Monday, March 7, 2016

Vrindavan: City of Widows Symbolizes Shameful Treatment of South Asian Women

Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has earned two Oscars by bringing world's attention to women's abuse in Pakistan. She has shamed Pakistani politicians and society at large into a series of actions to put an end to violence against women. Alas, there appears to be little attention paid to women's abuse in Pakistan's neighbor India.
Widows of Vrindavan

Indian women's suffering begins at birth and continues through their entire lives. Girls are highly undervalued, there are 35 million fewer females than males, presumed dead, killed by midwife or parent or starved to death. Unltrasound technology is used mainly to find and destroy female fetuses. Ultrasound and abortion are available even in the smallest villages with no electricity or clean water.

The girls lucky enough not to be aborted face inequality and cruelty at every turn because of low social status of Indian women, according to SuperFreakonomics, a book by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner that documents status of women in India.

Vrindavan, also called the city of widows, is the most shameful symbol of women's suffering.  Satti, the immolation of surviving widows on a husband's funeral pyre,  may have been banned in India, but life for many widows in India is still tragic as they are shunned by their communities and abandoned by their families, even their own children, according to a recent Aljazeera  report.

The widows often live in severe poverty and are ostracized by society due to various superstitions - even the shadow of a widow can wreak havoc and bring bad luck, many Indians believe. Lack of education and any source of income forces them to beg on streets and many turn to prostitution for survival, according to the report.

The last time the issue of abandoned and ostracized widows got much attention in India was in 2005 when a Deepa Mehta film "Water" was released.  The film Water features Chuyia , a 7-year-old child bride, whose 40-year-old husband dies. Chuyia's head is shaved and she is dressed in a coarse white sari. She is then taken to a Hindu temple to spend the rest of her life there.  The film shows that several young widows are prostituted to clients to raise funds for the temple.

The irony is that the film Water's only acclaim came from audiences thousands of miles from India.  Deepa Mehta was forced to finish making the film abroad after receiving death threats for "insulting" Hindu culture. It was nominated for an Academy award but it did not win. It, however, did win several other prestigious international awards.

More recently, Naatak, a  Silicon Valley based theater company,  did "Vrindavan" as a musical production.  It takes a closer look at the politics and social ills behind the city of Vrindavan. It's directed by a Silicon Valley engineer Sujit Saraf who heads the theater company.

While all of South Asia needs to change the way women are treated, it's only Pakistan that appears to be willing to confront the issues of gender bias. Similar courage is needed in all of South Asia, particularly India, to do more to alleviate the suffering of women.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India Leads the World in Child Marriages

Pakistani Documentary Wins Academy Award

Working Women Seeding Social Revolution in Pakistan

Status of Women in India

Violent Social Change in Pakistan

Female Genocide in India

Honor Killings in India


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Riaz Sb.,

We should remember that we Pakistanis have been South Asian for thousands of years, Muslims for may be a thousand years and Pakistanis for only 68 years. So most of our socio cultural evils are based on our thousands of years of heritage. For every social evil we have, our eastern neighbor has it at least 20 times worst. But we are capable of looking in the mirror and point out our faults, this is rare on the other side. As Chomsky said, people in India, while driving never look to their left or right because they don’t want to face reality. That is why Chinoys, Malalas and Iqbal Massihs are born in Pakistan and rarely on the other side.


Ramesh said...


Really!!! Is that the reason for the last 40 yrs, Pakistanis never questioned the hatred for Ahemdiyas while filling the passport.

is that the reason why 84% of Pakistanis want Sharia law, where leaving islam carries death penalty.

Anyone who has seen talk shows will see that while in India the status of muslims are questioned, in pak no one talks about the extermination of minorities. Those who do are haunted out of Pak.

I doubt whether this post will be allowed.

Riaz Haq said...

Ramesh: "Really!!! Is that the reason for the last 40 yrs, Pakistanis never questioned the hatred for Ahemdiyas while filling the passport."

You are misinformed by your Indian media. Yes, there's serious injustice suffered by Ahmedis but there are many voices raised in protest against it by non-Ahmedi Muslims routinely.

What Ahmedis suffer is tragic but nowhere near as bad in terms of scale and scope as the caste Apartheid against Dalits and other minorities widely practiced in India. Over 250 million people are victims of caste-based discrimination and segregation in India. They live miserable lives, shunned by much of society because of their ranks as untouchables or Dalits at the bottom of a rigid caste system in Hindu India. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in slave-like conditions, and routinely abused, even killed, at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection, according to Human Rights Watch.

