The Violence of the Lambs #Vaw #Rape


gangrape

30SundayDec 2012

Sankarshan Thakur

New Delhi, Dec. 29: Well before the candles were lit this evening, the one at the centre of it all had been blown. Jantar Mantar was aglow with the light of the extinguished one — a suffering life that had stopped to struggle in the dead of night and given on to a morning of outcry and crying, condoling and condemnation.

Well before the Singapore hospital gurney was cleared of the remains of a feast of cannibal lust, well before she returned home for her final journey, her tragedy had been robbed the courtesies of silence, her wake abducted to a raucous stage of bickering over who’s to pay.

It’s not just summary gallows for those that have committed a crime that challenges the limits of barbarity, the hooded six who must now countenance the unspeakable darkness they brought upon a young woman’s life. It’s not just “down-down” to the Delhi police whose wanton derelictions have frequently deserved derision. It’s death knell for Manmohan Singh’s UPA, whose second watch has recurrently been slapped with virulently adverse verdict: corruption, chicanery, and now callousness.

It ceases to strike a chord when the Prime Minister empathises in the name of being a father of three daughters. It ceases to assure when his government moves rapidly to nab the culprits.

It raises suspicions when he decides, on expert medical counsel, to transport the victim abroad for speciality care: it’s to wash their hands of her, it’s to wish a storm off their doors, the mob screams. “Where’s the government? Why is it in hiding? Why these cordons, it’s a free country, isn’t it?”

It ceases to impress that the man the UPA is lining up to succeed Manmohan Singh has notions of representing the new India, the youth, the future. Rahul Gandhi rankles; he has become the object of street satire.

“The youth are here,” cried a voice above the clamour of Jantar Mantar today, “but where is the youth icon?”

It came followed by a more pointed taunt spun on Rahul’s bid to erect a campaign on atrocities against women in western UP last year. “Kahan hai Bhatta Parsaul ka maseeha (where is the messiah of Bhatta Parsaul)?”

Jeers followed, cheers followed, if they could have clapped a government down, they would have at Jantar Mantar.

This is more than a picket against rape and murder, more than an irate remonstration against a metro’s descent into disorder. The often unremarked irony this past week has been that Delhi has been the scene of disorder protesting disorder, a dodgy flirtation with uncivil liberties.

Prohibitory orders flouted, barricades toppled, restricted ramparts climbed, bricks chucked. The citizenry has turned to twist the very arm it has demanded better protection from. It has seemed at war with the very system it has subscribed to.

This is more than a picket against rape and murder; this is urban civil society’s second enraged run on the government. The Anna upsurge re- ignited by flames torn from coffin-side poignancy and turned into a flambeau against an establishment this march wants dumped.

Four years ago, on the crest of an unprecedented growth rate, India’s metros raved Manmohan Singh into a second term — man of integrity, man of vision, Singh is King. He’s turned a man with a headpiece full of straw in the eyes of the same votaries; they’d sooner make an effigy of him and set fire to it. The once-anointed herdsman countenanced with the violence of the lambs; so what if he has put the locks on the six Hannibal Lecters.

A trickle seeped through the khaki-choked arteries of central Delhi this morning, a renewed eddy of anger and anguish nudged into a security flue and deposited into one secured auricle of a convulsed heart: Jantar Mantar. It was cold; the minders of the capital had assumed firm grip on just how high they would allow temperatures, how many beats they’d permit the city’s pulse.

The avenues leading in to Rajpath’s central vista stood sealed; use of the Metro in the Lutyens neighbourhood was proscribed; an undeclared curfew sat up and along Raisina Hill whose unruly, blood-curdling siege last week had panicked the government into volatile recoil: cane-charge, water cannon, tear gas, trample-chase.

This afternoon, the helmeted policeman behind the barricade spoke out a practised instruction: “Not allowed, Sir, warna sarkari I-card ho ya VIP ho to bolo.” Entry prohibited, tell us if you have a government identity card or are a VIP.

Pigeons fluttered over the square, an eerie echo ringing from their flap over the colonnaded emptiness. “Parinde hain,” the policeman said, as if to assure they had a licence, “parinde aur police to kahin bhi jaa sakte hain (they’re only birds; birds and policemen can go anywhere).”

Saturdays are cooling days for the government behemoth. The weeklong hum of air-conditioning takes a break in the vast blocks of bureaucracy, shutdown switches are thrown on computers, metal detectors stop beeping, the phones fall silent, the shadows turn mostly inanimate and Delhi’s resplendent trees get hosed.

This Saturday, the government had curled behind protective metal and uniformed men, cordoned off from a fury that may well refuse to abate anytime soon. It was doing but it was also defensive. It shed tears from its protections, both deeply meant and mandatory, but also futile to the purposes of the protest. Their absence would probably have fuelled more anger, their falling calmed nothing.

“Sonia Gandhi kahan gayi, bhaag gayi, bhaag gayi (where’s Sonia Gandhi, she has fled, she has fled),” ran the chant among one group of demonstrators shortly after the Congress president had appeared on television, near lachrymose at the rending news from Singapore and firm of promise the guilty will be brought to swift justice.

That wasn’t fetching an ear in the islanded torrent of Jantar Mantar. “Sonia Gandhi kahan gayi, bhaag gayi, bhaag gayi!” the cry rippled, almost joyous the opportunity had arrived to thrust another blow at the establishment.

Well before the anti-rape protest descended on Jantar Mantar, it had become clear it wouldn’t be about that one horrific transgression alone. Well before the first candle was lit at Jantar Mantar, it was evident it wasn’t merely a candle.

It was a phosphorescent bulb that has lighted up more than just the darkened room where sexual crime has long heaved and passed, its victims quietly shamed, its shameless perpetrators at large. The bulb now burns in the eye of Raisina Hill.

 

#Kolkatagangrape-Woman allegedly gang-raped, murdered near Kolkata,husband in hospital #Vaw


Edited by Ashish Mukherjee | Updated: December 30, 2012 12:44 IST, NDTV

Woman allegedly gang-raped, murdered near Kolkata

BarasatA 45-year-old woman was murdered after allegedly being gang-raped by eight men in West Bengal‘s Barasat town, about 40 kilometres from Kolkata. Her husband was severely beaten up for trying to prevent the attack and has been admitted to a hospital in Kolkata.A case of murder has been filed and the post- mortem report is awaited to confirm rape. One person has been arrested.

The couple was returning home from a brick kiln after work on Saturday evening when the men started harassing the woman. Some overpowered the husband and the others dragged the wife away. Some acid-like substance was also thrown at the husband’s face.

