Uncuff India Episode 8: Global affinity towards right wing governance: co-creating a civil society

In this episode, we explore the global rise in right wing governance and what this translates into for social justice and human rights movements across different socio-political contexts. Our remarkable guest Dr Cynthia Enloe also touches upon citizen responses to the resurgence of right-wing governance. Cynthia Enloe is a Research Professor of Politics and Women’s Studies at Clark University in Massachusetts. Her teaching and writing have explored feminist questions about the interplay of patriarchy and militarism in women’s lives around the world. Her writings have been translated into Turkish, Japanese, Spanish and French. Among her books are “Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics” and “Manoeuvres: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives.” Her latest book, “Twelve Feminist Lessons of War”, released in September this year.


Sanchi- Hello everyone and welcome to our podcast Uncuff India by One Future Collective. My name is Sanchi and my pronouns are she, her.


Uttanshi- My name is Uttanshi and my pronouns are she and her. We are your hosts today and it’s so good to have you all listening in. In today’s episode, we will explore the global rise in fascism and what this translates into for social justice and human rights movements across different socio- political contexts. In particular, we will explore whether and how this global rise is tied to the rise in violence against different minority groups around the world.


Sanchi- Yes, and we do know that the marked shift in global politics towards right wing governance is undeniable today and is abetted by different factors. Even in countries where the government is not currently in power, that is, a right wing government is not currently in power, the steady rise in the popularity of right wing leaders continues. In most instances, the shift is not complete or possible without the backing from the citizens, and of course the manifestations of this are context specific. But on the whole, this paints a bleak picture for the future of social justice.


Uttanshi– To discuss this and share their insights on the topic with us, we have with us Cynthia Enloe. Cynthia Enloe is a research professor of Politics and Women Studies at Clark University in Massachusetts. Her teaching and writing has explored feminist questions about the interplay of patriarchy and militarism in women’s lives around the world. Her writings have been translated into Turkish, Japanese, Spanish and French. Among her books are Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics and Maneuvers, The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives. Her forthcoming book is 12 Feminist Lessons of War, which will be released in September this year. Cynthia, we are so excited to have you join us and learn from you as a part of this conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time out to be able to do this.


Cynthia– Well, I’m delighted to be here with you both and to be with the One Future collective overall. 


Sanchi– Thank you so much, Cynthia and welcome once again. It is an absolute pleasure to host you at this podcast today and we are really looking forward to learning with you. So without further ado, let us jump in. And let’s begin by making a distinction between fascism and neo-fascism. Cynthia, do you think there is a marked difference between these two? How would you define them?


Cynthia– Well, to tell you the truth, when I really look at the rise of the right, I tend to use militarized patriarchy- that’s what I actually track. I think fascism is a very useful term. I think neo-fascism is the updated modernized, you know, every right wing movement in the world updates itself. You know, modernization happens in all kinds of areas of social life. Sometimes, modernization is a good thing, sometimes it is just the updating of a very dangerous trend. So for me, neo-fascism is simply the updated version of what Mussolini tried to do in the 1930s in Italy. So, but for me, what I really track is all forms of militarized patriarchy and the ways in which I use- we can talk about this, but I use patriarchy in very gritty terms. It’s not an abstract idea. It’s the way people are pushed to live their lives and the militarized version of that is what is particularly dangerous. And I watch that very, very carefully in India and in, you know, China and in the US and in any country.


Uttanshi– Thank you for sharing that insight, Cynthia. And while you were speaking, you know, I was very interested by your tying in patriarchy with the institution of the rise of fascism. And do you want to tell us a little bit more about why that relationship is relevant at all?


Cynthia– Yes, absolutely. I think most right wing movements and right wing governments and usually those right wing governments come out of right wing movements. So you should, as you said in your introduction, we should watch the movements first, before they become a political party or before they gain electoral strength and become a government, or just via a coup d’etat, become a government. I use patriarchy to mean the privileging of not all masculinities and you in the One Future collective know this that there are varieties of masculinity, some of which are disempowered and marginalized and exploited. Patriarchy privileges very particular kinds of masculinities, not just one, and it then marginalizes, but depends on varieties of marginalized masculinities and virtually all kinds of femininities. And so what I’ve watched over the years, and I’m very indebted to feminist historians. I’m not an historian. I’m pretty ignorant about history. So, it takes a lot of feminist historians from all over the world to teach me about how right wing movements always, always seek support from women and they seek that and patriarchy on Zoom. So you can’t hear it, you know, but you can see a patriarchy depends on certain kinds of women’s attitudes and certain kinds of women’s practices and certain kinds of women’s understandings of the world. I mean, that’s the good news. The good news is if patriarchy depends on certain kind of women’s attitudes towards themselves, then that means patriarchy is weak because if you can change women’s minds about their possibilities, about their autonomy, about their rights, if you can change women’s minds, you can weaken patriarchy and the militarization of patriarchy.

