Sri Lanka’s policy towards witnesses is revenge, not reconciliation


 

Dr Niron knows the Sri Lankan army targeted hospitals in 2009. Every time he passed their location on to the International Red Cross so they could share the information with the Sri Lankan military, the site was bombed within days, if not hours.

He looks like any other short dark balding Tamil man, wrapped in a thick fleece against the unfamiliar chill. A political refugee from northern Sri Lanka, now he lives in a tranquil landscape of pine trees and glaciers on the Atlantic Coast. Nobody in his country of refuge knows his past or gives him a second glance but back home patients, who owe him their lives, discretely visit his relatives to offer thanks. For them he’s a hero.

‘Call me Niron: I have to be careful. Any problem caused by me and they will take revenge,’ he says, referring to the Sri Lankan authorities who’ve been questioning his friends to find out where he escaped. ‘They were looking for me…Now they realise our importance as witnesses,’ he explains.

Dr Niron, not his real name, served as a doctor in northern Sri Lanka at the brutal culmination of the civil war in 2009 as the military used scorched earth tactics to crush Tamil insurgents, who in turn used child soldiers and suicide bombers. Though he worked inside rebel-held territory Dr. Niron was employed by the central government whose bureaucracy extended throughout the island.

When the Sri Lankan military drove the Tigers into a tiny pocket of land along the eastern coast, Dr Niron and hundreds of thousands of civilians went with the rebels, unaware that a bloodbath was coming in which the UN would later estimate up to 40,000 people died in just five months. Legal experts for the  UN Secretary General later warned that Sri Lanka’s  conduct “represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law” though there was evidence that both sides committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Though he had many opportunities to flee, Dr Niron decided his duty was to his patients. He stayed in the war zone even though the government ordered him out and stopped paying his salary.

As the frontline advanced and the population was crammed into a tiny sandy coastal spit, Dr Niron set up makeshift operating theatres in public buildings, homes, tents and then finally under a tree. In January 2009 he was the last person to speak to a young nurse minutes before she stepped into the yard of Uddayarkattu Hospital and was blown to pieces by a shell. She is just one of many colleagues Dr Niron mourns. Two thousand shells fell, he says, in those last ten days in January right inside an area the government had just declared safe for civilians.

There were far too many patients to operate on and life-saving drugs were running short. Normally the central government supplied civilian hospitals inside rebel areas but as the fighting intensified officials became less keen on helping people who might sympathise with the enemy. Dr Niron says all the government sent was paracetamol, allergy tablets, vitamins and a local anesthetic used for dental extraction. There was nothing to treat war wounds, despite desperateappeals from the doctors. A March 2009 Wikileaks cable has diplomats warning the Sri Lankan government that denying medical supplies to injured civilians was unconscionable. When the doctors themselves openly complained they were threatened with disciplinary action for embarrassing the government.

Blood for transfusions ran out. By the end Dr Niron was so desperate to save a sixteen-year-old-girl who needed bowel surgery, that he resorted to donating his own blood before operating. One of his worst memories is treating the survivors of an attack in April 2009 on a queue of women queuing for milk for their babies. In the hospital, he struggled to insert needles for the intravenous drips into the tiny veins of injured toddlers. ‘They were so small the veins would collapse. So we made small incisions and took the vein and put the drip in that way,’ he remembers, still haunted by the sound of those children crying.

As the shelling grew more intense, Dr Niron operated inside a bunker inside a building, reinforced with layers of sturdy palm-tree trunks and sandbags. One day a bomblet flew into the room and lodged itself in the roof. He believes it belonged to a cluster bomb – a weapon the Sri Lankan government denies having used. On another occasion the doctor believes he himself was injured by white phosphorous while in a densely populated civilian area. The initial blast was quite different from usual explosions and the resulting wounds were unlike anything he’d seen in his years in casualty wards.

At first Dr Niron assumed the attacks on his makeshift hospitals were a terrible accident. He had red crosses painted on the roofs of his buildings so they’d be clearly visible from the air. He sent the GPS coordinates of each new hospital to the International Red Cross so they could share the information with the Sri Lankan military. Every time he did this the makeshift hospitals were hit within days, if not hours. Eventually he learned his lesson. There were five smaller hospitals, with no red crosses, whose locations he never passed on. Not a single one of those five buildings was ever hit. Dr Niron concluded that the military were deliberately targeting hospitals. ‘They were attacking purposefully; they wanted to kill as many as possible,’ he says.

