The School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University organized a talk, ‘Partition Archives and Performance’ on the 18th of September 2015. The event was part of the ongoing UGC-UKIERI Project: Gendered Citizenship- Manifestation and Performance. The panelists for the talk were Prof. Anupama Roy ( CPS, JNU) and Prof. Kirti Jain (NSD) as speakers and Prof. Anuradha Kapur (NSD, AUD) and Prof. Nivedita Menon (SIS, JNU) as the discussants.

When British India was partitioned the violence between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs was enacted upon the bodies of the women of these three communities. Thousands of women on both sides of the newly formed borders were abducted, raped, forced to convert, forced into marriage, forced back into what the two new States defined as ‘their proper homes’, torn apart from their families once during Partition by those who abducted them, and again, after Partition, by the State which tried to ‘recover’ and ‘rehabilitate’ them. The multiple forms of sexual violence included inscribing tattoos on their bodies, parading them naked in sacred places like temples, mosques, gurudwaras and cutting their breasts off. Sometimes families traded their women in exchange of their own freedom, at other times, women were urged to take their own lives in order to protect communal ‘honour’ (izzat). The symbolic elevation of ‘woman’ as the embodiment of the sanctified, inner recesses of culture and tradition ironically positioned real women as targets of violent assertions of family, community, and nation.

Prof Anupama Roy, in her paper used the trope of estrangement to talk about how the familiar and the strange figure in the enactment of citizenship in diverse ‘archival forms’ inscribing/performing/narrating ‘truth’ tales from partition of India. In particular she examined the violence of law – in this case ‘The Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Act, 1949’ – as it left its traces in the lives of women caught in partition and border-making. On one hand she looks at the files of the citizenship section of the Home Department of the Government of India as a specific archive about liminal subjects and on the other focuses on partition literature and stage performance of Kirti Jain’s play ‘Aur Kitne Tukde’, to put the legal and the bureaucratic in dialogue with the emotive and performative. Through various examples, she shows how the play exercise archival agency and establishes a new register, which not just unsettles the legal-bureaucratic inscriptions of citizenship, but also reconstitutes the archival space to open up new sites and imaginaries of citizenship.

Prof Roy’s presentation became much more engaging for all of us as the director of the aforementioned play, Prof Kirti Jain was the next speaker for the evening.
Kirti Jain’s Aur Kitne Tukde intervenes into existing accounts of gendered violence that narrate the ways in which the Partition radically altered the lives of numerous women. The play premiered at the National School of Drama in 2001.
Prof. Jain spoke about the process she employed during the rehearsals for this play and shared some very moving anecdotes vis-à-vis the obstacles she faced as its director. The scale of the tragedy of partition was such that for her and her actors to find a language to articulate the same became a gargantuan task. Therefore, she made her practice collaborative and democratic and brought in a lot of improvisation into the performance. In order to bring a distance between the very personal and emotional selves of the performers and the act, she spoke of endless sessions and of devising new techniques to denote the silence around this huge tragedy.

Prof Nivedita Menon, responded very pertinently to the above speakers and apropos to the matter at hand. She spoke of how the shadow cast by ‘citizenship’, that is, something, which ought to be seen as empowering can also, be otherwise. The exclusionary power of the nation state, did not factor the choice of its so-called ‘citizens’ while carrying on with their rehabilitation project. She also pointed out to the need to examine the violence inherent in the institute of marriage in our country, wherein; women are often coerced to lose their identity in the name of tradition.

Prof. Anuradha Kapur, in a continuation of Prof Jain’s erudition about the directorial process exercised by her, spoke about how the material generates performance. She congratulates the women directors who are experimenting with the form and are bringing in new processes in their theatre practice. She spoke of how the need for moving away from the realist language led to new and innovative dramaturgy. In this particular case, there was a need to make the audience understand the historical context of the character and hence, Prof Kirti’s use of material (like a slide) to show the anthropology of violence is commendable.IMG_1805


Ban on Pornographic Websites in India

Ban on Pornographic Websites in India


The Department of Telecom’s letter to ISPs banning access to 857 porn websites is interesting in its content. Although the full details have not been revealed on the government’s request, the letter refers to Article 19 (2) of the Constitution, which permits the state to impose “reasonable restrictions” on any right in the interest of “public order, decency or morality”.

For one, the government’s specific request not to reveal the full content of the letter is in line with the general secrecy that surrounds most public policy by recent regimes, particularly the current one. For another, the government’s reason for banning internet porn is the catch-all and very ambiguous “public order and decency”, even though there is no definitive evidence that access to porn is directly linked to serious law enforcement problems, like crime against women. On the other hand, a survey jointly conducted by The Daily Beast website reveals that 30% of Indian Internet porn users are women.