I mean, I don’t want to be sanguine here. I don’t. But the more I learn about right wing movements, the more encouraged I am about the kind of work you all do to undermine these presumptions amongst women about what they have to fear and what amounts to security and who protects them and patriarchy depends on women thinking that men are their protectors, that other women are a danger, especially feminist women and women from marginalized groups. Patriarchy depends on women’s imagining that they have very limited possibilities, and they should be grateful for whatever they have, and they should be grateful to their male protectors. You can undermine every single one of those arguments, but the right wing depends on that and we know this from feminist historians who studied the rise of fascism in Germany and looked at why some women were very attracted to it. We know this from historians of Italy. Who looked at why women? Some women in Italy found Mussolini so attractive and his vision so attractive. We know this from Brazilian sociologists who look at which women in Brazil in the last 20 years supported Bolsonaro. And in India you have wonderful ethnographers, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists who have looked at which women and why have been supported the BJP and other Hindu nationalist movements. And we need to know that. I mean, it’s very important for those of us who are alarmed about and in opposition to militarized patriarchy, right wing movements. It’s really important that we take seriously why some women find those movements reassuring. We may be alarmed at their ideas about protection and their ideas about security and their ideas about belonging and pride. We may be alarmed about their ideas, but we’d better pay close attention. And we better treat those women. I would almost maybe not respect that’s, but we should at least engage to find out well, what is it they find so fearful? I’m very interested in fear, and fear is always gendered. And so to answer your question, I think I’m interested in militarized patriarchy and right wing movements and right wing governments because they are so dependent on women’s support and that can be transformed and changed. 


Sanchi– Thank you so much. I think lots of things came up when you were talking, but you did give us some concrete examples of some movements in the past and also current movements where women’s support has been essential to these rank right wing movements and then to right wing governance. Would you like to maybe throw some light for our listeners on what are some reasons, the why that you talked about, why do some women then support these regimes? And a follow up question that maybe you could also take along is do you think the rise of the right wing, the global rise of the right wing, has it had any impact on violence against minorities? And maybe we could club these two and think about them together. 


Cynthia– Yes, You might have to remind me so that’s a big question, right. So let’s start with from what we know and we know this- we know this from a lot of very good researchers and movement researchers as well, I mean not just scholarly researchers and one approach is to manipulate religious belief. And that’s not just true in India, it’s true in Poland and it’s true in the United States. It’s true in Brazil, and that is and it’s true in Turkey, that is, that right wing movements appeal to women through their identification with certain religious faiths and that appeal is I, from what I understand, you know, that appeal is double- sided. On the one side, they claim that is the leaders of these right wing movements trying to appeal to women who identify through religious faith. They try to convince those women that their faith is under threat and one of the ways they do that is to argue that  a secular State, a State that is not committed to the advancement of any particular religious faith, a secular state which India was founded to be and the United States is supposedly a founded to be that a secular state, this is the right wing argument, is a threat to their belief whereas the whole underpinning of creating a state that is secular is that it will not be a threat to anybody’s religious belief. That’s the real point of a secular State. A secular State is a State that is not a threat to anybody’s religious belief, but the right wing takes secularism, as if it’s a danger. So, one has to really take that on and talk very clearly and very specifically in very concrete terms about what a secular state is and what it is not. The second fear that is pumped up is that other faiths are a threat to the women’s own faith. Now, the reason that religion and femininity are so tightly connected is because in many cultures, many different kinds of cultures, religion is thought to be especially important to women. I mean, you see that like who goes to church, who goes to temple, who goes to synagogue, it’s oftentimes a high percentage of women who do the unpaid work to support the local religious organizations. And it’s presumed that that is an area that women can serve a useful purpose outside the home. And so for a lot of women, religion, especially established religion, is an outlet. An outlet from domestic confinement. You can support your local religious organization outside the home and keep your respectable femininity status. Respectability is a well, it’s weaponized. I think feminine respectability is held over women to police them because no woman ever, any woman who loses her public status as respectable is a woman who’s endangered. So “women being allowed” to take active social life within a religious organization gives women an outlet. And that means that women are, in many cultures, including my own, are thought to be especially invested in the safety of their faith, and that is played upon by the right wing, usually male but sometimes female is played upon by right wing fear mongers. The other thing is that women because respectable femininity in most of our cultures, really assumes that women’s primary obligations are in the domestic space, in the space of the family and the household. Right wing movements, usually by men, but sometimes by women who, of course, because they’re movement activists, they actually don’t spend much time in the domestic space. So, it’s very hypocritical, but they then argued to women that they’re appealing to is that the domestic life is being threatened by somebody, local minorities, foreign entities and so because women are so domestic confined, women have a big stake in protecting what they think is the proper family is the family that they have invested in, the family that they feel they their sense of belonging is rooted in. And so the other thing that right wing movement leaders do is claim that “the family” and  because there are many different, I mean one of the great advantage of advances by feminists around the world is to expand the notion of what your family is. My guess is if each of you were said, well, what did you used to think your family is and what do you think your family is now? My guess is the One Future Collective is your part of your family now, right? Right. And for me, the local women’s movement here in Boston- that’s part of my family, right. I mean, that’s one of the great things that feminists have done. They’ve said, well, family matters. It’s a kind of emotional investment and emotional obligations, but what is the family is big and it changes and it’s not based on some notion of limited purity, you know, and so right wing movements.

