Who Are the Real ‘Encroachers’ In Mumbai ? #mustread #mustshare


Mumbai, the acclaimed financial capital of the country has 54 per cent of its population i.e more than 60 lakh people living in slums occupying only 6 % of the city’s land, as such; the city has been a site of contestation for the resources amongst the constituting residents who draw from different groups-economic, regional and religion. Against as one would like to believe that it is shortage of resources, in actual it is excess of resources but concentrated in very few hands, has been the raison de ere of these contestations. And in these contests the ruling class has been successful to an extent in convincing the public that those staying in the slums are ‘encroachers’ who encroach over public property, land and consume services, be it water or electricity for free. Thus they are a burden on the society. In this small booklet we have tried to clarify this concept of ‘encroachers’, who they really are and on what they encroach.

Below is full report written by Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan – NAPM

 

(A Fact Book about Mumbai)

 

Published By:

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan,

C/o National Alliance of People’s Movements,

29-30, First floor, Haji Habib Building, Naigaon Cross Road,

Dadar (E), Mumbai  E-Mail: gbgbandolan@gmail.com

 

Introduction:

Mumbai, the acclaimed financial capital of the country has 54 per cent of its population i.e more than 60 lakh people living in slums occupying only 6 % of the city’s land, as such; the city has been a site of contestation for the resources amongst the constituting residents who draw from different groups-economic, regional and religion. Against as one would like to believe that it is shortage of resources, in actual it is excess of resources but concentrated in very few hands, has been the raison de ere of these contestations. And in these contests the ruling class has been successful to an extent in convincing the public that those staying in the slums are ‘encroachers’ who encroach over public property, land and consume services, be it water or electricity for free. Thus they are a burden on the society. In this small booklet we have tried to clarify this concept of ‘encroachers’, who they really are and on what they encroach.

 

Mumbai. the City:

Historically, Mumbai was known to be a major centre for industrial production manufacturing industry  and also a major port city of India. These activities required large number of labourer-hands to carry out the associated activities. With a new economic policy in place, Mumbai in particular has been witnessing and undergoing few fundamental shifts and changes in the activities it is engaged in. The Regional Development plans and various other documents spell out the objective of transforming Mumbai from a manufacturing centre to a international city serving as a hub for high end services like finance, information technology, health care and media and entertainment. The Mumbai Metropolitian Regional Development Plan prepared in 1993-94 envisaged a shift from manufacturing and industrial production to the service sector. Concomitantly there has been a shift from manufacturing employment towards trade, finances and service sector.

 

In this mad rush of City’s make over, the victims have been thousands of working class residents who are the spokes in this giant wheel of transformation. The blue print which had been charted out for the city’s development had international consultants (Mc Kinsey International;) and corporate bodies (Mahindra, Tata, ICICI) as its author and was given a participatory touch by formulating a Chief Minister’s Task Force, members of which have been glittering on page three of many newspapers and thus had no concern or regard for the toiling masses of the city. Accordingly, to transform Mumbai into a world-class city it was suggested to invest Rs. 200,000 crore in the next ten years with more private partnerships in city’s development. The envision to transform Mumbai into a global financial hub with major activities being carried out related to financial services only.

 

The Real Encroachers:

From slum dwellers to hawkers, pavement dwellers to fisher folk have been blamed to encroach upon the land and other resources of the city. Time and again they are evicted, their hard earned belongings confisticated and bulldozed under the pretext that they are encroachers. Even their status of citizenship is overlooked and are treated not even as human beings but as someone who is to be cursed and crushed. This illegal and inhuman treatment is meted out under the pretext that they are encroachers. From bureaucrats to politicians, who at the first place thrive on the bribes and votes of these very populations, curse them and order their eviction. The city actually has been encroached upon, its resources from land to water are being usurped. But the question is by whom, who are these encroachers, slum dwellers or some one else? Let’s find out.

 

 

  1. 1.      ATRIA Shopping mall: Housing the Dishoused?

Atria Shopping Mall at Worli has been built on a piece of Municipal land, which as per the existing Development Plan is reserved for the purpose of Housing the Dis-housed and a Municipal Primary School. As per the Development Plan (DP) of the city, on this 3 acre plot, 1885 tenements for the slum dwellers and a Municipal Primary School was to be constructed. But instead the builders in connivance of the officials in Municipal Corporation and Urban Development Department, built a sprawling shopping mall in the violation of the provisions of the DP. The list of illegalities is long. As per the rules, FSI of 1.33 was permissible; instead the developers were granted FSI of 2. The construction was also in violation of the CRZ Notification. While the shopping mall was being constructed illegally on the land that was reserved for housing the dishoused-slum dwellers and project affected, the authorities, else where, remained busy in demolishing “illegal” houses of the slum dwellers.

 

After obtaining documents under RTI, which explicitly stated the illegalities and irregularities of the authorities, a PIL has been filed, demanding demolition of the illegal mall in the Bombay High Court, where Government of Maharashtra & BMC (Mumbai municipal Corporation) has been pleading from builder’s side, supporting and protecting the illegal construction.

 

 

  1. 2.      Hiranandani Gardens: The Scam Garden of Mumbai

The proliferation of slums has always been considered as an activity of ‘encroachment’ over public land and never an act resultant of misplaced policies and priorities. The disparity and discrimination has been exposed time and again by all those who have been associated and committed to the rights of the under privileged who are the hard working but exploited and discriminated. The encroachments by the influential, operating as nexus which includes builders-politicians-bureaucrats are not only ignored, but are formalized and legalized. The most shocking in this regard is the case of Hiranandani Gardens, where land to the tune of 230 acres was handed over to private land holders/developers on an 80 year lease at the abysmal rate of 40 paise per acre. In order to make this possible, laws and rules were twisted, misquoted and violated to incur pecuniary benefits to the private parties but at the cost of public resources. The land was given at such low rates and given exemptions from the provisions of Urban Land Ceiling Act with the understanding that the Developer will construct flats/apartments 50 % of which were not to exceed the size of 40sq.meters and the rest 50 % not exceeding 80 sq. meters.

It is a known fact that Hiranandani Gardens, as it stands today consists of 42 residential and 23 commercial buildings with no flat less than the size of 1800 sq. ft, which exceeds up to 4925 sq. ft as per the information available on their website and brochures issued by the same. Further the price quoted by them for a flat of the area 2125 sq. ft is in tune of 4 crores! While 240 acres of prime land was handed over to builders at the rate of 40 paise per acre under the excuse that they will construct small houses, in actual they built large palatial houses and sold each unit for few crores and fooled the government as well as public. A similar agreement was signed later on by the government with developers at Oshiwara for 160 acres of land.

After the scam was exposed and a PIL filed with the High Court, fine in tune to Rs 2,000 crores was imposed on the Builder which has not been deposited till date.

 

 

  1. 3.      60 Storied Twin Towers: Tallest illegalities.

The 60 storied Twin towers, under construction at Mumbai Central are claimed to be the tallest towers of this country. In addition to the height the builders can also claim of tallest illegalities. The twin towers, as per information availed under RTI, are being constructed on land, which is reserved for a 12.2-meter wide DP road. Also the project is being implemented under a Slum Rehabilitation Scheme. The cost of each flat is in the range of 15 to 45 crores. Documents prove beyond doubt that the towers are being constructed encroaching upon the road which is meant to be an approach road to the nearby Police Staff Quarters and a slum community. The land was earmarked for a colony for police staff and rehabilitating slum dwellers. The project is being carried out by the ‘acclaimed’ Shapoorji Palan ji Builders said to be close to highest politicians.

 

While in the past few months Bombay High Court gave several directions to the state authorities to ensure that the “encroachments” by pavement dwellers and hawkers are removed, the 60 storied towers were being constructed encroaching upon a road. A Legal Notice has been served to the concerned authorities and the builders, demanding the restoration of the road to its stipulated width.

 

 

  1. 4.      Urban Zamindars:

In 1976 Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act was passed to prevent the concentration of urban land in the hands of a few persons and to bring about an equitable distribution of urban land to subserve the common good. That the Act was never implemented in its true spirit is a known fact and can be understood as its non-implementation served the interests of the land mafia consisting of land holders-bureaucrats-developers. Though the Act very clearly held that holding of land beyond the permissible limit of 500 sq. mts by an individual was a clear violation of the Act and the land beyond the limit was to be acquired by the State and used for housing the weaker sections but this was never done. As per the estimates of government itself there is more than 22,000 acres of surplus land in state.

In Mumbai only a handful of individuals own more than 15,000 acres of land in absolute violation of the law of the land. The National Commission on Urbanisation in 1987 reported that 91 individuals in Mumbai owned 55 per cent of the vacant land. When lakhs of people are forced to stay in in-human conditions of slums, even a 10 by 10 feet hut is a luxury for many, this holding of hundreds of acres of land by few individuals should not have been tolerated and allowed. The list of few such urban zamindars is as below:

 

S. No. Name of Land holder Land in Possession
01. Godrej & Boycee 2500 acres
02. F.E Dinshaw Trust 800 acres
03. Bairamjee Jeejibhoy 600 acres
04. Essel World 650 acres
05. Amir Park & Amusements 300 acres
06. N K Bhesanim Trust 315 acres
07. K.J Somaiya Trust 175 acres
08. Bhiwandiwala Hormasji 935 acres
09. Ghashiram Ramdaya 885 acres
10. Gaman India Ltd. 240 acres
11. Larsen & Tubro 165 acres
12. Mahendra & Mahendra 140 acres

 

 

 

  1. 5.      Urban Renewal: Mumbai Style.