His conclusion is borne out by a United Nations report that found that all civilian hospitals on the frontline were systematically shelled by the Sri Lankan government during those months, some even “hit repeatedly, despite the fact that their locations were well-known to the Government”. The authors of the report said that in early February one of the two remaining hospitals in rebel territory was attacked with multi-barreled rocket launchers and artillery for five days in a row while up to 800 patients were inside. Human Rights Watch also documented more than thirty attacks on hospitals in those months. One incoming rocket was even captured on video. International staff from the ICRC were present during an attack on a hospital and called the army six times to warn them their shells were falling dangerously close to the hospital building. They were not given proper access to the war zone again. When the war ended, the ICRC said it had seen a lot of wars, but rarely one where civilians had been so badly affected. It was, they said, an ‘unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe’.

Dr Niron is the only one of his colleagues who managed to evade arrest at the end of the war.  Strangely this brave man feels he failed because he abandoned 150 patients under a tree to die on the last day of the war as he ran for his life. He can’t stand the sight of blood anyone and no longer wants to be a doctor. There have even been times when he’s contemplated suicide.

There are other medics and volunteers from the hospitals still emerging from Sri Lanka with testimony that supports the doctor’s account and the findings of lawyers and human rights researchers. But the Sri Lankan government and many of its supporters in the south of the island simply deny any of this happened and blame everything on the Tamil Tiger rebels. It’s a short sighted policy that will hamper any kind of reconciliation or understanding between the different ethnic groups. The trauma for Tamil survivors like Dr Niron is so deep that it’s simply not possible to forgive and forget and move on. At the very least their suffering – unprecedented even by the bloody standards of Sri Lanka’s civil war – needs acknowledging.


Frances Harrison is a former BBC foreign correspondent based in Sri Lanka. Her book of accounts of survivors from Sri Lanka’s civil war “Still Counting the Dead” is published today (Oct 4 2012) in the UK and online in ebook form byPortobello Books

 

Enough is enough. Disabled people are driven to suicide because of the Government’s welfare reform


NICKY CLARK. The Independent

Thursday 4 October 2012

As a survey reveals that disabled patients have been driven to suicide due to the Government‘s fitness to work test, it’s time to fight back.

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  • 20% of GPshad at least one disabled patient who had thought about suicide due to the fitness to work test
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Six per cent of doctors have experienced a patient who has attempted – or committed – suicide as a result of “undergoing, or fear of undergoing” the Government’s fitness to work test.

The survey, highlighted by Exaro, the investigative website also found 14 per cent had patients who had self-harmed as a result of the test.

As I’m commenting on this, I’m so angry that the words are crashing against one another in my fury.

People are either contemplating, or actually committing suicide, because their Government, our Government, are pushing through with policies which defy all understanding.

The survey found that one in five GPs had at least one disabled patient who had thought about suicide because of the test.

There are people are dying because their elected representatives have chosen to make the welfare reform a reality.

In 2011, the Government ordered that everyone on incapacity benefit, some two million people, should be assessed.

This is just the beginning as George Osbourne set out plans for £18 billion in welfare savings by 2014-15. And yet it seems to me that disabled people are always remembered for a politician’s PR photo opportunity, but forgotten when it comes to pushing through dehumanising policy.

This is robbing disabled people of life chances and meaningful existence, but with an eye to the polls, the votes and the perceived will of the public, no one will speak out.

These men and women are choosing death because life is offering no meaningful option. They have no champion, they have no hope. So they tell their doctor. These doctors are ignored by the people paid to bring the savings, but these same doctors have made an oath to save lives.

#Barwani-Adivasi women workers WIN #goodnews #mustshare


 Shivraj  Singh Chauhan : Release illegally detained  Adivasis now !!

 

JAGRUT ADIVAI DALIT SANGHATAN
BARWANI, MADHYA PADESH

Press note- 5.10.12


ADIVASI WOMEN WORKERS WIN : CARRY OUT A RALLY THROUGH BADWANI TOWN ON THE ISSUE OF DELAYED PAYEMNTS AND CORRUPTION UNDER MGNERGA AFTER BEING BLOCKED BY THE ADMNISTRATION FOR TWO DAYS.

