Author Archives: shaliniu

Life and everything else

The New York Times ran this obit for poet, writer and feminist Adrienne Rich.

The Hindu ran this.

Both really nice but somehow the first seems to capture her better, almost like the writer really loved and admired both her and her work. Maybe it’s just because I read the NYT one first. Maybe it’s because I had struggled with writing my first obit just a few days  earlier and appreciated how important it is to capture the life and not just the achievements.

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Does reading help the fight for right(s)?

Two really good stories on The Hindu’s site: The first  on low conviction rates for rape and the second an analysis.

Unless I missed it in the newspaper, the first seems to be a web exclusive and provides links to PDFs with more data, which is nice when you’re in a geeky mood and want to pore over tables and also nice when you’re feeling lazy and are in skim-text-and-grab-gist mode. Again tables that I didn’t see in the paper, but I could have missed it. Extra space to provide external links is one of the advantages of the internet that most newspaper sites in India don’t exploit enough. I’m nit-picking here, but this story doesn’t have a link to the analysis and it’s annoying to go back to the homepage to find the analysis.

I liked the analysis, which appeared in the paper too, better because is a more comprehensive story, touching on the dropping conviction rates and the possible reasons — diminishing investigating capabilities,  shortage of staff (the eternal plague of the government), and social attitudes (can they be ‘toxic’, as the intro describes them?). The most interesting point is the better conviction rates in the north-east, where literacy rates and gender ratios are comparatively higher. Reading for the right reasons?

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Point and counter point

This op-ed piece in The Hindu ( makes the important point that “Indian policymakers, accustomed to ‘targeting’ the poor (i.e. BPL) need to bravely enter the unfamiliar terrain of targeting the not-so-poor, the upwardly mobile, the wealthy” when it comes to female foeticide. I also like the way it takes a dig at government pro-girl-child campaigns that talk of protecting and coddling the girl child. Patriarchal attitude, it says, that comes from the notion that women have to be looked after. But haven’t we all written school essays on ‘Female Foeticide, A Social Evil’ and said the very same things, sometimes in Hindi too? So where does it all start?

And here’s the response to the first op-ed piece ( that, quite predictably, says the law is good, it’s just the implementation that’s the problem. This piece has good points too, though ones often heard before.

And as an aside, I like this new ‘Debate’ column  that The Hindu’s started on it’s Op-Ed page.  Here is one side of a debate that mentions, in passing, the relationship between caste and honour killings (

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More than just words


Should papers even carry illustrations to represent the idea of a “rape victim”, however generic the illustration is?

If you’re beginning  to think this blog has too much news from TOI, I realise that too. I will try and correct that in future. It’s just that I’ve been finding more gender-centred stories in TOI compared to The Hindu and New Indian Express, which I also read regularly. Does TOI report more stories on gender and crimes against women? Or do they play it up more? Do they give it more space? If so, why? Concern over rising crime? Readership? Shock value? That’s something to think about, maybe.

And just to add something that writer and journalist Ammu Joseph talked about during a Reporters’ Roundtable that Prajnya organised about a year and a half ago: She said she followed four papers closely for about two weeks, clipping out stories relating to gender violence and crimes against women so that she could get an idea of how papers covered the issue. And she found that “the much-reviled TOI, everybody’s favourite whipping boy” carried the most stories, with the most details, in that period in Bangalore. 

More to think about, no?

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Inclusion policy

Apologies for a post that isn’t strictly about something that appeared in print but I’m just back home after a day of editing murderously written crime copies.

Eight out of ten of them will “include women”. And often you see it in the paper too.

Five persons, including two women, were injured…

Four persons, including a woman, were arrested…

Seven members of a family, including three women, were returning home…

I’ve asked crime reporters and senior editors why it’s written this way. No one’s been able to give me an answer.

Is it 33% reservation for women in media? 🙂

Does it stem from the old-world idea of women-and-children first?

Is it because we otherwise tend to exclude women?

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A year later

We started out with good intentions and grand plans but didn’t do too much work on this blog. I’ll now be trying to correct that. And just to get things going, here’s the link to some news that got me re-started really —

In case the page refreshes, this was the text around midnight on January 25, 2012:
Gender ratio in Delhi not healthy: CM PTI | 5 hrs ago | Admitting that the skewed child sex ratio in Delhi was a matter of concern, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit today said the government has initiated a range of welfare measures to improve the gender disparity.
Nine-yr-old girl ‘gang-raped’ in Cuttack TNN | 18 hrs ago | Yet another case of alleged rape has surfaced in the state, this time the victim is a nine-year-old girl from Bhadrak.
Kidnapped girl has miraculous escape  TNN | 56 min ago | An 11-year-old girl had a miraculous escape on Tuesday when she was kidnapped by two unidentified persons, who later abandoned her near railway tracks.

Three stories relating to women/girls on the landing page when you click on the ‘City’ tab on TOI’s homepage. Would that be something the internet editor chose to hightlight? Why? One relating to policy, one a serious crime and the third another crime, though somewhat odd. Do more people read about women? Did those stories just get the attention of the person whose job it is to chose the reports to highlight?

The Sheila Dixit story is a regular policy story, reported exactly as she must have spoken of it and butressed with facts and figures that can easily be found in the census report summary. It’s straight reportage and clearly written. But the comments from readers at the end are rather interesting. They touch on everything from the need for such welfare measures and lack of safety in Delhi to dowry harassment and divorce to abortion. (

The next link leads to the brutal gang rape of a child. It’s a very badly written story though the horror and gravity of the crime comes through. It refers to “another” child rape but provides no information on when or where the previous case was reported. For someone happening upon just this story it’s a bit puzzling. How many other similar cases were there? The report mentions that the police were informed, but was a case filed, an investigation begun? It quotes only a doctor, not the police. It’s a story full of holes but the comments run on and on. Some, as always, are rants and arguments. (

The third story is fairly clear though it is rather ambigious about why the child might have been abandoned. Is it a tale made up by the child, was she really abducted, we don’t know but it’s probably been written as well as a reporter on the beat could have with the  information s/he got. Not too many comments on this one, but a reference to sex trade. (

 What I found interesting about these stories is really the comments. Stories on women and girls — especially relating to violence — seem to get people riled up enough to take nasty cracks at each other, comment freely and randomly and even make some good points along the way. The nature of commenting on the internet is that you get a lot of strange as well as sensible stuff. (One could quite reasonably say that this whole post is a lot of pointless postulating, but that’s a whole other subject.) The good thing, I like to think, is there seems to be a great deal of interest on gender issues and inequality, and people have an opinion on it. Whether the interest leads to doing more research and reading, and whether the knowledge is accurate are completely different questions. Interest is a good starting point, don’t you think?

Postscript: Four hours after I’d first seen the page, done a whole lot of other reading, written this and returned to it, the top stories on that page were the same.

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