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Mallika pours out anger, agony

New Delhi, Nov. 6: In an unconcealed expression of despair and anger, danseuse Mallika Sarabhai has spoken out against the “latest move” by detractors in Gujarat to harass her for the crusade against the communal carnage in the state.

“I don’t know if I will be able to write again or when. Nor what today holds. But I wanted you all to know that if I go down, it shall be fighting for what I believe is true and right,” Sarabhai said in an open letter.

Sarabhai, who runs Darpana — a 60-year-old performing arts academy in Ahmedabad — has been accused of cheating by Manushi Shah, a former student. Shah said the dancer had taken money from her and some others to arrange a fake tour to the US and did not return the amount after changing plans.

The student alleged that she was supposed to get married in the US and was told not to tell the US consulate that she had paid the money to Sarabhai’s troupe.

“I veer between despair and anger. Between wanting to be a martyr for truth... and wanting to throw up my hands,” the dancer and human rights activist, who surrendered her passport to police and was granted conditional bail on October 29, wrote.

“I want to say neither the country nor its people for whom I have spent 25 years working deserve me.”

Sarabhai, who has to apply for regular bail, claimed that she was being hounded because of the stand she took in the aftermath of last year’s riots.

She said she has been “harassed and threatened continuously” to make her withdraw her public interest litigation in the Supreme Court and to stop her from talking at a “variety of fora about the continuing boycott of the Muslims, the continuing lack of justice and other issues”.

The dancer said there was “not an iota of truth” in the charges and that “all monies for the cancelled dance tour, as per the contract with the students, were returned, as were their passports”.

The charges were a “huge and apparently successful attempt to defame” her, she added. “It is also a huge attempt at intimidation.”

Several non-government and human rights organisations have spoken out against the Narendra Modi government for harassing Sarabhai.

“Some people working with extremist religious political parties are trying to bring false charges to tarnish Sarabhai’s name,” said the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of North America, an association of non-resident Indians.

Sarabhai said she was trying to keep “sane and sensible” but had strong words for “the many idealistic ‘friends’, well-wishers and intellectual seekers of truth in Gujarat” who have “deafened” her by their silence.

“Where there is smoke there is fire, I hear them saying. But isn’t that a saying that is no longer valid'” she asked. “When Dalits in a village get their eyes gouged out for daring to look at their betters, which is the smoke and which the fire' When young women get acid thrown at them because they refuse advances from men, which is the smoke and which the fire' When law courts say that rape could not have happened because the men are respectable and the woman but a tribal, where is the smoke and where the fire'

“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I hear them saying. But is it inconceivable that some of us live in glass houses because we want to be transparent, because we want to make our lives open books'”

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