He managed to free himself and call neighbours for help. They searched for his wife and found her dead near a pond. She was found semi-naked.

The woman’s son said, “She had injuries on her head. They gang-raped and murdered her. My father identified one of them. He has filed a police complaint.”

 

The names of politicians in Indian Parliament with charges of rape, sexual assault #MUSTSHARE


Crimes against women including rape cases declared by MPs, MLAs and candidates

Crimes against women including rape cases declared by MPs, MLAs and candidates

Highlights of the report, by the ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRACTIC RIGHTS (ADR)

  • 6 MLAs have declared that they have charges of rape against themselves in their sworn affidavits submitted with the Election Commission of India at the time of their election.
  • Of these 6 MLAs with declared rape cases, 3 are from SP namely Sribhagwan Sharma, Anoop Sanda and Manoj Kumar Paras from Uttar Pradesh, 1 from BSP namely Mohd. Aleem Khan from Uttar Pradesh, 1 of BJP namely Jethabhai G.Ahir from Gujarat and 1 of TDP namely Kandikunta Venkata Prasad from Andhra Pradesh.
  • 36 other MLAs have declared that they have other charges of crimes against women such as outraging the modesty of a woman, assault, insulting the modesty of a woman etc.
  • Of the 36 MLAs who have declared that they have charges of crimes against women, 6 MLAs are from INC , 5 from BJP and 3 from SP.
  • U.P. has the maximum number of MLAs (8) who have declared that they have charges of crimes against women, followed by Orissa and West Bengal with 7 MLAs each.
  • 2 MPs, namely Semmalai S of ADMK from Salem constituency in Tamil Nadu and Adhikari Suvendu of AITC from Tamluk constituency in West Bengal, have declared that they have charges of crimes against women, such as cruelty and intent to outrage a woman’s modesty etc.

 

Candidates

  • Political Parties gave tickets to 27 candidates who contested the State Elections in the last five years, who have declared that they have been charged with rape.
  • Of these 7 are Independent candidates, 5 have been given tickets by SP, 2 have been given tickets by BJP, 2 are BSP candidates and 1 has been given a ticket by INC.
  • Out of these 27 candidates who declared rape charges, 10 are from Uttar Pradesh, and 5 are from Bihar.
  • Political Parties also gave tickets to 260 other contesting candidates in the Legislative Assembly Elections held in the last five years have declared that they have charges of crimes against women such as outraging the modesty of a woman, assault, insulting the modesty of a woman etc.
  • Out of the 260 candidates who declared that they have been charged with crimes against women, 72 are IND candidates, 24 have been given tickets by the BJP, 26 candidates have been given tickets by the INC, 16 have been given tickets by the SP and 18 have been given tickets by BSP.
  • Maharasthra has the maximum number of such candidates (41), followed by Uttar Pradesh (37) and West Bengal (22).
  • In Lok Sabha 2009 Elections, political parties gave tickets to 6 candidates who declared that they have been charged with rape,
  • Of these, 1 is from RPP, 1 from RCP, 1 from BSP, 1 from JMM and 2 Independent candidates.
  • Out of these 6 candidates who declared rape charges 3 are from Bihar, 1 from Delhi, 1 from Uttar Pradesh and 1 from Andhra Pradesh
  • 34 other contesting candidates from the Lok Sabha 2009 General Elections declared that they have charges of crimes against women.
  • 12 out of the other 34 Lok Sabha 2009 candidates who declared that they have been charged with crimes against women, are IND candidates, 4 are BSP candidates and 2 each from AITC and CPI (ML) (L).
  • Maximum cases of crimes against women are against candidates from Bihar (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), and Uttar Pradesh (5).
  • ADR and NEW strongly recommend that political parties should stop giving tickets to candidates with criminal backgrounds and who have been charged with serious crimes like murder, attempt to murder, especially crimes against women such as rape.

DOWNLAOD FULL REPORT HERE

Report on Crimes against women (MLAs and MPs) V3

 

#Delhigangrape– Protests and the Caste Hindu Paradigm: Of Sacred and Paraded Bodies #Vaw


by  on DECEMBER 27, 2012 ·http://www.dalitweb.org/

Madhuri Xalxo

I am a bit shaken by what outrages the mainstream media on rape. The incident is horrifying and yet so very familiar to us dalit, bahujan and adivasi women.

In the same Delhi, hundreds of adivasi girls are taken as domestic slaves and get raped, and go missing…Why doesn’t the mainstream media even consider that newsworthy? Why is there no uproar for the death penalty for these upper caste men from elite backgrounds raping us? Is it because we are born to get justly raped by the others?

 

The present protests and silences only endorse the caste hindu paradigm that the upper caste woman’s body is sacred and its violation requires the highest retribution while the bodies of dalit, bahujan and adivasi women, and women under military regimes such as Manipur and Kashmir are ‘rape-worthy’ and the men’s sexual depravity on these women need no correctives.

We are trying to grapple with this public display of women leaders’ apathy (not the agitating young girls, but senior women’s rights leaders who are completely aware of contestations from dalit, bahujan and adivasi women) who have always maintained and continue to maintain an indifferent silence over rapes and gang rapes on us, even when it happens in nearby Haryana and Dalit organizations in Delhi worked so hard to get it into a national conversation, indifference was what we have seen from the ones who are now celebrating these protests.

Documented evidence exists of dalit and adivasi women seeking justice against sexual violence, as individual voices and small groups of dedicated activists, which can be seamlessly connected from one end of the country to the other. And this is only a tip of the iceberg, another vast cache of documents (fact-finding missions and news reports) indicate that many of them are not allowed to reach the documentation stage itself. Soni Sori’s case, which is one of the rare adivasi women’s cases that have received some public attention, still languishes and she continues to struggle in the jail with her sexual tormentors (men in uniform) having total control over her life. Following the brutal murder of Manorama, Irom’s unique, prolonged and painful struggle to highlight the crimes against women by AFSPA fails to generate a national protest or even a sustained conversation. It took 26 years of dedicated and consistent struggle by the adivasi rape victims of Vachati to get justice.The adivasi rape victims of Vakapalli received zero attention from the conscience keepers. I could go on and on about the futility of isolating this urban gang rape from the systemic violence on all women. This is not to emphasize our marginal status versus the powerful upper caste women and their capacities to enhance or silence protests on sexual violence, but to point out that this is also a disservice to women from their own castes and class who happen to be fighting sexual violence inside their homes and sadly also live outside of the ‘protest capital’.

Sheeba Aslam Fehmi captured this crisply in an update:

First they Raped the Shudra women and I did not speak out because I was an Upper Caste Hindu.