Ramesh: " is that the reason why 84% of Pakistanis want Sharia law, where leaving islam carries death penalty."

Vast majority of Pakistanis detest the kind of sharia you talk of, the kind of shariah they have seen under the Taliban. Most Pakistanis supported the action against Taiban in Swat after they imposed their shariah and now support Operation Zrab-e-Azb.

Ramesh: " in pak no one talks about the extermination of minorities"

Extermination? Really? Do you know the Hindu population in Pakistan is growing faster than the Muslim population?

Contrary to the sensational media headlines about declining Hindu population in Pakistan, the fact is that Hindu birth rate is significantly higher than the country's national average. Although Hindus make up only 1.9% of Pakistan's population, it is among the worlds fastest growing Hindu communities today, growing faster than the Hindu populations in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Anonymous said...


First of all, I don’t remember seeing you on this blog, so welcome. Hope you are here with an open mind to learn/teach/discuss and not to propagate a morally & intellectually bankrupt ideology.

Now about your post.
I have been arguing with Indians for a very long time, interestingly when it comes to Pakistan you guys have a vocabulary of 22 words, Ahmedi, Shia, Balochistan are some of them. You guys are incapable of thinking beyond these 22 words and 16 ideas. It is as if everyone follows the party line, Goebbels and communist party combined couldn’t have done a better brain washing job.

Check : .

I don’t know about you, but I find it strange that person from one of the world’s most racist country has the audacity to lecture us about discrimination. Before pointing finger at others, you should put your own house in order.

Regarding Sharia, so you are criticizing us because we want to get rid of the law that was imposed on us, against our will, by the colonial rulers? Strange.


Ramesh said...


Our vocabulary can not be funnier than "islam is a religion of peace", all the while when muslims are killing muslims everywhere, including Pakistan.

Does it matter whether we lecture you. It is Pakistan which is facing an existential threat. It is Pakistan whose economy is in coma for god knows how long. It is Pakistan which needs a bailout from IMF to pay its bill.

Actually Indians are right now busy trying to make money and grow its economy. If Pak does the same for its people, instead of scheming how to send more terrorist to India, then indians will hardly think of Pakistan.

Yeah sure Sharia is a legacy of brits and not Islam. And also Farhanaz Isphanai's book "Purifying the land of pure" is RAW sponsored.

Riaz Haq said...

Ramesh: "all the while when muslims are killing muslims everywhere, including Pakistan. "

This begs the question: Is this something unique among Muslims? Who kills 30,000 Americans each year? Is it not Americans? Who is responsible for the 40,000 reported homicides in India (actuals are likely much higher) every year? Is it not fellow Indians? Mostly Hindus?

Who killed Gandhi? Was it not Nathuram Godse, a fellow Hindu? Who killed Yitzhak Rabin? Was it not Yigal Amir, a fellow Jew? Who killed Abraham Lincoln? Was it not John Wilkes Booth, a fellow American?

Ramesh: " Does it matter whether we lecture you. It is Pakistan which is facing an existential threat. It is Pakistan whose economy is in coma for god knows how long. It is Pakistan which needs a bailout from IMF to pay its bill."

Is that what Indian media is telling you? Read Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg: (April, 2012)

...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.

Riaz Haq said...

Ramesh: "Actually Indians are right now busy trying to make money and grow its economy."

So why does the Economist magazine not agree with your assessment. Here's what it said recently:

THE annual budget which India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, presented on February 29th would normally have been the big political event of the week. That is not how proceedings in Parliament in the ensuing days made it appear. Both chambers were disrupted by angry exchanges over issues close to the hearts of the more extreme Hindu-nationalist wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Yet again, an ugly strain of BJP politics is distracting attention from what was supposed to be the party’s central agenda in power: ensuring rapid economic growth.

The damage to India’s image is painful. Faith in the police and other institutions has been undermined. Vigilante violence has seemed to win official backing. Street protests have proliferated; on March 2nd the police in Delhi used water cannon against protesters outside Parliament. This is not the outward-looking, investor-friendly image India hopes to project. And it threatens its liberal traditions of free speech. It is not just India-hating traitors who think that the trial of Afzal Guru was unfair and that his execution was used for political ends by the previous administration, led by the Congress party. The BJP’s definition of “sedition” precludes almost any debate on the future of Kashmir—a source of tension within India and with Pakistan since independence.

