India's top court officially recognised transgender rights today in a landmark ruling. The supreme court directed the federal and state governments to allow people to identify themselves as outside the binary male/female gender definitions. The estimated three million transgender Indians will have the same access to welfare programs for the poor, including education, healthcare and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges. The court also ordered the government fight the social stigma associated with transgender people through a public awareness campaign.
Campaigning in India's general elections, to be held in phases over April 7 to May 12, has already been marked by a reign of terror that has included the assassination of left activists.
In five-star hotels on Mumbai's seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai Literary Festival: famous authors and notables drawn from India's Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.
If Bangladesh represents the worst of exploitation in clothing factories, India is home to the most rapacious conditions for auto workers. Auto workers and union supporters in Manesar, India, launched an indefinite dharna (sit-in and hunger strike) on July 18. They demanded the release of jailed co-workers. A staggering 147 workers have spent a year in jail on trumped-up criminal charges after a company-provoked altercation led to the death of a human resources manager who supported the union. Hundreds have pledged to take part in the dharna.
Yet again, there are floods devastating the Himalayan region; yet again the same criminal negligence and apathy of the administrative machinery exacerbating the tragedy. The lack of proper disaster management infrastructure in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, the delayed warnings, and the government’s refusal to act on the warnings from the Meteorological department in Delhi ― unfortunately, all of this is painfully familiar.
Protests by local people forced the abandonment of a plan to train Sri Lankan military officers at India’s Defence Services Staff College in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. The Times of India said at least two towns in Nilgiris were shut down by a strike on June 24 in protest at the plan. The Indian government then offered to train the Sri Lankan officers elsewhere in India, but the Sri Lankan government turned the offer down.
Australian politicians often describe India as “the world’s biggest democracy”. The reality is somewhat different. I found this out when I attended the ninth congress of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) from April 2-7. Two CPI-ML members were killed in the lead-up to the congress.
The dominant media narrative about the two-day all-India strike, called by trade unions for February 20 and 21, was one of “hooliganism” by workers and inconvenience caused to the “public”. As usual, the main demands of the striking workers found little space in the media's discussion of the strike. The working class — usually invisible, both at the workplace and where they live — attained visibility on TV screens only as a “mob”. Workers, whose labour is, after all, the source of all production, are seen and shown as a source of wanton and mindless destruction.
Indian socialist feminist Kavita Krishnan spoke to Green Left TV's Pip Hinman about the new movement against gender violence in India. Kavita is Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and has been a leading activists in the campaign that has swept India (and beyond) since the brutal gang rape of a woman student in Delhi in a public bus. The woman, badly injured in the attack, died two weeks later despite being flown to Singapore for treatment. Her male companion, who was also severely assaulted, survived. Six suspects are being tried.
The statement below was released n December 24, condemning the culture of impunity for rape as well as opposing the death penalty for perpetrators as a solution. It is reprinted from KAFILA.org. See also the article by Kavita Krishnan (a signatory to this statement) on the explosion of protests defending 'a women's right to freedom without fear'. * * *