Almost 100 and Strong: A Woman I Love and Admire

This is Sati Dida (dida meaning grandmother), who was my grandmother’s best friend. She recently passed away in January 2022, and I felt a great sense of loss not only because of the personal memories I hold of her, but at 98, she was one of the last surviving people I knew of my grandmother’s generation. As kids we used to call her bunny rabbit Dida because she would use her hand tucked inside her white sari as a puppet to create animated bunny rabbits to entertain us. This is an article from The Telegraph, Kolkata on her, in December 2021 just before she passed away.

I Was Very Unhappy with How Oprah Sold Out Indian Women to the Surrogacy Market

Surrogacy is one area that I as a feminist have radically altered my stand on. Till a few years ago, I saw no harm in individuals or families having children via surrogacy, because I did not know then about the dark underpinnings of the industry that puts out wombs on rent. In fact I was highly supportive of surrogacy as a  means to parenthood for single women/men and gay couples.  However as I learned more about this industry and what it does to poor women, especially in India, I realized that the only way to stop this systemic abuse and exploitation of poor women, was to ban surrogacy in India and the world. If a system is geared towards systemic abuse and exploitation, then it makes no sense to permit it in any form, however benign handpicked cases may be. After all, desiring a biological child, is really nothing more than narcissistic self indulgence or perhaps existential insecurity. If people really wanted to raise a child, there are millions of children in orphanages and foster homes waiting for a loving parent and home. So in 2021 the ICASM (International Coalition for Abolition of Surrogate Motherhood) published an anthology “Towards the Abolition of Surrogate Motherhood” in which my contribution is an essay titled “How Oprah Promoted India’s Global Surrogacy Market.” I am posting below screenshots of two pages of my essay. The book is being translated into French, Spanish and other languages. It is available on Amazon, here: The website for ICASM is

India’s Unsung African Blood

Though India rarely discusses or even acknowledges its African ancestry, it has plenty of reasons to celebrate Black History Month .

 Growing up in India, I never met or heard about Indians with African lineages. Then in 2005 I watched a dance performance by the Sidi Goma, a group of musicians from the African Indian community, the Siddi, and I was astonished and mesmerised. Since then I’ve discovered that India’s African roots are much older than the Siddis, and are not only evident in numerous other communities, but percolate through direct descent in the blood of at least 600 million Indians.

sidi goma

The Siddis

The Siddis who arrived in India, over a thousand years ago, between 700 and 900 AD, are perhaps the “youngest” African immigrant community here. They were brought on ships by Arab merchants who sold them as slaves to Indian rulers. Known to be powerful warriors, the Siddis were often used as soldiers and played important roles in the armies and in political warfare. One of the most famous Siddi military commanders, Malik Ambar, was revered as the “military guru,” of the Maratha kings. He was equally feared and detested by the Mughal emperor, Jahangir (Richard M. Eaton, 2005, A Social History of the Deccan). In fact, where most other Hindu kingdoms were overpowered by the Mughals, the Marathas remained indomitable partly due to the war tactics introduce by Malik Ambar. One of these was guerrilla warfare, often used in Africa, but unknown to traditional Indian battles, which, as depicted in the epic Mahabharata, involved armies confronting head-on on an open battlefield. Soldiers of the Nawab of Hyderabad’s elite African Cavalry Guards were held in high social esteem. Even later during the 1857 Indian mutiny against British rule, many of the soldiers who died fighting for the Nawab of Oudh were Siddi soldiers, including women (Llewellyn-Jones, 2011, “The Colonial response to African Slaves in British India”,African and Asian Studies 10(1):59-70).

Many Siddis either bought their freedom, or escaped to the forests to form independent communities. They would eke a livelihood by performing as street musicians, animal entertainers or as mystical seers. In Bombay, many of the Siddis were Sufis and were honoured by all communities as spiritual healers. Other Siddis fought and usurped the thrones from rulers, as in Bengal, while still others established their own kingdoms. Among these kingdom provinces wereJanjira and Jaffrabad established around 12 AD. Khadki, later to be Aurangabad, was founded by Malik Ambar. Janjira which was a well fortressed, meticulously planned and constructed, self-contained, island kingdom under successive Siddi kings, lasted 300 years as it successfully warded off frequent attacks. After India’s independence from the British, in 1948, it voluntarily seceded to the Indian Union (Great Britain India Office, The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1908).