All of this looks like bad news for India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Yet, beyond tweeting in support of a fiery speech by Ms Irani, his embattled human-resources minister, he has had little to say on the Rohith Vemula suicide and JNU furore. This follows a pattern: he rarely speaks out in ways that might alienate the BJP’s hardliners. He needs them, as his most loyal foot soldiers in looming state elections, including one in West Bengal in May; and Mr Modi is probably already thinking about the next general election, due by 2019. With that in mind, and following failure in an election in the big state of Bihar last November, he and his advisers may calculate that whipping up a chorus of angry Indian nationalism serves them better than talking about touchy issues such as caste—and better than promoting narrow “Hindu” causes such as protecting cows from beef-eating Muslims and Christians.

Ramesh: " instead of scheming how to send more terrorist to India, then indians will hardly think of Pakistan."

Do you think that 's all Pakistanis think of doing? Sending terrorists into India? Is that what your Indian media tells you? Does it tell you about India financing terror in Pakistan as ex US Def Sec said?

The fact s that Indian politicians and media keep talking about terrorism as their biggest problem to divert attention from the fact that India is home to the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterates most of whom still defecate in the open.

Read what Noam Chomsky said about Indian and Pakistani media:

Samir said...

India has many social ills but, please don't project Pakistan as not having them. BBC wrote about the epidemic of pediphilia in Pakistan that will make you sick! It was a long story but you can view similar coverage:

Or read:

Riaz Haq said...

Samir: "BBC wrote about the epidemic of pediphilia in Pakistan that will make you sick! I"

BBC making a movie about pedophilia in Pakistan does not mean it is unique to parts of northern Pakistan; unlike abandoned widows unique to India, pedophilia is a worldwide problem.

A recent US movie Spotlight shows how prevalent it is the Catholic Church.

India, too, has a serious problem of pedophilia. Here's an excerpt from a report on it:

While the international tourism industry has acknowledged the problem of pedophilia to a certain extent, their counterparts in India are yet to pay any heed to the problem. Tourism has been given the status of an industry in India. Tourism is seen to be a prime source of foreign exchange and a panacea to all the economic ills of a developing country. Most of the States have incorporated tourism in their development strategies. Beaches are being thrown open to tourism. Special Tourism Areas are being demarcated in the most environmentally sensitive region - the coastal region of India. The economic arguments in favour of tourism development have led policy-makers into ignoring the social costs associated with tourism.

The National Women’s Commission has found that Bangalore is one of the five major cities, which supplies 80 percent of the child prostitutes in the country. Based upon this finding, when the Karnataka State Commission for Women tried to investigate it further, they stumbled upon a major smuggling gang whereby girls from impoverished rural families were lured to Goa and pushed into the flesh trade. The coastal areas in Calangute, Candolin and Baga in Goa have been converted into a pedophiles’ paradise. Kovalam in Kerala, Mahabalipuram in Tamilnadu are also following in the same footsteps.

While efforts are being made by NGOs and the Women’s Commission to address the issue adequately, the Law enforcing agencies are still pretending to be ignorant of the presence of child Sexual abuse in India. The issue of Pedophilia gained prominence in India only after the arrest of Freddy Peats in 1991. He was charged with forcing boys into homosexual activities and for possessing drugs and pornographic material. Freddy Peats who claims to be an Anglo-Indian has been a resident of Goa for over a decade.

Investigations, after his arrest, revealed that Peats had been operating a pedophile den where boys between 6-16 years were forced into prostitution catering mainly to German tourists.

The role of State Mechanism

The Indian Government has on paper ratified and accepted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “all appropriate national, bilateral and multinational measures will be taken by the state to prevent abduction, sale, trafficking, and coercion to engage in unlawful sexual activity and forms of exploitation such as prostitution, pornographic performances”. The convention also states that all children must receive the opportunity to discover their identity and realise their self worth in a safe and supportive environment.

The intent and purpose of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have not been incorporated in any Government Policy that would put an end to child prostitution. India is not immune to the problems of tourism related development. Existing State mechanism have to acknowledge the enormity of the problem and the shortage of applicable laws addressing trafficking in girls and boys and other abuses typical of the sex industry. Greater political will, more effective enforcement and adequate allocation of resources are needed to give effect to the spirit and letter of existing laws and conventions, policies and programmes. If the Government is not implementing these, then it is covertly abetting in the exploitation of the child.

Unknown said...

while one in four indian females are a victims of pedophiles ,it does not make the pustoon tradition of sex with boys has to be eradicated

Mariam Khan said...

UN has declared Pakistan as the country with one of highest rate of incest at 30%. This is in no way a sleight against the country, it is a humanitarian issue and I have deep feelings for some of the very few victims that I had worked with because they came forward.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s prime minister #NawazSharif is defying the clerics. #WomensDay2016 #AGirlInTheRiver #MumtazQadri #Sharia

..Sharif, 66, and his PML-N lawmakers are now challenging Pakistan’s religious community, charting a new path for their party while unsettling a constituency that includes hundreds of thousands of Islamic clerics.