Agitating Adivasi workers decide to give a chance to  Committee that will investigate and resolve the cases of delayed payments and address the rampant corruption under MGNREGA in Barwani District

Thousands of Adivasi women who refused to be cowed down by threats and hostility took out a rally after two days of blockading by the administration and threats by vested interests. The women marched to the Zilla Panchayat office through Barwani town and reiterated their demands in front the of the CEO, Zila Panchayat.  The Adivasi workers have been agitating against delayed payments and for checking the vast irregularities and corruption under NRGEGA. Many of the adivasi  workers have not  received payments for the past 6 months and many have not been paid for over a year which has created a deep survival crisis for the families.

The Adivasi workers declared that  since the Principal Secretary, Ms Aruna Sharma  has instituted a process for systemic  changes to check rampant corruption and  the payment of delayed wages, they will give this process a chance. They will  now return to their villages and facilitate and monitor the work of the committee.  But they also declared that if this committee too fails them and is not able to release their payments as well as to stem the rampant corruption and vast irregularities under MGNREGA, then they will be forced to agitate not just against the district administration but also the state government. It is to be noted that the committee has been instituted because of the continued efforts of the adivasi workers who have been agitating against delayed payments and corruption for a long time.

The women while marching through the streets of Badwani questioned why  the MLA, Shri Prem singh Patel is opposing their legal demands and also why some local traders have joined him in threatening adivasis .They also expressed solidarity with the people and workers of Badwani town saying that their issues are common,  They appealed to the public of Barwani town to join them in their struggle.

Meanwhile Narmada Bachao Andolan has issued a solidarity statement with JADS asking the vyapari sanghtan why they are protesting against the valid demands of the adivasi workers who are demanding their legal rights. They appealed to them to support the struggle of the adivasi workers in the interest of justice for the people instead of standing with corrupt vested interest and resorting to goondaism. That a corruption free Badwani would also be in the interest of the traders. Therefore they should extend support.

 

Law panel for making honour killings non-bailable offence


AGENCIES,  New Delhi, Mon Oct 01 2012

The Law Commission has recommended that honour killings be made a non-bailable offence and advocated a seven-year jail term for caste panchayat members found guilty of persecuting legally married couples in the name of honour.

In its latest report, the Commission headed by Justice P V Reddi also asked the government to explore the possibility of a new law to prohibit unlawful caste assemblies which take decisions to condemn marriages not prohibited by law.

“No person or any group shall assemble to condemn any marriage not prohibited by law, on the basis that it dishonoured the caste or community,” the report stated.

“These offending acts imperilling the liberty of young persons marrying or intending to marry according to their wishes are being perpetrated in certain parts of the country and need to be effectively checked,” Justice Reddi wrote to Law Minister Salman Khurshid in the report before he demitted office recently.

The Commission, however, has rejected the government’s suggestion of defining honour killing as a specific offence in the Indian Penal Code (Section 300), stating that the existing provisions were sufficient.

It has also turned down the government’s view that onus of proving innocence in honour killings cases must be shifted on the accused.

Justifying the need for a separate law to deal with unlawful assemblies which lead to honour killings, the panel has pointed out that the existing criminal law lacks direct application to illegal acts of such assemblies.

“The caste councils or panchayats popularly called ‘khaps’ try to adopt the chosen course of moral vigilantism and this needs to be immediately checked,” the Commission stated.

The new law proposed by the Commission has defined three separate offences, with a maximum jail term of seven years for those found guilty of criminally intimidating married couples.

It has disagreed with the Supreme Court’s suggestion that death sentence be applied to all honour killing cases.

“With great respect, we are constrained to say that such a blanket direction given by the Supreme Court making death sentence a rule in ‘honour killings’ cases, makes a departure from the principles firmly entrenched in our criminal jurisprudence by virtue of a series of decisions rendered by larger Benches of Supreme Court,” the Commission said.

It said that it is settled law that aggravating and mitigating circumstances should be weighed and it is only in very exceptional and rare cases, death sentence should be imposed.

“Death sentence, in other words, is a last resort. Further, where there is more than one accused, the degree of participation and culpability may vary,” it added.

