Prologue. — I strongly denounce the nightlong police detention, interrogation and harassment of my friend and noted film director Suman Mukhopadhyay of Calcutta.
Here in USA, I’ve worked for many years with colleagues to protect civil liberties and human rights for all, and built resistance movements against police and state abuse and invasion of privacy. What is going on in Calcutta is beyond belief: police and politicians are making our constitutional rights a mockery. If it can happen to Suman, it can happen to us all. I invite you to come forward, and build similar movements in India and across the world, using USA’s ACLU and NAACP models. Talk to lawyers and rights-minded politicians, personalities, and media, and do it now.
ADDRESS: TALIBAN, INDIA. (No, this is not about BJP and Modi).
When Taliban extremists find a woman suspect of adultery, they do a trial their way, and upon conviction, stone her to death. If they find the man involved too, they serve a lighter sentence: maybe, 100 lashes and a small fine. In Saudi Arabia, I’ve heard, they cut off a thief’s fingers, or behead someone they find doing something immoral or blasphemous. (Of course, U.S. media has two standards of reporting: one for Taliban, and the other for Saudi Arabia. But that’s a different story.)
In India, recently, we’ve seen “honor killing” of women committing acts their societies — Muslim and Hindu upper castes and lower castes — do not permit. These acts include marrying a man outside their castes, religions or social statures. In 2013, a Hindu brother hacked his sister to death; in the same year, a Muslim father chopped his daughter’s head — both in broad daylight, in front of a crowd. The brother carried the cut-off head of his sister to the police station one mile away, walking all the way with the head in his hand. (I’m sorry for such a graphic description, but without it, you wouldn’t get the gravity of the situation.) Now, these are extreme incidents, and do not happen in India every single day (Thank God!). What happens on a *daily basis* is a feudal, chauvinistic undermining and punishing of acts the people in power (social, political or familial powers) find unacceptable or immoral.
Yesterday’s police detention and harassment of my film-director friend Suman Mukhopadhyay was an example of that. Because he is famous and actually liked by the average people for his modesty and magnificent artistic creations, and because the police in spite of many attempts, could not frame charges against him, they let him go after keeping him wait in a wooden chair at a Calcutta police station for the whole night (detained for 18-23 hours), and interrogating him with offensive questions in front of his wife — questions that had no connection with the case (I’ve posted his candid interview in English with a reporter). It is possible that he was subjected to such humiliation because of his outspokenness against the ruling government and its failure to stop the numerous rapes and brutalities on poor, young women in Calcutta and West Bengal (he had also spoke out against the previous ruling government’s atrocities — countless times). The actress whom he was involved with is now subject of mass rumors, ridicules, and public judgement.
In India, and in the so-called progressive Bengal, a woman is an easy prey: anyone can insult or humiliate her, and if there is even an iota of “dirt,” the people — the so-called “educated” and “liberal” included — will make her life miserable. If she has money or political connections, she is somewhat sheltered, and eventually spared, ONLY BECAUSE the people now have a new “scandal” to pass their judgement on. If she is poor and without any connections (often these two are linked), if she is not beheaded, whipped or “honor-killed,” she is tortured by her own family, friends and society for the rest of her life. If she refuses any advances of a stalker or sex maniac, they might throw acid on her face, and disfigure her permanently; in fact, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have the HIGHEST NUMBER of acid-disfigure victims in the world. It’s so common there that it’s not even news.
Talibans and Saudi courts do it openly. In India and Bengal, they do it differently. One is a quick death; the other is a slow death. At the end of the day, the national constitution or international human rights laws DO NOT MATTER. The media, after cashing on the sexy, sensational sells (some call it news), move on. The status quo prevails.
This is the ultimate beauty of this socioeconomic system we often call democracy. Taliban and Saudis do not have any pretension of democracy. USA and India do. The 1% at the top prevail. They love this social status quo. If they do not like the political rulers they bought on the market, they shop again, and buy a new one. All of these rulers know that a social status quo will keep the buyers happy. And if they are kept happy, the rulers (“elected” in “democratic elections”) will be kept happy too.
You judge what is going on. You decide.
Brooklyn, New York