Sidis of Bombay, Illustrations by M. V. Dhurandhar From the book By The Ways of Bombay, 1912

There are only about 55,000 Siddis in India today. They live in small, insular communities in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat. Unfortunately, in the span of a thousand years in India, the Siddis lost track of their origins, histories and cultures. One of the young Siddi musicians at the concert I attended talked about how as children they’d be subject to racist jibes of “Habshi”, or told to go back to Africa. Once, their troupe was held up by airport officials in India who assumed they were illegal African immigrants. He said the odd thing was that like most Siddis he had never even heard of Africa. Their food, clothes, and language are completely adapted to the local cultures of whichever part of India a particular Siddi community lives in.

Yet, traces of the Siddis’ African roots still echo in their dance and musictraditions. They are evident in the animal representations in the dance movements and the painted face masks. The malunga), a tall, one-stringed bow, like the Brazilian berimbau), is an African musical instrument. There are Swahili words in their songs that the Siddis have long forgotten the meanings of. “Goma” for example is a derivative of the Kiswahili word “ngoma” for drums and also refers to dance forms, such as the ones Sidi Goma performs (where drums play a major part). The polyrhythms in Siddi music and the call-and-response style of singing are also characteristic of the Ngoma music of the east African Bantus. Interestingly, recent genetic analysis of the Siddis (Narang et al 2011; Shah et al2011), identify Y-DNA markers that establish that the Siddis’ ancestors were probably Bantu and from other Sub-Saharan tribes.


A Jarawa child. Image by: CC BY 2.0/Flickr/Jeremy Weate

The Roots go deeper

However, there are communities in India with African ancestries that arrived long before the Siddis. They were not brought as slaves, but migrated in large groups via land and sea. There are believed to be two such waves of immigration, which are differentiated by time, and distinctive racial features and genetic markers. The group that came from eastern Africa via a coastal route about 60,000 years ago, identified as Negritos, are generally of shorter stature, with very dark, smooth, hairless skin, and short, frizzy hair. They formed communities that are now rapidly disappearing like the Onge, Jarawa and the Great Andamanese in India’s Nicobar and Andaman Islands.


Bonda girl in Orissa. Image by: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0/Flickr/Otabi kitahachi

The other group of migrants, known as the proto-Australoids, arrived later, about 50,000 years ago. They are racially distinct from the Negritos in that they have longer, wavy hair. They are also said to be the ancestors of the Australian Aborigines. Today they survive in a number of small, isolated communities like the Gond, Khonds, Bhil, Santhal, Bonda, Kol, and Munda in different parts of India. The original inhabitants of the land, they are India’s indigenous people, who formed the “bedrock” of the populations and the civilisations that evolved here. Though they were largely forest and farming communities, they also evolved into urban societies, and between 4000-5000 years ago, they built towns and cities of remarkable sophistication as seen in the Indus Valley. DNA analysis of human remains and artefacts such as the female bronze figurine called the “Dancing Girl,” from the Indus period, confirm the presence of Afroid and proto-Australoid races (S.C. Dube, 1992, Indian Society).

The Vedic turn

idol kali

There are also extensive references to and information about these early indigenous communities and cultures in the Vedas, the sacred text of the Vedic people, a sub-Caucasoid group that immigrated into India between 3000-4000 years ago. The Vedics were warring, cattle-herding nomads, and referred to the urban dwellings of the indigenous people as “Krishna garbha”–the womb of the black people – who they described as “flat-nosed” and “bull-lipped” (A. Eraly, 2002, Gem in the Lotus). They frequently attacked the indigenous settlements with a desire to “burn,” “crush” and “bury” their enemies, who they equated with the “night,” “demons” and “evil” (Rig Veda 7.104, 10.97). The caste system imposed by the Vedics reflected their race and colour prejudices, and likely ensued in response to inter-breeding through marriage or rape. ( Jaiminiya Brahamana I.161-63 hymn is a clear reference to the rape and murder of the indigenous goddess “long tongue” or Kali, by the Vedic gods Indra and Sumitra.) The word for caste ‘Varna,’ means “colour,” and plainly refers to the race-based colour coding for the caste hierarchy, in which whites were designated as Brahmins, the highest caste, browns (called “red” in Sanskrit) to the second highest caste of nobles and warriors, yellows or the oriental race (of which too there were indigenous tribes) to the merchant caste, and blacks were designated to the lowest or the slaves’ caste.

