Meena Harris: Huge issue in India around authoritarianism, fascism

 

RITU JHA

(Video: iNDICA NEWS)

Lawyer, author and activist Meena Harris, who is among the many high-profile Americans whose tweets on the farmers’ protests in India have drawn the Indian government’s ire, is not backing down.

What I believe there is a huge issue in India around authoritarianism and fascism,” Meena Harris said during her keynote speech at the 30th Dynamic Women in Business Conference: Inspire to Rebuild, hosted by a student club at Harvard Business School on February 5 and 6.

Meena, who happens to be the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, urged women to raise their voice, tweet and protest anything they felt wrong, and not let anyone bully them or lecture them that women should not be too aggressive or too loud.

Women daring to succeed and achieve in the world and daring to push people to be better is something that is a challenge,” Meena said.

We as a patriarchal society often I think this concept that you can be ambitious but not too ambitious,” she said.

If anyone tells them ‘you are too loud’ or ‘stay in your place,’ she said, “I encourage people more to not listen to that to call… it’s a tool of oppression.”

She said her grandmother taught her : “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”

I was taught from a very early age that I not only have power but a responsibility to do whatever I could from my own share as an influencer,” said Harris, who is also the founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, an initiative that promotes activism.

During her keynote, moderated by Harvard Business School student Rachel Drapper, Meena took questions from the audience.

Meena Harris’s tweets about the farmer protests in India have riled many in that country’s establishment. In response to tweets by her, actress Susan Sarandon, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and others in support of the farmers, many Indian celebrities such as former cricket player Sachin Tendulkar and singer Lata Mangeshkar have tweeted using hashtags the Narendra Modi government used in the formal rebuff of international concern.

Some, like movie star Akshay Kumar and badminton player Saina Nehwal, have posted absolutely identical tweets, prompting allegations that they were copy-pasting what the government has scripted.

The police in Delhi have registered a case that cited a “toolkit” — a publicly available document that gives an overview of the protests and tools to stand in solidarity with the protesting farmers of India — posted by Greta Thunberg, and alleged that there is an international consipracy.

Some groups considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, the BJP, have also burnt photos of global celebs who have tweeted, including Meena Harris.

Others who have spoken out — including a British lawmaker — have said they have been threatened with rape and murder, a common complaint from women who have spoken out against the Indian establishment on social media.

Meena put it down to “rampant misogyny misogyny and sexism and violence against women.”

I think they are just intensified because of internet and political climate…people are able to attack people and harm people it’s really serious,” she said.

She hoped more women would join her in speaking out, and not cower in front of the “misogynistic violent mob… men on the internet who are trying to silence them.”

You tell them what you are and do not let anyone silence you,” she said to the audience.

I would like an acknowledgment that as much work as we have to do here in the United States, it is a privilege to be a woman and to use my voice,” Meena Harris said, adding that that was not the case for women in India right now. 

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