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14

The Mumbai Slutwalk had died when the police required us to provide an undertaking on the letterhead of an NGO with details of the walk. We could have falsified it, but the fact is that it was purely a citizen's initiative, and there was no NGO involved enough for us to feel justified in representing ourselves on its letter head.

Other problems cropped up, and we decided to let things be.

Today, the Bangalore Slutwalk was cancelled. The update from the organizers says that their permission for peaceful assembly was withdrawn under objection and pressure from BJP and related organizations.

As the permission was withdrawn at the last minute, the organizers decided to land up at the venue to inform people arriving for the SlutWalk that it had been called off.

What followed is better than a hundred SlutWalks in making the point, but.... our media is oblivious.

This group of ex-protesters, now only updaters, dressed in jeans and T-Shirts, were arrested by the cops and taken on a long drive to some remote police station. Their phones were taken away and they were detained without explanation.

These people detained were directing people that the SlutWalk was cancelled. They were cooperating with the police. Some of those detained were walking away from the venue exactly as directed by the police when they were hauled back and arrested.

This, dear friends, was Bangalore's SlutWalk. A live demo by the cops of the need for a SlutWalk.

  • Moral Police had a problem with what they perceived as characterless behavior
  • They pressurized the government with threats of illegal action
  • As usual, the victim was suppressed to avoid a problem and permissions cancelled
  • Organizers were arrested in spite of co-operating
  • Protesters leaving the site were arrested because "they shouldn't have been there in the first place"

THIS is why slutwalks happen. Moral policing in society. Character judgments about women/men based on what goes on in the minds of those thinking about them. Morality being rigidly defined by whoever is able to bully the others. Bullying leading to comprehensive silencing of women asserting their constitutional rights that have been deprived. Government and police making absolutely no effort to safeguard those rights. Police actively persecuting those who attempted to assert themselves, even if they are fully cooperating.

Shows a dead society that will not let others live because they are not able to face the dirt in their own minds and would rather blame someone for it.

In my eyes, the Bangalore Slutwalk is a success.

I think, we have gone beyond the time for protest walks. The time is for us to live our realities, and insist that the police maintain law and order.

The intent and scope of MaalChaal and how it matters. Help us with your ideas and by recommending us to people and people to us so that we can engage the diversity that makes this as statement for all people.

I want to begin with saying that the name "MaalChaal" is directly derived as a "translation" of slutwalk. However, we see the scope of this protest as much wider. While sexual crimes are a large part of it, MaalChaal also makes a strong statement for the right of people to be themselves. With this in mind, I see the MaalChaal stating categorically:

  1. Every person has a right to dignity and safety. Any quality of a person is no reason to victimize them.
  2. Sexual aggression is less about attraction and more about an attack on a person. Whether it is eve teasing or rapes, Child sexual abuse or men being raped or older people.... the common factor is always that the victims refusal is overruled by force and their space is invaded - to whatever extent. Any non consensual sexual approach is a crime, regardless of the victim's clothes, looks, profession, area, or any other quality.
  3. Stereotypes play a large role in justifying abuse in society. Women and children in particular suffer for being attractive and vulnerable. Any sexual misbehaviour even within family or social circle is still criminal.
  4. There are certain stereotypes that are looked upon as fair game for sexual insults - women who wear "revealing clothes", women who smoke or drink, homosexuals, transgendered people, prostitutes, among others. We hope to challenge the notion that the guilt of a crime can be transfered to the victim because they belong to a certain "kind" of people.
  5. Police are used to dismissing the distress of women if they don't approve of their clothing. Prostitutes often cannot hope for an investigation into a robbery in their home because of their profession. The MaalChaal questions this discrimination and urges the police and the justice system to stop discriminating between citizens and providing or denying their rights on individual discretion. We state that as citizens of India, they have a right to protection from the state.
  6. At work, it is common to see homophobia or different treatment for women where people may be discriminated against for their gender or sexual orientation or they may be preyed upon in order to
What kind of people will attend the walk? We are hoping to have as wide a variety of people as possible. Some people we are reaching out to:
  • Colleges and universities
  • Corporate and other organizations.
  • Maid unions and other groups with members where victims of such abuse are common
  • Prostitutes
  • LGBT people
  • NGOs working with social victimizaiton - domestic abuse, women's rights, rescue of child sex workers.
This is an evolving idea and this page will keep getting updated to reflect the growth of our attentions and scope.
If you think of other statements we can make, or people we can approach, do help out in the comments. We invite you to share your thoughts and resources and volunteer to approach people you can to spread the word and help more people assert their vision of a society respectful of human dignity.
You can also send in your ideas on the MaalChaal page or by tweeting them to @MaalChaal or @Vidyut

4

Some points to learn from while organizing Mumbai's Maal Chaal. This post is more of a to-do list for me, not really an article. Feel free to read, follow or contribute or use the list to help you act. Stuff will keep getting added, removed.

