The Price of Dalit Assertion-On the Burning Down of Dalit Houses in Lathore, Odisha


Vol – XLVII No. 35, September 01, 2012 | Ranjana PadhiNigamKhuturam Sunani, and Debaranjan Sarangi 

In Odisha, especially in the western part, dalits face a peculiar situation. On the one hand, they suffer the indignity of the age-old caste system and on the other, they are perceived by tribal communities as “exploiters”, and at times, bear the brunt of their fury too. Such a perception accentuates the hatred against dalits and also seems to justify attacks. This fi eld study in Lathore, a village in the block of Khaprakhol of Balangir district of Odisha, demonstrates how in such a hostile atmosphere, even minor incidents involving individual dalits lead to horrendous consequences.

Khuturam Sunani (sunani.khuturam@gmail.com) is a journalist in Nuapada, Odisha. Nigam (sadangin@rediffmail.com) is a freelance writer and translator in Bhubaneswar, Ranjana Padhi (ranjanapadhi@yahoo.co.uk) is a feminist researcher in New Delhi and Debaranjan Sarangi (debasar11@yahoo.co.in) is a social activist and documentary fi lm-maker in Puri.

While studying the conditions of dalits in Odisha in 1978, the Harijan Sevak Sangh observed:

Out of the surveyed states, Odisha is one where public places were not accessible to the Harijans in all the surveyed villages, although the violent incidents are not reportein equal measures [Italics ours]. The reasons may be the general backwardness and power­lessness and also the low level of awareness of the Scheduled Castes, who continue to bear the social injustices perpetrated on them.

Thirty-four years after this observation, “violent incidents” are reported almost daily. Perhaps it indicates that dalits have begun to assert themselves, breaking the long years of silence. In Odisha, particularly in the western parts, dalits face a peculiar situation. On the one hand, they suffer the indignity of the age-old caste system at the hands of caste Hindu communities and on the other, they are perceived by tribal communities as “exploiters” and at times, bear the brunt of their fury too. This has been seen in both Kandhamal and Narayanpatna. Such a perception not only accentuates the hatred against dalits, it also seems to justify attacks. In such a hostile atmosphere, even minor incidents involving individual dalits lead to horrendous consequences. In early 2012, the media reported three such incidents. On 22 January 2012, an entire dalit pada (hamlet) was burnt to ashes by caste people in Lathore village, Khaprakhol block, Balangir district. Similarly, in February, in Kamadhenukote village of Dhenkanal district, 22 dalit houses were burnt down on suspicion of not voting for a particular candidate in panchayat elections. On 29 April, Kalahandipada of Rayagada district met a similar fate over the issue of a comment made by a dalit youth to a tribal girl. Irrespective of the cast of characters or the nature of conflict, it is the hamlets of dalits that are being burnt to ashes. Do the apparent causes reported by the media reflect the real situation? Or are the voices of protest buried under those ashes? To understand such dynamics more clearly and share the events with a wider public, we visited Lathore on 6 and 7 April 2012.

The Incident in Lathore

On 22 January 2012, around 9 am, Ganesh Suna (15), a dalit youth, had gone to buy a shirt from Laxmi Cloth Store run by Dayasagar Meher and Bharat Meher. He bought the shirt, paid the money, and came back. As other members of the family did not like it, he went to return it. Dayasagar refused to take it back, and accused Ganesh of stealing the shirt, which the latter protested. In the quarrel that ensued, Ganesh was beaten up. He came back and narrated the incident in the pada. Some dalit youths while taking Ganesh to the local public health centre met Dayasagar and beat him up. Then, members of Dayasagar’s family took him to the subdivisional hospital at Patnagarh, and then to the district hospital at Balangir, and finally to Cuttack. Those with Ganesh went to the police outpost but the officer-in-charge had gone to Khaprakhol; so they went to Khaprakhol.

Many male members of the pada had gone to parti­cipate in the death ritual of a relative in another village. Hence, when both the families involved in the incident were outside the village and busy either at the police station or at the hospital, events took the form of a communal clash along caste lines, specifically when the message spread of Dayasagar having been beaten up. In protest, some people from the Meher community closed the village market.1 We were told that a meeting was held in the Hanuman temple of the village where an oath was taken to teach a lesson to the dalits. The dalits ­alleged that Ghasiram Agrawal (owner of a country liquor store) and Jagannath Agrawal (owner of a petrol pump) freely supplied ­liquor and petrol to those who indulged in arson.

The district administration on inspection found an unaccounted 382 ­litres of petrol in the same petrol pump.2 Just a rumour can play such a role in precipitating such situations; the rumour that Dayasagar was seriously ill and may die, took its toll.

Evidently, there was some level of planning and mobilisation with an intention to attack dalit families as described by Keiro, an inspector of the local police station.3 After receiving the first information report (FIR) from Ganesh Suna around 11 am, he reached Lathore for investigation around 2 pm. By that time, people had gathered on the main road of the village and were talking about blocking the road and burning down houses of dalits. Warning them not to do so, the inspector left the village for Khaprakhol police station around 3.30- 3.45 pm as he got a phone call from higher officers about an “encounter rescue operation”. People from victims’ families had also been repeatedly informing the district police administration, including the superintendent of police (SP) about the situation. A journalist who works forThe Dharitri, a widely circulated Oriya news daily, had contacted the SP. But help did not come in time; perhaps it was not meant to. Around 4 pm, the burning started; the entire dalit pada of 45 families was reduced to ashes.