Death penalty for family members in India ‘honour killing’


 

The house where Asha and Yogesh were killedThe young couple was beaten, tortured and electrocuted in Asha’s uncle’s home in Delhi
OCT 5, 2012, New Delhi

Five members of a family in the Indian capital, Delhi, have been sentenced to death for the brutal murder of a young couple in 2010.

Yogesh and Asha were tortured and electrocuted in a so-called honour killing by members of Asha’s family who objected to the union on caste grounds.

Asha’s parents, her uncle, aunt and a cousin were arrested the day after the crime. They were convicted on Monday.

Last year the Supreme Court said honour killings should get the death penalty.

There are no statistics on the number of honour killings across the country, but according to one recent study, hundreds of people are killed each year for falling in love or marrying against their families’ wishes.

Most parents in India still prefer arranged marriages within their own caste and relationships outside of caste are frowned upon.

The couple, who were neighbours in the Gokulpuri area of north-east Delhi, were taken by Asha’s parents to her uncle’s house in the Swaroop Nagar area of the city where the torture and killings took place.

Asha’s family was opposed to the couple’s plans to get married because Yogesh belonged to a lower caste. All five accused were convicted on Monday for “murder and voluntarily causing hurt”.

“It can be safely concluded that the prosecution has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused persons had caused the death of the victims with the common intention after giving them merciless beatings by tying them with rope and thereafter electrocuting them on various parts of their body,” Additional Sessions Judge Ramesh Kumar said on Monday.

 

Two Dalit women working for Rs 15 a month for 42 years #shameindia


Bangalore, October 4, 2012

Special Correspondent

Akku (left) and Leela
Akku (left) and Leela

Here is a classic case that will reveal how the “high-handedness” of a few officials has affected the lives of two Dalit women in Udupi.

The two women, Akku and Leela, have put in about four decades of service at the Government Women Teachers’ Training Institute on a monthly salary of Rs. 15. Although they were promised that their services would be regularised, they did not get any benefits even after 42 years of service.

After the women approached the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) seeking relief in 2001, the Education Department stopped paying them even that meagre salary of Rs. 15.

Their plight came to light after Ravindranath Shanbhag, president of Udupi-based Human Rights Protection Foundation, took up the matter and followed up the case right up to the Supreme Court.

Addressing presspersons here on Tuesday, Mr. Shanbhag said that although the Supreme Court, the High Court of Karnataka and the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal ruled in favour of the women and directed the government to regularise their services, the order is yet to be implemented by the government.

Meanwhile, the women continue to clean the 21 toilets in the institute all through the year without any payment, he said.

“The Karnataka Administrative Tribunal asked the government in 2003 to regularise them in 90 days and the Karnataka High Court ordered the government to pay their salaries in 2004. Notices were also issued for contempt of court when the directions were not implemented. Instead of paying them salaries, the government filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court in 2005.

“The Supreme Court ruled in the women’s favour in 2010. Despite all this, the women are still waiting to get their benefits,” Mr. Shanbhag said. “Now, the authorities say that the women were not employable because they had reached the retirement age. I am surprised that the government spent lakhs of rupees on fighting the cases against the hapless women rather than pay what is due to them.

Is there any other court above the Supreme Court that can give justice to these women?” Mr. Shanbhag asked and urged the government to pay what is due to the women.

Naxalism a result of an oversight of statutes, says SC


 

  
Utkarsh Anand : New Delhi, Wed Oct 03 2012,  Indian Express

Emphasising on validation of rights of tribals and forest-dwellers over the forest lands, the Supreme Court has said that Naxalism was a result of an oversight of constitutional provisions relating to administration of schedule areas and tribes of the country.

“Nobody looks at Schedules V and VI of the Constitution and the result is Naxalism. Urbanites are ruling the nation. Even several union of India counsel are oblivious of these provisions under the Constitution,” said a Bench led by Justice A K Patnaik.

The Bench made a reference to Schedules V and VI as they contain various provisions relating to administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes in several parts of the country. These provisions apply to states like Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Rajasthan and Northeastern states such as Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. Essentially these Constitutional provisions, with the help of plethora of judgments by the apex court, act as a guarantee to indigenous people on the right over the land they live in and its produce.

During a recent hearing on fresh guidelines over tiger reserves, the Bench made certain queries from Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising over the Centre’s proposal to relocate indigenous people who were still living in the core areas of tiger reserves.

