rafia zakaria

The 14-second stare

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Rishiraj Singh is the excise commissioner in the Indian state of Kerala. In the most recent photograph of him that I could find, he sports the khaki uniform of his position and a formidable moustache. In the last half of August, however, Rishiraj Singh has become known for something else, an edict against men who stare at women.

While addressing a small group of people in the city of Kochi on women’s safety, Singh declared that any man found staring at a woman for more than 14 seconds could be put in jail. Since India is a country of men who like to stare, his statement provoked immediate attention and ire; the Indian newspaper India Express labelled the statement ‘absurd’ and included an interview with a lawyer who said that there was no such law.

Others largely took the same tone: how dare Indian men be threatened with imprisonment for staring at Indian women. In the words of one Indian attorney: “There is no such provision in any law of this country and there cannot be such a mindless provision of law in any other country of the world. Period.” The message to women, Indian and otherwise: it’s a man’s world and staring at women must necessarily be a part of it.Read More »The 14-second stare

Long March to nowhere —Rafia Zakaria

The political decisions made by both parties represent a system where future guarantees are elusive and where power can only be maintained through the ruthless game of either eliminating the opponent or being eliminated oneself. In the short term, the Long March represents another episode in this grisly high-stakes game of exclusion and eradication

Marches, protests, sit-ins and rallies are supposed to be the stuff of democratic politics. In their effort to agitate without violence and engender change without bloodshed, they supposedly proclaim the voice of people.Read More »Long March to nowhere —Rafia Zakaria