Issue 16: South Asians and the Politics of Health (12/16/2003)

In our struggles for peace, workers’ rights, racial justice, queer and gender rights, we often overlook basic issues of health and access to affordable and effective health care. Although these issues are often deemed less important or vital than others, they are integral aspects of these movements.

This lack of attention to our health may arise partly because of a curious gulf between practitioners and policy-makers—those “in the know” – and the rest of us. Many of us can understand ways that health policies have shaped the trajectories of colonialism and immigration, but we have a block in formulating stances on contemporary issues of public health, which continue to inscribe power relations. Crude understandings of culture and identity only serve to inhibit our understandings of these issues, as they delegate specific roles for people based on their gender, age, or educational history.

As you will find in this forum, health issues are relevant to each one of us. The range of politics around the issue of health includes struggles to achieve justice against corporate crimes against communities; the barriers that our communities erect for communicating our own health issues; politics of NGO’s and pharmaceutical companies and their impact on AIDS and HIV in South Asia; relationships between violence, masculinity and mental health in religious fundamentalist violence in South Asia; and the absence of data on South Asian American communities and the resulting impacts on public health policies for these communities. As activists and members of our communities, we all need to “be in the know” about issues of health and health care. We hope this forum contributes to the fodder for a renewed focus on these issues among South Asian diaspora activists.

p>In our struggles for peace, workers’ rights, racial justice, queer and gender rights, we often overlook basic issues of health and access to affordable and effective health care. Although these issues are often deemed less important or vital than others, they are integral aspects of these movements.

This lack of attention to our health may arise partly because of a curious gulf between practitioners and policy-makers—those “in the know” – and the rest of us. Many of us can understand ways that health policies have shaped the trajectories of colonialism and immigration, but we have a block in formulating stances on contemporary issues of public health, which continue to inscribe power relations. Crude understandings of culture and identity only serve to inhibit our understandings of these issues, as they delegate specific roles for people based on their gender, age, or educational history.

As you will find in this forum, health issues are relevant to each one of us. The range of politics around the issue of health includes struggles to achieve justice against corporate crimes against communities; the barriers that our communities erect for communicating our own health issues; politics of NGO’s and pharmaceutical companies and their impact on AIDS and HIV in South Asia; relationships between violence, masculinity and mental health in religious fundamentalist violence in South Asia; and the absence of data on South Asian American communities and the resulting impacts on public health policies for these communities. As activists and members of our communities, we all need to “be in the know” about issues of health and health care. We hope this forum contributes to the fodder for a renewed focus on these issues among South Asian diaspora activists.

Articles in this Issue

The Contemporary Situation in Nepal

Sushma Joshi

"Championing the "Right to Information" in Rural India"

Soumya Kidambi

Obstacles to Sexual and Reproductive Health in South Asian Communities

Sapna Desai

The World Cup, Race and Nationalism

Raza Mir

An Interview with Hasan Zaidi, the Director of The Long Night, Pakistan's First Digital Feature Film

Prerana Reddy

The Impact of INS Special Registration

Saurav Sarkar

Holding Corporations Accountable

Satinath Sarangi

The International Campaign to Keep Pressure on Union Carbide's New Owners

Eight days into an indefinite fast, two women survivors of the world's worst chemical disaster in Bhopal, India brought the disaster home to top executives of Dow Chemical, Union Carbide's new owners. The survivors addressed Dow shareholders and leadership at Dow's Annual General Meeting (AGM), demanding that the company take responsibility for the health consequences and environmental impacts of their operations in Bhopal and other communities poisoned by Dow and its subsidiaries elsewhere.

With graphic eleven-foot banners of gas-affected Bhopal residents as a backdrop, activists held up photographs of Bhopal residents affected Dow's pollution at a rally outside the shareholder meeting in Midland, Michigan. More than thirty people from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, a global coalition campaigning to hold Dow accountable for the Bhopal legacy, attended the rally and shareholder meeting.

Mrs. Rasheeda Bee and Mrs. Champa Devi Shukla, survivors and leaders of the trade union Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers Association, and long-time Bhopal activist Satinath Sarangi, launched their fast on May 1, 2003, at a demonstration in New York's financial district. More than 130 people fasted in solidarity with the trio.

Krishnaveni Gundu

Intervention Concepts for Civil Violence in Gujarat

Siddharth Shah

The Campaign To Stop Funding Hate Documents the Hindutva Money Trail

Angana Chatterji

Aparna Sindhoor's Vision of Contemporary Bharatanatyam Dance

AIDS in South Asia

Afsan Chowdhury

HIV Treatment and Prevention in India

Sreekanth Chaguturu

Experience versus Solidarity in Movement Dynamics

Biju Mathew

Social Health Programs and South Asians

Rahul K. Gupta