During a speech to international business leaders here in late November, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shocked the country’s powerful religious community by calling for a new, more “liberal” Pakistan.

Amid an outcry, within hours, Sharif’s staff was downplaying the speech, saying he didn’t really mean to imply Pakistan should become more like the West.

But so far this year, Sharif and his party have defied Islamic scholars by unblocking access to YouTube, pushing to end child marriage, enacting a landmark domestic violence bill, and overseeing the execution of a man who had become a symbol of the hatred that religion can spawn here.

The shift in tone can be traced to Sharif’s ambitious economic agenda, the influence his 42-year-old daughter has over him, and his awareness that Pakistan remains the butt of jokes, according to his friends, senior government officials and analysts.

“He knows the international community needs a progressive Pakistan,” said one senior Pakistani government official close to the prime minister who asked not to be identified so he could speak candidly about his boss. “So if he thinks a moderate, progressive or liberal agenda can help with his economic agenda, he goes for it.”

With strong support from rural voters and the religious community, Sharif returned as prime minister in 2013 after his party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, won a decisive majority in parliamentary elections.

But Sharif, 66, and his PML-N lawmakers are now challenging Pakistan’s religious community, charting a new path for their party while unsettling a constituency that includes hundreds of thousands of Islamic clerics.

Riaz Haq said...

Why #India’s Chief Economic Adviser Has #Beef With Talking About #BeefBan? Losing his job!! #Modi via @WSJIndia

India’s chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, on Tuesday declined to answer a question about how bans on cow slaughter affect the country’s rural economy, choosing to avoid an issue that has become a flashpoint for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conservative government.

“You know that if I answer this question, I will lose my job,” Mr. Subramanian said at an event in Mumbai, according to a Press Trust of India report.

The western state of Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai, recently expanded a ban on killing cows, which are revered in Hindu culture. Many other states restrict the practice to varying degrees. Last year’s mob murder of a Muslim man accused of killing a cow has kindled concerns that religious intolerance is on the rise in India.

But what might Mr. Subramanian have said on the subject had he chosen to be a little less discreet?

Beef is big business in India. The most recent Livestock Census counted 191 million heads of live cattle and 109 million heads of buffalo in the country in 2012. Not all of those animals were destined for the abattoir: In the 2014 fiscal year, 3.2 million cattle were slaughtered, yielding 333,000 metric tons of meat, and 9.7 million buffalo met the same fate, yielding 1.2 million tons of meat.

Lots of that meat, in turn, got exported: India shipped abroad $4.2 billion worth of frozen bovine meat in the 2014 financial year, more in dollar terms than the country’s exports of T-shirts, motorcycles and car parts that year, and making India one of the world’s biggest beef exporters.

Livestock in aggregate—not just cows but goats, chickens and pigs, and not just meat but eggs, hides, dung and even honey—added 3.2 trillion rupees ($48 billion) to India’s gross domestic product in the year that ended March 31, 2012. That represented nearly a quarter of agriculture’s 18% total contribution to GDP that year.

As for how much bovines contribute to (human) employment, a government survey in 2013 found that 1.75% of rural households, or around 2.7 million of them, derived their primary income in the preceding year from rearing livestock. But that doesn’t capture the extent to which people in the hinterland raise animals to supplement their earnings from cultivation, manual labor or other activities. The same survey found that 682 households out of 1,000 in the countryside owned cattle, and 415 out of 1,000 owned buffalo.

Anonymous said...

Arvind works in Govt and they are forbidden to comment on Govt policies. This is an age old policy on India.

Anonymous said...

There you go again. Good that you find hummer in others misery, says quite a bit about yourself. Just wondering if you have ever been to Saudi or any other Gulf country? You will find millions of your country men making a living by cleaning the toilets of Muslims. So the joke is actually on you, because no matter how bad Muslims are, you guys are a beneath them.
If you don’t find that amusing, then please read Dr. Ambedkar’s article on how your Brahmin ancestors thrived for a thousand year by doing dirty jobs for their Muslim masters. I am sure you find it hilarious. I sure did.
“Actually Indians are right now busy trying to make money and grow its economy. If Pak does the same for its people, instead of scheming how to send more terrorist to India, then indians will hardly think of Pakistan.”
Really, considering that your suicide rate is actually 9 times higher than Pakistan, I would say that most Indians are busy killing themselves. Do you also believe in Santa Clause, tooth fairy, India is a nation etc.? Just wondering.

