Editorial

by Smita Sahay

We dedicate issue #9 of the Usawa Literary Review curated around the theme of violence to seven-year-old Tongsing Hangsing and his family who were killed in the horrific unrest currently ongoing in Manipur.

We stand in solidarity with the wrestlers protesting against sexual harassment of female athletes including underage wrestlers.

We wish healing to those affected by the Balasore railway tragedy.

Dear Readers,

As we take a close look at violence in its many forms we can’t not imagine a world without it. What does a world without gender violence look like? Is it a world where there are no rapes, or no complaints of rape? Is it a world where marriages do not need dowry, or one where it is called by another name such as stree-dhan (the woman’s wealth) or party expenses? What happens to the privileges granted by gender, race, caste, class? In this world are we willing to look at the cost of this privilege, at the person or group bearing cost of our privilege?

This violence that we are questioning doesn’t happen in a vacuum, unprovoked.

As we take a close look at violence I appeal to you to urgently observe your response to the idea of violence. Does it instil fear in you because it could happen to you? Or relief that it has happened to someone else? Does it make you uncomfortable so you sweep it under the rug? When we take a long, hard look at violence, and our response to it we learn, sometimes to our own surprise, whether we are the ones getting violated, or the ones violating; whether we are onlookers enabling the violence, or protesters questioning it.

There is (usually) a direct relationship between power and its ability to perpetuate violence.

So I also appeal to you to look at power structures, especially naturalised hegemonies, that enable prejudices, that cause micro aggressions if not open, physical violence. When we internalise these prejudices under various labels of good or bad, right or wrong, doctrines and values, we breathe life into these power structures – for they are no longer inert words or ideas; we are now their human agents. And we must now knowingly or unknowingly, visibly or invisibly perpetrate violence in order to protect these structures.

As you go through this issue of Usawa, you will be observing various kinds of violences over and over again – through various genres across all our sections. But do not be afraid. Awareness is the first step towards questioning, toward protesting, toward resolution. Towards equality. This issue has been curated with love by our Fiction Editor, Babitha Marina Justin, Poetry Editor, Vinita Agrawal, Nonfiction Editor, Shobhana Kumar, and Associate Editor, Kinshuk Gupta, and webmaster, Kavya Nagraj This time we have had the wonderful opportunity to partner with the Indian Novels Collective for our Translations Section.

We welcome our new Books Editor, Ankush Banerjee, a writer, poet, and research scholar in the field of Indian masculinity studies, and our new Contributing Editor, Shankar Mony, voracious reader, dedicated literature lover, and prolific writer par excellence. And to our student intern, Naavya Garg.

With this issue we learn the language of violence, no to perpetrate it, but to question it, and to take our own roles and responsibilities in it. This is not the time to be afraid, or merely angry. This is the time to dream of love – for everywhere that violence leaves a gaping wound, there is space for love and healing. We hold hands as we heal – yours, our talented contributors’, who write our world one word, one poem, one story at a time. It is time to read, to inhabit that world. To grieve the wounds, to wish for healing.

In other news, it gives me great pleasure to share that the Usawa Literary Review was invited to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival – Literature section on a panel on literary magazines in February 2023.

With love,
Yours,
Smita

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