Also woo women, court women by claiming that the family narrowly defined by then, is under threat.


Uttanshi– Yeah. Thank you for sharing these very important insights because I think oftentimes when we speak about right wing governance structures, we tend to think that there are very clear differences in who supports what movements and this really sets the tone for the follow up question which was do you think that there is an increase in right wing government systems across the world and has this has this increase also correlated to an increase in the violence that is being committed against minorities from different parts of the world? Do you think that there is a correlation between this? If yes, what according to you shapes this?


Cynthia– Well, I don’t think we should ever imagine that right wing movements ever went away. They were defeated in World War II. They were defeated in Japan, they were defeated in Italy, they were defeated in Germany. So there are and, but I think these appeals and this fear mongering, the right wing really depends on fear mongering that is encouraging people to be fearful, they lurk. I mean, they’re behind American racism, right? They are behind nationalist, narrowly defined, very narrowly defined nationalist movements in Russia. So, I think we are now in a moment, all of us on this planet, when, in fact, this patriarchal fear mongering is gaining new adherence. And maybe it’s precisely because feminist, informed, progressive movements have made such strides, I mean, Europe now has the Istanbul Convention, which is a major new European amongst the European states for the prevention of violence against women. Well, that scares a lot of conservatives, the Istanbul Convention, it scares Polish conservatives. It scares Hungarian conservatives and so the progress that we’ve made through the United Nations, which I realize is a very complicated, flawed, sprawling institution. But there are now treaties, agreements, institutions that really broaden the notion of family, make illegal domesticated violence that expand women’s rights and that has really that progress I think has stirred up the newest generation of right wing movements. So we should in some ways we shouldn’t be that surprised when real progress in social justice and inclusion happens. Those who had been kind of comfortable in the old oppressions, in the old limitations, in the old exploitations, people who’ve been comfortable in that get riled up. And in some ways it says every time we make, we generally you and me and everybody who really believes in the big family, in rights, in genuine security, in peace. We shouldn’t be that surprised. We should be ready, and I mean ready with ideas, ready with organizations, ready with reframed understandings, with new kinds of education because it will come, it will come. And I think your point about minorities, of course, sometimes minorities rule. So, a minority by itself isn’t depressed. You know, as you said, it’s we’re talking about marginalized minorities. We’re talking about the Kachin in Myanmar, right? Marginalized minorities, whether they be sexual or ethnic or religious or economic. Marginalized, exploited, excluded minorities are oftentimes the Rohingya in Myanmar are the ones that the right wing thinks it is. Right wing is lazy, you know, they choose to fearmonger about groups that have the least capacity, the least resources to respond. I mean none of us my guess is you’d have to be honest. Maybe I’m the only one of the three of us, but none of us ever listened to Rohingya intellectuals or Rohingya social leaders until they were oppressed and treated violently in Myanmar. And then we all list. So they didn’t have the resources until we all became alarmed and we only became alarmed when they were being treated with violence, and I think violence is always most justified if you think the people being treated with violence have no rights and if you have no rights then and you are and you are considered a threat, that combination you have no rights. You’re not fully human and even though you’re marginalized, you’re a threat. I mean, the right wing is very creative. You know, really, you have no rights, you are marginalized, but you are a threat. Then you can be treated violently and nobody cares. That’s the argument. What surprises the right wing is when we all speak up and say, actually we do care. We do care. They are us. We are them. As the Danish people said when the Nazis came in, we are all Jews, but we are all Rohingya. If I’m not Rohingya, who am I? And that surprises the right because the right depends on us not caring. The right depends on us being so in love with the narrowest kind of sense of belonging that we will shrug off violence being used against people. But when the three of us say I am Rohingya, violence against the Rohingya or Kashmiris or Native Americans or Indigenous Australians, that is violence against us, that really surprises the right. They count on us having a very, very narrow sense of belonging. And sometimes we do, you know.


Uttanshi– Sanchi, do you want to come in? 


Sanchi- Alright, okay. Thank you so much for sharing all of that with us. I think it’s been so powerful to realize that the right feeds off when we do not care. And it’s so important to realize that solidarity can be a big answer back to the movements of the right. And I think it’s been really powerful listening to you talk about that. And I am wondering, is there, is there a place in this world or can we imagine, is it possible to have a world where this militarized patriarchy that we’ve been talking about, is it possible for this to coexist in any way with human rights, with social justice? Is that even possible?