Btw, Sharia law is not colonial legacy it is the replacement of the colonial legacy.

Zubi said...

" You will find millions of your country men making a living by cleaning the toilets of Muslims. So the joke is actually on you, because no matter how bad Muslims are, you guys are a beneath them"

Zamir, I see this type of talk a lot. I am a Muslim that is first an Indian. Making a living in the gulf is tough for but don't demean it in religious terms

Anonymous said...

Please read the complete chain. I have neither demeaned any religion nor any group. People who are making an honest living should be respected, irrespective of their background.

This guy started by insulting Muslims and I responded. To me it does not make sense that on one hand you are making a living by doing menial jobs for someone and then you are insulting them. What does that say about you?

I have notice on many sites, that the moment Indians can't argue intellectually, or their country is criticized, they start either personal attacks or insulting Islam/Muslim/Prophet, never understood why.


Anonymous said...


Now that India is stopping conversion, these accounts start. Good that India refused visa for USA religious group, which is nothing but a front for conversion.

Long time back someone asked Mother Theresa : how come your service is not required in Bangladesh, poorer than India. She never answered. We all know what the answer is. Because attempt to convert there would end up in head on the floor.

Among all good things done by Modi, standing up to conversion is his best.

As for so called atrocities against Christians, how come Christians from India are not seeking asylum in lanka or Philippines, the preferred country for pak Christians.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "how come Christians from India are not seeking asylum in lanka or Philippines,"

This is the usual Hindu Nationalist answer whenever the issue of violence against religious minorities is raised. I guess it makes sense given the fact the real goal of Hindu Nationalists is religious cleansing in India to make it 100% Hindu Rashtra.

“Our target is to make India a Hindu Rashtra by 2021. The Muslims and Christians don’t have any right to stay here.
“So they would either be converted to Hinduism or forced to run away from here,” Uttar Pradesh DJS head Rajeshwar Singh said.

Read more:

MesquiteIce said...

I would tend to agree with the author regarding social evil in indian society. But that does not mean facts can be missed.

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 bars determination of sex and is followed in most hospitals. Moreover, if anyone has been to india, they would know that hospitals and ultrasounds labs are not available in small villages as the author seems to suggest. At the most they may have a primary health center.

Secondly the equating of ahmedis with minorities in India is again flawed. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was a darling of the entire country and 100% of Hindus. What was the fate of of Dr. Abdus Salaam.

I believe that it is wrong to compare India and Pakistan for the simple reason that Pakistan is a constitutionally "Islamic" state while India is not.

Benchmarking with India itself means that Pakistan is bound to lose. Pakistan should instead benchmark with 'Islamic" counrties like Qatar, Saudi, Turkey, iran etc. India is a different case altogether

Riaz Haq said...

MesquiteIce: " Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 bars determination of sex and is followed in most hospitals."

Laws mean nothing until they are enforced.

The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, passed in 1994, making selective abortion illegal, has been poorly enforced. In 2003, the PCPNDT was modified holding medical professionals legally responsible for abuse of the test. These provisions, however, have not significantly deterred their abuse.

Although gender-based discrimination against female children is pervasive in developing countries, India is one of the worst culprits. Female discrimination, which starts in the womb, continues throughout women’s lives. A survey by the Thomas Reuters Foundation found that India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women.

MesquiteIce: "What was the fate of of Dr. Abdus Salaam"

Dr. Salam was very highly regarded in Pakistan. He was a member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, a member of the Scientific Commission of Pakistan and was Chief Scientific Adviser to the President from 1961 to 1974.

APJ Abul Kalam was chosen by BJP HIndu Nationalists as a token Muslim to deflect attention from its extremist Hindu image that is based on its anti-minorities agenda.

Unlike APJ Abul Kalam, Dr. Abdu Salam did not pander to any government or political parties. The fact that he was Ahmedi did not take away the fact that he was an honored citizen of Pakistan celebrated by most Pakistanis for his accomplishments.

MesquiteIce: "Benchmarking with India itself means that Pakistan is bound to lose. Pakistan should instead benchmark with 'Islamic" counrties like Qatar, Saudi, Turkey, iran etc. India is a different case altogether"

Pakistan is far better than India and any of these countries when it comes to minorities. It's not ruled by fascist bigots like Modi whose guru Golwalkar sought extermination of Muslims when he praised Hitler in his book "We": "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

Nigel said...

At this stage, many developing countries have social and economic problems. Many economists look at the inherent capacity of a country to report and then seek solutions. Much like a person having a health problem. It is innate ability to get better. Some countries are more in denial than others.