Though the Vedic religion is often regarded as the foundation of Hinduism, the overwhelming body of mainstream Hinduism today consists of the beliefs and customs of the indigenous people. The Vedic religion was non-iconoclastic and its rituals were exclusive and centred on set hymns, memorised and chanted only by priests. The indigenous people were animistic, had iconic representations for their gods and goddesses and also revered nature in different forms. Indeed, even though the Vedics scorned the idol-worshipping practices of the indigenous people, idol worship, as well as the worship of diverse deities in trees and animal forms like the elephant, monkey, tiger, snake, etc. underlies present-day Hinduism. The Lingam (penis) and Yoni (vagina) icons that have a prominent place in the Hindu worship today, also originated in the indigenous cults, as Indus artefacts indicate. Similarly, the goddess worshipping Shakta traditions in Hinduism evolved from older prehistoric female fertility cultsthat the earliest settlers most likely brought over from Africa. Furthermore, the religious celebrations and festivals of the indigenous peoples involved the use of song, dance and story-telling, which again is a distinguishing feature of modern Hinduism. The major Hindu festivals in India today, including Durga and Kali Puja, Janmashtami, and the popular festival of colours – Holi, are from the indigenous traditions. Most interestingly, most of the principal gods of the contemporary Hindu pantheon today are not the Vedic gods, but the dark-skinned gods and goddesses of the indigenous people that the Vedic texts once regarded with trepidation as “evil,” “destructive” or “belligerent.” These includeShiva,Vishnu, Krishna and Kali. [Details and references for the interaction of the indigenous and the Vedics cultures are in my book Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies, Penguin Global, 2009, pages 26-65, 111-178]

So India’s forgotten African roots don’t just survive in little, hidden pockets of “tribal” communities, but thrive in the mainstream culture.

Africa in our genes

“Very significantly, at least 600 million Indians, a large section of India’s population, trace their ancestral roots directly to Africa.”

Would knowing help India overcome its sadly internalised, self-negating form of racism

Biology gives us an even more significant piece of information. Recent studies on mitochondrial DNA, show that the mtDNA haplogroup “M,”which is one of the direct genetic markers of lineages that migrated “Out of Africa,” has a frequency of 60% in India. Its frequency drops to 0.6% in Europe. (Kivisild et al. 2003 in Examining the Farming Language Dispersal Hypothesis ; Roychoudhury et al. 2000, “Fundamental genomic unity of ethnic India is revealed by analysis of mitochondrial DNA”, Current Science79:1182- 1192; M. Danino, “Genetics and the Aryan debate“, Archaeology Online) What this means, as these papers too state, is that biologically India is tied far more closely to Africa than to Europe, contrary to what was earlier thought. Very significantly, at least 600 million Indians, a large section of India’s population, trace their ancestral roots directly to Africa. Furthermore, other genetic studiesindicate that the ‘sub-Caucasoid’ gene pool from the Vedic invasion, is not only miniscule in India, but that it’s actually ‘pre-Caucasoid’ and part of a diverse north or north east African gene pool that came here via Europe!

Oddly, despite such extensive and deep-rooted connections, most Indians know nothing about the history of their African descent, or its impact on their cultures. It is a state of total amnesia, something like what the young Siddi man talked about at the concert. For me, the more interesting question is how would India respond if it were to learn about it? Masaaba Gupta, daughter of Bollywood actress Nina Gupta and West Indies cricket legend, Vivian Richards, in an interview, talked about how she learnt to deal with Afro-phobic, racist comments by laughing them off – “If someone would tease me about my hair, I would laugh… if someone called me black, I would laugh.” She said she also abandoned her desire to acts in Bollywood films, convinced that her looks wouldn’t be acceptable to the public. I wonder – would her response be different, if she knew, if India knew, that the African blood that flows through her veins, also nourishes more than 600 million Indians? Would knowing help India overcome its sadly internalised, self-negating form of racism, the one the Vedic caste system so brutishly institutionalised in the nation’s psyche, the one that makes Indians run in terror from their own darkness as they attempt to drown it ingallons of skin whitening cream? Would knowing and embracing our African history and lineage, help us to own and celebrate ourselves with joy and pride? I believe it will.


Sidi Goma Concert, 2005. Image By: Rita Banerji


Sidi Goma Concert, 2005. Image By: Rita Banerji


Sidi Goma Concert, 2005. Image By: Rita Banerji


Sidi Goma Concert, 2005. Image By: Rita Banerji

On Gandhi’s Sexual Abuse of Girls in his Ashram

Note: This article was first published on Youth ki Awaaz and many people asked about the source of the letter to Gandhi that I have quoted here. It is from a collection of Gandhi’s letters which have been compiled into a book titled “Mahatma Gandhi’s Letters on Brahmacharya, Sexuality and Love” by Girja Kumar (Vitasta Publishing, 2011). More detailed citations and references are in the chapter on Gandhi in my book “Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies,” [pages 265-281, Penguin Books, 2009].

