The Dim-Post

March 4, 2010

Sterilisation in history and literature!

Filed under: books,history — danylmc @ 9:20 am

One more point about one of Garrett’s arguments for sterilisation:

the Indians did it 30 years ago (the reward was a transistor radio for every man who had a vasectomy) for population control reasons. I don’t recall why the programme was eventually abandoned.

Garrett refers to Sanjay Gandhi’s forced sterilisation campaigns against Muslim’s during The Emergency, when the Indian Congress Party led by Indira Gandhi essentially declared martial law for eighteen months. Poor muslim men and women living in slums in South Delhi were forcibly given vasectomies and hysterectomies. Officials had sterilisation quota to fill, people died due to botched operations, doctors who refused to perform the operations were jailed. The programme was abandoned when democracy and freedom of the press were restored.

It’s bitterly well remembered in India, where there’s still massive opposition to family planning and contraception because of the campaign, but in the west it’s probably best remembered as the inspiration for the nightmare chapter in Salman Rushdie’s Midnights Children (Indira Gandhi is ‘the Widow’):

No colours except green and black the walls  are green the sky is black (there is no roof) the stars are green the Widow is green but her hair is black as black. The Widow sits on a high high chair the chair is green the seat is black the Widow’s hair has a centreparting it is green on left and on the right black. High as the sky the chair is green the seat is black the Widow’s arm is long as death its skin is green the fingernails are long and sharp and black. Between the walls the children green the walls are green the Widow’s arm comes snaking down the snake is green the children scream the fingernails are black the scratch the Widow’s arm is hunting see the children run and scream the Widow’s hand curls round them green and black. Now one by one the children mmff are stifled quite the Widow’s hand is lifting one by one the children green their blood is black unloosed by cutting fingernails it splashes black on walls (of green) as one by one the curling hand lifts children high as the sky the sky is black there are no stars the Widow laughs her tongue is green but her teeth are black. And children torn in two in Widow hands which rolling rolling halves of children roll them into little balls are green the night is black. And little balls fly into teh night between the walls the children shriek as one by one the Widow’s hand. And in a corner the Monkey and I (the walls are green the shadows black) cowering crawling wide high walls green fading into black there is no roof and the Widow’s hand comes one by one the children scream and mmff and splashing stains of black. Now only she and I and no more screams the Widow’s hand comes hunting hunting the skin is green the nails are black towards the corner hunting hunting while we shrink closer into the corner our skin is green our fear is black and now the Hand comes reaching reaching and she my sister pushes ne out out of the corner while she stays cowering staring the hand the nails are curling scream and mmff and splash black and up into the high as sky and laughing Widow tearing I am rolling into little balls the balls are green and out into the night the night is black.

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19 Comments »

  1. Do you think David Garrett is perhaps an elaborate practical joke?

    Comment by Eddie C — March 4, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  2. A very obvious one maybe. These things are supposed to be subtle…

    Comment by Guy Smiley — March 4, 2010 @ 10:01 am

  3. While I loved “Midnights Children”, I think Rohan Mistry better captures what the forced sterilization campaign involved in the last 100 or so pages of “A Fine Balance” – it is unremittingly bleak, as he shows us the destruction of the lives of people we’ve come to really care about in the preceding story.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 4, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  4. A bit of context, Garrett starts with: “ben in particular makes some good points re state compulsion. One possibility to avoid those concerns …”

    He clearly doesn’t know the program well, as this was the opposite of what he is trying to achieve: less dead children, but without state compulsion.

    I think without that context his statement goes down well on a blog like yours, but without that context it’s also an extremely unfair assessment.

    He obviously heard something about that program without realising all the details and threw in an off-the-cuff comment at the end of a whole paragraph trying to avoid state compulsion.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  5. While I loved “Midnights Children”, I think Rohan Mistry better captures what the forced sterilization campaign involved in the last 100 or so pages of “A Fine Balance” – it is unremittingly bleak, as he shows us the destruction of the lives of people we’ve come to really care about in the preceding story.

    I agree. My copies of Mistry’s books are missing huge numbers of pages – I bought them at the Tibetan Market in Connaught Place . . .

    Comment by danylmc — March 4, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  6. “He obviously heard something about that program without realising all the details and threw in an off-the-cuff comment …”

    I don’t think the context improves things much.

    Comment by Neil — March 4, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  7. The context also doesn’t help the reference to the Indian experience… recalling coerced sterilisation on a religious basis as a side-effect of martial law as a ‘voluntary’ programme speaks of total ignorance, at best.

    Comment by Eddie C — March 4, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  8. “..He obviously heard something about that program without realising all the details and threw in an off-the-cuff comment at the end of a whole paragraph trying to avoid state compulsion…”

    Sounds like the ACT party summed up in a single pithy sentence.

    Comment by Tom Semmens — March 4, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  9. Perhaps both child abusers and the ACT party should be forced to read Salman Rushdie.

    Oh my Allah, he’s awful..

    Comment by deserthead — March 4, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  10. Come on Tom, we’re talking about a minor sentence at the end of a paragraph.

    I would be more concerned if ACT had been 9 years in power, taxed the population into oblivion with the promise of a full piggybank for adverse times, which happened to be completely empty when the recession arrived.

    Let alone passing laws to suppress political speech.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 4, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  11. @10 –

    Yes, when we got to the piggy bank, we found that rather than containing a substantial IOU, it was empty.

    Some call it suppression, others call it noise control. Probably depends on who is making it.

    Comment by cj_nza — March 4, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  12. Yeah Berend! Garrett maybe promoting the sterilisation of the poor, but look over there! The last government paid off most of our national debt, the evil bastards!

    Comment by Guy Smiley — March 4, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

  13. DPF titles his latest entry “The sterilisation debate”. Garret being roundly ridiculed isn’t much of a debate and trying to elevating such a topic to the level of a debate is pushing it.

    Comment by Neil — March 4, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  14. I think everyone agrees Garrett is unhinged.

    Next.

    Comment by expat — March 4, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

  15. YEAH, WE ALL KNOW GARRET IS UNHINGED, NEXT.

    Comment by EXPAT — March 4, 2010 @ 9:38 pm

  16. Please try to avoid typing the letters v t A o C e T in the order that you do danylmc.
    migraine

    Comment by Cnr Joe — March 5, 2010 @ 9:36 am

  17. it’s all going to be a moot point soon anyway as the s59 amendment is sending such an effective message.

    Comment by Neil — March 5, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  18. “I think everyone agrees Garrett is unhinged.

    Next.”

    That doesn’t address the issue. Would it measurably reduce child abuse? Probably. In fact I’ve heard a number of family lawyers utter similar comments – they have to deal with some shocking CYF cases & realise how terrible some parents are.

    Comment by Beetle — March 6, 2010 @ 12:15 am

  19. I remember reading a book of cricket ancedotes and the story of the snips for radios was there. It had an unintended consequence – many men in the crowd had their new radios and were listening to the commentary when the Aussie slip cordon appealed for a caught behind as they heard the bat clip the pad. The bowler and keeper saw it miss the bat by several inches so didn’t appeal, but the umpire gave it. The commentator proceeded to call the Australians cheats for appealing when it clearly was not out.

    Needless to say, a riot ensued.

    Comment by Michael — March 7, 2010 @ 3:38 pm


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