India has many problems to tackle but unlike Pakistan it is less in denial. That is a well accepted fact among political and diplomatic pundits of the West.

Ultimately, only economic progress and might will garner respect at the world stage. Greater international business ties and more people to people contact will also lead to change. Pakistan has lost decades in this department relatively speaking.

The anti-India sentiment in Pakistan (BBC POLL 2014) is one of the highest among countries polled as opposed to anti-Pakistan sentiment which, India (Same poll) is not even in top ten behind Japan and South Korea!

Pakistanis have to decide if that leaves them in a thinking rut or not.

Riaz Haq said...

Nigel: "India has many problems to tackle but unlike Pakistan it is less in denial. That is a well accepted fact among political and diplomatic pundits of the West."

This is patently false, especially since the election of Hindu Nationalist Modi government whose base seeks to make India 100% Hindu Rashtra with all of its social ills from caste Apartheid and degradation of women to violence against religious minorities including Muslims and Christians. Excerpt:A day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat described India as a "Hindu rashtra", senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia on Sunday said efforts will be made to "increase" the percentage of Hindus in the country, but skirted the issue of religious conversion. He also said Bhagwat's assertion of "Hindu rashtra (Hindu nation)" at the Kolkata convention is like a "gospel" for VHP. "We are going to take percentage of Hindus to 100 in country. Currently there are 82 per cent Hindus in India, and we don't want this number to be halved. We won't tolerate Hindus becoming a minority in the country," Togadia, who is also international working president of VHP, said while addressing a function here.

Nigel: " Ultimately, only economic progress and might will garner respect at the world stage. Greater international business ties and more people to people contact will also lead to change. Pakistan has lost decades in this department relatively speaking."

This, too, is absurd. India and Pakistan are about neck and neck in terms of economic development. And with FDI pouring into Pakistan for CPEC projects, Pakistan's development is accelerating, according to UK's Financial Times: "Last year was a bumper year for investment into Pakistan. The country received 39 greenfield investments totalling an estimated $18.9bn in 2015, according to fDi Markets, an FT data service...This compares with 28 projects for $7.6bn in 2014, and marks a high point for greenfield capital investment into the country since fDi began collecting data in 2003. "

Nigel: "The anti-India sentiment in Pakistan (BBC POLL 2014) is one of the highest among countries polled as opposed to anti-Pakistan sentiment which, India (Same poll) is not even in top ten behind Japan and South Korea!"

15% of Pakistanis hold a favorable view of India while 14% of Indians hold a positive view of Pakistanis, according to a Pew poll. It's within the margin of error.

What is more surprising, however, is that 86% of Indians see Pakistan, a country one-seventh their size, as the greatest threat to India.

It reinforces what US analyst and author Stephen Cohen has said about the relationship: “One of the most important puzzles of India-Pakistan relations is not why the smaller Pakistan feels encircled and threatened, but why the larger India does. It would seem that India, seven times more populous than Pakistan and five times its size, and which defeated Pakistan in 1971, would feel more secure. This has not been the case and Pakistan remains deeply embedded in Indian thinking."

Sitaram Pundit, PhD said...

According to the 9/11 Commission, the plot was, with a high degree of certainty, hatched in Pakistan. Yet, ask any ranking officer there and a conspiracy narrative will be the response. Pakistan is still in denial!

Among South Asian countries, the comprehensive socio-economic HDI indicates Pakistan has fallen behind all countries except Myanmar which is more "neck in neck" with Pakistan.

Pakistan which, you had claimed was 1.7 times Bangladesh in per capita PPP terms in 2011, is in 2015 only 1.35 times bigger (IMF $4902 and $3609 respectively). India stands at $6808 and again not neck in neck as you claim.

As far as future economic per capita projections, it is you who don't like to do them. I hope Pakistan benefits from CPEC but other countries in South Asia have similar projects. The $110 billion Delhi-Mumbai Corridor in partnership with Japan or the BCIM Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar multi billion dollar Corridor.

The point is other countries have made economic progress probably at a faster rate than Pakistan in South Asia in the past 20 odd years. Even in the CPEC, China has explicitly stated security concerns and Pakistan has to provide that.
Internationally, Pakistan is still viewed as a major security concern and this blog is unlikely to make even a dent in that view no matter how bad you portray India.

Riaz Haq said...

