The Span of 30 Doradus
Also known as the Tarantula nebula, 30 Doradus is a region of the Large Magellanic Cloud and is one of the most active areas of star formation in the night sky.
Image: UT/CTIO Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey [high-resolution]
Meet The Red Brigade: formed in November 2011 to fight back against a growing number of sexual attacks on women in the city of Lucknow, India
The male tormentor of the young women of the Madiyav slum did not spot the danger until it was too late. One moment he was taunting them with sexual suggestions and provocations; the next they had hold of his arms and legs and had hoisted him into the air.
Then the beating began. Some of the young women lightly used their fists, others took off their shoes and hit him with those. When it was over, they let him limp away to nurse his wounds, certain that he had learned an important lesson: don’t push your luck with the Red Brigade.
Named for their bright red outfits, the Red Brigade was formed in November 2011 as a self-defense group for young women suffering sexual abuse in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, 300 miles south-east of Delhi. Galvanised by the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi last December and the nationwide protests that followed against a rising tide of rapes, they are now gaining in confidence.
From a core membership of 15, ranging in age from 11 to 25, they now have more than 100 members with a simple message for the men who have made their lives a misery: they will no longer tolerate being groped, gawped at and worse. Their activities are a lesson in empowerment.
Men who fall foul of the Red Brigade can first expect a visit and a warning. Sometimes the Red Brigade will ask the police to get involved, but if all else fails they take matters into their own hands. Their leader, 25-year-old teacher Usha Vishwakarma, has her own experience of the daily danger faced by many young women in the country. She was just 18 when a fellow teacher tried to rape her. “He grabbed me and put his hands round me and tried to open my belt and trousers,” says Usha, sitting in the bare-brick front room of her small house. “But I was saved by my jeans because they were too tight for him to open, and that gave me a chance to fight, so I kicked him in the sensitive place and pushed him down and ran out of the door.”
No one at the school took her accusations seriously, telling her to forget it and stop causing trouble. The experience left her traumatized and for two years she did nothing. But little by little her confidence came back. In 2009 she set up her own small school for local girls in an outbuilding next to her family home. Yet all around her, she says, she saw more and more young women suffering the same abuse she had faced. And it was threatening to wreck the chances of her young female students.
“Parents were telling girls to stay in their homes so there would be no incidents. They said, ‘if you go to school, boys will be troubling you, so stay home and there will be no sexual violence’,” says Vishwakarma. “But we said no, and we decided to form a group to fight for ourselves. We decided we would not just complain; we would take a lead and fight for ourselves.” They bought red kameez (shirts) and black salwar (trousers) and began to plan the fightback. “We chose red because it means danger and black for protest,” says Vishwakarma.
There is much to fight back against. “It is in the minds of men that girls are objects and it has been like that always,” says Vishwakarma. “Religion shows women as very powerless and that whoever is strong can do anything.”
They have started martial arts training so that the men do not have a physical advantage over them. Pooja, Vishwakarma’s 18-year-old sister, laughs as she recalls the reaction of the boy they grabbed in the street when his taunts became too much. “We all stopped and turned round and we surrounded him and grabbed his arms and legs and he thought it was a joke, but we were not kidding and four of us lifted him in the air and the others started to hit him with their shoes and fists,” she says.
The rough justice the Red Brigade metes out might seem extreme to western sensibilities, but many Indian women are making it clear that they are no longer prepared to put up with endemic abuse. That much is clear from the crime figures: reports of molestation in Delhi are up 590% year on year and rape reports by 147%. The rape cases have hit tourist numbers, which were down 25% in the first three months of the year – 35% fewer women are travelling to India. The Red Brigade say sexual abuse is a part of daily life for young women like them. They all have stories of abuse, attempted rapes and daily harassment. “This is what happens in India,” says 16-year-old Laxmi, one of Vishwakarma’s lieutenants. “These things happen all the time. All of us know this, so don’t let anyone say otherwise. This is why we have formed the Red Brigade.”
Seventeen-year-old Preeti Verma nods in agreement. Her family are too poor to have a toilet in the house, so she has to go out into the fields, she says. Every time she went out, the man in the neighbouring house threw stones at her to try to scare her into jumping up. “He wanted to see my body,” she says. “I told him: ‘What are you doing? You are shameless, don’t you have a mother and sister in your house?’ But he replied that his mother is for his father, his sister is for her husband and that I was for him.” She told Vishwakarma, and the man received a visit from the Red Brigade and another from the police. She has had no trouble from him since.
“We’ve caught a lot of men recently,” says 17-year-old Sufia Hashmi. “I joined up because men always used to pass comments on me and touch my body, but now we beat them the men cannot do anything and they run away. You feel powerful and you feel good.”
On the way back to the slum, the rickshaws pass a public park and for a moment these tough young women show themselves for what they really are – children forced to grow up fast. They beg and plead to stop. “Please, please,” they say, their eyes gleaming in excitement. Shrieking gleefully, they race off towards the swings, slides and roundabouts. Later they stroll back through the market, eating ice-creams, heading for their homes. The sun is low in the sky, the shadows long. The men watch sullenly as they pass. No one risks a word.
Saw this on Al Jazeera this morning. I’m sure it’s gone around Tumblr in some form before.
