Aug 14, 2010

Automutilation / Self Immolation as Protest

          Refugee protest is some of the most desperate, dramatic and spectacular.
Instances of self-immolation, slow public starvation, and riotous violence are not rare, but public response and research has been limited at best. Simultaneously, it can be quiet, unnoticed, isolated, lonely - late night solitary suicides and disappearance from institutional routine. Coping with the harsh conditions of life in exile, institutional and otherwise, is an inherent component of the refugee experience - and a component that, as trends toward restrictive asylum policy grow, increasingly incorporates protest. 
         Resistance in exile has become a tool of refugee identity, a vehicle through which feelings of empowerment can be achieved, cultural values can be maintained, a sense of worth can be created, and, perhaps most importantly, a feeling of movement, some sense of  forward momentum, can be realized in what are often prolonged, stifling,powerless situations of physical and emotional limbo. Even the act of becoming a refugee, one could argue, is itself an act of resistance - a counter measure to increasingly hostile and unbearable conditions.
Eg. of  few cases of manifestations religion related :

Case #1    [Eyes Wide Shut ] 

 London - A refugee from Iran granted asylum in Britain has stitched up his eyes, mouth and ears after the Home Office said it would appeal against a decision to allow him to stay in the country, said his supporters.
Abas Amini, 33, who lives in Nottingham in central England, had taken the action, as he feared he would be in danger of his life if he were deported to his home country, they said.
Chris Udenze, a doctor visiting him, said Amini was thinking rationally and knew the consequences of his actions, but feared he would be executed if he returned to Iran.
"He is very weak and dehydrated through not drinking anything for several days. He will rapidly deteriorate if he doesn't take any fluids, and he is quite clear that he actually wants to die," said Udenze.
       Tania Branigan, a journalist who has been following his case, told the BBC that Amini's claims of torture were genuine. "He's actually a fairly well-known political poet. He's also been a Communist guerrilla for many years, since his early teens in fact, and has been in and out of prison for much of his life - has been tortured repeatedly," she said.
      Amini fled jail in Iran for Britain two years ago, where he applied for asylum.
Case # 2      [Christians held a three-day protest over a Catholic who died after setting himself ablaze in despair after his wife was allegedly tortured by police].

        Rashid Masih, a father of four, died in hospital on March 22,2010 four days after dousing himself in kerosene and setting himself alight.
        Masih had tried to prove his wife’s innocence and is said to have cried all night before setting himself on fire, Church sources say.
    Church sources here say he was overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness after his wife, a housemaid, was charged with stealing from a Muslim cinema manager in Rawalpindi and tortured by police in front of him. Their version of events contradicted reports in the secular Italian media and L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily, which said the man had been burnt to death by a Muslim.

The mourners chanted anti-Punjab government slogans, demanding “payback for the blood” and the arrest of those they blamed for the death.
We are not against anyone but demand justice,” Father Anwar Patras, parish priest of Holy Family Catholic Church, told the funeral gathering.
Father Patras called for ecumenical unity in the case. “Rashid’s sacrifice has provided us a stage where we can all unite,” the priest said at the funeral.
    His wife was in shock and unable to respond to questions from the media at the cemetery.

Case # 3[Self immolation of a widow]    

SATI (Self-Immolation by a Widow) - India's Best Kept Secret
Can anyone imagine burning a young girl or Women in public infront of a crowd with her husband's dead body in this century?
     This is especially evident in the reactions that occurred in 1987 when Roop Kanwar, a well-educated eighteen-year-old girl from the Rajput caste, decided to be burned alive on her husband's funeral pyre, though they were only married for eight months. Varying accounts exist of the incident suggesting that Roop Kanwar may have been forced into self-immolation and she was possibly drugged. In any case, the incident aroused considerable upheaval throughout India and forced the country to re-evaluate the status of women.That one would voluntarily commit sati in the twentieth century is very difficult to comprehend for Westerners and many Indians.

    Under stridharma, the dharma of women entails devotion to one's husband. A woman's career is her husband. This means a woman's obligation in life is to serve her husband and provide him with children, especially sons. He is essentially her ?lord? for the very meaning of the word husband (Pati) means both husband and lord. In addition, she worships him by eating his leftovers. This may also be a sign of respect.

         Though the origin of sati is questionable, Megasthenes, the Greek chronicler recorded cases of sati as early as the fourth century B.C. There is also documentation of cases in which widows self-immolated but these have been classified as jauhar. In this case, jauhar was reserved for queens in the context of war and defeat. Usually, the queens of Rajput kings would self-immolate on a pyre without their husbands because they were believed to be dead. Also, one of the purposes of jauhar was to avoid being kidnapped by the victors. Nevertheless, incidents of sati were recorded during the succeeding periods. Argument that the Rig Veda sanctions sati
It is often claimed that this most ancient text sanctions or prescribes sati. This is based on verse 10.18.7, part of the verses to be used at funerals. Whether they even describe sati or something else entirely, is disputed,  The hymn is about funeral by burial, and not by cremation.

    There are differing translations of the passage. The translation below is one of those said to prescribe it.
   Let these women, whose husbands are worthy and are living, enter the house with ghee (applied) as collyrium (to their eyes). Let these wives first step into the pyre, tearless without any affliction and well adorned.

    Rise, come unto the world of life, O woman - come, he is lifeless by whose side thou liest.      Wifehood with this thy husband was thy portion, who took thy hand and wooed thee as a lover.
    A reason given for the discrepancy in translation and interpretation of verse 10.18.7, is that one consonant in a word that meant house, yonim agre "foremost to the yoni", was deliberately changed by those who wished claim scriptural justification, to a word that meant fire, yomiagne.
INDIAN Government is trying its best to avoid and abolish all these false believes and practices.But it is mostly in the hands of the individuals.
Case # 4 [ The Butterfly Lovers]  by Liang Zhu
The story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai provides an example of suicide used as last resort to protest and escape a reality that people feel powerless to change. Although fictional, the story and its enduring popularity reflect Chinese social attitudes toward suicide both at
that time and in the present. Zhu Yingtai, a young lady eager to explore the world,
was born to a rich but conservative family during Eastern Jin Dynasty (A.D. 317–420). Under the feudal system, schools barred girls from admission.As a result, Zhu and her maid had to disguise themselves as boys in order for Zhu to receive an education. Zhu eventually met Liang Shanbo at school, and they became good friends, eventually becoming lovers when Liang discovered
that Zhu was a girl. Zhu’s father had already arranged a marriage for his daughter, and rejected the couple’s repeated entreaties because Liang was not a rich or powerful man.The
heart-broken Liang finally died of sorrow and illness. Grief-stricken, Zhu visited Liang’s grave before her wedding. While she wept, the tomb suddenly opened, and Zhu jumped inside and ended her life in order to be with Liang forever.Afterwards a pair of butterflies emerged from the tomb, signifying that Liang and Zhu would never be parted again. 

        "People who have the power and resources to make choices and changes in their lives are usually also able to express their views in a variety of moderate and socially acceptable ways. For those who lack the power or resources to address the sources of their discontent, however, suicide may provide a last resort". -Si-Si Liu, "Suicide as Protest"
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