Then, the routine operations began. The victims were rescued and put in a temporary relief camp set up in Durgeswari High School in the village; 42 people from the Meher community were arrested (those named in the FIR who were from the Marwari community were allowed to go free). The state commission for scheduled castes made a visit. Compensation for the victims was declared and a peace committee was set up.

Interestingly, individuals from both Meher and Marwari communities said it was wrong to burn down houses. But they attributed it to a “divine wrath”. Apparently, a few days earlier, the village goddess, Basteren Devi, through her priest had predicted that there would be rain of fire in the village as people were going astray. In this view, the dalits had overstepped their social boundaries and broken the codes set for them. Despite the criminal negligence of the police, apathy of the administration and the so-called divinity wrath, such incidents hint at the internal relations and contradictions of the three important communities – Marwari, Meher and Gana – that led to such a terrible incident. To understand this, it is important to have a look at Lathore.

Locating Lathore

Lathore, a village in the block of Khaprakhol of Balangir district, is close to Harishankar Road railway station on the Raipur-Vijayanagram railway line. It is located at a distance of around 25 km from the block headquarters, and around 90 km from the district headquarters. Because of this railway connection, it has grown as a trade centre. In the past, it was known for timber trade. Today, it is one of the important labour migration centres of western Odisha. During the last 70-80 years, people from the Marwari community as well as some families from Meher and Gana communities have, gradually, migrated to Lathore in search of fortune and livelihoods, and the village has grown into a gram panchayat. According to the 1961 Census, the population of the village was 937, and in 2001 it grew to 4,061. Today its population is more than 5,000 with more than 800 families. It is a village of various castes and communities. Numerically, the Bhulias (also known as Mehers) belong to the Other Backward Class (OBC) category and comprise the single largest community with around 250-300 families. The Marwaris (around 90 families) though belonging to OBCs (specifically those who have registered themselves as Bania in the land records) in the census, constitute the richest community in the village. There are other com­munities like the Keuta, Paika and Gauda who belong to the OBC category. Dalits (Gana, Ghasi, Virtia) constitute 11.3% and adivasis (Gond, Sabar/Sanra) 8.1% of the total population as per the 2001 Census.

People from all the major communities (Marwari, Meher and Gana) are involved in trading, which plays a dominant role in the economy. All major products such as liquor, petrol, kerosene, forest and agro-products are controlled by Marwari families. Some families deal in groceries, electronic goods, clothes and medicines. Many families also own landed properties. One or two families are into the business of supplying labour to brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as labour contractors. Their social life in the village is largely centred on temples and ceremonies to which they handsomely donate. In the recent past, two temples dedicated to Radhakrishan and Hanuman have been constructed, mostly with large donations from a few Marwari families. Other than that, the Marwari community maintains a sort of exclusivity as if they do not belong to the village where they have been living for decades. For example, a Dharamshala, namely, Ugrasen Bhawan, run by the Marwari Yuva Manch, is not given to people of other communities, even on rent. Though this exclusivity is somewhat compensated by the donation to temples and their ceremonies and the inclusion and active participation of some sections of the Meher community, Marwaris are largely seen as a community that is there only to make money. Educationally, they are not backward, but there are not many higher educated people commensurate with their affluence.

The Mehers, the numerically dominant community in the village, are into both agriculture and trading. Their recent entry into trading, ranging from clothes, electrical and electronic goods, to hotels, grocery and transport, has started cutting into the business of the Marwari community. Gradually, they are evolving as a competing economic force. In 2008, they formed Odia Banika Sangha, clearly a non-Marwari trading society, to protect their economic interests. No doubt, they seek social-cultural superiority too. In a village atmosphere like Lathore, it manifests itself in the form of religiosity. Dalits perceive them as “more Brahmin than Brahmins themselves”. However, 30-40% people from this community are landless. They eke out a living by hawking clothes, chappals, etc, from one weekly haat (market) to another. The level of education is not high in this community; but they are mostly not illiterate.

The situation of the dalits presents a different picture. There are seven Virtia and two Ghasi families in the village. Virtias work as priests for Ganas in marriage and death rituals in the entire locality. Ghasi families are into the business of piggery. Ganas are numerically superior and spread over three padas in the village. Ganas living in two padas are mostly wage workers. Some also work as drivers or as domestic workers. However, the pada that was burnt down tells a different story. With 45 families living in 33 houses, the entire pada belongs to one clan, related to each other by blood. Known as the most educated group of families, this pada boasts of having two postgraduates out of the four in the entire village. Education has enabled almost 23 families to enter the government and public sectors such as banking, railways, teaching (both at school and college levels), the medical field and the police. A couple of families own landed property even up to 20 acres. However, seven families are landless. They are into small businesses such as cycle-repairing, running a motor garage and vegetable vending. There is also a labour contractor from this pada.

Emergence of the Krishna Club

In recent history, the emergence of the Krishna Club has proved to be a turning point for the community of Ganas, especially from this pada. Founded in 1995, it was a meeting place for bhajan-kirtan for the elderly and youth of the pada. However, since 2007 the educated youth began discussions on Ambedkarite philo­sophy that inspired them to enunciate a language of dignity and equality. They not only played a catalytic role in raising voices against caste oppression, but also took active interest in village welfare ­activities. This upset the social and cultural equation of the village.