Instead, the reasons which sociological studies assign for rising crimes against women — entrenched patriarchy and misogyny, the inability of the Indian male to come to terms with shifting gender relationships and simmering class conflict — are far more complex for the government to address with a blanket order or letter. In contrast, the government has failed to legislate on a far more pressing socio-legal matter — marital rape —, which, according to some members of the ruling dispensation, does not exist in India.

The ban on pornography is an infringement of the rights of the internet consumer by a nanny state. The state does not have the right to dictate what its netizens would or would not watch. If laws such as a ban on porn have to be promulgated there has to be a consensus taken from the people – because that is what a democracy is all about.

I am not opposed to the ban on moral grounds; in fact, morality does not even come into it. It is not whether internet porn is good or bad for people (who are we to judge? And who, pray, are the “people”?) – it is whether it is available like all other subjects are, on the internet.


The second noteworthy aspect of this attempt at banning internet porn is the mechanism for internet regulation in countries like India. It is extremely difficult to pinpoint pornography and do a selective ban – as the Govt has found out now. Of the 857 sites blocked initially, only the ones showing child porn were to be banned. But it is not possible to isolate these sites, with the technology the Govt has on hand. Moreover, there could be other informative sites that talk about porn, academic sites that deal with the influence of porn on the modern netizen, social media sites that taken in opinion about porn, psychiatry sites that deal with porn addiction – all of these could have some porn content. Would they be banned too?

A cyber filter that blocks search results for porn also has the potential to block websites dealing with AIDS awareness and prevention. That the government did not factor this indicates Indian policymakers are still behind the curve when it comes to their understanding technology.


Here are a few links on the above:



Kolkata Sanved and One Billion Rising

Footage from the collaboration between Kolkata Sanved and One Billion Rising in December 2014, when they launched Dance for Revolution, a campaign to move against violence against women through the power of dance. 170 youth and supporters gathered in Kolkata, India to rise for revolution and call for an end to gender based violence along with playwright and One Billion Rising Founder, Eve Ensler.


Natasha Davis for Traces Project online exhibition

Natasha Davis for Traces Project Online Exhibition

Snapshot film about the processes Natasha Davis engages with when making her performance, film and installation works, made for the launch of Counterpoints Arts programme 2015-18. Also presented as part of Traces Project featuring migrant artists, writers and musicians who have made a significant contribution to UK arts, such as Lucian Freud, Kurt Schwitters, Mona Hatoum, Judith Kerr, Maya Youssef and others. Natasha Davis has been chosen to represent 1998, the year she settled in the UK. Interview by Áine O’Brien, visuals Silvio Montanaro, sound Fabio Laurenti. Made by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with Faction Films.

Natasha Davis for Traces Project online exhibition from Natasha Davis on Vimeo.

The 3rd Platforma Conference on the arts, refugees and migration will take place in Leicester 4-6 November.

Platforma is the arts and refugees network, managed by Counterpoints Arts with our partners across England, and supported by ACE and Baring Foundation. Previous conferences have taken place in London (2011) and Manchester (2013).

On 4 November we are holding a half-day conference on the arts, refugees and migration outside England (whether based here or not), looking at potential for new international partnerships and collaborations. This will be at The Curve Theatre, supported by Department of Media and
Communication at University of Leicester.

The main conference will take place at De Montfort University 5-6 November (supported by DMU and ArtReach), exploring aspects of practice and research relating to the arts, refugees and migration. Speakers and workshop leaders will include academics, artists from all backgrounds and other practitioners.

Tickets cost £10 per day – free to students or anyone on low/zero wage.

There is an associated programme of performances and exhibitions as part of the Platforma Festival, including a new commission of Internal Terrains by Natasha Davis, as well as performances of The Edge by Transport Theatre, and Nine Lives by Zodwa Nyoni.


Full details:

Tom Green
Project Manager – Platforma
Counterpoints Arts
Unit 2.3
128 Hoxton Street
London N1 6SH

T: 0207 012 1761

Counterpoints Arts is a hub of creative projects by & about refugees and migrants


Venue: The Ditch, Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT

A week-long progamme of events in response to global demographic shifts and unprecedented levels of human displacement.

Featuring over 40 artists working across visual art, film, photography, Live Art, performance and design, dis/placed considers the experiences of people who are ‘staying temporarily’, sometimes for generations, in stateless limbos, detention centres, refugee camps or urban settlements – living within a country’s borders yet outside its political, legal and civic life.

dis/placed invites audiences to explore the exhibition and participate in a daily programme of learning labs, workshops, performances, interventions and screenings.

Produced by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with Live Art Development Agency.

Counterpoints Arts dis_placed picture