Visit of Natasha Rather and Ifrah Butt, co-authors of ‘Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora’ to Kolkata – A Report

Visit of Natasha Rather and Ifrah Butt, co-authors of ‘Do you remember Kunan Poshpora’ to Kolkata during July 11 to 13, 2016

WSS, West Bengal arranged for the visit of Natasha Rather and Ifrah Butt, co-authors of Do you remember Kunan Poshpora, to Kolkata and held various programmes independently and with other organizations including students’ bodies. Following is a brief description of the programmes:

July 11, 2016 at Moulali Yuva Kendra

The programme began with a Press Conference, attended by reporters from Bengali newspaper Ei Samay, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, ABP, PTI, Star Ananda, Ebela, Kalam and ANI. The press meet continued from 3.30 pm to 4.30 pm. Reports were later published in Ei Samay, Business Standard, The Hindu and other media, while the ANI showed an interview of the women on their channel.

Book Release: The book was formally released by Dr Munmun Biswas and Krishna Banerjee, members of WSS, before an audience of a few hundred.

Seminar:Women’s Body and the State, Voices from Kashmir’

The Seminar started with songs by student activists Bandana and Jayati, and renowned cultural activist Asim Giri. A brief introduction to the subject was given by Nisha. Both Ifrah and Natasha spoke about the book for almost an hour and then the floor was opened for discussion. The response from the audience was overwhelming and the discussion continued till 8pm. More than 250 persons attended the seminar.

The programme was moderated by Saswati, Sharmistha and Krishna. Vote of thanks was given by Indrani. 

Outside the hall stalls were put by WSS and Zubaan. There was great demand for WSS publications. WSS, WB has also published a bi-lingual book on its visit to Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh.

July 12, 2016: Two programmes were scheduled for the day. 

  1. The School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, in collaboration with WSS, WB, organized a seminar ‘Women, Citizenship and State: Reference Kashmir’ from 12 to 2 pm in a seminar hall in the University. The seminar room was crowded beyond capacity, some of the audience had to sit on the floor while others had to remain standing. Sharmistha gave a brief introduction of WSS and its activities and then Natasha and Ifrah took over. The overall response was very encouraging. After the seminar, students wishing more to talk to the speakers circled them and it was a task to pull them out for lunch. WSS books were sold at the event and we ran out of copies.

  2. Bharat Sabha Hall: A student body named Ardhek Aakash, organized a seminar on ‘Mass-raped Kashmir: We want the whole sky’ at Bharat Sabha Hall from 4 to 8pm. Solidarity to the Kashmir struggle was expressed by activists from different parts of the country involved in various struggles like from Manipur to transgender activists, unorganized workers, environment activists etc. Nisha and Krishna from WSS were also among the speakers. Natasha and Ifrah spoke of their struggle in reopening the Kunan Poshpora mass-rape case and of the situation after the killing of Burhan Vani and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. The 250-seated hall was full to the brim. Students from Burdwan University, Viswabharati University and Vidyasagar University apart from local Kolkata students participated in the event. Enthusiasm amongst the students was noticeable and from there the idea of taking out a protest rally on 14th July was initiated. 

July 13, 2016: Two programmes were scheduled for the day. 

  1. Poridhi Proshno, a cultural group of students of Jadavpur University organized a seminar ‘Remembering Kunan-Poshpora: Looking back on Azadi of Kashmir’ at Vivekananda Hall of Jadavpur University from 12 noon to 2pm. Ifrah gave a brief history of their freedom struggle and as the day was 13th July, she told the students about the background of Martyrs’ Day that Kashmir observes to commemorate those 22 martyrs who were killed by Hari Singh’s army on this day of 1931. Natasha narrated their struggle for reopening of the case and the situation that students in general and girls in particular face in their day to day life and their quest for Azaadi and what it means to Kashmir.

  2. The Centre for Studies in Social Science, Kolkata, organized a seminar in their Seminar Hall on the book ‘Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora. WSS was asked to give a brief introduction about themselves, which Sharmistha did. Both Ifrah and Natasha spoke and answered the questions raised by the scholars of the institute. 

Some Observations

  1. The three-day long events that WSS organized, though hectic, proved very useful and enriching by giving a first-hand perspective of Kashmir and its aspirations. Moreover, the timing also coincided with the extra-judicial killing of Burham Wani, the consequent escalation of state violence and outpouring of people’s wrath. On each of the three days we heard more and more news of Kashmiris being killed, injured and blinded and the question of Azaadi also came to the fore with a new vigour. The whole environment remained so emotionally charged that WSS, WB is confident that Natasha and Ifrah’s visit to the city was a real success and the issue of State Repression, State Impunity and the State’s targeting of women’s bodies to subjugate a people assumed a new dimension on the public forum.

  1. As the authors were accommodated in our houses and were transported in our own vehicles, WSS, WB incurred no special expenses on this account, but the air-tickets for two and hall booking cost us nearly Rs. 50,000/-, which we were successful in raising. A donation box was kept at each venue and it was never left empty. WSS is greatly thankful to all its supporters and well-wishers.

  1. There was huge demand for WSS books. WSS displayed its publications at all the five venues. The books that we had specially procured and that we had were all sold out. In the end we were short of books. The bilingual publication brought out by WSS, WB on the visit to Nandigram-Singur-Lalgarh too was sold out. We could sell a significant number of Sharmila postcards as well. 

  1. A video of the WSS seminar has also been made, which will be uploaded in the coming days.

 

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