Cynthia- I think it works the other way, Sanchi, I think you can’t have human rights unless you demilitarize and depatriarchalize, if that’s a word roll back patriarchy. Patriarchy depends on hierarchy. Rights depend on dismantling hierarchy. Patriarchy depends on one group of people, men, certain kinds of men being the protectors and women being grateful for men’s protection and you can roll that back. It is possible, and it happens all the time. If I was just reading about the the most recent before the Putin Russian military invasion of Ukraine. In Ukraine, there was vibrant politics again, all of us now running to learn, and maybe you there in Helsinki are learning more than you ever imagined about Ukraine, right? But before that, there were vibrant politics in Ukraine, even though most of us weren’t paying attention. And  in 2014, the Ukrainian general public rose up in US Pro Democracy movement and they focused on the central square, the central Plaza of the capital city Kiev. And that central Plaza is called the Maidan Maidan, which is another word for Plaza. And so it’s called the Maidan Revolution of 2014, and it’s been renamed by Ukrainians as the Revolution of Dignity. Isn’t that interesting? The Revolution of dignity, all right, which is about rights and belonging and respect and listening and transparency. The Revolution of dignity and when you listen to people who were there at the Maidan, they say this- answer your question. Is it possible to say it felt like for the first time we had genuine civil society? All kinds of people who didn’t fear each other and went for mutual support, right. All kinds of people who had never done anything collectively together, all of a sudden needed each other and they said and they organized, they were highly organized in the Maidan and this is December 2013 into January and February 2014. And that’s one of the things they all said to each other at the Maidan, we created civil society. And what they meant by that was not simply, well, I mean, they did, but not simply a social movement against the autocracy of the current government at the time that’s back in 2014, but rather they’re feelings for each other and the closest that I’ve well, this isn’t, this shows my ignorance of Indian politics. So you know but it was the pro citizenship women’s led movement in India and my friend Amrita Basu who maybe some of you know and Amrita who’s a long time friend and she did loads of interviews with women at the pro citizenship demonstration and they said much the same. It was true of some of the farmers demonstrations too, right, That there was more gender division of Labor there actually, but there was this sense of we are, we are right here in this space.Creating what might be possible if we had a genuine civil society, listen to Hong Kong pro democracy people who’ve now been quashed by the Xi government in Beijing. But if you listen to the pro democracy activists in Hong Kong, they said in 2019 and early 2020, before we were oppressed by the Beijing Security forces, we had the feeling of what was possible. So I think we need to hold on to not just feel those feelings. Feelings are good, but also how did we do it? How did we learn to trust each other and build a civil society and keep that with us? There are lessons out of that.

The Egyptians who were into Here Square during the 2011 Arab Spring, they said exactly the same thing, said women. Egyptian women said my God, I’ve never been in a big public crowd where I wasn’t sexually harassed, so there was no sexual harassment in to Here Square. We were treated with respect. We were sisters, we weren’t objects.

So it’s possible. I think what the right wing would like to do is make us think it’s not possible. The human condition is a condition of division and hierarchy, but it isn’t. The right wing has a very, very limited imagination, except around fear.

When they think of what to be feared, their imagination goes skyrocket, but otherwise their sense of what is humanly possible amongst us ordinary mortals, we’re all very ordinary and very flawed and very limited. But we have possibilities that the right wing can’t even dream of.


Uttanshi- Thank you so much, Cynthia. Just listening to you speak, you know, I remember we had a a webinar a few years ago at one future collective, like an internal team webinar. And I remember one of the questions was, you know, and I was very, I was much younger than I didn’t fully understand the complexity of the issue. And while you were speaking, I remember myself asking one of the panelists this question about, you know, how do we do what we do when we know that we need the government to approve what we’re doing? 


We do need for us, for ourselves to coexist with the government whose fundamental politics we disagree with. And I’m just thinking back to that, you know, conversation while I was listening to you speak. And I really want to thank you for flipping the question around, the one that we are saying we’ve always been here, right? This movement is something that the communities bring together. It’s something that we have been resisting, we have been putting together. We have been holding each other’s backs. And we’ve been building this and resisting, and it’s really something for us to think about, especially in the background of everything that’s happening in the hands of those who have a lot of power. So thank you so much for that. And you know, we could have this conversation with you forever because it really is so illuminating to hear from you and to learn from you. But I just want to ask you very quickly if you have any concluding thoughts for our listeners that you’d like for them to go back home with and to remember as from this episode.


Cynthia- I guess say the word patriarchy out loud, everybody. Be curious how it works in your own family. Be curious how it works in your own school. Be curious how it works in your own organizations. Be curious how it works in your government and criticize it and see it as the false, artificial set of relationships between unequal women and men that it is. Say patriarchy. Dismantle it.


Sanchi- Thank you so much for being with us today, Cynthia. I think I will absolutely echo what Uttanshi  said and I think our listeners will agree as well that it has been nothing short of inspirational to hear from you today. And thank you so much for leaving us with such a concrete idea of what we can do in our everyday lives to be able to move closer to this vision of social justice, a world built on social justice that we have and we’re all tirelessly working towards. So really thank you so much for being here with us today and for sharing your wonderful insights and talking us through this very complex idea in a manner that was so refreshing and really, really inspirational to hear. Thank you so much.


Uttanshi- Thank you for tuning in today. Please leave us any questions you may have as voice notes on Anchor or in our Dms. We would love to hear from you. This podcast is brought to you by One Future Collective.


Sanchi- Yes, thank you so much. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook at onefuturecollective and at OneFuture_India on Twitter and keep an eye out for future episodes out every second and fourth Thursday of the month. Until next time!

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

The Internet changed. So did Humanity.