Is Reading An #Urdu Book In #India's #Delhi Metro A Crime? "In haramiyon ko seedha #Pakistan bhejo" … via @ScoopWhoop

Reading in the metro, especially if you manage to find yourself a seat, is such a pleasure. But, thanks to the volatile environment we are currently living in, a person (of an unknown gender) had the most unpleasant experience ever. Why? Because he/she was allegedly 'caught' reading a booklet of the recently concluded Jashn-e-Rekhta festival which happened to be in Urdu.

Riaz Haq said...

#India is second most ignorant nation of the world after #Mexico: Survey via @dna

India has the "dubious honour" of being the second most ignorant nation in the world after Mexico, according to a survey which posed questions on issues like inequality, non-religious population, female employment and internet access.

The survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a London-based market research firm, polled 25,000 people from 33 countries and found that while people "over-estimate what we worry about", a lot of major issues are underestimated.

Mexico and India receive the dubious honour of being the most inaccurate in their perceptions on these issues, while South Koreans are the most accurate, followed by the Irish," the survey said.

The rankings of the nations were based on the "Index of Ignorance" which was determined by questions about wealth that the top 1 % own, obesity, non-religious population, immigration, living with parents, female employment, rural living and internet access.

Most Indians "underestimate" how much of their country's wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1%, the survey said, adding that the top 1% actually own an "incredible" 70 % of all wealth.

The survey also found that most Indians "hugely overestimate" the proportions of non-religious people in the country to be 33% when the true figure is under 1 %.

While Israel significantly underestimates the proportion of female employment (by 29 % points), people in countries like India, Mexico, South Africa and Chile all think of more women in work than really are, it said.

India fell in the list of nations which overestimate representation by women in politics.

Countries like Columbia, Russia, India and Brazil all think there is better female representation than there really is, the survey said.

However, the Indian population seriously underestimates the rural population of the country and thinks more people have internet access than in reality.

In India the average guess among online respondents for internet access is 60 per cent - an overestimation of the true picture of 41 percentage points, the survey added.

Anonymous said...

We have a small ministry to India widows, with our main project being to build a home for the widows there. We wanted to use one of your photos above (of the widows walking along the street in India) - what is the usage policy and how do we get permission to use the photo? Peter Ryall (our website - )

Riaz Haq said...

#Israel tourist woman assaulted & raped in #India. Epidemic of rapes continues across #India.

The police in India arrested two men on Monday and accused them of raping an Israeli woman in the tourist town of Manali the day before.

The district police chief, Padam Chand, said the authorities were seeking four more people in the case.

A series of brutal sexual assaults in India have attracted widespread attention, especially after a young woman was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 and later died of her injuries. India responded by imposing stricter penalties for sexual assault.

Some of the reported assaults have been against foreign tourists, leading many female visitors to fear for their safety, particularly when traveling alone. Mr. Chand said that Manali, in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, was the scene of at least one previous rape of a tourist, an American who was assaulted in 2013.

The Israeli woman who was attacked on Sunday came to Manali from Dharamshala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, on her way to meet friends in the remote, mountainous Spiti Valley, the police chief said. The valley is a favorite spot for foreign tourists, especially backpackers.

The woman, 25, was looking for a taxi to take her to the town’s bus station early on Sunday morning when six men in a small Maruti hatchback abducted her, Mr. Chand said. They took her two or three miles away, he said, and two of them raped her there.

The woman reported the assault to the police at around 10 a.m. on Sunday. The police chief said the woman had bruises on her body.

“The preliminary medical examination suggests rape, and the victim is being further examined by forensic experts,” he said.

Mr. Chand described the six who were accused in the attack as young men in their early 20s who have worked as drivers and mechanics and had no prior criminal records. He said they did not rob the victim but that her passport was missing.

An official at the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi said the embassy was in touch with the victim and with the Indian authorities and added that the victim did not want the case to be publicized.

Riaz Haq said...

#India: #widow leaves children behind to live with another man for money, an ancient custom of "nata" @AJENews

Dungarpur, Rajasthan, India - Five-year-old Pinki is hiding behind her grandmother, Kanku Roat. The 53-year-old has been her world since her mother left. They live in a small mud house that they share with two goats, a cow and a calf - their only assets.

Pinki doesn't remember her mother. She left after Pinki's father died. The young widow went off to participate in the centuries-old custom of Nata Pratha. Pinki was only a year old.

Prevalent in the Bhil tribal community from which Pinki's family come, Nata Pratha allows a man to pay money to live with a woman to whom he is not married.

The price can range from 25,000 to 50,000 Indian rupees (around $375 to $750) and is usually negotiated by members of the community, or middlemen, who may receive a cut for doing so. Traditionally, both the man and woman were supposed to be married or widowed, as in the case of Pinki's mother, but the custom is evolving to include single people as well.