  1. Remain open and available. Coordinate with main people so that all of us aren't inaccessible at the same time on declared points of contact.
  2. Prepare better. There was little preparation in terms of working with the society before the walk and in communicating the need. More reach needs to be organized.
  3. Specifically target and ensure communication with a range of "groups" of people ensuring diversity of age, gender, caste, class, locality, religion, etc. The attempt is to create such a diversity of people, that the message becomes totally generic - moral judgments and victimization are not okay regardless of who does it to whom.
  4. Make sure that the scope of the slutshaming being protested as not limited to streets and public transport - it is in every aspect of lives - in how we treat each other at home, at work, in school, on the street, in public transport...
  5. Engage with disagreeing voices in genuine debate. Understand concerns, make real attempts to address them as far as possible.
  6. Create effective communication on why words like "slut" and "maal" are needed and what is their significance in this protest against the ills in society - help people reach beyond automatic denials to common interest.
  7. Communicate better with journalists to ensure that the message of the slutwalk reaches viewers unmangled.
  8. Create a few standard letters, photos, graphics, etc that supporters can use to spread the word.
  9. Keep the voice loud and clear all through right up to the walk.
  10. Keep an eye on the kinds of clothes people have in mind, so that there is an idea of the diversity or the lack of it and action may be taken if needed.

Update: Better coverage of Delhi's Slutwalk in San Francisco Chronicle. The messages are far more effectively conveyed true to the idea, so that the disparity in dress is not garish. Responsible, real. Good job! If this were being showed to India instead of the crap, we could have called this a really awesome event. However, I am becoming incr

As pictures come in from Delhi's slutwalk today, I can't but help worry that the walk gives a totally different message from that intended and reinforces the stereotypes it aims to challenge.

My main concerns:

  • The clothes: Two distinct patterns - Indian women covered up, foreigners bare. I am very concerned by this on several fronts. The most important being what does it project about foreigners. The first picture in the coverage by HT shows a girl writing slutwalk messages on a skimpily dressed foreigner's bare stomach. When I burst out in outrage on Twitter, some thought it was bare stomachs scandalizing me. Not true. It is the bare stomach of a foreigner being touched/written on, while Indian women are dressed conservatively as the defining picture of the event. Now, if Delhi has any problem after rapes in general, it is rapes of foreigners. What message does this picture convey about a foreigner's personal space? Is either writing slogans or foreigners the main thing about the slutwalk? This kind of masala journalism sells papers and prejudice at the same time. SHAME Hindustan Times!!!
  • There is a stark contrast among the foreigners and Indians when it comes to clothes. The Indian women are dressed MORE conservatively than on the streets. It is almost like they are trying to prove that they are not sluts and thus should not be raped. This, I think is a message that will add to judgments about clothing. WORSE than not having a slutwalk.
  • In the pictures, it is the men shown as vocal and the women quietly holding placards. Another message I'd like to have missed.
  • The foreigners look like the "item numbers" of the event. Attention getters, but not part of the real story. And that not being integrated with the local people is what is the real damage. The skimpily dressed people are not us. We are not dressed like that. We hold up placards saying don't rape us. An entire segment of Indian women who dress skimpily is totally unrepresented - worse, covered up.
  • The biggest mistake - the organizer of the slutwalk is totally covered up, devoid of makeup or any effort whatsoever to look appealing.
This coming after the threats to disrupt the walk comes off as totally wrong. Threaten us, and we will cover up.

Why am I making such a big deal of clothes if they don't really matter? I am not making it. The big deal has already been made, which is why we see such a conservative choice of clothes. I am only calling it out as harmful to the message of the walk. I think it is important that this be noted that the slutwalk is not only about covered up women. You wouldn't like being raped while returning from the disco because you weren't in the slutwalk uniform, would you?

That said, I understand that this is the first slutwalk and that it happened is a big thing. Unfortunately, I think that now it becomes even more important to make sure that the right message reaches people. There are other things I saw that could be avoided in future walks, but this is not the time for them, will post separately.

I congratulate that it happened at all. It sets precedent for future walks to happen. Good. Now the trick is to make them happen at full power.