Then they came for the Muslim women and I did not speak out because I was an Upper caste Hindu.

Then they came for the Manipuri women and I did not speak out because I was an Upper Caste Hindu .

Then they came for the Tribal women and I did not speak out because I was an Upper Caste Hindu .

Then they came for me and there was an outstanding outrage because I was an Upper Caste Hindu.

Their apathy has a structural basis, and they are blatant in the repeated public displays of their intellectual, ethical and moral blindness to caste, tribe, religion, class and gender as intersecting categories that facilitate systemic violence on women and I see no desire on their part to engage with those issues even now. But I definitely would like to engage with community members who are indulging in another kind of apathy, a learned one, one that we hope can be stopped at the initial stages itself. This has to do with dalit, adivasis and bahujan men ‘addressing the gender question’ and the problematic ways they sometimes choose to do so.

In this article I am drawing attention to the circulation of images of an adivasi woman by many people on social media networks, but I am directing this article at men from dalit, bahujan and adivasi communities who shared these images. I hope this is perceived in the spirit that it is written in – as a constructive conversation on gender relations.

When ‘she’ was paraded naked years ago, many came out in protest to get her justice. Her name was on the lips of all adivasi MPs/MLAs/NGOs/activists/writers. Her pictures were all over the place but things didn’t change much for her after the issue had become cold. With the Delhi rape case, the issue is resurfacing and people are talking about ‘her’, they want justice for her.

What bothers me is the nature of their concern; all said and done, ours is a conservative society: what kind of a life does it offer a woman who is paraded naked and becomes so famous for that? Will she have a normal life? Why don’t these people who want justice for her understand that ‘she’ needs to be cloaked with a pseudonym, and her naked pictures not be used for their discussion; would they have done the same if it was their own daughter/sister/mother?

This again highlights the contradiction in the much acclaimed ‘equal’ status of adivasi women: in difficult circumstances, much burden is borne by the adivasi women. When poverty grips the household, she is sold as a domestic servant; in politics, she is made the bali ka bakra, everybody benefits from her labor/discourse, except her.

Here I reproduce portions of a conversation with an adivasi brother:

M X: Others don’t care about ‘us’ – the adivasi women, and I doubt your concern as well…look, look at the delhi rape case…the girl has been shielded by the name of a place despite the fact that her life is disrupted so violently, but you guys along with others will not just use our pictures when paraded naked but also use our real name in your discourse…as if that will get more justice. I’d been thinking about the incident you posted for years now, thinking about her and the temporary political limelight, wondering if anything would change for her and much as I anticipated, things hasn’t. In fact it becomes worse. Imagine, everywhere you go, being recognized as someone who was paraded naked.

M X: It’s like being paraded naked again and again and again… If people really cared, they should have used a pseudonym, not used pictures of that incident, would have tried rehabilitating her, but no, our adivasi society would rather gain a political mileage by displaying ‘our’ nakedness over and over again.

M X: IT IS NOT RIGHT, and it was also not right then, but I guess ‘we-the adivasi women’ are very very few who are articulating and protesting on social media.

N K K: Yes it will not change, at least till we have our children. But there’s something else, which is unfortunate, for us adivasis, people from north-east, dalits, etc. to make our voices heard in this country/world we have to come up with a bang!! We have to make the loudest possible sound to get heard and since we are smaller in no. we try drawing (the other) peoples attention by showing these nasty but true pictures, its same as when Tamil Eelam wants to draw the (other) people’s attention and want them to believe what they are saying – they have to come up with a proof about the war crimes that Sri Lankan army committed on them. Watch the documentary “KILLING FIELDS OF SRILANKA”. So like the Tamil eelam people who are a minority and marginalised just like us adivasis, one has to always come up with a proof, so that THEY believe us. It’s a sad reality.

M X: No, this cannot be justified at all! One wrong cannot be made right by another wrong and the sooner we understand the better. People who don’t believe of injuries given to us will not take us seriously even if we show pictures of the injury.

N K K: Yes, absolutely, it cannot be justified; it’s just that these two harsh realities are at conflict. I’m glad that you raised the issue or else we’ll be carrying out with ‘this’ kind of protests and will not think of a better alternative. For a change it’s important that somebody feels that what’s been happening and the way things are being taken care of, and the way people are going about things, the method is wrong and why. And the Adivasi men in this issue, sadly are (as it seems) protesting only for the ‘Adivasi’ part not the ‘Adivasi Women” as a whole.

M X: Thank you so much for agreeing. We, the adivasi men and women should be co-laborers in this fight for dignity, access and equal rights and trust me, we are increasingly becoming an unjust group by subjecting this other gender (I refuse to call us weak) to subjugation for the supposed benefit of the whole adivasi society.

The gendered nature of the premeditated caste violence against dalit, bahujan and adivasi women is not a new phenomenon — it is historic. The dalit, bahujan and adivasi women (and men) were and still are subjects of bestial and shocking violence by the dominant classes. Being raped, castrated, and paraded naked are only a few forms of visible physical violence committed against us.

There was nothing novel in one of us being stripped naked and beaten when participating in a rally seeking special rights based on adivasis’ collective identity. There were people laughing at her, people taking her pictures, media reporting the incident, NGOs pointing at her injuries, adivasi leaders talking of justice – and what is most disturbing is, in all this no one thought of shielding her nakedness.

If getting her justice was the agenda on the cards of all concerned, what we as a group of dalit, bahujan and adivasi women would like to know is – why didn’t people think of using a pseudonym, and why do they still continue to use her original name? Who gives the right to educated people on social media to abuse her dignity with a click of a mouse to lure instant audiences? Why are her pictures of nakedness flashed again and again and again in public to list atrocity upon dalit, bahujan and adivasi women? When will this assault upon us by the social media so concerned about our oppression stop?

When will the dalit, bahujan and adivasi men cease to use our nakedness as a symbol of collective oppression and stop displaying those pictures, uncovering our wounds, and allow us to heal?

While we appreciate dalit, bahujan and adivasi men showing support for women’s issues on social media networks, we have a few requests: please wait for the women to speak on issues, please do not take our silence for inability to articulate, please do not second guess our thoughts, but mostly please attempt to listen, to consult with dalit, bahujan and adivasi women before raising gender-related issues. Finally, please extend the courtesy we accord you as fellow travellers against oppression- do not attempt to enter our subjectivity and ‘imagine’ our experiences.