The ASG had informed the Bench there were around 43,000 families still residing in core areas of tiger reserves and that the plan was to gradually move them out after proper consultation with Gram Sabhas. On being asked about the legal provisions to support the argument, she also read out from the 2006 Forest Rights Act and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act.

Asserting that all stakeholders should first ensure the legal rights of the tribals are not violated, Justice Patnaik said their rights must be settled in accordance with the provisions of the law.

“There is apparently no human-tiger conflict at least as far as these tribals are concerned. Everyone must remember that forests belong to forest-dwellers. British government considered forests of immense value and said through laws that all forests belonged to government. These people were brought down to poverty and they couldn’t earn their living. They will be arrested for consuming the forest produce; such was their law,” said Justice Patnaik.

His concerns were echoed by senior advocate Dushyanat Dave, who said forest-dwellers used to get arrested trying and collect wood or pick fruits from the forests.

The Bench, however, seemed satisfied with the promulgation of the 2006 Forest Rights Act and said this situation was sought to be reversed by the new legislation as it sought to identify their rights.

“One law can make a big difference. Zamindari abolition law is a good example how a law can reverse the situation,” said Justice Patnaik, adding it was not the state but its forest departments’ officers who did not want to give up their control over the forests.

At this, the ASG said the Centre was conscious of its duty towards protecting the rights of forest-dwellers and would relocate them after following the legal process.

 

Some questions for Guwahati men #VAW #gender #mustread


 

GUEST POST BY- Krishna Malakar

In the year 1991, my family shifted to Guwahati from a village in the outskirts of the city in the hope of better education for their children, better facilities and in all, a better standard of living. I was two years old at that time. I have spent my entire school life in Guwahati. After my class 12th boards, I enrolled myself in Delhi University for higher education. I stayed in Delhi for five years. Now I have come back to my hometown, Guwahati to prepare for entrance examinations for pursuing a PhD. I am delighted to be back home. Staying with one’s own family is a different joy altogether but once I step out of my house it’s a strange world I encounter outside. The men in the streets do not allow me to be what I am as a woman. I have to keep my eyes low or straight on the street in front of me. Otherwise I will fall eye to eye with some staring loser and sometimes end up swallowing comments like ‘Madam, where to?’ or ‘what is your rate?’  Sigh! I have vomited my frustration in the following paragraphs and whatever I have written is based on my own and my women friends’ experiences and contains no real statistics.

In these last few years, there have been some major changes in the city’s infrastructure and lifestyle. A number of flyovers have sprung up, international fast food outlets like KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, etc. have opened up their franchises, international clothing brands are easily available, number of internet and mobile phone users have increased manifold, easy access to international TV channels and so on. The youth and the middle-aged men wear jeans. (The earlier generation used to wear trousers and the generation earlier to them used to wear dhotis). These days, people enjoy Hollywood movies and listen to Akon, Mettalica, Black Eyed peas etc. There have been visible changes in people’s lifestyle and such change is inevitable. Many ‘international’ things have successfully taken place in our lives but ‘international’ thinking has failed to seep into the minds of Guwahatians. People still consider a girl wearing shorts, skirts, or having a drink as a taboo.

Strange it may sound given that Northeast India is considered more ‘women- friendly’ than rest of India but I have experienced more eve teasing in these last three months of my stay in Guwahati than in the entire five years in Delhi put together.

I generally dress in full-length jeans and tops or kurtis. It’s a personal choice I make. Tomorrow if I wish to wear shorts on the streets I would like to wear one. It is none of people’s business what I am wearing. But the problem lies in the fact that even if I cover my entire body, I deserve to be teased, as I am a woman, it is not because what I am wearing but because what my gender is. Thank you Society, you have indeed been successful in keeping ‘a girl within her limits’! No late night parties for girls otherwise she will be tagged as a prostitute (especially in Guwahati). No skirts and shorts, girls! Now people will question me why do I want to wear skirts and shorts like girls do in metro cities or other countries, why don’t I follow my own culture. I would say that I love my culture and I love Assamese clothing. I always make it a point to wear a mekhla chadar (a traditional Assamese woman- wear) during Saraswati Puja. I would jump at any occasion where I can adorn a mekhla chadar or a sari. But when I go to meet my friends in a mall (mall is not a part of Assamese culture, by the way), I would like to wear a western outfit. After this statement I hope people don’t think of closing malls and fast food joints as they are instigating girls to wear western outfits! If Guwahatians can accommodate malls, fast food, English songs, and western outfits for boys then why can’t people accept girls wearing western clothes?

