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Opinion
A Nobel for Malala
By Ram Puniyani
"
Pakistan has been facing innumerable troubles, not entirely due to its own faults. The whole politics of oil, the designs of Empire and the subservience of Mullah-Military complex to the US designs have brought in lot of misery in the region. Currently one is painfully witnessing the plight of a young girl, Malala Yususzai, (Age 15) who is battling for her life after she was shot twice by the Taliban. (October 2012) Her ‘crime’ has been that she dared to defy the Taliban dictats and expressed her longing for education for herself, and for the education of other girls. When Taliban became powerful in Swat valley they shut down girls’ schools and women were banned from social space till Pakistan got control over the area, but still Taliban’s influence in the area did not vanish.

During this period Malala, a young girl, then aged 12, started writing her diary for BBC Urdu, and later a film with her in the center was made by New York Times, ‘A Class Dismissed’. She emerged as the major voice of rebellion against the fundamentalist assertiveness of Taliban, the reason for which she was shot by them due to which she is currently struggling for her life. Taliban like all fundamentalist streams uphold the oppressive patriarchal values, where social space is a strict ‘no no’ for women, who are supposed to take care of Kitchen, Children and their life has to revolve around instructions of Mullahs. In the transition from feudal society to the democratic norms, the major change is that of caste/class and gender transformation. There is no straightforward formula for this. In the countries where the democratic revolutions were complete, the feudal norms of caste-gender hierarchy were overthrown along with the rule of Kings-Feudal elements.

In colonies the introduction of newer set of norms of modern education, industrialization and the consequent changes in the society did bring in social movements, enabling society to come out of the grip of older set of values. The grip of older dominating forces, kings-landlords, was not done away with totally in most post colonial states. The newer classes, the industrialists-workers-educated classes came up side by side with the declining section of society, the feudal elements. The declining sections did not disappear and so they tried to preserve and assert their values and social norms under the garb of religion, politics in the name of religion, what is popularly referred to as communalism. As such it is abuse of religions’ identity to uphold and impose the norms of feudal society in the newer language.

In colonies, particularly talking of Indian sub continent, the subjugated sections of society, the low caste and the women had a marathon struggle on hand to strive for equality and to come to the social space, this struggle is not yet over despite sixty years of Independence in the Indian part of the post partition area, while in Pakistan the process has been slower and has seen a massive reversal after the Zia ul Haq-Maulana Maududi regime. The same got further worsened with the coming up of Mujahideen-Taliban- Al Qaeda, a process supported or rather engineered by United States and Saudi Arabia. The ideological use of Wahhabi version of Islam to train Mujahedeen-Taliban interprets Islam in a backward way to enslave the women and other weaker sections of society.

In India the trajectory has been parallel to some extent. As fundamentalism, political assertion in the garb of fundamentals of religion, rose in the West Asia-Pakistan, in India we see the rise of communalism in the name of Hindu religion with parallel agenda, which has pushed back the march of caste and gender towards equality. During 19th century, Indian women had to face something very close to what Malala and large section of girls-woman are facing today in Taliban dominated area. Savitribai Phule, who began the school for girls, had to face the wrath of the conservative sections of society. As Malala has to hide the books under her shawl, a woman named Rash Sundari Devi in Bengal had to hide her longing for reading, as touching a printed paper was regarded as sin. In her autobiography Aamar Jeevan (My Life) she tells the challenges she faced as a woman who wanted to learn. She learnt reading by picking up newspapers when men folk were not at home. Lot of rumours were spread to stall education of girls. The struggle of Pandita Rama Bai, Anandi Gopal and many of their contemporaries, to get education, was equally harrowing. Even today girls’ education is lagging behind in its reach and importance in large parts of the country.

In earlier part of 20th Century in United States when the social transformation for caste (class) and gender began, the conservative Christian groups opposed this social change by bringing out ten small booklets called Fundamentals, which argued against women and workers rights in the language of religion. It is from these booklets that the term Fundamentalism emerged. The fundamentalist tendencies have resurfaced world over during last three decades or so, and have been promoted by the Imperialist powers in West Asia in particular. Similarly when Hitler rampaged the democracy in Germany in the name of Race, he dictated that the life of women should revolve around Kitchen Church and Children. Similar things, coated with sugary syrup are being beamed through the Television serials in India, where the unending Saas bhi Kabhi Bahu thi… serials dominate the television and give the message of subordination of women. To add to the impact of these serials, the Godmen, hordes of them who have mushroomed during this period, talk of such norms in a refined language and they do have higher acceptability and sanctity.

Pakistan society today is the victim of many phenomenons at the same time. While US created the Frankenstein’s monster of Taliban-Al Qaeda, today the same US-Nato wants to do away with them through drone attacks. These drone attacks are hardly a solution to the cancer which they have planted in this part of the World. The large section of Pakistan society is realising and standing with the aspirations of Malala, knowing fully-well that she does represent the longing of girls of her age. Most parents in the region want their girls to be educated and wish them a future of knowledge and enlightenment. Many a scholars of Islam remind us that learning-education, both for men and women has a high place in the teachings of Prophet, while there are many others who draw from other sources to justify the shootings of Malalas. There are peace rallies in Pakistan which are telling the Talibans, ‘Bandukon Wale Darte hain Ek Nanhi Ladki se’ (Those with guns are scared of a little girl). This section also knows the dilemmas of their country have roots in, the ideology from Saudi, the machinations of CIA operating through the military mullah complex.

The ‘Malala moment’ is a serious turning point for Pakistan. Which way it wants to go, which way it can make space for itself? The past cannot be changed. Today’s problems created by Taliban and its clones need a serious engagement, a ‘do or die’ situation for Pakistan’s democracy. The persistence of Taliban is a malignant disease eating up its vitals. It needs to be put behind, this ideology and this mindset has to be thrown in the dustbin of history with total willpower, determination and efforts. Those in the subcontinent need to hold their hands for democracy and freedom from imperialist domination. We, in the region, need to strive towards solidarity for a democratic South Asia to bury the ideologies operating in the name of religion. We all need to stand with the cause of Malala!

(Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering and now works full time for communal harmony in India.)

—(Counter Currents)


News Updated at : Tuesday, November 6, 2012
 
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