Sunday, October 1,
are the roots of Hindutva?
with Modernity by Javeed Alam. Oxford University Press, Delhi.
Pages 241. Rs 450.
a time when the corridors of Indian academia are getting choked
with post-modernists and post-Marxists, it is a matter of real
relief to read someone who is neither. Javeed Alam deserves our
attention for two additional reasons. One he does not choose the
easy way out, ignoring or dismissing the trend as just another
passing fad; he treats it with the seriousness it requires, and
argues passionately how harmful, indeed fatal, could the
"seductive charm" of post-modernism be for
emancipatory politics of any kind, particularly so in the
underdeveloped, poverty-stricken and conflict-ridden parts of
reason is that Alam is no orthodox modernist or Marxist himself.
The departures which his book makes from such orthodoxies are no
less significant. His perspective is original and his ideas
fresh and unconventional. He presents them with a great deal of
courage and conviction. One can disagree with him on several
scores, or find the reading tough and tedious, but one cannot
dismiss him easily or lightly.
Given the fact
that Alam is both a scholar and an activist, his concerns are
theoretical as well as practical and political. Accordingly, the
book is divided into two somewhat interpenetrating parts. The
first part deals largely with such philosophical and theoretical
issues as must inform any discussion on modernity and
post-modernism. The second part applies insights thus gained to
illuminate some issues which have remained the source of
perennial socio-political contention in this country both during
the colonial and post-colonial periods.
Taking up the
first section first, it is not Alam’s position that the
post-modernists are wrong in critiquing modernity. He himself
readily admits, and in fact highlights, all that is wrong with
modernity, its abstract individualism, its instrumental
rationality and its divorce from normative concerns. He insists
however that post-modernists are fundamentally wrong when they
assume that this kind of modernity was and is the only one
possible. A major concern of the book in this section therefore
is to show that several diverse forms of modernity were
philosophically and theoretically possible. These forms too
could have been historically realised, were it not for the fact
that ascendant and assertive capitalism of the 18th and 19th
centuries favoured one particular form and helped it to develop
at the cost of others. This form he calls "entrenched
oppressive and disempowering as well as individually demeaning
and dehumanising entrenched modernity must be overthrown. But
doing so in the ways of post-modernists, rejecting modernity in
all its myriad forms, is banal as well as barren. It amounts to
throwing the baby with the proverbial bath water. Post-modernism
offers no socially and collectively applicable agenda of
resistance against oppression. In effect, it depoliticises
that the task before those who stand for popular emancipatory
goals is to rework modernity to achieve a desired destiny, for
modernity is, he believes, "corrigible". For that, we
need to recover and realise what he calls the "unembodied
surplus" of modernity. There exists in the alternative
traditions of modernity a lot that is more humane, open-ended
and sensitive to cultural and spiritual needs.
that we take a closer look at Hegel and Marx as two of the
richest sources of the unembodied surplus. Both believe in
progress, but in the perspective which these two eminent
philosophers share, dialectic of "becoming" replaces
the dichotomous and foundationalist categories of
"being" and "non-being", truth and
falsehood, subjectivity and objectivity, rationality and
There is in
them no independent, immutable first principle; all is emergent
and subject to change. At the same time, their rejection of
foundationalism does not imply, as that of the post-structuralists
does, that nothing can or need be grounded or theoretically
Those who are
directly and professionally involved in the philosophy of social
sciences may find Alam’s reading of post-modernism prejudiced
or that of alternative modernities tendentious. Other interested
readers, who are not so evolved or involved, may find these
chapters altogether obtuse. But tendentious and obtuse or not,
these chapters do in fact provide the underpinnings for the much
larger second section of the book. Scholastic bickerings should
not deter us, however, for readers could judge the perspective
of the book by a simpler test — namely, the quality of
insights it provides into the Indian socio-political history of
the past 150 years.
between the two sections is provided by Alam’s reference, made
right in the beginning of the book, to what is a pervasively
held view in India. The view is that "colonialism is but a
necessary extension of modernity". A logical corollary of
this view is the belief that colonialism and neocolonialism
cannot be successfully fought unless we fight modernity itself.
This has led to
what might be called "indigenism", a blind and
uncritical faith which holds that prior to alien interventions
there existed in India a pan-Indian civilisation and culture
which not only possessed internal stability, cohesion and
harmony but also intrinsic superiority to whatever was
introduced as a result of interventions. Indeginism constitutes
a call to the faithful that they should reject and renounce all
that is alien and "corrupting", for they have the
glorious option of returning to the roots deep and nourishing.
obviously an ideology. It mythologises history. All evidence of
internal contradictions, tensions and discords are carefully
screened out. The sanitised version is then propagated as
"national culture" by majoritarian religious-cultural
leaders. The version eventually takes hold of popular
imagination among the cultural and religious majorities.
brilliant when he shows repeatedly how this has happened in the
case of Hindu nationalism. He shows how the condescension and
chauvinism which characterised Hindu nationalism during the
anti-colonial period has grown into the intolerance which
Hindutva has openly and agressively displayed in more recent
naturally agitated that post-modernists have wittingly or
unwittingly played a role in legitimising this. By introducing
relativism in all analyses, and by blurring in particular the
distinction between hostory and narrative, they have tried to
snatch away from historians the very tools of proving how false,
misleading and damaging such acts of mythologisation and
concrete and specific instances of Indian post-modernists who
have argued that "secularism is an alien concept and cannot
therefore acquire roots in Indian society". Alam tellingly
describes such a position as "inverted Eurocentrism":
while it ostensibly aims to fight western categories, it accepts
western characterisation of non-western societies as
primordialist, non-rational and static.
But his ire is
not limited to post-modernists alone. He broadens his attack to
include cultural nationalists in general. While doing so, he
does not spare modernist nationalists like Nehru either. In his
writings on world history, Nehru provides a secular materialist
interpretation of how nations rise and how nationalism could
play both negative and positive roles in the lives of people.
When it comes
to India, however, Nehru feels compelled to "discover"
an eternal Indian nation. He forgets his historical materialism
and invents a nation by highlighting precisely what Hindu
nationalists did — namely, the high Brahmanical tradition.