The riots also offered a glimpse into how photographs can be used out of context:
‘Sir: In last week’s article about the poll-tax riot in Trafalgar Square (‘THE MOB’S BRIEF RULE’, 7 April) there is a large photograph labelled ‘A West End shopper argues with a protester’. The woman in the photograph is me, and I thought you might like to know the true story behind the picture.
I was on my way to the theatre, with my husband. As we walked down Regent Street at about 6.30pm, the windows were intact and there was a large, cheerful, noisy group of poll-tax protesters walking up from Piccadilly Circus. We saw ordinary uniformed police walking alongside, on the pavement, keeping a low profile. The atmosphere was changed dramatically in moments when a fast-walking, threatening group of riot-squad police appeared.
We walked on to the top of Haymarket, where the atmosphere was more tense and more protesters were streaming up Haymarket from the Trafalgar Square end. Suddenly a group of mounted police charged at full gallop into the rear of the group of protesters, scattering them, passers-by and us and creating panic. People screamed and some fell. Next to me and my husband another group of riot-squad appeared, in a most intimidating manner.
The next thing that happened is what horrified me most. Four of the riot-squad police grabbed a young girl of 18 or 19 for no reason and forced her in a brutal manner on to the crowd-control railings, with her throat across the top of the railings. Her young male companion was frantically trying to reach her and was being held back by one riot-squad policeman. In your photograph I was urging the boy to calm down or he might be arrested; he was telling me that the person being held down across the railings was his girlfriend.
My husband remonstrated with the riot-squad policeman holding the boy, and I shouted at the four riot-squad men to let the girl go as they were obviously hurting her. To my surprise, they did let her go – it was almost as if they did not know what they were doing.
The riot-squad policemen involved in this incident were not wearing any form of identification. Their epaulettes were unbuttoned and flapping loose; I lifted them on two men and neither had any numbers on. There was a sergeant with them, who was numbered and my husband asked why his men wore no identifying numbers. The sergeant replied that it did not matter as he knew who the men were. We are a middle-aged suburban couple who now feel more intimidated by the Metropolitan police than by a mob. If we feel so angry, how on earth did the young hot-heads at the rally feel?’
Mrs R.A. Sare, Northwood, Middlessex Source
They bombed us [on May 13, 1985] because of our unrelenting fight for our family members, known as the MOVE 9, who have been in prison unjustly going on thirty-two years now, as a result of the August 8th, 1978 police attack on MOVE. I just wanted to make that clear.
In terms of the bombing, after being attacked the way we were, first with four deluge hoses by the fire department and then tons of tear gas, and then being shot at—the police admit to shooting over 10,000 rounds of bullets at us in the first ninety minutes—there was a lull. You know, it was quiet for a little bit. And then, without any warning at all, two members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s bomb squad got in a Pennsylvania state police helicopter and flew over our home and dropped a satchel containing C4, a powerful military explosive that no municipal police department has. They had to get it from the federal government, from the FBI. And without any announcement or warning or anything, they dropped that bomb on the roof of our home.
Now, at that point, we didn’t know exactly what they had done. We heard the loud explosion. The house kind of shook. But it never entered my mind that they dropped a bomb on us. But the bomb did in fact ignite a fire. And not long after that, it got very, very hot in the house, and the smoke was getting thicker. At first we thought it was tear gas. But as it got thicker, it became clear that this wasn’t tear gas, that this was something else. And then we could hear the trees outside of our house crackling and realized that our home was on fire. And we immediately tried to get our children, our animals, our dogs and cats, and ourselves out of that blazing inferno.
The adults were hollering out that we’re coming out, we’re bringing the children out. The children were hollering that they were coming out, that we were bringing them out. And we know that the police heard us. But the instant, the very instant, that we were visible to them, you know, trying to come out, they immediately opened fire. We were met with a barrage of police gunfire. And you could see it hitting all around us, all around the house. And it forced us back in to that blazing inferno, several times. And finally, you know, you’re in a position where either you choke to death and burn alive or you possibly are shot to death.
So we continued to try to get out of that house. And I got out. I got Birdie out. You could hear the shots hitting all around us. A cop grabbed Birdie, took him into custody, grabbed me, they threw me down on the ground and handcuffed, you know, me behind me, in the back of me. And I just knew that everybody else had gotten out. They were right behind me. And I didn’t find out until police took me to the homicide unit of the police administration building that there were no other survivors.
“Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere.”
- Emma Goldman, who died 73 years ago today, the 14th of May 1940.
On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police dropped explosives containing C-4 on the roof of a house where members of the black liberation & social justice organization MOVE lived. Right before, police attacked the house with 10,000 rounds of ammunition in 90 minutes, knowing that children were inside. The house burned for 45 minutes before hoses were turned on.
Eleven people, including founder John Africa, five adults & five children were killed. The incident also destroyed 65 homes in the area, leaving 250 homeless. Witnesses reported police officers shooting at those trying to escape from the fire that ensued.
MOVE continues to advocate for prisoners’ rights & for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal & nine MOVE members who were found guilty of the murder of a police officer in 1978.
Muhammad Ali (via specialnights)
Yes! This is when they tried to draft him into war during the 1960s.