It is a fact. Gandhi had young women in his ashram, some of them still teenagers, one of them his own grand-niece (Manu Gandhi), sleep naked with him in his bed at night. This was an aspect of Gandhi that I had not read about before, and it surprised me at first. I was researching for my book “Sex and Power” which looks at the history of sex and sexuality in India, and it was important for me to investigate this further.

Driven by desire? Gandhi with the two young women he used as his 'walking sticks'

My initial tendency was to regard this as hearsay but then some of the biographies confirmed it as fact, and also hurriedly dismissed it as something that we all apparently should accept as the eccentricities of ‘great men! That’s not a logical argument for me and so I began to dig into archives for more information till a complete picture emerged. And that picture upset me. I saw Gandhi as a classic example of a sexual predator — a man who uses his position of power to manipulate and sexually exploit the people he directly controls.

Most angering for me, was reading about the psychological and emotional trauma of the girls and women who he used for his ‘experiments’which is what he called these incidents. The word ‘psychotic’ repeatedly came up in various documents with regards to these women’s psychological state. The women, most of whom were in their late teens or early twenties (not surprisingly, given he could have ‘experimented’ with the older women or even his own wife!) were described as depressed and weeping, and seemed to be completely in his control. Besides this, some of the archival references lead me to believe that Gandhi may well have been practicing the traditional, historic form of Indian celibacy which hinges on one thing only — and that is control of ejaculation. Everything else is permitted.

What I could not understand is why school texts and biographies have selectively edited out this information because it was a big and explosive aspect of the inner dynamics of the Gandhi ashram and its inmates for the last 10 years of Gandhi’s life. It eventually led to the partial break-up of his inner-core circle.

But Gandhi is long dead. So why should the naked girls in Gandhi’s bed matter today?

Well, because the issue goes way beyond Gandhi. What really matters now, and it matters deeply, is how we respond to what Gandhi did.

Today we like to believe that we are far more progressive in terms of recognising and condemning the abuse of power by men for sexual exploitation and abuse. And yet, I repeatedly find every time I bring this up (for eg. in this article Gandhi to Asharam: Who Empowers the Sex-Crimes of Gurus?) most people’s responses are defensive and regressive!

But this is what surprised me the most! Compared to our reactions and responses today, the people in Gandhi’s time seemed to be far more progressive! They not only recognised that he was abusing his position and power in a way that was unethical and depraved, but they outright condemned it, confronted it, and eventually forced him to stop.

On March 16, 1947, Nirmal Kumar Bose, one of Gandhi’s closest associates wrote a letter to Kishorlal G. Mashruwala, another of Gandhi’s close colleagues, saying:

When I first learnt about Gandhi’s experiment in which a girl took off her clothes and lay under the same cover with him and he tried to find out if any sexual feeling was evoked in him or his companion, I felt genuinely surprised. Personally, I would not tempt myself like that and more than that, my respect for [women] would prevent me from treating her as an instrument in my experiment.”

N.K. Bose’s letter was only one of the many exchanges among Gandhi’s closest associates and friends in the first half of 1947, about this practice of his, that angered and upset many. These included prominent leaders of India’s freedom movement such as Vallabhai Patel, J. B. Kriplani and Vinobha Bhave. Many of them confronted Gandhi directly, and others stopped associating with him.

This 1947 storm in the Gandhi camp was set off by R. P. Parasuram, a young man from Kerala, who for two years had served as Gandhi’s personal secretary and typist and watched his personal affairs from close by. Like many students in India at that time, Parasuram too, had idolised Gandhi and after his studies, had travelled to Gandhi’s ashram to live and work with him, and help with India’s freedom movement.

But two years after working with Gandhi, Parasuram quit the ashram and his job. Before he left, he wrote a 16-page long letter explaining his distress at what he had witnessed in Gandhi’s behaviour with girls and women in the ashram — which included other things besides his ‘experiments in bed. He said that as much as he had worshipped Gandhi, his conscience did not allow him to stay silent any longer. And that in order for him to continue, Gandhi had to concede to five of his demands (all of which dealt with Gandhi’s physical interactions with girls at the ashram) which he listed in the letter. [See the letter below.]

On January 2, 1947, Gandhi responded to Parasuram’s letter with:

“I cannot concede your demands. Since such is my opinion and there is a conflict of ideals, you are at liberty to leave me today.”