We would like the above requests to be considered seriously by dalit, adivasi and bahujan men, as we are all part of the politics of the marginalized which constantly self-corrects from taking erroneous routes to emancipation. We are heirs to a history that is guided by principles of human equality and a progressive vision of a gender just society bequeathed us by dalit, bahujan and adivasi leaders and movements.

~~~

Madhuri Xalxo is a student pursuing her LLM.

Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

 

 

Ban skirts as school uniform: BJP legislator #WTFnews #Vaw


skirtfinal

IANS | Dec 29, 2012, 05.35 PM IST

JAIPUR: A BJP legislator in Rajasthan wants the state government to prohibit private schools from making girls wear skirts as uniform, citing it as the reason behind increased cases of sexual harassment.Banwari Lal Singhal, in his letter to the chief secretary, demanded that girl students be made to wear salwar suits or shirts and trousers as uniform to reduce chances of their being subjected to lewd comments or harassment.

Singhal is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)legislator from Alwar city constituency, around 150 km from here.

“Girls either walk to school or wait for school buses at various points in Alwar. That is when they face lewd comments from mischievous elements,” Singhal said.

He argued that most private schools in the city had skirts as part of the uniform.

“It should be prohibited keeping in view the rise of social crimes against women. The school should have pant-shirts or salwar suits as uniforms for girl students,” Singhal said in the letter.

He said the proposed school uniform would save the students from extreme weather conditions too.

 

Civil Liberties activists arrested as Suspected Maoists #Kozhikode #UAPA #WTFnews


Suspected Maoists arrested in Mavelikkara

TNN | Dec 30, 2012, 05.46 AM IST

KOZHIKODE: Five persons were on Saturday arrested from a lodge in Mavelikkara for their alleged Maoist links.Police identified the arrested as Gopal from Tamil Nadu, Bahuleyan and Shiyaz from Thiruvananthapuram, Devarajan from Kollam and Rajesh Madhavan from Mavelikkara.

Gopal is an activist of the Committee for the Protection of Civil Liberties, a human rights organization in Tamil Nadu.

Police had initially picked up seven persons, but released two minors, identified as the daughters of Roopesh, the former state secretary of CPI (Maoist).

The arrests were made under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and for unlawful assembly, conspiracy and kidnapping, police said. A laptop and five mobile phones were seized from the arrested persons.

Roopesh and his wife Shyna have been in the list of wanted Maoists, after they were accused of harbouring Malla Raji Reddy, the politburo member of the CPI (Maoist), arrested by the Andhra Pradesh police from Angamali in December 2007.

Police had issued a lookout circular against Roopesh following suspicion that he had played a role to sabotage a train in Nilambur in 2010.

Meanwhile, Adv P A Pouran, general secretary of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, said the arrested were discussing issues related to the education sector. “Police have denied even the basic right to assemble and discuss issues,” he said.

 

#Delhigangrape- For ‘ ANONYMOUS’ #mustread #Vaw


FOR ANONYMOUS

December 29, 2012 · by  · in Journal. ·, Nilanjana Roy

(Photograph: Ruchir Joshi)

(Photograph: Ruchir Joshi)

That girl, the one without the name. The one just like us. The one whose battered body stood for all the anonymous women in this country whose rapes and deaths are a footnote in the left-hand column of the newspaper.

 

Sometimes, when we talk about the history of women in India, we speak in shorthand. The Mathura rape case. The Vishaka guidelines. The Bhanwari Devi case, the Suryanelli affair, the Soni Sori allegations, the business at Kunan Pushpora. Each of these, the names of women and places, mapping a geography of pain; unspeakable damage inflicted on women’s bodies, on the map of India, where you can, if you want, create a constantly updating map of violence against women.

 

For some, amnesia becomes a way of self-defence: there is only so much darkness you can swallow. They turn away from all the places that have become shorthand for violence beyond measure, preferring not to know about Kashmir or the outrages in Chattisgarh, choosing to forget the Bombay New Year assault, trying not to remember the deaths of a Pallavi Purkayastha, a Thangjam Manorama, Surekha and Priyanka Bhotmange, the mass rapes that marked the riots in Gujarat. Even for those who stay in touch, it isn’t possible for your empathy to keep abreast with the scale of male violence against women in India: who can follow all of the one-paragraph, three-line cases? The three-year-old raped before she can speak, the teenager assaulted by an uncle, the 65-year-old raped as closure to a property dispute, the slum householder raped and violently assaulted on her way to the bathroom. After a while, even memory hardens.

 

And then you reach a tipping point, and there’s that girl. For some reason, and I don’t really know why, she got through to us. Our words shrivelled in the face of what she’d been subjected to by the six men travelling on that bus, who spent an hour torturing and raping her, savagely beating up her male friend. Horrific, brutal, savage—these tired words point to a loss of language, and none of them express how deeply we identified with her.

She had not asked to become a symbol or a martyr, or a cause; she had intended to lead a normal life, practicing medicine, watching movies, going out with friends. She had not asked to be brave, to be the girl who was so courageous, the woman whose injuries symbolised the violence so many women across the country know so intimately. She had asked for one thing, after she was admitted to Safdarjung Hospital: “I want to live,” she had said to her mother.

 

We may have not noticed the reports that came in from Calcutta in February, of a woman abandoned on Howrah Bridge, so badly injured after a rape that involved, once again, the use of iron rods, that the police thought she had been run over by a car. We may have skimmed the story of the  16-year-old Dalit girl in Dabra, assaulted for three hours by eight men, who spoke up after her father committed suicide from the shame he had been made to feel by the village. Or some may have done something concrete about these things, changed laws, worked on gender violence, keeping their feelings out of it, trying to be objective.

But there is always one that gets through the armour that we build around ourselves. In 1972, the first year in which the NCRB recorded rape cases, there were 2,487 rapes reported across India. One of them involved a teenager called Mathura, raped by policemen; we remember her, we remember the history and the laws she changed. (She would be 56 now.)

Some cases stop being cases. Sometimes, an atrocity bites so deep that we have no armour against it, and that was what happened with the 23-year-old medical student, the one who left a cinema hall and boarded the wrong bus, whose intestines were so badly damaged that the injuries listed on the FIR report made hardened doctors, and then the capital city, cry for her pain.

 

She died early this morning, in a Singapore hospital where she and her family had been despatched by the government for what the papers called political, not compassionate, reasons.

 

The grief hit harder than I’d expected. And I had two thoughts, as I heard some of the finest and toughest men I know break down in their grief, as women across Delhi called and SMSed to say that she—one of us, this girl who had once had a future and a life of her own to lead—was gone, that it was over.

 

The first was: enough. Let there be an end to this epidemic of violence, this culture where if we can’t kill off our girls before they are born, we ensure that they live these lives of constant fear. Like many women in India, I rely on a layer of privilege, a network of friends, paranoid security measures and a huge dose of amnesia just to get around the city, just to travel in this country. So many more women have neither the privilege, nor the luxury of amnesia, and this week, perhaps we all stood up to say, “Enough”, no matter how incoherently or angrily we said it.

 