Alam argues that such compulsions and concessions might be the
single most important reason why after independence Indian
secularists could never put up a resolute fight against
on Indian nationalism make one of the most thought-provoking
parts of the book. If colonialism is but a necessary extension
of entrenched modernity, nationalism based merely on
anti-colonialism is its exact mirror image. Just as in the West
nationalism sought to subsume nationalities and subnational
communities, so did Indian nationalism. Alam prefers to call
such pan-Indian nationalism "supranationality
nationalism". It has survived and thrived because of state
sponsorship. "The state leadership stuck unthinkingly at
conceiving the ‘nation’ as indistinguishable from the
countrywide territory inherited from British colonial
rule....the national form that emerged out of European modernity
became a mirror for reading our own situation."
that "liberal thought in India, which stands for the
democratisation of the social and cultural life of people, has
to shed its obsession with the uniqueness of India as a nation
and look at it as something mutable....open to
redefinitions." Alam argues that the Left too may have to
go further and "reassess nationalism even when it uses the
nation as a platform for struggle against imperialism."
the vision of an alternative India which recognises and respects
plurality of communities and nationalities. What constitutes
each of these communities and nationalities is not "high
culture", however, for such culture is always the preserve
of the elite and is based on its exclusionary practices. Instead
these communities and nationalities are formed by the
"actually experienced" culture in the day-to-day lives
of ordinary people. Such culture, and a community or nationality
based on such a culture, would always be more open and willing
to accommodate differences. Such a community will not block the
way of the individuals seeking an exit. Alam derives this notion
of community from an open-ended and evolving category of
"social being". The category tries to combine class,
caste and other social features in an effort to "avoid the
trap of defining class or caste as the main determinant of
A brief review of a book so
exciting and stimulating is clearly inadequate and unfair. One
fervently hopes that the book makes Indian social scientists
introspect and ask themselves seriously the questions it raises.
as political weapon
Review by Shelley Walia
Politics of Cruelty by Kate Millett. Viking, London. Page 335.
the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Eastern
Bloc, it was predicted that we were embarking on a "new
world order" marked by prosperity, stability and peace.
Short-sighted propagandists like Francis Fukuyama proclaimed
the end of history as liberal democracy took roots in a
hitherto barren territory. But with wars raging in West Asia
and elsewhere, with a quarter of a million dying in Rwanda and
thousands continuing to die in Somalia and western Cambodia, a
new phase of imperialism has begun in which western powers
switch allegiances to first one war lord and then another in
their search for regional influence and profit.
imperial order has not collapsed, nor has the new golden age
dawned. The world has never been so well equipped to kill or
so volatile to invite killing. Within this context of the
return of war, starvation and fascism, when imperialism enters
its latest and most dangerous phase, political activist and
writer, Kate Millett has passionately undertaken a study of
the reality of contemporary and widespread practice of torture
in her new book "The Politics of Cruelty : An Essay on
the Literature of Political Imprisonment".
She uses the
literature of the politically imprisoned to bring out cruel
state repression and its nerve-racking effects. Intolerant
regimes use considerable ingenuity at suppressing dissent.
Physical and psychological intimidation and subjugation are
not only common under totalitarian regimes but are widely
practised in any modern state. Millett’s analysis is a
world-wide investigation of the outrageous strategies of
absolute power employed to intimidate the non-conformist.
She opens her
book with a definition of the literature of cruelty as
"literature of witness : the one who has been there, seen
it, knows". This can be an autobiography, a reportage or
narrative fiction, but its foundations are "factual, a
fact passionately lived and put into writing by a moral
imperative rooted like a flower amid carnage with an
imperishable optimism, a hope that those who will hear will
care, will even take action". Like her other important
works such as "Sexual Politics" and "The
Basement", the book examines power and oppression,
courage and endurance in the face of death and terror of
of torture as a method of conscious policy with the sole
intent of installing fear in the minds of the subjects is
approached by Millett through a variety of literary, legal and
historical material including Primo Levi’s "Survival at
Auschwitz" and Solzhenitsyn’s "The First
Circle", as well as Mark Mathabane’s "Kaffir
Boy", Nien Cheng’s "Life and Death in
Shanghai" and Radha Bharadwaj’s film "Closest
Land". The enormity of torture and the eternity of pain
can be experienced in all these works, but it is the immediacy
and detail of literary writings which, with the voices of the
wounded victims speaking with conviction and dignity, and the
depiction of the psychological and political climate under
omnipotent dictatorship, that seem most convincing and
forceful in demanding the acknowledgement of their account of
fear and torture.
speaks highly of this book and feels that " like the
material it engages with, it is a passionate, heroic effort to
fathom the nature of a phenomenon that all too often drains us
emotionally and incapacitates us intellectually". The
politics of cruelty is finally unnecessary as it is neither
part of nature nor the human condition; it is "a negation
of life, dull and mechanical as bureaucratic thought".
In spite of
official abolition of torture in criminal procedures in
country after country, it has not disappeared entirely,
particularly in the climate of political dissent and
subversion which has brought about a triumph of state power
over individual rights. In fact, there is a more widespread
practice of torture than during the period of Inquisition and
it is estimated that one out of three countries practise
Though in the
area of criminality, punishment is based on legal and moral
code as well as evidence, it is political dissent which brings
about the horrifying wrath of the state apparatus with all its
brutality and oppression on individuals whose crimes are
ideological with undertones of "imaginary insults to
power rather than to fellow citizens or moral
forbid torture theoretically but it is very much in use under
the camouflage of customary "emergency" ordinances
when constitutional rights of the individual are suspended,
making arrests, interrogation, confinement and torture
technology, the state machinery in Solzhenitsyn’s "The
First Circle", or in Orwell’s "Nineteen
Eighty-Four" which is surprisingly not taken up by
Millett, spreads paranoia which is an accumulated effect of
decades of fear and denunciation. To prevent the realisation
of a world like Oceania, all efforts have to be made to
eliminate drudgery, hunger, overwork and torture which
Stalinist Russia perpetuated with the aim of dehumanising the
worker and bringing about his intellectual deprivation.
consistent allusions are to the practices in the USSR where
the party came to power ostensibly to liberate the masses but
proceeded to set up a class system that introduced the
degradation of the working class in a way unknown in centuries
past. In the words of Hannah Arendt, "there is ... one
thing that is discernible: we may say that radical evil has
emerged in connection with a system in which all men have
become especially superfluous."
totalitarian state, this promise of utopia turns into dystopia,
manifesting the grim, often tragic irony of disillusionment
with two aspects of the 20th century ideology that emerged
from the utopic expectation of the late 19th century: faith in
science and in socialism. In both "Brave New World"
and "Nineteen Eighty Four", the two dreams
run into a terrible nightmare by being carried to their absurd
conclusion. The science of terror and the terror of science
collaborate to demolish individuality and creativity.