Now, the invitation is to see the slutwalk as a social intervention and not a masala event, or something that is okay if done halfway. Restraining conditions on the slutwalk and expecting the message to reach is like reigning in a thoroughbred and expecting it to win a race. The essence of a slutwalk is the right of a woman to wear what she likes, like the essence of a thoroughbred is in its speed.

If you believe in what you are doing, then there is no need to be apologetic about it. I am not saying parade skimpily dressed women, but the absence of skimpily dressed women totally is a big matter of concern, because then it is the message of clothes defining right to be safe that is getting promoted - quite the opposite of what is intended.

Also, the slutwalk is an intervention means that the message is crucial to change in society. It needs to ring loud and clear. If you are saying clothes don't matter, then there MUST NOT be recommendations of dressing conservatively.

Coming to the journalists. You guys are the eyes of the country. Few will see the walk live. Most will see what you choose to show. As memories fade, the only ones publicly preserved will be those in your archives. As such, you have an ethical responsibility to convey the spirit of an attempt at social change as transparently as possible. From the beginning, there has been this obsession with bare stomachs. Now, in an event of hundreds of people FROM Delhi, dressed in a certain manner, your opening picture is of a foreigner dressed not representatively of the crowd. Sure, include it. But as the FIRST picture that also gets used as a thumbnail to represent the coverage? What is it that is being conveyed here?

I suggest that there is a serious effort to contribute to social transformation and promoting social initiatives rather than pimping midriffs for a moment of attention and undermining their entire validity.

Beyond angry with the reporting. Bloody pimps.

32

I am rather troubled in this moment. All around, I see tremendous rigidity and an inability to learn. Be it something like the slutwalk, or a political problem in Kashmir... we have lost the ability to discuss. Television discussions take the form of a patchwork of individual interviews conducted simultaneously. And there is still little agreement or conclusion. Is it a debate or discussion if participants are answering specific questions by the anchor?

Today, any debate in the public space is so polarized as to be totally dysfunctional. We hear Ministers unable to agree at all on channels like the Loksabha. We see joint committees come up with two drafts of the bill they were working on. We see media and people with specific stands defining issues indefinitely. Different publications have their pet guilty parties. No matter what the story, it will toe that line. Like a soap opera. Doesn't matter if you skip a few episodes, the story is pretty much the same.

On this blog, I have criticized many things. Yet, each new story makes me a "mouthpiece" for some power or the other. Never mind the utter illogic of both BJP and Congress paying the same small obscure blog to promote them. I wrote about the dangers of Hindutva extremism, I was a UPA "paid mouthpiece". I wrote in support of Ramdev, I was a RSS mouthpiece. I wrote angry words about the Congress, I was a BJP mouthpiece. Apparently, these are the only people capable of paying anyone to write for them, and it is impossible for a person to have an opinion without being paid for it.

But these things have nothing to do with logic. I have no clue why political parties have recruitment drives. They should have mass wedding ceremonies. Everyone who attends their rally is married to them. No matter how many scams happen, if you are married to the UPA, you bow your head down like a good wife, shed private tears of shame and stoically endure through that period of shame where you can't criticize your husband, and you can't defend his actions. The same with the BJP. If you are married to them, you somehow endure through tricky questions on happenings in Gujarat a decade ago (they will be asked for another decade at least as an opening question). You will apply your considerable skills to defending that castle of Modi and desperately try and shift conversation to progress in Gujarat. This will be unacceptable to those who want Modi nailed then and there and they will say any progress in Gujarat is built on the graves of innocent Muslims and so on and on and on. It is endless. Wives of sworn enemies fighting in the market.

This is crazy and it is dysfunctional.Having an opinion has become the same as having defense ready for all associated with your opinion. And that too in extremely ugly ways of invalidating or ridiculing questions raised rather than accommodating or answering. It is a method. Another ugly method is mud slinging. If you don't agree with someone and there is no legitimate spanner to throw in the works, investigate tax returns, land records, criminal records, telephone records, maybe even traffic police records or pissed off ex-girlfriends. Something or the other will turn up, and when it does, this person cannot be followed, because he is less than perfect or wrong somehow. If the demand is legitimate, even a prisoner on death row has rights. So I don't see how this is a legitimate countering of anything.

It is dysfunctional, because it takes the competition between parties for the elections and turns it into a permanent obsession. The country is forever fractured and conflicted and combative. And to what end? Why is it that all the youth of a village can't join the awareness campaign of BJP for something and the environment something with the Congress? All of them for both, because their village benefits from both? That is currently impossible. So, if the congress is running an environment campaign, BJP supporters will talk about how it is fake, what Rahul Gandhi wore, etc and vice versa. No one is ever going to win these wars of words, but they will be fought nonetheless, like a stupid donkey put on a circular path (sorry, donkey). Who loses? The village.

