Dr Syeda Saiyidain Hameed
Dr Syeda Saiyidain Hameed
You have been writing extensively about women and the atrocities against them in the country. Do you think that we will be able to provide women safety and adequate rights in the future?
I hope we can provide safety for women even sooner than that. The future always seems some distance away, but the fight for womens rights has been going on for decades. Since my days in the National Commission, and even before that, we’ve been fighting for years with very little change. The current political scenario is also one where the rights of women and their position in society is regressing. But we cannot give up hope and let it go on as it is. It is up to every one of us to take a stand. Authorities also need to be more sensitive to womens needs. Like in the case of the BHU incident, if crimes against women are blamed on the women by the authorities, how can they protect the women?
For the past 10 years, there have been several cases of reported sexual assaults against women. How can we counter this social evil?
A problem like sexual assault has very deep roots. It starts before the assault itself. Society has internalized that it is the womans fault if a man misbehaves with her. They focus on how she dresses, where she is, how late she is out, or who she is with. A man is just a man for acting on his impulses. The problem needs to be tackled at the very beginning. We need to teach our sons to view women with respect, as equals. We need to reinforce these values in society with justice for these women. Assault needs to have heavy consequences, whether it comes from the justice system, or from within society and even within the family circle. The victim deserves our support because she has been through a traumatic incident, yet she often becomes a target. To change the problem itself we need to change how we view the problem.
Your literary work, be it They Hang: 12 Women in My Portrait Gallery or others have always tried to convey social messages. Do you think writers should make more efforts to use literature as a tool to bring about change?
I believe anyone with any influence should use it to help people. Literature is a very vivid tool. It allows people to enter and experience words and view situations and stories from different angles. Such a tool can allow the reader to sympathize with a cause and feel the struggles of the characters. The readers can feel their shock, pain and trauma. When they put the book down, they will know these feelings personally and be aware. Awareness can turn into various kinds of action. People will talk, and the more they talk about the story, the more likely that words will turn into actions. The actions will bring change.
What do you feel about the reading scenario in the country?
While the rest of the world is worried about the decline in reading and literature, India is still going strong. People are still hungry for words, for stories and want to consume knowledge.
What gravitated you towards writing about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto? Was their opposition from anyone during your research?
I had access to his original papers which no one had seen or is likely to see. I had no problem getting a visa whenever I wanted to visit for my research. I have based the book on personal information, anecdotes, and widely available information from newspapers and other standard sources of history writing, this book will tell the readers how completely amoral Bhutto was. His was a singular commitment: retaining power.
What is your opinion of the earlier works on his life?
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto embodied the hopes, contradictions and flaws of the Pakistan of his time, and his life naturally draws biographers. Two early works stand out by a close political associate Rafi Raza, largely covering the period 1966-1977, and a biography by a follower Salman Taseer, who was assassinated in 2011, when he was Governor of Punjab. Both are written in awe but are not uncritical which make them relevant.
What are you looking forward to at the Valley of Words festival in Dehradun?
I look forward to engaging with bright individuals and their ideas and stories. Festivals like these allow us to meet a diverse group of people from across platforms.