Parasuram did leave as did some of Gandhi’s other close associates. But others, especially those who were in more senior positions as friends and associates, continued their pressure on Gandhi to stop.

One of the things that was a big issue was Gandhi’s hypocrisy and manipulation, to what seemed to many, to serve his own ends. Gandhi had made an unwritten rule of celibacy for all the inhabitants of his ashram. Oddly, he would even make married couples take this vow because he believed that this was central to his philosophy of non-violence. Sexual stimulation of any sort, he preached, evoked violence in one’s thoughts and behaviour. He would tell them that even touching each other was unacceptable. He made the life of one of his own sons, whose wife got pregnant, absolutely hell, angry that they had had sex when he had forbidden them to! Yet he was free to do as he pleased. He was so confident that he wouldn’t be challenged.

Swami Anand and Kedarnath in a question and answer grilling from March 15-16, 1947, shot off questions like:

Why did you not take your coworkers into confidence and carry them with you [into] this novel practice?…Why do we find so much disquiet and unhappiness around you? Why are your companions emotionally unhinged?”

The Congress President J. B. Kriplani told him that he was simply, “exploiting human beings as means rather than as ends in themselves.”

N.K. Bose suggested this course of action for Gandhi:

… he should not allow Manu [Gandhi’s great-niece] to sleep in the same bed with him until he had tried enough to educate the public into his new way of thinking, or the public had got all the fact[s] about him and clearly expressed its disapproval. Then he [can go] back to his practice with the full brunt of his suffering for the opinion which he held right.”

Vallabhai Patel told Gandhi off to his face. He said what he was doing was ‘adharma’ (immoral). In a classic, egotistical way Gandhi retorted to Patel by telling Balkrishna Bhave “for me Manu sleeping with me is a matter of dharma (moral duty).”

But under this onslaught, Gandhi eventually conceded defeat, even if not willingly. He said he felt like a “broken reed.” His ego and narcissism had been broken by people around him who fortunately understood and did better than we do today.

This is the question that I’d like to ask everyone reading this: Why is it that it’s hard to say that Gandhi, the hero of India’s freedom movement had also used his power and position to sexually exploit/abuse girls and women who came under the mantle of his leadership?

Below is an extract from R. P. Parasuram’s 16-page letter to Gandhi just before he quit. He called it his letter of “indictment.”

1 January, 1947

Revered Bapu,

I write these lines in sorrow and pain. You know how shy and unforward I have been these two years. You must imagine to what depths I must have been agitated then to overcome my shyness and become bold and that too with a man who is considered by many to be the greatest man living.

You must also ponder over the fact as to what it is that has made me bold and say things so boldly. It is because I feel I am so clearly in the right and you so clearly in the wrong. It is the cause that gives me the courage.

It is not that I did not know these before. I knew and kept quiet. I thought, “Why should I bring these to him?” There are men like Kanu [Gandhi], Kishorilal bhai [Mashruwala], etc., experienced men and men knowing you fully.  And then I had not the courage. I have come over my shyness with you.

When [at] first I came to the ashram, I came with high respect for the ashram and its inmates and its way of life. All that was knocked off in 24 hours. After coming here I must confess to having lost a portion of the respect I had for you. You are the Father of our Nation. You have taken us so far along the path of freedom and independence. You must see the hand of God in the fact that I have overcome my shyness.

I object to your sleeping in the same bed with members of the opposite sex. In February 1945 or so, I was given the draft of a statement to type. I was shocked by the contents…I must tell you that even before I know of this. One day Amin-bhai came and told me that he was shocked to see Manu [Manu Gandhi — Gandhi’s own grand niece] getting into your bed.

In those days I was more shy than I am now. My only friend in the ashram was Amin. Even then I came to know of the discussions about this affair because the ashram people are so careless and can’t keep their mouth shut. Everybody objected to your doing this.

Apart from the question of any affect on you, what about the effect on girls?

There is something of other wrong with them [the women who sleep naked with Gandhi]. [The] Punjabi girl who lived opposite my room in Matunga. She used to weep unrestrainedly and that not caring whether others saw her or not. She laughed also unrestrainedly. And then here is Dr. Sushila-behn [the 24-year-old in-house physician at the ashram who Gandhi also used for his ‘experiments’]. How many are the days when she has not wept? She is a doctor and yet she is always a patient, always is ill. Who has heard of a doctor who cries out at night?