On the one hand, the trading groups from both Marwari and Meher communities are locked in an economic contradiction. But on the other, there is a sense of unity and coexistence in the sociocultural field. But dalits stand at the opposite pole altogether. Among them, those who have gained some economic and social strength through education aspire for social equality and dignity. In such a society, as the inhuman forms of power and hege­mony manifest themselves in the sociocultural spaces, the voices against them are also manifested in the same sphere. Let us see how it has taken shape in Lathore, ­especially, since the emergence of the Krishna Club.

During Durga puja in 2007, dalits of the village under the leadership of the Krishna Club demanded that they be ­allowed to participate in the yajna ceremony. Otherwise, they would refuse to beat the drum in the puja. Dalits, locally called Gana, are the traditional drum players in this puja and other similar ceremonies. Interestingly, the youth asserted that even if their parents and grand­parents had played this traditional role, they were not prepared to do so any longer. Some upper-caste people, mainly from the Marwari and Meher communities, could not digest this assertion and excluded them from the Durga puja activities. They threatened to drive them out of the village and that drum players from other villages would be invited. However, dalits from other villages, too, did not come to play drums in solidarity. This created considerable tension; the matter went to the office of the sub-­collector, Patnagarh.

In the presence of an assistant sub-inspector (ASI), who was sent to the ­village, the villagers resolved to remove the Ganas from the village. People emerged from various padas with lathis and sticks in a militant mood. Apparently, this had been done earlier too in Mohulpati village from where the Ganas had been removed. The collector ordered the ASI to book those leading this operation under the Atrocities Act. However, only Section 107 was used. In retrospect, the Gana youth realised that they had been misled into a compromise, solely to protect those who were instigating the violence from being booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

As the Ambedkarite movement progres­sed, the determination to enter temples grew. In 2008, when dalits wanted to participate in the yajna, they were stopped. Soon, the place of the yajna was transferred. The puja committee decided that only the presiding priest would perform it and nobody else would go there. To keep the dalits out, the entire place was made inaccessible to everybody. A few think that there was a sea change from 1997 to 2007. One person recalled how the yajna was closed for some hours in 1997. The ghee was ­declared impure by the priest since the dalits had entered the puja. As a solution, the dalits were asked to pay for the 20 kilos used.

On 11 May 2009, Kedar Gauri Tandi, a dalit girl with her brother had been to the Siva temple. The priest Biranchi Thanapati was furious. He rebuked the two devotees and threw away the lota Gauri was carrying. Gauri was both angry and upset. As she told us, there was nothing personal; it was a humiliation for her entire community. She made a police complaint. The priest was booked under the Atrocities Act and sentenced to jail. This was the first case booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that left many sections of the dominant castes shocked.

In 2010, Dhanu Yatra was organised by the Odia Banika Sangha. The youth of Krishna Club protested against vulgar dances, gambling and liquor in the ­yatra. This did not go down well with the ­organisers.

In August 2011, the entire village faced a severe shortage of electricity. There was no power supply for almost 1.5 months as the transformer was frequently getting burnt. Krishna Club took the initiative and restored electricity in three days. While the youth celebrated this achievement, it pricked the ego of the village elites. When the transformer got burnt again in 10 days, the administration probed into illegal connections and power overload being caused by heaters and welding operations. In the process, people with illegal connections were ­exposed, including some of the affluent families belonging to Marwari households. In retaliation, the village elders questioned the fund collection for the restoration of electricity and summoned some members of Krishna Club. When the latter refused to go there, the village elders were shocked by such assertion. They told us openly that the ­issue would have been settled that day itself had there been no Atrocities Act.

On 17 January 2012, a news report4 highlighted the black marketing activity in Lathore relating to liquor, wood, cooking gas and agro-products. The report was filed by Kapil Suna whose house has also been burnt down in the incident.

Interestingly, across communities, people referred to this same set of events that had contributed to the simmering of tension in the village for around four to five years. The only differences were in the interpretation: what was assertion of dignity and equality for dalits was seen as a challenge to the authority and status quo of the dominant castes.

There is an uneasy silence as the matter moves to court. Yet, the spirit and determination of the survivors housed in the village public school speaks of something new. There is no looking back in the aspiration to surge ahead even if it is the toughest of struggles in this age-old oppressive society of ours.

Notes

The Sambad, 24 January 2012.

The Samaj, 5 February 2012.

Janatantra, 16-31 January 2012 – interview of N Keiro, the police officer, Khaprakhol.

The Samay, 17 January 2012, Lathore: a market of black marketing.

 

My Scream at #Tatadocomo- KNOCK KNOCK-KOI HAI ?


 

 EMAIL SENT TO –csmumbai@tatatel.co.in

To

 

Complaint Dept

 

Tata Docmo

 

Dated- 27th August 2012

 

Sub- Inaccessibility of  my blog for last five days

 

 

 This is to inform you that for the last 5 days, I am unable to update or add content to any of my four blogs , namely  

 http://kractivist.wordpress.com/,

 http://fassmumbai.wordpress.com/  ,-

 http://kashmirsolidaritymumbai.wordpress.com/, 

 http://kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com 

 

hosted on the wordpress domain or even create a brand new blog . This is a complete violation of my fundamental rights accorded to me under the constitution of India.

 

 

While the Government of India may have requested for the blocking of some sub domains like xyx.wordpress.com, you have gone into overdrive and blocked all the sub domains or blogs hosted on WordPress, which is the most common free publishing software on the Internet. 