In a very
thoroughly researched chapter on the Nazi camp system Millett
shows how it was through the control of ideas, ideology and
the entire network of mechanical transport, both rail and
road, that the SS succeeded in keeping the concentration camps
and the gas chambers in Treblinka, Auschwitz and Sobibor
flooded with Jews. And interestingly, since there was no
budget for this kind of genocide the operation was made
self-financing so that the victims themselves could be made to
pay to reach their own death.
brought to the camps hungry and thirsty and without any
knowledge of where they were being taken. They were doomed
travellers whose journeys from start to finish had been
carefully programmed in advance by an alienated and embittered
history. They were made to believe that they were being
transported as labour. The idea behind this secrecy was to not
allow any rebellion from the victims, whose spirits had in
fact being killed with want of food and water much before they
reached the chambers of unspeakable horror.
For the Nazi
or Italian fascist machinery, nothing that was human or
spiritual had any value whatsoever; only the state mattered.
With a compliant judiciary the state merges with the law and
individuals are reduced to mere abstractions.
And take the
case of the apartheid system in South Africa which was a
nightmare of enormous proportion. Beatings with whips made of
animal hide, people dragged naked out of their beds, abandoned
children crying along in ruins caused by police raids on
blacks living in abject poverty and housed in conditions
resembling those of domestic animals — this was the power
and cruelty of the white minority. In a moving and
heart-rending analysis of Mark Mathabane’s "Kaffir
Boy", Millett quotes: "A half-naked, near hysterical
jet-black woman was being led out of an outhouse by a fat
laughing policeman who from time to time prodded her private
parts with a truncheon". And the children in the house
shout and scream with fear that the white man "might eat
description of the endemic brutality in his childhood
environment demonstrates "how effortlessly an initially
social and exterior rebounds into the psyche, reaching even
the domestic sphere of children, macro and microcosm, one
terrible whole". The system of apartheid is indeed an
extension of the Nazi racial atrocities.
informative and stimulating throughout. Her analysis of the
literature of political imprisonment is bold and fascinating
and her ability to explain this painful practice is helped by
her uncluttered and modest style. The book is brave and
exciting and its sub-title merely hints at its provocations.
The real beauty of it lies not in drawing together with
purpose a political, philosophical and historical record of
human cruelty and heroic resistance, but in its thought which
operates cogently across different nations and their
strategies of suppressing the human spirit. Millet is more
concerned with simple honest truths and thus the gripping and
outspoken account of her writing brims with provocative
conjectures and allegations making the reader aware of state
terrorism which still has to be faced by a few more
generations until human fortitude and will finally eliminate
all structures of repression.
The truth about former
torturers must be established, must be investigated and
socially recognised so that there may be no recurrence.
Professional politicians are known to have extended blanket
amnesty to previous military regimes as in Uruguay, Brazil,
Argentina or Guatemala so as to propitiate the armed forces
who would aid in the process of preserving the new peace of
democracy. This is as ridiculous as pardoning the Nazi crimes
after the war. Millett asserts that "most of all torture
is fear, if you knew it would last only a stated interval,
perhaps you could bear it; it’s the not knowing, the
uncertainty of menace, that drives you to panic... And if the
world keeps silent afterwards, torture is not only victorious
but permanent, eternal. Continuous". For this reason the
victim’s voice must be restored. since "otherwise the
torturers are never negated or defeated or even
counterbalanced, they are merely in and out of power".
is hot threat
Review by Surinder S.
Global Financial Flows. Challenges and Alternatives in the Era
of Financial Globalisation: A Citizen’s Guide
by Kavaljit Singh. Zed Book, London. Pages xvii+237. Rs 250
book offers a critical examination of the process of financial
globalisation that has been underway during last three decades
or so — after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system of
fixed exchange rates. Under the Bretton Woods system (that came
into effect in 1944) member-countries were required to fix the
exchange rate of their currencies in relation to the US dollar.
The US dollar was fixed in terms of gold at $ 35 an ounce.
Despite its many shortcomings, author of the book, Kavaljit
Singh argues that the Bretton Woods system provided a certain
degree of financial stability for a considerable period of time.
system was centred around the US dollar, it created several
problems for the American economy. Unable to deal with a massive
speculative attack in the wake of growing balance of payment
deficits largely caused by the protracted Vietnam war, the USA
in 1971 unilaterally decided not to honour its commitment to
exchange dollar for gold at $35 an ounce. Ever since the global
financial flows have become quite unstable, particularly those
of global finance capital, popularly known as "hot
money". It is with the dynamics of "hot money"
that the author is primarily concerned with in this book.
The role of
"hot money" has become quite controversial in recent
years due to its destabilising effects on the financial system
as well as on the real economy. Unlike foreign money coming in
as productive investments (FDI), which generates employment and
income and also accelerate economic development in the recipient
country, "hot money" is "foot-loose" in
nature. It is attracted by short-term speculative gains. It can
leave as soon as it comes. Singh argues that such financial
flows, which are speculative investments in share markets, have
drastically altered one of the main objectives of the global
financial system as a vehicle for overall economic development.
speculative flows were not a completely new thing, the speed
with which the destabilising effect of these financial flows is
transmitted at the global scale has gone up considerably during
the post-Bretton Woods period. The net financial flows from the
developed to the developing countries went up from $100 billion
in 1990 to $338 billion in 1997. There were several reasons for
beginning of 1980, economies of developed countries were
suffering from over-capacity and over-production in
manufacturing. Since profits could be made quickly in financial
markets, much of the capital was shifting away from investment
in production — the "real economy" — to investment
in financial markets and speculative activity. Revolutionary
advances in the field of communication and information
technology played a supportive role in this process of
globalisation of the financial markets.
economic incentives to gamble and speculate on financial
instruments, the domination of the financial capital thus
directly affected the real economy. The value of global forex
trade today is many times the value of annual world output or
export of goods and services. Susan Strange, an economist who
has closely studied this phenomenon, describes this as
"casino capitalism". Singh says that the countries of
the third world and also of the western world need to recognise
the dangers of such a phenomenon. "The present era of
financial globalisation poses new challenges to the regulatory
authorities to keep pace with technological sophistication of
the global finance in both the developed as well as in the
developing countries". It had become necessary for the
governments to regulate the financial market. The debate on
economic policies today should not be confined to regulation
versus deregulation but to focus on the nature of regulations
required to avoid economic disasters of the kind experienced in
East Asian countries recently. In the real world, there were no
also offers some concrete guidelines. He argues that the finance
systems need to be modified to serve the needs of the "real
economy" and particularly those sections of society which
have been marginalised by market forces. Though the role of
foreign capital could not be underplayed, growth must primarily
be from domestic savings and investment. Among the measures
suggested by Singh to evolve a better international financial
architecture are imposition of capital controls, enhancing
regulatory and supervisory measures, a stable exchange rate
system, encouraging regional cooperation and reforming
international financial institutions like the IMF.
