Manushi  More than a Magazine-A Cause
Manushi  More than a Magazine-A Cause
Manushi Sangathan  Working Towards Solutions

 
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Brief History
 
The Name and its Meaning
More than a Journal – A Cause
The Impetus for Starting Manushi Magazine
How We Put It Together
Mobilizing Support and Finances
How We Worked
Who Reads Manushi?
Support and Distribution Network
Open Door Policy for Volunteers
Make Common Cause with Manushi
 


The Impetus for Starting Manushi Magazine


The Journal Manushi was born out of the belief that most of us among the English educated elites of India know precious little about the life conditions of our own people, especially those living in rural areas. India is vast and the life situation and cultural values of people vary considerably within diverse communities and regions of India. Unfortunately, present day elite education connects us more easily to the international elites while alienating us from the lives, values, struggles and aspirations of our own people. And yet we presume to speak on behalf of millions whose lives we barely know. Our education and class connections provide us with far more social clout than we deserve. Consequently, we can impose our views, perspectives and agendas on others, without taking their opinions and aspirations into consideration. That is why “national” policies and laws enacted for the ostensible benefit of the people often end up working against the interests of those they are meant to protect.

The educated elite have still not learnt to curb the colonial mindset which trains us to believe that we know best what is in the interest of all those who are poor and denied elite education. Therefore, Manushi was envisaged first and foremost as a platform for self-education and learning about our own people and society, especially women, to help us understand their aspirations with appropriate humility. We seek to align our agenda of action with what meets with people’s own requirements rather than make it subservient to our ideas and notions of the good life.

Therefore information gathering about the living and working conditions and cultural values people from impoverished and marginalized communities, regional and occupational groups has remained a high priority task for Manushi.

The initiative to bring out Manushi came from some of us who had been involved in a Delhi University based women’s group - initiated by Madhu Purnima Kishwar in August-September 1977. It was a very broad based platform, comprising women students and teachers, and named Stree Adhikar Manch (Forum for the Rights of Women). This open-door forum functioned as a study and discussion group as well as took up various campaigns during the 8-9 months of its existence. By March 1978 key members of this group became involved in planning to start a new magazine.

Manushi’s birth coincided with a new phase of activity and debate on democratic rights, civil liberties, social justice and women’s rights issues after a lull of about three decades following national independence. It also coincided with an important new phase in the political life of the country following the imposition of a National Emergency by Indira Gandhi in June 1975 to protect herself from being unseated from the Prime Minister’s office by the Allahabad High Court judgement upholding charges of electoral malpractices and corruption against her. The clampdown she imposed included nationwide press censorship, and suspension of civil liberties and democratic rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

This was Independent India’s first taste of an authoritarian regime. Many analysts agree that most of the national press barons “crawled when merely asked to bend”. Apart from The Statesman and The Indian Express, only a few small magazines run by committed journalists stood up to resist press censorship by opting to suspend publication instead of presenting doctored news.

However, that did not prevent news and information about Emergency excesses from travelling far and wide by word of mouth. Even at the best of times, oral networks of communication about political affairs and misdoings of rulers tend to be more reliable means of information than TV channels or newspapers in India. During the Emergency, oral networks of information became far more active and efficient. Every instance of abuse of power and high handedness that took place in any part of India, whether forced sterilisations or demolition of slums in the guise of clearing illegal “encroachments” became common knowledge within hours of its occurrence. This when there was no Internet and even phone connections were confined to well-off upper class homes and offices.

Apart from the news of Emergency excesses, since the early 1970s we had started getting reports of various struggles of marginalized communities in rural areas resisting the destruction of natural resources – rivers, water bodies and forests - by government agencies and the criminal mafias patronised by them, thus jeopardising the very survival of rural communities. The 'Chipko' movement, which got international acclaim in later years, was one such manifestation of people’s struggles in which village women had come to play a notable role. Similarly, reports of struggle of poor farmers in Maharashtra and Andhra began circulating by word of mouth. They told romanticised stories of how women also waged parallel battles against sexual violence by the police as well as the political elites in rural areas, evolved strategies to deal with domestic violence at the hands of husbands addicted to liquor as well as their struggles for better wages against their employers. Throughout the 1970s, the Punjab farmers were demanding freedom from deadly government controls on the farm sector, which depressed their incomes and led to increasing indebtedness. During the Emergency, hundreds of thousands of Sikh farmers, including women, had courted arrest and led morchas against the repressive policies of the Central government. Their main plank was decentralisation and greater devolution of power to the states. It is noteworthy that in post-independence India, rural movements led the way in involving people of impoverished and marginalized communities to fight for their democratic rights enshrined in our Constitution. Rural women played a significant role in such movements. By contrast, the urban educated elite, especially women from well-off families, have been far less vigilant of their citizenship rights.

The general clampdown on civil liberties, and the severe censorship imposed on the press during the Emergency, seem to have sensitised most sections of the press to be more vigilant to protect their own freedom. The shaking off by the press of some of its slavish, pro-government, pro-status quo stance marked a significant change.

The other commercial media, taking their cue from the government’s attitudes tended either completely to ignore rural struggles or to treat them as ‘law and order problems’. They were especially careful to underplay instances where rural communities organised to challenge the power of the local elite and their patrons in the government.

We, therefore, felt the need to create our own forms of communication to collect and disseminate this information systematically, to enable us to understand and identify the issues around which impoverished and marginalised communities in different parts of the country were beginning to struggle, so that we might decide how we could help strengthen and spread such struggles. We felt that to spread more accurate information about these sporadic outbursts would keep them from being isolated and suppressed through brute force. This would also give encouragement and strength to people struggling in different parts of the country not only to learn from each other’s experience but also to extend support to these struggles so that they do not feel isolated.

In the pre-internet days, such information was not easy to collect or disseminate. Manushi became one of the first effective means of communicating on these issues. Therefore, it received a very warm reception by women and men alike, cutting across political affiliations. It also began to play a catalytic role in the emergence of newer groups and organisations. For example, when women in Haryana or Orissa, which were then politically dormant on such issues, read reports of women’s struggles in other remote regions of India, they began to feel: “We can do it, too”. Manushi reached even those unable to read and write through activists who began translating and reading aloud our articles in various regional languages so that they could be used for discussion with the non-literate people as well as those who were unfamiliar with Hindi or English. This process of using Manushi as a tool for discussion catalysed numerous new organisations into existence.

  Books, Films and
 
Music Cassettes
• Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws
This book, by one of pioneers of the contemporary women's rights movement in India, delves deeply into legislation and law enforcement to (Read more...)
 
• Deepening Democracy
Challenges of Governance and
Globalization in India
(Oxford University Press)
MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR
Deepening Democracy brings together essays on enduring issues such as human rights, governance, and the impact of globalization on the Indian citizen. The covers a range of issues
(Read More…)
 
• Women Bhakta Poets:
Contains accounts of the life and poetry of some of the most outstanding women in Indian history from the 6th to the 17th
century — Mirabai, Andal, Avvaiyar, Muktabai, Janabai, Bahinabai, Lal
Ded, Toral, Loyal. Many of these poems had never neen translated into english before  (Read More…)
 
Off the Beaten Track: Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women (OUP)
Religion at the Service of Nationalism and Other Essays (OUP)
In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voices from Manushi
Gandhi and Women
Voices from the Save Himalaya Campaign: Interview with Sunderlal and Vimla Bahuguna (Hindi)
Roshni: A Street Play & Manushi Geet (Hindi)
Six documentary films by Madhu Kishwar
Cards and T-Shirts
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