Even then the whole thing is considered wrong by the world. I do not like it. Nirmal babu [Bose] does not. Sucheta-behn [Kriplani] did not like it and said, “However great he may be, he cannot do such things. What is this?” You must admit that there is something in our objection. You cannot waive it aside.

As for blood relations [this is in reference to Manu Gandhi]. The world is sceptic even there. There have been cases of immorality between father and daughter, brother and sister.

I object to your having massage done by girls. When I was studying in college, I read a report saying you were being massaged by Dr. Sushila-behn. And now I find you do get yourself massaged by girls.

Those people who know that you are naked during massage time say that you could at least put a cover over it [his genitals].

The same objection I hold against girls coming to the bathroom when you go there. Ramachandran saw you like that and said you had fallen a little from his estimation. However great you may be, you cannot do these things.

Your placing your hands on shoulders of girls. You had written once that you gave up this practice because others intimated you with evil intention. I have not come across any other writing saying you could resume it. So it was strange to me why you resumed it. During the two years I have been with you, about 50 letters or so objecting to this practice from admirers and calumniators came. None of them got any reply.

Your being seen naked [during his bath and massage] jars on the mind of strangers, admirers though they might be. Ramachandran did not like it. He said it was the limit.

Ever since the 17th December [1946], when in the small hours of the morning you made those dreadful sounds, dreadful because it came from you man of such eminence, even otherwise unbecoming for any wise or old man, my head has not been at peace. I have heard of another such instance from Mr. Ramachandran of the API [Associated Press of India] when you told Sushila-behn to leave you. I have seen such another instance at Delhi. But this event shook me to my depths. I said to myself that God and the nation would not forgive me if I kept quiet.

You commit Himalyan blunders. But you refuse to see these things and when told, you are irritated. I say you are conceited and constitute yourself to be the repository of all the wisdom in the world.

And now to my charges. Unless [my demands] are fulfilled, I [will] depart. I beg to differ and go away. Your actions to which I object:

1. Your sleeping with any member of the opposite sex.
2. Being massaged by any member of the opposite sex.
3. Allowing yourself to be seen naked by any member of the opposite sex.
4. Allowing yourself to be seen naked by strangers and even by people who are of your party who are not so intimate.
5. Placing your hands on the shoulders of girls when walking.

India’s Biometric #Aadhaar ID Is Cause of a Human Rights Crises: I talk to @letra_escarlata for

Image result for aadhaar worst human rights crisesThe government of India has launched a massive biometric ID project, that entails assigning a 12 digit number to each person, and linking it to the person’s biometrics — and everything the person owns and does. In the face of widespread thefts and human and civil rights abuses due to Aadhaar, there are immense fears and public resistance. This is why the silence of the global media is unconscionable!  I am very grateful to Teresa Domínguez  for this interview below and for giving a voice in the global arena to the Indian citizens resistance to Aadhaar.


Below is the English version of my interview to Teresa Domínguez about the Aadhaar for the journal   

The interview is published in Spanish and can be read on this link:


El sistema biométrico Aadhaar o la vulneración de derechos humanos de un país. Entrevista a Rita Banerji, escritora y directora de 50 Million Missing

by Teresa Domínguez (@letra_escarlata)

In the first chapter of this series we saw  the systematic genocide of girls and women in India:  sec 68 million ú n the latest data . Last week we wrote about an issue that is currently being debated in our country (Spain), rent a womb, with a first-hand look  at this violation of human and reproductive rights of Indian women. Today we continue the series dealing with an issue that violates the most basic civil and human rights of Indian citizens and especially an important part of the population, women.

Rita Banerji, Feminist and author of the book “Sex and Power”.

The 12-digit biometric ID called Aadhaar in India is echoing as one of the greatest rights violations that is causing an unprecedented human rights crisis in India, with the consequential increase in social resistance.

The Aadhaar system is a massive, centralized database with 360 ° surveillance capability. It is not just an identification number assigned to a person, but a system that decides whether or not you exist through a fingerprint and a number. In addition, the system requires  you to “authenticate” in all banking activities, pension, food ration, medical treatment, etc … which means placing your finger on a machine that indicates whether you exist or not. “And it does not matter if your neighbors and family testify that you are who you say you are, if the machine does not recognize you, you do not exist.”