As someone who has been online for nearly two decades, it has been a whirlwind to watch the world change, all through a blue screen. 

In 2015, I found myself starting a newsletter, which I called The Alipore Post, as a way to archive the poems, art and fascinating links the Internet was sending my way. I called it ‘a love letter to the Internet’ because of the enormous sense of wonder the digital revolution opened me up to. It was the era of poetry journals, blogs, newsletters, and the joys of discovery that StumbleUpon and Tumblr offered. Everyone had a voice, and could drive conversations that mattered to them. Suddenly, I was a writer, poet, and curator online.

It felt safe. Until it wasn’t.

A black and white photo of Rohini, smiling away from the camera with some foliage covering the right side of her face.
Rohini Kejriwal, the curator of this volume

To build a safe space online, for oneself and the community you nurture, is a massive responsibility. When someone shares their email address with you to receive a newsletter you carefully write and curate, with the inherent societal trust that you will not sell their personal data to big tech. Or when someone follows you on Instagram, willingly letting you enter their feed. What you share, what you say, what you don’t…you are influencing culture and mindsets.  

The internet opened me up to fascinating libraries at every corner. Newsletters and blogs felt like walking into the worlds of people who intrigued me without overstepping or invading their privacy. And yet, putting myself out there was and continues to be difficult. I’m a private human being who believes in vulnerability and authenticity but working behind the scenes. I don’t want to become or be seen as an influencer, or a critic of good and bad poetry. I struggle to show up for myself, just like everyone else. The newsletter is my outlet to express myself, a safe space to talk about what matters to me. Unfiltered. 

I keep returning to The Slow Media Manifesto, which says, ‘Slow Media inspire, continuously affect the users’ thoughts and actions and are still perceptible years later.’ While I love the doors that have opened up to me, allowing me to engage in meaningful collaborations with strangers seemingly with my values, I grow weary and wary of what it means to be online. 

I resonate with what author Minna Salami said in this interview: “The internet and social media held so much promise when they first launched; people truly believed that they were going to transform society. As one of the early bloggers, I remember that excitement. But what we see now is that we not only reproduced, but even increased many of the same problems that already existed. That is because the very intellect and knowledge system, the way of knowing that underpins these technologies, is flawed, divisive, and robotic. It’s lacking in soul.”

On that note, 100 ways to share your work + life that aren’t social media

One of the biggest learnings for me is that once something is out in the (digital) world, it has its own life. You can steer it, and fight the algorithm, but there’s no guarantee of how it pans out. As Are.na co-founder Charles Broskoski puts it, “I’ve come to see Are.na as an organism. We can steer it, and we can push things in certain directions, but anytime we’ve ever tried something that felt like too much, it has never worked. When we do things that align with the direction that it’s already going, that stuff is always good.” (Also check out How do you use the internet mindfully?, an excellent curation by my favorite digital resource, The Creative Independent) 

So with The Alipore Post journal, for instance, I wanted to hold space for more voices and creative expression. But with every open call, I would receive over 300 submissions. I didn’t want to be the one bearing bad news, sending rejection emails to strangers whose words do matter. I stopped, acknowledging that running a publication wasn’t my thing.

In the pandemic, I started Chitthi Exchange, a genuine effort to connect people and get them to experience the joy of having a penpal to write letters to. After pairing over 3000 strangers, I decided to shut that down too. People wrote in, and still do, asking me to restart the program. But it served its purpose, and my own time and mental well-being meant more to me than the demands of the online world. 

Sometimes, being kind online means raising your voice against the oppressors and amplifying the voices of those who feel unheard and unseen. 

Sometimes, it means saying ‘No’. To consciously choose to ignore the emails piling up in your inbox and the messages in your DMs. It may be perceived as rude, but you don’t know me nor do I owe you any explanation.  

Sometimes, it means letting go of ideas, or allowing for ideas to evolve and creating a sense of agency. Like The Alipore Post Poetry Month, where I read 100+ poems daily for 30 days the first year, and chose to share the prompt list and a hashtag the next, renouncing my curatorial ‘duty’. 

Sometimes, it means creating artworks for a cause, in solidarity, as ‘a cheeky nod to the state of censorship in our country and the increasingly aggressive curbs on our freedom of expression.’ 

via Wordswallowed on Instagram

I miss what the Internet used to be – a place of learning and sharing safely, sans trolls, death threats, internet shutdowns, propaganda and hate-spreading.

We survived a pandemic, learning recipes and tools of survival on Zoom and IG Lives until Zoom fatigue became its own reality. (And now there’s talks of 70-hour work weeks 🤢 )

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, grateful for the resources, cat videos and occasional gems but unable to comprehend how we can watch a genocide unfold in real-time and still do nothing to make it stop. 

How do we navigate the digital realm with intention?

How do we safeguard our data and opinions from the hateful trolls and hackers of the world?

How do we fight censorship and shadowbanning when the system is against truth? 

