“The first feminist was born the day the patriarchy was created.”
With poems like “kyunki main ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hai” and a feminist version of the poem “Azaadi,” Kamala Bhasin has been one of the leading voices of feminism. “Azaadi” however, is not just a feministic idea that demands freedom from patriarchy, but it also demands freedom for laborers, Dalits, and Adivasi which was written in the 90s and recited again at a 2013 One Billion Rising event in New Delhi.
Talking to Amir Khan in his show Satyamev Jayate, Bhasin once talked about rape and asked a very important question “When I’m raped, people say that I’ve lost my honor. Who put honor in my vagina?” Immensely familiar with the ideology of victim blaming, Bhasin raised this very waajib question and ended it with “Why did you place the community’s honor in a woman’s vagina? We never did that. The rapist loses his honor, not us.”
Kamala Bhasin died at the age of 75 on September 25, 2021. She was a widely renowned poet, activist, author and social scientist. She advocated for women’s rights, education and human development as a whole. Bhasin has a Masters in Arts from Rajasthan University and went to study Sociology of Development in Germany. She co-authored Laughing Matters (2005) with Bindia Thapar which also has a Hindi version Hasna Toh Sangharsho Mein Bhi Zaroori Hai. She also authored Borders & Boundaries: Women in India’s Partition, Understanding Gender and What is Patriarchy?
“Kayi zor zulm ko samjhna hai, so padhna hai
Kayi kanuno ko parakhna hai, so padhna hai
Mujhe naye dharmo ko rachna hai, so padhna hai
Mujhe sab kuch hi toh bloody badalna hai, so padhna hai
Kyunki main ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hai
Har gyaani se batyana hai, so padhna hai….”
Kamala Bhasin, among other thing also wrote about the pornographic and cosmetic industry that reduces women to their bodies because “Once you are a body – what’s the harm in raping you or groping you?” Kamala also talked to The Hindu in 2013 saying that “Often religion is used to justify patriarchy.” She loathed the fact that South Asian women are shackled by beliefs and customs that reinforce patriarchy or at least stops you from questioning it. She said, “When you question something, you are told ‘yeh toh hamara sanskar hai, riwaaj hai.’ And when this is done, it means logic has ended, belief has come in.” Bhasin also believed that feminism is not a war between men and women but a fight between two ideologies. One that elevates men and gives them power, and the other, that advocates equality. Bhasin is also famous for her works with the U.N., Sangat – A Feminist Network and was also the South Asia coordinator of One Billion Rising.
Juhi Salim is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Varda Ahmad