It was not only
for professional economists and policy makers to recognise the
emerging challenges posed by the globalisation of finance
capital, but also for the common people. Singh argues that
whenever there was a financial boom the rich benefited the most
and in a crisis the worst affected were the poor and those from
the lower middle classes. Thus it was important for the common
citizen to understand the manner in which global economy worked.
The political elite of the Third World countries had tamely
surrendered before the might of the global capital.
that once common people understood the working of the global
economy, they would also be able to play an active role in
reforming it. There was a need for a concerted effort on the
part of the people’s movements, non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) and labour unions to address the issues emerging from
globalisation of finances. Unfortunately, with the exception of
a few issues such as the question of allowing free entry to the
foreign insurance companies, there has been virtually no
organised political response to financial globalisation. Unlike
the earlier debates on environment, gender, poverty or
sustainable development, there was hardly any input from Indian
groups in the ongoing debates at the international level on the
What should be
agenda of the people’s movements? Singh recognises the fact
that there was no point in asking for a total delinking of
domestic economy from global financial flows. In the given
economic and political context, such an agenda was unlikely to
succeed. Singh argues that we needed to work out an action
programme which is oriented towards curbing unbridled
international financial liberalisation. Asking for a selective
delinking from short-term and speculative funds might have a
better chance of success. People’s movement should also demand
that the terms and conditions of linkages and global financial
flows ought to be decided by nation states keeping the interests
of the common people in mind and not by global financial markets
and financial institutions.
however, is not advocating a "nationalist" or "swadeshi"
mode of politics. On the contrary, he argues that to become more
effective, people’s movement would need to coordinate with
similar movement in other parts of the world as well, both in
the developing countries of the South and in the economically
advanced countries of the North. To argue that "there is no
alternative" (the TINA syndrome) was no argument. There is
no dearth of economic wisdom on how to reform the global
This citizen’s guide to
financial globalisation makes interesting reading. Though, much
of the text still remains beyond the reach of the common reader,
Kavaljit Singh’s book can surely help in initiating such a
dialogue on a subject that ought to be of concern to all of us.
mover and shaker of 19th century
Review by Bhupinder Singh
Karl Marx: A
Life by Francis Wheen. W.W. Norton and Company, New York. Pages
431. $ 27.95
is not incidental that a biography of Karl Marx should appear a
decade after the fall of "existing" socialism in the
Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Pop prophecies that followed
the demise of bureaucratic socialism have had no more than a
fleeting relevance. The much-celebrated Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End
of history’ was quickly succeeded by what Samuel Huntington
termed as the clash of civilisations. Robert Kaplan warns of
what he terms as "the coming anarchy".
caught unawares by the Teutonic shift in world system, is still
in a state of defensive confusion, even if it has somewhat
recovered from a state of shock. Perry Anderson articulates the
dominant Left view that neo-liberalism is still in full deluge,
while Eric Hobsbawm has confidently put forward the proposition
that globalisation and the neo-liberalism riding piggyback are
reaching the limits.
It is in this
background that the need "to go back to Marx" is
evident in the book under review. Karl Marx, "the red
terror doctor"— as he came to be known in his own
lifetime — and who outlived all his contemporary
revolutionists and opponents like Ferdinand Lassalle and Mikhail
Bakunin, may as well outlive the current breed of neo-liberal
comes across not only as a person whose life was identical with
the history of contemporary socialism, as Isaiah Berlin treated
his subject in his biography of Marx. Wheen’s Marx emerges as
a man who loved his family, loved a drink, smoked continuously,
chased his opponents with vehemence, was a voracious reader, an
assiduous scholar and, above all, a revolutionary.
He married his
childhood sweetheart and five years his senior Jenny Westphalen,
adored his daughters and in old age was a grandfather who missed
the company of his grandchildren when they were not around. At a
different plane, his life-long friendship with Frederic Engels
which each cherished till the end, is touching and possibly
Marx was also,
and Wheen spends considerable effort on reminding us of this,
the father of an illegitimate son whom he loathed. Engels
practically owned up and adopted the son of Marx and his
faithful housekeeper Helene Demuth. His son died in 1929 in a
working class district of London, aged 77, not knowing that he
was the son of the person in whose name the world-shaking
Bolshevik revolution had been carried out in his own lifetime.
On the whole,
Wheen succeeds in this first biography of Marx to appear after
the end of the cold war in rescuing Marx from both the
demonology that characterised sections of Western scholarship
and the hagiography that Soviet biographers subjected him to. In
an age when we are being told by post- modernists that Marx and
Marxism are nothing more than any other "text" and
need to be merely "read" as such, or writers who
insist on "reading vampires in the Capital" in an
exercise to understand the man or account for his tomes in his
Jewish self- hatred, Wheen has come out with a very balanced
however, is evident when the author tries to explain some of
Marx’s concepts in simplistic terms. From that perspective,
Isaiah Berlin’s 1939 (revised last in 1978) "Karl
Marx" still remains an essential reading (David Mcllean’s
biography being out of print for a number of years now, Berlin’s
is the easiest one to get).
The only other
deficiency that one can identify is the blurring of the
growing-up years of Marx, between the ages of 10 to about 22.
The Marx that we see after this age is a well-developed thinker,
immensely well-read and already hailed by those who knew him
firsthand to be the most promising living philosopher and
successor to Hegel. How this happened is not dealt with in
detail. The reason may be a sound one — not much information
is available on this period of Marx’s life.
own personality, powerful as it was, leave any imprint on his
thought and the movements that it spawned? Though the author
does not raise this question directly, there is enough material
in the book to enable one to judge for himself.
downside, it was Marx’s abrasive, sometimes almost offensive
and vituperative manner of attacking those who opposed him.
Undoubtedly most of his opponents were pygmies in comparison
with "the Moor", and he made no bones about it,
attacking them with the ferocity of an unleashed hurricane. His
followers, at least for the better part of the 20th century, did
indeed emulate their master in this regard, often with equal
ardour against their own dissenting comrades. It may well be
argued, though, that in this respect Marx was as much a product
of the revolutionary circles of his age as its progenitor.
On the upside,
it has been his exemplary self-sacrifice for the ideas that his
reasoning led to.
poverty, constant illness and the resultant tragedies in his
family did not deter Marx from pursuing what he believed to be
the rational way of human emancipation. Perhaps the last of the
great Enlightenment thinkers, he was the only true prophet of
the second millennium, his sacrifices overarched only by the
breadth of his thought and the appeal of his vision.
Many of his
followers, including the Old Bolsheviks sent to the gallows or
shot by Stalin in the 1937 purges, firmly believed till the end
that their ideology, seemingly vindictive it had been on
themselves, deserved any amount of sacrifice. Man does not live
for himself alone, and there are causes that are higher than
selling one’s labour each day.