The government first of all obliged all citizens of India to register in the biometric system called #Aadhaar and link their personal data and bank details, phones, etc … with the threat of cutting off their telephone, pension, rationing or freezing your pensions. Now, as a result of failed authentication, many people are declared dead or nonexistent or are being supplanted. Despite many violation of rights based on Aadhaar , including death by starvation or robbery, the government has now enacted a law that prevents citizens from filing a police or judicial complaint. The Aadhaar system is a massive attack on civil and human rights in India. An  Orwellian system , totalitarian, according to the writer. The main victims and victims of the system are the poor, the elderly, the illiterate, the sick, the disabled and women. How that happens you can you read  in this link . Rita Banerji tells us there are many cases of attacks against the most elementary rights of people. Aadhaar has redefined the Hindu concept of crime. If a company has the number and biometric data of a person and opens a bank account, without consent and withdraws funds, the government does not consider it fraud or theft.

Citizens suffering from leprosy, who lack the fingers of their hands.

Approximately 50% of Indians: that is half a billion citizens, are illiterate.The ‘Virtual ID’ campaign of UIDAI explains that multiple virtual IDs can be generated from their website so that persons do not have to share the 12 digits of the biometric identification. However only 26% of Indians use the internet. And only 3% of women have enough computer literacy to effectively use email and other online applications. This actually allows criminals to use this service creating false identities. In fact the UIDAI discovered that some of its own workers were falsifying and stealing data. A Tribune newspaper journalist showed that for only $ 7.00 you can buy any of Aadhaar and all the details. A theft to vulnerable people and an attack on the most basic human rights of people.


To learn more about this topic, we spoke with the feminist writer  Rita Banerji

What is the Aadhaar?

The answer is: nobody knows what Aadhaar is. It is assumed to be a 12-digit national identification number linked to a digital database with all the information and activities of a person and biometric data and which the government now says everyone should have. But the worst is that the government is forcing people, under threat of freezing their bank savings, blocking their phone or ration card, to force them to link their Aadhaar to everything that concerns them: bank account, phone, property, medical history, voter identification, car insurance, driving license, school, pension, rationing, death and birth certificate, everything! But Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship, since foreigners who live here for 182 days can also have it. Even the ISIS terrorists in India have it.

Aadhaar is not a government document, since the government contracted data collection to a private company called UIDAI, and a businessman named Nandan Nilekani, who then subcontracted it to many other private companies, including foreign companies. Now, through RTI (Right To Information) requests and court documents we see that contracts were awarded to US companies that are managed by former FBI and CIA agents who are also consultants to US intelligence.

Shyam Divan, the lawyer representing the petitions of numerous citizens who have seen their rights violated, before the Supreme Court Hearing of India along with other lawyers of the case,  said last month before the Court that a US military contractor had developed the technology and owned the CIDR source code, and at any time could keep it, so it would cause an economic and social collapse in India and literally subject this country to digital slavery by the US and its big corporations like Bill Gates, Microsoft, etc … that are very interested in this issue and have been promoting it for India despite the widespread human rights abuses as we have seen, including deaths from starvation, something that has not been seen since the freedom of British colonialism was reached.

Is Aadhaar verified by any official body?

The Aadhaar is not verified by any official body and has no official digital signature. It is not proof of address, nor of birth. What is now clear – with documented evidence – is that Aadhaar is almost like a coup secretly hatched by the Indian government against its own citizens, since 2009, together with foreign agencies, including foreign intelligence, large corporations and agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank. The main media have been silent and are part of a conspiracy, as it is owned and controlled by large corporations with vested interests. Mukesh Ambani, one of the richest Indians, also mentioned by Forbes as one of the 10 richest men in the world, laughed and said once that “the data is the new oil”.So Aadhaar is simply a 12-digit biometric digital tag that can be used to track every movement of citizens and cause “digital death” or “social death” with its deactivation by the government and its private allies.

When did it start to be implemented and are there other precedents?

It began to be implemented in 2009-10. In the first place, they said that it would be voluntary to benefit poor people, so that they had easy access to subsidized food (rationing) and pensions and that could be complemented by other means of identification. But there started to be cases in which the rights of many poor people who lacked Aadhaar were denied. The Supreme Court ruled and said it could not be mandatory identification. But then in 2014, the government of India changed, the right wing party entered to govern, and they ignored the Supreme Court ruling approving of he Aadhaar Act that would make it mandatory. Now Indonesia, which is governed by a dictatorship, with a flagrant violation of human rights, wants to replicate the Aadhaar. Yes, India is like an experiment conducted on 1/5 of the world’s human population.

Who is to behind to s of this system?