The woman typically goes to live with the man, often leaving any children she already has behind.

"After the death of my son, my daughter-in-law became a part of this custom and discarded her daughter to live with a married man," says Kanku. "She could have stayed back and taken care of her daughter, but this is the custom of our community that has been followed for centuries."

She says she doesn't know where her daughter-in-law is now and Pinki has not seen her mother since she left.

"Women who enter Nata mostly leave their children with ... relatives," explains Neema Pant, the assistant manager of the child sensitivity social protection programme at Save the Children in Rajasthan. Some, she says, "suffer discrimination and abuse by their ... relatives. They miss their school and their nutrition is also compromised".

Sometimes, she says, they are made to work in the house and on the fields, although Save the Children is working to provide support to children abandoned as a result of Nata Pratha so that they can attend school and experience a more "conducive environment in the family".

Rama Kallasua is the head teacher at a government school in South Rajasthan and a member of the Bhil community. She says: "In our community there is no concept of remarriage. Nata is the alternative of remarriage and this is a socially sanctioned and approved custom by our community."

"In marriages, there are a lot of expenses and our community is very poor, so to save costs our ancestors created the Nata custom," she explains.

The custom has also found support among tribal leaders such as Bansilal Kharadi, who is a member of a panchayat, or village council, in a Bhil community and believes that the tradition can be empowering for women, allowing them to choose to leave husbands they are unhappy with in order to live with another man.

"There is nothing wrong in Nata Pratha," he says. "It's a custom that gives power to women to choose. If a woman's husband is an alcoholic, then she can just leave him and start living with a man of her choice. Our ancestors created this custom and it cannot be wrong. Our community will always follow this."

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - #India textbook lists bride's 'ugliness' as cause for #dowry. #misogyny

A textbook in the western Indian state of Maharashtra has caused outrage after it listed "ugliness" as a reason for the increased demand for dowry.
The textbook said: "If a girl is ugly and handicapped then it becomes difficult for her to get married. To marry such girls [the] bridegroom and his family demand more dowry."
A minister told local media that the offending passage would be removed.
Pictures of the text were widely circulated on social media.
Many pointed out that such texts did little to remove existing prejudices in Indian society.
Paying and accepting dowry is a centuries-old South Asian tradition where the bride's parents gift cash, clothes and jewellery to the groom's family.
Why are India's housewives killing themselves?
Five bizarre 'lessons' in Indian textbooks
The practice has been illegal in India since 1961, but it continues to thrive and campaigners say it leaves women vulnerable to domestic violence and even death.
Disputes can arise over how much money should be paid and over what timescale. In some cases when grooms and their families do not receive their desired amount, brides can be subject to terrible abuse.
In 2015, the Women and Child Development Ministry told parliament that more than 8,0000 dowry deaths had been reported for each of the previous three years.

This is not the first time Indian text books have been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
A teacher in the central Indian state of Chhatisgarh last year complained about a textbook for 15-year-olds in the state, which said that unemployment levels had risen post-independence because women had begun working in various sectors.
And in 2006, it was discovered that a textbook for 14-year-olds in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan compared housewives to donkeys.

Riaz Haq said...

#Women in #India are also saying #MeToo: “I cannot walk where I want. I cannot wear what I want" #Modi #rape #BJP

“Like most Indian women, I am not safe,” Indian author Meghna Pant wrote on Facebook Monday. “I cannot walk where I want. I cannot wear what I want. Not unless I’m ‘asking for it’… #MeToo.”

Pant is one of many Indian women flooding social media with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, just as women in the United States and around the globe do the same.

About a week after dozens of women came forward to make sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the owner of a popular bar in Pune, India, called High Spirits was also accused of sexual harassment.

As with Weinstein, an Indian blogger said a culture of silence and inaction among men with power kept the behavior from being brought to light.

Other recent high-profile cases in India include rape charges against a former magazine editor, accusations of sexual harassment against a former judge for the Supreme Court of India, and the conviction of rape for a prominent Indian guru.

In India — where a woman is raped every 20 minutes — sexual harassment and assault has become an ongoing national conversation. 2017 was brought in with reports of mass molestation at New Year’s Eve celebrations in Bangalore, and there’s a popular word, “eve-teasing,” to describe public sexual harassment, though many women find that term problematic.

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s Shame. World's largest democracy is also its most dangerous for #women. #Misogyny in India is not a modern phenomenon. Thousands of women burned to death every year. Millions of female fetuses aborted. #Modi #Asifa #rape #sati #BrideBurning