The second was even simpler. I did not know the name of the girl in the bus, through these last few days. She had a name of her own–it was not Amanat, Damini or Nirbhaya, names the media gratuitously gave her, as though after the rape, she had been issued a new identity. I don’t need to know her name now, especially if her family doesn’t want to share their lives and their grief with us. I think of all the other anonymous women whose stories don’t make it to the front pages, when I think of this woman; I think of the courage that is forced on them, the way their lives are warped in a different direction from the one they had meant to take. Don’t tell me her name; I don’t need to know it, to cry for her.

 

How is India Doing (2012)? #sundayreading


C. Rammanohar Reddy, The Hindu

QUALITY OF LIFE: Close to half our children suffer from malnutrition, much the same as 30 years ago … for the large mass of India’s poor, daily life remains a struggle. Photo: AP
QUALITY OF LIFE: Close to half our children suffer from malnutrition, much the same as 30 years ago … for the large mass of India’s poor, daily life remains a struggle. Photo: AP

In a 1982 essay, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen asked how India was doing and concluded that its progress was mixed. Revisiting the question 30 years later, C. Rammanohar Reddy notes the co-existence of change and changelessness that is India today. Everything that makes you shudder is here. So too everything that says the citizen will not give up the fight for her rights

Thirty years ago, in an essay titled “How is India Doing?” (New York Review of Books, December 16, 1982) Amartya Sen took a synoptic view of where the country was. He concluded that while India was “doing quite well in many respects,” this progress was mixed and “had to assessed in the light of the persistent inequities, and the basic weakness of modern India that sustains them.”

India’s politics, economy and society have changed hugely in the intervening decades. But when reflecting on where we are today, what strikes one is the change with changelessness that is India in 2012.

Let us look at just four of the many broad areas that Sen covered in 1982.

First, the growth of the economy. When Sen spoke of signs of a pickup in the early 1980s, it was the beginning of a phase of the fastest economic growth in India’s recorded history. While we tend to look at what happened after 1991, the acceleration in economic growth started in the 1980s and continued thereafter. The pace of growth in the past 30 years has been almost 60 per cent higher than in the previous three decades. The phase of high growth has been related to the much greater role given to the private sector and the larger process of globalisation.

Economic opportunities have expanded, entrepreneurial avenues have exploded, some sectors are now organised on very sophisticated lines and millions in the urban middle and lower middle classes can aspire to a better life.

But what of “the human condition” or the quality of life of all Indians?

The one major success since 1982 has been in combating illiteracy. In 1982, only 36 per cent of Indians were literate; now it is only 26 per cent who are illiterate. But on the big question of extreme poverty, the answer is decidedly ambivalent. If we cut through the academic debates, it is clear that the extent of poverty has certainly come down in the past 30 years. This contrasts with Sen’s perception that there was no evidence until 1982 of a decline. However, elaborations as well as qualifications are required.

One, the decline in poverty has not been uniform across regions and communities. If in 1982 your parents lived on the banks of the Cooum in Madras or in Dharavi in Bombay, it is likely that today your economic status is better than theirs. But if you are from a Dalit or adivasi family in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, or Uttar Pradesh, chances are that you are no better off now than your parents were in 1982. Two, the benefits of growth have indeed trickled down, but that is exactly what has happened: it has been just a trickle. The incidence of poverty has declined, but a quarter of the population or around 300-350 million people are still desperately poor. Three, if other basic necessities like shelter, access to clean drinking water and sanitation are included, the picture is much more dismal. Research by R. Jayraj and S. Subramanian shows that severe “multidimensional poverty” afflicted 470 million in 2005-06, not much lower than the estimate of 520 million in 1992-93. Four, in certain critical areas — for instance, malnourishment and maternal mortality — conditions remain terrible. Close to half our children suffer from malnutrition, much the same as 30 years ago.

So if we paint a broader picture, the old sliver of the beneficiaries of India’s growth has only thickened a bit. For the large mass of India’s poor, daily life remains a struggle. There is no doubt India lost a major opportunity in the past three decades.

Let’s turn to the third area addressed by Sen — the status of women. Over the past three decades, a strong feminist movement has emerged, there has been a greater participation of women in economic activity in the cities, and there is reservation in panchayats for women, all of which would suggest a growing empowerment of women.

The sex ratio has at last begun to see some improvement, though only in the past decade. And the life expectancy of women is now, as it should be, longer than of men. But we are in a far worse situation than in 1982 with respect to the status of the girl child. The sex ratio at birth — the number of girls born for every 1,000 boys born — has declined in recent decades. And the sex ratio of children under six has also worsened. Whether the result of sex-selection at birth, female infanticide, or neglect of the girl child, India has become an awful place for girls.

Fourth, the position of the deprived castes. We have seen the emergence of strong movements that have turned into political parties demanding the redressal of traditional inequities. The epochal change is that the political parties of the lower/backward castes now exercise a major say in regional and national politics. These parties have brought caste back to the table.

The outcome, however, has not been any major improvement in the economic status of the deprived castes. It may be too early to express any definite opinion on the achievements of these parties, but the early optimism that they would position the demand for lower-caste rights as part of a larger movement for justice and equality has faded. These parties have at times turned into movements solely for the advancement of sectional interests, and, worse, have become vehicles of personal aggrandisement.

If these are the changes in four areas that Sen examined in 1982, one also has to recognise that major changes have taken place in other areas.

(i) Electoral Democracy

A significant change from the 1970s — which levelled off in the mid 1990s — was a rise in voter turnout, specifically of the rural electorate, women, and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. All this has made elections more “inclusive.”

Yet, while the procedural practices of democracy — elections — have been placed on a strong foundation, the substantive practices — the accountability of institutions/elected officials, engagement with institutions outside elections, and the like — have weakened. Now even some of the procedural practices are falling apart, most notably in the working of the legislature.

I see three related causes for this weakening of electoral democracy. One, the absence of inner-party democracy. Today, no party — big or small, regional or national, cadre-based or family-based — practices democracy internally. How then can we expect elected bodies to function properly? Two, related to this is the rise of the family in political parties. Patrick French’s analysis of the current Lok Sabha showed that over 65 per cent of MPs under 40 had a prior family connection in politics. In the future, will a majority of our MPs be in Parliament because of who their parents are, not because they earned their spurs by working in forums of democracy? Three, money and politics. The assets of today’s MPs are obscenely large. The Lok Sabha is not a Hall of the People but of the Wealthy. The links between elected representatives, business, and the executive (and organised plunder) are now so intertwined that it is difficult to see state financing making a difference.

(ii) Decline of the Public Institution

