Buddhism is the main focus of the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2013 and the Dalai Lama is one of the chief attractions this year. So in keeping with that, I am sharing here some excerpts from the Buddhist period in my book Sex and Power (Sect II, pp.67-110). I know that the literary festival as indeed a lot of the global discussions on Buddhism focus on ahimsa (non-violence), with this idealistic vision of a harmonious society. [Read the 2nd excerpt from my book on how Buddhism impacted on social perceptions of women and sex here].
But in my book I look at how Buddhism actually was a powerful social revolution in India that became popular among the masses because Buddha openly and strongly challenged the caste based hierarchy and the superiority of the Brahmin and upper castes, as well as their social and economic exploitation of the lower castes and poorer people.
Buddhism changed the whole power structure of Indian society in the period from about 500 B.C. to 100 A.D. in a manner that was hugely radical. And even though most modern Buddhist practitioners talk about non-violence (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on January 25, 2013
Who looks like the boss here: the blue turbaned man or the woman?
Let me state clearly what this article is about. It is my protest as a citizen of India, against a certain person – Sonia Gandhi, who in my opinion, has completely destroyed the democratic process of what otherwise was a crude and unruly democracy.
Don’t get me wrong on this. I voted for Sonia Gandhi in that election which brought the Congress back into power. In fact it didn’t matter to me that she was born and raised in Italy. It didn’t matter to me that Sonia Gandhi who has been married to the son of India’s Prime Minister since 1967, lived in the country for 15 years, had two children, but never wanted to even take Indian citizenship. And that she got (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on September 11, 2012
For years, the U.S. government has been critical of China and Iran for their state run control of the Internet. However now, the US Congress is contemplating a law that would give the U.S. government the power to censor India’s Internet. (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on December 1, 2011
A feminist friend, who I told about the Afghan women’s Green Scarf movement, said, “I don’t support the veil!” And I suddenly realized that probably she’s not the only one with the wrong idea about what this is all about.
To support this movement all one needs to do is: 1) Put on a green scarf (Doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, or how you want to wear it) 2) Take a picture of yourself wearing it 3) Upload it on this site to show your solidarity with the Afghan women.
And to clarify: it does not ask for people to wear a veil! It says ‘A scarf.’ It just needs to be green. And you can wear it however you want. My green scarf (in the picture to your left) is 6 yards long, (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on November 10, 2011
March 24, 2010
A potato farmer, Maktabul Hussein, only 18 years old, committed suicide today in Jalpaiguri, in West Bengal. Why? Because the price of potatoes have dropped so much that he could not make up the money to pay back the Rs. 500,000/- loans he had taken to cultivate his land.
Maktabul was getting only Rs. 1.80/kg for his potatoes. And this is what is bizarre! Over the last few months everyone in town has been complaining about how the cost of potatoes has been soaring, along with that of onions, lentils and rice. At one point potatoes was selling for Rs.20/kg! If the middle-class was feeling the pinch, just imagine how it has been for the poor. Potato after all has been the poor’s sustenance! What more – recently the West Bengal government announced that there has been such a surplus of potatoes that they are going to be exporting them!
What are we supposed to gather from this? Is there a potato cartel at work here? That odious middle-man? Does he hoard the potatoes – and rips off the poor farmer who breaks his back cultivating it. And then turns around rips off the customers by charging them 10 times the cost?
In the book Needless Hunger, the authors show that it was exactly this kind of food cartel that had resulted in Bangladesh’s famine, when hundreds died of starvation.
Posted by Rita Banerji on March 26, 2010