat,’ a great Sanskrit epic, identifies a female character by the name of Draupadi. Although Draupadi played an integral part in the grand scheme of things, in a nutshell, she was born unasked by her father. As a result, she was stripped off any kind of joy and deprived of honour and respect as a wife and mother. Due to certain circumstances, Draupadi was coerced into marrying five men, all of whom were brothers. One of her five husbands lost her in a bet along with many of his other fortunes. She was also ridiculed in front of a room full of courtiers and almost ruthlessly disrobed. I say ‘almost’ because she was ultimately saved by divine intervention. Much of her misfortunes were blatantly blamed on her own ‘unparalleled’ beauty and intelligence. Within much of the epic, Draupadi was portrayed as a victim of circumstance who had absolutely no control over the situation. In the ‘Ramayan’, another great Sanskrit epic, Sita similar to Draupadi, was objectified and handed over as a prize won in a contest (known as Swayamvar); she was abducted and struggled to maintain her chastity during her detainment. Apart from these instances, Indian Mythology placed women on a pedestal that was deemed much superior to men. (Note the irony) However, interestingly enough mythologies such as the Mahabharat and Ramayan have exhibited that masculine power is derived from that of women. Both epics, eventually, deduced the idea that kings and their provinces were completely wiped out because they wronged a woman.

Furthermore, according to Hindu custom female Goddesses are worshiped with grandiosity yet all the institutions within the society not only fail to protect women, but also blame them for these happenings. The editor of an Assamese Women’s Magazine ‘Nandini’, Maini Mahanta claims that tradition, for the most part, still moulds women into “helpless victims” rather than “free-thinking individuals who are in control of their own destiny,” much like a modern day ‘Draupadi’. She goes on to state that events like Raksha Bandhan – the festival where a girl ties a safety thread around her brother’s wrist – signifies a brother’s duty to protect his sister and ancient scriptures such as the ‘Manu Sanghita’ form boundaries dictated by patriarchs that under no cost are to be surpassed by women. Therefore, from the time of birth women are burdened with the obligation to conform to a traditional way of behaving and a conservative way of donning themselves. Kavita Krishnan, a prominent women’s activist and Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), affirms, “there is clearly some anxiety all over the world among policy makers about how to re-persuade women to be “real” women – to go back to their traditional docile roles even as they become more empowered.”

Women here have found themselves in the midst of a hostile divide between traditional and modern ways of thinking. Mamta Sharma, chairwomen of the National Commission of Women (NCW) a statutory body formed by the provisions of the Indian Constitution that works towards promoting and protecting the interests of women within the Indian society, aroused a great deal of controversy when she released a statement to The Indian Express mentioning, “After 64 years of freedom, it is not right to give blanket directions… and say don’t wear this or don’t wear that. Be comfortable, but at the same time, be careful about how you dress… aping the west blindly is eroding our culture and causing such crimes to happen.” Sharma’s flagrant remark instigated a response from Sagarika Ghose, an Indian journalist and News Anchor, “It is not about blindly aping the west, Ms Sharma. It’s also about the vacuum in the law, lack of security at leisure spots, lack of gender justice, lack of fear of law, police and judicial apathy and the complete lack of awareness that men and women have the right to enjoy exactly the same kind of leisure activities.” There is no doubt that the nature of the crimes that occur within a public arena is in fact utterly horrendous, however, the most pervasive forms of sexual assault are often done by close kin in private spaces. Sanjay Srivastava, a professor in Sociology, claims, “our public places are unsafe, but they are not really as unsafe as our private ones. The latter is unsafe because of an almost watertight contract written in the language of trust, honour and tradition. It is a contract between different members of the family the powerful and the powerless to maintain the sanctity of the ‘Indian family’ and traditions at all costs.” He goes on to mention, “Historians and sociologists describe it as a unique aspect of Indian life, politicians sing its praises, movies and TV soaps extol its virtues, and Indians reprimand westerners with figures about the low divorce rate and the rock solid nature of the Indian family as compared to the western one.” So why is it that a society that prides itself on strong values and family ties continue to tolerate and at times even actively participate in crimes against women at home and in the wider society?

