Sunday, March 31, 2013

Confession pages and the power of Anonymity

The Mumbai Mirror reads "FB’s confession pages become a headache for colleges and cops". According to the Report published today i.e. 31st March 2013, several college authorities have lodged complaints to trace the author of anonymous posts who have been posting obscene remarks against female students, posts against the teachers and the administration. 

Confession pages are the new trend on facebook. There are confession pages for schools, colleges, offices and even for Delhi metro. I am not sure if there is one for DTC buses. They are a huge hit. On Delhi Metro Confession page, one of the post read that the confessor is more attentive in metro now so that he/she can get something to post as a confession! 

A careful look at the content of these pages would tell you that they are actually a repository. Ofcourse, many confession pages are also working like the pigeon transport system to deliver love messages, but confession pages are also full of reflections, suggestions and most importantly, frustrations. I have seen confessions by victims of sexual harassment. 

The confession pages of schools and colleges can also give a peek view into their environment.The confessions on the pages tell you what the students are thinking about.  In the LSR confession page, most confessions are a debate on feminism. I feel that in many ways, these pages are also contributing to the environment of the college. As a personal example, the confessions posted on the page are discussed on the page as well as in the college. 

But i propose to give a serious look at the critical comments. According to the report, there is a serious attempt to control this important aspect of the page. While obscene remarks should come under the radar, I cannot make up my mind if the latter deserves censorship.

As I said earlier, confession pages are also becoming another source to vent out frustrations. I have read many confessions against the administration or about how things work in the college. To me, these should be seen as a feedback form. 

One of the confessions that i read was against a teacher. Somebody had commented that the page should not support anti-administration or anti-faculty posts. This person had also said that the confessor should have the guts to go and tell the problem directly, to which somebody commented that it is not possible for a student to go and tell the teacher directly. This is really a fact. Not only do many universities despise self-criticism, it is even worse in the case of a teacher. Not many teachers can take self-criticism, something that is unhealthy. For example, the confession that I am mentioning says that the teacher misbehaves with students. So if this is true, can we imagine the reaction if the student directly goes and complaint? He/She might be humiliated or may even fail.

So i feel that these confessions should be taken as a feedback and not as an offence. If a University bans a confession page, I feel that it is banning these voices and any university which is not self-critical cannot ever be successful. There is, ofcourse, another side to it. The question comes, "what if the person is trying to defame the university or a particular teacher?" I have a solution to check this. If there is a wrong post, people usually react to it and point it out. But in cases when it is true, it does not meet with any opposition. Most of the confessions against teachers and administrations, recorded in the pages that I have seen, have not met with any opposition in terms of the authenticity of the content. 

So if these posts are true and there is really a problem with a teacher or the way university is working, instead of finding out the confessor, the university should look into the matter. Though I myself do not appreciate anonymity to a great extent but in cases where we are dealing with careers, we must understand the importance of anonymity. 

Banning these pages will not be a good solution. It will be even more unhealthy. Ideally speaking, the administration should not try to intervene in this as this is off the campus but if it has to, I think that the Universities should take these pages seriously and treat them as feedback forms. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

'Celebrating' Women's Day

Also published at 

March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. By ‘celebration’ I mean, there will be exchange of greetings, SMS messages, and there will be special offers for women particularly from beauty salons and some other special programs on television and radio. They will all talk about the strength and will of the women. Some will celebrate the “sacrificing” nature of women, others will celebrate them as mothers, sisters and wives and also, of course, their struggle to have “ventured out”.  Though, it is a reality that this day has also become another archies day, what is more important and ironical about this day is that it is for a particular set of women.
Owing to the fact that some men demand a “Men’s day”, it can be said that most people do not even know the origin of this day. Women’s Day commemorates the struggle, the movement against injustice and the goals of equality and justice. It had a proletarian angle to it. This is hardly celebrated or even recognized in this celebration today. But what is more striking to me is the concept of “justice”. Women’s Day is not only restricted to urban areas but to the class of relatively privileged women in political, social and economic sphere.
We celebrate Women’s day but what about women who, leave alone rights of women, do not even have basic human rights. What about women like Irom Sharmila, Soni Suri, victims of everyday torture in AFSPA-imposed states? What about women of the socially-underprivileged castes? What about the women on the lowest strata of the society? What about the women who are forced to engage in flesh trade?
The Government, the concerned Ministry, National Commission for Women, will introduce some scheme or will as a least send out a greeting to “respect” the power of womanhood. But what happens to this “respect” when they have all been silent on the torture and gang-rapes that take place each day in the AFSPA imposed states. Why have they never paid any form of respect to the victims of the Kunan poshpora incident? Leave alone respect, they amuse themselves by seeing the heart-wrenching condition of Irom Sharmila. They have honoured the police officer with medals who has dishonoured Soni Suri, an adivasi woman who has been implicated in false cases. So who are they really respecting?
The same question also goes to the International women’s organizations. It is not a hidden reality. Everyone knows about it but no one is speaking. They are all shamelessly preparing messages to be circulated on International Women’s Day.
But besides them, the common or the relatively privileged people (women) are also the culprits. They support this torture in the name of “national security” and the bigger farce of “integrity of the nation”. Which integrity? Whose security? They allow the state and the army to perpetrate torture in these states and then they dare to go about celebrating women’s day.
Women’s Day seems to me in alienation with the other and horrifying reality. It disturbs me that most of us, belonging to this privileged section, will dare to exchange greetings when our sister is dishonoured by the state forces. It disturbs me that we will celebrate women’s day, avail offers, write articles about its importance because we are the “privileged” ones among the women community. It disturbs me that there will be special programmes on television, on radio where they will ask us, “what women’s day means to us”. To them, I would say, “it means nothing to me and it should mean nothing to anyone in this country where the state, the army and the judiciary allow the dishonor of women”.