But by far the
most enduring stamp that his personality left was that of
erudition and detailed study. No social and political movement
has sent so many of its followers scurrying into libraries as
Marxist socialism has. No other organised movement (except
perhaps the anti- Nazi resistance movement in France) has also
sent many an armchair philosopher into political battlefield.
would Marx have chosen for himself? Wheen recounts an incident
at the end of Marx’s life in lieu of an answer.
holidaying in Ramsgate in the summer of 1880, Marx had met the
American journalist John Swinton who was writing a series on
"travels in France and England" for the New York Sun.
Swinton watched the old patriarch playing on the beach with his
grand-children and then at dusk was granted an interview. He
was of the world, and of man, and of time, and of ideas as our
glasses tinkled over the sea. The railway train waits for no
man, and night is at hand. Over the thought of the babblement
and the scenes of the evening, arose in my mind one question
touching upon the final law of being, for which I would seek
answer from this sage. Going down to the depths of language and
rising to the height of emphasis, during an intersperse of
silence, I interrupted the revolutionist and philosopher in
these fateful words: What is ... And it seemed as though his
mind was inverted for a moment while he looked upon the roaring
sea in front and the restless multitude upon the beach. ‘What
is’? I had inquired, to which in deep and solemn tone, he
"At first it seemed as
though I had heard the echo of despair, but peradventure it was
the law of life."
in post-IT age
by Randeep Wadehra
21st Century by K.M. Shrivastava. Sterling, New Delhi. Pages
194. Rs 350.
has been a sea change in the way information is transmitted
and stored. Stone edicts and palm leaves, among other things,
were the pre-papyrus media. Then came paper, followed by the
printing press; and now we have multi-media electronic
gadgets. Echoes of an event in one place can be heard in the
remotest parts of the world.
effect is instantaneous. A telling example of this is given by
Nelson Mandela in his autobiography. On his visit to Goose Bay
in the Arctic region he met a young Inuit (local aboriginal)
who recognised the South African leader and greeted him with,
the Internet owes its birth to a military experiment by the US
Defence Department. By December, 1969, four US universities
were connected. This led to the development of the World Wide
Web in 1992 by Tim Berners-Lee. The rest is, as they say,
history. This is an ongoing process, which has perked up even
the dowdy old printing press which too has gone hi-tech with a
information technology’s spread, Shrivastava points out that
the haves of the information revolution are in a minority.
This minority controls the latest media tools which are
extremely powerful. The haves come from the developed world,
while the have-nots are mostly from the developing countries.
There are more phones in Manhattan than in the entire African
continent, for example.
give us some idea of the imbalance in accessibility to the
tools of information technology, even as it provokes serious
suspicions regarding the media contents and their slant.
Products of a consumerist society’s aspirations, the
programmes unload unhealthy values upon children the world
over. The author avers, "The media is full of portrayals
that dehumanise and stigmatise. Sex and violence in media
contents desensitise, terrorise and brutalise people..."
More dangerously the have-nots’ expectations are raised to
unrealistic levels, introducing elements of stress and
conflict in society.
should not really be surprised at the pro-powerful bias of the
21st century media. It is a continuation of the trend we have
been witnessing in the print media of the 19th and 20th
centuries, which was essentially feudal in character. Even
today the dice is heavily loaded in favour of well-padded
classes. The news empires built during the pre-electronics era
still dominate the international information scene, with only
a peripheral change. Earlier the AP, the UPI, the Reuters and
the AFP, known as media world’s "Big Four", formed
a news cartel. Now CNN has joined this elite club.
points out that the "Big Four" retails news to even
such media organisations as could afford to send their own
correspondents to distant lands. Yet, the latter have
preferred to depend on these western information sellers. He
further states, "The most striking feature of the
agencies’ ‘agenda setting’ role is the influence they
exercise on the approach of the client media to their own news
gathering. It affects the evaluation which news editors place
on the work of their own correspondents. No less important, an
AP or UPI story, coming off the news tickers before anything
else, heavily influenced the big-league editors and producers
on the ‘tilt’ of a given event, even if they later
received contrary evidence, or a contrary account, from their
own staff men..."
the ways in which the media’s powers can be misused,
Shrivastava avers that public relations and advertising are
important tools to manipulate media. What we call information
today was once described as propaganda. In this regard, one
recalls a senior journalist’s lament when he described the
high decibel, incessantly partisan editorials of an English
daily as "pamphleteering".
A hybrid of
PR and advertising, today’s media events are organised
keeping both short-term and long-term effects in mind. In fact
such events have become a specialised art. On a more sinister
note he quotes Packard, "Americans have become the most
manipulated people outside the iron curtain."
World’s plight can only be imagined. Shrivastava goes on to
say that after the iron curtain’s disappearance the
technology and resources at the disposal of big business and
the sole super power enables a Bill Clinton to manipulate
events in such a way that few missiles are fired at Iraq to
boost his chances for another term at the White House. There
is every possibility of similar manipulations being engineered
here as the country is being wired up at a dizzying speed.
also affects us in other ways. In Kashmir India and Pakistan
take turns at being dammed as villains, depending upon the
whims of the western powers and media barons. What is
happening in Sierra Leone and other resource-rich regions is
being dubbed as local affair, with the white man playing the
role of an honest broker, when in fact all violence is being
perpetrated through proxies to promote and protect the West’s
interests in the region.
become, or cease to be, a media issue only when it suits
vested interest. China is an example of such manipulations.
Shrivastava is right when he states that people should be
educated about the functioning of mass media so that they know
the pitfalls and possibilities of its misuse by governments,
terrorist organisations, etc. Local media should be
strengthened so that it becomes technologically capable of
warding off the dangers posed by multinational media
While it is
true that the powerful rule the roost, it is equally true that
yesterday’s topdogs are today’s underdogs, and today’s
underdogs may well be the topdogs tomorrow. The same holds
true of media barons. There is a definite trend showing that
some of the Third World news agencies and other media are
gaining recognition in various parts of the world. It is only
a matter of time before our media personnel start making their
presence felt globally.
« « «
of the South by P.C. Ganesan. Sterling, New Delhi. Pages
VI+128. Rs 125.
on February 24, 1948, in an Ayyangar family in Mysore,
Jayalalitha has had a chequered life. A middle-class
Tamilbrahmin background, a career in the movies and then on to
the cesspoll of politics... one needs guts to come up tops in
this field. And guts is one thing this lady has in abundance.
Feared and hated by opponents, admired and even worshipped by
her followers, Jayalalitha has certainly come a long way.
To wear the
mantle of a follower of the formidable MGR with consummate
ease, especially after a nasty power struggle with MGR’s
wife Janaki, required extraordinary qualities of leadership.