I remember reading somewhere that the blouse that is worn with a sari is actually a western innovation. It is not a part of Indian culture. Previously, women used to wear saris without a blouse, which is still the preferred way to dress among some ethnic cultures. In mekhela chadars and saris, the back and the belly of a woman are clearly visible, then why can’t girls wear tops where the belly is hardly visible! Saris expose more body than skirts. Why can’t girls wear skirts then? We can’t blame a girl’s clothes for a man’s behavior. Even fully clothed women in saris and kurtas become victims of a man’s touch or comment. What do the people of the civilized society have to say on this? Is it a curse to be woman and hence be subjected to humiliation? Shouldn’t men be taught to behave rather than teaching girls to sit at homes? When will Guwahati men stop sexualizing every other woman they see on the street?

Also, people here in Guwahati consider women who drink as ‘characterless’. When will people get rid of these primitive ideas? If a man drinks in a gentlemanly way and do not create a scene, his character is considered to be intact. Why does not the same thing apply to women? Don’t we women have the right to enjoy a few cheerful drinks with our friends?

In Guwahati, open urination is such a popular hobby among men! Keeping public places clean is an alien etiquette for them. They don’t even bother to find a secluded place to attend to nature’s call. If a girl passes by them, she will turn their heads in the opposite direction out of embarrassment, but our Guwahati men are macho enough to continue staring the girl while peeing. Bravo! There has been no protest in Guwahati against men exposing their most private parts in public.

When I was in Delhi I used to read newspaper reports about rapes almost everyday and most rape incidents occurred at secluded areas and at late nights. There have been number of molestation cases also outside pubs and nightclubs. But X-ray stares, hoots, whistles, leering and jeering from men were rare in my experience, maybe 2 out of 10 men will do so. But here in Guwahati, in broad daylight, starting from early morning to late night, almost every man in the street will stare at you and some of the passing guys will make loud audible comments at you. And this is not limited to poor and illiterate males; males belonging to almost every class of the society shamelessly participate in eve teasing. Even education seems to have failed to bring in refinement of the male mental faculty. For me, in Guwahati, people trying to touch me in public buses, people colliding with me intentionally when I walk on the footpath or in markets are common. But in Delhi, I haven’t faced ‘pre- planned collisions’.

In Delhi, the participating male sees molestation as an offence. The police will never dare to portray the girl in a bad light. The media, intellectuals and the NGOs are supportive. But in Guwahati, if you are a woman and a victim of molestation, most of the local TV channels will title the news as ‘Girl creates ruckus in public area’ and the police will arrive half an hour late to take the girl ‘who was behaving indecently’ away from the angry mob. No action will be taken against the mob at that instant. The viewers seeing all of these on TV at home will curse the girl, question her character and blame her for whatever had happened to her. Only after the news is nationalized, is on youtube and facebook the regional media and the police will realize that a heinous crime has been committed against the girl and the mob should have been arrested.

The regional media features stories every now and then on how the Assamese youth, especially girls, are threats to ‘Assamese culture’ and how moral cleansing is the need of the hour. Here in Guwahati most of the people, especially the youth are scared of TV camerapersons. Most camerapersons are very efficient in capturing couples on their cameras spending some ‘lovey dovey’ time in parks. They film girls wearing shorts, skirts on streets (without their knowledge) and feature them in stories discussing how Assamese girls have lost their moral values in these modern times. Even girls wearing quarter length pants are not spared. People get pleasure in watching news stories about how leggings worn by girls beneath their kurtas get wet in the rain and become transparent. That particular channel where this story was aired is of the opinion that girls should not wear leggings and wear cotton pyjamas that do not stick to the skin. How ridiculous! Is this what the media is for? I think the situation has become a lot worse for young women after the state has been blessed with 24- hours news channels.