There are public institutions that have been strengthened over the past 30 years, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Election Commission being two of them. People have also developed greater faith in the judiciary, which it has been ready to respond to. But the larger trend is a decline in the responsiveness of public institutions to the citizen. A single Right to Information Act cannot neutralise the deliberate abdication of all state agencies in providing services in education, health, public transport, drinking water, sanitation, energy, and housing. Much of the abdication has been in the name of privatisation. Corruption is the other face of a decline of public services. It disempowers the citizen, and reflects a weakening of the rule of law, and most dangerously, the intertwining of business and politics (and crime).

(iii) Communalism

For a country that became independent amid gruesome violence on religious lines, communalism has been no stranger. Soon after Sen’s essay, we had the anti-Sikh riots of November 1984. Mass murder was conducted over three days in the capital under the benign gaze of a new Prime Minister. The message was: if you mobilise yourself with force, you can get away with anything. The message was heard, and put into practice in Bhagalpur 1989, Bombay 1993, and Gujarat 2002.

Beyond such open violence, it is the routinisation of communalism in daily life that is new. Mobilisation on communal lines took new forms after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad/Bharatiya Janata Party decided to raise the issue of the Babri Masjid. The rath yatra of 1990, the Congress’s cynical attempt at soft Hindutva, and the destruction of the Babri Masjid completed the post-Independence transformation of India on communal lines. All this has contributed in no small measure to the growth of domestic terrorism. India is tragically now a less tolerant society than what it was in the early 1980s.

(iv) Regionalism/Secessionism

In the early 1980s one could still speak of India having successfully navigated the “dangerous decades” after Independence. But the accumulated resentment that exploded in Kashmir after the sham 1987 elections showed that political India was far from “stable”. Whether in Kashmir or the north-east, insurgent movements have enjoyed considerable local support.

The Indian state has responded with the use of force and by propping one group against another with only the occasional nod in the direction of dialogue. This approach flows from a rigid interpretation of the nation as conceived during the freedom movement. The routine use of force to deal with secessionist/regional movements also brutalises the nation; as a result, we as a people have gradually become desensitised to state violence.

(v) Environment

Ecological degradation and the destruction of natural resources have increased sharply in the past quarter century. Our cities have become time bombs for health disasters. In rural India, it is deforestation, occupation of common property, over-exploitation of groundwater, and indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides that have caused problems.

Many movements have emerged to protect the environment, much legislation enacted and many regulatory bodies constituted. But the core belief of the ruling elite continues to be that growth must come first and environment protection later.

(vi) Media

The media in 2012 is unrecognisable in numbers, variety and content from what it was in 1982. Beyond its “growth,” questions are now being asked of the government rules under which it has to operate and its own lack of rules on integrity. But the big question the media is loath to reflect on is how it has silently come to identify itself with the state and the dominant ideology.

The media now has a visible “pro-business” tilt, as the political scientist Atul Kohli would call it, towards selling a particular vision of India. Many print and electronic channels peddle a certain kind of “aspirational” lifestyle for the new India. There are close connections between this and a particular view of how the economy should function. As Kohli points out, the media also interprets the new lives of the upper middle classes “in terms of a pro-business mindset.” There is a similar identity of interests between the media and the state on national security, and India’s position in the world.

There are of course exceptions. There will also be exposés and confrontations with the state. But the media has begun to think like the ruling elite because it has bought into the dominant ideology and therefore refuses to question it.

The main sets of changes outlined here can be brought together to offer a larger understanding of how we are doing. The key lies in identifying who rules India and how they manage (not resolve) the country’s many divisions.

In a very rough formulation that borrows from elements of both political sociologist Partha Chatterjee and political scientist Atul Kohli, I would say that as before, we have a small ruling elite. And as before, this elite is a coalition of interests.

The ruling elite is made up of large Indian businesses, the new entrepreneurs in real estate, finance, and IT, the upper segment of the urban middle classes, the upper echelons among the bureaucracy, and even large sections of the media. This is neither a homogenous group nor is its formation set in stone. The state is neither a handmaiden of the elite nor is it autonomous. The new elite is impatient at being held back by the backwardness of India. It is dismissive of electoral politics, though it is this electoral democracy that legitimises its exercise of power.

Consider an example of how the system both stabilises and destabilises itself. The state introduced the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act against all opposition from the ruling elite. It did so not just for “electoral considerations” but because it realised that it had to set in place some survival support systems for those in rural India who were excluded from growth. When the state finds the scheme has become very large and there is opposition from new quarters, it finds it cannot roll it back because the deprived use their vote to ensure its continuation. To shed some of its fiscal responsibility, the state then starts contemplating alternatives like cash transfers in other important areas like the public distribution of food. All the while, the state sanctions the undermining of livelihood systems and oversees their sale to big business, though these systems are more important than anything NREGA can provide.

The system worked like this even earlier but there is a new violence to the dominant agenda. Before the 1980s, there was a larger nation-building project. We did have sharp divisions, class interests took control of the national agenda, and there was corruption and manipulation of the system. But the narrative then was to build a nation of opportunity for all. Political parties represented particular interests, but as Kohli puts it, “politics also had a public purpose.” Citizens with their votes would invest in the executive the agency to try and realise this public purpose.

The first post-Independence project did not succeed. In its place now is a different kind of transition, to a more selfish society. Today’s elite is more involved with itself. It is impatient with anything that holds back the expansion of its economic muscle. Hence the talk now of “policy paralysis” and the political investment in something as trivial as foreign direct investment in retail. The “self-confidence” about India that is part of the dominant narrative is simultaneously intolerant of any questioning from within or without.

There is a violence in this agenda because here the larger nation does not exist. There is a new disdain among the elite for the deprivation that surrounds it. Hence the mental and at times even geographical separation from the larger part of the country. All this together makes for a less compassionate, more intolerant, and less sensitive country than before.

We have always been a very deeply divided society. The practice of democracy over six decades has not closed these divisions. Electoral democracy has actually built on them. In recent decades, new dimensions have been added to these divisions and these have contributed to greater inequality. Until the 1980s, the division used to be not very accurately portrayed as one of India vs. Bharat. Today’s divisions run along multiple fractures — class, caste, gender, urban/rural, advanced/backward regions, and even religion.

There is a bleakness in this understanding of contemporary India that gives little reason for hope. But a counter can ironically be found in the daily and relentless struggle of citizens to demand their dues from the state. What holds out hope is the continuous mobilisation, the daily demonstrations, the pressures exerted on the state not to be subsumed by the ruling elite, the ferocious, and sometimes even destructive, contestations.