Ambedkar Nagar, Tulsiwadi houses conservancy staff of the BMC in 9 buildings, who have been residing there since 1945 and belong to Dalit Megh caste of Gujarat. In order to redevelop the area, which is near to the Race Course and Wellington Club, modifications were made in the Development Control Regulations and a special scheme of Urban Renewal was introduced. The project involves demolishing the existing huts and Municipal Quarters and then constructing rehabilitation buildings on a small part of the land and also free sale buildings facing Wellingdon Club Golf Course on the major part of the said land. As per an estimate, the Builder (a consortium of DLF Group, Shapoorji Pallan ji, Akruti Nirman) is to get an estimated profit of Rs 13,000 crores, by constructing this project on the land that belongs to Municipal Body.

Extensive uses of RTI and mobilized residents have been able to expose various irregularities & the same corrupt nexus. The project on BMC land was given to the Builder without any competitive bidding based on public tenders. The demolition of one of the building was carried out forcibly in June 2006 while the Builder obtained the Environmental Clearance in September 2006, this was in the knowledge of the Municipal authorities but they did not intervened and entered into a criminal conspiracy to help the builder commit illegal acts. As per an inter-departmental communication obtained under RTI, the Builder and the Police from the local carried out the demolition without the knowledge and permission of the Ward office. Based on the obtained documents, Legal Notices have been served and complaints registered. Court has been moved to order the Police to register FIR against the erring officials including Shri Jhoney Joseph, Ex-Municipal Commissioner and now the Up-Lok Ayukta, Maharashtra.

 

 

  1. 6.      Public Land: Private Use

Land use in Mumbai is defined and determined by the Development Plan which is drafted by the Town planning Dept and has a statutory binding. The land use can only be as per the use for which it has been reserved in the Development Plan. Demolitions of slums are carried out as it is claimed that they are a violation of the reservations of Development Plan. Surprisingly documents obtained under RTI show that in the last two years, government of Maharashtra changed/deleted the reservations of 60 plots and handed over most of them to private builders to build high rise complexes. More than that, in the last 15 years, government and municipal authorities have only acquired one-tenth of the total space meant for schools, hospitals, gardens and playgrounds. Only three of 281 plots marked for public housing, 48 of 925 plots reserved for schools and only one plot of 379 plots reserved for hospitals has been acquired and developed. The rest have been deliberately allowed to be with the private owners for their commercial exploitation as invariably our ministers and officials of the concerned departments are hand in glove with the land owners.

 

 

  1. 7.      Lease Lands & their Un-Authorised Occupiers

In Mumbai hundreds of acres of land has been leased out by the Authorities across the city and suburbs to a hand full of few influential individuals and families. While the requests by poor for handing over of small tracts of lands on lease basis has been stopped since last many years. These influential people are been granted fresh leases and their earlier lease agreements are renewed and renewed at rates which are far below the existing market rates. This information has been obtained by RTI activist Sh Shailesh Gandhi by exercising RTI.

The total land given by the Suburban Collector on lease is 9,847,372.84 sq.m., and this fetches a lease rent of Rs.4.04 crores. This works out to a rental of Rs.4.11 per sq.m., per year.In the last three years, Mumbai suburban authorities on average charged a lease rental of Rs.106 per sq.m., instead of a rental in the range of Rs.1700 which is as per the existing market rates. The approximate loss in revenues is Rs.48 crores.

 

Even more bizarre is the case of lands, lease of which has expired but the land holders continue to hold the land while they were supposed to revert the land back to the Authorities. thus after the expiry of the lease agreement their status is no more of an encroacher, but the Authorities in this case dare not evict the encroachers. Below is a list of such encroachers whose lease agreements have expired but they still occupy the land, illegally.

 

 

 

  1. 8.      Mills to Malls: A Saga of Scams

One of the biggest tragedies faced by the people of Mumbai has been the closure of the textile mills of Central Mumbai. Notwithstanding the fact that business considerations required the mills to be modernised, yet the mill-owners did not modernise their mills, while they set their eye on the most expensive real estate in the world i.e. the mill lands.  In the process, while the mills got shut down one after another, lakhs of people went into despair. The wives of the otherwise well-paid mill workers had to take to menial jobs such as washing utensils and sweeping floors in the houses of the rich people. Obviously, equity never demanded such a raw deal for the mill workers.

Amidst, such poverty and despair mill lands were sold. This process gave birth to many scams. One such scam, which is being presented here, is that of the sale of 11-acre Jupiter Mills sold by the NTC in July 2005. When NTC issued tenders for sale of land it declared in the tender forms that FSI would be about 59,903 sq. m. ( i.e. about 6.4 lakh sq. feet). Based on this FSI Indiabulls placed a bid of 276 crores for an FSI of this 6.4 lakh sq. feet. However, once the mill was taken over by Indiabulls, the FSI got doubled to 2.66. As per section 26 of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976, for any sale of land permission of the Competent Authority, ULC was required. In this case, land was sold without permission. The land taken over by India Bulls falls under he reservation of Residential Zone and thus before constructing malls or IT offices they were supposed to build small houses for the poor which they are not. As per experts the current value of the proposed development project is more than Rs 4500 crores while India Bulls had acquired the same property for only Rs 450 crores. The workers who were rendered jobless because of the closing of the mills are still to get any of the benefits that they were promised while the corporates to builders are making thousands of crores of rupees by converting the erstwhile mills into real estate projects much of which is going illegally.

By engaging in such frauds Mill land spread across 600 acres in the heart of the city has been diverted for the construction of Malls, Shopping complexes and corporate house offices.

 

  1. 9.      Bandra Kurla Complex: An Environmental Disaster

Bandra Kurla Complex was developed by MMRDA in early 90s as the commercial centre for the growth of corporate offices and commercial activities. BKC has been developed over 730 acres of land including the area that earlier constituted the basin of the Mithi river. The complex was built on mangrove marshes that surround the mouth of the Mithi river near the Mahim bay. Construction rubble from Mumbai was used to fill the marshes and a shiny new business zone rose in almost record time to compete with south Mumbai’s Nariman Point. . As a result, the mouth of the Mithi has constricted to a third of its original width. BKC has been built mostly on reclaimed Mithi wetland and by destroying mangrove jungle.

The reclamation of 730 acres of land was done ignoring the recommendations of the K.G. Paranjape Committee of 1987; Dr. Kulkarni Report done for the Central Institute of Fisheries 1992; The Mangrove Committee of 1993 ; NEERI Report 1994 & 96 ; BNHS Report for the MOEF . Warnings against reclamation have been loud, clear and repeated but were ignored and overlooked. Today the complex hosts huge premises spread over lakhs of square feet, which house leading financial institutions like ICICI, IDBI, UTI, Citibank and shopping malls

It is not a surprise that it has been termed as ‘criminal engineering’. The G Block of the complex has directly suppressed Mithi River, changed its course of flow and led to destruction of mangroves. About 250 acres out of the total of 730 acres of wetland with jungle that have been reclaimed fall in the G-Block of the Bandra – Kurla complex. Though this was a blatant violation of CRZ91 Notification. The International Finance and Business Centre(IFBC) and surrounding buildings, that form a part of the G-Block of the Bandra – Kurla complex, have been built on the original course of the Mithi River and were part of the intertodal zone. IFBC is house to National Stock Exchange, Financial Institutions and Banks such as ICICI, IL&FS, UTI, NABARD, Laxmi Finance, Dena Bank, State Bank of India, CITI BANK, Bank of Baroda and Bank of India.

In the E-Block of the Bandra – Kurla Complex the M.M.R.D A. (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) has built its head office on the course of the Mithi River.

A study byNational Environmental Engineering Research Institute in 1996 concluded that MMRDA by developing BKC has put the region’s ecological wealth towards the path of irreversible ecological damage and the reclamation of wetlands and mangrove swapms in Mithi river estuary would increase the flooding potential in the region.

While, the MMRDA through Mithi River Development Project Authority has been carrying out reckless demolitions of slums in and around the Kurla area under the pretext of removing encroachments, it itself is single handly responsible for encroaching over Mithi river and destruction of Mangroves spread across hundreds of acres of marshy area. Slums all across the city have been demolished in the name of they being in the areas falling under CRZ area, BKC today stands illegally violating the CRZ notifications and thus exemplifying the two sets of laws, one for the influential and other for the poor.

 

 

  1. 10.  Hawkers or Developers

A daily busy life of city dwellers have been made much easier by the hawkers sitting on the pavements and road side with all our daily necessary items just near our houses from where we can purchase things while on the way to somewhere. Hawkers are not new but a very part of our society and tradition they have given birth to many stories, colours to our daily marketing, and more importantly a source of livelihood for thousands of hawkers who are making their humble earning with dignity. Their absence can make our life gruesome to much extent when we will have to make extra walks to malls, shops and pay extra taxes and service prices. They are boon for the common city dwellers in terms of their accessibility and affordability. But many of time one can notice when many other citizens and, hence, as well as the state law identify and refers them as cause for impediments to pedestrian and traffic movements, or also as criminals, etc.. Planning were made to uproot them which completely negates their intricate relations with the common men in the city.

 

One such recent unlawful acts and injustice committed against the hawkers in Malabar Hill sub-division area by one construction company namely, Layer Export Private Limited. The company is trying to construct a high rise posh buildings and parking lot in the area which was reserved for Municipal Retail Market in the statutory Development Plan. Under DC Rule 1967, CRZ area comes under the retail market where residential constructions are not allowed neither a parking lot can come up. This planning violates many of the law and overlooks many necessary requirements of the areas, it do not have the provision for podium which will block the accessibility to the Retail Market and there is no separate space created or left to accommodate small Retail Markets, there is no place to plant trees- violation of DCR 23, the height of building is planned to be 118 meters instead of 41 meters as legally permitted and no mandatory FSI deduction is made on account of RG.