She has certainly made her mark, not only in the
male-chauvinistic Tamil politics, but at the national level as
well. Vajpayee still shows healthy respect to this generator
of political earthquakes.
Ganesan has gone overboard in praising his former employer.
Despite her various plus points, she has been in the midst of
several unseemly controversies and scandals. Corruption had
become a byword of her regime. But, come to think of it, which
government in the states or at the Centre has ever been clean?
Jayalalitha is an archetypal
politician. To find divine qualities in her is to waste one’s
time. To extol her virtues in print is a futile PR exercise.
People know the stuff our leaders are made of. No amount of
synthetic rose-tints will lend a halo to them.
search for utopia
Review by M.L. Raina
by Andrei Platanov. New translation from Russian by Anthony
Olcott. Ardis, Ann Arbor. Pages Xx+333. Price not given.
in establishing a utopian order have been highlighted in the
conversation between Sebastian and Gonzolo in Shakespeare’s
"Tempest". Gonzolo imagines a state in which there
will be no magistrates, "riches, poverty,/and use of
service, none…all men idle, all/And women too".
Sebastian answers mockingly: "yet you would be king on’t".
The fact that
a revolutionary communist utopia has been established in the
title city of Platanov’s satire, written in the thirties and
published in a complete Russian edition as late as in 1989,
suggests that perfection can be brought about only through the
power of a despot. Platanov’s dystopia literally realises
literature of the 19th century abounds in the utopia gone
sour. To go no further than Dostoevsky, there is in "The
Possessed" a clear hint by Shigalev that freedom and
despotism go together. "Starting from unlimited freedom,
I arrive at unlimited despotism," he says about himself
and his schemes.
"Brothers Karamazov" the Grand Inquisitor bases his
plan for the universal "happiness of mankind" on
"deception" and "mystery" as well as on
the ruler’s capacity to enforce his "firm foundation
for setting man’s conscience at rest".
Platanov (1892-1951) belongs to a generation of non-Bolshevik
writers who, in their initial enthusiasm for the revolution,
imagined the new utopia as "the end of history". In
"Chevengur" communism has ended history by ushering
in a permanent future. But like his contemporaries, notably
Bulgakov and Zamayatin and a successor Anatoly Rybakov of the
"Children of the Arabat" trilogy (1988), he saw
through the mirage and registered his despair in works that
have become benchmarks in the dystopian genre.
Foundation Pit" echoes Chernyshevsky as well as
Dostoevsky’s "Notes from the Underground" in that
all are concerned with the building of a utopian project.
"Chevengur" marks the culmination of the
anti-utopian despair, the frustration of what the Zamayatin
character in "We" calls "the ancient dream
"Notes" the protagonist offers to provide
"every possible answer to doubts" about the building
of the Crystal Palace, the grand imperial project. In "Chevengur"
doubt itself has been banished in the blessed communist idyll.
Trained as an engineer, Platanov worked at the rural
electrification programme after the Revolution and believed in
the efficacy of organisation. But what he saw for himself was
anything but the success of this system. In his novel he shows
us the failure of all systems and schemes.
organisation of people into an ideological mould violates all
natural human instinct and desire for freedom, even the
freedom to die. Old Yakov Titych yearns for natural death.
"It is all right if everything has to die," he
mourns, "if there would be something to hang on to."
is what gives this book its baleful quality. The actual deaths
of scores of kulaks who perished in the collectivisation
drives of the twenties, the brutal killing of the bourgeoisie
caused by the revolutionaries in the novel, and the death of
the two major protagonists, Sasha Dvanov and Kopenkin,
idealists who set great store by communism underpin the novel’s
structure. Here it would be good to examine carefully the
verbal texture of the novel.
death has been eliminated but it pervades the entire
community. Hunger has been banished, but everyone is hungry
and dying. This is the Heraclitian paradox in which everything
is in a flux and all truths are mistaken. It is in the nature
of dystopia that past and present are eliminated and in this
way continuity is abolished. People live in a permanent
future. But the curious fact is that those who left Chevengur
and those proletarians who were brought into the town to
savour the bliss of utopia are "dead" in every way.
deadness is apparent in the lack of integration of their
bodies and minds. In the section of the novel where the
"miscellaneous" (prochie in Russian) groups
of derelicts and social rejects are brought into the town, we
notice that they are not only starved and emaciated, but their
body and thoughts do not work in harmony. Orphaned by their
mothers following the great famine, they are seen mostly
trying to guard against the "uprooting, opposing wind of
alien life". They already look like "decaying
skeletons" without flesh. They become the emblems of
entropy in the novel. They project the sheer corporeality of
life in the utopia, a life cut off from thought and
characters too are dead in the sense in which Lenin thought
all revolutionaries are dead: without a private realm of their
own. It is only fitting that the two idealists, Sasha Dvanov
and Kopenkin, should die in fact, once their idea of the
utopia turns into a nightmare. Kopenkin dies fighting the
counter-revolutionaries (or are they Bolsheviks fighting
deviationists?). A passionate devotee of Rosa Luxemburg, he
fails to bury her in the communist fatherland.
Dvanov, Kirie and other subsidiary characters also die. Sasha
Dvanov lives in "utter forgetfulness of life"
through his bout with typhus until he walks into the lake
where his father had drowned. This is death by water, the
ultimate form of extinction as we see in "tempest"
and in Eliot’s poem. Later in the book Simon Serbinov,
another alienated soul from Moscow, meets the emblems of death
narrator broods, "hopelessness had struck the province,
and there was no time to wait while the horse’s young were
born and raised to draught strength". In a satiric twist,
all the young are on the verge of death. Even nature is in
death throes. The communist utopia proclaims that the sun
would produce for people and that they need not labour. But
instead of creating abundance, it rots the hay further and
leaves behind deserts of unproductivity. Says the Jap (Chepurney),
" …flowers and perennial beds and gardens were clearly
swinish cultivations…Let the wild grasses grow in the
streets of Chevengur, for just like the proletariat, this
grass endures the life of heat and the death of deep
snow." In this utopia people survive on rotting grass.
spasm of violence enacted in the last pages is a worthy climax
to what is essentially a death-soaked life of daily existence.
This is further corroborated by the fact that every one in
this world needs shelter, because everyone has
"died" to his (there are hardly any substantial
women here) individual existence. If there is any movement in
this static work, it is the movement of poor, naked shells of
human beings rushing around for shelter, for warmth. Even the
major characters, Dvanov, Kopenkin, Gopner, need shelter from
the death-dealing chill of the utopia.