A lived and tragic example of the many dichotomies of India is the story of Naimuddin Mohammed Yunus Ansari from Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad, who suffered grievously in the 2002 killings):

“The mob killed my mother Abida Bibi. They flung my seven-year old niece Gulnaz Bano into the fire. She died. My sister Saeeda died of burns at the hospital the next day. I was attacked by swords and lost my 11-month-old daughter while trying to flee. I found her at the Shah Alam camp two months later,” says Naimuddin. His wife Naseem (name changed) was gang raped by four men; her left arm chopped off with a sword, he adds.

… It was only in 2010, when special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik started hearing witnesses’ testimonies that Naimuddin persuaded Naseem to give hers, the only woman to survive gang rape among the hundreds of victims of brutal sexual violence at Naroda Patiya.

“Jyotsnaben listened so attentively to us, we salute her a hundred times. If the defence lawyers stared at us or tried to intimidate us, she would tell them off,” says Naimuddin who made a living selling bread and biscuits in Naroda Patiya but has been unable to restart his business since. He works as a daily wage labourer now. “I told Naroda police at the Shah Alam relief camp that I recognise the attackers. Many of them used to buy bread from me.”(Anumeha Yadav, “A Partial Sense of Closure,” The Hindu, September 6, 2012)

This is a story of India today. First, the grinding poverty. Naimuddin was a poor itinerant seller of bread before the riots. Today he is a wage labourer. The years of growth and Gujarat’s prosperity have passed him by. Second, the violence, when your neighbours and acquaintances set out to do the most terrible things to women. But we also have here an example of the state’s unwillingness to protect its citizens. Third, in spite of everything, Naimuddin and his wife retained faith in the system of justice. Fourth, the system — even if it needs a nudge — can deliver, as in this case when 32 people, including one former minister and one political leader, were given life imprisonment. Fifth, when citizens fight for justice against all odds, individuals holding office can on occasion meet their expectations. Here it is the judge, Jyotsna Yagnik, who is an example of the state showing the impartiality that the citizen expects of it.

This is a microcosm of India today. Everything that makes you shudder is here. So too everything that says the citizen will not give up. And, finally, that all is not lost with the state.

This is the reason why we must remain optimistic about the future. In the end, one of the achievements of electoral democracy and the working of the Constitution is that the citizen knows she has rights and will fight for them, however much she may despair at not being able to exercise them.

(This is a revised and shortened version of the 2012 S. Guhan Memorial Lecture delivered in Chennai on December 5, 2012. The author is Editor of the Economic & Political Weekly, Mumbai. Email: ram@epw.in)

#India- Blind to what, Your Honour? #Vaw #Judiciary


Blind to what, Your Honour?
By Indira Jaising | Dec 30, 2012, 07.49 AM IST, TNN

Of all the promises made in the Constitution, the most important are the promises of the ‘right to life’, the ‘right to dignity’, the ‘right to personal liberty’ and the ‘right to bodily integrity and health’. However these promises are yet to be redeemed for women. Rape and other forms of sexual assault,domestic violence,dowry death and honour killings — the most brazen violation of these rights — are a real and daily danger for most women.

The cry that has been reverberating in the streets of the capital — and across the country — from a new and younger generation of citizens is: “We want justice”. It is addressed to us judges and lawyers whose primary responsibility is to protect the rights of the people. The women of this country are no longer willing to tolerate the unconscionable delays in the delivery of justice. It is the sacred duty of judges to prevent violence against women in the home; at the work place and on the streets and hold the perpetrators accountable. What is it that stops courts from securing justice for women? Why has the law not been able to convict the accused when it comes to crime against women? The situation is best summed up by a famous Orwellian quote—’ to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle’.

To see the lack of judicial will to get justice for victims of gender-based violence, as stemming from a deeply entrenched prejudice and misogyny in the justice delivery system, including the courts and their judges, is an exercise demanding a constant struggle. It is so much in front of our noses that we, women and men included, legitimise the presence of sexism in our lives and carry it to the corridors of the court and into the courtrooms and into judgements.

This is a part of the Indian reality; from the private sphere of the ‘home’ to the public space like places of work; from the open streets to the corridors of courts playing out in the theatres of justice. Today, the belief in equality is not sincerely held at all. On the contrary, the social system, including the judicial system, is built on a hierarchy along caste and gender lines.

It is no secret that violence against women stems from the deeply unequal relationship between the two sexes in private and public life. It is also no secret that this misogyny is deeply rooted in our society, including within the system of administration of justicefrom investigation to trial, to judgment. A high court judge in Orissa in his judgement once famously held, that it was not possible for a man, acting alone, to rape a woman in good health. There you have it, the distinction between “legitimate” rape and ” illegitimate” rape (to borrow from the infamous comment by Todd Akin) coming from a high court judge.

This is the same thing you hear so often from judges that “women are misusing the law.” They decide what is the legitimate use of the law for women, based on a deeply sexist view of how a woman should behave; what she should desire and how much violence she should tolerate. A casual glance at the kinds of questions a woman is asked in any prosecution of gender- based violence or a reading of judgments of the court will reaffirm this view. On one occasion when a woman lawyer asked for an adjournment, a district judge said, ” I know how you women lawyers make it”. He was rewarded by being appointed to the high court.

Sexual violence against women is unique as it begins in the home and moves out to public places. The problem begins with the assumed consent that women give to sexual intercourse within a marriage. Rape by a man of his wife without her consent is not an offence. Since this is a settled norm, it matters little whether forcible sexual intercourse is with the wife or a stranger on the street. With this accepted culture of rape within marriage standing tall, we have little hope of changing the culture of violence against women anywhere. The assumed consent of a woman to sexual intercourse becomes ingrained in the psyche of a man — as a husband, a son, a brother and this psyche continues into public spaces. Thus it is imperative to recognise that non-consensual sexual intercourse is unacceptable regardless of whether it is with a wife or a stranger, if we want sexual violence against women to stop. A legal culture that creates ‘legitimate and ‘illegitimate’ violence needs to change.

It is heartening to see for the first time, a large number of men on the streets protesting against sexual abuse of women. It is a new generation which brings hope that the tendency for violence against women is about to end as men of future generations will not tolerate such violence.

Lack of adequate number of judges or excessive workload is no longer an acceptable excuse to the women of this country for delaying judicial decisions. They know that it is the abuse of the process of law by vested interests and the utter indifference to women who have been sexually abused, that cause delays, not lack of infrastructure. An approximately 40% increase in the number of judges between 2005 and 2012, has not produced a corresponding decline in the pendency of cases. Justice does not reside in the brick and mortar courtrooms but in the heart and soul of judges and lawyers who represent victims of injustice. Any judge worth the name knows how to prevent delays and an abuse of the process of law by the rich and the famous.