Yes, I agree women are oppressed all over the world. There have been complaints against molestation, rape, and domestic violence from even developed countries. Unlike the Punjabis and Haryanvis who take pride in their loud and rowdy attitude, the Assamese society takes pride in their peace loving, meek and polite attitude. But I am saddened to say that my observations have been contradictory to the above statement. Majority of Guwahati men are definitely not meek and polite. Just the other day, my female friend (who is on a visit from Delhi) and I were complimented with whistles and comments like ‘amaak fuck koribo diba neki?’ (‘Will you allow us to fuck you?’) in a city park! On another occasion the same day a man in his 30s commented on how my friend’s breasts were like apples in front of strangers on the streets. This is nothing new; I have been facing such harassment since as long as I can remember. Even 10 years back, I had to deal with men caressing my body while they passed by me. 10 years back, as a little girl, I used to shout at them. But now, after 10 years, I am afraid to raise my voice. I fear if I raise my voice, I may become a target of mob rage, I may get molested and become the next ‘indecent girl’ news story. I have been made to realize that it is better to listen to the dirty comments than actually give them a chance to touch me with their dirty hands.

Is it so hard for Guwahati men to behave as humans? Their sisters and mothers must be going through the same, don’t they think about them before making a comment on a girl on the street? Is teasing and molesting women, are part of Assamese culture? When will the media start acting in a responsible and ethical manner and stop imposing a new form of ‘talibanism’? When will women themselves stop looking down upon women who have been victims of molestation, rape or eve teasing? When will men think that a girl wearing shorts is not an invitation for them to tease or molest? When men have accepted westernization in their lifestyle, why can’t women be a part of it? I do not think its impossible to answer these questions if someone really attempts to.

Krishna Malakar

Guwahati

contact her at  krishnamalakar26@gmail.com 

 

India- Scrap outdated #Mental Health Bill- Activists


 

PLEASE  CLICK HERE AND SIGN ONLINE  PETITION TO BE SUBMITTED TO HEALTH MINISTER ON 10TH OCT

Petition health minister over inclusion of archaic psychosurgery and electro-shock treatment, which is banned in many countries #MENTALHEALTH

 

Jyoti Shelar, MUMBAI MIRROR OCT 5TH
Health Minister: Repeal of the   Draconian Mental Health Law

Posted On Friday, October 05, 2012 at 04:15:43 AM

Human rights activists are upset about a new proposed Mental Health Care bill that retains outdated and controversial treatment techniques such as electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and psychosurgery- neurosurgical treatment for mental disorders.While many term the draft bill as ‘patient friendly’, some activists feel that the bill represents the ‘over-medicalisation’ of mental health when it should instead concentrate on the most effective therapies.

On Thursday, activists started an online petition demanding the bill be quashed. The petition letter, addressed to Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad, demands that all rights of people with psychosocial disabilities should be covered under the recently drafted Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2012, and that the MHC Bill be given a quiet burial.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill guarantees the ‘legal capacity’ and the ‘right to choice’ of all persons with disabilities, including those with psychosocial disabilities.

“The MHC Bill, on the other hand, only looks at medicalisation of mental health issues. We are amazed that the bill retains the archaic and horrendous ECT or shock treatment, which has been banned by most countries,” said Kamayani Bali Mahabal, a lawyer and human rights activist.

According to Mahabal, the bill also retains the option of psychosurgery, which has always been controversial. “Mental health treatment needs to be more therapy-based than medicine-based,” said Mahabal.

The activists are of a view that mental health patients need community-based treatment with groups and peer support, neighborhood care systems, conflict reduction and peace building strategies, supportive counselling, addressing stigma, trauma-informed services, and a range of other alternatives.

According to Dr Sanjay Kumawat, medical superintendent of Thane Mental Hospital, the draft bill may need some modifications, but feels the demand to do away with ECT and psychosurgery is unreasonable. “ECT has proved beneficial for many patients. If ECT is performed following guidelines – using muscle relaxants and anesthesia – and is going to benefit the patient, I don’t see any harm,” said Kumawat.

Psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla agreed. “Patient benefit is the most important factor and I think this bill is extremely patient friendly. There are a few points that need clarity. For example, the bill says that patient’s consent is needed for any psychosurgery. However the bill does not explain if a nominee can give their consent if the patient is unable to do so,” said Matcheswalla.

Dr AK Kala, a senior psychiatrist from Ludhiana, added, “The old type of neurosurgeries, which landed patients in a vegetative state, are not performed anymore. In India, very few psychosurgeries are performed, and the bill is trying to regulate those. It states that a government committee has to approve all psychosurgeries, which is a good thing.”