Savage in Huxley’s "Brave New World", they need
the traumas and afflictions of daily living so that they feel
really alive. Old Yakov Titych is most in need since he is
already fading out when we first meet him. That characters who
huddle against one another to stave off cold and hunger, can
be a desire for homoerotic bonding. This feeling is
strengthened by the absence of any significant women in this
novel. Sonya and Klydusha are simply props. Even when Prokofy
takes the latter, we have no sense of real flesh-and-blood
sexual warmth. As in Beckett, there is no synchronisation of
the head and the heart. The newly imported wives from the
steppes are no solace.
can "Chevengur" be evaluated? Certainly not as a
traditional novel, in spite of its theme evoking traditional
ordinary human values like warmth and brotherliness. At one
level we have the quest romance of Sasha Dvanov and Kopenkin,
knights-errant of the Marxist-Leninist cause who wander in
search of the Holy Grail. They chance on Chevengur but
discover that the reality does not answer to their
aspirations. The quest romance never materialises.
elements in this novel, which seem to condemn as provincial
folly both the activities of the Chevengurians and the
utopianism motivating them. If the education motif of the
quest romance has any relevance to this book, it is in the
recognition of contradictions of the quest itself.
is the element of the picaresque in that Sasha and his
idealists happen on Chevengur through adventures in the
war-torn devastated Russian countryside. Unlike Sasha Pranktov
in Rybakov’s novel who returns from exile into the Stalinist
terror, characters in Platanov meet various forms of
deprivation and want before they come to Chevengur.
Read in this
way the novel becomes a parody of revolutionary romanticism
whose political implications involve the excesses of the civil
war and the Stalinist terror getting underway around the time
of the composition of the novel. The picaresque adventures of
the characters simply strengthen the novelist’s disdain
towards utopianism and leave no scope for heroics. Of course
some eccentrics remain with names like God and Dostoevesky
merely an anti Stalinist diatribe? I should think not. The
novel has a core of philosophical elements derived from the
contemporary philosophies of Fedorov and, particularly, from
Alexander Bogdanov — his partial association with the proletkult
movement was not lost on critics.
closely influenced by their philosophy of the materiality of
existence. He combined it with Marxist beliefs to give to his
novel a deeply "material" character. The
preoccupation with death can be partly explained by Platanov’s
response to these philosophers’ meditations on body and
mind. Failure to understand this has resulted in several
misreadings, Frederic Jameson’s in "Seeds of Time"
being the most glaring.
This novel is
a classic of the dystopian genre. It is also Platanov’s
political statement against Stalinism. Sharing the innovative
styles of Russian modernism in various arts, its place is
assured among works of literature that accept the incapacity
of all explanatory systems to account for the contingencies of
human experience. Dr Johnson’s "Rasselas",
Cervantes’ "Don Quixote", the stories of that
Minotaur of intricacies, Borges and "Chevengur" —
all speak against what Tolstoy’s utopian dreamer Pierre
Bezokhov calls time’s "labyrinth of lies".
The recent fire in the Moscow
Television Tower, testament to the debunked communist future,
further corroborates the lie.
The after-effects of
This is a
chapter from Pinki Virani’s "Bitter Chocolate".
child is vulnerable, dependent, innocent and needy, be it a
boy or a girl. And so when it is sexually abused there is
almost simultaneously the violation of its physical, emotional
and mental state. Dr Shekhar Seshadri describes what happens
internally and almost immediately to the child. Says he,
quoting from "Recollecting Our Lives", "The
child goes into what is called the survivor’s cycle."
sexual abuse causes confusion. What is he, or she, doing? What
is happening to me, I cannot understand. I do not like it but
I do not know how to stop it. Is what he is doing normal and
okay? Where can I be safe? I cannot save myself, I cannot do
to self-estrangement. I am always wrong. What can’t I be
like everyone else? I am not normal. I am not important. No
one cares about me. No one cares how I feel. I don’t count.
I do not want to be me.
leads to the saddest part, the wrong set of survival skills. I
have to hide inside myself. I have to protect myself. I cannot
let people see who or how I really am. How can I keep from
exposing the real me?
lNo the child
feels trapped. I cannot change my life or myself. I can’t
change anything. I am responsible for who I have become. I am
responsible for what happened to me because I did not stop it,
I did not tell anyone either. I must keep the secret to
survive. It is my fault.
lAnd all of
this leads to a negative sense of self. I do not know who I
am. I deserve whatever I get. If they really knew me they
would dislike me and be disgusted by me. I am a phoney, I am
only about falsehood. I do not deserve better. I am a bad
person, everyone is better than me.
continues, wheels within wheels, spokes of shame being added
each time the child recalls the sexual abuse and the sense of
powerlessness. The cycle continues; as it almost always and
invariably does since Indian parents, if they detect the child
sexual abuse quickly enough, which is again rare, concentrate
on the child’s physical aspect and their family’s social
standing after the abuse. The child’s emotional and mental
violation is overlooked; that child within with its feelings
all locked up, grows up physically and displays some of the
"sleeper effects" of child sexual abuse, some of
which could emerge with dramatic impact as long-term aspects
of child sexual abuse.
ling-term effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating.
health problems: anxiety, fear, depression as also masked
depression, isolation, suicide, self-injury, poor self-esteem,
alcohol or cigarette or drug abuse, self-annihilation.
sexualisation: in this a child’s sexuality — including
both, sexual feelings and sexual attitudes — is shaped in a
developmentally inappropriate and interpersonally dyfunctional
fashion. Such as prostitution, aversion to sexual contract,
confusion about sexual identity, confusion of sex with love
and caregetting or care-giving, aggressive sexual behaviour,
promiscuity, difficulty in arousal and orgasm, inappropriate
sexualisation of parenting, revictimisation.
difficulties: repeat cycle of abuse in the same of differently
non-sexual format, over-protectiveness, fertility control.
the negative connotations — for example, badness, shame and
guilt — that are communicated to the child about the
experiences and that then become incorporated into the child’s
dysfunction: delinquency, criminal behaviour, acts of violence
to self or others, victim role.
powerlessness: the process in which the child’s will,
desires and sense of efficacy are continually contravened.
Leading from the inability to stop the abuse, the child grows
to feel anxious, inefficient and develops a tendency to run
away from problems. Other long-term effects include
nightmares, phobias, eating and sleeping disorders,
disassociation, employment problems, vulnerability to
subsequent victimisation and becoming a sexual abuser too.
betrayal: children discover that someone on whom they are
vitally dependent has caused them harm. Mostly the abuser is a
known person and even if it is not the parent, the child
experiences a loss of trust in the parents and begins a search
for a person who could be trusted. This leads to vulnerability
to subsequent abuse and exploitation, allows for own children
to be victimised by oneself or others, leads to discomfort in
intimate relationships, marital problems, aggressive behaviour
and impairs ability to judge people which, in turn, leads to
choosing wrong friends and disastrous marriages.
abuse is a self-perpetuating phenomenon and cases suggest that
adult males and females who have been victims turn promiscuous
and enter into unhealthy relationships. Females are more
likely to choose husbands who abuse them and their children.
