Saturday, July 07, 2007

A nod to the resourceful women of India

Two very different women drew notice for two very different types of protests in India this week

In the southern Indian state of Karnataka (of which Bangalore is a part), J. N. Jayashree, wife of a state bureaucrat named M. N. Vijayakumar who has spoken out vigorously against corruption in the government there, started a blog as a way to spread the word about the pilferage currently plaguing Karnataka . Raising her husband’s international profile in the face of the recent murders of whistleblowers such as Satyendra Dubey and Shanmughan Manjunath was another motivation.

It is, I think, a quite brilliant move and one the should be copied in other places with high-levels of corruption such as Haiti and Guatemala, where honest civil servants and officials often speak out against or take action against corrupt colleagues, officials and business interests at great peril to their own lives. The borderless internet serves as an ideal vehicle to tell the world about what is going on in countries such as these, from the ground level to an international audience, such as Ms. Jayashree is doing, and it would seem to be able to help, flooding the deeds of dishonest with day. Let’s hope that her example catches on.

Many hundreds of miles to the north, in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state, a young woman named Pooja Chauhan , fed up with harassment and abuse by her husband and in-laws and exasperated with police indifference to her travails, stripped down to her underwear and marched through the conservative city in protest.

Evidently sufficiently shamed, Rajkot police then arrested Pooja Chauhan’s husband, Pratapsinh Chauhan, as well as her in-laws for alleged harassment and physical abuse. Subsequently the subject of much ugly speculation and innuendo, Pooja Chauhan told reporters this week simply that "I am not mad. Just because I threw away my clothes, no one can call me mad. I know what I am doing and for what reason, All I want is justice.”

I hope that she gets it, and that J. N. Jayashree and Pooja Chauhan succeed in forcing India’s largely male political class into taking a more aggressive approach to investigating and punishing claims of both corruption and domestic abuse. Their steps are very courageous in a time and place where it is physically dangerous for them to be taken at all.

Good luck, ladies.

1 comment:

Mira Kamdar said...

Wonderful piece Michael. The courage of these women and their resourcefulness is inspiring!