I don’t have the answers to these questions. Instead, my personal manifesto for being online:

  1. I use technology cautiously and with intent.
  2. I do not owe anyone anything online.  
  3. I do not post because I have to.
  4. I do not use click-baity tactics to be heard.
  5. I fact check and attribute, wherever necessary. 
  6. I do my best to stay on the right side of history.
  7. I consume slowly and meaningfully.
  8. I forgo the concept of Inbox Zero.
  9. I will fight for my digital rights and freedom of speech.
  10. I hold space online for what matters to me.

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

Uncuff India Episode 7: Resisting gender-based violence by armed forces

Through this fresh episode of Uncuff India, we attempt to understand the differential impact of armed violence on women and the impunity state forces enjoy. Through real-life examples from the Indian context, our magnetic guest, Chitrangi Kakoti, talks us through the multi-layered impact of armed violence on women, its consequent intergenerational trauma and what we can do to preserve memory regarding it. Chitrangi Kakoti has an MSc. in East Asian Relations and an MA in Critical Gender Studies. Her research interests broadly include gender and security studies, feminist social movements, cyberfeminism, and sexuality studies. Currently, she is working as a Senior Program Associate at TARSHI, a Delhi-based NGO.
Chitrangi Kakoti's photograph on a white background which is set against a patchwork quilt background. The image mentions the number and name of the episode and OFC's logo.



Hello everyone and welcome to our podcast Uncuff India by One Future Collective. My name is Sanchi and my pronouns are she/her.



My name is Uttanshi, and my pronouns are she and her. We are your hosts today, and it’s so good to have you all listening in. In today’s episode, we will explore the gendered impact of the increasing legitimacy of military violence. Military violence continues to remain a central feature of intrastate law and order, as well as international foreign policy.



Yes, absolutely right, Uttanshi. And as we also know, violence and abuse and the robbing of bodily integrity have become normalized aspects of the lived experiences of women, particularly those in what have been termed “conflict ridden zones”. As a result of this legitimization, women have been reduced to the collateral damage of these conflicts.



To discuss this and share insights on what can potentially be done to mitigate and resolve this, we have with us Chitrangi Kakoti. Chitrangi has an MSc in East Asian Relations and an MA in Critical Gender Studies. Her research interests broadly include gender and security studies, feminist social movements, hyper feminism and Sexuality Studies. Currently she’s working as a Senior Program Associate at TARSHI, a Delhi-based NGO.



We’re so excited to have you join us, Chitrangi. It’s really lovely to be learning from you and talking to you about this very important topic.



Thank you for having me and inviting me on a podcast to talk about such an important topic.



Yes, like Uttanshi said, Chitrangi, we’re very happy to have you with us today and thank you so much for making time to join us for this conversation. We are really looking forward to learning thoughts and I will start us right off and let us begin at the very basics. So, Chitangi, why don’t you tell our listeners if you think that a situation of armed violence impacts women differently and how or how not does this happen?



Thanks Sanchi for the question. First of all, I’d like to preface our conversation by saying that all thoughts and opinions expressed during our conversation are mine alone and do not reflect TARSHI’s. And thank you for that question. You know, the prevalent belief is that wars and armed conflicts are the realm of men and the masculine, while peace is the realm of the feminine, or that men are active participants during situations of armed violence and women suffer silently in the peripheries. But research by feminist scholars working on conflict and peace studies has shown that the gendered reality of conflict is far more complex. Women and children, especially young girls, are more likely to be killed as civilians. Women and children are also more likely to become displaced and become refugees and find themselves in camps that do not have adequate resources or structures to support them, be it food, shelter, hygiene, safety and so on. Also, during armed conflicts and war, women and young girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence at home. In refugee camps and prisons, in the hands of soldiers and even peacekeeping forces, they are also at risk of being abducted, trafficked and becoming victims of forced and militarized prostitution. Moreover, once the war or conflict is over, survivors are often not welcomed back into their families and communities, as their bodies have been or are perceived as having been violated. So there is a strong connection between war and control of women’s bodies, especially their sexuality and reproduction, due to nationalist scripts of honor and shame that are attached to women’s bodies. So the destruction, and also another point is that the destruction of the natural environment during war due to say a policy of scorched earth or contamination of wells etc. also has gendered impacts because in most communities, especially rural, rural communities, it is often women who grow food, gather fuel, collect water for the household, but, of course, here we must also ask which women? Because women is not a monolithic group and women’s experiences of war and armed conflict are diverse and influenced by a lot of factors such as age, class, caste, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and also national identities. So women from marginalized communities are impacted more not just during situations of armed conflict, but also in their everyday lives. Also, another dimension to this is that women also directly participate in wars as competence or participate in and support the military economy. In fact, some feminist scholars in security studies have argued that the state and its militaries rely on women’s labor as nurses, clerical workers, faithful wives, patriotic mothers and sex workers to sustain its war missionaries. So to answer your question, yes, situations of war and armed violence are highly gendered and impact women differently. But we must also keep in mind that one, women’s experiences and the impact of armed violence greatly differ based on the intersections that one is located at. And two, armed and militarized violence is a part of the spectrum or continuum of everyday violence that women experience.