The horrific and outright shocking event of 16th December became a catalyst for legal change. The public alongside the media pressured the Indian government into making certain amendments within the law that would enforce the security of women in society. Under the refined version of the law tougher penalties were set for non-sexual, but gender-related acid attacks on women. New offences such as stalking and voyeurism were also incorporated. Convicted rapists were said to face a minimum sentence of 20 years to life and would only be sentenced with the death penalty if the victim were to die from the injuries caused or left in a vegetative state. However, this law too is not free from its setbacks. Although it reduces the age of consent from 18 to 16, it denoted that the rape of a “married” child between 15 and 18, similar to a married adult, would still be considered legal. Nilanjana Roy, a leading commentator and novelist, believes this is because many people within the Indian society do not regard marital rape as a crime. Karuna Nundy, member of the New York Bar and practitioner at Supreme Court of India, suggests that one of the reasons crimes towards women has catapulted is because the country has one of the lowest number of judges and police in proportion to its population. She also states, “Failures to convict rapists are due to institutionalized misogyny to some degree, but they’re also due to insufficient competence of police and prosecutors.”

Not too long ago, chief of Samajwadi Party, Mulayum Singh Yadav allegedly stated at an election rally in Moradabad district of northern Uttar Pradesh, “handing death sentence for rape is not fair… boys make mistakes… there will be changes in the law if we come to power.” Although, Mr. Yadav’s comment reeked of male chauvinism, the reality is that his thoughts are represented by a particular sector of society. Nevertheless, Mr. Yadav does not have the authority to make any assurances on changing the law. One of India’s leading newspapers, The Times of India wrote, “Even by his misogynistic standards, he seems to have sunk to a new low… The change in the laws was brought on after months of selfless demonstration by citizens striving to bring about a change in India’s social outlook by terming rape as ‘just another mistake boys make’, Mulayam has just rendered a slap in the face of their efforts.”

A vast majority of crimes on women have gone unreported, primarily because the attackers do not see their actions as a crime. The perpetrators operate on the hunch that the victim won’t report the abuse to the authorities because they would undergo an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt. The violence and sexual assault that occurs within the family is less reported, as members within the family believe that the victim’s pain should be sacrificed in the name of “collective honour.” Neeraj Kumar, a former commissioner of Delhi Police, revealed, “if you look at the data, in 97% of rape cases in India, the perpetrator is known to the victim. These are opportunistic crimes. The question of the police preventing these rapes does not arise. You cannot go into people’s bedrooms and houses.” Contrary to Karuna Nundy’s statement he adds, “Just putting more policemen on the roads will not help matters. Delhi has over 80,000 policemen but simply expanding the force will not necessarily help curb rape.”

The major expansion in India’s service sector paved a new era for women in the workforce. The economic overhauls of the early 1990s leveraged a 60 percent expansion in India’s gross domestic product causing millions of Indian women to be recruited. Girls were beginning to outshine boy in all fields. This breakthrough for women not only raised anxiety for most men, but also drastically increased levels of vulnerability for women. All throughout India, women began to feel susceptible to attack from a growing number of unattached and unemployed men who viewed women’s success as a reason for their failure. Philip Zimbardo, a well-known psychologist and writer of the novel “The Demise of Guys,” claims the reason boys are being outperformed by girls is because boys prefer the ‘asynchronistic internet world’ as opposed to the spontaneous interactions in social relationships. Zimbardo claims that excessive Internet use enticed with easy access to pornography are “arousal addictions” that enable boys brains to be digitally rewired for novelty and excitement causing them to be ‘totally out of sync in traditional classes and romantic relationship that build gradually and subtly.’ Surprisingly, the industry even supplies it. The demand for “item songs” and roles were women play the damsel in distress are significantly high in the Indian Cinema as that is what receives the most commercial gain. The Bollywood industry has just started breaking the mould by experimenting with stronger female characters.

The increase in rapes is not a condition produced by economic circumstances nor is it the poor that are more likely to commit such crimes; it is a mixture of factors. Even though India has been listed as the “worst country to be a woman,” lets face it, crimes against women are happening all over the globe. The incident in Steubenville, Ohio where high school football players were accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl after she was lugged from one party to another, prompted a comment in New York Times titled “Is Delhi So Different From Steubenville?” In the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 400,000 women are raped each year while in Somalia female genital mutilation is relatively more widespread. Therefore, crimes towards women are not a country specific issue, rather it is a global issue that should be taken a lot more seriously by all institutions within the society. Stereotyping women, blaming the victim and trying to figure out if she was the one who invited the rape is not a solution. Calling gender violence a women’s issue gives men an excuse not to pay attention. Martin Luther King famously said, “In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” The Bystander Approach, devised by Jackson Katz, deals with exactly that – our relentless silence and the role of our peers. In this approach, staying silent is seen as a form of consent and complicity. This concept revolutionizes the purpose of a society by empowering members within it to create a peer culture where abusive behaviour is seen as not just illegal, but also unacceptable. Men and boys who act out in strident and sexist ways lose status amongst their peers and other members of society. This approach is supposed to be put in play at all times and not just when crimes against women reach its pinnacle.