The law or the law keepers have turned its back towards this violation rules by builders while it has become more and more intolerant to the people living in penury. It is surely giving more and more clear indications of how the law is defining in whose city is this.

 

  1. 11.  Encroaching over the Schools

……………………………………………………………………………….

 

Water for Life or for Profits

Water is a social asset & every human being has the right to the use of air, water and earth as protected under Article 21 of the Constitution (the protection of life and personal liberty). But the State does not think so! Access to water has been used as one of the instruments to curb or curtail the rights of the poor and the working class people in the city of Mumbai. In a circular dated 4th March, 1996, whereby the government has directed the corporation not to give any water to the unauthorized constructions coming after 1.1.1995. The argument given was that a huge amount of water is being drawn in these “illegal” areas which has 54% of the total city’s population. These areas are blamed for causing illegal drawing up of water by breaking the water pipes and selling it and causing all unnecessary nuances. In absence of any formal access to safe drinking water, people have to purchase water from the nexus (middle men) who procure the water unauthorizedly from the Municipal system. For this slum women have to spend every day 2-3 hours standing in the queue and have to pay 30 times more than the prescribed rate.

While at the same time the Municipal Corporation has been silent to the pending bills if the rich which are in tune to __________.

Name of the Defaulter Pending Bill in Rs.
Veena Mall Shop Association,Thakur Complex Kandivalli (E) 1975377
Bombay Police Department 6070307
Wadia Estate Trust Wadia Estate M N Road Kurla 3579907
Manager Swadeshi Mills Co, Swadeshi Mills Road, Kurla 2213861
M/S Nest Developers,M G Road Ghatkopar (E) 524252
Ex Eng MMRDA, 19298733
K J Somaiya Trust, Chunabhatti 2594046
Kohinoor Mills Co Ltd, Units of National Textile Corporation 1554200
Maker Chamber 4 Maker Tower En F Premis Co op Soc Ltd 3525348
H Hashumuddin Saheb Ambassador, C/O The Ambassador Hotel, Churchgate 2588621
Maker Chamber IV C/O Hon Secretary Maker 1091918
Taj Mahal Hotel Mere Weather Road Colaba Bombay – 39 1064192
M/S Neel C.Raheja, Ivory Properties & Hotels Ltd 1387200

 

Five Star Hotels or :

As such it is said that land prices in Mumbai are amongst the highest in the world and can be compared to international cities like New York, London in this regard. At the same time scarcity of land has been cited as one of the reason

S. No Name of Lease Holder Location Area (sq.mts) Lease Rent in Rupees
01. Hotel Sea Rock Bandra 95,000 68,162
02. Aaram Hotels Pvt Ltd. Bandra 4046 18,295
03. Juhu Beach Resorts Juhu 1869.1 281.50
04. Juhu Hotel Pvt Ltd. Juhu 197.32 3373
05. Hotel Horizon Juhu   -
06. Eastarn InterNational Hotel Juhu 510 21,424
07. Hotel Corporation of India Juhu 1810.2 72,213
08. Sun & Sand Hotel Juhu 1063.78 1004,40
         

 

 

 

The Struggle:

Starting from December 2004 more than 70, 000 houses were demolished in a short span of four months, this was unprecedented in scale as well as brutality. It resulted in rendering lakhs shelter less, without any roof over their heads, children forced to roam on streets, scores of un-natural deaths, suicides, loss of livelihoods and lives and misery abound. While such brutality was been forced on thousands, there was a section of society that actually applauded the state government on their move. Main stream media instead of reporting the crimes being committed over people kept a track of the value of land that was ‘liberated’ from slum dwellers.

 

People responded to these illegalities, not by suicides but by protesting and raising their voice.Starting from December 2004 there were street protests, dharnas, rallies, picketing offices, assemblies, laying siege to Mantralay to party head quarters raising and exerting their rights. Women who earlier had rarely crossed the door of their household were now at the forefront of the struggle against injustice, holding accountable not only ministers but the system, challenging and demanding their rights raising not only the issues but also proposing and suggesting the way outs, provided the State has the will and a heart to consider options suggested by people. Be it the proposals for Basti Sabha led slum development which is to be carried out minus builders, harnessing the locally available resources-human to material or community led distribution systems for basic services, ranging from ration to water.

 

It was the struggle only, that made the Chief Justice Bench of Mumbai High Court to order that any sort of cut-dates are illegal and providing affordable Housing to the citizens was a responsibility of the State for which a Committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary was formed. One has been witness to different responses of the judiciary to the concerns and issues of the poor. In the year 2006 the Mumbai High Court ordered the eviction of the slum dwellers who have been on a in-definite dharma at Azad Maidan High Court hearing an obnoxious petition considered the rights of cricketers over the rights of the citizens to protest and fight for their constitutional and human rights. Decisions like this clearly reflect a neo-liberal turn of the authorities. Similarly in another case, where with documentary availed under RTI, it was pointed out to the Courts of rampant corruption of the builders and municipal authorities in being able to build a Huge shopping mall on the land reserved for housing the dishoused, judges till date have not given the orders of demolition as` per the rules. But when it comes to ordering demolition of poor’s houses they act promptly, without giving a hearing to the aggrieved parties, as it has happened in case after case. Of particular mention is the case of demolitions carried out around the Mithi River area in the guise of protecting Mumbai from floods. The whole exercise was carried out under the orders of the High Court, but was an ploy to grab the land from the poor and hand over to corporate houses, whose offices are situated in the nearby International Financial and Corporate Complex (Bandra Kurla Complex). This and much more has been exposed by the people, be it the corruption in delivering basic services like food meant for Public Distribution System or the daily collections by police (hafta).

 

The 10 by 10 ft shelter of the poor is considered an encroachment and thus illegal, while Mumbai as in other cities, is abound with constructions which are carried out by the elite and the powerful, by violating and disregarding every law of the land. Be it the acclaimed India’s tallest 60 storied towers being constructed under a slum rehabilitation project over an access road meant for slum dwellers, where cost of each flat is in the range of 10 to 40 crores or one of the largest shopping mall of Mumbai- Atria, which is constructed over land reserved for building houses for the dis-housed.  These illegalities are not only ignored but tolerated and approved, on the other hand bulldozing of hutments of the poor get frantic support by media and the society alike. All this and much more has been exposed and fought against by those, part of the struggle.

 

The evictions have been supported by the arguments of declaring slums as illegal and while shortage of financial resources has been put forward as the reason behind non-provision of affordable housing. This has been challenged and questioned by the Movement. As per the available data, in the year 2006-07 the allocated budget with Urban Development Department was 1173 crores but till Jan 2007 they have been able to spend only 96 crores. Can one agree to argument of non-availability of funds when such huge funds remain unspent while people are forced to stay out in the open, children to be without food or school? Similarly, a handful of land holders, together own more than 15,000 acres of land when as per Urban Land Ceiling Act 1976 any single land holding cannot exceed statutory limit of 500 sq.mt. Why actions are not taken against the defaulters and the excess land acquired and distributed amongst the land less, or is land acquisition to be carried out selectively for the corporates only, be for SEZs or mega projects, people have been raising this question time and again and have thus understood the class nature of the system which, itself works and operates in contradiction to the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution.

 

These principles and values are though, the bedrock of the demands and proposals raised and submitted by people from time to time. Be it proposal of reserving land to the proportionate percentage of the poor to the total population of the city or making basti sabha as the lower most unit of decision making, decentralized planning, equity, social justice and sustainability are the guiding principles which though, are ignored, abused and violated by the Corporatised State, operating day and night for the selfish interests of the few.

 

In such a scenario the only option left is of struggle, for one’s right and dignity, for space, not only physical but also cultural and economic; opposing the ghettoisation and the visionless planning and development. For a people centric approach to urban development affirming the principles of justice, equality, democracy and sustainability. For fostering a vision of inclusive cities, in its true sense.

 

 

#India-Woman jumps from speeding train to escape molesters #Vaw


By PTI – PATNA

03rd January 2013 09:36 PM

A woman jumped from a speeding express train suffering injuries on her head and legs to escape from molesters who were identified as army jawans near Ara junction in Bihar’s Bhojpur district today, officials said.

Bhojpur District Magistrate Pratima S Verma told PTI that the woman from Darjeeling in West Bengal jumped out of the 14055 UP Dibrugarh-Delhi Brahmaputra Express at Jagjivan Halt to escape from the clutches of the molesters.

The woman in her thirties suffered injuries on the head and legs and was admitted to the Sadar Hospital at Ara, the district headquarters of Bhojpur, around 50 km from Patna.

One of the molesters, identified as army jawan Ramesh Kumar hailing from Himachal Pradesh, was caught by an Assam Rifles man A D Upadhyay from the toilet where he was hiding, police sources said.

He was handed over to the Railway Protection Force at Buxar, the sources said.

Inspector General of Police, Rail, Vinay Kumar said in Patna that another army jawan was involved in molesting the woman on the train. The second jawan escaped to another bogey of the train taking advantage of chaos, he said.

The victim travelling in the B-1 coach did not have a confirmed ticket and was sitting on the TT’s berth, the IG said.

When the train reached Mirzapur station in Uttar Pradesh, the TT and other passengers were questioned about the incident, the IG added. In the preliminary inquiry it was established that the victim’s husband was a tailor at Darjeeling, Kumar said.

He said Patna Rail Superintendent of Police Suresh Chaudhary was seeking more information from the victim at the hospital.

Two FIRs have been lodged, one each at Ara and Buxar, at the GRP police station, police sources said. The DM said the injured girl was carried to Ara junction on a maintenance trolley by rail employees. The DM and Superintendent of Police of Bhojpur M R Naik visited the girl at the hospital.