As mothers they often show poor parenting skills, neglecting
or abusing their own children.
several highly-rated international studies to prove some of
R. Summit and
J. Kryso in 1978, followed by J. Goodwin, T. McCarthy and P.
Divasto in 1981, presented papers which showed that many
mothers who sexually abused their own children had been
victims themselves of child sexual abuse.
L. Pincus and
C. Dare in 1978, followed by L.P. Cammaert in 1988, had
studies which showed mothers selecting emotionally inadequate
partners if they had been sexually abused in childhood.
N. Groth, in
1982, stunned the international psychiatric community by
pointing out that women who are sexually abused in childhood
are open to selection by sex offenders who seek partners who
are passive, emotionally vulnerable and dependent. These women
put up no resistance at all as the male — intent on abuse of
the children in his extended family — as easily distances
his own child from the mother; his power over the woman allows
him to operate as effectively even if she protests by using
physical or emotional threats.
that the potential perpetrator does not, however, have to
particularly sense out a woman who has been sexually abused in
childhood. Since women in most societies all over the world
are socialised to depend on others — mostly male — and to
be obedient within the family, it is not very surprising to
find many mothers of sexually abused children playing a
passive role in the family. They are often dominated by their
partner and see him as more capable, powerful and
intellectually superior, more so if they have been victims
themselves of child sexual abuse.
M. Stern and
L. Mayer have run a comprehensive survey for the National
Centre on Child Abuse and Neglect in Washington, which points
out that the non-availability of a sexually satisfying
relationship with a consenting peer —meaning if a man does
not get "good sex" from his wife or girlfriend —
is not a causal factor in child sexual abuse. Most
perpetrators try and sexually abuse children even while they
are involved in adult relationships.
several studies which bring up the question of why mothers do
not protect their children against child sexual abuse in their
own homes, even if they have not been sexually abused as
children themselves. In the Indian context there is no such
hard data available but, again, all international observations
reflected in the book fit the situation.
factors, too, have been observed as being prevalent in India.
A mother who does not take immediate protective action for her
child who is being sexually abused at home — by her husband,
her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, her elder son, the male
cousin — does not do so because she risks external
judgements of her mothering, the inevitable breakdown of her
family, the removal of herself or her child or her husband
from the scene of the crime, relation by the accused and other
men and even the women around him, social stigma, continuous
court appearances and loss of financial security.
All of the
above coalesced in Ila Pandey of Karvi who is still on the run
in and around Lucknow. Her daughters have been put in schools
away from her so that her husband cannot get at them through
her, their fees are being paid by an educational support
group, Asha Trust, and other expenses are being met by
Lucknavies. Ila Pandey was often emotionally and physically
beaten by her husband, she had breakdowns. This is now being
sought to be proved as "madness" in the courts by
Jagdish Pandey and his brothers. Ila Pandey is still on the
run, perhaps she did not know how much she would have to when
she confronted her husband with his relentless year-long
sexual abuse of Gudiya, their daughter.
Ila is brave
also because she has sought to overcome her own physical,
financial and emotional inadequacies to protect her daughters
from child sexual abuse. Most mothers whose children are being
sexually abused at home by their close male family members,
specially fathers, simply look the other way. International
researchers say that such woman tend to be characterised as
lacking in social skills and possessing a number of disturbed
personality traits, even if they have not been sexually abused
in their childhood.
Sahd in 1980
and Bennetta also in 1980 found that such mothers had low
self-esteem. Bennett added that these women had an
"intropunitive" — introspective — style of
Hershelman, as also Harrier in a separate study, said in 1981
that such mothers experienced psychosis — they felt mentally
In the same
year Frederichson added anxiety and suspicion to the list, and
Herman and Hershelman followed up with alcohol abuse as one of
the reasons why mothers did not stand up to the sexual abuse
of their children in their homes. Goodwin, also in 1981,
pointed to the mothers who had suicidal tendencies.
To be noted:
the above are not the reasons why children are being sexually
abused in their own homes; these are some of the reasons —
and what has happened to Ila Pandey is the rest — why most
mothers do not come to the immediate aid of their children.
Applicable as much in India as anywhere else, especially in
the light of Groth’s theory that sexually abusive fathers
choose partners whose resistance can be easily overcome. The
disabilities noted by Sahd, Bennett, Herman, Hershelman,
Harrier, Frederichson and Goodwin further significantly reduce
the mother’s ability to protect her children from child
And a mother
who has been sexually abused herself in childhood turns into
her own victim; the grown woman is the gaoler of the little
girl, she paradoxically continues the role where the abuser
left off. And so it gets handed down, generation to
generation, feeling the impact of what just one man did —
with perhaps just his finger — to one child a long time ago.
That’s how long term the effects of child sexual abuse can
sexualisation is another outcome which can disturb not just
the victim but an entire family for the rest of their lives.
Psychiatrists dealing with adults who have been sexually
abuses in childhood — this is never revealed at the outset
— are also contending with an array of sexual identity
college boys as also young, working men — specially from
middle and upper-class homes — are seeking professional help
to understand their own sexual orientation, even if they have
not been sexually abused in childhood, purely because they
want the choice to be made by themselves and not by social
conditioning. If it turns out that they have strong same-sex
orientation, they are happy to be gay.
not all these men are able to put off their families when it
comes to "settling down" and a hapless woman bears
the brunt; but those homosexuals who are, indeed, able to hold
their own are to be congratulated by Indian women. A man
finding his own identity — even if through a sexual
preference and not much else — means less trouble for women
and their daughters.
Not a very
nice thing to say, no? Because it is thinking of only women
and girl-children; it is not inclusive of fathers and their
there even been a time when fathers, along with their wives,
have not impressed upon their sons, almost conditioned them
into thinking, that they — the male — possess that
magnificent trump card: the power of choice? Mothers tell
their daughters only this: the male will come and choose from
a sea of simpering young girls like you; on a white charger he
will come and whisk you off your feet, please perfect the art
of simpering till he arrives.
The male and his magnificent
trump card: that power of choice. So now, before he
"settles down", and even during and after, he also
chooses little boys. But will this be enough proof for the
parents of young males that they need to explain to their sons
that they need to behave with other mothers’ daughters, and
other people’s sons too? If those parents had done this
before, maybe the statistics would not be as bad as they are
today? And now that the world is turning on its head, or so it
may seem to the parents of only sons, with older — and much
elder — men actively seeking out little boys, what should
the mothers and daughters feel?