Thank you for that, Chitrangi. I think a key point that came out for me while I was listening to you was, of course there is a difference in how women, you know, experience these situations. But also an important point about how women as a group is not a homogeneous group and there exists multiple intersections within that group that we need to be extremely mindful of as well. And I wanted to understand from you really, you know, there is a certain sense of impunity that state forces enjoy, that there is a certain level of legitimacy attached to them. What, according to you, encourages this impunity that they enjoy, what, according to you, you know, makes them feel like this is something that if they’re right or that is they can, they can get away with it?


Well, there are many factors that encourage the impunity that state forces despite like that state forces enjoy despite being perpetrators of violence against women. One is, as I mentioned before, the fact that armed violence lies within a continuum of everyday violence against women and a larger culture of impunity in our patriarchal societies. So you have rhetoric such as the supposed “uncontrollable male libido” that justifies sexual violence and it is the women’s responsibility to protect herself. So you hear similar rhetoric to justify sexual violence perpetrated by armed forces during situations of war and armed conflict as well. Moreover, there’s a culture of excessive and pervasive militarization in a society that glorifies the society and our state forces. And that relies on the citizens of the nation being unquestioningly loyal and obedient to the state in return for protection from external and internal threats which are often manufactured or constructed. So lately in discourses, in public discourses, you have the “Muslim other” against which the Hindu state will offer you protection, or there is an insurgence at the borders of the nation state against whom Indians, Indian citizens must be protected. And, you know, this nature of militarization is supported by so-called special powers that have been given to the army through laws such as the AFSPA order, UAPA. But of course, only certain bodies or lives are worthy of the state’s protection and it is often through women’s bodies that this rhetoric of protection, disciplining and surveillance works, since women’s bodies are the symbolic bearers of ethnonational identity due to their role as the producer of the community or the nation. So sexual violence against women then becomes a tool for punishing, disciplining, and humiliating the enemy or the other even within the nation state and like the impunity, allows state forces to exert power and control over women of communities precisely because of these meanings that are attached to women’s bodies, as the bearer of, you know the honor of the community against whom these state forces are deployed. So yeah, these are some of the reasons why state forces enjoy impunity and the state in fact silences  symptoms of violence against women by any means possible. I mean, that’s why despite multiple demands, recommendations and protests to repeal laws such as the AFSPA, like the, these laws continue to be implemented.



Yeah. Thank you so much for bringing up these points Chitrangi and I think it was very interesting how you spoke about how the state tries to meet this rhetoric of protection against the other. And I think what also really stood out to me was when you were talking about this continuum of violence and listening to you, I was just thinking about the generational or the long term impacts that this continuum might have then on women. Would you like to share your thoughts on that?



Thanks Sanchi. This is an extremely important question, so thanks for asking that. So memory and trauma are embodied, you know, the body remembers. So just to speak from my research, when I was doing research on Korean comfort women under Japan’s military during the Second World War, I read testimony after testimony of the long term impact that the forced militarized prostitution had on the comfort women. So for decades after the end of the war, the women could not speak up about the experiences and they had to suffer in silence because they feared being isolated from their communities or becoming outcasts. In India, we know of incidents of state sanctioned violence against women in conflict zones such as Kashmir or in the Northeast, and these stories have been repressed for decades. We don’t know so many of these stories precisely because survivors, due to the lack of accountability on the part of the state, or even recognition of the of the state, or even recognition of the violence and trauma that their bodies have gone through, often cannot access health facilities in the immediate aftermath of the violence, which leaves long term physical and mental health implications. Survivors also cannot access legal systems to get justice, especially when the violence is state sanctioned and occurs with impunity and armed forces are protected by special laws. Moreover, highly militarized regions of our country are subject to exceptional governance and exceptional laws under which civilians do not have access to justice systems that citizens in the rest of the country have access to. So women therefore have to either suffer in silence or resort to extreme for extreme forms of resistance such as hunger strikes and naked protests where whereby they weaponize and sacrifice their lives and bodies in an effort to get justice. Another point that I’d like to add here is that living in a state of conflict for decades does result in intergenerational trauma due to continuous sexual violence under conflict. Related PTSD and social, social, cultural disruptions, and even the destruction of a lot of these communities in conflict zones. But as I mentioned, unfortunately, due to repression and silence around state violence in conflict zones, our histories and political and legal systems hardly recognize the intergenerational or long term impacts of violence on women.



You know, Chitrangi, as I was listening to you about these intergenerational impacts of this violence, I’m also thinking are there, you know, in your research and in your, you know, understanding of this theme so far in your study, have you come across instances where there is like how community has probably supported women or like has there been any evidence or any research done on? What helps a situation like this, if there is anything at all, Chitrangi, anything, right? Like what does it look like to be offering support in a situation like this to the survivors themselves as survivors, but also, as you know, bystanders.