Welcome to the age of ‘The Rise’

RiSe Mumbai!

Introducing Team Rise

The horrific crime that took place on 16th December sparked a firestorm of protests. The incident not only touched the lives of many, but also encouraged India’s restless and increasingly assertive youth to rise against the abuse occurring towards women within the country. School and college students have been organising and actively participating in educating their local communities on issues around discrimination and abuse towards women. Rise Mumbai was one such event that helped educate and awaken other members within society to the harsh realities of physical and sexual abuse that Indian women encounter. Led by a team of diligent students from Podar College of Commerce and Economics, the event took three and half months to execute. Their relentless effort and dedication towards organising an event fully dedicated to the security of women in India is what got me hell bent on writing this article. When asked what inspired them to rise against such issues they responded, “Like every other ordinary Mumbaikar we never gave too much thought to doing anything for society. But this changed one day when a female friend of ours felt insecure at night at a railway station even when she had two guys with her to drop her off. This incident made us think and UNLIKE any other ordinary Mumbaikar instead of waiting for something terrible to happen, we decided to be proactive and work for women’s safety in Mumbai.” Managing an event such as Rise brought its own set of challenges. The students’ drive to create a positive change in society was constantly tested; unfortunately, not everyone could set himself or herself to the task. However, the group of students that did manage to successfully juggle all their responsibilities made Rise a dream come true. The kind of educational tools and skills shared by team Rise was an effective way to provoke thought and strike a gripping discussion. With hosting a one-day event like Rise, the drawback is that most people tend to gradually forget about it all. Nonetheless, team Rise says they have it all planned out. They aspire to hold monthly workshops in schools as well as organize a city-wide campaign to educate individuals about physical and sexual abuse towards women, the downsides of corruption and so on. They say, “We realise change is not something that comes in a day or two. It may take a year or a thousand years. All we aimed to do is give a start, make people think. To show the world that the youth can be responsible and to tell the youth that it is ‘cool’ to be good.” But like with any event, financial backing is mandatory. All assistance/volunteers and sponsorship would be greatly appreciated.

 RISE is a campaign initiated to make Mumbai a better place for women. It aims at eliminating any gender-based violence against women, especially rape.

Video Powered by Team Interpret – www.lightscamerainterpret.com

Music and Sound Recording done at Seven Sounds Productions

Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcUyYXb2rTo

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

The horrific night of December 16th 2012 till date haunts the nation.  The brutality of the Delhi gang rape aroused vast media attention, inciting protests and extensive debate on the safety of girls and women all over the country.  Tabloids handed the baton to our gracious politicians seeking for the reason behind their absence at the protests that were conducted by the public at Jantar Mantar on 22nd December 2012.  People from almost all walks of life gathered at the arena to not only mourn the death of another rape victim, but also to question the country’s political decision making with regards to the rights of women.

It is not hidden from the international audience of how heinous the Delhi gang rape was, although it was an event that became a controversial political and social game changer. In the last 10 years, the metropolitan areas of the country have seen inflation skyrocket demanding more women to step out into the work force unlike before. Most Indian women are now made to work a double shift, working full time along with maintaining the household.  In the olden days, a male authority would dictate the terms inside the house. It was deemed that a woman’s sole job was to remain within the household and submit to the demands of either their fathers or after marriage, their husbands. Residues of this kind of patriarchal behaviour are still evident today. Women who are now out into the workforce, majority of the time, still work under a non-related male authority. The fact that women are now independent and no longer under the ownership of men has become a hard pill to swallow. Abhijit Mukherjee, an Indian politician who serves as Member of Parliament from Jangipur in the Indian state of West Bengal, stated that the increasing number of rapes occurring within the capital is because of “dented and painted women” that call such atrocities upon them because of their dress code.  The dress code is not all; many people have even gone as far as blaming Bollywood for releasing sensual and provocative movies, damaging the representation of women.  Well-known Bollywood Actress, Priyanka Chopra mentioned in the India Today January 2013 Issue that the actors should not be accused for the portrayal of sensuality or violence as “a movie is not a political pamphlet and a song is not a manifesto for social change.” While that maybe true, for the most part, most Bollywood movie releases are commercial rather than non-commercial. The movies that have overwhelming traces of sensuality and violence are those that will do relatively well in the box office as those are the ones that have a public demand. In the Indian Cinema, it is considered a ‘time-pass’ to watch a damsel in distress be rescued by her knight in shining armour from a gang of about 10-15 men whom acquire all sorts of perilous weaponry, effortlessly. It would be naïve of the Actress to mention that these sorts of movies do not have an impact on societal attitudes. Dr Sunitha Krishnan, founder of Prajwala, an organisation that helps to rehabilitate women and children who have been sexually exploited, expresses that ‘society has a way of victimising the victim’ rather than the perpetrator. Having been affected by a gang rape herself, at the age of 15, she understands best of the aftermath of such a traumatising experience. Victims of sexual abuse are targeted and then isolated by society as they are seen as a bad influence upon others, while the perpetrator is allowed to freely roam causing harm to a number of other families.

Portrayal of sensuality and violence through ‘item numbers’ in Bollywood movies. This shot was taken from a song in the movie Agneepath (2012). Picture From: http://images.mid-day.com/2013/jan/Chikni-Chameli.jpg

Loopholes within the parliamentary and judicial system impasse a speedy trail. Patriarchal men who mulishly follow obsolete tradition, for the most part, dominate the Indian Parliament.  The laws they choose to implement have failed a large section of society, predominately women. All India Progressive Women’s Association’s (AIPWA) executive Kavita Krishnan highlights how faulty Indian Laws really are. She states in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012, rape is considered gender neutral when in India, the current stats show that in fact rape is a crime specifically against women. The Sexual Harassment Bill states that women who make false complaints are to be severely penalised.  Kavita Krishnan mentions, “No other law has a false complaint clause. Having this clause assumes a woman has more of a tendency to lie than a man.” The truth of the matter is that regardless of the crime, a corrupt justice system will sometimes deem the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent.  The capital is central to power; those politically affiliated can bribe their way out of the most notorious of crimes. Members of Parliament with a criminal track record can even regain entry within Parliament, and to the countries misfortune, are sometimes even re-elected. Mixing ego and superseded thought within the parliament is sure to cause a recipe for disaster. When one’s cell phone stops working or pen’s ink runs out, you exchange it for one that does work to serve its purpose. Similarly, in India one cannot just lay down archaic laws to capture the country in a state of traditionalism, rather one should use the law to serve a progressive nation. Kuruna Nundy, Supreme Court advocate, says that what India really needs is ‘more courts, more judges and more police’ to fix the problem. However, that is not the case. India has plenty of courts, judges and police, but neither of them works efficiently. There were some instances of high-handed behaviour by some police personnel during the protests in Delhi. As a result of this over use of violence, law enforcement along with the state, lost its remaining legitimacy.

Delhi Students protesting on the streets. Picture From: http://topnews.in/files/delhi-gang-rape-protest.jpg

Instances of high-handed behaviour by some police personnel.
Picture From: http://static.indianexpress.com/m-images/M_Id_340727_delhi_gang_rape.jpg

It is obvious that societal attitudes about women need to change and this can be done by constructing a value creating education system that will empower women and allow them to be on par with men within society. The girl who died from the Delhi Gang Rape was a 23 year old paramedic student whose father sold a piece of ancestral land to finance her education rather than her dowry deposit as it would be commonly expected. It is important to understand that educated women likewise men are both need to build a progressive nation. India needs a serious legal renovation. People need to learn to obey the laws and our politicians are no exception. The definition of rape needs to be expanded. Crimes such as acid throwing, public sexual humiliation and stalking need to come under rape laws. One of the perpetrators of the Delhi Gang Rape was a juvenile, hence will probably be given a lighter punishment even though he was the one to cause the most damage. India’s legal system needs to revisit how a juvenile should be described. While castration and execution may seem like a decent punishment for a rapist, it does not solve the problem completely. Many cases of sexual harassment in India have gone unnoticed. All future cases that fall in the category of rape, acid throwing, public sexual humiliation and stalking should be put in fast track courts where the punishment is well defined and with no ambiguity. Courts need to work at a fast track pace and not dangle the victim and her family for justice for years on end. After all Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.

No Safe Haven for Pakistani Hindus

The Displaced and Disheartened
Picture From: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/photo/15438589.cms

The year of 1947 was one of the major defining moments of Indian and Pakistani history. Although it has been 65 years since the partitioning, terror still haunts the minority Pakistani Hindus daily. In the May Issue of ‘India Today’, Bhavna Vij-Aurora shed light onto the devastating impact caused to Pakistani Hindu women who were ‘marked’, abducted, raped and then forcibly converted to Islam in an act gain back at least some of their respectability while in the marriage. One such case that struck the media was that of Rinkle Kumari.

On the 26th of March, Rinkle dared to do the impossible. After her abduction by a man by the name of Naveed Shah, she made a bold plea for help to the highest court in Pakistan. However, unsurprisingly, Pakistani political affiliation influenced the suppression to her demand for closure. The suffrage of the Pakistani women within the Hindu minority population triggered the mass migration to places such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and even India.

The Province of Sindh in Pakistan is the home to 90% of Hindus. It was mentioned in the article, ‘No Country for Pakistani Hindus,’ ‘that an average of 25 girls each month meet Rinkle’s fate in Sindh alone’. These women and their families are rendered helpless and made to shift irrespective of their financial instabilities. These people have neither the numbers nor the political clout to provide them with even the slightest assurance of their safety which in itself is a humanitarian right displaced. According to the Delhi Foreign Region Registration also known as the FRRO, till mid-2011- an average of eight to ten families migrated per month. However, the stats have rapidly increased since the past twelve months to 400 families attempting to settle in India alone. Post-1947, Hindus accounted for 15% of the Pakistani population, whereas now there has been a drastic decline to a mere 2% in a population of 170 million due to the killings, mass migration and forced conversion.

In an age where Humanitarian Rights are put under the limelight of every global and economic issue, Pakistani and Indian politicians don’t cease to play the blame game with their bait. The number of Pakistani Hindus that flee from Pakistan come to India just to find themselves in another bottomless pit of despair. After the rape of his 14-year-old sister, 31-year-old Pujari Lal came to Khanna in Punjab where he is still being denied citizenship, despite marrying a local resident. “It has been 13 years but I still have not become a citizen of India. My papers have come back a dozen times with some objection or the other. I have already spent Rs 20,000 in the process and have run out of money” replies Mr Lal. Another similar case is that of Jamuna Devi, migrating from Bahawalpur in Sindh she and her family settled on the outskirts of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The settlement in which they lived in had absolutely no electricity or sources of clean water that practically formed a situation that was humanly impossible to survive in irrespective of which community lives there. The lack of hygiene influences the high rate of illnesses within the region. Jamuna Devi mentions, “There are mosquitoes and insects all over. When our children fall ill, the Government hospitals refuse to give us medicines, saying we are Pakistanis.”

 While there are some organisations that provide a temporary home for Pakistani Hindus, the lack of funds provided by the government causes a deliberate repetition of the poverty cycle. Young girls such as 3-year-old Rani who lives in Majnu Ka Tilla Refugee camp will be yet another victim of the government’s inadequate decision making. Limited education and exposure to necessary resources will drag her back in to facilitate the poverty cycle in India along with the other children who deserve the prospect to secure a future of opportunities and not a life of endless pleading.

The Indian betrayal has incarcerated Pakistani Hindus for no fault of their own. Even after several years of fleeing, people like Om Lal Pishori who fled Pakistan along with six other families still ‘remain foreigners in the land where they sought salvation.’ The only reason behind no political assistance to Pakistani Hindu Refugees is that they don’t account for the vote bank Indian politicians desperately desire to stay in power. Avinash Rai Khanna, Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab mentions this himself, ‘ The suffering of the Pakistani Hindu families has not become a political issue in this country because it does not win elections. Ironically, the problem of a section of Indian’s majority community is nobody’s problem.’

The European Organisation for Pakistani Minorities also known as the EOPM recently reported that soldiers within the Pakistani Army abducted minority women to use as sex slaves. Even the Pakistani’s National Human Rights Commission in 2011 confessed that the minority populous weren’t safe in Pakistan. And to top it off the Pakistani police don’t recognise these cruelties and therefore let their offenders off the hook. MP Avinash Rai Khanna of the BJP party is one of the few politicians that raise questions about the plight of those persecuted. In response to the questions raised, E. Ahamed the Minister of State mentioned on the 22nd March, “The Government has taken up the matter with the government of Pakistan it has stated that it looked after the welfare of all its citizens, particularly the minority community.” ‘India Today’ writer, Bhavna Vij-Aurora states in her article that, “a secular India’s MEA accepts Pakistan’s claims at face value. They claim that since India does not endorse any religion, it cannot be seen as speaking for Hindu’s in Pakistan.” So the question that arises from this is that does India really have to endorse a religion in order to provide any sort of humanitarian assistance to its public?

With politics and financial instability dictating their lives, Pakistani Hindus find it close to impossible to envisage a ‘safe’ environment for themselves and their families, presently. This cover story is yet another hard-hitting fact of reality. Both India and Pakistan are not to blame; rather it is the incompetence of their political parties that fail to provide swift action, leaving these communities playing piggy-in-the-middle, for possibly the rest of their lives.