The first duty of judges is to give cases of sexual assault priority and deal with them expeditiously with zero tolerance for delay. The demand for fast track courts is a metaphor for the intolerance of a dysfunctional legal system. While dedicated courts may go some way in dealing with the issue of delays, they will have to be accompanied by support structures, which enable a fair investigation and prosecution.

Women are conspicuous by their absence from the courts as lawyers and as judges. On the other hand, our law schools have at least 50% women students. Yet due to the patriarchy embedded in the judiciary and the legal system, the number of women lawyers and judges is negligible. Even those who manage to penetrate the highly patriarchal framework are discriminated against in terms of appointments, designation as seniors and promotions. Women are constantly under the microscope being pushed to prove themselves while male lawyers need pass no test of competence. The old boys network effectively keeps women out of the span of all zones of influence.

All talk of increasing the penalty for rapists to death is hollow. As the law stands today, a m a n fo u n d guilty of rape can be given a life sentence, And yet in my entire career as a lawyer spanning over 40 years, I have yet to see a single case in which a life sentence has been meted out to a rapist, what then to talk of the death penalty! This calls for urgent action plan by the Chief Justice of India and the chief justices of all high courts to raise as fast as possible the number of women judges in our courts. A few years ago, a woman who I represented in a classic case of sexual harassment, once asked me why her appeal was not being listed before a woman judge in the Supreme Court. My answer was simple, “because there is no woman judge in the Supreme Court.” At this she expressed her amazement and asked, if the Supreme Court could mandate that the chairperson of a sexual harassment committee which was to be set up by employers must be a woman, how come that law does not apply to the court itself ? I had no answer.

A critical mass of women in the judicial system and in the prosecution will inspire confidence in the system for women. The world over, this is known to happen. Women today have no stake in the judicial system and this is reflected in the cry “We want justice”.

A demand for accountability of institutions of justice delivery, the police and the courts must accompany the demand for appropriate laws. Accountability of the police must start with a complaints procedure within the police service itself where a complaint can be lodged for non-performance of duties. A clear command responsibility must be articulated within this mechanism so that in case of non-performance of duties by a junior, the senior officer is held liable. When a pattern of non-performance emerges, leading to a permanent sense of insecurity in which women live, the accountability must be that of the head of the police, and of the political establishment. Confidence in the administration can only be restored by measurable action against people in positions of power.

The judiciary has long been a selfregulating, self- appointing institution. We need a transparent method of appointment of judges where the antecedents of the proposed appointee can be publicly scrutinised. Accountability of the legal system must carry with it, accountability of judges. We need an official mechanism for monitoring the performance of the judiciary to check how content of their judgements meet the constitutional goals of equality. We need independent special rapporteurs drawn from civil society to report directly to Parliament on the performance of the legal system, the judicial system and the police system and violence against women.

It is time for standards to be put in place as to how judges must behave with women lawyers and litigants. The language of the law must be sanitized of all its male chauvinist content. No judge, let alone a Supreme Court judge must ever be allowed to use sexist language in judgements or during the course of arguments in court. Accountability starts at the top with the Supreme Court, what a judge of the Supreme Court thinks and says today, will be said and done by the 17,000 subordinate court judges who deliver justice under the supervision of the high courts.

We need a protocol on how judges ought to behave with women in courts and how they should address women’s issues in their judgements. Gender sensitive language must reflect in judgements dealing with women. This is not a matter of form but of substance. Changing culture and mindsets often requires language to change and rules and regulations, which reflect the change and do not permit a fall from standards. This is the time when the Chief Justice of India must rise to the occasion and speak to the nation and inform us what will be done to restore the confidence of the people in the justice system. Besides his role as a judge, he has a role as the head of the judiciary responsible for the administration of the justice.

The single most important statement we would like to hear from him, is that discrimination against women by judges will not be tolerated; the judiciary will have to exhibit and demonstrate zero tolerance of violence against women in the home, and on the streets.

The goal of law is to sustain life not support its destruction. This is what the 23-year-old was trying to tell us, before she died. “I want to live,” she said, not die of shame. She changed the way society looks at rape — from blaming the victim to focusing on the rapist. All law reform must move in that direction, asking how we can build a new life-sustaining legal culture, a more equal culture, with justice for all. That is the question we must address — with or — without a special session of Parliament.

The writer is Additional Solicitor General of India

 

#India Six years after #gangrape, Sukma women give up on justice #Chhattisgarh #Vaw


HAMSHETTI (SUKMA), December 29, 2012

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

Lakshman Sori (the name changed) doesn’t want curious visitors to his house, especially journalists. “My wife and I are trying to rebuild our lives, and your visit will ruin everything.”

Mr. Sori’s wife, a Muria Gond, is a rape survivor, but the Sori family, of Shamsetti village in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, is concerned more about mundane issues than justice. “We cannot afford justice any more, please do not ask us why,” he said.

This was not always the case. The women of Shamsetti, a nondescript village of about 130 families, did testify in court to how, in July 2006, four of them were beaten up and gang-raped, allegedly by special police officers (SPOs) at the peak of the state-sponsored anti-Maoist campaign.

Today, the SPOs and Salwa Judum — the State-supported militia that waged war against the Maoists — are officially non-existent. But its members still hold power and influence and have the connections to work the system. Five of the 12 accused in the Shamsetti case have government jobs and at least two of the SPO accused are now police constables. While in urban India the delays inherent in the legal process often hold up rape cases, in Sukma and elsewhere in the tribal belt of central India, conviction is virtually non-existent.

Soon after the rape though, the Shamsetti women bravely came forward. One survivor testified that while she was working at her place, a team of police and SPOs arrived in her house. “They forced me to a nearby field and took their turns to rape me, while my parents were beaten and locked in a room,” her statement says. The SPOs allegedly raped the women in the village itself. Yet another testimonial records, “A group of 200 police men and SPOs raided our village. Someone caught me from behind while I was chaffing the paddy at my house. Three men raped me in my house.”

The testimonies run into dozens of pages and discuss how the police refused to accept complaints and the women were threatened with “severe consequences” if they registered complaints. Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer for the complainants, says it was an “uphill task for the women and their witnesses to get their statements recorded, given the repeated adjournments” in the Konta court, about 25 km from Shamsetti. “But the brave women still appeared while the culprits were hovering around the small court room.”