 

#India- “Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression” to the Justice Verma Commission #Vaw #Justice


(Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non funded grassroots effort initiated in November 2009, to challenge the violence being perpetrated upon women’s bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberties, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on women and girls by any perpetrator(s). We have conducted fact findings and brought out several reports of cases of sexual violence in conflict areas, notably in Jharkhand, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh; and have collaborated with women’s organizations in Kashmir and the North East in their struggles in such situations. We attempt to support women victims, approach courts and human rights institutions for redressal, and conduct awareness campaigns.)

Representation by  “Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression” to the Justice Verma Commission.

(Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non funded grassroots effort initiated in November 2009, to challenge the violence being perpetrated upon women’s bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberties, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on women and girls by any perpetrator(s). We have conducted fact findings and brought out several reports of cases of sexual violence in conflict areas, notably in Jharkhand, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh; and have collaborated with women’s organizations in Kashmir and the North East in their struggles in such situations. We attempt to support women survivors of such violence, approach courts and human rights institutions for redressal, and conduct awareness campaigns.)

WSS notes with concern that the entire public debate arising out of the recent Delhi gang rape incident has centered round the issues of “enacting a strong law” and “prescribing harsher sentences”. It has failed to recognize more basic issues – the enormous social obstacles encountered in registering complaints, in the conduct of thorough investigation, in the protection of witnesses, in fast and efficacious prosecution and in unbiased adjudication – in other words, the issues of implementation of the law, and the functioning of the police and judicial machinery – which necessarily precede sentencing. The debate has also largely failed to take into account the deeply patriarchal character of our social institutions, and law enforcement machinery which render women vulnerable to violence in the family, in the larger community, in their work places and public places.

In particular, in this representation, WSS would like to focus on the even more serious situation that arises when patriarchal attitudes are reinforced by caste, communal and class inequalities or perpetrated by the state, that is, when sexual violence is inflicted as a part of an assault by a dominant community as in a caste attack or communal riot; or when sexual violence is inflicted on women in custody in a police lock-up or jail or state institution; and when sexual violence is perpetrated by the police, security forces or army. Rapes occur daily in this country and adivasi, dalit, working class women, women with disability, hijras, kothis and sex workers are especially targeted based on the knowledge that the system will not support them when they file complaints of rape. We also note with concern that our suggestions are limited to what will affect women and our suggestions on sentencing must be also interpreted to mean that at least equivalent sentences should be imposed on perpetrators of the same crimes upon children. The current sentencing laws on those are woefully inadequate.

However, our reach in terms of getting input directly from these communities is still limited by the people we know and have worked with, and we hope that our submissions do not contribute to limiting the discussion to those groups and people who have access to information via the internet and English newsmedia, and we hope the Justice Verma Commission carries out wide ranging consultations with women in every locality, with dalit groups, rural groups, labor groups, and groups working on communal sexual violence and sexual violence against adivasi women, groups working in areas in conflict with the state, and groups working on disability and transgender issues.

Here are our suggestions:

A. In regard to Sexual Violence by Police and Security Forces

Defining custodial violence: Any incident of sexual assault by police/ security forces or SPOs accompanying them, irrespective of where it occurs, should be treated as custodial violence since the perpetrators exercise power and control over the people of that area owing to their position of authority. Such sexual assault should be considered to be a case of aggravated assault.

Security of women detainees:  The lack, especially in remote/ small police stations, of women constables (in whose presence women under-trials and prisoners are more likely to be safe), is a serious issue. If there is no woman constable on duty, that particular police station must not be allowed to detain women. Women constables must be present throughout any interrogation of women detainees. Arbitrary or proxy arrests and illegal detention of women and children during search operations in conflict areas, which render women extremely vulnerable, have to stop.

Rule of law:  There must be strict adherence to the procedures and safeguards for protecting women in custody and women should be produced before the court at the earliest opportunity, even before the mandatory 24 hours, to be able to disclose original violations as well as further ill-treatment (if any) while in custody of police or jail authorities. Their families also must be intimated within this time period of their whereabouts.

Detention of women: The rules about arresting and detaining women at night should strictly apply to all women and transgender people, including sex workers. Transgender people must be handled only by women police officers and not male police officers, given the history of custodial violence against them.

Judicial recognition:  The judiciary must take suo moto cognizance of any irregularity in the arresting procedure and delays in presenting the accused before the magistrate. Any non-compliance of the D.K. Basu guidelines and other provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code should attract strict action and accountability from the Court. Once the woman has been presented before the magistrate, it is the responsibility of the judiciary, to ensure that her dignity and safety are ensured and her complaints of violations of her rights addressed. If any violation of the rights of a woman takes place in police or judicial custody, the judiciary should take the strictest action against the perpetrators in a time bound manner, and she must immediately be given the option of being transferred to custody outside the state.

Investigation and registration in cases of custodial or state violence: It cannot be expected that an aggrieved person/family who has been violated by personnel of the police station of her/their area, will go back to report the violation to that very same police station. She should have the option of registering cases in another district or state, and the case must be investigated by an authority not involving local police if they are the perpetrators. Special guidelines must be evolved for such cases along the lines of the NHRC guidelines for encounter killings.

Vulnerability in conflict situations:  There must be a quick and effective response from the district and state administration when a woman shows the courage to make a complaint of sexual violence. Instead, the rape survivor, her family and other witnesses are only further terrorised by the people in authority. The administration should take suo moto cognisance of such complaints, whether they come directly, through the media or any other source. Third-party complaints of custodial sexual violence should also be allowed to initiate the process of safeguarding the survivor behind bars from further assault in custody.

All state-supported private militias and vigilante groups, such as Salwa Judum and others in the conflict areas of Central India, Manipur and Kashmir must be disbanded. Action must be taken against the members of these groups accused of sexual violence and other human rights violations as it would apply to the police and security forces, i.e., treating their cases as aggravated sexual assault.

Registering cases:  The FIR of all victims should be registered, even where the perpetrators are from the Central Armed Police Forces or the Army, and refuge must not be taken under impunity provided under unjust laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. In particular if a Superintendent of Police receives a complaint that a particular police station has refused to register an FIR, he must be made personally liable to get the FIR registered immediately and to conduct an enquiry against his erring subordinate, with legally enforceable consequences for not doing so within 48 hours of being informed. .

Criminal prosecution: Sexual assault by the Central Armed Police Forces or the Army must be brought under criminal law. In cases of sexual offences, the law should clearly state that the Army has no jurisdiction to prosecute the accused member of the armed forces. The accused must be handed over and all investigation must be done by the police strictly in accordance with the law, and supervised by a senior police officer. The requirement of sanction for prosecution under Sec. 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code should be done away with in cases of custodial sexual violence and other human rights violations.

Facilitating investigation:  Immediate arrest of the accused and suspension of all accused from their posts, once the FIR is registered or suo moto cognizance of the crime is taken, is essential. The accused should not be allowed to exercise any authority in the area where the complaint of sexual violence is made, till the final determination of the complaint. Armed forces personnel and public servants against whom there are serious charges of violence against women, or who have been named in FIRs alleging violence, should not be considered for national awards and military honours or promotions until their names are cleared.

Command responsibility:  In cases of sexual assault committed by State personnel, the authorities higher up in the hierarchy (SP and the Collector or any other senior officer in the chain of command of the Central Armed Police Forces) should be held criminally liable for crimes committed by those under their command or within their control. Ignorance or lack of information about sexual violence committed in his/her jurisdiction cannot be an excuse for inaction.

Sentencing: The sentences for custodial rape and sexual assault must be enhanced compared to the sentences for civilian rape and sexual assault, to act as a deterrent for security officers misusing the power they have derived from being officers of the state.

Speedy investigation: The responsibility of a proper investigation falls on the investigating agency. Any delay, shoddiness, partisanship and inefficiency in collection of evidence, and lack or delay in medical examination etc should be seen as a criminal offence and negligence of duty, and the concerned officers or personnel should be penalised for negligence or dereliction of duty and/or charged with complicity in the crime.

Protection of victims and witnesses:  Protection of victims and witnesses has to be ensured, from the pre-trial to post-conviction stages, in accordance with the recent jurisprudential developments, the Law Commission’s 198th Report of August 2006, and decisions of the Supreme Court.

Liability and damages:  It is the government’s responsibility and duty to protect the rights of women, the responsibility grows manifold when the woman is in the custody of the State. Considering the gravity of the crime, the rape survivor has a right to reparation for all the costs incurred in fighting for justice legally, to recover medically, and to recover loss of livelihood or shelter or even ability to stay in the same area as before, as a consequence of fighting a case against the perpetrator.

Reparative Justice:  The State must be obliged by law to make provisions for free and high quality medical treatment, psychological care, shelter and livelihood in order to overcome possible destitution and social ostracism. This should be done through effective implementation and budgetary support of existing legal provisions and schemes for compensation/ rehabilitation for sexual assault. Such compensation should not be linked to the criminal trial and prosecution. Schemes include, but are not limited to, the Victims Compensation Scheme (brought about through a 2008 amendment to section 357A of the Cr PC) as well as the National Commission for Women’s scheme for assistance and support services to victims of rape.

B.  In regard to sexual violence against marginalized groups or by dominant  groups.

  1. While dealing with the violence against women belonging to marginalised groups like Dalits, Adivasis, denotified groups, religious, gender, sexuality and other Minorities, the dominant position of the perpetrators must be kept in mind and such cases should be probed under the specific laws applicable to these atrocities. Sexual assault in situations of conflict based on community, ethnicity, caste, religion, gender, sexuality and language, ought to be treated as specific circumstances of aggravated sexual assault.
  2. Since there are specific kinds of sexual violence documented to be specifically perpetrated against dalit women, such as parading naked, groping, tonsuring of hair and mutilation; against minority community women during communal riots such as mutilation the genitals and womb, cutting breasts; against transgender women like stripping, burning or mutilating the genitals, forcibly cutting hair, stripping and/or redressing in clothes to fit assigned gender, confinement, rape by insertion of objects – all of which are intended to sexually assault, degrade or humiliate women who are so targeted, these specific offenses should be defined along the scale of aggravation with specific punishments which are not dependent on the discretion of the judge.
  3. Meeting the burden of proof that an offence was committed with an intent to humiliate and intimidate a member of the Scheduled Caste/Tribe in the Prevention of Atrocities Act has been made impossibly difficult leading to low rates of conviction. When the perpetrator is of a dominant caste/class/religious/gender/sexuality group and the survivor of assault is of an oppressed group, the power difference will always mean that the police, criminal justice system, media, and public will be fearful of taking the side of an oppressed community. This means that dalit, adivasi, religious and gender/sexuality minority community women, and women with disabilities are routinely targeted for the reason that it is harder for them to fight a legal case against the perpetrator. Thus when the perpetrator is of a dominant caste/class/religious/gender/sexuality group and the survivor of assault is of an oppressed group, these acts should be defined to automatically be in place and the burden of proof that such targeting did not take place should be on the perpetrator.
  4. Refusal to file an FIR based on caste, class, gender identity, profession, or disability of the survivor must be legally punishable through reporting to superior police officers or officers at other police stations. Once such a complaint is made, the  officer who hears it must be legally liable to file an FIR immediately and conduct an enquiry against the police officers who refused to file the FIR. Likewise refusal to provide medical care on these grounds should be prosecutable by law.
  5. Acts like the Karnataka Police Act and the Hyderabad Eunuch Act that place the entire transgender community under suspicion like the colonial Criminal Tribes Act, and demand their routine reporting to the police act as a vehicle for police harassment and sexual violence against transgender women. These should be immediately repealed.
  6. Khap Panchayats, casteist-communal organizations and other kinds of vigilante groups are responsible for spreading and normalizing misogyny. The perpetrators of honour killings, honour-related crimes and other moral policing, including those who abet this brutal crime, must be promptly prosecuted and awarded severest punishment. Specific legislation must also be introduced to punish the full range of violent and abusive acts that attempt to restrict the choices of women including socio economic boycott, expulsion from the home or community, etc.

C. In regard to the definition of sexual assault.

Expansion of definition of sexual assault: The expansion of the definition of penetrative sexual assault under Sec. 375 IPC, beyond peno-vaginal penetration (rape) as proposed in the Criminal Law Amendment Act is a step in the right direction.  It is imperative that the definition of sexual assault is broad enough to include anal, oral rape, digital rape, rape with objects etc. and also includes sexual assault against transgender people. Section 377 should be repealed as it criminalizes consensual same-sex relations and all its provisions for punishing

Gap in law of sexual offences: However, there continue to be serious gaps in the codification of crimes of non-penetrative sexual assault. The gap between ‘outrage of modesty’ (S. 354 IPC) and ‘penetrative sexual assault’ remains large. We believe that sexual crimes form a continuum, and that the graded nature of sexual assault should be recognized, based on concepts of harm, injury, humiliation and degradation, and by using the well-established categories of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual offences.

‘Outraging modesty of a woman’ to be replaced with ‘violation of bodily integrity:  S.354 and S. 509 IPC, which contain archaic notions of ‘outrage of modesty’, ought to be repealed, and a clear gradation of offences and punishment as mentioned above should be inserted. We believe that ‘sexual assault’ should rest firmly on the concept of violation of bodily integrity and dignity, and sexual harassment should be defined as it is in the Vishaka Guidelines.

New sexual offences to be defined: New crimes need to be formulated to punish acts of attempt to rape, stripping, parading naked, groping, tonsuring of hair and mutilation which are intended to sexually assault, degrade or humiliate women who are so targeted. Further stalking, flashing, gesturing, blackmailing as well as sexual harassment must be codified as crimes under the rubric of sexual offences. These should include any electronic and other forms of technology which promote rape as a game, promote electronic stalking or forced viewing of pornography, etc.. We welcome the introduction of a specific offence for acid attack.

Gender neutral sexual assault: The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutral in all circumstances, as proposed in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, makes the perpetrator/ accused also gender neutral, i.e a woman or man can be accused of sexual assault. We believe that the perpetrator has to remain gender-specific and limited to men as perpetrators, as there is no empirical evidence to support a finding to the contrary, and in light of this gender neutrality of perpetrator can be used to file false cases against women who complain of rape. Hence we strongly oppose the gender-neutrality clause in relation to perpetrators under Sec. 375 IPC.

Gender neutrality of the victim: The survivor of sexual assault should be treated as gender neutral with respect to the law, even if the perpetrator is still defined as male. With respect to all forms of violence, the victims/survivors should not be described just as women, but as ‘person’, as transgender people face immense targeted sexual assault and in some cases of state and custodial violence the victims can also include men. In cases of abuse of children also children of all genders are targeted.

“Purpose”: We also express a deep problem with the expression ‘penetrate for a sexual purpose’ in Sec 375(a) of the proposed Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012. We maintain that any contact without consent is what must be punished and the intent of the perpetrator is both irrelevant, and impossible to prove.

Consent:  Consent must be clearly defined as verbal agreement which can be withdrawn at any point during sexual activity. Initiation of sexual activity or sex work is not an invitation to rape or sexual assault and battery. The lack of marks on the body can not be used as evidence of consent (as in the Suryanelli case) because sedation, rape based on threats of retaliatory violence, and rape where the perpetrator holds economic, caste, communal, custodial or state power over the survivor can all be perpetrated without leaving signs of force.

No exception to consent rule for marital Rape: Rape within marriage should be recognized and should be strictly penalized.  The punishment for rape should be the same irrespective of whether the perpetrator is married to the survivor of rape or not.

No exception to consent during medical procedures: Consent should be required even when penetration/genital exam of a patient by a doctor occurs for “proper hygienic or medical purposes” which is currently a defined exception for rape under the Criminal Amendment Bill 2012. Unless the patient is unconscious, doctors must have the consent of a patient for any form of penetrative or genital physical exam, and punishment for doctors abusing their privilege as doctors should be higher than for civilians.

No exclusion of prosecution of Public Servants: We suggest an exclusion of the application of S. 45 and S. 197 Cr PC to the provisions of sexual assault, in order that the existing widespread impunity for sexual assault where it is committed by public servants, is ended.  We believe that no sexual assault can ever be construed as being perpetrated “in discharge of official duty” and therefore the statutory requirement of prior sanction from the government for prosecution of public servants ought not to be extended to the crime of sexual assault;

Age of consent: The age of consent should be kept at 16 years of age since the reality of caste, communal and moral policing particularly when it comes to young people from different religions and castes falling in love and running away, makes misuse of the age of consent law possible to  prosecute young lovers who go against parental dictates of ‘arranged marriage within the fold of one caste/religion’.

Consent during sex work: Rape during sex work must be recognized explicitly as a sexual offence.  Sex work should be decriminalized so that what takes place without consent can be clearly distinguished from the specific acts the sex worker is paid for and has consented to.

Inclusion of women in drafting process: Local womens’ groups in India, including those of adivasi, dalit, religious minority women, transgender women, self help groups  and woman panchayat representatives must be consulted in drafting laws upholding women’s rights at home and in public.

D. In regard to pre-trial, trial and evidence procedures.

  1. SOPs like those of Delhi police should be reviewed to ensure that they reflect a gender sensitive and meticulous approach to investigation and officially adopted by all police departments in states and UTs, and should be made publicly accessible. Violation of the SOP by police should be made punishable by law, especially with respect to refusing to file FIRs.
  2. The two finger test and checking of old tears hymen which are widely used during medical examination of the rape victims to determine whether they are ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’ or not, must be explicitly barred and only fresh damage relevant to the sexual assault in question should be recorded. Likewise build and health of the survivor of rape and presence of marks on her body to determine whether she had or could have “resisted the assault” is irrelevant as mentioned above – use of threats, weapons, sedation, etc can all be forms of coercion that do not leave marks or allow the survivor to fight back. Testing should be done by women doctors if possible, and if not by any doctor the survivor is comfortable with –no survivor should be turned away for lack of a female doctor, and the survivor should be able to be accompanied by a chosen family member at all times during medical tests. Hospitals turning away survivors of sexual assault should be punishable by law. Victims should not be subjected to lie detection tests as is done in some parts of the country, and forensic tests must include DNA tests for which central laboratories and a DNA database must be set up to which samples can be mailed.
  3. Police personnel and all state officers who deal cases of sexual assault must undergo compulsory sensitization about handling these cases, so that they do not traumatize the survivor of assault with irrelevant and traumatic questions or statements of judgement or dismissal. They must also be sensitized specifically to deal sensitively with survivors of sexual assault who are dalit, adivasi, religious minority, transgender women, sex workers, and women with disabilities. Each complaint of sexual harassment and molestation must be taken seriously and failure to file an FIR must be punishable by law.
  4. Women police officers should be available and visible at a women’s help desk in every police precinct for each step of processing a sexual assault or harassment complaint, although no survivor should be turned away for lack of a female police officer. The number of women at all levels of the police force must increase to 50%, and within this dalit, adivasi, religious, gender and other minority women police officers should be represented according to their proportion of the local population. For their retention, proper housing, women’s toilet, and training facilities as well as a cell to address sexual harassment complaints within the police force must be made available. A minority of policewomen deployed to ensure safety for women prisoners are not able to be effective if they are pressured by a male majority in their workplaces.
  5. Trials in rape cases should be concluded within a 90 day period, with trials postponed only to the next working day and without any unnecessary delays. All pending cases of rape (all India-100,000, Delhi 1000) should be dealt with by specially constituted courts with both rural and urban accessibility within 90 days.
  6. Trials pertaining to sexual offences should be conducted as far as possible by women judges, and in cases of SC/ST or communal violence, by women members of the minority community. The number of judges, especially women judges, must also be increased in lower level courts and vacancies in these courts must be filled up. A special cadre of Public Prosecutors must be trained to prosecute cases of sexual assault. The trainings should include understanding of the crimes of sexual assault, gender sensitivity in the conduct of the trial and a comprehensive understanding of the laws relating to sexual assault.
  7. There should be specific provisions for recording the testimony of disabled survivors of assault or witnesses. Cases involving sexual assault against disabled women often end in acquittal as their testimony is either not recorded at all, or is recorded without the help of independent interpreters.
  8. Guidelines for victim and witness protection should be available for victims of violation of bodily integrity (outraging the modesty in the current law) as well as all forms of sexual assault, and bail should be canceled for cases where intimidation can be shown.
  9. In trials of sexual offences, the victim/survivor, her family members or members of women’s organizations representing the complainant should ordinarily be permitted to engage a counsel of her choice to assist the prosecution. In addition free legal, medical, psychological and rehabilitative services should be made available to enable working class women to pursue legal justice.
  10. Even in an in-camera trial, on the request of the victim/survivor, her representatives should be permitted to remain present.
  11. Guidelines must be laid down for the cross examination of a survivor of sexual violence, particularly highlighting the changes in the CrPC sections which now do not allow character assassination or looking at past history of the survivor.
  12. There should be a strict code of conduct and binding jail-time punishment for officials holding public office, including ministers etc while commenting on cases pertaining to sexual assault or rape. Judges who deal with sexual assault/ rape cases should be sensitized and held accountable with legally enforceable punishments for dismissing rape cases based on violating the constitutional right of every person to a fair hearing – by disbelieving the rape of a dalit woman as in the Bhanwari Devi case, or for suggesting extra-legal remedies or marriage to the accused instead of strictly pursuing legal justice for the crime.
  13. The pending cases against security forces, police and wardens of Nari Niketans and other protective homes for girls and women must be dealt with on a priority basis so that instead of inflicting further violence these institutions play their role of providing thorough investigation and appropriate support.
  14. The chosen gender of a transgender or intersex person should be respected during trial.  Transgender people are often punitively raped for crossing the boundaries of assigned gender and the rape trauma is compounded by their bodies and minds being handled in ways to remind them of their assigned gender. The trial should not further increase that aspect of the trauma.
  15. A date base of cases of sexual assault be maintained online and be publicly accessible, to track the implementation and performance of the law in each registered case, to help identify weak links. The name of the survivor must not be mentioned, but the neighborhood where the assault took place, and the progress on the case must be made publicly known on the internet and must be available at each local police station.
  16. Any media establishment that publishes the name or contact information of a survivor of rape should be routinely punished. Likewise there should be punishment for media reports that witness and broadcast images of sexual violence without having first immediately contacted law enforcement authorities. There should be publicly available letter boxes and an online site where reports on such media misuse can be directly sent.

E. In regard to punishment for rape.

In cases of aggravated sexual assault, punishment should be for life imprisonment with no remission or parole.

Sentences should run consecutively instead of concurrently in sexual crimes.

Sentencing should be spelt out as much as possible for different extents of punishment, degradation, harm and repetition of the act of sexual violation, so that judicial discretion is limited to small difference in the nature of the crime rather than focusing on the socioeconomic standing of the survivor and perpetrator.

WSS does not support death penalty or chemical castration as a punishment for rape. We need to evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large number of men who commit these crimes. Cases of rape have a conviction rate of as low as 26% showing that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of charges.  Our vision of justice does not include death penalty, which is neither a deterrent nor an effective or ethical response to acts of sexual violence. We are opposed to it for the following reasons:

  1. We recognise that every human being has a right to life. We refuse to deem ‘legitimate’ any act of violence that would give the State the right to take life in our names. Justice meted by the State cannot bypass complex socio-political questions of violence against women by punishing rapists by death. Death penalty is often used to distract attention away from the real issue – it changes nothing but becomes a tool in the hands of the State to further exert its power over its citizens. A huge set of changes are required in the system to end the widespread and daily culture of rape.
  2. There is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to rape. Available data shows that there is a low rate of conviction in rape cases and there is a strong possibility that the death penalty would lower this conviction rate even further as it is awarded only under the ‘rarest of rare’ circumstances. The most important factor that can act as a deterrent is the certainty of punishment, rather than the severity of its form.
  3. As seen in countries like the US, men from minority communities and economically weaker sections make up a disproportionate number of death row inmates. In the context of India, a review of crimes that warrant capital punishment reveals the discriminatory way in which such laws are selectively and arbitrarily applied to disadvantaged communities, religious and ethnic minorities. This is a real and major concern, as the possibility of differential consequences for the same crime is injustice in itself.
  4. The logic of awarding death penalty to rapists is based on the belief that rape is a fate worse than death. Patriarchal notions of ‘honour’ lead us to believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. There is a need to strongly challenge this stereotype of the ‘destroyed’ woman who loses her honour and who has no place in society after she’s been sexually assaulted. We believe that rape is a tool of patriarchy, an act of violence, and has nothing to do with morality, character or behaviour.
  5. We also believe the law should punish rape with murder more strongly than rape without murder, so that the law does not provide an incentive for the perpetrator to kill the survivor of rape.
  6. An overwhelming number of women are sexually assaulted by people known to them, and often include near or distant family, friends, husbands, workplace superiors and partners. The awarding of death penalty rests on the logic that rape and battery are rare events. Awarding equal punishment for the same crime would lead to a large portion of the male population being awarded death penalty and any penalty has to be feasibly equally applied to the entire population of perpetrators.
  7. With death penalty at stake, the ‘guardians of the law’ and the perpetrators will make sure that no complaints against them get registered and they will go to any length to make sure that justice does not see the light of day. Who will be able to face the psychological and social consequences of having reported against their own relatives when the penalty is death? In cases of sexual assault where the perpetrator is in a position of power (such as in cases of custodial rape or marital rape or caste and religious violence), conviction is notoriously difficult. The death, penalty, for reasons that have already been mentioned, would make conviction next to impossible.

Chemical castration is also a problematic sentence since

1. It violates the fundamental right to bodily integrity and this can not be violated by the State.

2. It misrecognises much of the violence in rape. Assault and battery are carried out with fists/rods/acid and other weapons and chemical castration may not prevent a perpetrator from using these

3. We feel that this penalty would also, like death penalty, not be awarded equally to all perpetrators irrespective of class, caste, religion and socioeconomic background, but be used selectively in some cases.

F. In regard to the urgent need for making workplaces and homes of women more safe.

  1. The Committees against Sexual Harassment which are to be constituted in various state and private establishments, including informal sector worksites, houses where domestic workers work, construction sites, homes where women gather to do piece-work or beedi/agarbati rolling, sex work sites, and NGOs, should be constituted with priority and urgency as per the Vishakha judgment. Renewal of formal workplace licences to employ workers should be made contingent on this. The said Committees should function independently and effectively and not be nominated by the employer to avoid conflict of interest, and they should create an atmosphere of no tolerance to sexual harassment. This would go a long way in ensuring dignity and empowering women at their workplace.
  2. Section 14 of the proposed 2012 amendment to the sexual harassment bill which punishes a woman for a so-called false complaint must be scrapped, as must clause 10 suggesting a conciliation as the first step – this would amount to covering up sexual harassment which is a criminal offence. The Bill should also take the caste, class and religious dimensions of the perpetrator and the victim into account, and mandate that women should not be forced to comply with gender specific dress codes and women employees should be able to able to choose their dress code.
  3. It is a common observation that the Domestic Violence Act is poorly implemented in most States with government servants being given additional charge of Protection Officer, lack of proper Shelter Homes for women victims of domestic violence, abuse within those shelter homes and on the streets for those rendered homeless by domestic violence, and poor understanding of judicial officers of the powers of civil injunctions and specific reliefs available to them
  4. Women employees working in night and early morning shifts should be
    provided safe public transport facilities by the employer, and both public and private forms of transport must be effectively regulated and monitored for safety by the government. The routes from public transport sites to housing areas must be well-lit and tinted window vehicles should be strictly monitored.
  5. There should be an expansion of the public transport system and the government should bring a public-transport-for-women-on-demand facility for any neighborhood with a number of working women coping without public transport, including dispersed adivasi settlements and urban slums, functioning in the same manner of response to demand as anganwadi-on-demand. Strict implementation of women’s general compartment in all trains and women’s seats in all inter-city buses is necessary.
  6. The number of affordable working-women’s hostels to ensure safe accommodation for single working women must be increased. All out-station girl students studying in colleges must be provided cheap and safe accommodation by their respective institutions.
  7. Due to its impact on physical and mental health and a high degree of mortality, rape is also a public health issue. The public health workforce (ASHA and ANM workers) need to be trained in sensitizing at the family and community level in destigmatizing rape-survivors, enabling them to file FIRs and access legal provisions, providing medical care and counseling, and encouraging women to speak out and seek justice. The ASHA workforce should also have dalit, adivasi, religious, gender and other minority women represented among them according to their presence in the local population to enable local women to feel comfortable reporting sexual assault. All public hospitals must be trained and equipped to immediately file an FIR and conduct a proper preliminary medical exam on behalf of patients who have survived rape For this the budget allocation of the government to the women and child, health and public transport departments must be accordingly increased by the next Budget.
  8. Effective and 24 hour functional women helpline and other emergency services should be provided around the clock and should be well advertised by video and audio messages in rural and urban areas. Emergency telephones to this helpline must also be available at all bus and train stations. Calls should be addressed around the clock by enough specially trained staff to meet the demand, and calls should be automatically recorded for later review, and the staff should be able to dispatch immediate vehicles to assist women facing an emergency. Disciplinary action must be taken against staff for inappropriate or inadequate responses.
  9. The state should take over agencies that provide women domestic workers, the conditions of service of domestic workers must be laid down and effectively implemented, and complaints of sexual violence made by them promptly redressed.
  10. Institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Schedule Castes (NCSC), National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), National Commission for Minorities (NCM), National Commission for Women (NCW) and the corresponding State Commissions, created for safeguarding constitutional provisions and protection of vulnerable groups must be more proactive. They should be made to respond to all complaints lodged with them in a time-bound manner. There should be systematic and regular review processes by independent bodies involving women’s groups, put into place to audit the work of these institutions
  11. The system of shelters for women should be greatly expanded, and every state-based shelter home for women, nari niketans, remand homes, juvenile delinquent homes, shelters for disabled children, orphanages, as well as schools, prisons and areas under army patrolling or combing operations should have a schedule of inspections to probe for ongoing sexual harassment or assault by committees whose members are independent of the government. The people confined within should have the right to insist on 1 person whom they trust outside jail to accompany the team when it does these surprise checks
  12. The current policy of clearing the streets of vendors, closing shops by a specific hour of night and chasing away other people who occupy public space at night makes the street more unsafe for women. This policy should be stopped as a greater presence of people and well-lit public areas at night are essential in reducing the danger to women traveling to and from work as well as homeless women.  Women should be given priority in being given vendor licenses and employment in public transport.

G. In regard to Discouraging Patriarchal Culture.

  1. All those persons against whom charge sheets have been filed for rape cases must be tried and either cleared of those charges, or sentenced and barred from contesting elections for public bodies by the Election Commission.
  2. Advertisements, movies and public materials that condone, trivialize or misrepresent violence against women and sexual harassment should be banned.
  3. Women have been carrying out powerful movements against liquor which is found to be connected to increase in domestic violence and incidents of sexual assault. The demands made by women in their local areas must be responded to by local authorities, who must act against the liquor mafia.
  4. Restrictions on movements and intimidation of women’s groups and democratic rights groups, while conducting fact-findings of incidents of sexual and other forms violence in conflict areas, have to stop. Repression, labelling and intimidation of women activists and human rights defenders must end.
  5. Mass visible and audio messages on what constitutes sexual offenses and what are the facilities available to address it and punishment for the same, should be displayed in all public vehicles and public places such as markets, bus stands, train stations, etc. These areas should be accessible by people with disabilities to reduce their vulnerability due to being confined at homes or shelters.
  6. School curricula should include basic information on how stalking, harassment, and touching another person without consent constitute unacceptable and illegal behavior, and the government should set up a training module for at least 2 staff members from each school to help children to report cases of domestic sexual assault. Such teaching should also happen in prisons. Caste, communal, gender identity and disability based discrimination against dalit, adivasi, religious minorities, gender and sexuality minorities, people with disabilities, homeless and working class people, etc. should be clearly and unequivocally taught to be unacceptable. This will greatly decrease their vulnerability to sexual assault.
  7. All departments that deal with disability pension administration should have a clearly marked desk where people can go to report sexual harassment and assault. They as well as police stations should carry information for complaints procedure and all awareness material in accessible formats to cater to people with disabilities  (Braille, audio, audio-video with same language sub-titling, large print, easy to read and pictorial guidance and availability of sign language interpreters). The inaccessibility of police stations and their present lack of capacity to interpret complaints from women with disabilities must be addressed in the long run.
  8. The legal age for young girls, transgenders, and boys to legally leave their biological homes and exercise autonomy as individuals, due to abusive situations at home should be lowered to 16 to give them enhanced protection against false cases filed by families and family violence. They should be able to chose a guardian instead of having to go to a juvenile detention home.
  9. Implement 50% reservation for women in elections at all levels, with reservation for minority communities in proportion to their presence in the local population.
  10. Create a National Commission to monitor implementation of the CEDAW.

Silent march to demand release of #sonisori from jail #Vaw


SONI5

 

Press Trust of India / New Delhi January 02, 2013, 22:15

Members of All India Students’ Association, along with several intellectuals, today staged a silent march here, demanding the release of suspected Maoist activist and victim of custodial torture Soni Sori.

Sori, who has been in the police custody for the last one year, was allegedly subjected to sexual violence at Dantewada police station in Chhattisgarh.

The protesters demanded the immediate release of Sori who is currently lodged in Raipur Central jail.

“She has been repeatedly subjected to the most barbaric and repulsive sexual abuse in police custody – two separate medical reports has shown evidence of stones being shoved into her private parts. And yet, despite repeated protests, no action has been taken till now,” a statement issued by AISA said.

The protesters also demanded punishment for Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg who allegedly ordered the sexual torture of Sori.

The rally was attended by several intellectuals and political leaders including AAP‘s senior leader Prashant Bhushan and social activist Swami Agnivesh.

Accusing Delhi police of violating rules while handling protesters, AISA leader and former JNUSU President Sucheta De said they were repeatedly stopped despite holding a non-violent demonstration.

“Time and again, the protesters had to evade and dodge the police. Women activists, who were silently marching, were stopped and pushed by male police, which is a clear violation of rules”, she said.

Sori was arrested last year after being accused of acting as a courier for taking extortion money for Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

 

America’s Retreat From the #DeathPenalty


Published: January 1, 2013 , NY times

When the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, it said there were two social purposes for imposing capital punishment for the most egregious crimes: deterrence and retribution. In recent months, these justifications for a cruel and uncivilized punishment have been seriously undermined by a growing group of judges, prosecutors, scholars and others involved in criminal justice, conservatives and liberals alike.

A distinguished committee of scholars convened by the National Research Council found that there is no useful evidence to determine if the death penalty deters serious crimes. Many first-rate scholars have tried to prove the theory of deterrence, but that research “is not informative about whether capital punishment increases, decreases, or has no effect on homicide rates,” the committee said.

A host of other respected experts have also concluded that life imprisonment is a far more practical form of retribution, because the death penalty process is too expensive, too time-consuming and unfairly applied.

The punishment is supposed to be reserved for the very worst criminals, but dozens of studies in state after state have shown that the process for deciding who should be sent to death row is arbitrary and discriminatory.

Thanks to the Innocence Project and the overturning of 18 wrongful convictions of death-row inmates with DNA evidence and the exonerations of 16 others charged with capital crimes, the American public is increasingly aware that the system makes terrible mistakes. Since 1973, a total of 142 people have been freed from death row after being exonerated with DNA or other kinds of evidence.

All of these factors have led the states to retreat from the death penalty in recent years — in both law and in practice. In 2012, Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to abolish the penalty. Nine states executed inmates, the fewest in two decades. Three-fourths of the 43 executions in 2012 were carried out in only four states. The number of new death sentences remained low at 77 — about one-third the number in 2000 — with just four states accounting for almost two-thirds of those sentences. While 33 states retain the death penalty on their books, 13 of them have not executed anyone for at least five years.

Those 13 states plus the 17 without the penalty means that 30 states are not carrying it out — and that includes California, which retained the death penalty in a November referendum vote. Almost one-quarter of the 3,146 death row inmates in the United States, as of October, are imprisoned in California, but that state has not executed anyone in seven years.

California’s chief justice said recently that the state’s official moratorium, which has been in place for six years, is likely to continue for at least three more because of problems with the execution method.

In January, executions are scheduled to take place in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas. As it happens, major reviews of the death penalty are under way in each of those states. The reviews are very likely to find that those states have failed to meet standards of fairness under the Constitution, just as reviews of the capital systems in other states have concluded in the last decade.

The large number of states no longer carrying out executions indicates a kind of national consensus. It points to “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” an idea that the Supreme Court has evoked in judging the constitutionality of punishments. The court used that analysis most recently when it ruled that mandatory life sentences without possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders even if they are convicted of homicide.

It should similarly recognize that under evolving standards capital punishment is cruel and unusual and should be abolished.

#India-“Give up KKNPP, go for solar and wind energy”- Adm.Ramdas


TIRUNELVELI, January 1, 2013, The Hindu

Staff Reporter

 

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project is totally unsafe and should not be commissioned, according to former Navy Chief Admiral L. Ramdoss.

With ample resources of renewable energy and over 300 bright sunny days, government agencies should tap the potential to generate wind and solar energy, instead of commissioning the high-risk nuclear energy project at Kudankulam, he said.

The technology for generating solar energy was very competitive and cheaper than nuclear energy. However, the existing grid system was not suited to tap such clean energy resources. While developed countries around the world had abandoned the nuclear energy option on grounds of safety, the Indian government was pushing ahead with the commissioning of the risky nuclear energy project, overlooking safety concerns raised by the people, especially the coastal population.

Admiral Ramdoss was addressing the media at Idinthakarai near Kudankulam on Monday.

“In my view no assurance on safety has been made by the Central government, the Russian government, NPCIL, Department of Atomic Energy or any expert from the Indian officialdom,” he noted.

In the past, experts had certified nuclear energy plants to be safe.

These included plants such as Three Mile Island in the US, Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan. Yet these plants suffered accidents, he pointed out. Design of the equipment, natural causes beyond our control and human failure could cause accidents, Mr. Ramdoss warned.

“People have the right to protect themselves from the risks of nuclear energy, but all these rights have been scuttled. They have been told lies that the emerging nuclear plant is safe. It is time to give up this unsafe project and the government authorities should find alternative source of energy to safeguard the lives of the people in the vicinity of Kudankulam and protect their livelihood,.” he said.

Binayak Sen, national vice-president, People’s Union for Civil Liberty, said the judicial process had been misused and AERB norms were being flouted in the process of commissioning this nuclear plant.

The protest by the people against nuclear energy was being suppressed. The PUCL and human rights organisations had been engaged in the withdrawal of sedition charges levelled against the protesters.

Praful Bidwai, senior journalist, said fake cases had been foisted on the protesters. As many as 325 cases were filed against those involved in the agitation at Idinthakarai. Charge sheets were filed against 1,20, 000 people and 13, 350 were charged with waging a war against the State and criminal conspiracy.

As many as 8,456 persons were booked on sedition charges, 18,143 persons accused of attempt to murder and 15,565 persons charged with destroying government properties. Sixty-six persons were arrested and nine imprisoned. Forty-five persons were released on conditional bail.

Children performed cultural programmes on the eve of the New Year. S.P. Udhayakumar, convener, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, and members of organisations against nuclear energy from various States took part in the agitation. The agitation at Idinthakarai has crossed 500 days.

 

Villagers court arrest against Jaitapur nuclear plant


ALOK DESHPANDE, The Hindu,
MUMBAI, January 3, 2013

Thousands of villagers from around the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) site in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district on Wednesday launched a ‘jail bharo’ agitation demanding scrapping of the 9,900 MW plant.

The agitators attempted to take out a peaceful protest march to the project site. But they were stopped three kilometres away, arrested and later released. The protesters had planned to surround the site to convey the symbolic ‘stop-the-work’ notice to the administration.

“This was the first big agitation held after the firing incident in Sakhri Nate village. The government was deliberately spreading the rumour that villagers have softened their stand and are now ready to accept the project,” said Amjad Borkar of the Machhimar Kruti Samiti in Sakhri Nate. Mr. Borkar said the march was to tell the government that we did not change our stand. “We are confident of throwing the power plant out of Jaitapur,” he said.

“The government should respect people’s sentiments. It should cancel all the agreements connected with JNPP,” said Mr. Borkar.

The Shiv Sena and the Left parties also took part in the march. Rajan Salvi, local Sena MLA made it clear that the party would not allow contractors to work on the site. “They have built the compound wall by repressing our voices. We will not let contractors work on the site in future,” he said.

“The project does not stand on technical as well as on democratic grounds. The technology is nowhere tested and all gram panchayats surrounding the site have said no to the project. The government instead of unleashing the police on the villagers, should respect the people’s sentiments,” said Prakash Reddy, of the Communist Party of India.

 

“I Fought For My Life…And Won” – Sohaila Abdulali #mustread #Vaw #Rape


gang

I was gang raped three years ago, when I was 17 years old.  My name and my photograph appear with this article.  in  1983, in Manushi.

I grew up in Bombay, and am at present studying in the USA. I am writing a thesis on rape and came home to do research a couple of weeks ago. Ever since that day three years ago, I have been intensely aware of the misconceptions people have about rape, about those who rape and those who survive rape. I have also been aware of the stigma that attaches to survivors. Time and again, people have hinted that perhaps death would have been better than the loss of that precious“virginity.” I refuse to accept this. My lifeis worth too much to me.

I feel that many women keep silent to avoid this stigma, but suffer tremendous agony because of their silence. Men blame the victim for many reasons, and,shockingly, women too blame the victim, perhaps because of internalized patriarchal values, perhaps as a way of making themselves invulnerable to a horrifying possibility.

It happened on a warm July evening.That was the year women’s groups were beginning to demand improved legislation on rape. I was with my friend Rashid. We had gone for a walk and were sitting on a mountainside about a mile and a half from my home in Chembur which is a suburb of Bombay. We were attacked by four men,who were armed with a sickle. They beat us, forced us to go up the mountain, and kept us there for two hours. We were physically and psychologically abused, and, as darkness fell, we were separated, screaming, and they raped me, keeping Rashid hostage. If either of us resisted, the other would get hurt. This was an effective tactic.

They could not decide whether or not to kill us. We did everything in our power to stay alive. My goal was to live and that was more important than anything else. I fought the attackers physically at first, and with words after I was pinned down. Anger and shouting had no effect, so I began to babble rather crazily about love and compassion,I spoke of humanity and the fact that I was a human being, and so were they, deep inside. They were gentler after this, at least those who were not raping me at the moment. I told one of them that if he ensured neither Rashid nor I was killed, I would come back to meet him, the rapist, the next day. Those words cost me more than Ican say, but two lives were in the balance. The only way I would ever have gone back there was with a very, very sharp instrument that would ensure that he never rapedagain.

After what seemed like years of torture (I think I was raped 10 times but I was in so much pain that I lost track of what was going on after a while), we were let go,with a final long lecture on what an immoral whore I was to be alone with a boy. That infuriated them more than anything. They acted the whole time as if they were doing me a favour, teaching me a lesson. Theirs was the most fanatical kind of self righteousness.

They took us down the mountain and we stumbled on to the dark road, clinging to each other and walking unsteadily. They followed us for a while, brandishing the sickle, and that was perhaps the worst part of all—escape was so near yet death hung over us. Finally we got home, broken, bruised, shattered. It was such an incredible feeling to let go, to stop bargaining for our lives and weighing every word because we knew the price of angering them was a sickle in the stomach. Relief flooded into our bones and out ofour eyes and we literally collapsed into hysterical howling.

I had earnestly promised the rapists that I would never tell any one but the minute I got home, told my father to call the police He was as anxious as I was to get them apprehended. I was willing to do anything to prevent someone else having to go through what I had been through. The police were insensitive, contemptuous, and somehow managed to make me the guilty party. When they asked me what had happened,I told them quite directly, and they were scandalized that I was not a shy, blushing victim. When they said there would be publicity, I said that was all right. It had honestly never occurred to me that Rashid or I could be blamed. When they said Iwould have to go into a home for juvenile delinquents for my “protection.” I was willing to live with pimps and rapists, in order to be able to bring my attackers to justice.

Soon I realized that justice for women simply does not exist in the legal system. When they asked us what we had been doing on the mountain, I began to get indignant. When they asked Rashid why he had been “passive”, I screamed. Didn’t they understand that his resistance meant further torture for me? When they asked questions about what kind of clothes I had been wearing, and why there were no visible marks on Rashid’s body (he had internal bleeding from being repeatedly hit in the stomach with the handle of the sickle), I broke down in complete misery and terror, and my father threw them out of the house after telling them exactly what he thought of them. That was the extent of the support the police gave me. No charges were brought. The police recorded a statement that we had gone for a walk and had been “delayed” on our return.

It has been almost three years now, but there has not been even one day, when I have not been haunted by what happened. Insecurity, vulnerability, fear, anger, helplessness—I fight these constantly. Sometimes when I am walking on the road and hear footsteps behind I start to sweat and have to bite my lip to keep from screaming. I flinch at friendly touches, I can’t bear tight scarves that feel like hands round my throat, I flinch at a certain look that comes into men’s eyes—that look is there so often.

Yet in many ways I feel that I am a stronger person now. I appreciate my life more than ever. Every day is a gift. I fought for my life, and won. No negative reaction can make me stop feeling that this is positive.

I do not hate men. It is too easy a thing to do, and many men are victims of different kinds of oppression. It is patriarchy I hate, and that incredible tissue of lies that say men are superior to women, men have rights which women should not have, men are our rightful conquerors.

My feminist friends all assume that I am concerned about women’s issues because I was raped. This is not so. The rape was one expression of all the reasons why Iam a feminist. Why compartmentalize rape ? Why assume rape is only an unwanted act of intercourse ? Are we not raped every day when we walk down the street and are leered at ? Are we not raped when we are treated as sex objects, denied our rights, oppressed in so many ways ? The oppression of women cannot be analysed unidimensionally. For example, a class analysis is very important, but it does not explain why most rapes occur within one’s own class.

As long as women are oppressed in various ways, all women will continue to be vulnerable to rape. We must stop mystifying rape. We must acknowledge its existence all round us, and the various forms it takes. We must stop shrouding it in secrecy, and must see it for what it is — a crime of violence in which the rapist is the criminal.

I am exultant at being alive. Being raped was terrible beyond words, but I think being alive is more important. When a woman is denied the right to feel this, there is something very wrong in our value system. When someone is mugged and allows herself to be beaten in order to survive, no one thinks she is guilty of willing consent to be beaten. In the case of rape, a woman is asked why she let them do it, why she did not resist, whether she enjoyed it.

Rape is not specific to any group of women, nor are rapists a particular group of men. A rapist could be a brutal madman or the boy next door or the too friendly uncle. Let us stop treating rape as the problem of other women. Let us acknowledge its universality and come to a better understanding of it.

Until the basis of power relationships in this world changes, until women cease to be regarded as the property of men, we will have to live in constant fear of being violated with impunity.

I am a survivor. I did not ask to be raped and I did not enjoy it. It was the worst torture I have ever known. Rape is not the woman’s fault, ever. This article is one contribution towards exploding the silence and the comfortable myths which we build up to convince ourselves we are not potential victims, thus consigning actual victims to the most agonizing isolation a human being can know.

 ( This article has been reproduced from archives of Manushi, and was written in 1983)

Today, Sohaila writes, reads and walks. She has published two novels, The Madwoman of Jogare and Year of the Tiger; three children’s books; and numerous short stories, essays, news reports, blogs, columns, manuals, and just about every form of written material, which is in direct contradiction to her devotion to trees. www.sohailaink.com