 

There ahs been no official statement from your side on the ban,  and when trying your toll free numbers I have been in a circus for last 5 days.

 

When  I call 1800-266-121,  after following all instructions of one of your animated voices and am asked to call -toll free-1800-266-1515 and following the same animated voice instructions then  I  am asked to dial  18602-665555 and  then once again i I am asked to dial 1800-266-1515. I am not interested to play office- office with your staff. As it is the poor customer care guys somewhere in no mans land have been given lines to memorise like a parrot and speak politely and insist that what they say is right and not the customer.

 

 

Finally today, on chat support, I was graciously told by Krishna ( no pun intended)  the chat i am attaching,  when i I insisted on an email id to write to you.

 

 

I am also attaching what  I  get when i try to log on to my blogs

 

 

Now , I would like a reply in 24 hours, from now. I have already lost 5  days of my crucial work, besides the mental agony and waste of time .

 

Adv Kamayani Bali Mahabal

 

Monsanto’s 10 most misleading talking points on GMO labeling #mustread


 


By Michele Simon

Cross-posted from Appetite for Profit

Photo by Shutterstock.

The battle in California over Proposition 37, which would require labeling of foods containing GMOs, is really heating up. Millions of dollars are already being poured into the opposition campaign, with much of it going to former Big Tobacco shills. Over at GMO HQ, Monsanto recently posted this missive called “Taking a Stand: Proposition 37, The California Labeling Proposal,” in which the biotech giant explains why it is opposing the measure (to the tune of $4.2 million so far).

Even for a corporation not exactly known for its honesty and transparency, this brief webpage is riddled with deception and outright falsehoods about the initiative and its proponents. Here are the 10 most blatant examples:

1.  The law “would require a warning label on food products.”

No warning label would be required. Rather, the words “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering” would be required on the back of the package — similar to what is now required for ingredient or allergen labeling. For whole foods, like the sweet corn coming soon to a Walmart near you, a sign would be posted on the store shelf with the words “genetically engineered.” The aim is simply to offer consumers additional information about the contents of the foods they purchase.

2. “The safety and benefits of these ingredients are well established.”

Unfortunately, no long-term studies exist on either the safety or benefits of GMO ingredients, so Monsanto has no basis for making such a claim. Indeed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not even require safety studies of genetically engineered foods. Meanwhile, some independent studies raise questions about links to allergies and other potential health risks.

3. “The American Medical Association just re-affirmed that there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.”

This statement, while true, is taken out of context and is misleading because the American Medical Association (AMA) also (for the first time) called for mandatory premarket safety studies of GMOs. As Consumers Union recently noted in its reaction to AMA’s announcement, labeling and testing logically go together:

The AMA’s stance on mandatory labeling isn’t consistent with its support for mandatory pre-market safety assessments. If unexpected adverse health effects, such as an allergic reaction, happen as a result of GE, then labeling could perhaps be the only way to determine that the GE process was linked to the adverse health effect.

4. Food companies “have had the choice” to use GM ingredients.

Choice is a good thing; however, consumers have never had the choice. Prop 37 will give consumers a long-overdue choice about eating genetically engineered food.

5. “FDA says that such labeling would be inherently misleading to consumers.”

Of course FDA refuses to require GMO labeling, thanks to Monsanto’s arm-twisting that began more than 20 years ago. Food Democracy Now’s Dave Murphy explained the FDA decision in May upon its 20-year anniversary, which came as a result of a broader deregulatory push by the first Bush administration:

Twenty years ago this week, then-Vice President Dan Quayle announced the FDA’s policy on genetically engineered food as part of his “regulatory relief initiative.” As Quayle explained in the 1992 press conference, the American biotechnology industry would reap huge profits “as long as we resist the spread of unnecessary regulations.”

Dan Quayle’s 1992 policy announcement is premised on the notion that genetically engineered crops are “substantially equivalent” to regular crops and thus do not need to be labeled or safety tested. The policy was crafted by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lawyer who was hired by the Bush FDA to fill the newly created position of deputy commissioner of policy.

Five years earlier, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush visited a Monsanto lab for a photo op with the developers of Roundup Ready crops. According to a video report of the meeting, when Monsanto executives worried about the approval process for their new crops, Bush laughed and told them, “Call me. We’re in the dereg businesses. Maybe we can help.”

Call they did. It’s typical for corporations to get their policy agenda approved through back-channel lobbying and revolving door appointments and then point to the magical policy outcome as evidence of scientific decision-making.

6. “Consumers have broad food choices today, but could be denied these choices if Prop 37 prevails.”

There is no basis in logic that consumers could be denied food choices. Indeed, Proposition 37 actually broadens the meaningful food choices available through greater transparency. Right now, people are eating in the dark.

7. “Interestingly, the main proponents of Proposition 37 are special interest groups and individuals opposed to food biotechnology who are not necessarily engaged in the production of our nation’s food supply.”

In fact, quite a large number of food producers, farmers, and others very much “engaged in the production of our nation’s food supply” support the campaign. (See the growing list of endorsements.) Speaking of “special interest groups” wouldn’t that label apply to the likes of Monsanto and all the industrial food producers who oppose Proposition 37?

8. “Beneath their right to know slogan is a deceptive marketing campaign aimed at stigmatizing modern food production.”