One is that there are organizations, say, like the Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International and other national organizations that work on human rights violations, that do a lot of groundwork in documenting and archiving, you know, these incidents of violence. They also offer legal support to file case courts, sorry, court cases against armed forces. But, as I mentioned, because of the impunity enjoyed by state forces and also because these are state sanctioned, it’s extremely difficult unless and until you have popular support to actually get justice. And so what happens is that it’s often that community members or the women within the community turn to each other for support, I mean, of course now there are, you know, there are more resources, although not as much as one would like for say, psychological support and trauma-informed counselling etc. But again, access to these services for people living in conflict zones continue to be really difficult, often within the community, and also due to the perseverance, dedication and commitment of organizations working in conflict zones where people or women find some form of support. But it’s again like I said as it’s very difficult to access these resources and services.


While you were talking Chitrangi and since we were talking about community and about justice, I was also wondering if you’d like to share with our listeners what does, like in such a situation then, an ideal support system or an ideal community ecosystem look like according to you? And has this also come up in your research or would you like to share thoughts on this?



My research has not really looked at community support. My research has has looked at resistance against violence on the, yeah, armed conflict. So I would like to dwell upon that in answering your question. I think preserving stories of women’s lived experiences and their resistance against militarism and conflict is very important because they act as counter narratives to nationalist narratives of glorified, you know, militarism. So, again, you need resources and in terms of money and you know, infrastructure to actually build archives, so again, which is very difficult in conflict zones, but you know, there have been stories embedded in our popular discourse about women’s resistance against militarism. So, if I may, I’d like to not share, like just briefly talk about two stories of women’s resistance that have fascinated, intrigued and inspired me since I was a child, which are Irom Sharmila’s 16-year-old, sorry, 16-year-long hunger strike from 2000 to 2016, and the Meira Paibis’ naked protests in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters on July 15, 2004, both of which were protests against the AFSPA in Manipur. In my opinion, both these protests showed how women create an ecosystem of support for one another in order to resist violence or to challenge and even call out the state for sanctioning violence against the communities and the impunity that is offered to the state forces. Yeah, because you see, I mean Meira Paibis, which is a grassroots movement of women in Manipur, they have had a long history of, I mean, it began as a movement to address alcoholism and substance abuse in their communities and violence that is faced by like domestic violence that is faced by women in Manipuri communities, but then it evolved into a movement against the continued presence of the armed forces and the sustained conflict in the state. So yeah, here you see how women support each other in, sorry just a pause. So you see, so you see how women themselves have to create systems of ecosystems of support in absence of support from the state or even, you know, the rest of the country. It’s the support and the counselling and the remembering comes from the members of the community itself.



Yeah, for sure, Chitrangi. And I think generally we’ve also understood really the value of, you know, preserving memory and preserving the stories and lives of of of such resistance. And I’m sure there are many such such important stories that are yet to be told as well. But thank you so much for sharing the ones that really stood out for you. As we’re approaching the end of this episode, I also wanted to check in with you, Chitrangi, if you have any quick, you know, things that our listeners can do to support and to to resist against such forms of violence. I understand that there is a wide group of listeners, but it will be helpful to understand from you what you think our role could be and what we could do to resist this form of violence and to demonstrate our solidarity with people who face such violence.



Thank you for that question. That’s a very, I know, difficult question to answer. I think especially in the context of state sponsored violence during conflict because the state is so powerful, right, so how do you even resist it? But I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we document, archive, and preserve women’s experiences and memories of violence, especially of violence under a state of conflict, because, you know, national histories and archives which build, which build popular discourses, largely do not document women’s experiences. It is important that these stories are embedded in collective memory and that we speak of them over and over and loudly and make them visible so that these memories are preserved and they also make us question and challenge nationalist histories and narratives, as well as the impunity that state forces experience in conflict. It can be as small as you talking to your friends and families and making them aware that you know these stories exist, these memories exist, these experiences exist. Another point that I think is important is that we all carry with us what feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe calls feminist curiosity, so feminist curiosity opens up ways to notice and challenge the insidious ways in which our sociopolitical systems function and maintain power structures. You know, we often do not challenge them or question them and just accept them as they are, so I urge our listeners to always be curious, to question and challenge these so-called traditions, cultures, societies and institutions. Look into the gaps, you know, and the silences. Be curious about them, ask questions about them and lastly, believe in women’s stories and support women’s resistance movements against violence. Yeah, so I’ll stop here and thank you for having me on this series.



Yes, thank you so much for sharing these very important points with us today, Chitrangi. And I think what you shared about counter storytelling, I think that’s that’s so important and I think we, at One Future Collective, also really value that and value the importance of sharing these narratives and sharing them loudly, as you said. And I also think that it’s wonderful that you quoted Cynthia because we’ve had the honor of having her on this very podcast for another episode, so I think it’s a great full circle moment and for all our listeners listening and do keep an eye out for these very interesting episodes then. Thank you so much for making the time to be with us today, Chitrangi. I think we’re taking back a lot of learning and so many things to reflect on and I’m sure that our listeners will absolutely agree with this. Thank you so much for your time.

[Outro begins]


Thank you for tuning in today. Please leave us any questions you may have as voice notes on Anchor or in our DMS. We would love to hear from you. This podcast is brought to you by One Future Collective.



Yes, thank you so much. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook at One Future Collective and at One Future India on Twitter. And keep an eye out for future episodes, out every second and fourth Thursday of the month. Until next time!

[Outro ends]

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice