28 May-03 Jun, 2013
small world
Telephone Directory Terror

MUMBAI ~ A young woman’s plan to compile a Yellow Pages of Indian Jews has got the community worried about terrorists using it to attack them.

While estimates vary, it is believed that there are not more than 5,000 Jews in India. They once formed a sizeable community, but most migrated to Israel or other countries. Recently, newspapers reported that 25-year-old Judith Hillel from Thane, Maharashtra, was putting together a comprehensive directory of Jews in India to help them stay in touch with one another.

However, many Jews fear it could be used by terrorists to locate and attack them. Aaraon Benjamin, honorary secretary of the Tiphereth Israel Synagogue in Mumbai, says, “Jews have been targeted in different parts of the world throughout history. We have remained relatively safe in India because we are few and our numbers are scattered. But a directory like this will help terrorists pinpoint each of us.”

Jewish residents of Mumbai say that the 26/11 attacks—which had Colaba’s Chabad Lubavitch Jewish centre as one of their targets—have made them feel insecure. Most Indian synagogues now have round-the-clock security and multiple CCTV cameras. Caretakers thoroughly screen visitors, who are often asked for identity cards. According to Yael Jhirad, a co-founder of the Indian chapter of Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), while the directory may seem a good idea, its dangers are evident. “It will be impossible to confine it within the community,” she says, “We saw what happened during 26/11. We need to be more cautious.”

Hillel refused to speak with Open. According to her mother, members of the community have been chiding her efforts. Several Jews, however, think that people are overreacting. Solomon Sopher, president of the Indian Jewish Congress and managing trustee and chairman of Sir Jacob Sassoon Synagogues and Allied Trusts, says, “Ever since 26/11 many members have become extra cautious. But, I don’t think a terrorist will look up a directory to find people to kill.”

Take Two
Soft Brains, Hard On
What makes Mumbai’s municipal corporators demand a ban on scantily clad mannequins

Ever since the Delhi rape of 16 December, life has been a little more difficult for middle- and upper middle-class male chauvinist pigs (MCPs) in cities. An uncle who comments on his niece’s dress suddenly finds himself becoming a Twitter update with a dozen sneering retweets. Politicians like Pranab Mukherjee’s son have become responsible for new contributions— ‘dented-painted’—to the lexicon. Patriarchy has become a word thrown about so much by so many so often that it is on its way from a noun to a not-so-nice adjective. The MCP’s world has become a forest of feminists on the prowl raring to pounce on any little derogatory gesture.

But man will be man. As Sophocles wrote, ‘He hath resource for all; without resource he meets nothing that must come: only against Death shall he call for aid in vain; but from baffling maladies he hath devised escapes.’ And thus you have corporators of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) exposing their primitive convictions in their suggestions on how to prevent crimes against women—but with an ingenious twist.

On Monday, Mumbai Mirror reported that the BMC general body, the assembly of the city’s corporators, had passed a resolution barring inadequately clothed mannequins from public display. This pioneering decision was rationalised on several fronts: that women are embarrassed by such mannequins, that people mistake them for sex toys, that this was urgently needed in the wake of the drastic rise in crimes against women. The mayor of the city, a Shiv Sainik of long standing called Sunil Prabhu, even gloated over what he saw as a revolution of gender justice under his charge. Last month, he had observed that such mannequins attract the attention of men, who, unable to control their surge of lust, then put sex crimes on their to-do list.

The person who moved the resolution was a woman, a BJP corporator, but forgive her, for she is an unwilling, meek and crafty victim of patriarchy. Sheetal Mhatre, another woman corporator and another agent of patriarchy, was quoted as saying that a mannequin that was not fully clothed was an affront to a woman’s self-respect. She also brought in what a professor of Philosophy might call the utilitarian argument—‘No woman buys clothes by seeing such dummies.’

Mainly because it is such an idiotic resolution to pass, and also because there is no National Commission for Mannequins to issue an angry press release on it, reports on its passage have been buried in the inside pages. But it is still worth pondering the mind that cooks up something so fantastic. The immediate cause is obviously the desire of politicians to be seen doing something. Most of them have no real power until they manage to get a government office. Till then, they have to remain relevant. In this particular case, however, there is an added element of imagination. A mannequin is just plastic.

The only thing human about it is its form. Even for their deliberations over the resolution, the corporators would have had to first imagine it as a woman dressed in lingerie. Picture, then, 220 odd corporators inside that hall in various frenzies of lust (and women corporators imagining their husbands and brothers in such frenzies) lamenting the evil they had been possessed by.

The advantage of targeting mannequins is that you can call them ‘dented-painted’ without their complaining. To say that a scantily dressed mannequin is inviting rape is to say a scantily dressed woman is inviting rape, but now you can get away with it. The mannequin is the filter through which you can publicly air your views on all sins being traceable to the female body without being pilloried. Mannequins are far from becoming a vote bank, so that is not a problem either.

These corporators actually don’t realise it, but they might be onto something profound, a new religion itself. Animism, or the infusion of souls into natural objects, has long been a form of worship in tribal societies. This is its opposite—inanimism, the doctrine that inanimate plastic bodies draped in negligees have titillating souls.

Role Model
The Jolie Conspiracy

Angelina Jolie made headlines after The New York Times published her column about undergoing a preventative double mastectomy. ‘My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 per cent to under 5 per cent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer,’ she wrote. Her decision to go public, she said, was intended to motivate other women to get tested. Website Natural News alleges the whole thing is a public relations stunt timed to influence the US Supreme Court’s forth-coming decision on the viability of a patent on BRCA1 gene testing. If the patent comes through, testing for the gene will become hugely profitable, with tests costing $3,000-$4,000. ‘It’s a...PR stunt that tries to trick women into supporting a corporate system of patents and monopolies that claims...to own portions of the bodies of every woman living today,’ the article claims. Natural News, incidentally, has often been accused in the past of fanning conspiracy theories and quackery.