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Tears of blood

Feminist writer Devaki Jain on the terror attack in Mumbai

Cartoons such as those by R K Laxman or the late Jules Pfeiffer, apart from others like the late Shankar of Shankar�s Weekly have provided, for me, some of the most pungent, poignant reflections � even analyses � of reality. Their cartoons capture almost wordlessly, a whole range of reality � from the state of the world to a local event. Novels like the Little Prince by Antoine Saint Exupery reveal how tenderness can overcome both fear and make the fearsome into a friend. Or films like Kurosawa�s Rashomon where the same set of events seen differently by a set of people capture the complexity of vision and morality in ways that are unforgettable as parables. These are �worlds� seen from deep lenses.

So too, the world as experienced and engaged with by feminists, or as seen with a feminist lens, is another reflection of reality. As a feminist, viewing the recent upheaval owing to the terror attacks in Mumbai, a range of anxieties fill my consciousness.

I am anxious that the incident has been compared to 9/11 and the places have been described as Ground Zero. Totally absurd. Apart from the fact that the base in India is of an unequal economy with masses of poor and the related disorganisation of services, India and Indians have been exposed to assaults of various kinds for centuries; for the US this was a shock out of their insulation. Aravinda Adiga�s India is also a reality � every system and legal instruments can be bought out.

I am anxious that the animosity is being addressed to politicians and removing them is seen as a solution. As some of the wiser commentators such as N Ram said, it is only the elected representatives who have any contact with the masses. Or as Shekhar Gupta said, they are integral to a democratic process and framework. Analysis of this particular terror attack reveals so many other cracks in the system; so many administrative failures rather than security failures as well as the reverse � the masterminded careful strategy and sources of this attack. It is na�ve and also reckless to target the politicians as if they were some kind of species.
I am anxious that the response both from parts of the vociferous public and the State has been for strengthening something called �security�, which translated means more sophisticated weapons; sterner laws with less space for redressal; and now a new law, which will give more power to the police and other arms of power. We who were active adults during the Emergency can never forget the midnight knock and the whisking away of family and friends into what could be called darkness. 
For women worldwide, security has meant protection from violence, conflict, food and shelter for their kin. For women workers it has meant social protection. Women have also been the majority of the victims of various kinds of armed security. The recent news of the peacekeeping forces is only one illustration. Women from the northeast of India and Jammu & Kashmir have had a taste of such protection.
I am anxious that shades of warring have appeared in an environment that animates and builds national solidarity, but also inevitably strengthens the notion of male superiority and fires jingoism of the worst kind: man the warrior, the patriot... ready to go to war. And the woman, �the weak�, wants peace.

Indeed, a sad and bad environment to leave for the generation that follows us. A transformation of an India that my generation ushered in � chaotic with diversity; tolerant and energetic; all absorbing; and �happy� as Shah Rukh Khan put it, but with no guns. Returning from travel to other countries where a pistol in the hip and a khaki uniform on a tough muscular man was part of the scene, it used to make me laugh and happy to see our policemen � armed only with batons � looking sloppy, harmless and laidback. Cry the beloved India.

Devaki Jain, 75, is a feminist writer based in Bengaluru