“Modern food production,” is that Monsanto’s latest euphemism for scientifically altering the genetic code of the food supply? In truth, nothing is hidden “beneath” the Right to Know campaign, that’s all it’s about. But because Monsanto has no good argument for why consumers don’t have the right to know how their food is produced, it has to resort to distracting deceptions.

9. “[Proponents] opinions are in stark contrast with leading health associations.”

Another look at the long list of Prop 37 endorsements reveal that Monsanto and friends are actually out of step with leading health associations, such as:

  • American Public Health Association
  • American Medical Students Association
  • American Academy of Environmental Medicine
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility, California chapters
  • California Nurses Association

10. “The California proposal would serve the purposes of a few special interest groups at the expense of the majority of consumers.”

Again, logic defies this talking point, especially since all polling indicates a “majority of consumers” want GMO food to be labeled. Indeed, the most recent California poll shows the proposition winning by a 3-to-1 margin. No wonder Monsanto has to resort to such nonsensical talking points.

Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back. She is grateful to live in Oakland, Calif., within walking distance of a farmers market. You can follow her on Twitter.

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE—WGHR STATEMENT ON ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ACT


WGHR STATEMENT ON
ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ACT

New Delhi, 27 August 2012 – When the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special
Powers Bill was introduced in the LokSabha in August 1958, MP Mahanty of Dhenkanal
raised a point of order stating that “we cannot proceed with this Bill unless certain
constitutional obligations imposed under article 352(1) of the constitution are fulfilled” as
certain parts of the bill directly come under emergency provisions of the Indian Constitution.
The then Union Home Minster Mr. G. B. Pant justified the bill arguing that “the local
Government may make use of the army, if it so chooses in the manner provided in this
Bill, and can use the army only for this limited purpose, and thereafter the ordinary
processes of law are to be followed”.
Today, 54 years have gone by “the ordinary processes of law” is yet to replace the “special
powers” in many part of the country. In fact the application of the “special powers” has been
steadily spreading ever since. The “disturbed areas” confined to only the Naga Hills in1950s
spread to Lushai Hill in1960s, to Tripura and Imphal valley in 1970s, Brahmaputra valley and
Punjab in 1980s and Kashmir valley in 1990s. In these areas, the fundamental rights such as
the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the right to remedy and reparation, the right against
torture and the right against arbitrary detention (as well as a series of economic, social and
cultural rights) have been consistently violated.
The exercise of special powers have also gone way beyond the “limited purpose” that the
Home Minister proposed as the military stationed in the ‘disturbed areas’ embarks upon its
mission to “win the hearts and minds” of the population. Over and above the usual leveling of
football grounds or organizing medical camps, the military civic action programmes are now
intruding into academic seminars and religious ceremonies! The prolonged application of this
Act has not only institutionalized militarism and a climate of impunity but has also alienated
the public and fuelled a cycle of violence, increasing insurgency rather than dampening it.
The resistance against AFSPA is no longer confined to opposition parties or civil society but
many official bodies including the Union Home Ministry’s Committee to Review the Armed
Forces Special Powers Act (2005), the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007)
and the Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir (2007)
have all recommended its repeal.
AFSPA has come up prominently during the second review India’s human rights record in the
Working Group on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council in May
2012 and several recommendations were made:
1. Repeal AFSPA or adopt the negotiated amendments to it that would address the
accountability of security personnel, the regulation concerning detentions as well as
victim’s right to appeal in accordance to international standards (Slovakia);
2. Review AFSPA to align it with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights and other international standard (Switzerland); and
3. Carry out an annual review of the AFSPA aiming to gradually reduce its geographical
scope (France).

4. Guarantee effective access to justice in cases of human rights violations committed
by security forces personnel with regard to the use of torture (Spain).
5. Implement effective judiciary proceedings making possible the bringing to justice
security forces personnel who have committed human rights violations (France)
This is not the first time that the issue of AFSPA is raised in the UN forum, it came up during
the first UPR review in 2008 and earlier almost all the major human rights treaty bodies of the
UN have exposed how AFSPA violates a series of universal human rights standards and
have recommended its repeal.
Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, in her report
presented to the UN Human Rights Council (March 2012) following her official visit to India in
January 2011, highlighted the plight of Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike since
2000 demanding the repeal of AFSPA and recommended that “The National Security Act,
the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Unlawful Activities Act, the Jammu and Kashmir
Public Safety Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act should be repealed”.
Prof. Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary
Executions who also made an official visit to India in March 2012, also describes AFSPA
“more intrusive than it would be the case under a state of emergency, since the right to life is
in effect suspended, and this is done without the safeguards applicable to states of
emergency”. The then Union Home Minster Mr. P. Chidambaram, promptly stated in the
media that his Union Home Ministry has already recommended amendments to AFSPA, but
a final decision on the matter is pending with the Cabinet Sub Committee on Security. The
Defence Ministry, it has been reported, is blocking the proposed amendment. In this context
it is interesting to note that the Government of India’s interlocutors’ report on Jammu and
Kashmir, made public in May 2012, has also recommended the review AFSPA and went on
to urge the Defence Ministry to consider how to respond “positively” to the issue.
WGHR strongly urges the government of India to utilize this opportunity of the UPR process
at the UN Human Rights Council to repeal AFSPA as recommended by numerous countries.
Such an act from the Government would be consistent with India being a democratic nation
that claims to comply with its constitutional mandate and international human rights
commitments. ■
____________
For more information, please contact Mr. Babloo Loitongbam (+91 9862008838) or Ms
Vrinda Grover (+91 9810806181)

The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN – a national coalition of fourteen human
rights organisations and independent experts – works towards the realisation of all civil, cultural,
economic, political and social human rights in India and towards holding the Indian government
accountable to its national and international human rights obligations. For information on WGHR,
please visit: http://www.wghr.org

Prime Minister, Crime Minister #ManmohanSingh #mustread


 

Prime Minister, Crime Minister!
Image

 

S. P. Udayakumar

 

Idinthakarai

 

August 27, 2012

 

[Thanks to MGD for prodding me to think about this connection.]