Western governments, especially the United States, the United Kingdom and large corporations, the IMF and the World Bank are the ones that seem to be behind this impulse.Of course, with the support of the corrupt leaders of the Third World who surely, with some personal benefit, sell our freedom and democracy. I think it connects with the Bretton Woods conference after the Second World War, when the United States and the United Kingdom met and planned a new way to continue the colonization of the third world through economic slavery, for which they created the IMF and the World Bank.

Who are the victims of this system? In what way does it affect women in particular?

The worst victims of the system so far are the poor, the elderly, the illiterate, the sick, the disabled and women. Infant Girls and a woman with cancer have died without being treated in hospitals, women are denied abortions, sick women stopped receiving their treatments for AIDS, losing even anonymity with what comes with stigma. Child marriages, falsified biometric data. Girls raped, forced to get married changing their personal information. The case of widows is terrifying. Women who are left without a pension or their food ration, dying of hunger. Desperate mothers because they can not feed their children. Many poor, widowed women have died of starvation by being denied ration and pension.  An 11-year-old girl  died of starvation for not having Aadhaar .Elderly people who are without their pensions.  The mother of two disabled children in Bengal who were denied her disability pension because her children did not have their corresponding Aadhaar. In fact,  more than 53,000 disabled and widowed people have been denied a pension for lack of identification since October 2016. Domestic workers robbed and deceived. All these cases and others can be read  in this documented linkof the non-profit organization: 50 Million Missing .

Are the Western media reporting on this situation?

There is very little coverage in the Western media about this abuse of the fundamental rights of the Indian citizens that is creating a great crisis in the country. Interestingly, it seems that this silence is due to a conspiracy between these same media and capitalist corporations in order to give a false image and publicity of the Aadhaar program.

What is the Government’s position in the face of this injustice?

Most worrisome, is that the Government remains unperturbed by the news of people who are denied their basic rights. Human beings who are literally dying of hunger. Instead, the government denies it and treats the victims of liars and thieves.

Thomas Friedman lied  about the Aadhaar biometric system in India  in the NYTimes. These complaints can be followed up on the networks:

#AadhaarScam  #AadhaarFemicide  #AadhaarWarOnWomen  #DestroyTheAadhaar #AadhaarLies


A final reflection of Rita Banerji 

Fingerprint forgery

Our fingerprint is now our identity, label and password for everything! This is one of the most important reasons why Aadhaar must be destroyed. In addition, the government has forced people to give fingerprints to all agencies: bank, telephone company, etc … It is a deliberate endangerment of the identity of people and of their property and savings! Of course, it is not surprising how much thefts have increased. The worst part is that we can change the identification and password for other systems, but the stolen fingerprints can never be changed. Many of us who argue against the Aadhaar, are very clear that it should be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and that the database, including biometric data, should be destroyed as the United Kingdom did. It is not even an ethical option since only people with knowledge are the ones who can benefit from an “opt out” option. When a system such as Aadhaar involves such widespread abuses of identity theft and personal rights, allowing it as an option means that those who are poor and illiterate will not be able to benefit and will not know how to use this option, much less know when their rights are abused. If there are voices of citizens with education in the cities that advocate this “option” system, they do so, so as to not contradict the Government and be considered anti-government. But it is selfish because they do not think about those who are already dying in rural areas of India, or are not educated or literate to understand the system, and those who will die if we allow this monstrous system to continue.

“Investigators and journalists who have identified gaps in this massive national identity project in India have reported that they have been harassed and subjected to surveillance by government agencies because of their work.” Via  Reuters

Rita Banerji : Another concern of the use of Aadhaar is it may be used to manipulate and falsify the situation of female genocide in India. The current estimates are 68 million missing women in India, a figure that “The Hindu” reported in 2014 which was deduced using the method of Amartya Sen. The next census will not be until 2021. The figure of 63 million is reported by the present  Government and based on “financial data”. We do not know what that is. The censuses in India are carried out every 10 years, with a door-to-door count. We are very concerned that, with Aadhaar, the government now affirms that we do not need door-to-door scrutiny when everything is digitized. We know that Aadhaar’s digital data is leaked, stolen, manipulated and corrupted and can not be trusted. That is why we fear that the government will digitally manipulate the sex ratio to show it as normalized. Currently the physical data gathered in registers by thousands of census officials in hand written registers are not possible to manipulate like a central digital database would be.

Next week “Sex and power”. To be continue…

Other chapters of the series:

Violence against women in India, 68 million women and girls “disappeared”. Interview with Rita Banerji, writer and founder of 50MillionMissing.

Bells for rent, the new social demand. Interview with Rita Banerji, writer, feminist activist and founder of 50 Million Missing


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