This is outright dangerous for the country, because people are told what to think. You think once - and that fixes your loyalty. Post that, you discover every new thing through that lens. And it isn't only in political parties.The slutwalk sees another polarization of thought. Always either/or. I don't remember the last time someone did something as simple as changing their mind. There is no listening.

When it comes to discussion, the objective is to challenge the "opposite view". I don't remember the last time someone really listened and said something like, "Interesting. Tell me more" or "these are your concerns, these are mine, how do we make this thing work?" The goal is always to "defeat" the other side. It is such a stupid, short term thought, because you defeat someone, and that person is planning revenge before the back hits the ground.

It is a narrow minded, exclusivist way of thought riddled with stressful potholes. Then, to deal with its fallout, you need more power. More laws to force inclusion, more laws to fix each problem as a separate issue. In the end we have laws telling us about when to drink alcohol. We have laws getting kids to school that backfired. Laws banning sex-determination that backfired. Laws about many, many unnecessary things. Our important choices are laid out before us as allowed. No matter what the debate is, that is is the bottom line.

Regimentation has replaced wisdom and learning. And there is no logic to it. Suicide is bad. Ban it. WTF? Are you seriously saying that a person unhappy enough to want to die will be prosecuted? Alcohol and cigarettes are bad. Keep increasing prices, raise the legal drinking age. So, if you marry before you are 25, forget drinking at your bachelor's/spinsters party. Sex discrimination is bad, make it illegal. and it goes on and on and on. We now have the government wanting access to unencrypted internet traffic! Yep, you heard right. Yep, your online banking account uses encryption. Forget privacy, but this is a government that got famous for stealing what wasn't rightfully theirs and misusing power. Do you trust it to not steal money from your account? But no one is bothered about thinking through these things. We have been conditioned about what is "right" being told by someone else.

We are becoming an increasingly stupider society. Incapable of evaluating, having agile responses to different circumstances. The only person to gain is the one exploiting these systems.

I would like to suggest the following.

  • SUPPORT INITIATIVES, not parties. The minute you do that, you force parties to deliver. Feel free to support the BJP in one thing, the Congress in another and some obscure new party in a third. At the same time. It is your country. Support whatever is a good idea for it. Watch parties race to create good initiatives to develop a voter base.
  • THINK. This can't be stressed enough. Think toward your goal, not your ego. In a disagreement, find ways around rather than force someone to accept you as superior. Keep asking "why isn't this working" and "how can I make this work" rather than "who is at fault" and "how they are wrong". Keep your eyes on the goal.
  • MOVE. If you are making the same statements all the time, move, damnit. Move to more evolved thinking, change your mind, invite other views, move to other subjects. Don't pickle your opinions. Your brain stops working, though you may sound very smart repeating them.
  • ADDRESS THE ACTION, not the person. A person is far more than the one thing you are looking at. It is a lie to label the person based on any one, two or infinite number of actions. Persons should be inviolate. Even political persons. Feel free to disagree with opinions or actions. The nice side of it is that you are respecting the person rather than belittling them. The practical side is that an action can be changed, but a person is who they are. If you really want solutions to happen, this is a must. It comes with the added bonus of much decreased resistance. People can easily accept that something they did impacted another in an unintended negative way. They can't accept themselves as evil. You will end up debating that person's character and your objective will suffer.
  • ENHANCE VOICES that work. If there is someone doing something good, be sure to support. You can decrease the influence of bad in the world by making what is good more visible.
  • OR to AND. Change looking at situations where only finite choices are possible. The minute you change your thinking from "or" to "and" it becomes inclusive. It also becomes more about the diverse needs of the goal rather than pissing contests to gain sole control of direction. How can most interests be accommodated? In a democracy, this is vital learning.
  • Allocate one time everyday when you will not criticize anything. Absolutely any
So yes, these are my thoughts on the matter. I think we are in a very concerning intellectual state of being with a deep and dysfunctional distrust of differences. Issues are quickly polarized (or begin like that) and reach a stalemate. This is creating fractures in the society with very real and serious problems dragging on infinitely. We need to change this. We need to be different with all our hearts, so that we are engaging in and inspiring.
It is time to move from regimentation and resistance to nurture and honesty. To discuss with a genuine objective of creating change. To accept that we are all entitled to hold mutual respect as a value vital for our nation.