 

 

 

Prime Minister, Prime Minister, why did you keep coal

 

When none of your predecessors ever had this foal?

 

Did you sell non-players and new ones all the Black Gold

 

So thermal power goes down and nuclear becomes bold?

 

How much did nuke barons, promoters, brokers pay your fold

 

For bringing our country under Russians’ and Americans’ hold?

 

You’re indeed an eminent economist for the whole wide world

 

For you strike a bunch of mangoes for every stone hurled!

 

Crime Minister, Crime Minister, why didn’t you ever goad

 

All your ministers to work for India rather than have it sold?

 

Prime Minister, Crime Minister #ManmohanSingh #mustread


 

Prime Minister, Crime Minister!
Image

 

S. P. Udayakumar

 

Idinthakarai

 

August 27, 2012

 

[Thanks to MGD for prodding me to think about this connection.]

 

 

 

Prime Minister, Prime Minister, why did you keep coal

 

When none of your predecessors ever had this foal?

 

Did you sell non-players and new ones all the Black Gold

 

So thermal power goes down and nuclear becomes bold?

 

How much did nuke barons, promoters, brokers pay your fold

 

For bringing our country under Russians’ and Americans’ hold?

 

You’re indeed an eminent economist for the whole wide world

 

For you strike a bunch of mangoes for every stone hurled!

 

Crime Minister, Crime Minister, why didn’t you ever goad

 

All your ministers to work for India rather than have it sold?

 

West Bengal- BSF fires a villager, keeps him captive #Torture


27th August 2012                   

 

The Honourable Chairperson

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House

Copernicus Marg

New Delhi – 1

 

Respected Sir,

 

We want to lodge this present complaint where the perpetrator BSF jawans allegedly tried to kill one Indian civilian namely Mr. Safed Sardar of Gobindapur village from District-North 24 Parganas, West Bengal by firing which eventually hit at the thigh of the victim. Our fact finding revealed that cattle smuggling is a regular event at the border of Indo Bangladesh and the perpetrator BSF personnel often firing at them openly. The victim was admitted at R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata where all expenses were borne by the victim family itself. According to the victim and eye-witnesses, he was subjected to merciless torture for no reason at all; understandingly no law in this country permit man in uniform to assault a civilian for any reason or no reason. Our attached fact finding report gives details of the incident. The Superintendent of Police, Barasat, District- North 24 Parganas till date, not taken any appropriate action on the written complaint filed by the wife of the victim against the perpetrator BSF jawans. 

 

 

Hence we seek your urgent intervention in this matter in the following manner:-

 

 

v  The whole matter must be investigated by a neutral investigating agency appointed by the Commission.

v  BSF personnel posted at West Bengal – Bangladesh border area resorting firing from lethal weapon though same was in self- constraint as decided by the high command of BSF

v  The written complaint lodged by the victim before the Superintendent of Police, Barasat, District- North 24 Parganas on 24.7.2012, must be treated as First Information Report under section 154 of Criminal Procedure Code.

v  Cost of treatment of a person while in custody, should be borne by the State; in this case the victim should be financially compensated for his medical expenses.

v  The victim must be compensated adequately from the coffer of the BSF

v  The victim and the eye-witnesses must be protected and their security should be guaranteed

 

Thanking You,

Yours truly,

 

 

 

Kirity Roy

Secretary, MASUM

&

National Convener, PACTI   

 

Name of the Victim: - Mr. Safed Sardar (28 years) son of  Mr. Joynal Sardar , by faith – Muslim, BPL enlisted family, by occupation- daily labourer from the Village – Gobindapur , Post Office:- Gobindapur,  Police Station:- Swarupnagar, District:- North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, India

 

Name of the Perpetrator(s): One BSF officer namely Mr. Kajol of ‘G’ company of Battalion no. 152 and other jawans in uniform attached to BOP Gobindapur under the Police Station of Swarupnagar, District North 24 Parganas

 

Place of incident: Near the Border area at Gobindapur, Police Station of Swarupnagar, District North 24 Parganas

 

Date & time of the incident: – On 20th July 2012, around 1.30 pm to 2.00 pm at noon 

 

Case Details: -    Safed Sardar (28 years) son of Mr. Joynal Sardar lived permanently in Gobindapur village with his wife and two minor children, one is of 2years and another is 1year old. The victim owned a small land and for earning he has to depend on daily labour on others agricultural filed. The economic condition of the victim is very poor and his family is enlisted in Below Poverty Level family in their village. He also involved himself as rattler in cow smuggling to Bangladesh when he did not get any job to maintain his family.

 

On 20th July 2012, Friday at around 1.30 to 2.00pm Safed Sardar went to check the growing crops at the farming land where he was working as daily labour. This agricultural field situated at the adjacent of border area of Indo-Bangladesh. At that time, some Bangladeshi cattle smugglers were secretly smuggling cattle to Bangladesh through this border area.  It was also revealed from our own fact finding that Mr. Safed was also involved with the smugglers as rattler. When BSF jawans of Gobindapur BOP noticed their movement, then without alarming anyone the BSF jawans along with one officer namely Kajol of ‘G’ Branch of 152  no. Battalion started indiscriminate firing towards them. A bullet fired by the BSF was entered in the right thigh of the victim and exited through the back of that thigh and he became senseless. Around 3.00pm the victim was brought to Sanrapool Primary Health Centre by some people who were working at that time in the nearby field along with BSF jawans. The bullet injury at the thigh of the victim looked like a big hole (exit wound) and huge blood came out from the wound. When in the primary health centre the bleeding of the victim could not controlled, he was shifted to Sub Division Hospital, Basirhat at 4.00pm in the afternoon by the attending doctors by an ambulance. But in the Sub Division Hospital also, the condition of the victim was not improving. So the attending Medical Officer at around 8.30pm at night transferred the victim to R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata and for noticing his condition the doctor of R. G. Kar Medical College and Hospital immediately took him to operation theatre for surgery on his thigh.

 

After surgery the victim was shifted to ICU. He was given blood for his poor health condition. Expenses of the victim’s treatment were borne by the family of the victim.  All the relevant documents of his treatment were kept by the BSF officers present there. BSF officers also made frequent visits to the hospital. It was really becoming hard for the wife of the victim to accumulate money for the treatment as well as to manage the family expenses. Victim’s family has to purchase all necessary medicines, equipments requisitioned by the doctors.  Though the doctor of the hospital gave release order to the victim but BSF did not give the permission and so the victim was kept at the hospital under surveillance and restraint of the BSF officers. On next day; 21.07.12, BSF submitted one complaint before Swarupnagar Police Station which was registered as FIR at Police Station vide Swarupnagar PS case no. 359 / 2012 dated 21 July 2012 under Sections 147 / 148 / 149 / 186 / 188 / 353 / 333 / 307 / 413 / 414 of Indian Penal Code where BSF have admitted about the firing and the bullet injury of the victim.

 

On 3rd August 2012, the victim Mr. Safed Sardar was released by the doctor of R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata. The family members were duly informed by the police from one mobile number (913325304557) to take back victim to his home. When brother of victim along with Mr. Zamat Sardar reached at R. G. Kar Medical College &Hospital, Kolkata, some BSF personnel (of Kalyani, as informed by them) with arms told them that Safed is in their custody, so they will take him. So the family members returned back without Safed as he was not handed over to his family members by the BSF. At that time Mr. Safed was admitted at Bed no. 25 of Surgical Ward of R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata. Till date he is lying in captivity at the same hospital. Though, the victim is supposedly in police custody, but no police personnel guarding him rather BSF is doing the job, which is an outright illegal act.  

 

On 24.07.12 Ms. Ruksana Bibi, wife of Mr. Safed Sardar lodged one written complaint before the Superintendent of Police, Barasat, North 24 Parganas over the incident as stated above and in the complaint she sought for appropriate legal action against the perpetrators BSF officers, but till date no action has been taken by the Police.

Image

– 
Kirity Roy
Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
(MASUM)
&
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place
Shibtala
Srirampur
Hooghly
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax – +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
e. mail : kirityroy@gmail.com
Web: www.masum.org.in

16,000 ‘illegal’ hysterectomies done in Bihar for insurance benefit #VAW


Aug 27,2012- Indian Express

Over 16,000 hysterectomies (surgical removal of the uterus), most of them “unnecessary”, have been reported at private hospitals across Bihar during the last one year allegedly to “avail insurance benefit” under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna.

The RSBY was launched by the Centre in April 2008.

Preliminary investigation by Samastipur, Madhubani and Chhapra district authorities, which reported the maximum number of complaints, showed 10,000 hysterectomies took place in these three districts alone. While Samastipur administration found 1,300 of such operations suspicious, Chhapra has put 1,700 such cases under the scanner. Madhubani conducted over 1,200 such surgeries in a year.

Under the RSBY, a BPL family can avail maximum Rs 30,000 in case of hospitalisation. A BPL family has to pay Rs 30 for getting registered under the health scheme. The government pays the annual premium amount for BPL families.

Bihar has 76 BPL families availing the scheme, under which a biometric smart card is given.

The labour resources department, which is the nodal agency for implementation of RSBY, has sought report from district magistrates of 38 districts. Samastipur DM Kundan Kumar has finalised his report. Saran (Chhapra) DM Vinay Kumar has set up an inquiry team under sub-divisional officer V K Pandey. His report says that most women having undergone the surgery were below 30 years.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered inquiries into the alleged illegal uterus removals last month.

Bihar Labour Resources Minister Janardhan Singh Sigriwal told The Indian Express: “It will be too early to call it a scam. Only five per cent of women in the state have gone for hysterectomy as against the national average of over seven per cent.”

He said that if DMs’ reports suggest any nexus between private hospitals, NGOs and intermediaries to siphon off insurance amount, the government would take action.

“We are waiting for reports from DMs. We have heard about some initial findings from Chhapra and Samastipur. We will get the cases examined by medical teams and then arrive at any conclusion on police action,” Sigriwal said.

IN SAMASTIPUR

8,000 hysterectomies in year — maximum in the state

5,000 in clinics in and around Samastipur town

Private hospitals claimed reimbursement of Rs 12 crore over last one year

One hospital claimed Rs 1.28 crore while another got Rs 97.18 lakh

A clinic in Shahpur Patiori block claimed reimbursement of Rs 55.42 lakh

Another at Dalsingsarai claimed Rs 32.24 lakh

DM’s report said 489 operations were summarily conducted without any need

Some surgeries conducted only on paper

Chhattisgarh eliminates farmer suicides by fudging death data


 

, TNN | Aug 27, 2012, 
 
Chhattisgarh eliminates farmer suicides by fudging death data
An analysis by right-to-food activist Manas Ranjan shows while suicides listed under ‘self-employed (farming/agriculture)’ have been falling, those under ‘self-employed (other)’ and ‘other’ have been rising, indicating farmer suicides are being concealed in categories that are less noticeable and politically sensitive.
RAIPUR: The sky is overcast, the fields lush with paddy. A good harvest beckons and to complete the picture of a rural idyll, Chhattisgarh has posted ‘zero’ farmer suicides for 2011. For a state that has consistently reported the highest rate of farmer suicides in India, with 1,773 cases in 2008; 1,802 in 2009; and 1,126 in 2010, eliminating farmer suicides would be a thundering achievement. But a ground investigation shows this may be nothing more than a statistical feat. 

Half an hour’s drive from Raipur, in Abhanpur, the annual police report, seen by TOI, records 12 cases of farmer suicides in 2011. This report was sent to the police headquarters in Raipur, but as the state-wide compilation submitted to the National Crime Records Bureaushows, the data was lost in transit. 

The additional director-general of police, Ram Niwas, says, “We found constables in police stations were making mistakes in entering data. Even traders and businessmen were shown as farmers. So we have corrected the mistakes in the headquarters.” 

An analysis by right-to-food activist Manas Ranjan shows while suicides listed under ‘self-employed (farming/agriculture)’ have been falling, those under ‘self-employed (other)’ and ‘other’ have been rising, indicating farmer suicides are being concealed in categories that are less noticeable and politically sensitive. 

Dead farmers vanish from Chhattisgarh records 

All his life, Tulsi Ram Gond laboured at others’ fields, barely making ends meet. But after he drank pesticide and killed himself on December 18 last year, he was no longer a farmer, it seems. Chhattisgarh reported that no farmer had committed suicide in 2011. It isn’t clear if the police did categorize Tulsi Ram as a farmer or snuck him under ‘other’, a less troublesome category. 

Tulsi Ram Gond’s world came apart last year when his baby daughter was diagnosed with a hole in her heart. The hospital gave an estimate of Rs 1.5 lakh for the surgery. “He was told the government helps out in such cases but he didn’t know where to go,” says Durpad Bai, Tulsi Ram’s mother. 

On the night of December 18, 2011, the 30-year-old tribal farmer of Seoni village in Abhanpur, drank pesticide in his small brick tenement and died within hours. His baby daughter died a few months later. Within days, a dozen claimants, including representatives of the local bank, the village society and countless others, showed up at the doorstep demanding repayment for loans worth Rs 1,85,500. 

Poverty, mounting debt, catastrophic health expenses — the ‘marg jayaram’ or death register maintained by the local police records the circumstances of Tulsi Ram’s death in great detail, along with the fact that he did not own the land he cultivated, and was a farm labourer. In reality, he was a sharecropper, cultivating four acres of borrowed land. 

In its annual report, the Abhanpur police recorded some 12 cases of farmer suicide in 2011. But by the time the state-wide data was compiled, the statistics had disappeared. 

Those tracking farmer suicides are not surprised. “States are fudging data to conceal the extent of farmer suicides, either at the primary level, or at the state level,” says Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, agricultural scientist at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. 

Despite reporting the highest rate of farmer suicides in India for years, there are no clear studies documenting farming distress in Chhattisgarh. On the surface, farming in the predominantly paddy-growing state is less insecure, compared with the neighbouring cotton-growing region of Vidarbha. The state government buys bulk of the paddy produce at ever-rising minimum support prices. But agricultural expert Sanket Thakur has pointed out that paddy growers of Chhattisgarh are typically small and marginal farmers, and if not the vagaries of market, the vagaries of monsoon are enough to bring them down. 

In the first week of 2012, Sevak Ram, a farmer in Khapri village in Baloda Bazaar district, walked out of his house to attend to his fields, but was found the next morning in the meadows, hanging from a palaash tree. His family and friends speak in muted tones when asked why he ended his life. No reason, they say. But as the conversation turns to the state of agriculture, they become animated, discussing the rising prices of fertilizers and pesticides, and the un0certainty of rains and crop returns. 

“It didn’t rain enough last year. We only managed to harvest half the crop,” says Jayant Ram, Sevak Ram’s brother. At the local police station, last year’s death register records 25 suicides, of which seven are listed as ‘housewives’, one as ‘student’, another as ‘unemployed’, and the remaining 16 are simply noted as ‘agyaat’ or ‘unknown’.

India- Is the govt caught in the ‘censorship’ web?


We have seen a raging controversy around the government decision over the last week to ten days to block a few hundred web pages and some Twitter handles. After many protests, the government insisted that it had only clamped down web pages that actually were capable of inciting communal violence or contributing to the unrest. But is that really the case, or is this the case of the government blurring the lines between free speech and hate speech? Is this about political censorship?

Watch the NDTV debate– http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/we-the-people/is-the-govt-caught-in-the-censorship-web/244248